You may have noticed there’s always a big blank spot in posting around July and August every year. That’s because I live in Houston, where it’s not just hot – it’s HOT!. Add to that an old home with less than optimum air conditioning and, well, let’s just saying that cooking of any kind takes a break in the hottest part of the summer.
A couple of weeks ago, we were having 98 degree days every day, with high humidity, resulting in a heat index of 105-110 or higher. Ugh. Baking couldn’t have been further from my mind. But then some slightly cooler weather came through, Tropical Storm Hermine gave us a few days of much nicer temperatures, and suddenly Fall was on my mind! Time to bake again, baby!
Okay, so it’s still pretty hot (low to mid-90’s today), but I’m determined it’s going to be Fall soon, no matter what the thermostat says. So I’m gonna get back into the kitchen if it kills me! (and it just might!)
My poor co-workers, so spoiled after 4 years of getting home baked goodies every month for staff meeting – last month, they got donuts from the local bakery with a “too hot to bake!” note stuck to the box. There were some sad faces around the office (I notice they still ate the donuts, though). But this month, I showed up with these Black Bottom Coconut Macaroons and suddenly everyone was happy again.
These were super easy to make and delicious. One guy said they reminded him of Almond Joy (his favorite candy). Nobody else made that comparison, but there was definitely a consensus – these are winners.
This time, I did the recipe straight out of the book (well, adapted just a little), but baked them as mini-cupcakes. Topped with a couple of slivered almonds and sprinkled with raw sugar, they became fancy little almond tea cakes.
If you haven’t tried this recipe yet – please do. It’s the kind of recipe that should be in every go-to file!
These babycakes are a bit like a little girl who’s grown up and is getting ready for her first prom – sweet, simple and soft, but all dressed up and looking glamorous!
When I ran across this recipe a couple of months ago, it really stuck in my mind. It is such a simple recipe, but for some reason, it just really appealed to me. I could almost taste the cookies and couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try them.
So when it was time again for Monthly Munchies, it was a natural choice. I wanted to dress things up this month a little, though, so instead of doing these as cookies, I did them as bars and used a cutter to make pretty shapes. The texture is much more cakey than cookie-like, so it worked out perfectly.
This was done in a 9×13 pan, and they rose a little taller than I expected. Next time I would use a larger pan to get a little bit smaller babycakes. So choose your pan depending on how big you’d like them to be.
This recipe didn’t disappoint. They are delicious and soft, with that trademark buttermilk flavor. Cutting them into pretty shapes before drizzling allows the glaze to drip appetizingly down the sides. Everyone commented on it, so do take the extra few minutes to give them that special touch.
Not too long ago, the Tuesdays with Dorie group chose to make the Swedish Visiting Cake. As always happens with the TWD group, pictures of the cake popped up all over the Blogsophere.
Although I’ve had Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, from My Home to Yours for quite a while, I just haven’t used it much. I don’t exactly know why – the pictures are luscious and the recipes sound incredible. For whatever reason, I just haven’t.
After seeing all those enticing pictures, when we decided we wanted something yummy over the weekend, the Swedish Visiting Cake came immediately to mind. We weren’t in the mood for nuts, though, so I decided to make a purely lemon version.
Wow! This is an awesome recipe. It is incredibly quick and simple – one bowl, a cup to melt the butter in, a whisk and a spatula are all that is required (well, and a cake pan or skillet, of course). You can throw it together in just a few minutes and then it only takes 25-30 minutes to bake.
The end result is perfect – dense, moist cake, and a crisp sugar crust over a delightful crackling top. This version smells and tastes fresh and lemony. It was wonderful warm right out of the oven, and it was just as good the next day at room temperature. I was sorely tempted to eat this for breakfast, it was so good! Proof positive that sometimes the simplest recipes are the best.
Foodie Fights Battle: Peas & Ginger
I just discovered it last week, right when they were about to start the first battle since they re-launched their site and thought What the heck! I registered and signed up for the first battle. The ingredients for this battle are ginger and peas.
Let me tell you, I came up with sooo many ideas for this battle. I agonized. I grilled my boyfriend about what he thought. I could NOT decide what to make! Should I go for comfort food that everyone loves? Daring and gourmet? Totally off the wall? Safe and down home?
I had first decided to go fairly safe with some Ginger-Honey Glazed Lamb Chops with Minted Pea Chutney. But while I was shopping for that, I had an epiphany and thought “Cheesecake!”
I mean, think about it – there are lots of sweet veggie recipes. Carrot cake, zucchini bread, beet chocolate cake, pumpkin pie, etc. Peas are sweet. Why not go all the way with it and see how it does in a truly sweet application? I became obsessed with the idea and had to try it. I still made the chops as a backup, just in case the cheesecake really sucked, so you’ll be seeing that recipe here in a couple of days.
But today, let’s talk about Ginger and Pea Cheesecake!!
Ginger & Pea Cheesecake
Unfortunately, I was so consumed with figuring out what I was doing, that I totally forgot to take pictures during the process, so the only thing you get to see is the final result. Sorry!
My vision was of a gorgeous marbled top with beautiful light green swirled through the white cheesecake. As you can see, that’s not how it came out. The top of this cheesecake browned quite a bit, so I would recommend covering it for the first half of baking to reduce that.
Also, pea puree is apparently heavy enough that it sinks. Although I attempted to marble this, it really came out more like a bottom layer of pea and a top layer of ginger. Finally, I only used 1 cup of pea puree and didn’t quite get as much lovely green cheesecake and pea flavor as I’d like. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect these changes.
Overall, this cheesecake turned out delicious! It is rich and sweet and very creamy. Even my anything-healthy-or-“weird”-hating boyfriend loved it. He scarfed down a big piece and scraped the plate clean. If HE will eat a cheesecake with peas in it, I consider it an absolute victory!
So, next time you’d like to make an unusual and delicious Springtime dessert, consider this Secret Layer Ginger Cheesecake. Just don’t tell anyone what the green part is until AFTER they eat it!
Recently I posted about the panini grill I got by accident, when what I had really wanted was this spiffy 5-in-1 griddle and grill. Although the panini grill was neat, I really did want that multi-tasker (you know, the Word of Alton Brown is “Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Uni-Tasker”), so I exchanged to get the one I wanted. Usually, I’ll just live with it when I make a mistake like that, but I am so glad I didn’t this time! This griddler is really cool and I’ve used it several times already.
Previously, when I made French Toast, I had to heat up a couple of different nonstick fry pans, each of which can only hold 1-2 pieces at a time. So I ended up standing over the stove while everyone else ate (so their food didn’t get cold). The griddler is much more efficient and I can fit many pieces at a time. I was able to get them all done in two quick batches and sit down to eat at the same time as the rest of the family. Plus, they all browned much more evenly than they did in the fry pans. I’ve also used the griddle for pancakes and it was great. The griddle plates are easily scraped with a provided tool and can then go right into the dishwasher. Yay!
So, back to the French Toast. My boyfriend has the biggest sweet tooth on the planet. He pretty much expects to eat something sweet at least once every day, preferably more often. If he doesn’t get some kind of sweet breakfast item on the weekend, he really feels deprived (maybe you noticed the many sweet breakfast items here – cinnamon rolls, pancakes, waffles). Since I had some going-stale-rolls, I sliced them up and went for French Toast this time.
I have this no-fail recipe for French Toast that produces delicious every time, crisp on the outside, soft and custardy on the inside French Toast. After trying lots of tasty-but-never-just-right recipes, I ended up taking a recipe from one place and some techniques from another and have hit upon what we think is the Perfect French Toast recipe! The basic recipe is scrumptious as is, but it’s also easy to customize it with different flavors. This time, we went with orange.
It was a hit! The Man loved it and said the orange made the outer coating seem almost “candy like.” I’m not sure I agree with that, but it was sweet and it was delicious! Definitely serve this with a big glass of icy cold milk and be prepared to ignore calories. Feel free to omit the orange flavoring, or sub something else in there of your choice.
None of these pictures really show how delish this recipe is, but trust me, it’s a winner!
Has anyone else noticed the Great Pancake Celebration that seems to be sweeping the blogosphere? It seems everywhere I look, there are posts about pancakes. Gluten-free pancakes. Red velvet pancakes. All different kinds of pancakes everywhere!
I hadn’t even noticed it before I decided to make some pancakes this past weekend. Are we all being influenced by aliens to eat lots of pancakes or something?
Whatever the reason, when I ran across a pancake recipe at Rouxbe.com, I immediately wanted to make them. I’ve tried a lot of different recipes, but although many of them were quite delicious, they never seemed quite as good as they should be. I’ve had trouble getting mine to be as fluffy as I liked, so this recipe for “Mile High Pancakes” immediately caught my attention.
I followed their recipe fairly closely, only subbing melted butter for the oil (I was out of oil) and adding some cinnamon. I rarely sift when recipes call for it, and this was no exception. Instead, I just put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together vigorously. This breaks up any lumps, blends the dry ingredients evenly and “fluffs” it. Most of the time, it works just fine, is quicker and easier than sifting and avoids dirtying yet another utensil!
I added a fair hit of cinnamon which provided a strong cinnamony flavor. If you’d prefer a more subtle flavor, reduce the amount of cinnamon.
These turned out nice and fluffy, as advertised! We really enjoyed the cinnamon flavor in these, but I have lots of ideas for other flavorings too. This is a easy, delicious recipe that will be my go-to for pancakes until further notice.
Give ‘em a try. I think you will enjoy!
Adapted from Mile High Pancakes
(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links)
Also see this month’s other Monthly Munchies recipe – Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
As I mentioned in the Chocolate Chunk cookie post, this recipe was a special request by a coworker. She had been jonesing for carrot cake for a couple of months and not being the type to go out of her way to indulge her craving, she’d just been doing without! So, I was happy to oblige. Besides, my boyfriend loves carrot cake too, and since I’d never made one, this was a perfect time to get a recipe on the books for him.
I left the nuts out of these due to some nut allergies at the office, but when I make it again for my boyfriend, I will add chopped pecans, so I have included them in this recipe.
Also see this month’s second Monthly Munchies recipe – Carrot Cupcakes w/ Orange Cream Cheese Icing.
Our April staff meeting was last Thursday, and as usual, I brought some goodies to keep everyone sweet and sugared up, to keep that meeting moving along. Both of the goodies this month were special requests from coworkers. One asked for “regular old chocolate chip cookies,” so that was an easy one!
This is my go-to chocolate chunk cookie recipe which is, so far, universally loved. This time was no exception. At my house, we almost always prefer soft, chewy cookies, and this recipe definitely falls into that category. If you like yours less soft, try swapping the amounts of the brown and white sugars, bake them a little bit longer, and take them off the baking sheet after about 5 minutes to finish cooling on a rack.
I always use chocolate chunks because I like the way they look better, plus you get bigger chunks of chocolate in each bite, but you could definitely use the same amount of regular chips.