Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Cookie Cutters

01-107 Recently, I was browsing blogs and came across a review of some cookie cutters from Ann Clark, Ltd. The information on the company made me want to try their product since they are located in Vermont (one of my favorite places), are a small business, and still handcraft their cookie cutters rather than mass producing them in sweatshops in China.
So, I ordered four designs since free shipping was offered on orders of four or more. The designs I chose were a Saguaro cactus (because I live in Tucson), a snowflake, a butterfly, and a dog bone (because I’m making doggie treats for canine friends for Christmas).
My cookie cutters arrived in just a few days. I noticed at once that they were sharper than most you find in retail stores. They also come with a card with a recipe attached with a bow.
I couldn’t wait to try them, so decided to use the recipe for Sugar Cookies that came on the card.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Posting has slowed down recently and there are a couple reasons for that. The main reason is one I’ve mentioned in passing before: back trouble.
Back trouble, that sounds so like my grandmother. Unfortunately, this is not her Rheumatism so often afflicting her in the Winter. Over the past year I’ve dealt on and off with some pretty severe pain. When I went in for my annual physical in October I made a point of discussing the pain and how it was getting worse with my doctor. He ordered a few X-rays and off I went.
compression_fracture Fast forward to Monday when I went for my next visit. He pulled out the results and consulted them. Three, count ‘em three, fractures in my Thoracic vertebra. A number of nodes in my Lumber vertebra indicating a degenerative process. Decreased intervertebral spaces (read compressed disks) as well. Not a great report but at least we know why I hurt so bad.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

White Chocolate Pecan Cookies

IMG_3880 Yes, I’ve been very remiss in my posting and baking the past couple weeks. But, I have good excuses that I won’t go into here. Let’s just say that this afternoon I decided I wanted something with white chocolate.
I decided to do a cookie that combined white chocolate, some cocoa flavors and pecans. This cookie baked up fairly crisp and I was hoping for a more soft and cakey texture so I’ll keep working on this one. But, I think you’ll enjoy the result especially if you like a more crisp texture to your cookies. The pecans I used were salted and toasted so they give a neat counterpoint to the white chocolate! For presentation, I melted two squares of white chocolate in the microwave and just drizzled the cookies with it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Butterscotch Fudge

IMG_3876 I don’t often do candy. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I made something that could be classified as “candy". The main reason for that is that most candy recipes are fairly difficult and require any number of arcane techniques and steps – few of which I’ve ever successfully mastered.
Part of the reason is that when it comes to baking, I’m cheap. I don’t like wasting ingredients and with candies unless you’re very good there’s always a chance it will all be for naught. So, I tend to shy away from it because I loathe tossing an entire batch of something in the trash and starting over.
That said, I ran across a recipe the other day for Butterscotch Fudge that was quick and simple. It didn’t call for a lot of the usual fudge steps that could lead to disaster. So, I decided to give it a try. The results were outstanding.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chocolate Mocha Cake

IMG_3868 I was very upset over the vote on Marriage Equality in Maine. I won’t do politics on here because this is my escape from that part of my life. Let’s just say that any heartbreak calls for chocolate and lots of it!

So, I cracked open MY bible, Charleston Receipts and found a lovely recipe for a Chocolate Cake with Mocha frosting. What the heck? It sounded delicious and chocolate on chocolate was just what the doctor ordered!

This is one of those cakes the Realtors should bake when they’re showing houses. The smell of warm chocolate permeating the house at 4 in the morning was to die for! The cake itself is a lovely dark color and the frosting that uses a bit of coffee as well as cocoa is heavenly. I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

I didn’t tamper with this recipe it at all, although a little voice in the back of my head kept screaming, “Do THREE layers and make the middle white chocolate!” Alas, little voice, not today. But, I’m keeping it in mind for the future. In fact, I’ve been thinking of doing a double chocolate marbled cake with white and dark chocolate swirls. But, we’ll save that for later.

Anyway, this turned out nicely and I just had to figure out the layering to disguise the fact that one of my cake pans was slightly smaller (not quite 9” but bigger than 8” – where the heck did I find that?). So, with a little creativity we made it work. Note: I am NOT a cake decorator, it is a skill I do not possess and all attempts to educate me in that art form have failed miserably!

So, here is the Chocolate Mocha Cake. Enjoy it with love…


1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup sour milk*
1 tsp Soda dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cups Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
2 oz. (2 squares) chocolate melted (I use semi-sweet)


Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift together flour and baking powder. Alternate flour mixture with milk beating until incorporated and smooth. Melt chocolate in microwave or double broiler. Allow to cool slightly and add to mixture beating until well mixed. Pour batter into two 9” round pans and bake for 30 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Mocha Frosting:

3 tbls. butter (softened) 
3-6 tbls. cold strong coffee
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. Vanilla
6 tsp. Powdered Cocoa

Cream together the powdered sugar and butter adding the cooled coffee as needed to help with creaming. Add vanilla and cocoa and beat or whip until smooth and a good consistency to frost cake. If frosting is too stiff add a bit more of the coffee.

*To make Sour Milk add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk and allow to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

IMG_3855 I ran across a recipe for Nutella cupcakes at Baking Bites. It sounded delicious but I didn’t have Nutella and was in no mood to go shopping so late. So, I thought, “Why not use peanut butter?”

So, I toyed with the recipe a bit and used Peanut Butter in place of Nutella. It’s not as pretty and it’s a bit tricky because unless you get the peanut butter swirled in really good, it tends to center itself and sink during baking. In fact, I think it might make sense to actually beat in the peanut butter before putting in the cups since it doesn’t really create a “swirl” pattern like in the Nutella recipe.

So, here’s my take on this recipe:

IMG_3853 2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp powdered cocoa
3 tblsp Cream (or milk)
About 1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
Cream together butter and sugar until light. Add in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner with batter until they’re about 3/4 full. Top each a heaping teaspoon of Peanut Butter. Swirl Peanut Butter in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Appearing at Odyssey in December

I’m honored and flattered that Odyssey Storytelling has invited me to their December event to tell one of my “Mama Stories” about food and cooking!

The group has been holding events at Club Congress for several years and they’re very popular. Each month stories are grouped around a theme. In December, the theme is “Kitchen Confidential” with stories about food and cooking.

For more information, check out the website and if you happen to be around Tucson on December 3, drop by the Congress hotel and hear a story about Mama, a 5 Star hotel, and swapping recipes. I think you’ll enjoy it.

The folks at Odyssey believe that “everyone has stories from their lives that they love to tell. The act of sharing stories about our journey connects us to other people and in this way, the audience is a vital part of the event. Odyssey Storytelling provides the container to bring together a collection of diverse tellers.”

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