Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CSA is Back!!

Summer has arrived!  Yesterday was our first beach day of the summer then on the way home from the beach we popped in to pick up our first CSA box of the summer.  Yippee!!!  Now that I am a CSA veteran, I kind of know what to expect of my summer boxes, lettuce and radishes dominate the first few harvests.

We got some small beets in this first box and the white radish they gave us last year.

Our CSA farm has a thing for radish, we get so so many throughout the summer.  I will again search for interesting radish recipes.

Now I am not complaining, but I was a bit disappointed that the summer started with the darn kohlrabi.  My summer challenge is to find a good recipe for the kohlrabi, I never really found one last year.  Our CSA lady suggested making them like french fries for the kids, but I am guessing my kids might not be fooled, maybe I'll give it  a try any how.  Get ready for luscious veggie pics all summer long!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Easter Cakes: Part 3 - Carrot Cake

I LOVE this cake! Best carrot cake ever, no joke.  If you are familiar with the Silver Palate Cookbooks, it is no surprise that the very best of anything came right out of their books.  Everything in the Silver Palate Cookbooks has a touch of decadence that you just don't find in the classic recipe.  In typing out the recipe I realize I messed up a step, it calls for cooked pureed carrots, I used raw shredded carrots, still loved the cake so it seems you could do either.  The cream cheese icing recipe is a keeper, so smooth and creamy.  I think I want to try this recipe as muffins.  Yum!

Silver Palate Carrot Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shelled chopped walnuts - optional
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots (I used raw shredded carrots)
3/4 cup (or 1 8oz can) crushed pineapple drained
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9 inch spring form pans (I used one spring form and one regular, the spring form cake was thicker)
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add oil, eggs and vanilla then beat well.  Fold in walnuts coconut, carrots and pineapple.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 50 minutes, until edges have pulled away and the center is set.
  4. Cool on cake rack for 3 hours.  Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese - room temp
6 tablespoons butter - room temp
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of 1/2 a lemon - optional
  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl
  2. Slowly sift in confectioners' sugar adn continue beating until fully mixed.  
  3. Stir in vanilla and lemon.

Pineapple and coconut are what set this carrot cake apart from others.  What a colorful batter!

The recipe called for spring-form pans, I only had one so I used a standard 9" round cake pan for one layer.  The spring-form layer was thicker and easier to remove from pan, but the regular cake pan worked too.  

This is the best picture I got of the Carrot Cake iced.  I did not do any fancy icing, just coated it with the cream cheese icing.  I have to get better at taking after pictures.  

It's a BUNDT!

One of my favorite movies and a great scene:

It's a cake!  Nordic Ware is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Bundt Cake they created and made famous, which of course means there is a contest.  Actually there are a few contests for the celebration, 65th Anniversary Contests, I am interested in the contest using Nordic Ware's fabulous baking pans.  I happen to own a quite a few of their pans and love, love, love the cupcake mold pans.  So many great birthday cakes have been created using the train cakes, car cakes and my very favorite, the garden bug cakes (so cute!).

The baking contest runs through September with monthly winners. Looks like I'll be baking up some cakes this summer!  Here is a picture of my first run at the contests, of course I used my favorite bug pan.

Will share recipes upon completion of the contest.  More to to come! I want to make a classic Bundt.  "There is a whole in this cake."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Easter Cakes: Part 2 - Grandma's Orange Pineapple Cake

My Grandma Wood made this cake every year and it was always the favorite with us kids, so much so that my sister requested it every year as her birthday cake.  Here is a word to the wise, do not put sparklers on this cake instead of candles, it has a very sticky icing that will be covered in soot.  We learned that the hard way, my sister's birthday is New Years Eve so there are always fireworks involved and sparklers are not a safe alternative to birthday candles.

This is not a "Grandma Wood Original" but probably a Pillsbury Cookbook cake, but isn't that what most women who raised kids in the 50's made?  Both of my grandmothers were from the Kraft, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker brand of cooking, I don't know if either of them ever made a cake from scratch.  I have a printed copy of this recipe on an old yellow piece of paper that Grandma probably hammered out on a typewriter.  Some of the measurements are not what we use in modern day like one a #2 can of pineapple. Is that a war ration measurement?  We have converted that ingredient to one 8 oz can of crushed pineapple. This is the first time I have tried this cake in a mold pan, it came out great.  I don't think Grandma ever made this cake as a lamb, she always made a beautiful two layer round cake, light and fluffy looking, the perfect Easter cake.

Grandma's Pineapple Orange Cake

4 eggs well beaten
1/2 cup oil
1 (11oz) can mandarin oranges with the liquid
1 box yellow cake mix

1 (8oz) can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup sugar
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1 (9oz) container of Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare to 9 inch cake pans with baking spray.
Beat eggs then add oil and mandarin oranges with the liquid and beat well.  Add cake mix and beat for 2 minutes until well mixed and the oranges are all broken up.  Split batter between the two 9 inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cake cool completely before icing.

In a small sauce pan mix the pineapple with liquid and 1/2 cup of sugar, bring to a boil then boil for 20 minutes stirring constantly.  Remove pineapple/sugar mix from heat and let cool completely, like for several hours in the refrigerator.  If it is warm the icing will melt and be runny.  When cold add one package of vanilla instant pudding and mix well.  Next fold in one container of Cool Whip.  This will be a very fluffy and sticky icing.

According to grandma's recipe and the 50's standard for food safety you can leave this cake out 2 days unrefrigerated then you should refrigerate.  Not sure if that is "Serve Safe".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Cakes: Part 1

Easter Cakes!  So many possibilities I am having a hard time deciding on just one to bake today.  I have ruled out cheesecake, too much dairy for the crowd I am serving, at least that is one less dessert to consider.  I am leaning towards the Silver Palate Carrot Cake.  I made this cake years and years ago, but still remember it, it is that good.  Should I also then make a fun cake for the kids?  I own the Wilton 3-D Lamb Pan, it is really only good one day a year, do I skip my chance?  And bunny cakes or cupcakes, how fun would it be to make bunny cakes?  Off to the store to pick up my carrot cake ingredients, I'll post this cake after it is complete.  Still on the fence about the kid cake.  We are having dinner with friends so we will have four adults and 4 kids, is two cakes just overboard?  Maybe not.

Cake and candy of Easter's past.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Smoothie Time!

We have been on a smoothie kick, so imagine how excited I was to see this tear out in the new Food Network Magazine (so excited I ripped it when removing it from the magazine).  Crazy as it might sound, I had never really made a smoothie until a few months ago.  It certainly seems easy enough to make, toss some fruit, yogurt and maybe milk or ice cubes right?  There is an actual formula and sequence that is necessary to get a nice creamy smoothie and Food Network Magazine gave me some  interesting new mix-in ideas to jazz up my boring, lumpy smoothies.  For the most part though, anything goes in smoothie land, mix and match whatever you like. A creative mind could find an endless number of smoothies to make.  Have fun!

My Perfect Smoothie Formula

1 Cup Ice
1-2 Cups Liquid - Milk, Soy Milk, Juice
1/2 Cup Yogurt - Plain, Greek, Vanilla
1-1.5 Cup Fresh or Frozen Fruit

  • 1-2 Tablespoons Sweet - Sugar, Honey, Vanilla Extract, Lime Juice
  • Dash-1 Teaspoon Herbs and Spices - Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Fresh Basil, Ginger
  • Protein Powder - I am not a health nut, don't know much about these things, but many people put protein in their smoothies.  Not me.
  • Added nutrients - Flax Seed, my sister-in-law puts flax seeds in all the smoothies she makes, something I want to add to mine for healthy family colons.  I suppose you could sneak any added nutrient or vitamin into a smoothie if you need it, go crazy!
  • Coffee - Make your own Coolata!
Preparation:  Ice first!  Place the ice cubes in first and hit the Ice Crush bottom on your blender.  Once the ice is crushed to perfect consistency add the rest of the ingredients then blend on high for a minute.  If it gets stuck, add a bit more liquid or mix so the ice is not stuck on the bottom clogging the blender.

Fun Ingredients
  • Exotic Fruits: Kiwi, Mango, Papaya, Coconut Milk, Pomegranate 
  • Melon:  Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Pumpkin puree, try some of those weird ones in the produce isle you have never heard of.
  • Citrus: any kind of citrus could be blended.   Remember lemon and lime juice in small doses add some zing to a smoothie.  A bit of peel or zest would be good too.
  • Veggies:  Hide the healthy stuff! Carrots, Spinach
  • Coffee
  • Obvious Fruits:  Apples, Grapes, Berries, Bananas
  • Nuts:  Peanut butter, Nutella
  • Dairy:  Yogurts, Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream, Cream Cheese 
  • Not so healthy: Ice cream, cookies, candy, you could go anywhere with this, think DQ Blizzard.

Crazy Cubes
My new favorite thing is coconut milk ice cubes.  Found this little tip in the Food Network pull out, freeze coconut milk in an ice cube tray then you have flavorful ice cubes to add to your smoothie.  Imagine how good those ice cubes will be this summer in a Rum Runner.  Can't wait!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pillsbury Due Date!

Today is the day!  All entries for the 45th Pillsbury Bake Off are due today.  I am proud to announce all 7 of my entries are in and I am officially off Pillsbury for awhile.  Whew!  After months of testing and trying to perfect my recipes I almost chickened out and didn't enter.  Why would I do that?  It was weird, I lost all my motivation for in the last two weeks.  Luckily I got re-motivated,  cooked a bunch of Pillsbury things last week and entered them all this weekend.  90 winners are notified in September while the 20 wildcard winners will be notified from May till August.  Of the 20 wildcards only 10 will make it to the actual Bake Off, there will be voting this summer.  Ugh, I hope I don't have to go to a vote. I just hope for some feedback.  Fingers crossed till September!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No-Egg Non-Dairy Oatmeal Flax Seed Cookies

Boys! Boys! Boys!

Please don't be scared by the title of these cookies, I know it does not sound too appealing but there is a reason for such a descriptive name.  As you may know I have two boys, ages two and three, but I also watch a friend's one year old boy a few days a week.  Of the three boys two are allergy kids; my two year old is allergic to peanuts and dairy and my borrowed one year old boy is allergic to eggs and has some dairy issues.  I have Epi-Pens in every bag I carry and it really is time to invest in some good reading glasses so I can easily read all the tiny ingredient listings to keep up with these kids.  All in all it is not too hard to handle the allergies, the only hard part is finding yummy treats that these boys can all eat together.  I have Google searched "dairy free", "egg free", and "no egg" recipes but it really only pulls up a few vegan recipes and weird, way-too-crunchy type of recipes. There are everyday recipes out there with out eggs or dairy but no one notes it in the title or the recipe so the search engines don't find them when you type "diary free".  So there you have the explanation for my very unappetizing title for these very tasty cookies.  If I can help desperate moms with allergy kids find cookie recipes I will feel I gave something to the world. 

Quick shout out to the FLAXSEED
Big discovery:  Flaxseed Meal.  This may not be new news to all, but Flaxseeds are a pretty new idea for me.  My husband's family has an unfortunate history with colon cancer, so I am always looking for the best super food to encourage happy colons, my new sister-in-law introduced me to Flaxseeds.  Love them!  Not only is it a "super food", but also when mixed with a little water, it can be used as an egg substitute. Here are some Flaxseed Fun Facts:  the flaxseed contains important Omega 3 fatty acids, lignans and both soluble and insoluble fiber. I am not very experienced in healthy eating so I had to Google lignans, they are a natural plant hormone that are especially beneficial to men's prostate health and so much more.  Who knew?  For more on the wonders of Flaxseeds check out this WebMD article

Egg Substitute formula:
1 TBS Flaxseed Meal + 3 TBS Water = 1 Egg 
Perfect for baked goods, probably good in meat loaf.

No-Egg Non Dairy Oatmeal Flax Seed Cookies 
Source:  modified recipe from Vegetarian Love to Know

    1 cup (1/2 stick) Crisco Butter/Shortening Stick (dairy free) or 1 stick of butter (for the diary people)
    1 cup brown sugar (preferably dark)
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    6 tbs water
    2 tbs Flaxseed meal
    1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    3 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    3 cups rolled oats
    optional:  raisins, chocolate chips, M&Ms, mini-marshmallows or anything else delicious!

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Cream Crisco/butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy.  
    3. In a small bowl whisk flaxseed meal and water till mixed, let sit a minute or two to soak up the water. 
    4. Add the flaxseed/water to the butter/sugar and mix well.  
    5. In separate bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and oats.  
    6. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix throughly.
    7. Fold in 1-2 cups of your favorite "extra", we used chocolate chips.
    8. Using spoonfuls, place balls of dough on a prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
    9. Bake for 12-15 minutes or desired crispness.  Remove from pan and cool on a rack.
    10. Enjoy!

    Afternoon snack: Oatmeal Cookies and a tall glass of soy milk.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Johnsonville Pastaville Winner: Baby Bella Sausage Cupcake Surprise

    In my continuing effort to learn from my contests entries and losses, I made the winning recipe from the Johnsonville Pastaville Contest (FYI, the winner was not my entry).  The top three winners were in this order; Baby Bella Sausage Cupcake Surprise, Sweet & Spicy Italian Stir Fry and Pappardella with Sizzled Sausage and Mushrooms.  The first thing I noticed about the this group of winners is they are all very simple and use common ingredients.  They were also very common flavors or types of dishes you might see or eat regularly; a red sauce/spaghetti meal, an Asian stir fry and a beef stroganoff type dish.  Most of the sponsors want easy meals that will appeal to a wide audience and the average home cook can make, however you never know just how simple they really want it.  I have seen some contest winners that have simple recipes but one weird or uncommon twist to them, so you never know.  All three of these dishes use everyday ingredients that I already had on hand, so it was easy to whip this up on the fly.

    The Baby Bella Sausage Cupcake Surprise were a perfect little spaghetti treat.  When preparing the dish it felt like it should have more spaghetti so I might have slipped a few more noodles in than the recipe suggested.  Definitely a nice treat and a great way surprise for the kids. I will make it again with maybe a few new things mixed in and fun toppings. Congratulations Victoria Lee!  Enjoy this victory!

    Recipe Link:
    Baby Bella Sausage Cupcake Surprise

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Dough for Brains

    That pretty much sums up the past month of my cooking adventures.  Pillsbury, Pillsbury and a bit more Pillsbury.  My husband has requested a "Pillsbury Break", since I have been wrapping, stuffing and pretty much baking everything we eat with dough and that is just dinner, don't even ask about the deserts I have churned out this month.  I keep dropping plates of cupcakes on my neighbor's door steps just to get the sweets out of our house.  Of course the neighbor's don't know I am testing recipes so they probably think I am just a bad cook.  Some of my cupcakes have been very dense, but I give them away anyway.

    I am enjoying my Pillsbury experiments, however it leaves little time or other topics for blogging.  April 18th is the final due date.  I hope to have some good non-Pillsbury posts over the next few months, but can't promise a large number of posts, we'll see what the future brings.

    Till then... I am off to bake some Pillsbury goodness!  Wish me luck!

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Contesting Update: Dough Boy Fever

    I have Dough Boy Fever.  The blog has been forgotten in the past week as all of my brain power (which is not much since I am not sleeping due to a recent toddler bed upgrade), or what little brain power I have, has all gone to creating Pillsbury recipes.  A few good and a few pretty bad.  The entire bottom shelf of my fridge is full of Pillsbury products; crescent rolls, biscuits, French bread, pizza dough, sugar cookies, peanut butter  cookies and even gingerbread cookies (which incidentally do not qualify for the contest).  Oh and the freezer has 3 boxes of pie crust!  Here is a tip, make sure your Pillsbury tubes don't roll back and stack up along the back of your fridge as they will block the air flow and your salad will freeze.  Just a little something we have learned the hard way with frozen sour cream and other condiments.  As previously stated, I will not share my Pillsbury ideas until I win that million dollars, but I will tell you I have been baking with bananas and having fun!  And I might be the worst mother in the world because I keep making things with peanut butter when I have a peanut allergy kid in the house.  He is not so allergic that he can't be in the house with it, but I feel bad he can't eat any of the things I make so I just slice of a few pieces of that gingerbread dough and make him cookies.

    A bit of travel in the next week so I am not actually sure how many blog posts I'll get out.  I should have some fun ones upon my return.  Heading to Seattle for wedding, will definitely have to do a Pike Market post.  Even though I have been all about the Pillsbury Blue & White, there are some other great contests out there right now.  Ritz Crackers has something going, Sun Maid Chocolate Covered Raisins and the big Gilroy Garlic Festival is taking recipes, just to name a few I have interest in and need to make time for.  So that is my update and why I am neglecting the blog.  Hope to have time for a good post this week.  Feel free to share any Dough Boy tips and I'll do the same.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Cookie Week: Italian Anise Cookies

    Cookie Week continues with Tammi's Italian Anise Cookies.  I believe this is actually her grandmother's recipe.  When you put an Anise Cookie on the table you either get lovers or haters, there really is no in-between on the licorice-anise flavor.  Maybe it is because I am more on the hater side of the anise cookie that I found it very surprising the kids loved them.  They could not keep their little hands off this tray, they would shove past the Hersey Kiss cookies and every other yummy thing on the table to grab the anise cookies.  Guess we have some little anise lovers here, now I'll have to make them.  I am not a true hater, I can appreciate the anise cookie and I eat them whenever I find a tray of Italian cookies just to try them again to see if I can love them.  I can't love them, but I can eat one or two a year.  Tammi did an excellent job of perfectly executing these little Italian treats.  If you are an anise lover, make Tammi's cookies, you will be very happy indeed.  

    Italian Anise Cookies

    5 eggs
    1 ½ cups sugar
    2 ½ sticks butter
    5-6 teaspoons of anise (depending on preference)
    5 ¼ cups of flour
    3 teaspoons+ baking powder

    Melt butter, then cool
    Mix eggs and sugar and beat
    Add in baking powder and beat
    Add in anise and beat
    Sift flour into mixture slowly and beat

    Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes
    Bake one batch at a time

    2 ½ cups powdered sugar
    ¼ cup milk

    That Tammi is a cool cookie herself.  She showed up with this nifty cookie caddy carrying case.  Good job Tams!

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Cookie Week: Pine Cones or Hay Stack Cookies

    We learned a little something at the Cookie Exchange, seems it depends on what part of the country you are from as to what you might call these little Chow Mein Noodle delights.  Colleen, the talented cookie attendee that made these, is from Maine; land of the deep woods and as such she made Pine Cone Cookies.  Now my friend Robin and I are from Texas and immediately yelled "You made Hay Stacks!  Yea!"   Who is right?  Who knows or cares, I love these little things.  I was first introduced to this fun little snack when living in the sorority house.  Our house mom made these all the time and I ate nearly a whole tray each time she did.  They are so simple and have my favorite combo of sweet and salty.  Whatever you call them, where ever you are from, this is a simple, fun and yummy treat.  Make some!

    Pine Cone Cookies

    6 oz. semi-sweet morsels
    6 oz. butterscotch morsels
    2 cups chow mein noodles
    1 cup lightly salted peanuts

    Melt morsels in double boiler, remove from heat, mix in noodles and peanuts until evenly covered.  Drop spoon size portions on wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until cooled.
    Makes approx. 2 dozen.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Cookie Week & Guest Post: Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies

    I am excite to introduce my first guest blog post!  My dear friend Janice hosts the blog Trying to be a Stylish Mom where she discusses fashion, art and her career as a Home Stylist for Stella & Dot Jewelry.  I raid her jewelry box every time I have a special event or want to ad some fun flare to my day.  Janice also attended my Cookie Exchange and brought beautiful little Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies.  Here is her account of the Cookie Event. 

    Trying To Be A Stylish Mom

    My first entry as a guest blogger!  Very exciting.  Thank you Stephanie for asking me to be here.  Stephanie's cookie exchange party was the first I had ever been to.  I am not much of a baker, so when someone who is a pro asks you to bake cookies and come to her house, it's a little nerve racking!  Sadly, other than chocolate chip cookies, I had never made cookies from scratch before.  My husband's aunt is an expert at Christmas cookies and I decided I wanted to attempt to bake one of her cookies.  I didn't know what they were called and didn't have the slightest idea where to begin.  I just started searching recipe websites for raspberry filled cookies.  I found one that I thought was it, got all the ingredients, and two days before the cookie exchange I read the directions.  Bad idea.  I should have read the entire recipe when I found it.  I realized that they were not the right ones!  I went back to my online search and realized the cookies I wanted to make were raspberry filled bow tie cookies.  Luckily I only had to run out and grab one additional ingredient and I was ready to start.  So for those of you who are not experienced at baking, make sure you read the entire recipe before getting the ingredients.  Also, this recipe calls for a stand mixer.  I do not own one, so I used a hand mixer until the dough was too tough and then I used my hands.  It was time consuming!  I refrigerated my dough overnight and it was pretty stiff in the morning.  I would recommend only refrigerating it for several hours.  This is definitely not a beginner cookie recipe, as I learned the hard way.  Next year I will definitely look for an easier recipe that doesn't call for a stand mixer! 

     Raspberry Bow Tie Cookies

    8 oz. cream cheese, softened (in microwave)
    8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
    1 12 oz. jar of good quality raspberry preserves
    1 large egg beaten
    Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and paddle.  With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the flour until smooth dough forms.
    Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough gently to form a ball.  Divide the dough into thirds, wrap each in plastic or waxed paper, and flatten into squares.  Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400*F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle.  Trim the rough edges of the dough so the sides are straight, and then cut into 2 inch squares.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp of the preserves onto the center of each square.  Fold one corner into the center, dab with the beaten egg, and then bring the opposite corner into the center and pinch firmly together to seal the corners.  Dab with more beaten egg.  Repeat with remaining dough.
    Bake one sheet at a time until golden and very lightly browned and puffed, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely and then dust with confectioners' sugar.  
    Can be frozen in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.  

    This recipe is from  I substituted raspberry preserves for the apricot preserves.  Here is the link: 

    Janice's pretty Bow Tie Cookies.  She was even good enough to pre-package them in dozens in nice little Christmas tins which definitely scores her an invitation back to the Cookie Exchange. 

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Cookie Week: Macaroon Kisses

    It only seems appropriate today to honor and share Amanda's Macaroon Kiss Cookies from the Exchange.   In order to understand why I chose Amanda as my honored Cookie Queen for the day, I must share our little sob story with you.  We live in a two family house, or duplex as they are called in other part of the country, and Amanda lives next door.  Today New England is getting hit with a doozy of a Noreaster, we have at least 16 inches of snow now and they say we should get up to 20 inches before it is over.  My husband had his appendix out last week so he can't shovel and Amanda's husband is stuck in California so that leaves Amanda and me to handle all the shoveling, oh and the 5 kids we have between the two of us.  Ugh.  Actually it has not been too bad yet.  So far this morning we got a good start to the shoveling and my husband has been able to keep the kids happy, well mine anyway.  I have been sharing our little sob story with everyone in the neighborhood hoping to find a nice fellow with a plow that might have mercy on us.  Here is my offer to the plow drivers of Woburn - a big heaping plate of fresh cookies and cash if you come plow even just the end of our driveway.  Please!  Ok, self pity over.  Going to finish this post them go shovel some more, back to the cookies.

    Amanda made these special macaroons with Hersey's Kisses on top for the Cookie Exchange.  Brilliant!  I love a good macaroon.  My experience with home made macaroons all look like this cookie as opposed to those fancy colorful ones you see on all the blogs these days.  I feel like I should try making some fancy ones as it is all the rage on the blog sites, but I am quite content with the classic mom-made macaroon like this. Amanda's cookies were a hit and I am so glad she joined our little cookie party.  Now I am off to beat on her door with a snow shovel so she can help me dig.  Happy Snow Day!

    Macaroon Kiss Cookie


    • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
    • 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • egg yolk
    • 1 teaspoons almond extract
    • 2 teaspoons orange juice
    • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 5 cups Sweetened Coconut Flakes, divided
    • 48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates

    1. Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange juice; beat well. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut.

    2. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Heat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in remaining 2 cups coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

    3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; immediately press chocolate on top of each cookie. Cool 1 minute; carefully remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies. 

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Cookie Week: German Chocolate Lace Cookies

    I hosted my first Cookie Exchange back in December.  Seven of my girlfriends baked up cookies and came over for a little swap.  Seems more wine than cookies were consumed at this affair, but thus is this the norm with this group.  I was a little surprised by some and very impressed with all of the beautiful cookies my friends made.  In an effort give each cookie their due, I would like to declare this week Cookie Week here at Adventures in Contesting.  I will post several of the recipes from our little exchange over the course of this week and maybe even talk someone into becoming the first guest post on my blog.  Hope you enjoy our cookies as much as we did, maybe you should crack open a couple bottles of wine so you may enjoy them as we did.  

    German Chocolate Lace Cookies

    For the Cookie Exchange, I made German Chocolate Lace Cookies.  My mom loves the Silver Palate Cookbooks and she has made this recipe from the SP Good Times Cookbook a few times.  I remembered it as being good and I love all things German Chocolate so it seemed like a great choice.  These cookies came out very thin, hence the lace title I guess, but I was sort of surprised by how thin they were, I thought I did something wrong.  I was sort of embarrassed that, as the host, I might have the worst cookies.  My husband was really sweet, I had no time to make more as I had over committed myself this week, he offered to make cookies for me so I would have worthy cookies to present at the swap.  That is quite the gesture from a man who's entire cooking experience includes only grilled cheese and Kraft Mac'n Cheese.  I went with the lace cookies and no one complained (to me).

    German Chocolate Lace Cookies
    Source:  The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
    2 tablespoons dark rum
    1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
    4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
    1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup quick-cooking oats
    1/2 cup shredded coconut
    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.

    Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 teaspoon of rum, heat for about 1 minute more.

    Heat the cream to boiling in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and stir in remaining 1 teaspoon of rum.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chunks until melted and well blended.  Beat 1/3 cup of the chocolate mixture into the butter mixture. 

    Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.  Stir into the butter mixture.  Fold in the oats, coconut, and nuts.

    Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes to harden.  Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

    Drizzle remaining chocolate mixture over the cookies in a lacy pattern.

    My lacy cookies with a sneak peek at more cookies to share this week.  

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    45th Pillsbury Bake Off is Open!!!

    It's here!  It's here!  Pillsbury has opened the door for entries to the 45th Pillsbury Bake Off.  This is the Big Daddy of all contests with a grand prize of $1 Million Dollars!  That's right, ONE MILLION DOLLARS, Mwaa Ha Ha (Dr. Evil laugh).  The last winner was on Oprah, a dream of mine.  Time to start cooking up some Pillsbury goodness.  Sorry to say that I will not post any Pillsbury recipes until well after the contest is over and my recipes are clearly dead, but I will share any stories I have during the process and keep you abreast of all things Pillsbury I learn.

    Entries are open until April 18th.  There will be 100 finalist selected that will participate in the live Bake Off in Orlando, FL March 25-27, 2012.  90 finalist will be chosen by Pillsbury.  20 "Semi-Finalist" will be chosen by Pillsbury then put up for a public vote with 10 of the 20 winning a Finalist title and completing the total for the Top 100 Finalist List.

    Oh to be one of the Top 100!!  Swag bags, meeting all the great contesting cooks, famous celebrity chefs and to experience the hoop-la of it all.  What an amazing dream, I could babble on and on, and I will until the Million is awarded in March of 2012, so be ready for several "dreaming out loud" posts.

    Check out Pillsbury's Bake Off website for all the exciting details.  Pillsbury Bake Off

    I will report on all I can and keep you posted of any exciting news to be shared.

    Let the baking begin!!!

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Banana Split Bread

    Yucky Bananas = Yummy Bread!

    Yucky Bananas
    Yummy Bread 
    I have never been one who is able to throw out a brown banana.  I use to take the "past due" bananas from the hotels I worked at so I could make banana bread for the staff, it just seems sad to throw them out.  This little personality flaw, if you will, has me always searching for new and different banana bread recipes.  Here is a recipe that sounded a bit sketchy when I first read it, but I happened to have all the ingredients on hand so I figured let's give it a whir.  So glad I tried it, it is great!  I discovered this recipe on one of my new favorite recipe websites:  Dairy-Free!!  Well it has chocolate chips in it so not totally dairy free, but my little guy is starting to handle small amounts of dairy, chocolate chips now seem ok.  His 2nd birthday is in February and I have worked my hopes up way out of line with reality.  I seem to think he will be 100% cured of all allergies and will sleep through the night on the date of his 2nd birthday.  Sooo setting myself up for heartache, I know.

    I had to change this recipe up a bit as it called for a banana bread mix.  I took a "from scratch" recipe and altered it slightly to adjust for all the moist fruit in this bread.  It also called for a sugary icing, it is plenty sweet enough with all the fruit and sugar.  I skipped the icing and am glad I did.  The bread is perfect and not at all like a creepy fruit bread.  It also seems like the sort of thing that would have been invented by a home cook for a cooking contest so I will call it practice for the future.

    Banana Split Bread 
    Source:  Variation on recipe found here:  Crisco Banana Split Bread

    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup smashed bananas (or a bit more, I used 3 old bananas)
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    8 oz can sliced pineapple, then chop it small
    1/3 cup diced maraschino cherries
    1/3 cup chocolate chips
    optional - 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray or Crisco/flour.

    Cream together the sugar, banana, oil and eggs with electric beater.  In separate bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly sift the flour mixture into the bananas until batter is completely mixed.  Drain the canned pineapple and chop it into small chunks (you could use crushed, but it seems like it would be too wet).  Chop the cherries into quarters so they are decent bites in the bread.  Add pineapple, cherries and chocolate chips to the batter and fold in mixing by hand, add nuts now if you desire.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.


    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Contest Entries - Johnsonville Pastaville Contest

    Pastaville - Italian Sausage Recipe Contest : Image

    Here are my two entries in the Johnsonville Pastaville Italian Sausage Recipe Contest: Sweet Sausage Empanadas and Hogs in a Wrap.  Click through to the Johnsonville site for the recipe, I'll do a separate post when the contest is complete. The funny thing about this contest is it does not have to actually include pasta as the name might lead you to believe.  A little something I learned on the Cooking Contest Central members forum and a good bit of information as I would have only been making pasta dishes.

    Growing up in the South I didn't really know much about Italian sausage, or good Italian food for that matter.  I was first introduced to Italian sausage and peppers on my first date with my husband.  It was a Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park.  My first trip to Fenway and my first time to smell the wonderful aroma of the sausage vendors.  Somehow the smell of the sausage vendors is actually better than the sausage tastes, it is that dirty, burning, grill smell that is so so good.  We did not eat Italian sausages on our first date, classy as that would have been, none the less anytime I get a whiff of Italian sausages and peppers on a grill it takes me right to Fenway Park.

    Hopefully my sausage dishes will be as good as the Red Sox and win the big one.  We'll see.