Valentine’s day was a lot of fun for our family this year. Instead of my husband and I going out on a date, we had a family date night at home. I spent most of my day baking and decorating for the event. The kids were excited and I looked forward to spending time all together.
First I made Foodie Crush’s heart shaped rice krispies. If you have never made your own rice krispie treats, you are definitely missing out. There is nothing quite like mixing freshly melted marshmallows into a bowl full of rice krispies and then eating the left overs right off the spoon. Normally I melt the marshmallows and butter down in a pan on the stove, but this recipe suggests using the microwave. I put the marshmallows and butter in a microwave safe bowl and cooked them for 2 minutes on high. I had quite the marshmallow mountain and did not need to melt the mallows any more. Quickly, I added the food coloring and mixed the fluff into the cereal. After I pushed it down into a buttered dish and let it cool, I used heart shaped cookie cutters to cut them into shapes. I brushed melted white chocolate on top and coated with sprinkles and confetti. Ta-da!
My, my, it has been quite some time since I have written a blog post. Honestly, I hit a wall right during the Christmas season and felt overwhelmed with life. My three kids are amazing, but exhausting! Each one has such a unique personality and so many different needs, that by the end of the day when I normally write posts, all I wanted to do was lose myself in the TV and not think about ANYTHING. Never the less, I have baked all the while, trying new recipes and enjoying lots of deliciousness.
First of all, I was a little bummed about yesterday. For a long time now I have been on a search for the most amazing pancake recipe ever. I am a sucker for buttermilk pancakes and I believed that I had found it! When I sat down yesterday to write about them, I could not find the recipe anywhere! Ugh, I searched high and low and could not find it. Shame on me for not pinning it when I had the chance. As I continue my search, I can share with you about the most amazing cheesecake I have ever made.
We have a lot of birthdays in the month of November in our family. Lucky for me, I am able to bake to my hearts content with special requests! This time it was for my mom’s birthday. She requested a pumpkin cheesecake. In the past, I have made the pumpkin cheesecake from the Libby’s pumpkin can and have often been underwhelmed. This time I wanted to make a truly amazing cake.
When cooking and baking, I try not to make it a habit of wasting ingredients. After dinner last night I had just about a full can of pumpkin puree to use up. What better way to use it up than a whoopie pie?
Traditionally, a whoopie pie is made from two chocolate cookie cakes with a sweet white frosting in the middle. There is a great debate over whether the whoopie pie was created first in Pennsylvania, Maine or New Hampshire. To stake it’s claim, Maine went ahead and named their state treat the whoopie pie. As resident of Amish country almost my entire life, you would think that I would have made tons of these little treats. Surprisingly, this is the first time I have ever made them.
Within the last week we had two birthdays in my family, my father in law and my husband. Two separate occasions and I made the same cake both times! Why the same cake? Well, this was not just any cake, it was a three to four layered chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and a chocolate peanut butter ganche slathered on top. Did you drool reading this?
I figured this cake would be a home run with my in laws. They love just about anything peanut butter. When my husband and I first started dating, it was not unusual for them to put peanut butter on vanilla ice cream. It was quite early on in our relationship that I learned that my new family loves a giant piece of dessert. They also love nuts in their desserts, which is a whole other story. Sorry kids, I just have a hard time with nuts in my brownies. I was so glad for the family birthday get together because I love an excuse to bake a cake that I have been dying to try!
A few months ago I stumbled onto the Naturally Ella blog. Her food posts are seasonally vegetarian and often vegan if you lean that way. I’ve tried a few of her recipes but one of my favorites so far is the Roasted Corn and Ricotta Enchilada, and it also happens to be gluten free!
For as long as I can remember, every fall, my mom, sisters and I have gone apple picking. We went to the same farm every year, chased kittens around the barn, and ate apples to our hearts content. I even learned to drive at an apple orchard, at the age of 14…shhhh! Since I have gotten married, had kids and even lived in California, my mom still managed to get me out to the orchard. This year we packed all three kids up, piled into the van and prepared to pick to our hearts content! Our varieties of choice, Empire, Golden Delicious and a sparse picking of Jonagold.
A few days ago I made the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes from Shauna Sever’s Pure Vanilla cookbook. When I posted the picture on twitter, my pastor jokingly asked if they were sugar free. I laughed and said, sure, and fat free too! He, unfortunately, cannot have real sugar. Like any good pastor, he reminded me that this month is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” which got me thinking. How would these amazing vanilla cupcakes taste with Splenda? I know, “gasp!” Splenda! Lets just say I will not make this a habit, but for those of you who may need a sugar free option, these cupcakes were great!
When you bake with Splenda, make sure to read the back of the back of the package for tips. Also, buy the granulated Splenda. Use the recipe right from the Pure Vanilla book, but swap the sugar out equally with Splenda. Everything came together nicely, the taste of the cupcake batter was definitely a little different than with regular sugar, but not in a bad way. I was able to scoop 13 cupcakes from the batter. The original recipe suggests you bake the cupcakes for 20-22 mins, but with Splenda, the time needs to be decreased by about 10 minutes, as the Splenda cooks faster than regular sugar. Baking the sugar free cupcakes for 10 minutes was perfect!
The smell of vanilla in my kitchen was delightful. Now for my next task, the frosting. I would have loved to make a vanilla buttercream, but I was not sure how to do that without confectioner’s sugar. Because Splenda is pretty light, I may have been able to use it, but I did not want to risk a mess up, at least not today. Instead, I found a sugar free frosting from Allrecipes. It was quite simple, with just 4 ingredients, sugar free vanilla instant pudding, milk, cream cheese, and lite frozen whipped topping. I ended up modifying the recipe a bit. Instead of cream cheese, I used mascarpone cheese and instead of the lite whipped topping, I made homemade whipped cream, sweetened with Splenda. All in all the frosting tasted quite good, though I felt it was a little bit thin. It still piped onto the cupcakes well, but needed to stay cool.
The complete package was warmly received. Here is a direct tweet from my pastor, and yes, he tweets, Just had two “ultimate Vanilla” cupcakes - incredible! Thank you from a grateful, sugar-free pastor! #splendaforever. Fear not sugar free friends, there is an ultimate vanilla cupcake out there for you. Enjoy!
When I first moved to San Francisco, it was hard to find new friends. Luckily one day, there was only one other mom and her little girl at the park. We began chatting and I learned that she was a food blogger! Desserts mostly. Enter, The Next Door Baker. It was fun getting to know her and her daughter through various playdates and zoo visits. Our friendship inspired me to become a better baker, first through her blog and now through two of her cookbooks!
For dinner tonight I made a delicious filet with a sherry mushroom sauce, grilled asparagus, and meant to also have mashed potatoes and buttermilk poppy seed rolls. The mashed potatoes were a disaster and kind of chewy..seriously, how do potatoes get chewy? Well, dinner was delicious, we replaced the potatoes with some leftover butternut squash soup.
As for the rolls, here is where I went wrong. As I read the recipe, I stopped reading after it said the dough needed to rise for 2 hours. After that point, the dough needed to be punched down, which I did, then rolled into balls and placed in a 9 inch cake pan, which I also did. Then I continued reading, mind you, it was already 6pm, “cover rolls with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1.5 hours.” Crap! Then, they needed to bake for 20-25 minutes! At this point we decided to have the rolls for dessert.