Category Archives: dessert

Coconut Lime Macaroons

So I mentioned to save those six egg whites from the Sour Cherry Grand Marnier Creme Brulee, but it’s taken a while to post a recipe.  But that seems to be life.  I’ve been in a post New Year’s state making lists of what I value, writing up a personal mission statement and embracing how life is so good.  In July I was dredging through the seas of anxiety & fear, while September came and it was more like wading.  Fear has plagued me in the past(I’m probably not the only one), and it crept up its little head again.

What I have been embracing is the present.

Looking at the little things that bring joy into my life.  Those little things when you add them all up they are exponentially greater than any fear trying to budge its way into your heart & mind.

Little things…infectious laughter of my two year old, the smile on my four year old when I pick her up from the bus, the warmth of Ben’s hand on my back, special snapshot moments with friends that remind me of heaven and sharing these little macaroons with friends while watching Anne of Green Gables.  What little things remind you of joy in this present?

A Year Ago: Grapefruit Yogurt Loaf Cake & Palace Temple & Hospitality

Coconut Lime Macaroons (printable recipe)

These little gems are perfect after you finished making the sour cherry creme brûlée, due to the leftover egg whites.  I love limes and I love coconut, so they are pretty much a great combination.  Plus, they’re a non-fuss sort of treat.

Ingredients:

6 egg whites, room temperature

1/2 cup agave nectar, or raw honey

2 cups almond flour

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

zest of one lime

1/4 tsp lime oil

Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

zest of 1/2 lime

juice of 1/2 lime

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until the egg whites are medium peaks.  Add the agave nectar or honey and salt and whip again until stiff peaks.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, unsweetened coconut, lime zest & lime oil.  Combine.  Pour 1/3 of dry ingredients into whipped egg whites and fold it into the egg whites.  Continue with remaining 2/3 (in 1/3 portions) until the wet & dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Using a cookie scoop (about 2 Tb), scoop dough and place on the lined baking sheet 1 inch apart.  Bake for 15 minutes (look for slightly browned parts on the top, but overall white).  Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Make the frosting: Sift the powdered sugar.  Add in the butter and blend it all together using a fork.  Add the lime juice & zest.  Mix until it’s creamed together.  Taste.  If you need a bit more lime taste, then add a bit more zest.

Frost the tops of cooled macaroons.  Serve and eat!

If you want to opt out with the frosting, then up the agave or honey to 3/4 cup in the macaroons.
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Sour Cherry with Grand Marnier Creme Brulee

I recall having a traditional creme brûlée years ago and not liking it. I don’t remember where, just that this raved upon dessert tasted a bit like an eggy mess.  It turned me off completely.  Then, one Valentine’s Day, six years ago my dear sweet friend and old neighbor Allison brought Valentine desserts over to Ben and me.  Allison has this knack of having mismatched, yet whimsical, plates, bowls & cups and other trinkets in her home.  She converted me to forgoing paper napkins, due to her assortment of linen napkins I would find her using with her lunch, or serving me with a cookie on it.

There she was with two little black foiled containers filled with creme brulee sitting on one eclectic small plate; along with a cut out paper heart placed on those white paper doilies.  Allison and I shared the love of eating fine food and here she was sharing this delectable creamy treat with us. As she stood there describing her love of these specific creme brulees (from a local bakery), I stood there smiling with a very thankful heart.  What I didn’t tell her was what I was thinking, which was, “Oh, how incredibly thoughtful, but I don’t like creme brulee.  I won’t let Allison know.”  I placed the plate on the table and gave Allison a big thankful hug and said goodbye.

After I shut the door I said, “Ben, Allison brought over some dessert for us for Valentine’s Day,” to which he replied, “that’s nice.”  “Yes, it was, but do you know what she brought? (because Ben knew I wasn’t fond of creme brulee),” I said, “Creme Brulee!”  I recall Ben laughing at my predicament and then asked, “well, are you going to try it?”  Like any good foodie, regardless if past experience went awry, I responded with an astounding “Yes!”

I got two spoons and dipped my spoon to remove just a little bit.  And what I tasted was nothing like scrambled eggs mixed in cream.  It was simply heavenly.  All Ben heard was, “MMM, OHH!  Ben! (another bite) This is amazing!  You have to try this! (another bite) I could eat yours if you want!”  I was transformed.  So when my dear friend Talia was coming over for a little birthday celebration, I knew I needed to make her creme brulee.  Except, I wanted to put a spin on it by adding the sour cherry with Grand Marnier filling on the bottom.  I recommend ensuring that the creme is very cold while the brulee is warm when you serve–it’s the best way to eat it in my opinion (plus, did you know sweet is more pronounced when it is warmed up, so the cold creme doesn’t allow the sugar to become overbearing).  You’ll be sure to win over even the biggest anti-creme brulee person with this dessert.

A Year Ago: Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Sour Cherry Creme Brulee with Grand Marnier (printable recipe)

Keep the egg whites to use for another recipe. And if you stay tuned, I’ll share a Coconut Lime Macaroon recipe to utilize them.  If you don’t have a blow torch, then put your cooked & chilled creme brulee ramekins in 9×13 pan (or roasting pan) and fill it with ice, in order to keep the custards VERY cold.  Turn your broiler on and put your ramekins (with the sugar on top) sitting in the ice bath directly under the broiler for only 30 seconds.  Check the sugar (brulee) to ensure it doesn’t get too burnt.  If you need it to cook a bit more, then put it back in for another 15 seconds and continue until it reaches your desired burnt sugar liking.

Sour Cherry Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh/frozen sour cherries ( I used frozen sour cherries that were fresh in the summer)
  • 1-2 Tb raw honey
  • 1 Tb arrowroot powder
  • 2-4 Tb Grand Marnier

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 6 egg yolks, large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar for brulee part

Sour Cherry Filling:

Put all of the cherries, along with the juices into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (ensure there are no seeds in the cherries). Turn the heat to medium. If your cherries are frozen, wait before adding any of the other ingredients until the cherries are completely thawed. If your cherries are thawed or fresh, add 1 Tb of honey and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally. Keep it in this stage for about 10 minutes. You are working towards a nice filling consistency.

Sprinkle the arrowroot over the cherries and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is bubbling rapidly, turn the heat down, in order to avoid burning. You want it to simmer/bubble. The filling should start to set as you stir occasionally. Taste throughout to see where the filling sweetness is at. If you feel that the filling needs another tablespoon of honey, add it now. Once the filling has thickened (dip a metal spoon in the filling and it should coat it), add two tablespoon of Grand Marnier (I used 2 Tb). Adding more than two tablespoons will make the filling taste more boozy; however, once the filling is added to the ramekins and cooked with the creme, the Grand Marnier burns off a bit with just two tablespoons. Cook on stove top for an additional minute, then remove from heat to cool.

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point. Set aside to steep until it cools down.

Preheat oven to 300 F, and adjust a rack slightly lower than center.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks & optional 1 tsp of Grand Marnier briefly. Add the cream mixture very slowly into the yolks, whisking well with each addition. Once blended, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Put cherry filling into 8 or 9 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins (about 2 inches high) to cover bottom (about 2 tsp), then pour the custard mixture on top of the cherry filling, and bake them in a water bath for 35 to 45 minutes, until centers are softly set. “Remove from oven and cool in water bath until comfortable to handle. Cover the dishes and refrigerate for 2 hours. These can be stored for 1 or 2 days before serving.

To serve, sprinkle each top with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brulee sugar and torch to caramelize. For thicker caramelized crunch, use more sugar.


Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Does anyone else feel like there is something altogether wonderful & magical about snow falling in the middle of the night, creating a quiet peace that is incomparable to any other? I wasn’t acquainted with this mystery in the deserts of Arizona. It wasn’t until I visited a high school friend during my freshman year Spring break in Providence, RI. It was a Friday, and all the students on the campus had left for their Spring break. Not only
was the campus and surrounding area quiet, but we soon found ourselves inside looking out to what would seem a snow globe world. Picturesque.

It reminds me of Arizona’s desert night sky. When you look up at the open clear sky, all you see is the infinite expanse of stars. Or what I refer to as “the stars beyond the stars.” Snow falling and covering the world at night creates the silence of peace beyond the silence. It reminds me of how finite I am amidst the vast accompaniment of sound. That’s a bit how I feel with every birthday celebrated, especially my kids’ birthday. This finite person, gets to relish in these moments of seeing the stars beyond the stars. Yet I get distracted or overwhelmed by the greatness of it all…the mystery. I would rather spend my time marveling and rejoicing over the unknown, the stillness of the fallen snow, or simply being given the pleasure to be still with the moment.

These moments, these treasures that I wish I could put in a locket and wear around my neck to serve as a reminder that life is worth living to its fullest.  When I see my daughters laugh and hug one another, when I see the white flag of humility waving, or when I see Veronica’s progress developmentally and she isn’t even aware she has a delay (because she sees the stars beyond the stars).  Oh how wonderful it is to look at the world like that.  I think having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes also makes it easier for a four years old (or 30, 40, 50 yrs).

A Year Ago: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes, Split Pea Soup, & Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from my non-GF recipe.  Both are wonderful and they are a sure hit at kid’s parties and the adults like to eat them too.  A note about measuring almond flour.  I use a blanched almond flour and I scoop it out with a spoon and put it in my measuring cup.  I encourage you to use a scale, which will get the most accurate results; however, I know that is not always an option.  Do NOT scoop out with your measuring cup, because it will yield a higher weight than what my recipe requires.

Cupcakes Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (180 g) almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (65 g) light agave nectar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (170 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) multi-colored confetti sprinkles
  • 12 cupcake GF sugar wafer cones

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tb light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the wafer cones in the muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter & sugar until well blended.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the almond flour mixture, then the milk and then the rest of the flour mixture until well blended.  Fold in the confetti sprinkles into the batter.  Using a small ice cream scooper/cookie dough scooper, divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake cones.
  • Bake the cupcake cones for 20-25 minutes.  When you press lightly in the middle of the cone, they should spring back.  Let them cool on a cooling rack until they’re completely cooled.
  • While the cupcakes are in the oven.  Put your metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.  Allow them to get cold (about 15 minutes).  Remove the bowl & whisk attachment.  Add cold heavy whipping cream to the bowl.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the agave nectar & vanilla and beat on low speed a bit more, just until they are mixed throughout the whipped cream.  If you want to add a color to it, do so now and fold it in with a rubber spatula.
  • Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Twist the bag right above the tip and push it gently inside the tip, in order to avoid the frosting from coming out.  Turn down the opened end of the bag one inch down.  Place the pastry bag, tip side down, into a glass.  Using a rubber spatula, fill the bag with the whipped cream frosting.  Twist the bag, in order to keep the frosting from squeezing out.  Pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with additional confetti sprinkles.

Tasty Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was in the children section at a bookstore with my friend Tina.  We were recalling some of our favorite childhood books.  I pulled out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with nostalgic fondness.  I remember thinking how amazing it would be if meatballs fell from the sky, and as a child I daydreamed about it.  Then, there was Stone Soup, another favorite with ingredients like carrots, beef, potatoes & barley.  I never had barley at that time, but it sounded wonderful.  As I continued to pull out books there was a common theme Tina pointed out…FOOD.  She said, “Kamille, you’ve always been a foodie.”

Never gave it much thought, but I guess she’s right.  I still have my first cookbook from age 7, Mickey Mouse Cookbook with little notes inside.  One of my favorite treats is checking out cookbooks from the library.  When Tayers was born, I seriously had at least 10 cookbooks from the library (you know to read while nursing, etc).  And what is it with the fascination with Food magazines.  How many recipes does one truly need for Chocolate Cake, brownies, or apple pie?  And if you look through my recipes you’ll see that I have three different chocolate chip cookie recipes available.  So you might wonder why I’m offering you another one.  Well, I haven’t done much baking lately and I’ve been trying to eliminate wheat flour from our diet; however, I wanted to make a special New Year’s Day treat, which could be made fairly quickly.  I adapted my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with this one to make it a paleofied version.  As Ben said after eating one, “these are good and not just Paleo good,” meaning they don’t taste like they’re a second rate version.

A Year Ago: Quicky Sticky Biscuits

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable recipe)

I love my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies and these ones are even more moist, and possibly better.  This is the first time I have used coconut sugar.  It didn’t make the cookies taste like coconut either.

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups (8 3/4 ounces) almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

10 Tb unsalted butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

4 ounces Valhrona chocolate (82% cacao), chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla sea salt, or flaked sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.  Measure almond flour & baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.

On medium heat, melt 8 Tb of butter in a pan, constantly swirling until the butter is browned and smells like yummy toasted nuts (about 3 -4 minutes).  Pour the melted butter into a metal bowl, while trying to leave the bits in the pan.  Add the remainder 2 Tb of butter to melted butter and stir till it’s all melted.  Add the sugar, vanilla & salt and thoroughly combine.  Add the egg & egg yolk and mix for 30 seconds then allow it to rest for 1 minute.  Continue to mix for 30 seconds again, then rest for 1 minute and repeat one more time.

Add the almond flour & baking soda to the wet mixture and stir to combine.  Add in the chopped chocolate & pecans and mix throughout.  Place 2 Tb of dough onto the parchment paper, spaced 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle vanilla salt or flaked sea salt on top of dough.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Let cool completely on pan and then remove.


Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars

I will continue to love Autumn more than any season, and I don’t think it will ever leave, to which I’m grateful.  The vibrant colors alone rap my heartstrings (doesn’t take much).  And nothing says Fall quite like the wafting aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & cloves.  Puddle jumping never seemed so invigorating.  Then, there’s the visit to the pumpkin patch or apple orchards, while bundled up in “sweater weather” with the crisp air and crunch of the leaves with each step.  Oh Autumn, can you stay like this well into late November?  Autumn seems to call out, “come inside, bundle up, sip some cider by the fire, and be.”

 

 

How they smile for the picture

 

With the busyness of summer feeling a bit nomadic, Autumn let’s us know that it’s okay to be sedentary, to regroup and develop a game plan (fitting that football is in the Fall) of where you’re going next.  I’m reminded of traditions being rekindled or brand new ones beginning.  I know our family has been like running one 800 meter to the next without a time to catch our breath, much less time to ‘know’ one another.  This season reminds me of how I can make room for the new college student who has moved to town as well; but, it reminds me that if my family is on a constant chase without any reprieve, then it’s pointless.

I rarely make dessert specifically to be eaten after dinner, but sometimes having dessert planned with dinner when you’re not having guests over can be…well, special.  And I think making a dessert for my family, unannounced communicates that I think they’re pretty darn special.  These Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars are perfect for that.  Plus, they taste better the next day.  So, you don’t have to be in the kitchen making dinner & dessert all for the same meal.  They’re wonderful, and these little gems are sure to procure you praise for at least a couple of days (reason enough to make them).  I would love to hear what you do to usher in Autumn!

A Year Ago: Rarely for the Planned

Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from The Good Cookie cookbook.  It reminds me of an apple pie baked from Dutch Mothers in Lynden, WA, but without having to deal with the rolling & chilling that comes from making a pie crust.  The key is to let it cool to get the best overall taste.


Crust:

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp cold water
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Apple Filling:

1 pound Jonamac apples; peeled, cored, & sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tb apple juice or cider
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tb brandy
4 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 cup rapadura sugar

Topping:

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/3 cup rapadura sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Sour Cream Mixture:

1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Make the crust: In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, & salt, combine 30 seconds.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, pulse 6-8 times.  In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, cold water & vanilla.  Then, with the food processor running, add the liquid and combine for 15-20 seconds.  Dump the dough into a 9-inch square pan and pat it down evenly with your hands.  Bake in preheated oven of 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Make Apple Filling: In a medium bowl, combine the peeled/cored/sliced apples, lemon juice, cornstarch, brandy, & apple juice.  Toss it around and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the sugar to cook.  Stirring constantly until there are no more lumps.  Add the apple mixture and bring to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes, or till the apples are soft on the outside but still slightly crunchy inside.  Empty contents into a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Make the topping
: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon & salt.  Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the dry ingredients are all moistened.  Set aside.

Make the Sour Cream Mixture:
In a small bowl, whisk the egg until well blended.  Add the sour cream, cinnamon & salt to the whisked egg and whisk till combined.

Assembling the bars:
Take the sour cream mixture and combine it with the apple filling.  Stir well and spread evenly on the baked crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sour cream apple mixture.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set.  Cool the bars completely before serving.  You can dive right in if you’d like; however, they taste so much better when they’re completely cooled.


Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

I just love food magazines, but what I love even more is having an excuse to buy one. We went to Vegas for my sister-in-law’s wedding and if traveling with two children under the age of four isn’t excuse enough–I have no clue what is. We spent the night in Seattle to make it easier to catch our morning flight; however, when you have a little girl who comes in at 4:45 to see if it’s time to go on the airplane…you know you’re in for a rough morning. There was one point of the boarding process where both girls were crying (rather loudly), while I made it a point to not look at the faces on the other passengers & simply survive. I was waiting for those precious words from the pilot, “we’re now at 10,000 feet, so you can turn on any electronic devices…cell phones, music, LAPTOPS (I think only Ben & I heard it this loud).” That laptop was never pulled out so quickly or a My Little Pony DVD popped it so rapidly. I think we made record time.

The day before I had the girls with me on an errand to Target to get the coveted ‘headphone splitter,’ which was about the best investment for $4.99 one could make with an upcoming airplane ride (& two little kids). I’m definitely not above videos at a time like this, so if you’re that mom who has a special bag full of toys, crayons, paper & other distraction keepers…well, bless you! Once the headphones were on, two girls comfortably (and rather quietly) sitting next to each other watching Ponies–Ben and I gave a nod of approval (wondering if parents were approved to get complimentary liquor). That’s when I pulled out the Fine Cooking Magazine and read each article, because I could. I fell in love with this cake and dreamed of when I could make it. And since I still have pumpkin puree in my freezer from the late Autumn of last year–I knew it was destiny. It should be yours too, and that’s why I’m sharing it, because I care about your destiny when it comes to Autumn desserts and not wanting to look bad when you bring a store-bought pumpkin pie. Your friends & family will rave, as mine did with, “mmmm…..YEAH. that was killer. awesome,” or “It was dangerously delicious!”

A Year Ago: My Roots (Machaca)

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake (printable recipe)

This is adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine. The original recipe calls for adding candied ginger to the nuts (1 1/2 Tb chopped) after the nuts have been thoroughly coated, but I didn’t have any, so I sprinkled in ground ginger instead. This cake probably takes about 2-3 hours to make from start to finish and should be made the day of or cover in a cake dome for up to 2 days. The nuts will not be as crispy the second day. When you are browning butter, it is even more essential that you use your olfactory senses (smell) than your eyes. It will go from a popcorn smell to a nutty (walnut, hazelnut) smell.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for pans

9 oz (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pans

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups Sucanat sugar

2/3 cup Rapadura sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, (how to roast & puree pumpkin)

For the Topping:

1 1/2 Tb unsalted butter

2/3 cup pecans

1/2 cup unsalted, raw pumpkin seeds

2 Tb Sucanut sugar or light brown sugar firmly packed

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

For the Frosting:

4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

5 oz (1 1/4 cups) powdered sugar

Make the Cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom & sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Melt the butter in a 1 quart heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown (around 4-6 minutes) and when it smells nutty. Pour the butter into a small bowl and allow to cool, but not set for about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add all of your dry ingredients and whisk them together (flour, spices, salt, & baking soda). In a large bowl, combine all of your wet ingredients, except the butter (note: sugar is almost always considered a “wet” ingredient) and thoroughly mix (Pumpkin puree, eggs, both sugars, buttermilk). With a rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients from the medium bowl until just combined. Now, whisk the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.

Bake the cakes for 28 minutes (again make use of those olfactory sensors during baking as I baked my cakes for 27 minutes, because the cake smelled done), or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pan. Using a butter knife, run it around the outside of the cake to loosen and then turn it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the Topping: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans & pumpkin seeds and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pumpkin seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar/Sucanat & salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in ginger. Remove from heat and cool nuts in pan.

Make the Frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1 quart pan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (just like before for the batter) until it turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4-6 minutes. Pour browned butter into a bowl and allow it to sit on the counter for 5 minutes to let the solids settle. Carefully transfer bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from the bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese & brown sugar on medium-high speed until light & pale and brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the powdered sugar until it is nice & fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemblage: Get a large cake plate and place one cooled cake top side down. Spread about 1/2 -2/3 cup of frosting on the cake. Take your other cake and place it top side down. Frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Top the cake with glazed nut/seed topping. Serve immediately. **If you’d like, you could take 1/2 cup of the nut mixture and sprinkle it over the first layer of frosting to sandwich it between the two layers. Then, use the remainder for the top.


Fast Fudge Cake

This morning I woke up to body aching everywhere, but don’t feel too bad on my account, because it’s due to starting a new exercise routine–not the stomach bug.  Ben has been going to this little gym in town for about 4-5 months, along with my friend Jordan (who is the official unofficial recruiting agent) who encouraged him to join.  As I’ve been dealing with anxiety, irritable stomach issues and most likely burnout–I felt like it was as good of a time as any to join the gym.  But why so sore you ask?  Well, this little gym packs quite the punch.  It’s not your typical gym of doing the routinized circuit or swiping your card and heading towards the elliptical machine.  It’s an all over cardio workout that relies heavily on weight-bearing activities.

Before you join you attend what they call Basecamp.  It is either broken into two days or one day of 2 1/2 hours, where one of the gym’s coaches teaches you all the exercises/workouts, ensuring you learn technique.  The first thing I did was jumping rope.  And I thought, “jumping rope–seriously, that’s a snap.”  100 jumped ropes.  What I failed to realize is that I haven’t jumped rope since I was about 10.  I hit about 65 and went mental.  Then, from 65 to 80, I believe I did a culmination of either hitting my own head with the rope, getting tangled in my foot, etc.  Suffice to say, I was humbled.  The coach said, “you’re thinking about it too much.”  True!  Well, that was just the beginning and we went on to doing multiple variations of squats, lifts, push-ups, pull-ups, & weight-bearing.  So every single ounce of my body got worked.

My legs felt like jelly and mind you we have two flights of stairs, so walking down them feels like I’m an 85-year-old woman.  It’s good though.  I know it’s going to be hard, but I tell myself a couple of things to prepare myself.

1. It’s a break from being mom.

2. This too shall pass.

3. I went through labor twice without meds, so no workout could be harder than that.

4. I want something better for my life in terms of mental, emotional & physical stamina, which I want my girls to have, so I know taking time for myself in this area is critical.

I haven’t been baking lately.  In part, it’s due to not having much of a sweet tooth; but, mainly I haven’t had much time or creativity lurking.  This is something I made a while back, but I still remember the moistness of the cake.  It’s a easy to make and honestly, if you’re pressed for time–you could add the wet ingredients in one bowl and then add the dry ingredients in with it (making it a one-bowl cake).  I hope you are finding and making time for yourself.

Fast Fudge Cake (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.  I had a little ganache already made up in my fridge, so my cake had a thin glaze a top.  Regardless, it turned out wonderfully and if you want to serve with just whipped cream, powdered sugar and fresh berries–it would suit it well.

Ingredients:
4 1/2 oz (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tb) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 lb (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and warm
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Ganache:
1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate or semisweet, chopped up
1 cup heavy cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Grease & flour or grease & line with parchment either an 8×2- or 9×2-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt.  Sift only if the cocoa continues having lumps after whisking.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Add the eggs & vanilla, stirring till combined well.  Add the dry ingredients, just till moistened.  Pour the hot water over the batter and stir just until it’s completely incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  For an 8×2-inch pan, bake 35 to 40 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  For a 9×2-inch pan, bake for about 30 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife along the edge and invert the pan onto a plate.  Invert it again back onto the rack to cool completely.

Making the Ganache: Chop up your chocolate into bite sized pieces and put into a heat proof bowl and set aside.  Heat up the cream over medium heat.  Once it starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate in the bowl.  Allow the cream & chocolate to sit for about 45 seconds.  Whisk the chocolate & cream together until the cream is completely incorporated and the ganache is smooth & a just slightly thick.

Putting the Cake together: Once the cake is cool, put foil under the wire rack to catch any drippings from the ganache.  Pour the ganache over the cake allowing it to go down the sides.  You can also allow the cake cool completely cool in the pan and make half of the ganache and pour it on top while in the pan.  Let the cake with ganache set for about an hour.


Lemon Poppy Seed Strawberry Shortcake

My little girl loves Strawberry Shortcake.  Well, the dessert, but mainly the cute character I grew to love at the same age.  I’m sure if her and I were the same age, we’d probably be friends as we share similar affinities.

Growing up we would regularly eat strawberry shortcakes in the summer.  My dad was (and is) the fruit king.  It wasn’t uncommon to find heaping amounts of peaches, nectarines, plums & cherries all at the same time in June & July, with a couple of trips to the market throughout the week.  It’s no surprise my younger brother at age three consumed two whole watermelons in one sitting at our church’s watermelon bust.  Frequently on a Sunday evening, my father would begin cutting up fruit for the BIG fruit salad as we sat around like seagulls awaiting our victory.

When it came time for strawberry shortcakes, I was designated strawberry huller.  I must say that I am a veteran strawberry huller.  I don’t mess around with the huller device, but a small paring knife, removing the stem & inner middle (not just chopping off the top–isn’t that a crime?).  Unfortunately, our idea of shortcakes was the spongy prepackaged cakes.  It’s interesting that I wasn’t completely fond of them as a kid.  However, when I would taste various versions of biscuit shortcakes in former years, they were either dry, or felt like gravy should be the topping.

I had put off the search for a while, then shortly after Ben & I got married I came across this recipe thinking that it might just be the summer to redeem the strawberry shortcake.  And folks, this is it.  The lemon poppy seed version was first made two weeks ago, while I normally stick to the original cream version.  They’re reminiscent of flaky, creamy English cream scones, except with more cream.  And this isn’t time to watch your figure, but completely indulge in summer goodness of sweet, seasonal strawberries, flaky cream shortcakes & billows of freshly whipped cream.  A perfect end to a fourth of July meal.  You could easily make the original version (directions below) or put a spin on it with the lemon & poppy seed.  Whatever you do–these should be on your menu this weekend (also try Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad).  What are some of your fourth of July food memories?  Don’t forget to take part in the free giveaway!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortcakes (printable recipe)

This recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine.  You can easily make these shortcakes as plain, by omitting the poppy seeds & lemon juice, and using 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream instead.  Another option for the lemon poppy seed shortcakes is by using half strawberries & the other half blueberries.

Ingredients:

For Shortcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tb granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tb baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 Tb lemon zest
6 ounces (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tb poppy seeds
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For Strawberries:
5 cups sliced strawberries
1 – 2 Tb granulated sugar

For Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
2 Tb granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Shortcakes Directions:  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt into a large bowl.  Add the lemon zest and toss throughout the mixture.  Cut the butter into the dry mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until the largest butter is the size of peas.  Add the poppy seeds and mix around lightly.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the cream.  Mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it should look shaggy and still feel a little dry.

Gently knead by hand five or six times to pick up any dry ingredients remaining in the bottom of the bowl and to create a loose ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into an 8-inch square, 3/4 to 1 inch thick.  Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic to chill for 20 minutes.

While dough is chilling, Heat oven to 425.  Remove dough from fridge & cut (using a sharp chef’s knife or bench knife) and cut into 9 squares.  Space apart on parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Brush each shortcake with cream & sprinkle coarse sugar on top.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  When done, let cool at room temperature.

Strawberries:  While shortcakes are baking, slice strawberries and place in bowl, along with one tablespoon of sugar.  Mix together and allow to macerate for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Whipped Cream:  In a chilled bowl of an electric mixer with a chilled whisk, add cold whipped cream.  Beat on high until it begins to thicken.  Add vanilla & sugar, then continue beating till billowy, soft peaks form.  **If you want lemon whipped cream, then add 2 Tb of lemon juice in place of vanilla.


Rhubarb Sandwich Cookies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

Our house definitely looks “lived in” right now.  Library books all around, artwork hung to dry on the mantle, and a deep freezer & other patio items inside our house as well.  All the decks in our condo are being cleaned, sanded & repainted this week, which means bringing in everything or putting it in the scarce space in front of our house.  Hence–a deep freezer in our living room.

There are times in life when embracing the “lived in” motif is needed.  Trying to escape it, hide it, or tackle it is just adding more stress and less time for the people around us.  It’s easy for me to put on my tunnel vision goggles and charge straight ahead in cleaning up without giving a second glance at the nudging of a little girl wanting her mama to dance with her, or sitting down to talk to my husband.  When I think about the land of Facebook, there are some people who are proudly seated on their ‘anti-FB’ platform.  I get it, really I do.  Waste away hours by being sucked in.  However, I propose that FB is also community, an arena for hospitality.

For instance, my friend Shelley wouldn’t have known I was making these cookies if I hadn’t put it in my update.  And, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity of eating them either (because I got to drop some off to her later). Although there are many ways in which technology can suck us in and turn others out, I think if our priorities are straight, it can be a good thing.

Rhubarb Sandwich Cookies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

(printable recipe)

A note about the sugars.  Demerara is an unrefined equivalent to brown sugar, while rapadura is an unrefined equivalent to granulated sugar.  Rapadura looks similar to sand.  Since neither are refined, they have a more complex taste & smell, which is similar to caramel & molasses.  If you don’t have oat bran on hand, you could pulverize (food processor) 1/4 cup of oats.  The whole wheat pastry flour could be replaced with unbleached all-purpose flour as well.
Ingredients:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup oat bran
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 Tb (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup rapadura sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup medium diced rhubarb, 1/4 in

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting & Directions

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take out your eggs & butter to get them to room temperature.

In a small bowl, add oats, oat bran, w.w. pastry flour, spices, baking soda & salt.  Mix to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream on medium speed the two sugars, butter & vanilla for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides and add the egg on low speed.  Mix till combined and add the dry ingredients.  Mix till thoroughly combined and add the rhubarb.

Using a tablespoon, scoop a leveled Tb of cookie dough on parchment lined sheets leaving 1 1/2 -2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack till cookies are cool and transfer to foil.

Put 2 tsp of frosting on one turned over cookie.  Take an unfrosted cookie and sandwich it together.  Makes about 20 cookies.


Caramel Sauce (for a Caramel Latte)

My most favorite coffee drink is a caramel latte from Avelino.  As you watch them prepare the cup you begin to wonder if they are over doing it with the caramel.  Trust me, they’re not.  I got away with some of my favorite fellow moms back in early March, where I brought caramel sauce to make said latte for them.  Talia looking at the cup as I spooned the gooey sauce in said, “Uh, maybe a little less for me.”  I said with all courtesy & politeness (maybe a little blunt) to a pregnant lady, “No, trust me–you don’t want less.”  As I handed it to her, she said, “You’re right Kamille–this is perfect!”

I often dream of getting away in a cabin far away on days like this.  Caramel latte in one hand, good book in the other, and peace & quiet.  It could be that I’m anxiously awaiting my anniversary getaway this weekend with Ben and without the kids.  But, I think it’s a little deeper.  I’ve been very short, sarcastic, rolling the eyes due to kid annoyances, and feeling like life should stand still for me.  My tolerance level is at an all time low and my connecting with my girls seems to have fallen off the radar.  When I’ve been told about the importance of having a “daily quiet time” with God or somehow that is equated with spiritual depth–I begin to wonder how true it is.  My friend read a book recently where the author (and I paraphrase) said, “maybe we shouldn’t gauge spiritual life with daily devotion/quiet time.  Instead, when we find ourselves becoming angry, bitter, impatient, lacking grace & forgiveness–maybe those should be the signs of spiritual decay.”

My pastor mentioned something along these lines on Sunday.  How he’s definitely a proponent of reading the Bible, but we’ve met many people who read their Bible daily, yet their life lacks any evidence of it.  I’m in need of a cleanse.  My soul is stagnant waters in a cesspool right now.  It’s on days like today that I’m reminded the most important job I could do is give my girls as many hugs & speak life-giving words to them.  It’s not about the laundry getting done, the ratio of carbs & proteins on their lunch plates, or hurrying them off to bed to be partly done with the day.  And I need more than myself to do that job.  Yes a break this weekend is nice, but I’m running on empty right now.  So how are you?  How do you refuel, in order to do better than “just make it” to the weekend?  I’m grateful to you, who allow me to open up my heart & mind on days like this.

Caramel Sauce & Latte (printable recipe)

This recipe is from Fine Cooking Winter 2004 issue.  I cook mine in my dutch oven to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Making caramel is more about color and temperature than about time.  The original recipe says it takes “about” 28 minutes to get to the right color.  But, what you need to do is stay right by the stove while it cooks, because it can go from just ready to burnt in no time.  Make this when you have peace & quiet without disturbances–you’ll feel better when you’re licking the spoon and no one is watching.

Ingredients:

1 cup water, plus more for brushing down sugar crystals

4 cups granulated sugar

2 Tb light corn syrup

4 cups (1 quart) heavy whipping cream, at room temperature

4 ounces (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

1/2-1 tsp sea salt

Directions: Have your cream & butter ready.  Pour some water into a small bowl and a pastry brush to set aside the stove for brushing down sugar crystals.  Pour 1 cup water into a heavy-bottom pot (8 quart or dutch oven).  Add sugar & corn syrup.  Cook over high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is boiling.  If you see any sugar crystals forming on the sides of the pot, just above the sugar mixture, wipe down with wet pastry brush.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil; it shouldn’t be sputtering.  DO NOT STIR it any longer.  Simply allow the sugar to cook.  You will need to gently swirl the pan to disperse the sugars & even out the color.  Continuing wiping down the sides if sugar crystals form and allowing the sugar to reach a light honey color, this should take roughly 20 minutes.  Continue with the swirling & wiping of the pastry brush, and the sugar should become a rich, red-brown color, roughly an additional 8 minutes.  The best way to tell what color the sugar is is to spoon a bit on a white dish.

Remove pot from heat and slowly pour in the cream, but be careful while pouring as it will splatter.  Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure any solidified caramel on the bottom or sides melts.  If it’s not melting, you can set it over medium heat again & gently stir until it is completely smooth.

Stir in the butter and salt.  Let cool to room temperature. If you want flavored caramel sauce, look below.

Put in a jar and refrigerate.  Will keep about 3-4 weeks in the fridge–perfect to give some away.

Caramel Latte

To make a double tall caramel latte, steam 8 ounces milk, two shots espresso & about 3 Tb of caramel sauce.  Put caramel in bottom of mug.  Add hot shots and stir to thoroughly combine.  Add your frothy & creamy steamed milk and you have yourself “paradise in a cup.”

Orange-Cardamom Caramel Sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juices with 2 Tb plus 2 tsp finely grated orange zest, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Pour through a fine sieve, pressing against the zest to release all the liquid.  Stir the strained, reduced orange juice and 4 tsp ground cardamom into the cooled caramel sauce.