Friday, January 29, 2010

The Best Part Of Waking Up

One week from today I will be on a plane to Washington DC! woot!

I'm so excited to go back there. I lived there for a short while in the early 90's, but that was a long time ago and I'm sure things have changed. Not that I'd really notice if they did though because I was just a kid and there's so much I don't remember. I'm hoping since I'm older I'll be able to better appreciate the city.

Mr. H and I are going with my in-laws. My MIL's cousin who volunteered for two tours in the Vietnam war passed away recently and he's going to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. So we will go to pay our respects to a man who served our country. It's such an honor, I just can't tell you. We'll be staying a few extra days and doing a little sightseeing of our national monuments and historic museums. I'll be sure to take lots of photos!

If you have any recommendations on where to eat, shop or visit in Washington DC please let me know! We're open to any and all suggestions.

On to these glorious muffins. They are loaded with fat- like three sticks of butter but they were not at all greasy! They pack a punch of caffeine that comes from the espresso powder and of course they're complimented by semi sweet chocolate morsels. What more could you ask for in a morning muffin? They were like a hot mocha latte in a paper liner. The batter was interesting- it was super thick almost like cookie dough and I thought I had done something wrong but they turned out perfectly.

Right after they came out of the oven the muffin tops had a slight crunchiness to them which was a nice contrast to the delicate interior. The next day, they were melt in your mouth tender and the coffee flavor had intensified adding an extra zing in my step. I froze them and reheated them for 30 seconds in the microwave and we had them for breakfast for the next few weeks. Completely delicious, but definitely for coffee lovers only!

I did not bake these in the cup. I baked them in paper liners and placed it in the cup for photo purposes.

Coffee Chocolate Chip Muffins from Little Cakes via ReTorte

Beat at high speed in a large bowl until fluffy:

  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 tbsp instant espresso powder*

Sift in:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

At low speed add until just combined:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips**

Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

NOTE: The recipe says you should get 18 muffins, but I got 24 standard size muffins AND 12 mini muffins!

*I used a combination of Starbucks Via, Medaglia D'oro Instant Espresso and Folgers Instant Coffee.

**I used 1 cup of chocolate chips in the muffin batter then I used about half a cup of extra chips to place on top of the muffins before they went in the oven.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monica Monica Pumpkin Eater

Pumpkins are some of my favorite things- to eat and to look at. They just make me happy in all their orange globe glory. I still have two pumpkins sitting on my back porch because I can't bear to throw them away. I don't usually cook with pumpkin but I do love to bake with it. It just adds so much moisture to breads.

My all time favorite bread comes from Great Harvest Bread Co. And at $6.99 a loaf it better be good! It just has a wonderfully moist and dense texture and the pumpkin and spices are the perfect balance. I've tried many pumpkin bread recipes and none have ever compared. Except for this recipe. It's nothing like the loaf from Great Harvest but it is equally delicious.

The recipe comes from Elissa of 17 and Baking and is rippled with a cream cheese filling, which puts it over the top. It's tender and pumpkiny and lighter than most pumpkin breads I've tried. I find that baking with oil instead of creaming butter with sugar will yield a moister bread but in this case the recipe uses melted butter so you don't have to wait for your butter to soften- bonus! It was great warmed for a few seconds in the microwave but I also really loved it cold right out of the fridge. Give it a try and decide for yourself.

Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread from Joy of Baking via 17 and Baking

Printable Version

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pumpkin Bread:

  • 1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1– 15 ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9″x5″ pans.

For the Cream Cheese Filling: Beat the cream cheese just until smooth in a stand mixer or food processor. Add the sugar and process just until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing just until incorporated. Do not over process. Stir in the flour. Set aside.

For the Pumpkin Bread: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the sugar and melted butter, then stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla extract, and (optionally) nuts.

Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, being careful not to overmix. A few streaks of flour are fine. Divide the batter in half. Take one half and divide it between the two pans. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into each pan, then top with the remaining half of batter. Smooth the tops and bake an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool loaves to room temperature.

Makes 2 9"x5" loaves.

NOTE: The recipe says to divide the batter in half when you pour it into the pans. I didn't do this (obviously!) and my layers were a little off but it was still good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Raising The Bar

I made these as part of my Christmas cookie boxes and my family claimed them as their absolute favorites. Everyone that tasted them asked for the recipe and I was happy to oblige. Now I'm sharing it with you! It's no secret though, as it comes from Martha Stewart and can be found on her website.

These were really simple to make. In fact the hardest part of the recipe is waiting for them to cool enough to cut into. I made them before we left to dinner and by the time we got home they were completely cooled and waiting for me on my kitchen counter. Nutty, buttery, crunchy, chewy...Oh come to mama!

I loved the edges of the bars in the pan because they got extra crunchy and sticky. They were also less pretty than the bars in the center so I ate them :-) I couldn't give less than perfect pecan bars as gifts could I? Another favorite part was the caramel filling that's made on the stove top BEFORE it's baked. Be sure to have a spoonful all to yourself prior to pouring it all in the pan. You'll be glad you did.

Pecan Bars from Martha Stewart


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecans
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil.

Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg; pulse just until a dough forms.

Transfer dough to prepared pan; with floured fingers and an offset spatula, press firmly into bottom and 3/4 inch up sides. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Prick bottom of dough; bake until lightly golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool while preparing filling.

Make the filling: In a large saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, until smooth; continue boiling, without stirring, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream and salt; mix in pecans.

Assemble and bake: Spoon hot filling evenly over crust, using spoon to arrange and press in nuts so they fit snugly (create as flat a surface as possible).

Bake until bubbling and golden-colored, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Using foil, lift cake from pan; peel off foil. With a sharp knife, trim edges (if desired). Cut into 6 even strips; cut each strip crosswise into 4 even strips to make 24 bars.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Red Velvet If You Please

I missed last months cake for The Cake Slice Bakers but there was no way I was going to miss the cake this month. After all, it is one of my favorite cakes ever- Red Velvet Cake! I'll eat this cake any which way I can get it. I'll eat it in cupcake form, cake balls, from the grocery store bakery department and from a box. I don't discriminate when it comes to Red Velvet :-)

Props to you if you got the musical reference (turn your speakers on!) in my title :-) I was however a little hesitant when it came to the frosting. It's a milk and flour cooked frosting in which you add butter, sugar, nuts and coconut. I liked the texture in it but I've made a cooked frosting before and it was a disaster. That doesn't mean this one would have been bad but I went the cream cheese frosting route- always a winner in my book! I left out the coconut but I did add the chopped pecans and it was delicious!

I ate a slice of this cake immediately after I frosted it and while it was fall apart tender and oh so moist, it didn't make for a lovely picture. So I refrigerated it then sliced it for a cleaner slice. Pretty, no? I had a slice of this cold and a slice at room temperature and the room temperature slice was much better so keep that in mind when you eat this.

If you've never had Red Velvet cake before let me tell you a bit about it. It's not a white cake colored red (as I once read and was very offended by) and it's not a chocolate cake either although it does have a tiny bit of cocoa in it. It's a slightly tangy cake and moist (if it's a good recipe). And it just happens to be red, although I'm sure you could color it any color you'd like or leave it out if you don't care for the dye-- but that's part of the appeal, dontcha think?


Red Velvet Cake
from Southern Cakes

Printer Friendly Version
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with waxed paper or kitchen parchment. Grease the paper and flour the pans.

Prepare three separate mixtures for the batter. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl and use a fork to mix them together well. Combine the cocoa powder and the red food coloring in a small bowl, mashing and stirring them together to make a thick smooth paste.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with a mixer at low speed for 1 minute until creamy and soft. Add the sugar and then beat well for 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl now and then. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one until the mixture is creamy, fluffy and smooth. Scrape the cocoa-food coloring paste into the batter and beat to mix it in evenly.

Combine the vanilla with the milk. Add a third of the flour mixture and then about half the milk, beating the batter with a mixer at low speed. Mix only enough to make the flour or liquid disappear into the batter. Mix in another third of the flour, the rest of the milk and then the last of the flour in the same way.

In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar and stir well. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to quickly mix this last mixture into the red batter, folding it in gently by hand. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until the layers are spring back when touched lightly in the center and are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans.

Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Then turn them out onto the racks, remove the paper and turn top side up again to cool completely. Frost with frosting of your choice.

NOTE: If you can’t find buttermilk, stir 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk and leave to stand for 10 minutes before using.

Cream Cheese Pecan Frosting from Monica H.
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Then add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Fold in chopped pecans. Use immediately.

Be sure to check out all the other Cake Slice Bakers' creations!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

POM Review

I had a busy weekend and was just now able to get caught up on all your blogs. I will post another recipe on Wednesday but I wanted to post a review of POM juice that was sent to me a few months ago. I'm sorry POM Wonderful for taking so long!

The gracious people at POM Wonderful sent me two large bottles of Pomegranate Nectarine and Pomegranate Kiwi 100% Juice. I was really pleased with its flavor and enjoyed it much more than the 100% POM juice. The addition of the kiwi and nectarine flavors made it somewhat tropical tasting. I tend to find the regular POM juice a tad tart and somewhat bitter but I didn't feel that way about these juices.

I also really enjoy Martinelli's apple juice but I find it too sweet so I mixed the two for a nice beverage cocktail over ice and drank it with breakfast. It's also really good with orange juice but the color isn't so attractive :-) It was really refreshing and I suggest if you can find it in your grocery store to give it a try.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Retro Dessert and A "Green" White Elephant Gift

This is one of two desserts that I made for the Christmas buffet at my aunts house. I was going to make a sausage, apple, cornbread dressing but my mom said she wanted to make the dressing so she handed off her dessert to me. I also made a cake, but today I will share with you a lovely retro dessert- a Jello mold :-)

I've made many a Jello salad in my lifetime but I've never put it into a mold before. I thought this would be fun though since it was for a special occasion. As if you need a special occasion to put Jello into a pretty dish. ha ha! This mold is actually a cake pan from Kaiser that I got at Goodwill for $3! I think I got a great deal on it as it was brand new and not a single scratch on it. I decided to go with orange gelatin with crushed pineapple, marshmallows, whipped topping and coconut. An Ambrosia mold to be exact.

It was really good and I liked the combination of these flavors in this fluffy salad. I did leave out the coconut because my sister *thinks* she's allergic to it. The only change I would make next time is to use the mandarin juice in place of the cold water and to maybe reduce the amount of overall liquid in this recipe by about 1/4 cup just to firm it up a bit. I'd make this again though with the coconut as I think it would be a nice texture.

Ambrosia Jello Mold from Kraft
  • 1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • cold water
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) orange Jello Gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups thawed Cool Whip
  • 1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add enough cold water to juice to measure 1 cup. Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved. Stir in measured liquid. Refrigerate 1-1/4 hours or until slightly thickened.

Whisk in Cool Whip until well blended. Refrigerate 10 min. or until mixture will mound. Stir in pineapple, oranges, marshmallows and coconut. Spoon into 6-cup mold sprayed with cooking spray.

Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Unmold.

Tips from Kraft:

How to Stir Cool Whip into Gelatin:

Spoon Cool Whip into slightly thickened gelatin, using the amount of Cool Whip specified in the recipe.Gently stir the Cool Whip into the gelatin until all the Cool Whip has been incorporated and mixture is a uniform pastel color.

How to Unmold Gelatin:

Dip mold in warm water for about 15 sec. Gently pull gelatin from around edge with moist fingers. Place moistened serving plate on top of mold. Invert mold and plate; holding mold and plate together, shake slightly to loosen. Gently remove mold and center gelatin on plate.

I mentioned in the title that there was a "Green" White Elephant Gift as part of this post. A couple months ago, Laura of Hey What's For Dinner Mom? hosted a white elephant gift exchange between bloggers who wanted to participate. The deal was to send a fellow blogger a gift that we didn't want-- a regift of sorts, which was the "green" part of the exchange. I sent my gift to Laura in Alaska and her postal service took 3 weeks to get it to her- crazy! I got a gift this week from Healthy Wife, Crazy Life.

In my little package was a cardboard birdhouse. Which at first sounded odd to me, but I started to look at it, I think it's pretty neat. It's water resistant and folds together pretty easily. I'll have to try it out this spring when the birds come back to my house. I also got a scented pencil made of recycled newspapers that smells like chocolate, some vanilla bean lotion, a mini bottle of hand sanitizer and a small cosmetic bag. Fun!

Thanks so much!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Coconut" Cake, I Resent You.

Have you ever had a dessert that was so completely ugly but it was so good that it didn't even matter? Or a beautifully plated masterpiece that was dry and lackluster that it made you resent it's good looks? Yeah well this "coconut" cake falls into the second category.

Coconut is put into quotations because I don't think a yellowish cake with a handful of shredded coconut folded into it constitutes a coconut cake! This cake had it's ups and down. It was gorgeous, there's no doubt about that. I was even impressed with myself because it looked so ethereal. It was so white and cloud like. It had a good amount of coconut on and in it and the frosting was good. But then again it's hard to screw up cream cheese frosting.

I use a large cookie scoop to portion out my batter so I get even amounts in each pan. Then I use an offset spatula to spread it out into the crevices.

It's down sides were that it was HEAVY and DENSE and dry and didn't taste like coconut. It had almond and vanilla extract in it which was good but that's what the cake tasted like--not coconut. I think this cake could have been benefited from some coconut milk or cream of coconut, maybe even coconut extract. It was just lacking something, which is pretty sad when it contains 3 sticks of butter and 5 eggs! I read the reviews on this cake and a lot of people really loved it while all the others agree with me and didn't. Make it and let me know what you think.

And did I mention this was for my in-laws 38th wedding anniversary. I had every intention of making a different cake but she kept hinting that she really wanted a coconut cake. No one really had any comments about it- good or bad, but I knew it was NOT a hit when my MIL didn't want to take any home with her. And sadly, I didn't blame her. A good portion of this went in the trash. I'll have to redeem myself on their 39th!

"Coconut" Cake by Ina Garten
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp., plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Happy 38th Anniversary N&B!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Buttery Banana Bun Bonanza

It's very rare that I make, eat, photograph and blog about a recipe all in the same day. In fact I've only done it about 3 times since I've been blogging. But this morning I made Banana Buns that I saw on No Onions a couple months back. All I can say is YUM!

I didn't follow her recipe exactly, since it's more of a concept and you don't have to be so exact. 4 B's- Biscuits. Butter. Brown Sugar. Banana. I added a little cinnamon and chopped pecans then brushed the biscuits with a little more butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. I also used Grands Buttermilk biscuits rather than the smaller ones, but use what you like or have on hand. Oh and I sprayed the pan with non stick spray so they didn't stick.

The result was an upside down nutty, caramelly, banana bun perfect for lazy weekends and for company. The butter, brown sugar and cinnamon melted down and made a lovely syrup on the buns once turned out of the pan. The bananas got soft and the pecans were crunchy while the biscuit rose beautifully and was fluffy but sturdy enough to hold up all the goodies on top. They were like individual gooey banana breads. I loved these and look forward to making them again. Next time I might try them with blueberries or diced peaches.

Banana Pecan Butter Buns

makes 8 buns

  • 8 (1 tube) Grands Buttermilk Biscuits
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 8 equal pats
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or 16 pecan halves (2 per bun)
  • 1-2 bananas cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted (optional)
  • cinnamon sugar (optional)
  • nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your muffin tins and get ready to layer ingredients.

Place 1/2 Tablespoon or two of the 8 butter pats into each muffin cup. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the butter, then place 3-4 banana slices over the pecans. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon over bananas. Top with biscuit and press into muffin tin. Brush each biscuit with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 18 minutes or until golden and puffed. Allow to cool for a couple minutes before turning out onto a plate.

NOTE: The Grands biscuits are a little large but if you compress them with your hands around the edges of the biscuit as if you're shaping a patty it will fill the muffin tin perfectly. I like these as oppose to the smaller ones because they bake up taller and more muffin like.

One medium banana is enough for about 5 buns.

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