Sweet Tooth

My Top 12 | Holiday Cookies

November 28, 2017

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving gathered around the table with familiar faces and maybe some new ones too. After all, ‘Tis the Season to take it easy and enjoy the company of friends and family. To eat, drink and be merry. So don’t be silly and start a diet, keep the ball rolling and let’s be 100% Christmas!

To kick off the Christmas season my sister and I are hosting a cookie swap this weekend and in preparation I’ve selected my top 12 picks for 2017. There’s a good mix here. Some healthy, others not so much. Different shapes and sizes that will fill a platter nicely. I also tried to select recipes that seemed quick and easy so I could whip up a couple different kinds. I made number 9 last night while dinner was cooking.

I would love to hear which ones you try and if they were the first to disappear. 🙂

1.    Chocolate + Peanut Butter Fudge.

2.   Slice n Bake Vanilla Brown Butter and Pecan Cookies….Dipped in Chocolate.

3.   Ultimate Ginger Cookie.

4.   Rocky Road Bars.

5.   Chai Spiced Cookies.

6.   Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls.

7.   Nut Quinoa and Chocolate Bars.

8.   Peanut Butter Blossoms.

9.   Coconut Macarons.

10.   Peanut Butter Bliss Balls.

11.   Brown Butter Shortbread.

12.   Peanut Butter and Pretzel Bars.

 

 

Highlands Egg Nog Cocktail. It’s not a cookie but I am quite certain it would pair perfectly with these holiday treats. Cheers!

End of Summer Recipe Inspiration + Other Fun Stuff

August 31, 2017

I hope you’ve been summering well. You know, checking off fun activities like camping, fishing, hiking, boating, traveling, or whatever it is you like to do in the heat. For me, its mostly morning and/or evening fires with a hot latte or glass of crisp rose, riveting conversation or reading material. I also like to spend time in the garden and take long evening walks when the air is still warm but not hot. For some odd reason that perfect temperature calls to memory some of my favorite years of summer fun. I just love it and it makes me feel forever youthful. We also managed to squeeze in the annual camp trip with the nephew and nieces, cast a couple lines, hike a mountain, clink a couple beer glasses in Ireland and cut loose at my little sister’s wedding celebration. So I’d chalk it up to another great summer. But I can’t help to notice that the days are getting shorter and the morning and evening temps are significantly dropping at sunset.  I hate to say it folks but we’re on the brink of Autumn. So I thought I would share a bunch of summer recipes with you before we move into a new season. Some I have been whipping up all summer and the others are on my list to try before the good summer produce vaniches. Let me know if you try any and which one was your favorite!

P.S. I also included a couple fun non-recipe links at the very end.

XO

Crepes with Vanilla Bean Roasted Rhubarb. I have been making these for Sunday breakfast all summer. Instead of roasted rhubarb though I have been making more of a rhubarb compote and topping with strawberries and then raspberries as the summer progressed.

Peggy’s Coffee Cake. This is as good as the article makes it out to be. I’ve made it for the construction and ranch crew a couple times this summer. I tried it in a bunt pan and 8×8 baking dish and I think it tastes better in the baking dish!

Cold Brew with Coconut Creamer. I haven’t tried this creamer yet but its on my list while I am still drinking cold brews.

Healthy(ish) Truffles. I have been making variations of this sweet treat all summer and storing them in my freezer for a 10 o’clock snack. I use almond butter and about half as much as the recipe calls for and I add a generous amount of raw cocoa. Never have dates on hand? I buy a big container of fresh dates from Costco and they keep in the fridge. I am surprised how long they store.

Tartines. Fun idea for a quick and healthy lunch. Get creative with your own combinations. My go-to is homemade hummus and avocado with lemon pepper and sea salt flakes (not so creative but that’s what I like)!

Mexican Corn and Quinoa Salad. If you aren’t at the farmer’s market buying a baker’s dozen of fresh corn……you are crazy!

Four Bean Salad. I make this every summer. So glad my mom’s friend shared her recipe.

Tomatoes and White Bread Salad with Mayonnaise Dressing. You also need to make the pickled tomatoes ahead of time but don’t worry it’s really quick and easy!

Edamame Quinoa Salad. Use your fresh tomatoes and corn right now.

Chicken Avocado Cilantro Lime Soup and Minestrone Verde. This happens every year right about now. I start craving Autumn soups and its too darn early. Usually I make a batch of my corn chowder since corn is what I am picking but this year I switched it up.

Rice and Beans with Steak and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa. If you didn’t grow tomatillos than use a fresh red salsa or any salsa you fancy for that matter! Quick and easy dinner that is delicious.

Roasted Zucchini Pasta Bake. I tried this the other night, its super easy and who doesn’t like a pasta bake. I substituted sour cream for the creme fraiche, I added 2 c. of shredded zucchini to the pasta and roasted some sweet onion slices with the zucchini rounds.

Heirloom Tomato Cheddar Tart with Everything Spice. If this doesn’t make you drool than watch the video here. My tomatoes are ripening on the vine so I will be trying this out shortly! Puff pastry is the only ingredient you might have to run to the market for.

Potato Waffles. Okay, this is probably more of a Fall recipe but I don’t care it’s on my summer list.

Honey Mascarpone Tart with Figs and a Salty Graham Cracker Crust. I want/need to make this so badly but instead of figs I want to use ripe juicy peaches that you can find fresh right now. I read through the post and it seems like a simple tart with only 8 ingredients and shouldn’t take long since its a NO bake.

Whole Fruit Pineapple Peach Lemonade. Have not tried this but with fresh ripe peaches in season I think its a must try.

Honeydew Jalapeno Margaritas. Definitely need to try this recipe.

El Diablo Cocktail. I had know idea what sotol was. After a little research, I found that it’s tequila’s crazy little brother. Think I might like him!

Native Deodorant. Paraben Free, Aluminum Free and Non Toxic Ingredients plus its free shipping and retuns. The coconut vanilla smells like tropical heaven.

I’ve been thinking about these sandals for awhile now. I really should just treat myself for working so darn hard this summer! 🙂

Have you heard about Tocos? It is suppose to act like a creamer but its non-dairy. You can add it your oatmeal, coffee and smoothies to name a few. It’s suppose to do wonders for your skin so I decided I had to try it.

Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel. Bye bye baby oil hello self tanner.

I bought these sunglasses for my mother and they look awesome on her. So much I want to get the same pair but might do these instead.

I think I might finally break down and buy myself a Vitamix Blender. They are running a Labor Day sale. I really want to start making the Glowing Green Smoothie in the morning.

Read this fun little article 10 Things You Need in Your Kitchen According to a Parisian. I couldn’t agree more and also think it’s good entertainment advice. However, I have a wee problem with #9, a splash of full fat milk is a must!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie | Last of the Lilacs

June 4, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I made this pie for my brother-in-law’s birthday a couple weeks ago. I did not personally craft this recipe but I will definitely be keeping it close by. If you have a husband, boyfriend or boy friend I am confident promising this pie will win you all kinds of favors and brownie points.  Plus Father’s Day is just around the corner so this takes away the time and energy thinking about what do get Dad.

I just want to say, this pie is as easy as 1-2-3 and you’ll take home the blue ribbon. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie // serves 8

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE CRUST // by Baking Bites

10 large/double graham crackers
6 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. unsweetened raw cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions here.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE FILLING // by Crazy for Crust

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 c. heavy whipping cream, cold
3 Tbs. powdered sugar

Directions here. Note I used the above baked chocolate crust.

Lilacs

Birthday Pie

Chocolate Espresso Everything Ice Cream Cake

April 15, 2016

Birthday Cake

Ice Cream Cake

HELLO! I can’t believe it’s been months since the last recipe I shared. So sorry.

Now that it’s spring, I am feeling inspired and motivated by longer days and fresh colors. My eyes have been fixated on green’s grand entrance into the pastures and markets. Hallelujah. I no longer have to rely on soups and stews to carry me through the winter.  So I am going to try and put my best foot forward again but I have to tell you I am still learning how to juggle and I am not very good at keeping all my balls in the air. And I hate to say it but this site always seems to find ground first.

Geez, now I’m feeling like I should have shared a recipe highlighting the fresh flavors of spring instead of this delicious ice cream cake. Well not really, ha! I love ice cream cake and we celebrated Luke’s birthday last weekend so this recipe seems fitting. I also kind of think if you don’t like ice cream cake, well that sucks for you! Plus the best part about making a homemade ice cream cake is the truth in the ol’ saying, “If a little is great and a lot is better then way too much is just right”! So go hog wild here. Throw everything in that bowl. Brownie bites, cocoa nibs, chocolate chunks, walnuts, marshmallows….you get it. This is ‘Your Everything’ ice cream!

So the funny thing about this ice cream cake is its what I call a ‘zero sum’ dessert. Do you know what I am talking about? When you balance a healthy decision with a not so healthy one.  So in this case, the cake is gluten free, calls for coconut oil, which we all know is the go-to oil these days in healthy living blogs and magazines and well if I had coconut sugar that would have been great too because its low on the glycemic index. But then I go and defy my healthy decisions with a quart of decadent dairy! See this cake is what I call a ‘zero sum’ dessert. But the bad news is just the other day I read an article that made the point that being “good” isn’t about zero sum. Well shit! However, the article has nothing to do with diet or healthy eating but actually about the buzz on how eating less meat would solve global warming. The article is a little dated (2014) but offers an interesting perspective from the other side. If you like you can read it here. But somehow when I read this article I immediately correlated the idea of ‘zero sum’ to my cooking and baking practices, which point proven here! However I’m not totally convinced that ‘zero sum’ is bad practice, but perhaps I will try harder to win all the way around next time!

Hope you are getting outdoors!

Luke's Birthday

Chocolate Espresso Everything Ice Cream Cake / Serves around 14-16 depending on the slice!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (cake)

165 g. coconut oil
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1/4 c. maple syrup
4 eggs, separated
110 g. coconut sugar
3 c. almond meal

HOW TO MAKE IT

Recipe here. I was low on coconut oil so only 130 grams made it into the sauce pan. I used raw cocoa powder. I didn’t have coconut sugar in my pantry so substituted for granulated white sugar. And I was low on almond flour so added a little oat flour. Despite my poor grocery planning, the base was still incredibly chocolatey and fudgy, which is all that really matters. Am I right?!

I baked the cake in a greased and lined 9-inch spring form pan. Allow it to cool and then top with ice cream. If you don’t feel like making homemade ice cream just buy your favorite quart. Freeze the cake for a couple of hours so the ice cream can set but I recommend removing from the freezer for 15-20 minutes prior to serving.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (ice cream)

2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 whole vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs instant espresso
10 oz. semi sweet chocolate
Everything / chocolate chunks, walnuts, coconut, brownie bites (like I said, a little is good and more is better)

HOW TO MAKE IT

Use ingredients above and follow my Serviceberry Ice Cream recipe.

Note: Pour custard through fine mesh strainer over vanilla, chocolate and espresso. Wait a minute or two for chocolate to melt before stirring.

Thanksgiving Leftovers & Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

November 27, 2015

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

floral

Happy Thanksgiving! I know it’s been a little quiet over here for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. But I’m back and just in time for the holidays. Phew, because this is my favorite time of the year to be in the kitchen. So many sweet treats to bake. My sister and I actually already baked 8 dozen sugar cookies. I am feeling inspired this year if you haven’t noticed from my holiday board. However, I am pretty sure the creators behind these cookies or should I say ‘edible art’ have to be professionals!

So what did everyone make for Thanksgiving this year? Did you host and have the honor of cooking the turkey?

We ate the tried and true standbys; turkey and homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing and mashed potatoes, broccoli quinoa casserole, and pumpkin and apple pie. I created a new salad with kale, Brussels sprouts and candied hazelnuts. Nat recently visited Spain and Portugal so she was feeling inspired by the Spanish and made a sangria. Mom tried a recipe for chocolate chess pie. Yes, it sounds like we had a lot of pie and we did. Four to be exact. Just what I needed right before I squeeze into my bathing suit for a week. Oh well.

The best part of the day was that I didn’t have to host or cook the turkey. I volunteered my sister and her husband for both. Thanks Kels and Dave. The smoked turkey was delicious. You may be smoking turkey from here on out!

So now you have an entire fridge of leftovers. The real reason behind the feast; so we can eat pie for a week. No seriously, there is usually a lot of leftovers and I can only eat so many turkey and cranberry sandwiches. So I have two ideas for you this year; Shepherd’s pie and these pumpkin cranberry muffins.  Shepherd’s pie is a great way to use up leftover turkey, gravy, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. And these muffins aren’t too sweet, which I like. And let’s not forget the cranberry tucked away in the middle of the muffin. I mean who doesn’t love a little surprise!

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving leftovers

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins / makes 8 large muffins

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. spelt flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, dried orange peel and nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 c. leftover pumpkin puree (8 oz.)
Leftover cranberry sauce
Demerara sugar and pecans

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add wet ingredients minus the cranberry sauce and fold everything together until just blended; do not over mix. Spoon the batter into a greased muffin pan, filling each cup halfway. Add a generous teaspoon of cranberry sauce and fill cup with batter to three-quarters full. Sprinkle with sugar and rough chopped pecans.

Bake for 20 to 3o minutes until golden brown. If you insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin it should pull out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter of coarse!

Happy Holidays! And remember, there’s always something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Serviceberry Ice Cream

August 17, 2015

Serviceberry Ice Cream

Katie Cooper

Funny Story.

Let me just preface this story by telling you how much I love ice cream; the type of love that requires me to eat the entire carton in one sitting. So awhile back, before I was married and while I lived in Sacramento, I use to keep my ice cream in Luke’s freezer.  Why? Because I thought the effort to travel across town would most definitely trump my craving. Usually a true statement, until this one weekend when Luke left town. It was early in the ‘I think we should take a break stage’ and it was probably 100 plus degrees and nothing sounded better than ice cream. I was weak and broke down; got on my bike and rode across town to open up the freezer to see that Luke had duck taped the ice cream carton.  In so many ways that it would be quite impossible to enter without breaking. Plus he had attached a little note; I know you want it but you can’t have it.

Lets just say that was last time ice cream got the best of me. I am not saying I have developed self control. Basically I just try to avoid ice cream now. So buying an ice cream maker this summer was a big step. I have been making homemade ice creams all summer and it’s so delicious. So I basically try to make it for gatherings to ensure no leftovers. That way I can button my jeans come Fall!

Ice Cream Cones

The dog days of summer are here and berry season is popping so I decided to make another flavor with foraged serviceberries. Have you tried them before? They have a dry grainy texture and a mild sweet flavor. They could actually be mistaken for a blueberry. Who knew? Not me. Until recently when Mariah, the super hip chica with Everything Golden, asked me if I wanted to join her for berry picking. Up until that point, I thought I was foraging for a berry more closely related to the raspberry. Which has me wondering; what was I snacking on last summer when hiking with my brother-in-law!

MUST HAVES

Vintage silk skirt and straw hat here.
Naturally dyed silk blouse and woven wrap belt here.
Berry Bowl, Dipping Dish and of course my favorite Textured Ceramic Plate.
The Ice Cream Maker I use.

Photos taken of me by the lovely Mariah, Owner of Everything Golden.

Serviceberry_

Forage

Serviceberry Ice Cream (makes about 1.5 quarts or 6 one cup servings)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

3/4 c. dark chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted
1 3/4 c. to 2 c. service berries
2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 whole vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

HOW TO MAKE IT

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add milk, cream, half of sugar (1/4 cup), salt, scraped vanilla bean and pod. Whisk ingredients and bring mixture just to a boil.

While the milk/cream mixture is heating, in a medium glass mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 c. of sugar. Whisk until mixture is pale and thick.

Once the milk/cream mixture has come just to a boil, whisk about a third of the mixture into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Whisk another third of the hot mixture into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Pour egg yolk/sugar mixture into remaining hot milk/cream mixture and stir constantly over low heat using a wooden spoon. Mixture is done when it’s thickened and coats the back of the wooden spoon. A good way to know is if you swipe the back of the wooden spoon with your pinky finger, it should keep its form. This step should only take a minute or two. The mixture must NOT boil or the yolks will cook. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer (discard the vanilla bean pod and any bits of egg). Stir in vanilla extract. Bring to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Ice cream maker bowl should be frozen. Pour mixture into frozen bowl and turn on. Churn for about 20 minutes. The ice cream will be similar consistency to soft serve. Pour into a large glass mixing bowl and swirl in chocolate chunks, walnuts and serviceberries. Freeze for about 2 hours prior to serving but depends if yon the consistency you prefer; soft serve or hard ice cream!

Note: For this recipe, at least a 1.5 quart ice cream maker is needed.

Serviceberries

Double-Chocolate Loaf

June 4, 2015

Double Chocolate Loaf

Double Chocolate Loaf + Butter

I am still working on my freezers. The garage freezer is pretty much done. Mostly beef and some jugs of raw apple cider from last Fall’s harvest. I am slowly working on the kitchen freezer. It’s mostly items suited for baking. Flours, nuts and seeds, egg whites, ganache and too many brown mushy bananas. I like to contribute this problem to my husband. He always writes bananas on the grocery list and I always buy what’s on the list. I don’t eat many bananas and I am starting to think he doesn’t either!

I tire of the traditional banana bread so I am always looking for new recipes and ideas to deplete my stash. So when I came across this recipe for a Double-Chocolate Loaf I thought it might be easily modified to incorporate ripe sugary bananas and less refined sugar. It’s very chocolaty, which I love, with a subtle taste of banana. The banana is not overpowering which I usually find to be the case.

Please don’t forget the chocolate chips like I did the last time I made the loaf. The chocolate chips are everything! It has to be DOUBLE-CHOCOLATE!

Looking forward to eating from the garden. I have already harvested radishes and spinach and look forward to sharing garden fresh recipes throughout the summer. The Gardens Series is coming soon!

Double-Chocolate Loaf / Adapted from Baked Explorations; Classic American Desserts Reinvented

WHAT YOU’LL NEED
3/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour + 1/4 c. for high altitude
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 ripened bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

WHAT TO DO
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 in by 5 in loaf pan, dust with flour and knock out the excess.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add all the dry ingredients. Give a quick mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
Mash the bananas and add to the dry ingredients.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add chocolate chips and give a quick mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with butter, peanut butter or both!

Mini Apple Crisps with a Salted Pretzel Topping

May 18, 2015

individual apple crisps

tea and treats

It has been wet and drizzly for about a week or so now. The perfect weather to accomplish a little spring cleaning and baking. So between ranch and construction work last week, I managed to reveal the bottom of my garage freezer. I found a couple jugs of fresh pressed apple cider, beet greens pesto, bone marrow broth, a bag of prepared rhubarb and a bag of apples from last year’s harvest along with blackened corn from the cob and some specialty meats. So with garden fresh ingredients nearly around the corner, I thought I better start making use of what’s left in the freezer. So here is a recipe for mini apple crisps with a salted pretzel topping. The pretzels add a lot of texture and crunch, which I really like in a crisp. I also like this recipe because it’s incredibly quick. You will be in and out of the kitchen in no time. Plus it’s great for entertaining because it can be made ahead of time and easily transported. My apples were frozen but don’t worry if you want to use fresh, the recipe is forgiving. Hope you can find the time to enjoy with a cup of tea while it’s still chilly outside!

Mini Apple Crisps with a Salted Pretzel Topping // Serves 6

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE TOPPING
1/3 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. mini salted pretzels
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, chilled

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE FILLING
2 lb. frozen apples
1 Tbs granulated sugar
2 Tbs arrowroot
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 lemon for juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

HOW TO MAKE IT

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium glass bowl and toss to combine. Spray six (6) ramekins and equally divide filling into ramekins. Depending on ramekin size, this may be plus or minus one ramekin.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients for the topping and mix until combined. Cube the butter and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until clumps together when squeezed with fingers.

Spread topping evenly over ramekins. Place on a baking sheet to avoid a bubbly sticky mess and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The filling should be bubbly and the topping should be golden brown. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

mini apple crisp

The mini ceramic pie dish shown in the above photo is from Home Goods but here is a similar looking one. I really like these dishes because they are fairly shallow and have more surface area for the delicious crunchy topping!

I am sure the rhubarb in my freezer will show up in this cheesecake.
Probably going to make my charred corn chowder soup this week. Thinking of adding a little smoked paprika to it.

Since I spend almost every day working outside, or at least some portion of the day. I have found it extremely important to protect my skin from the elements. I was recently turned on to a moisturizer and pressed powder by a friend. The moisturizer is SPF 30 and the pressed powder is SPF 20. I have never added protection with a pressed powder. Normally I use a sun screen and call it good. But a pressed powder is incredibly effective because it

The moisturizer is the Red Currant by Eminence Organic Skin Care. Eminence products are made with the finest natural ingredients using whole fruit pulps and botanical ingredients without chemical preservatives. The skin care line is organic and incredibly fresh.

The pressed powder is by Jane Iredale. Jane Iredale products have earned the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation. To earn this seal, a manufacturer must provide scientific data showing that its product sufficiently and safely aid in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin. It is a mineral powder made without talc, FD&C dyes, synthetic preservatives, parabens or synthetic fragrance. I am not one to wear much makeup but if it helps protect my skin then I am all for it!

I also recently purchased this sun hat from Everything Golden.

I think I am ready for the summer sun!

Honey Vanilla Buttercream

April 11, 2015

Cake

My sister passed along a cookbook a couple months ago. The book is called Baked Explorations < Classic American Desserts Reinvented >. Author’s Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito  take our country’s treasured treats and reinvent the recipes with their signature tongue-in-cheek style. Think Whoopie Pies, Monkey Bread, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, the Sweet and Salty Brownie and Mississippi Mud Pie AKA Coffee Ice Cream Tart, just to name a few.  This is the type of cookbook that inspires me to make  change to the ‘old reliable’; to try substituting, adding or removing ingredients without compromising the familiar and comfortable flavors known to a recipe. After all, change is good!

A couple weeks ago a friend asked me if I would make a cake for her daughter’s baptism. I often make cakes for family and friends so I was obviously happy to contribute and be a part of her special day. I decided to try the Aunt Sassy Cake from the aforementioned cookbook. The original recipe is a white based cake with pistachio nuts but I modified it slightly substituting almonds for the pistachio nuts and also a small amount of almond flour for all-purpose. I thought almonds might be more appealing to a variety of palettes even though I am a big pistachio fan. The cake is delicious but the real shining star is the Honey Vanilla Buttercream frosting. It’s light and creamy and not too sugary. I think this is a recipe to file amongst your white cakes!

Almonds

White Cake

Honey Vanilla Buttercream / yields enough for one 8-inch, 3 layer cake

Recipe from Baked Explorations

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 Tbs. honey

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes at least 7 to 9 minutes of mixing; you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and honey and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Note: For me the frosting was the right consistency, I did not have to cool or warm it like mentioned in last step.

Almonds

Take a peek at my photo album from recent trip to Tulum and Valladolid, Mexico.
If you want / need a new cake stand, I think this one could be dressed up or down.
Want to get creative and eat cake, sift through my piece of cake board on pinterest.
April showers bring May flowers; you need to follow Swallow and Damsons instagram account if you don’t already.
I really need to find these boots for summer.
Check out new items on the Mercantile.

Amond Joy

Almond Flour

Giveaway + the Mercantile

March 17, 2015

Hot Cocoa and DRAM pine syrup flavored whipped cream

hot cocoa with pine flavored whipped cream

Do you remember DRAM, the Colorado based apothecary selling a variety of organic bitters and syrups? Back in October Owner and Alchemist, Shay Whitney, was generous enough to giveaway a selection of bitters and syrups on P&P. And now we’re giving away a bottle of the Pine Syrup.
“The pine syrup is deliciously unusual, the bottled taste of the Rocky Mountains. This syrup has a fresh pine flavor with hints of citrus and woody spice, imagine the wonderful aroma of a Christmas tree, NOT PineSol.” ~DRAM

Need some ideas on how to use Pine Syrup. Shae likes to combine with sparkling water to create a refreshing soda or add to cocktails for a unique twist. It’s also wonderful with baked goods, meats and teas. I tried the pine syrup as a sweetener for homemade whipped cream and I give it two thumbs up!

I presume everyone here has made a cup of hot chocolate. But if you would like to give the pine syrup whipped cream a try, simply add 4 Tbs of pine syrup to 1 pint of cream and whip until stiff. (Amount of pine syrup may vary depending on your taste.) Please note that since you are adding a syrup, the cream will be less stiff than expected but completely adequate for dolloping!
For a quick cup of hot chocolate I like to use Sarabeth’s all-natural mix here or make Cook’s Illustrated dry cocoa mix below.

Hot Chocolate Mix / Makes 3 Cups; enough for twelve 1-cup servings / Cook’s Illustrated

1 c. sugar
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. nonfat dry milk powder
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp kosher salt

Process all ingredients in food processor until ground to powder, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months.

To enter the giveaway, tell us in the comment section below: How do you make your hot chocolate? We’ll pick a winner by Tuesday March 24th!

Blue Flax Bowl

I am also excited to announce another artist has been added to the Mercantile, long-time family friend Kim Norby. Kim’s work is influenced by Scandinavian designs and artistic landscapes. She has a great gift for linear drawing and freeflow design; making pots that are aesthetically rich as well as functional is important to her. Kim and husband Thom currently reside near the town of Sundance in the Black Hills of Wyoming. They are both makers and artists and have been making pottery full-time since 1986.

Kim and Thom use to to nest in my hometown. They lived in a charming craftsmen style house with a studio in the backyard. When I was just a tike, I spent hours at their property playing in the creek and watching them work in the studio. I was fascinated by the potter’s wheel and kiln. I have so many fond memories of Kim and Thom and am reminded of our relationship every time I pass their old home and pull a pencil from collected mishaps. So when I started the Mercantile I immediately thought of Kim’s blue flax series from my childhood days. I asked her if she would create a bowl with the painted blue flax and I am thrilled with the outcome and over the moon to be selling Kim’s work on the Mercantile. The bowl can be purchased here.

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