Ginger Chewies- Secret Recipe Club

It’s time for my 2nd Secret Recipe Club post! The first time around was awesome- I had a blast checking out the other members’ posts and seeing what “my” blogger had chosen to make from my blog. What a fun idea- seriously, Amanda is a genius.

This month, I was given 365 Days of Baking. Lynne bakes every day and is very on top of posting her creations every single day- a dedication I admire and envy :) And, I love her rolling pin rating scale. It was super helpful in my decision on what I wanted to try. However, with SO many recipes she’s tried, it took me quite a while to decide! Although we scarfed it down before a photo op was possible, I first made the chicken tortilla bake and it was fab. Try it if you need a delicious and simple Mexican dinner! I’m also itching to try Lynne’s chocolate chip oreo cookies.

Now, onto the cookies. I finally went with the ginger chewies. The only time I seem to make ginger anything is around Christmas, and these will definitely be on my regular holiday cookie rotation. Aren’t they pretty? Such a gorgeous crackle on top. No chilling needed. Easy peasy. Oh yeah, and they’re delicious, perfectly chewy and flavored just right. My biggest hangup with ginger treats are how strongly they can be spiced up- not my thing. These are extra subtle with a hint of the spices shining through. If you happen to be a major ginger fan, however, just up the ginger to 1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons. The only change I made was lowering the baking time aby a few minutes. Definitely worthy of 4 rolling pins!

Ginger Chewies

2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves; set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses. Mix until evenly blended in color, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Gradually add the flour mixture on low speed and beat until just incorporated. Place the granulated sugar onto a small plate. Using a level tablespoon, roll dough into a ball and then roll in granulated sugar. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. To ensure even cooking, bake one cookie sheet at a time and until firm, but still soft in center, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to four days.
Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

So, I’m still on a mini pumpkin kick. But, the Christmas treats are quickly seeping into my head (and google reader), so I’m sure those will take over very shortly :)

Last week, I made this bread for another girls’ meet-up. Quick breads are awesome. There couldn’t be an easier sweet snack to whip up, as long as you have the time (and patience) to bake it and let it cool before slicing and tasting!

I got this recipe from Worldwide Ward Secret Recipes. I didn’t quite have enough pumpkin leftover from my snickerdoodles, so I made up for it with a mashed banana. It was super duper moist- probably one of the best batches of quick bread I’ve baked! As far as that being from using part banana, or the fact that I underbaked it just slightly and made sure not to overmix it, who knows. Or maybe the oil, which could probably be made with half applesauce and half oil. Whatever the reason, this is a winner.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used 2/3 cup pumpkin & 1/3 cup banana)
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 5- inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Yeah, I realize it’s December and pumpkin time is slowly winding down, but I’m still into it! Ever since I saw this recipe on Annie’s blog, and a few others, I knew I eventually would get around to trying it. Snickerdoodles were one of my favorite cookies when I was younger, mostly because it was a rare occasion that my mom made them.  And, pumpkin could only make it that much better! I had a playgroup potluck today which was the perfect excuse to whip these up.

Personally, I was slightly disappointed when I pulled the cookies out of the oven- they looked plain and boring. But, once I tasted them, oh, did my opinion change! If you like soft and somewhat doughy cookies, these are a sure winner. The pumpkin adds a subtle and pleasant flavor, but it also helps keep away any possible cookie dryness (which seems to happen easily with snickerdoodles). These should definitely be added to your holiday baking list- it’s never too late for pumpkin :)

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, makes about 3-4 dozen cookies

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coating:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of allspice

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the pumpkin.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend.  Scoop the dough (about 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball.  Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart.  Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in the sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly.  Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through.  Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Store in an airtight container.

Sweet Potato Fries- Secret Recipe Club

This is my first time participating in the Secret Recipe Club and I’m super excited to be involved! I was assigned the blog Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Punch and actually browsed through all the posts to find THE one I wanted to try. If you have a gluten-free eater in the house, this blog is worth checking out. The photos are quite pretty, too :)

Alex (and myself, I suppose) is trying to eat healthier these days, so we bought a big box of sweet potatoes & yams at Costco. I will never cease to be amazed at the healthiness of sweet potatoes, mainly due to the fact that they kinda taste like candy. Amazing how that is. Anyway, I chose this recipe to recreate and ended up adapting it quite a bit. After trying to bake at 390 degrees, my fries weren’t getting crispy fast enough, so I upped the temperature to 450. They also needed a good 25 minutes to bake. We didn’t have any sesame seeds, neither of us really care that much for them, so instead, I sprinkled in cornmeal to give the fries a tender crunch. Try it, you won’t regret it. We couldn’t stop eating them- these guys are addicting!

Also, I just can’t get over the orange and yellow combo of the yams/sweet potatoes. If you’re able, pick up a combo of both- they should be quite easy to find this time of year! It makes for quite a lovely presentation.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 to 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chips or slices
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons cornmeal
coarse salt, to taste (optional)- I didn’t use

Heat the oven to 450°F. Toss the sweet potatoes in the oil, cornmeal and salt and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, until tender within and crisp outside.

*An easy way to “toss”, I found, is to put the oil, cornmeal & salt in a large Ziploc freezer bag, then put in the cut-up potatoes. Shake, shake, shake it up- just like your mom did a Shake ‘n Bake :)

Reese’sFingers Cookies

Hello, and welcome to November! I literally made these cookies yesterday- yes we still had so much candy leftover from Halloween that I HAD to do something. But, first of all, I can’t write about Halloween without a photo of our cute little duck :)

She had a blast holding out her pumpkin, putting on her cheesiest smile and begging for candy. We went to some shops in Alameda and Berkeley, strolling around our little quacker. My sister was in town and had gone to the Disneyland Party, so she brought candy from that, too. It’s been insane. Alex took a whole bag to work, I went through and separated all the M&M’s for the freezer, and we still had two more freezer bags left. I’ve been eating candy every day (I’m sure my OB is very proud of me these days…) to try to get through it. Lizzie made out good this year- much too good. I feel somewhat guilty, actually since she’s had not one piece. Oops.

Anyway, at least I can say the Butterfingers and Reese’s are gone! Except for being in cookie form, of which I still ate like 5 of these. Le sigh. Thank goodness for a pregnant metabolism.

These are AWESOME. They are chewy, peanut buttery with a crispy exterior that kind of melts in your mouth. The Butterfinger chunks made the cookies have a Nestle Crunchiness that was subtle enough to add a slight crisp. And, this dough is definitely adaptable! Have too many Snickers, Milky Ways, Twix, 3 Musketeers, M&M’s (pretty much any chocolate candy)? Chop them up and throw ‘em in!

Halloween Candy Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 16 Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped
About 4 fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped

Heat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the chopped candy. If you have time, refrigerate cookie dough for about one hour.

Drop tablespoon-size mounds of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until light brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.




Orange Glazed Pumpkin Mini Muffins

Pumpkin time!! There isn’t much more to say about it really. It is one of the best things about Fall. Growing up, I wasn’t into Fall at all, or pumpkin for that matter. But, I’d venture to say that now it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s because it’s a precursor to the Holiday season, which is the greatest :)

Seasons intrigue me. Lately, I’ve noticed that as each season comes and goes, my mind and body are ready for the change. The weather, foods, clothes and holidays each hold a special part of that time of the year and make living on this Earth quite enjoyable. And I haven’t figured out if it’s a conditioned thing, since that’s basically all I know, or if my body naturally craves the change every 3ish months. Hmmmm. Regardless, living in the Bay Area means Fall starts later than normal. It’s ok, I can still feel the crisp in the air when I take Lizzie out on our morning walks, and also as the sun is setting later in the day.

Back to pumpkin. This is my first pumpkin treat of the season. I’ve decided mini muffins are SO much more enjoyable than regular ones. I think I’ll stick with them for a while. These make a great afternoon snack, “healthy” dessert or quick breakfast. The glaze is literally the ” icing on the muffin.” It adds an extra sweet touch that gives a tiny kick from the OJ. Although with the glaze, it’s tip-toeing the line of being a cupcake, let’s just keep them as muffins. Works for me!

Orange Glazed Mini Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Orange Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons orange juice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease mini-muffin tins(s). In a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses. Using an electric mixer set on medium, beat until creamy. Add the pumpkin and eggs and beat until smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and chocolate chips. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into prepared mini-muffin tins, filling almost to the rim. Bake for 9 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool slightly, then turn the muffins out and let cool completely on the rack.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, butter and orange juice. Dip the tips of the cooled muffins into the glaze to desired thickness. Decorate if you feel like being festive!

Pan-Fried “Rock” Fish

Rockfish- what the heck is that? The other night Alex came home and as we were going to bed, mentioned, “Oh, by the way, there’s some rockfish in the fridge.” I had no clue what that was but just said, “Ok thanks”, which basically meant, “Ok, I’m too tired to ask what or why- good night.” The following morni
g I see this on the bottom shelf.

Yep, my husband brings home things in biohazard bags. Just another day in the life of a resident. Well, his sweet attending physician gave him this fish as a little treat for a super long day! Neither of us had ever tried rockfish, nor knew how to cook with it. Apparently, my facebook friends didn’t either. Only my cousin responded to my plea by suggesting it to be grilled, but that wasn’t going to work last-minute in an apartment. Oh what to do…
So I started looking in the Joy of Cooking. That got the ball rolling and gave me the idea to pan fry the fish with a simple flour/cornmeal dredge. I can never just consult one cookbook, so I also checked out my Better Homes and Gardens book and stumbled upon a fantastic spice combo that I was excited to try.

Pan-frying fish is fun! I rarely cook fish, even though both of us like it. I just forget to buy it and get stuck on cooking way too much chicken. That needs to change. The golden, crackling crust had a perfect sheen to it, the fish was nice and flaky, and since it wasn’t deep-fried, we considered this a healthy success, especially with my stalwart steamed broccoli standing by :)

If you have no access to, or  interest in, buying rockfish, pretty much any type of fish fillet will do! Orange roughy, tilapia, catfish, cod, snapper- whatever your fancy.

And, by the way, I still don’t really know what rockfish is, but it was tasty and easy to cook. That’s all I need to know.

Pan-Fried “Rock” Fish

About 1 pound fresh fish fillets, cut in 3 to 4 pieces
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a medium size bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt and spices. Set aside. Heat a large skillet on medium heat until hot, then add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Coat both sides of each fish fillet with the seasoned coating, and place into the heated skillet. Fry on each side for about 3 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is nicely browned and the flesh is firm and opaque. Turn over with tongs and brown the other side for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the fillets from the skillet with tongs, let drain on paper towels, then plate and serve. The fish should flake easily off your fork.

Sweet Potato Braid Bread

Lizzie and I took off to Washington for a week to see the family. And, to go to the Puyallup Fair! The weather was great, I got my scone and Lizzie had far too much fun with my parents’ golden retriever. One of my sisters was also visiting and she brought along a Fall Baking Taste of Home magazine. I knew I just had make something from it before I left. Since I was still on a high from my successful yeasty sticky rolls, I picked another yeast bread to try. Ta-da! My bravery is slowly paying off.

With the sweet potato, I just microwaved it for about 6 minutes and then mashed it with a fork. Much faster than baking it if you don’t have any leftovers on hand. This is not a sweet bread, but has just a tiny hint from the honey. The thyme really makes the bread stand out and it adds a certain depth of flavor that makes the bread hard to stop eating. If you don’t have or like thyme, I think it’d still be great without it. This was also my first time braiding a dough- it was fun and made me feel like I was more of a creator and “shaper” of this dough, as cheesy as that sounds :)

I’ve been horrible about taking pics of Lizzie lately. Thankfully, my sister took a few while we were visiting. Lizzie’s quite the character. Sometimes she just lays down wherever for the heck of it, like so:

Hearty Sweet Potato Braid, makes 2 loaves

1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, room temperature (about 1 large sweet potato)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (110 to 115 degrees)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cold fat-free milk

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add the sweet potatoes, milk, oil, honey, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, thyme and 2 cups whole wheat flour; beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining whole wheat flour to form a firm dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn once to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; divide into 6 equal portions. Shape each into a 20-inch rope, place 3 ropes on baking sheet coated with cooking spray; braid. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Repeat with remaining ropes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 35 minutes.

Brush loaves with cold milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove loaves to wire racks to cool.

Almond Sticky Buns

I finally did it all on my own. I made yeasty cinnamon rolls! This is more of an accomplishment for me than it sounds. Just the thought of making anything with yeast still scares me much more than it ever should. And, I have to admit, the whole time I was making these sticky buns, I was sitting in fear that they wouldn’t rise and just be a hunk of dense dough.

Thankfully, I was proved wrong. The whole process takes a few hours, but it’s fun and totally worth it. Look at my lovely rising dough rolls!

The topping on these buns is 100% necessary- so, SO delicious. The original recipe comes from the Taste of Home Baking book. It used pecans. That was my plan, but I opened my container of Planters mixed nuts and in the entire jar I found 1.5 pecans. Way to go, Planters. Needless to say, I went with almonds, which I actually prefer anyway. They worked great and had just the right crunch.

When I was pregnant with Lizzie, I always wanted to make a bun of some kind as my little pregnancy announcement. Never happened. Well, I got another chance!! I’m 16ish weeks along with twins. Crazy, right?! We are super excited. Wish me luck, however. Lizzie is quite the little busy, busy handful herself :)

Almond Sticky Buns

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/4 cups bread flour

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped almonds or pecans

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the butter, sugar, milk powder, salt and 2 cups flour; beat on low speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 16-inch by 10-inch rectangle. Spread with butter; sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting from a long side; pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 slices and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup; cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in almonds or pecans. Pour into a greased 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan. Place rolls cut side down over sauce. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 3 minutes. Invert onto a plate and eat up!

Nutella Banana Crepes

My youngest sister Laura was here visiting this past week. As always is the case with family coming, it came and went way too fast. Laura also likes to cook, too, and even brought along her own curry to make us dinner! That was awesome. If she wasn’t married, I’d totally beg her to come live with us. Oh well, such is life.

Sunday night Laura suggested making crepes for dessert. She’d made them once before, and I never had, so we gave it our best. I mixed the batter and filled the crepes, while I trusted her with the skillet. Nutella and bananas seemed like the most fitting filling for us, but there are SO many options you can try. Strawberries & whipped cream, peanut butter & chocolate chips, marshmallow creme with graham crumbs & chocolate and baked apples & cinnamon are just a few. As for the crepes, they turned out perfect- I was quite impressed. We found the recipe in the book Crepes (which, by the way, I had never bothered to open before this…oops). The batter had a nice sweetness to complement the fillings just right. This book also has a savory crepe recipe and some creative crepe renditions.

Nutella Banana Crepes

2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted
About 1/2 cup Nutella
1 to 2 bananas, sliced

With a blender (immersion or regular) or food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth. The batter should be the thickness of heavy cream.

Heat a nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Wipe the pan lightly with butter or spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Lift the pan from the heat and pour in about 1/3 cup of batter, depending on the size of your pan. Just make sure it lightly covers the whole area of the skillet. So this by tilting and rotating the pan to coat the surface. Cook until almost dry on top and lightly browned on the edges, about 1 minute. Loosen the edges with a metal spatula and flip the crepe over using your fingers or the spatula. Cook the other side for about 15 seconds, until lightly browned. Turn the crepe out onto a towel, rack or plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter or nonstick spray to the pan as needed, then stacking the crepes as they are cooked.

Serve immediately with any fillings you please- get creative! If you must serve them later, wrap the crepes in plastic wrap and place them into a sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Chocolate Birthday Cake Frosting

Alex’s 32nd birthday was a week or so ago- woohoo, we’re the same age once again! For 2 months, I’m a “year” older, as he teasingly likes to remind me. We didn’t throw a fancy party this year or anything, but birthdays just don’t seem complete without some type of cake product.

I decided to be a bit sentimental this year. Alex’s mom used to make the most delicious round cake with chocolate frosting. Granted, it was quite simple- a marble cake mix with a can of ready-made chocolate frosting. Her trick was creating three layers of frosting in between the cake so it was super moist with never a dry cake bite to be found. And the rainbow sprinkles were always, always sprinkled all over.

So, I compromised some. Instead of doing three layers, I just did two (laziness kicked in). Yeah, I used a cake mix (more being lazy), but to make up for it, I used fresh, homemade frosting. I honestly cannot remember the last time I used store0-bought frosting and don’t plan on it anytime soon. It’s just one of those things I can’t make myself do any more. Homemade is SOOOOOO much better. And it really is quite easy, really! This rendition is bursting of rich chocolate flavor and spreads on the cake nice and smooth. And all it takes is cocoa powder- you don’t even have to chop up and/or melt any chocolate.

I hope you like the following photo. Alex was messing around on Lightroom and I thought it was kinda fun :)

Birthday Cake Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra if needed
1/3 cup milk (I used whole), plus extra if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Place the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt in the bowl, and beat with the mixer on low until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add more milk if the frosting is too thick or powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the frosting is too thin.

Frost your cake or cupcakes, add sprinkles and candles, and you’re good to go!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I never thought I would say this, but I’m currently going through a strong aversion to peanut butter- I haven’t had the stuff in a whole week (a definite record)! Aren’t food likes and dislikes weird? I was literally eating peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla every single day and now I just eat the tortilla plain and even that is a chore. In place of my peanut butter obsession is deli turkey and ham (hello, sodium!). I could eat a pound a day if I let myself. And brown rice California Rolls from Trader Joe’s. Oh, and fresh spring rolls :) I’m quite sure I’ll be visiting this topic again in the near future.

Thankfully, I made this bread right before said aversion began. I found the original recipe for this in The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book. It’s a great book that you can get used for super cheap on Alibris or Half. If you don’t have whole wheat flour, using solely all-purpose is totally fine. Rum extract is also an extra, so just omit it if you’d like. It’s just one of my favorite extracts.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

1 cup all purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used Jif)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cool unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces, plus extra for the pan
2 eggs, room temperature
2 large, ripe bananas, mashed & thawed if frozen (mine were)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon rum extract

Heat the oven to 35o degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 5 x 9- inch loaf pan; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking power and salt in a medium bowl until evenly mixed; set aside.

Beat the peanut butter, sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the mashed bananas, vanilla and rum extract until smooth. Turn off the beaters, add the flour mixture and beat at a very low speed until a wet, sticky batter comes together. Spoon into the prepared loaf pan, gently getting the batter into the corners and smoothing the top.

Bake until golden brown, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the bread out of the pan and continue cooling on the rack until at room temperature. Slice and eat!

“Un” Fried Ice Cream

I’m currently on the tail end of a productivity funk, I guess you could say, meaning I just lost any motivation to cook or bake lately. My brain just hasn’t been able to focus much. This funk is being forced out, however, and I’ve told myself I must get a dinner schedule together for the week before Lizzie wakes from her nap (I’m banking on her snoozing extra long…)
Anyway, my stepmother-in-law saved the day today (thanks, Shannon)! She emailed me the recipe for this delectable fried ice cream she made us back in April when we were visiting. Luckily, I was able to find Alex’s photo in our mess of documents. We seem to have food photos in almost every folder- it’s bad. This is a fun treat that is super easy to make and perfect for a warm summer night dessert.
I’m even being so lazy today that instead of typing out the ingredients, I just bolded them instead :)
Fried Ice Cream (without the frying!)
Form vanilla ice cream into handful-sized balls and freeze for at least one hour.
While these are freezing hard, add 3 cups of Total cereal to a plastic bag and crush with your fist or a rolling pin.  Add 1/2 cup brown sugar1/4 cup melted butter, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Shake the bag to mix.
Use a squeezable bottle to apply honey to the outside of the balls.  Then, roll the sticky balls into the cereal mixture.
I put the ice cream on cookie sheets lined with waxed paper.  Return to freezer until ready to serve.
Serve with flavored syrup of your choice: chocolate, strawberry, caramel.
Top with whipped cream and add a cherry or sprinkles to garnish if desired.
Makes about 20 ice cream balls


Strawberry Cream Muffins

Strawberries just scream summer.

Muffins usually don’t excite me much. I guess I’ve had too many dry and tasteless ones that I just think “meh”.  Well, I had a container of sour cream in the fridge that had to be used, so I cracked open a few cookbooks. I asked Alex what he thought of having muffins, and we was all for it, so I figured at least one of us would enjoy them. As you probably expected, I ended up eating the majority of them. I’m not exaggerating, these gave me a whole new perspective on muffins, thank goodness! Super moist and just sweet enough. The sour cream had to be the key ingredient here.

Although I used frozen strawberries, fresh should work, too. Take advantage of them while you can! Shortly after making the muffins, I ran to Berkeley Bowl and picked us up some fresh beauties. Check ‘em out.

Strawberry Cream Muffins, adapted from Taste of Home Baking Book

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, chopped
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add berries and toss gently. In another bowl, combing the eggs, sour cream, oil, vanilla and almond extracts; mix well. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Makes about 17 muffins

My First Cake Pops

We are currenly hanging out for a bit in Las Vegas with the in-laws and it has been wonderful. Lizzie’s had a rough go with adjusting to the dry climate and possible teething, but she’s having a blast otherwise!

Before we took off on our little road trip, I decided to give the insanely popular cake pops/balls a try. What can I say, they really aren’t that attractive. Man, those little devils are tough to make pretty! I have a whole new respect for Bakerella and all the other cake pop experts that can make these gorgeous little creations. Mine have a LONG way to go.









I had a devil’s food cake mix in the cupboard, so that’s what I used. Then, I whipped up a quick batch of cream cheese frosting using thisrecipe (I didn’t add the cream). I’m not a fan of the store-bought frosting, so I never have any on hand, but if you do, that makes these even easier.

So, what you do is bake the cake mix in a 9×13 pan according to the package directions. After it’s completely cooled, crumble it all up into a big bowl. Then, add about 1/4 cup of the frosting at a time until you can roll the cake mixture up into little balls that keep their shape and don’t crumble to pieces. Place the rolled-up naked cake balls onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze them for at least 30 minutes.

Now comes the tricky part. Take the frozen cake balls out of the freezer. Use whatever color(s) of candy coated melts that you like and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the melts 25 seconds at a time until they are easily melted when stirred. Dip the cake balls into the melted melts and completely coat them, moving them around with a fork. Remove the coated cake balls with the fork and place back onto the wax paper. If desired, add a few sprinkles to the top. Do this fast! Since the cake balls are so cold, the coating will harden very quickly. At this point, the cake balls are ready to eat. Or, they can be refrigerated or frozen and eaten whenever you like.

There are so many ways to dress up the cake balls however you’d like. I’m hoping to give it another try someday when my creative juices are flowing more. But, I gave it a try, and you should, too! I love to see how others’ turn out.

They are delicious.