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December 31, 2008

White Christmas Cupcakes w/White Chocolate Frosting

Recipe courtesy of the Cupcake Deck

These cupcakes will make any day feel like it's a white Christmas. Egg whites make this cupcake light & airy. The addition of the almond extract brought memories of a Chinese bakery food.... still can't pinpoint it though... if anyone can tell me what this cake reminds them of, please let me know.

Makes 12

ingredients (all at room temp.):
1 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
6 tbs. butter
3/4 cup sugar
(the recipe called for 1 cup but i used less cause of the frosting)
3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
Sift flour, baking powder & salt and set aside. In a small bowl stir the milk & extracts together and set aside.

In a large bowl, using and electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, cream the butter & sugar, about 3 minutes. Then on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additons and the milk in 3, beginning & ending with the flour. Mix until the flour is incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters on medium speed until foamy for about 30 seconds. Then beat on high speed until they became shiny & smooth. The eggs whites should cling to the beaters. Stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter. Then fold in the remaining eggs just until blended.

Spoon batter into liners to about 1/4 inch below the top of liner. Bake about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove cakes from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

Frosted with White Chocolate Frosting & decorated with traditional holiday colors.... red & green.

White Chocolate Frosting
3 ounces of white chocolate, melted
1/4 cup butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Beat chocolate, butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, mixing until the frosting is smooth, about 1 minute. Spread 2 tablespoons of frosting on each cupcake.

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December 26, 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

ATTENTION CHOCOLATE LOVERS: Eaten without the frosting these chocolate cupcakes are very light & moist. They are just right. Frost with chocolate buttercream (recipe follows) & decorate with chocolate chips, and then they are to die for!

Makes 18

1 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs @ room temp.
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Melt chocolate in double boiler over simmering water, on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from heat, cool to lukewarm, about 5-10 min. You know something good is about to happen when theres a bowl of melted chocolate on the counter.

Preheat oven to 350º. Line muffin pan with papers liners.
Sift flour, baking soda , baking powder and salt, set aside.

On medium speed, cream butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add in vanilla and beat until mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate. Mix in the water. Mix in remaining flour until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Using spatula, scrape down bowl so ingredients are well-blended and the batter is smooth.

Carefully spoon about 1/4 cup of the batter into cupcake liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove & cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 cups butter, softened
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Let it cool for about 15-20 min., then add to creamed butter, mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl. Add sugar, milk, vanilla. Using low speed, mix until fully combined; no confectioners' sugar should be visible; it should be smooth, & medium brown in color. Do not refrigerate; use immediately or store in airtight container up to 2 days.

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December 25, 2008

Super Easy Coconut Macaroons


Recipe Courtesy of:

By far, the easiest of all the Xmas Cookies I made. Crunchy on the outside, sweet & moist on the inside. This was a favorite to make, as well as to eat. Next time, I'm going to double the recipe, cause I only came out with two dozen and i ate 3 of them out of the oven.

3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (14 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut (5 1/3 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat generously with nonstick cooking spray). In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt until frothy.

With a fork, stir in coconut until moistened. Drop mixture by packed level tablespoons onto prepared sheet (cookies will not spread). I used a cookie scoop to make nice mounds. Bake until lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

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December 23, 2008

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Here's another EASY recipe from my Christmas Cookie Collection.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.

Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired.

Royal Icing
2 large egg whites or 5 tablespoons meringue powder
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice or extract until frothy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, smooth, and shiny. Turn to high and beat approximately 5 minutes till stiff and glossy. I transferred the icing to a plastic bag, snipped off one end and spread it onto the cookies & decorated with lil sugar candies.

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December 21, 2008

Buttery Spritz Cookies

As promised here, this is the recipe for the Butter Cookies. I used the tree press, hence the Spritz name. Using a cookie press was harder than I thought. I had to constantly re-refrigerate the dough when it wouldnt release from the press because the dough was getting too sticky. If I had to do this again... i think i might have to invest in a better press... but the cookies came out yummy and the recipe is so easy & simple!!!

Makes: about 5 dozen
Prep: 15 min
Bake: 10-12 min per batch

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Decoration: red and green sugar; multicolored sprinkles

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Have a cookie press and baking sheet(s) lined with parchment ready.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer on high speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and salt; beat until blended. On low speed, gradually beat in flour.

3. Following manufacturer's instructions, place dough into cookie press and press out cookies about 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Decorate cookies with red and green sugar or multicolored sprinkles.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Transfer with a broad spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

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December 20, 2008

Christmas Cookies

It's been two long years since I had my annual Xmas Cookie Bakefest! Today was the day that came to an end. After 7 hours, in all corners of the kitchen, there were:

5 dozen chocolate chip cookies

I used the Original Toll House recipe

3 dozen chewy molasses cookies

Recipe previously provided

5 dozen sugar cookies

5 dozen butter cookies

Recipe to follow

2 dozen coconut macaroons

Recipe to follow
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December 12, 2008

Curry Laksa aka Curry Mee

This is one of my favorite Malaysian dishes and now I can make it at home and so can you!

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Malaysia and Singapore. Curry laksa (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is a coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, & shrimp (or chicken).

You will need:

One package of Curry Laksa Paste

available at most Asian markets

1/2 to 3/4 cup (depending on how creamy you like it)
Coconut Milk

- egg noodles and/or "mai fun" noodles
and whatever fillings you like. I used:
- fried tofu puffs
- fishballs
- grilled shrimp
- hard boiled eggs
- bean sprouts
- scallions for garnish

How to:
Bring to a boil the paste and 5-6 cups of water (10-15 minutes). Add in coconut milk and simmer (5 minutes). Throw all your fillings into the soup and simmer (5 more minutes).

In a seperate pot, bring your noodles to a boil. Strain and place in a bowl.
Scoop in fillings. some of the soup and serve! Serves 4-6.
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December 11, 2008

Freezing Cookies & Cookie Dough

Here are some more tips when it comes to baking lots of cookies (which I plan to do this weekend). Stay tuned for my Holiday Cookie Collection!

by Rachel Paxton -

If you're looking ahead to the holiday season and wondering how you're going to get all your baking done, consider freezing your cookie dough or fresh baked cookies ahead of time. When the holidays get closer you can get that last bit of shopping done or last present made instead of spending all your time in the kitchen.

Freezing Cookie Dough
Cookie dough will freeze well for 4 to 6 weeks. Rolls of dough should be sealed tightly in plastic wrap (chill in refrigerator first before freezing). Other kinds of dough should be stored in airtight containers. Drop cookies (unbaked) may be frozen on cookie sheets and transferred to freezer bags. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.

Don't try to freeze soft meringue-type cookie dough. Chocolate chip, brownies, peanut butter, and sugar cookie dough (or anything similar) freezes well. Let the dough defrost in the refrigerator (about 2-3 hours). Make sure to label the container with the date and type of cookie dough.

Freezing Baked Cookies
Almost any baked cookie freezes well. Let cookies completely cool before freezing. Wrap cookies individually in plastic wrap then store them in a ziploc freezer bag or storage tin (coffee cans or holiday tins work great). You can also just layer the cookies between layers of waxed paper in the container, but the individually wrapped ones will store longer.

Freeze frosted cookies uncovered first until they are firm. Then pack them in airtight container lined with plastic wrap or foil. Make sure to label the container with the date and type of cookies. Unfrosted cookies can be frozen up to 6-12 months (frosted, about 3 months). Frozen cookies thaw in about 10 minutes at room temperature (if you can wait that long). If cookies should be crisp when thawed, remove them from the container before thawing.
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December 10, 2008

Storing Cookies

With the Holidays around the corner, I will be making my cookies in batches. I dont really have the time right now for one of my 11-12 hour bake-a-thons. And with making batches, i'm going to need to store them. Here's a tip:

Freshly made cookies need to be cooled completely before storing in airtight containers or the cookies will become soft from the steam they produce while they are still warm. For frosted cookies, always let the frosting dry completely before storing or the cookies will stick together. It is best to store filled and frosted cookies in a single layer or between layers of parchment or wax paper. Always store each type of cookie separately. If you store different flavored and textured cookies together they will end up taking on the characteristics of each other i.e., a dry crisp textured cookie stored with a soft textured cookie will absorb its moisture and become soft. Likewise, a shortbread stored with a spice cookie will end up tasting like a spice cookie.
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December 08, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes- Take 2

Most of the recipes I found are for CAKES. These recipes usually yield three 9x2 inch round cake pans or 24 cupcakes. Below you will find the recipe using HALF the ingredients, with the exception of the eggs. It's too much work for me to split 3 eggs, so i used 2. This batter makes exactly 12 cupcakes.

Recipe from Magnolia's Bakery

1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoons salt
5 ounces buttermilk
3/4 teaspoons cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, sift the cake flour & cocoa and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt & vanilla into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

For round cake pans: bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For cupcakes: bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack, then frost, if desired.

THE VERDICT: Before I removed them from the oven, I noticed immediately that these cupcakes rose higher than the ones in Test 1. The taste: exactly the same as the first, maybe slightly sweeter. The texture: light and fluffy as well but a little bit more dense when you bite into it. This cupcake held up better as you ate it, whereas the first one was so fluffy that it fell apart, leaving crumbs everywhere.

So now what? I'm still not happy. I love the texture of this one which means I will be making them with butter instead of oil.... but something is missing when it comes to the TASTE. The hunt goes on.... to be continued...
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December 03, 2008

sugar... sugar.... sugar

Here's some info that I found very helpful when I was wondering what was the difference between granulated sugar & "baker's sugar."

Sugar vs powdered sugar vs superfine sugar
Plain sugar is a granulated sweetener that comes in fine crystals, about the size and shape of salt crystals. There are different degrees of fineness for sugars and they all have different uses.

Superfine sugar is regular (granulated) sugar that has been ground more finely. It is sometimes sold as baker's sugar and is also known as castor sugar. It can be used as a substitute for regular sugar and may produce a slightly finer crumb(texture) in the finished product than regular sugar would, a result that is preferred by many bakers. Regular sugar, however, should not be substituted in the same way. Superfine sugar is almost always called for in recipes that are very light, like meringues and angel food cakes. It contributes to a light, delicate final product because the small grains dissolve into the mixture very quickly, while a coarser crystal might not be incorporated as fully or as quickly. You can make superfine sugar yourself by putting coarser sugar into the food processor and whizzing it around several times to break up larger crystals.

Powdered sugar, or confectioners' sugar, has been completely pulverized into a very fine powder and often has a small amount of cornstarch added to it to keep it from clumping together. It is much finer even than superfine sugar, so it dissolves almost instantly into a mixture. This makes it perfect for making glazes and frostings smooth and sweet. It is also used in some recipes, particularly those where a melt-in-your-mouth texture is desired in the final product, like shortbread. It cannot be substituted with either regular sugar or superfine sugar.
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December 02, 2008

Rice Pudding

So rich & creamy. This is my dad's recipe. Everytime he made it, he had to make me my own because I dont like raisins. He finally gave it up so now I can make it myself.

5 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup of white rice (uncooked)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure vanilla extract (you can use less)
2 egg yolks (tempered*)
3/4 cup of raisins (optional)
1 cup of half & half or heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
cinnamon for garnish

Bring whole milk, rice & salt to a boil. Then simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in sugar, vanilla and egg yolks. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Take off the stove & stir in (the optional raisins) half & half or heavy cream and butter. Sprinkle on some cinnamon. Cool then refrigerate.

* TEMPERING: The technique used to blend uncooked eggs into hot liquid or sauce. Eggs are beaten and a little of the hot mixture is stirred into them to warm (temper) them. Tempering slowly raises the temperature of an egg, without curdling it and without heating it through conventional methods. This prevents the eggs from scrambling or the milk from curdling when the hot liquid is introduced.

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December 01, 2008

Cream Cheese Frosting

I love whipped cream cheese frosting, but for Red Velvet Cupcakes I thought it would be nice to try out "real" cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes enough frosting for one dozen cupcakes. For all my cupcakes, I will be practicing my 1M Swirls.... instructions can be found here.

Recipe adapted from several sources

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

THE VERDICT: Talk about a sugar high! Would you expect anything less when the main ingredient is powdered sugar? TOTALLY SWEET!
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November 30, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes - Take 1

I wasn't about to test all four recipes at once.... this is test #1.

Recipe from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss

3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

This recipe will make 24 cupcakes. I halved the recipe.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt & sugar into a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Place oil in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat in eggs, one at a time, at medium speed until well-blended. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash AND it WILL STAIN.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to mixer with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. I spooned 3 tablespoons of batter in each paper liner and came up with exactly 1 dozen cupcakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 20 minutes. Then remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.

THE VERDICT: The cupcakes came out very light, fluffy & moist. BUT they weren't very tasty. Eaten without the frosting, they tasted like plain cakes to me. Nothing spectacular about them but the texture of the cake was great. If I make these again, next time I will add in more sugar and cocoa.

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November 28, 2008

Martha's Mac-and-Cheese

From Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! For the Holidays, I usually provide the dessert... but I couldn't resist making this as a side dish.

This is my all-time favorite comfort food. I've read the reviews and people said this is a great recipe cause after its prepared and eaten, I can freeze the rest and reheat whenever. I halved the original recipe because the full recipe yields 12 servings.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Gruyère or 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (usually 1/2 box)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. I didnt have bread so i just used some butter & breadcrumbs. Next time i will try it with the bread.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining tablespoons of butter in a high-sided skillet (dont have one so i used a larger than medium sauce pan) over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1.5 cups cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/8 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle all the remaining cheese, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

It came out pretty good. I think it could have used more milk & cheese... because i felt that it dried up rather quickly when we reheated it.

Other items you can add, if you like:
- canned tuna
- frozen peas or veggies
- diced ham

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November 26, 2008

The Hunt is On

M's godmommy made Red Velvet Cupcakes for her First Birthday Party and they were totally awesome. It's my turn! For the past year (maybe even longer than that), I have been collecting recipes from a variety of sources. I have FOUR recipes to try out and I'll let you know which I like best. So..... who's going to help me eat them all???
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November 25, 2008

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis of FoodTV.

Love this recipe. Very easy & very yummy. Its not too sweet either (i think i used less sugar). I made it without the frosting... cause I dont need the frosting. Stores in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly. The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone cheese and then beat in the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Here they are in the oven:

And here they are, out of the oven:
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November 24, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

Just in time for Thanksgiving! My family requests.... or should I say they demand that I make this every year; and when I do, my mother always wants an additional pie.

If you're a stickler for homemade pie crust... go for it! I have tried to make pie crusts many, many times and, for me, it NEVER comes out right. I just stick to the frozen ones cause they're always on sale... but don't tell my family this -- they think I make the crust from scratch!

This is another one of those recipes where there are so many variations.... i've tried a few and this one is my favorite:

2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1/2 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutneg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

(Some like to boil the sweet potatoes.... i prefer them baked.)

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork & wrap in tin foil. Bake until soft (about 45 minutes) at 425 degrees. When cool enough to handle, peel them (skin comes off very easily once their cooled) and slice crosswise to prevent strings. Reduce oven to 375 degrees.

Mash potatoes, then stir in all ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake in the middle rack until brown and center of pie is set, about 50-60 minutes.

What I love about making this pie is that it can be made well in advance (like 3-4 days) and kept in the fridge.... wrapped in foil and stored in a gallon-sized ziploc bag!

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November 21, 2008

Ingredient Equivalents

Here are some helpful tips i found.
Courtesy of SmittenKitchen

1 stick = 4 ounces = 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup
4 sticks = 16 ounces = 32 tablespoons = 2 cups

1 ounce = 1/4 cup grated
6 ounces chips = 1 cup chips
1 pound cocoa = 4 cups cocoa

Half and half = 1/2 milk + 1/2 cream = 10.5 to 18 percent butterfat
Light cream = 18 percent butterfat
Light whipping cream = 30 to 26 percent butterfat
Heavy cream = whipping cream = 36 percent or more butterfat
Double cream = extra-thick double cream = clotted or Devonshire cream = 42 percent butterfat

1 large egg (approximately) = 1 tablespoon yolk + 2 tablespoons white
1 cup = 4 jumbo = 4 to 5 extra-large = 5 large = 5 to 6 medium = 7 small

1 pound = 4 cups all-purpose or bread flours = 4 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup sifted cake flour = 7/8 cup sifted all-purpose
1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound white = 2 cups white = 454 grams
1 pound packed brown = 2 1/4 cups packed brown
1 cup packed brown = 1 cup white
1 pound superfine sugar = 1 cup white sugar = 190 grams
1 pound powdered sugar = 3 1/2 to 4 cups
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar = 1 cup white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar = 80 grams
100 grams white sugar = 1/2 cup
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November 20, 2008

Super Easy Spinach Dip

Very easy to make and a hit at parties. I bring this to PotLucks all the time.
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 pint of sour cream
  • 1 packet of Lipton's Vegetable Dip Mix
  • 1 package of frozen spinach

*dont use fat free stuff -- it will come out too runny

Defrost and squeeze out all the water from the spinach.
Combine all ingredients.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes (even overnight) before serving.

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November 19, 2008

The $250 Cookie Recipe

Here is a "true story" almost everyone has heard by now — the infamous "$250 Cookie Recipe," most recently associated with the Neiman Marcus company, but previously (during the 1980s) the bane of Mrs. Fields. The story, by the way, is not true. It's a classic urban legend, a variant of a popular tale that Jan Brunvand has traced as far back as 1948, when the overpriced recipe yielded a "red velvet" fudge cake and the amount allegedly charged was $25. The current adjusted-for-inflation version (reproduced below) is still making the email rounds and shows no signs of waning, even though it has been debunked again and again over the past two decades. A good tale of revenge never dies...

What is written below is not written by me --- it's part of the myth.

THE $250 COOKIE RECIPE Okay, everyone....a true story of justice in the good old U.S. of A. Thought y'all might enjoy this; if nothing else, it shows internet justice, if it can be called that. My daughter & I had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas & decided to have a small dessert. Because our family are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the "Neiman-Marcus Cookie." It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and they said with a small frown, "I'm afraid not." Well, I said, would you let me buy the recipe? With a cute smile, she said, "Yes." I asked how much, and she responded, "Two fifty." I said with approval, just add it to my tab. Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285.00. I looked again and I remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, "Cookie Recipe - $250.00." Boy, was I upset!! I called Neiman's Accounting Dept. and told them the waitress said it was "two fifty," and I did not realize she meant $250.00 for a cookie recipe. I asked them to take back the recipe and reduce my bill and they said they were sorry, but because all the recipes were this expensive so not just everyone could duplicate any of our bakery recipes....the bill would stand. I waited, thinking of how I could get even or even try and get any of my money back. I just said, "Okay, you folks got my $250.00 and now I'm going to have $250.00 worth of fun." I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover will have a $250.00 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus for nothing. She replied, "I wish you wouldn't do this." I said, "I'm sorry but this is the only way I feel I could get even," and I will. So, here it is, and please pass it to someone else or run a few copies....I paid for it; now you can have it for free.

(Recipe may be halved.):
2 cups butter
2 tsp. baking soda
5 cups blended oatmeal**
2 cups brown sugar
1 8-oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

** measure 5 cups of oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder.

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.
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November 18, 2008

Baking Tip: measurements

Below is an at-a-glance list of common conversions when measuring ingredients:
1 cup16 tablespoons
3/4 cup12 tablespoons
2/3 cup10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
1/2 cup8 tablespoons
1/3 cup5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon3 teaspoons
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November 17, 2008

Carrot Cake Recipe

As promised in this post, here is the recipe for Carrot Cake.

The Story behind the Cake:
When I was a kid, my dad and I came upon this recipe that we found in our local newspaper. Originally it was for Carrot Cake. We made it, ate it and loved it. I made it weekly when i was a kid... just to bake and eat! I made it as a layer cake and as a loaf cake. I made it so much, I memorized the recipe. I would say I baked this every week for say, 6 months to a year. Then, I stopped. I realized years later that I missed it. I searched & searched but couldn’t find it. I asked my dad if he remembered the recipe and of course, he didn't. One day, I decided to take a stab at it, hoping that I could recreate my childhood favorite. After weeks of baking and experimenting, I did it! I think it's as close to the original as I can get. I know it sure tastes that way.

The recipe:
3 cups grated carrots
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1.5 cups white sugar (depending on your taste, but for me 1.5 cups was perfect)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan or 2 8" cake pans or 1 loaf pan or muffin pan(s).

In a large bowl, combine grated carrots, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in eggs, oil, vanilla, and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

For cake: bake for 30 to 40 minutes
For loaf: bake for 45-60 minutes
For cupcakes: bake for 20-30 minutes
~ or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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November 14, 2008

My Cake Pan Collection

Angel Food Cake Pan

Wilton 8 Inch Cake Pan - have 3

SpringForm Pans - I have 6", 8", 9"

Mini SpringForm Pans

Pyrex 8" Square Pan

Muffin/Cupcake - have 3 of these

Mini Loaves

9" Loaf Pan

Cookie Sheets by Williams-Sonoma - have 9

My Newest Finds:
The Giant Cupcake

Multi mini cupcakes

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