Thursday, January 26, 2012

Random cookies

Hi there!  This is just going to be a quick post to show you some cookies I made the other day.  I was practicing with my Kopy Kake.  The cookies I wanted to make didn't turn out like I wanted them to, so I just made random designs instead!  

So these cookies are like me doodling in a notebook in high school.  Kinda random I know... but I like them anyways.  And I hope you do too!  

I have been very busy baking and cooking, so I will have lots of good recipes coming soon!  

Right now, I am going to have dinner with the hubby.  Hope you all are having a great day!!!  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Valentine Heart Macarons

I have been wanting to make French Macarons for awhile now and with Valentine's Day just a few weeks away, I thought I would make them pink and hearts!  I filled mine with creamy chocolate ganache!  Yum!  

I know macarons can be a bit intimidating but these are very easy!  I did have a few that were not so pretty, but I just used them for the bottom cookie.  No one will ever know.  Except now you all know.  

Oh well!  Food is not going to be perfect!  Unless it comes from a machine, chances are that they will not all be identical!  Now on to the recipe!

French Macarons:
Makes 24 

  • 2 oz. Powdered Almonds (you can find these in most grocery stores or here online) 
  • 4 oz. Powdered Sugar
  • 2 oz. Egg whites
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • pink food coloring
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 5 oz. milk or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine powdered almonds and powdered sugar in bowl and set aside.
  3. Whip egg whites to soft peaks.  Add sugar, salt and vanilla to glossy, stiff peaks.
  4. Right before you are done beating the egg whites, add the food coloring to achieve your desired color.
  5. Fold in dry ingredients a third at a time.  Do not overmix!
  6. Gently put mixture into piping bag.
  7. Pipe approximately 2 inch hearts onto silpat lined baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, as they will not spread very much but make sure they are not touching.  I did 4 rows of 6.  I got 2 sheet pans out of this recipe.
  8. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  9. Bake for approximately 12 minutes until they are dry and no longer look wet.  
  10. Let cool completely on pan.
  11. To make the Ganache: heat cream in a small pot just until it starts to steam.
  12. Pour over chopped chocolate in a small bowl.  
  13. Let stand for 5 minutes to let the hot cream slowly melt the chocolate.
  14. Stir the mixture together and until thick and smooth.  If there are any little pieces of chocolate that have not melted, you can microwave it for 15 seconds until everything is melted.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 20 minutes to cool.
  16. While you are waiting, take macarons off the baking sheet and match all the cookies up with another cookie.  That way you will make a little sandwich with the ganache.  Dust off any excess powdered sugar.
  17. Once ganache is cooled, put into piping bag.
  18. Pipe a quarter sized amount of ganache onto the inside of one cookie, and place the other cookie on top to make a sandwich.  *The ganache should not be running out the sides.  If it is, you either put too much or it has not cooled enough.  
  19. Enjoy!

macarons before they go into the oven

matching the macarons up with a "partner"

chopped chocolate in a bowl ready for the hot cream

pouring the hot cream over the chocolate

all ready to start piping

amount of ganache for the middle of the macaron

lots of little macarons

Mmm!  Can't wait to try one :-)

Extra special heart shaped pink Macarons for Valentine's Day!

What is YOUR favorite filling for a macaron?!  

Hope you all enjoy this recipe!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our Family Cookbook

I have always loved to cook and bake.  That love came from my Mom.  She makes some of my favorite meals, so when I went to college and got my first apartment I had to get those recipes from her.  I would call her and ask her how to make this, or how to make that.   And I would have all these little pieces of paper with recipes scribbled down.  

I had babysat for a few different families while I was in school, and one of them had me make dinner one night from a recipe from her family's cookbook.  What a great idea I thought!  It was filled with favorite recipes of the women in her family.  

So one Christmas while I was still in school, I decided that I would contact all the women on my Mom's side of the family to ask them if I could have their favorite recipes.  Now not all the women in my family cook.  A couple of people did not give me any recipes.  Luckily my Mom had a recipe or two from these people that she could give me to include in the cookbook.  Basically it has recipes from My mom, sister and me.  But that's ok.  I didn't tell everyone why I wanted the recipes.  I may have told my Mom because I have a really hard time keeping a secret from her, but I cannot remember! 

Once I had everyone's recipes, I typed them all up on my computer and printed them out.  I made sure to add  "Contributed by" at the bottom of each recipe so everyone would know who's recipe it was.  Now I made in total 8 cookbooks, so that would be a lot of pages to print out on my little printer!  I was in college at Robert Morris University at the time, and we had a student ID card that allowed us to print and copy so many pages from the computer lab.  Well... haha.  I guess the copy machine didn't read the IDs correctly and basically you could print how ever much you wanted.  So one night, I took all my pages to a copy machine where no one was and made ALL my copies.  I'm talking more than 200 copies.  I was like for so long!  Thanks RMU!  :-)

Then, I gathered pictures of all my family members and made a collage for the front and back of the cookbook.  I used a binder that you could slip a piece of paper in the front and back.  Next, I sorted out the recipes into categories and started making the cookbooks!  

I gave them to everyone for Christmas that year!  I use the cookbook all the time and love that I have my family recipes all in one place!  

I know... the spine of the book is nothing fancy!  I was a poor college girl after all!  But it works :-)

Now I know what you are thinking, this is going to take forever to make!  But I have a few suggestions how to make this work perfectly!

  • Not really close with your family, or your family members don't share your love of cooking?  Don't worry!  This is a great idea for Families, Friends, Book clubs, Mom groups and more!  
  • Have a cookbook party!  Have everyone bring a binder, some clear page protectors, and how every many copies of each of their recipes as people attending the party.  Then you can all assemble the cookbooks together with good food and great company! 
    • For instance, if there are 8 people at the party, everyone brings 8 copies of each recipe you want to share!  
    • Then, just like a cookie swap, everyone can take one of each recipe to put into their cookbook.  
    • To make it even better, have each person make one of their recipes to share!  You are more likely to want to make something that you have already tasted and know you love!
    • Take a group picture at the party and use that as the front cover to your cookbook!  
    • To get a good variety, ask each person to bring one appetizer, one entree and one dessert recipe, plus any extras that they are dying to share!  
    • Want to get specific?  Have a theme for your cookbook: Desserts, Appetizers, Drinks or choose a type of cooking that everyone loves like Italian or Mexican!

  • Don't want to make an actual cookbook?  Set up a email group of people who want to participate and whenever you get a good recipe, send it to all the people in the group!  Make it your "Online Cookbook" 

I hope you all like this idea and make your own cookbook!  I am so happy to have all these recipes together! It really came in handy this past Thanksgiving when for the first time in my lifetime my Mom did not cook!  My sister just bought a house in Boston, so she wanted to have us all out there.  My husband and I were on our way there, and unfortunately my parents could not make it because my Gramma was in the hospital.  Luckily my Mom put in her recipe for the Thanksgiving turkey in the cookbook so my sister knew exactly how to cook the turkey the way my Mom does it!  And it turned out great!  

 Since you will have all your family's recipes, just make sure that you do not take over someone's "signature dish" and start bringing it to family functions!  Just some friendly advice! ;-)

Happy sharing!  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honey Cornbread Muffins

A week or so ago I was making chili for dinner but I didn't have any bread to go with it.  My husband loves to have some kind of bread to dip into soups or stews or basically anything that has sauce.  I got my mind set on making cornbread since I haven't had it in a long time.  

The chili was cooking away on the stove, so with my husband home to make sure the house didn't catch on fire from the pot of chili, I ran to the store.  I swear, the grocery store is a nightmare around dinner time.  Either people are getting off of work and stopping at the store on their way home, or people are like me and forgot something for their dinner and make a quick trip to get their forgotten item.  

They always have like 2 or 3 cashiers at this time too.  And long lines!  You would think maybe they would plan better?  Guess not.  Now I have to say, I am lucky in that we are very close to shops around here and there are probably 6 grocery stores within a mile of this house.  And that's not a typo... Canada is crazy.  But this particular store is my favorite and they have everything I need, otherwise I would go somewhere else.  (Some grocery stores are those bargain stores, which are fine for somethings but not everything.  And there's also a Wal Mart, but that's crazy ALL the time).

Since I knew it would be very busy, I just wanted to get one of those little cornbread mixes.... They don't have them here.  Or at least I have never seen them.  (That is a whole other story about the lack of products in Canada that we have in the US)  So I settled for regular cornmeal.  After searching for it for probably 5 minutes.  Another thing... some items are in really strange places in the store.  

So I got home and needed to find a good cornbread recipe.  I just went to the Food Network and found this recipe from The Neely's.  It was SO good that I made it again with pulled pork and baked potatoes.  

I hope you like it as much as we do!

Honey Cornbread Muffins

*Makes 12 (I made a half recipe for just us!)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 stick melted butter (2 oz)
1/4 cup honey

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl.
  3. Add wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  4. Pour into sprayed nonstick muffin pans.  (You can use muffin liners but I find that too much of the cornbread sticks to the paper and these are too good to waste!)
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until golden on top!
  6. They are best served warm!

Mmm.. and yes I like a good amount of butter on mine!  

This would be such a good meal for today.  It is gloomy and rainy!  But the rain is washing away our pile of snow in the front yard!  

Hope everyone is having a great day!  I am off to bake something :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

When my husband said that he wanted to make my birthday cake this year I was pretty surprised.  He loves to cook, and not just grilling either.  Sometimes he will say to me when does he get to cook dinner.  And when I was preparing to spend an extended time away from him and offered to make dinners and freeze them , he told me that I didn't need to, he would like the time to be able to cook himself since he enjoys it.  WELL... I made him 3 large meals in the freezer, but he really likes to cook himself.

Baking on the other hand, not so much.  One day before Christmas I was at the table decorating some cookies.  He works from home most days, so he came downstairs to get a snack, and he came over to see what I was making.  He said to me that it looked very easy and that he could do a better job than me.  So I let him decorate a few of my extra cookies.  I of course had to take some pictures, but he made me promise that those would not make it online.  He actually did a good job though!  

The only other time I can remember him baking something was the first birthday of mine that we were together.  I'll never forget going over to the green house that him and his hockey teammates rented our Sophomore year of college, to find a birthday cake in the kitchen!  I really don't like surprises.  Actually, yes I LOVE surprises but I always want to know whats going on.  This time I had absolutely no idea!  How sweet. We were probably dating only 3 or 4 months at this point, so that won him some major points!  

Now 6 years later, he wanted to make me a cake again!  This time would be a little harder to surprise me, so he asked me what kind I would like.  Hmm... Carrot Cake!!!  One of my absolute favorite cakes.  Maybe even #1.  That and Red Velvet!  

We had to make them to take over to his parents the next night for dinner, so I decided that cupcakes would be much better.  Less baking time and less work.  And I thought he would do much better at icing cupcakes than a whole cake.  

So with my recipe and supervision, he made me these cupcakes!  And let me tell you, he only wanted my help to tell him how to do it and nothing else.  He would give me the look if I tried to help out at all.  However, I did ice the 3 cupcakes in the these pictures.  After all, I wanted them to look extra nice for you all!  And he does not want me posting anything he does online.  I don't blame him... it's not his thing.  

So here is my recipe!  

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups flour(start with 1 1/2 and add more if needed)
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
3-4 large carrots, finely grated
3/4 cup pineapple chunks, well drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 package cream cheese, softened
1 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In large bowl whisk oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla together.  
  3. In separate bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  4. Whisk in flour mixture to oil mixture until combined.
  5. Add in shredded carrots, pineapple and coconut.  Mix until combined.
  6. Pour into paper lined muffin tins. 
  7. Bake about 15-20 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when you gently press the tops of the cupcakes and it springs back.  Or insert a knife in the middle to make sure it comes out clean.  
  8. To make the icing, use a mixer to thoroughly mix cream cheese and butter together.
  9. Once smooth, gradually add in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix until smooth and free of lumps.
  10. Pipe or spread the icing onto cooled cupcakes.
  11. Enjoy!

 I would have to say that he made the best birthday cupcakes!  Now only if I can get him to make them for me every birthday!  

Just a fun fact, my husband plays in the National Lacrosse League for the Minnesota Swarm.  The season just started and this is his first year with the Swarm, 4th year in the league.  They just came out with Fantasy Lacrosse.  And as much as I love football, I have never done any Fantasy Football.  But I wanted to sign up for the Lacrosse version.  Just letting everyone know that after the 2nd week, I am in 22nd place out of 1927!  Pretty darn good I would have to say.  I, of course, have a little strategy session with my husband, and as long as his team is playing that week, he is on my team!  But I was pretty happy to find out this morning that I am in 22nd place!  Yay!!! Go me!  Haha ;-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DIY Valentine's Picture Frame

With all the baking I do, I like to mix it up sometimes and do other "crafty" things.  I especially like to scrapbook!  But today I wanted to make a Valentine's Day craft.  

I made this Valentines heart picture frame one other time a few years ago.  

It's a simple craft that anyone can do!  This would be fun for kids to make as their craft at a Valentine's Day party or with their siblings at home.  I made this frame and put a picture from my wedding in it.  You could make this in a larger frame (8x10) and use as a "menu" holder for a Valentines Dessert table.  No Valentine for you this year?!  That's fine... make it for your BFF and put a picture of the two of you in there!  LOTS of options!  

All you need:
  • Any picture frame with a flat, wide frame (so you can glue the candies down).  I got mine from the dollar store!
  • Paint and paint brush, optional
  • Conversation hearts
  • Glue, I used tacky glue.  But you can also use a hot glue gun, or all purpose glue.

Before you start, take the glass and backing out of the frame.  Trust me on this one.  You don't want to glue the frame to the glass by accident!  :-)

The border of this frame had a couple different "heights" so I decided I wanted to paint the inside pink.  I didn't have pink paint, so I simply mixed red and white!

This step is optional, because obviously all frames are different.  But I think the pink makes it more "Valentinesy"  Haha... I know that's not a word, but you know what I mean!

Now, I am ready to glue the Conversation hearts on.  I went through all the hearts to find the best ones.  Probably half of the package was unusable!   Oh well, I had plenty to choose from!

I started with a dab of glue, and just started to glue the hearts on.  I tried to mix it up and not have the same color too close.  But do it how you like!  Maybe you will do a pattern?  Maybe you will do it totally random! It's up to you!

I slightly rotated some of the hearts so they were not "perfectly" lined up.  Again... it's your choice how YOU do it.  This is how I did it.

Opps!!  Too much glue!  I just used a q-tip to dab up the extra glue.  The good thing is the glue dries clear, so you will never know if there is a little extra glue.  Like I said earlier, make sure to take the glass out BEFORE you start.  I took mine out at this step, but it was a little tricky since I already started gluing the hearts on.

The middle frame was done, so now I will start to outside.  I worked from the top to bottom to make sure everything fit.  

Just a tip... my hearts fit really well, and I did not have an extra open space when I was done.  But if you do, the nice thing about using the Tacky glue is that it does not dry right away so it can be forgiving.  You can space hearts out a little more, or make them a little closer if you need to at the end to fit the last heart.  A hot glue gun will dry a lot faster and it will be hard to move the hearts once you have placed them.  

I let this dry completely overnight.  This way, the hearts won't fall off when you stand it up.

Here if my finished frame!  Such a fun craft to make for Valentine's Day!  

Fun fact:  I was looking for the Conversation hearts here in Canada and was having a bit of a hard time finding some.  I finally found them and they were in French!!!  Haha, this made me laugh.  I mean, all the packaging here is in English and French, but I was not expecting the hearts to be in French too!  So I did not buy those.  I found English ones at another store!  ;-)

Let me know how you like this craft and if you try it!  

This blog will still be mostly about baking, but I like to switch it up sometimes and throw in a savory recipe or a craft as well!  Hope you don't mind :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mini Hearts

Valentine's Day is just over a month away!  It seems crazy to me to be thinking about Valentine's Day already because I feel like Christmas just ended!  Oh and also I just had a birthday.  January is a big birthday month in my family.  January and May.  

Having a birthday in January is sometimes a bummer.  I mean, it's just about 2 weeks after Christmas first of all.  Everyone spends a lot of time getting ready for Christmas, that I feel like sometimes my birthday doesn't get the attention it would get, say if my birthday was in May.  Another thing that is no fun is that is most likely is snowy and very cold.  Living in Pittsburgh my whole life, and and since I will soon be living in Canada, I don't think I have any way of escaping the cold.  Even though I don't always love the snow, I would not want to live where it is warm all year round.  

I have friends who live in the south, and always like to mention how warm it is there.  Who would want to miss the changing of the seasons?  I know I wouldn't.  Each season lasts just long enough to get excited and be ready for the new season.  I love fall, and you do not have fall in the south like we do here!  

Anyways, so now I have made some mini hearts for Valentine's Day.  

I made these with the leftover icing I had from my birthday cookies.  I love this color combination!  It's fun and youthful and not the traditional Valentine's red and pink.  Though I am sure you will see some cookies like that in the month to come!   

I really had no idea what I would do on these cookies, so I just did whatever idea popped into my head!  And I have to say that I am happy with how they turned out!  

These would be super cute packaged in a glass jar tied with a ribbon, like the Christmas cookies I made.  


Monday, January 09, 2012

Happy Birthday (eve) to me!

Hi everyone!  This is an exciting post for me because it combines 2 very exciting things for me!  A Christmas gift and my birthday!  

Remember when I said that I got a Kopy Kake for Christmas?  Well, I am showing you the first cookies that I made with it.  Tomorrow (January 10) will be my 26th birthday!  So I thought it would be fun to make different "26" cookies.  

Below is the Kopy Kake projector.  You can take a design and project it down onto your cookie, so you can pipe it out nicely.  I am especially excited about my Kopy Kake for writing words and numbers.  I think that I have pretty decent handwriting and piping skills.  At my first pastry job that I ever had, I worked at a resort where I would make Welcome and Happy Anniversary/Birthday plates of chocolate covered strawberries and truffles everyday.   And I would write with chocolate on every plate.  So I got some good practice!  

Even though my handwriting is good, I would always get the spacing wrong or misjudge how much room I actually had to write something.  The Kopy Kake fixes that for me!   

Below is the 26 shining down on the cookie.  

Ta da!  I definitely need more practice using the Kopy Kake, but I am pleased with how my first cookies came out!  

Hope you enjoy my Happy 26th Birthday cookies!