Archive for the ‘Cooking/Baking’ Category

Baking, Lately

March 29, 2014

If you know me at all you probably have an idea about how much I love to bake, if you don’t know me then this post should make it obvious, ha! Here’s a look at some things I’ve baked and managed to document over the past few months.

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I’m quickly gaining a reputation for these sugar cookies and to be honest they really are the most delicious sugar cookies you’ll ever gobble down. The secret is in the recipe (found here), it uses powdered sugar instead of regular granulated sugar which gives the dough a soft, pillow-y texture and helps the cookie to hold its shape during baking.

I boxed up some of these Christmas cookies to send to our grandparents up in Massachusetts. Naturally, I made a couple lobster cookies to top off their care packages. Aren’t they cute?!

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Cupcakes for our Superbowl watching party…I clearly just have way too much fun with this, it’s an addiction that I don’t care to break :)

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A recipe for a delicious, moist, rich, full-flavored chocolate cake is something that I’ve always searched for and I finally found it. This is literally THE. BEST. CHOCOLATE. CAKE. EVER. The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen and when paired with some homemade raspberry filling, it’s just divine.baking04

When I make this cake I always have a little leftover batter because the recipe is for two 9″ pans and I use 8″ pans. No big deal, I use the extra to make half a dozen little cupcakes. I made this cake for our New Years Even party and it was a huge hit.baking05

These earth sugar cookies were for a “welcome to the world” themed baby shower for a friend. It’s fun to experiment with new decorating techniques, I think this was the first time I tried lining and flooding.

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And here are some more baby shower cookies from last weekend. I loved making the little onsies and the smiling sunshines.

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They just look so happy!

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I’ve also dabbled in some bread making lately. Even though we don’t eat bread much, I love to make it from scratch; there’s just something about working a ball of bread dough in your hands that’s therapeutic. This is a honey wheat loaf that was super simple to make, recipe is from Life In Grace.

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I love to volunteer to bake a cake when someone’s birthday falls on or near a small group event and last week we had our first outdoor cookout of the season so this hamburger cake seemed appropriate. Nobody believed me when I told them but this was seriously the easiest cake I’ve ever made. Instead of delicately icing the entire outside of the cake layers all I had to do was squirt some on with a couple piping bags. White for mayo, green for lettuce, yellow for mustard and red for ketchup…throw a few sesame seeds on top and voila it’s a burger!

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Nothing brings me more joy than seeing something I’ve made bring happiness to someone else; cookies and cakes are pretty good at doing that ;)

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Baking, Lately

May 26, 2013

Thanks to our weekly small group meetings and two recent baby showers I’ve had the opportunity/excuse to bake…A LOT. It’s been so much fun! I love to find new recipes, try them out and share the goodies with all of my friends. This cake was for a friend’s birthday, it’s dark chocolate with chocolate buttercream frosting.

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These are sugar cookies that I made for my friend Elisha’s baby shower. I used a biscuit cutter instead of a cookie cutter and the icing is thinned out Royal icing that I simply dipped one side of each cookie in {super easy way to ice a bunch of cookies quickly}.

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These mini cakes were also for Elisha’s shower, they were given away to guests as party favors. I found the little paper loaf pans on clearance at Joann’s and filled them with classic yellow cake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting. They were really fun to eat because when the paper wrapper was removed they looked just like twinkies!

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My latest batch of cookies were inspired by some that I saw in a restaurant’s dessert case, they are salted oatmeal white chocolate chip cookies and yes, they are as delicious as they sound. The recipe I used came from Smitten Kitchen {every recipe of hers that I’ve ever tried has been amazing}.

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Gosh, I sure do love baking :)

Christmas Cookies

January 3, 2013

If I’m ever feeling homesick during the holiday season there’s one activity that is sure to cheer me up, baking cookies. I have my mom to thank for that; we always baked TONS of cookies every December for sharing {and eating}. Even though I usually consider the process of refrigerating, rolling, cutting and decorating sugar cookies to be a bit excessive, I find it somewhat therapeutic when I have time to enjoy it.

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This year, for the first time, I tried my hand at working with royal icing and flooding. Mark and I had fun experimenting with the different decorating methods and various sprinkles. These simple little trees were my favorite; definitely worth the effort :)

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Holiday Baking

December 19, 2011

For me the holiday season means lots and lots of baking; growing up we would always start baking cookies the day after Thanksgiving. We made a wide variety including monster cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, spritz cookies and my personal favorite, molasses spice cookies. All of them looked festive in one way or another, topped with sprinkles, dyed sugar or red and green M&M’s. All of the cookies would be stored in the freezer and towards the end of December we would pull them all out and make plates of cookies for teachers and friends, finishing the plates off with mini candy canes, Hershey kisses or mini Reese’s cups.

I still love giving out cookies to this day, it’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions. But since I can’t send cookies to everyone I wanted to at least share my favorite holiday cookie recipe with you!

Molasses Spice Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus more for dipping
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 2-1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat butter with white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Next add molasses, mix well. Reduce speed and gradually add in dry ingredients. Once fully incorporated, dough will seem very soft but don’t add any additional flour.

Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, preferably over night.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Pour some extra sugar or sprinkles into a bowl. Scoop large tablespoons of dough and roll between palms into balls. Roll tops of dough balls in the sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes, until cookies are browned, still puffy, cracked on top and the edges have begun to set but center is still soft.

I always use Grandma’s dark molasses, it’s the best of the best and I like to put it on my pancakes too!

Every time I make these cookies it makes my kitchen smell like Christmas and it takes me back to those fun times baking cookies with my mom :)

I also tried a new twist on my typical sugar cookie log today; red and white swirl! It wasn’t easy to do but I still believe it’s less hassle than using cookie cutters. I divided the dough into two equal portions, added red food dye to one half, rolled each dough ball out into same-sized rectangles, put one on top of the other and then rolled it up into a log.

All of these festive cookies are going on a big platter to Mark’s coworkers tomorrow!

Pancake Pyramid

March 3, 2011

When one volunteers to make pancakes for breakfast it goes without saying that they earn the right to create fun and unusual shapes with the batter. The classics consist of hearts, flowers or letters with the more talented artists going for funky-shaped animals or entire words. My mission? To make the ultimate pancake pyramid stack. In between the normal-sized pancakes I filled the extra space on the griddle with smaller pancakes of varying size until I had enough to build a 7-8 inch pyramid. Who says grown ups can’t play with their food? Yum.

Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

January 19, 2011

Lately, in an effort to branch out of our semi-boring mainstay of dinner recipes, Mark and I have been adamant about trying some new things. A couple of weeks ago we brought home some mahi-mahi {which I’ve never cooked before} and used a rendition of this ginger-soy glazed recipe; it was amazing, almost as if it had come from a restaurant.

So when we bought some shrimp on our last grocery run I knew I wanted to try something different. I scoured the internet and happened upon this recipe for shrimp tacos:

via: Life’s Ambrosia

Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

20 medium shrimp, peeled & deveined

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 T. olive oil

4 tortillas (the recipe calls for corn but we used flour)

oil for frying

shredded lettuce

diced tomatoes

sliced avocado

Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

1/4 c. sour cream

2 T. chopped, fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. lime zest

2 T. lime juice

salt to taste

– In a bowl, whisk together 1 T. oil, garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Add in shrimp and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to allow flavors to marry.

– While the shrimp is marinating, mix together the cilantro-lime sour cream ingredients in a small bowl and dice and slice your tomato and avocado.

– Cook shrimp in skillet on medium heat until pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

– Lightly coat small pan with oil over low-medium heat. Warm tortillas until soft.

– Spoon 5 shrimp onto each tortilla, top with lettuce, tomato, avocado and cilantro-lime sour cream.

This recipe is so simple and flavorful and takes very little time to make from start to finish. I can’t wait to make this again!

Thanksgiving Highlights

December 6, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 went a little like this:

– I set the table using things I found around the house including a pumpkin and some squash from dad’s garden and a few leftover candle holders from our wedding.

– After we got home from delivering Thanksgiving dinners for meals on wheels the guys tossed a football around in the yard. Mom and I stayed busy in the kitchen.

– The weather was perfect and there were plenty of crunchy leaves to be stepped on.

– I grabbed dad’s Canon and had a little photoshoot in the yard. Hyde here was particularly photogenic sitting up on the picnic table.

– Sadie enjoyed gnawing on a piece of firewood; she told me it helps keep her teeth and gums pretty and healthy.

– Simba and the other cats did plenty of sunning in the grass though he tended to collect more in his fur than the others.

– There were pies. Lots and lots of pies.

– We ate turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, homemade gravy, deviled eggs, rolls and fresh broccoli and every bite was more delicious than the last.

– We managed to gather everyone for a family shot, including Hyde who we had dressed up as a reindeer {thank you Target}.

– He didn’t seem too bothered by it, he just sat very still in silent protest as we continued to snap pictures.

– Mom and I took Mark and Mema shopping on black Friday and Mark ended up spending the most money{!}.

– We spent the rest of the day baking Christmas treats together; monster cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, banana bread and cookie gun cookies. We’ve been using this Super Shooter cookie gun since I can remember and my parents found one for me last year at a garage sale so I can carry on the Christmas cookie tradition!

– Dad and I had a fun little building project which I’ll post about soon.

– Mark and I made a mini soccer goal for Logan’s Christmas gift.

– I got some quality kitty-cuddling time and made sure to scratch Sadie’s belly at least twice a day.

This was definitely one of the best Thanksgivings ever, I love my family!

Pumpkin Cookies

October 29, 2010

No, these cookies don’t have any real pumpkin in them, they just look like cute little pumpkins. I wanted to make some sugar cookies to take to a friend who we’re staying with this weekend and I decided to get creative and make them a little fun and festive.

They were so easy to make; I just used my usual sugar cookie recipe, added a little yellow and red food coloring to the dough and shaped the dough into two logs which I stuck in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then I cut the cookies about a quarter of an inch thick, pressed down on one side a little with a wooden spoon to make them more of a pumpkin shape rather than a circle and laid them on a cookie sheet. Lastly, I took a small, round lid from one of my spice containers and made the two curved indentions then added a chocolate chip on top to serve as a stem.

Voila! Adorable {and super easy} Halloween pumpkin cookies!

Autumn Apple Pie

October 28, 2010

My first Autumn Bucket List item has officially been checked off! After making that list I quickly realized that visiting a pick-your-own apple orchard in Texas wasn’t going to happen because they simply don’t exist this far south; I’d have to live in Washington or some northwestern {or northeastern} state to get the full experience. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to visit an apple orchard like this one {as seen on b*spoke} but for now I can still bake a yummy apple pie!

Last week while I was picking up some milk for my parents at Dyer Dairy I bought some fresh Cameo apples from north Texas. They were so wonderfully crisp and delicious, I just knew I had to make a pie with some of them.

In the past my apple pies have always turned out a bit watery so I did some looking online for a solution and I think I found it. After mixing the sliced apples with the sugar and spices I let them sit in a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour, this allows the sugar to pull the juices from the apples before baking; then I drained the liquid and microwaved it until it was a thick, syrup consistency. Then I mixed the syrup back in with the apples before putting it in the pie crust.

I cheated and bought the pie crusts from the grocery store, it’s so hard to justify making your own when a 2-pack of crusts only costs around $2. I wanted to make it look pretty though, so I cut the top crust into strips and made a lattice top.

I think it turned out pretty darn good and Mark declared it the best apple pie he’d ever eaten; counts as a win in my book!

Here’s my approximate recipe {I say approximate because I kind of made it up}:

Apple Pie

4-6 medium apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced

2 unbaked pie crusts

1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

2 Tbsp. butter

drizzle of dark maple syrup {if you want}

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and take your pie crusts out of the refrigerator.

Toss the sliced apples with the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup. Let rest in a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour {don’t put in the refrigerator}.

Drain the liquid into a small bowl and microwave for 15-20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it reaches a syrup-like consistency. Be sure to watch the liquid carefully because it might boil over.

Mix the syrup and apples back together and pour into pie plate lined with first pie crust.

Top apples with butter cut into small pieces.

Cover apples with second pie crust, brush with water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1hour. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Happy 25th, Hubby!

August 31, 2010

This past weekend we celebrated Mark’s 25th birthday in Houston with his family. His dad was in town from London so it was a great opportunity to see everyone all at once. At first, I thought this little road trip would cause me to break my tradition of baking Mark a birthday cake; but in the end I decided to make it at home and bring it along.

After seeing this rainbow-colored cake on Swiss Miss, I knew I had to try it myself. But first I needed a good yellow cake recipe. Sure, I had a few in the ol’ recipe box but I never remembered any of them being amazing, so to the internet I go. Any time I’m looking for a specific recipe I always search for it on Smitten Kitchen first and if she has it, I try it. Luckily, she’s dedicated an entire post to the “best birthday cake” and I decided to give it a go. Let me say this: that recipe produced the most moist, fluffy and delicious yellow cake I have ever made, period; I will never use another from this day on!

To make the batter more colorful, I divided it evenly into six bowls {for the six different colors}. At first, I added 6 drops of dye into each bowl thinking that should be enough; I was way off…it ended up taking a total of around 20 drops each to get the color dark enough to where it didn’t look like Easter pastels. I have to admit, the purple didn’t turn out as I had hoped; you would think equal parts red and blue would equal purple but apparently not.

Then I simply poured half of each color into two 9″ round cake pans, starting with red and ending with purple, and gave it a little swirl with a spoon.

After the layers were cooled overnight in the fridge, I cut out the shape of the Apple logo with a stencil that I had made on the computer. Icing it was definitely the hardest part. I think it would have been easier if I had made the icing from scratch because the store-bought stuff is so darn thick that it tends to pull crumbs off of the cake more.

Transporting it in the car for 3 hours took its toll on the icing; the leaf started to lean quite a bit and the icing between the layers bulged out at the sides a little. But we got it to Houston in one piece and the husband definitely enjoyed it!

Look at all those candles! Someone’s finally old enough to rent a car, haha!

The best part was cutting that first piece out and seeing all the colors pop against the white icing. I was going for a play on the new & old Apple logos. :)

The other event of the weekend was the black light party that was thrown for Mark and Daniel’s birthdays {his was only a few days before}. Daniel and his roommate spent a pretty penny to replace nearly all the light bulbs in their house with black lights and it…was…awesome.

Mandy and I went out and found some neon-colored clothing and some cheap sunglasses that we popped the lenses out of and painted with fluorescent paint. Once we got to the party we painted ourselves with black light paint and drew on each other with highlighter {did you know that highlighter glows in black light? I sure didn’t}.

They even made punch that glowed by adding vitamin B12 to the mix {thank you Google for that little tidbit of knowledge}. It was a pretty fun time and it made for some great pictures.

Overall a wonderful, long weekend spent celebrating the life of my favorite person in the world!