Dec 272014
 

I love making homemade gifts for Christmas – some years almost everything I gift is homemade and some years it’s only a little token. This year I’ve got a serious sweet tooth going on so I had to try my hand at marshmallows and caramels.

homemade marshmallow

First up were the marshmallows – I have had the cookbook “Marshmallow Madness” for a few years now and for some reason I was too intimidated to try them before now. Even though the author is completely reassuring and the recipes are straightforward I just thought it couldn’t be simple to make marshmallows. How wrong I was! It’s so easy to do! I kind of felt like it was life-altering to make homemade marshmallows and I also kind of can’t wait for the summer so I can try out s’mores with my own marshmallows. I also kind of can’t wait to make some of the other flavored varieties – I just need an upcoming holiday or other reason to gift them so I don’t eat the whole pan. Maybe Valentine’s Day?

homemade apple cider caramels

I’ve also wanted to make caramels for a long time. We made them once when I was a girl and we must have overcooked them, because they ended up hard as a rock (like break your tooth hard) and so I’ve been scared to tackle those again too. The lure of making Apple Cider Caramels was too much though, so I finally overcame this other candy fear and got to work.

Months ago, in anticipation of making these caramels I made Boiled Cider, using the homemade apple cider that our family made earlier this fall. Then, armed only with a candy thermometer, I set out to tame the caramels. And guess what? They also weren’t all that hard, and they were absolutely amazing! I could have eaten the whole batch but I’m glad I didn’t – instead I wrapped them up for gifts as well. I definitely sense more candy-making in my future!

homemade caramels sheet

Grilled Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream

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Jul 022013
 

O.M.G. was this a good dessert! Whenever I cook food on the grill I end up looking for other things to grill after the main meal is done (I just hate to waste those hot coals). Guess what? Grilled bananas are So. Good. Then, if you add vanilla ice cream on top (I’m partial to Tillamook Ice Cream’s Old Fashioned Vanilla – and I just checked out their page to see they have a new flavor – Fireside S’mores! What?! I need this right now) and top that with a drizzle of caramel sauce it’s really heavenly. We’re grilling again tonight and I think I might try to perfect this. . .

I’ve been slacking off on this blog lately – it turns out that kids out of school plus gorgeous beautiful Seattle summer weather means not a lot of time or energy for blogging. If I’ve gotta choose between playing with kiddos or writing blog posts I’m gonna go for playing with the kids (usually, unless they’re driving me absolutely batty in which case all bets are off). I’m still around and I’ll keep posting, but it’ll probably be more sporadic for now. If you’d like to keep up with me and not miss my occasional posts you can follow the blog via email or any number of social media platforms – see the signups in the header (social media) or in the right sidebar (email).

Easy Apple Blueberry Crisp

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Jun 072013
 

I ended up with an excess of apples in the house the other day and made Apple Blueberry Crisps to use some of them up. I mixed up apples, blueberries and vanilla and topped it off with an oatmeal crumble. So good! Ok, here’s the deal: Fruit crisps/cobblers are so easy to make it’s almost criminal. You don’t even need a recipe – seriously. Here’s how it goes:

Choose which fruit to use. Firmer fruits work better, so think apples, pears, peaches, plums. Berries are delicious in crisps too, but add some firm fruits as well for better texture. Cut your fruit into bite sized pieces – you need enough to fill whatever container you’re using to bake the crisps. You could use a pie plate, a cake pan, a baking dish or individual ramekins. Add some flavoring; think cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract, bourbon, rum or other liqueurs. Sweeten the fruit with sugar or honey, not too much, about 1/4 cup and adjust it for how sweet the fruit is naturally. Add a spoonful of cornstarch, mix it all up and pour the fruit and juices into your baking dish.

For the topping mix up some uncooked oats, a bit of flour, some brown sugar, a pinch of salt and a few chunks of butter. Crumble the butter into the other ingredients until its into little pieces and evenly combined, then dump the whole mix on top of the fruit in the baking dish and bake it at 350 degrees until the fruit is soft and bubbly and the topping is browned.

That’s it! No measuring, no fuss, just a yummy fruit dessert.

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May 072013
 

We had the first ‘campfire’ of the year this weekend in our patio fire pit. The weather has just been perfect the last few days and we knew we needed to take advantage of it while it lasted so we’ve been outside as much as possible.  While the hubby got the fire going I fashioned some roasting sticks out of the black bamboo I culled from the grove last year. Looking at that link reminds me that I’ve got to do that again this year as well.

First we roasted hot dogs and brats over the fire (and toasted the buns over the fire as well) then we moved on to the marshmallows which let’s face it is what we all were waiting for. Suddenly I had a revelation – what if I roasted a banana slice and used that instead of a marshmallow in a S’more? I had to try it immediately!

I cut a thick slice of banana, skewered it on the end of a roasting stick and toasted it over the coals until it began to brown. Then I sandwiched it between two graham crackers and a square of chocolate. The heat from the banana melted the chocolate and it was delicious, but it was missing something. . .

. . . the marshmallow! Of course next I had to try a S’more with banana AND marshmallow, which was even better. Finally, I had to sacrifice for science’s sake and eat one more S’more made with only marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker. It was weirdly just as satisfying as the variations – I guess that means I just really really love S’mores.

Do you have any special way to make S’mores?

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!

Cook the Collection #3: Baking Illustrated

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Apr 032013
 
 (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

I’m still on the baking kick, but I think this week’s recipe is going to make me take a break for awhile (either that or I’m going to have to bake something else to get the taste out of my mouth). I cooked from “Baking Illustrated” which is a baking cookbook from the Cooks Illustrated library. I usually have great luck with the Cooks Illustrated recipes and their book “The Best Recipe” is one of my favorites but. . . not this time.


I made yellow cupcakes and instead of frosting them with the chocolate ganache in the recipe I used the vanilla buttercream recipe from the same book. The recipes were clear and easy to follow but I just wasn’t very happy with the results. The cupcakes tasted dry to me, and the buttercream was too buttery for my tastes. It was disappointing because I love a good cupcake and I was really looking forward to this one. I’ve baked other things from this book before that were more successful, but its definitely not one of my go-to baking books and the next time I have a choice I’ll try one of my others first.

 

Cook the Collection #1: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

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Mar 152013
 
cook the collection series header
  (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

If you’ve ever been to Seattle, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten at one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants. At last count he’s operating 11 restaurants in the city, plus a catering venue and a line of dry rubs for cooking at home. Frankly they’re all pretty great and even the newer restaurants seem to become instant classics, but the grand dame of them all is the Dahlia Lounge – and its offshoot the Dahlia Bakery. Last year the Douglas empire released its newest cookbook: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

the dahlia bakery cookbook link
I received the cookbook this past Christmas and baked some cookies right away (the molasses ginger cookies, which were excellent) but then set it aside for awhile. I picked it back up again this week and was reminded right away by what a great instructive book it is. The recipes are written clearly and simply and there are plenty of baking tips (like quickly warming up refrigerator chilled eggs) that will improve my baking even when I’m not  baking from it.

I was looking for a quick recipe and decided on the Prizewinning Pecan Brownies. Now I have to confess I’m a boxed brownie gal (really embarrassing confession time – I’ve never made brownies from scratch before) but these brownies are the best ones I’ve ever eaten. Really. The best ones ever. I’d make another batch right now except then I’d eat the whole batch myself, so I’ll refrain.

Embarrassing confession #2 – even though these are supposed to be pecan brownies, I don’t care all that much for nuts in brownies and we didn’t have any pecans in the house so I skipped that ingredient altogether. Also, I love a bit of cinnamon along with the chocolate in brownies, so I added a half teaspoon of that to the recipe. This recipe alone is worth the price of the book, and this cookbook’s earned it’s place on the shelf!

Do you have the Dahlia Bakery cookbook? What do you think of it?

Feb 052013
 

Apparently pound cake lends itself to endless variations: here is the third iteration of this recipe, and its also pretty dang good.

I had a request to make Raspberry Lime Pound Cake for a birthday gathering this past weekend, but when I went to the store to get the ingredients they didn’t have raspberries. The produce manager gave me kind of a hard time for even asking for them since it’s mid-winter – of course I bought raspberries there two weeks ago so its not that strange of a request. I decided to use blueberries, and thought lemon would go better with the blueberries than lime would. Of course then I needed to substitute something for the raspberry liqueur so I used vanilla extract. It all worked – I wonder how I will tweak it next time!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake
Cake

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon zest (from 3 small lemons – save the lemon juice for the glaze)
2 cups plus 8 Tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 cups blueberries

Lemon Syrup
1/3 cup lemon juice (from 3 small lemons)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Glaze
11/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
zest and juice from one small lemon
Prepare a 9-cup bundt pan by greasing and flouring the pan. 

Rinse the berries, toss them with two tablespoons of flour and set them aside.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating after each egg until combined, then add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat for another minute or so on medium speed until they are well mixed.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture in the large bowl and beat briefly just to combine. Then fold in the floured berries to the mix and pour/scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Put the pan into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 300 degrees F (I used convection) and bake the cake for 70 minutes – test it at that point and if a skewer or toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. 

While the cake is baking mix the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Let the cake cool for five minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a plate or rack and brush the lemon syrup over the cake, letting it absorb into the cake. Then let the cake cool completely before glazing it.

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, then zest a small lemon into the sugar. Squeeze about half the lemon into the sugar and whisk well, then add more lemon juice if needed to make a glaze.

Jan 232013
 

The man of the house had a birthday a few days ago, and I made one of his favorite all-time cakes – this berry cake I first made last summer. At the time I adapted the recipe from one I found on orangette.blogspot.com (who had reprinted it from Bon Appétit, July 1986). I knew blackberries would be hard to come by at this time of year, so I made some changes again and came up with this Raspberry Lime Pound Cake. It’s gotten rave reviews – I like the raspberry / lime combo more than the blackberry / lemon one, although that’s good too. 


One note – I used Raspberry di Amore liqueur because we had it on hand and I felt that it really boosted the raspberry flavor. I wouldn’t go out and buy a big bottle of it though, so feel free to substitute with something else. You might use Chambord or Raspberry schnapps, or leave it out all together. Otherwise you could add vanilla or almond extract, which would alter the taste but would still taste nice – but cut it down to a teaspoon of either of those or it will be too strong.

Raspberry Lime Pound Cake

Cake
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs
1 Tbs Raspberry di Amore liqueur
2 tsp lime zest (from 3 medium limes – save the lime juice for the glaze)
2 cups plus 8 Tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 cups raspberries

Lime Syrup
1/3 cup lime juice (from 3 medium limes)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Glaze
11/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
zest and juice from one medium lime
Prepare a 9-cup bundt pan by greasing and flouring the pan. 

Rinse the berries (especially if they’re hand-picked), toss them with two tablespoons of flour and set them aside.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating after each egg until combined, then add the liqueur and lime zest and beat for another minute or so on medium speed until they are well mixed.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture in the large bowl and beat briefly just to combine. Then fold in the floured berries to the mix and pour/scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Put the pan into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 300 degrees F (I used convection) and bake the cake for 70 minutes – test it at that point and if a skewer or toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. 

While the cake is baking mix the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Let the cake cool for five minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a plate or rack and brush the lime syrup over the cake, letting it absorb into the cake. Then let the cake cool completely before glazing it.

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, then zest a medium lime into the sugar. Squeeze about half the lime into the sugar and whisk well, then add more lime juice if needed to make a glaze. I’m kind of a disaster with making glazes – I find I always get it a bit too stiff or a bit too thin.

I’ve linked up to these great link parties – check ’em out! Delicious Dishes Recipe Party, Pin Me, Twigg Studios: Sunday Show Off, Project Inspire , C.R.A.F.T Monday Funday, Chef in Training,Sew Much Ado, Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Pamela’s Heavenly Treats, Addicted to Recipes,    

Blackberry Lemon Pound Cake

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Aug 302012
 
A few days ago we hit our secret blackberry spot again and picked a couple more pails of blackberries which have been in the fridge since then. I needed to use up at least some of them today and I wanted to try something different than I did last week with cobbler. I googled berry pound cake recipes and one of the recipes I came upon was from the local blog Orangette (Molly Wizenberg). I made a few changes because I wanted to use up the blackberries and also add a lemon/citrus note with zest in the batter and a lemon glaze. Also the original recipe called for a food processor, but I prepared it using a hand mixer with good results.
Blackberry Lemon Pound Cake (adapted from orangette.blogspot.com and originally from Bon Appétit, July 1986)

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
5 large eggs

1 1/2 Tbs Disaronno liqueur
Zest from one large lemon (save the lemon juice for the glaze)
2 cups plus 8 Tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 cups blackberries
Glaze: Juice from one large lemon and confectioner’s sugar (enough to make a thick glaze).
Prepare a 9-cup bundt pan by greasing and flouring the pan. 
Rinse the berries (especially if they’re hand-picked), toss them with two tablespoons of flour and set them aside.
Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating after each egg until combined, then add the liqueur and lemon zest and beat for another minute or so on medium heat until they are well mixed.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture in the large bowl and beat briefly just to combine. Then fold in the floured berries to the mix and pour/scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
Put the pan into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 300 degrees F (I used convection) and bake the cake for 70 minutes – test it at that point and if a skewer or toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. Let the cake cool for five minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a plate or rack and let it cool completely before glazing it.
For the glaze, put the juice of a large lemon into a bowl and slowly whisk in confectioners sugar until you have a thick glaze (I used about 3/8th cup lemon juice and 1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar but the glaze could have been a bit thicker).
I received two compliments on this cake tonight: one; I left the house to go to dinner with a friend with the cake in the oven and my daughter met me at the door when I came home hours later anxious to try a piece. When she got her slice and I asked her how it was she barely stopped eating to say  yummmm, its good mamma, and two; my husband ate two pieces one after the other. Success!