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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Layer Cake

26 Jun

As I was looking at my last several posts, I realized y’all must be starving! All we’ve been talking about is sewing and I have been a bad hostess by not offering you something to eat or drink :)

 

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I am going to remedy that today and then some with this decadent chocolate and peanut butter layer cake. I could probably stop with that and give you the recipe and we would be in good shape. However, I will tell you a little more about it so your resistance will be even further weakened.

I made this cake two weeks ago for an employee’s going away party. A little bird told me she liked the chocolate/peanut butter combination so I pulled out this recipe that I had made once or twice before several years ago. Everyone at the office really enjoyed the cake and we ate over half of it at the party (9 of us girls there).

The recipe comes from the cookbook Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. It is a great cookbook to have in your collection because many of the recipes look like something you would want to try (I have made several so far and all have been delicious).

It starts with sour cream and chocolate cake layers that mix up easily in a single bowl and without an electric mixer if you don’t want to use one. You then fill and frost the layers with a cream cheese peanut butter frosting that reminds me of decadent peanut butter cheesecake — YUM! Finally, you top it with a thick layer of chocolate and peanut butter glaze.

This cake is great because you don’t have to be a professional cake decorator to make it look impressive. And if you keep a decently stocked pantry, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. Cake for supper? Absolutely!

 

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Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

  • Servings: one 8-in triple layer cake, serves 16-20 generous slices (the author states 12-16 but I think you can get more out of it because it is so rich)
  • Print

 Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans (I used Baker’s Joy spray, but the recipe suggests buttering the pans then lining with buttered parchment).

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixer bowl and whisk together to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk by hand or blend with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the water then blend in the vanilla and vinegar. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well-combined. Divide evenly among the three prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes then turn the cakes out on the rack to finish cooling.

To finish the cake, spread 2/3 cup of the frosting between each layer and use the rest to frost the top and sides. You can also save a little to decorate the top after you apply the glaze. Next, spread the glaze over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Decorate with remaining frosting, if desired. Enjoy!

Frosting:

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (not natural type)

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar, mixing thoroughly for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Glaze:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

In the top of a double boiler (or in the microwave like I did), combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup and heat until melted and smooth, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

 

Adapted from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes.

 

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Heavenly Dark Chocolate Waffles

6 Mar
I am stealing Bon Appetit's photo because it looks so much more appetizing than mine. But I promise mine were delightfully tasty!

I am stealing Bon Appetit’s photo because it looks so much more appetizing than mine. But I promise mine were delightfully tasty!

Are you prepared to enter breakfast Nirvana? If so, go ahead and make these waffles this weekend, or tomorrow, or maybe even for dinner tonight. They are that good!

Keeping up with my recent habit of finding recipes in magazines, this one came from the February issue of Bon Appetit. Out of the entire section of chocolate recipes, these waffles spoke to me the most. So we had them for breakfast that very Saturday. And Sunday. And the next Saturday. And my stepson heats the leftovers up in the toaster on school mornings…

Suffice it to say, this recipe will become a permanent staple in our weekend breakfast routine. Yes, it is a little fussy, but if you prepare everything before you start mixing, it really doesn’t take that long to throw together. And the effort is SO worth it!

chocolate waffle prep

At first I thought the idea of syrup on a chocolate waffle was abominable but it ends up that it is quite delicious. And with some bacon and a glass of milk on the side, it is perfect.

The original recipe makes about 12 waffles but I reduce it to 1/2 or 1/3 most of the time to serve 2 or 3 people (2 or 3 waffles apiece). But I am including the full-sized version here — waffles for 6! Plus, if you make a full batch but don’t eat them all, they do freeze really well and are easy to pop in the toaster to heat back up (just stick it in frozen).

So what are you waiting for? Add this to your shopping list and you recipe queue immediately!

finished choc waffles

Dark Chocolate Waffles

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed)
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), finely chopped
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Unsalted butter and warm pure maple syrup (for serving)

Preheat oven to 250°. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center

and add egg yolks, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Blend with a fork, then gradually incorporate dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Working in 2 batches, fold egg whites into batter just until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate.

Heat a waffle iron until very hot; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Working in batches, cook waffles until cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

Serve waffles with butter and syrup.

DO AHEAD: Batter with egg whites can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Cooked waffles can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen then reheated with one or two rounds in the toaster.

Adapted from Bon Appetit February 2014.

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Oven-Roasted Bacon

5 Mar

Or, the only bacon I can cook without burning…

Me cooking bacon had become a joke in our house — it always ended up burned no matter the method I employed. Enter the oven-roasting technique. Now my bacon cooking is no longer a laughing  matter. Instead it is a finger-licking, lip-smacking matter. My husband may never fry bacon in the skillet again, either.

The method is great because it yields consistent results, practically no mess, and — the best part — flat bacon slices!

To get started, line a baking sheet with foil, making sure to completely cover the pan. This step ensures clean up takes about two seconds.

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Next, lay your bacon flat and not overlapping on the baking sheet. We like Wright’s Hickory Smoked Bacon, but you can use your favorite.

Put the sheet in the oven on the center rack and shut the door. Turn the oven on and heat to 400 degrees (you do not have to preheat). At the same time, set your timer for 18 minutes.

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When the time is up, check the bacon. It should be sizzling and just starting to brown/curl around the edges. If it’s not, give it a few more minutes but watch it closely.

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If it is, take it out and transfer the bacon slices to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Cool briefly then chow down.

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To clean up, drain your bacon grease into a small cup or bowl if you want to save it for future recipes; discard it if not. Next, carefully peel the foil off the pan and throw it in the trash.

Now sit down to your delicious breakfast. And stay tuned, I have another breakfast delicacy coming your way soon!

Adapted from this recipe.

DIY Moon Pies — Totally From Scratch

28 Feb

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Ever since I was a kid, I have associated Mardi Gras primarily with MoonPies — not beads, parades, etc — just the tasty treats with marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cookies and enrobed in chocolate. Yes, there are other flavors of MoonPies, and even more choices in recent years, but I have eyes only for one variety.

From what I have read, our area (Mobile, Alabama), seems to be more fond of the MoonPie because we throw them more at parades than New Orleans does. We even have a giant, light-up MoonPie drop over the city on New Year’s Eve.

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The MoonPie was not created as a Mardi Gras throw, however. In the early 1900s a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, concocted the treat in response to requests from coal miners. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the MoonPie became the preferred throw of revelers. You can read more about the MoonPie’s history here.

I have been going through a big cooking phase lately, and one of my favorite places to get recipes has been magazines — Bon Appetit, Garden and Gun, Food and Wine, etc. When I saw this recipe for DIY MoonPies in a recent Garden and Gun, I knew I had to try it. It would satisfy my sweet tooth and let me try my hand at homemade marshmallow for the first time.

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The recipe is simple although it does involve multiple steps best conducted over a couple of days. It yields a tasty, satisfying treat reminiscent of the holiday classic but without the near stale texture that packaged MoonPies always seem to have. The graham cookie in this recipe is light and tender, the marshmallow sweet and fluffy, and the chocolate rich and silky.

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

My only modification from the printed recipe was to cut the cookies with a 2 1/4″ cutter rather than a 3″. This yielded 19 sandwich cookies. The recipe also made a ton of marshmallow so I have scaled down the recipe here for you so you won’t have a ton of leftover fluff.

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I also wanted to make mention of two fabric acquisitions recently added to my stash. The first was a gift from a very special lady who is a blog reader and mother of a sweet little patient. She is from Brazil and brought these fabrics back for me from her recent trip home. Each fabric represents different parts of Brazilian history and is made from very soft cotton. Can’t wait to use these in a project. Thanks, Bruna!

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The next two pieces of fabric were bought on the US Virgin Island, St. John, during my recent cruise. On our way back to the ship, we stopped in a little retail area for a bite to eat. Walking in, I noticed a store called the Fabric Mill. Of course I had to check it out! It was owned by a nice lady from New York City who had studied fashion design but moved to St. John (I am guessing for the weather or when she retired).  The wall behind her register was covered with bolts of beautiful rayon and cotton batiks. I picked up a few yards of my two favorite rayons. She also carried a nice selection of clothing and accessories, and I bought a cute sun hat to shade my pasty white face.

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Homemade MoonPies

Cookie Dough

6  ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
¼  cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼  cup cane syrup (I used Alaga)
¼  teaspoon vanilla extract
1½  cups all-purpose flour
1¼  cups graham cracker crumbs, ground fine (approximately 1 whole sleeve of crackers)
¾  teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
2  Tablespoons whole milk

Cream butter, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed; slowly stream in the milk.

Continue mixing until the dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour (I refrigerated mine for a day and let it thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Turn out the chilled dough onto a floured surface, then roll it to ¼” thick. Stamp out cookies using a 2- or 3-inch round cookie cutter (yield will depend on size and thickness).

Place cookies 2″ apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely.

You can start the marshmallow while the cookies are cooling if you are making it all at one time.

 

Marshmallow

2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, ice-cold, plus ¼ cup at room temperature
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites

Sprinkle gelatin over ice-cold water and set aside.

Combine room-temperature water, corn syrup, honey, and sugar in a small pot, insert candy thermometer, and simmer until mixture reaches 240 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 200 degrees—but not before—place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip on high.

Once the sugar mixture hits 240, remove it from the heat, and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Then, while egg whites are whipping, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture down the inside of the bowl to avoid spattering the hot syrup. I find this easiest to do using a glass measuring cup with a pour spout (like a Pyrex). Continue whipping for an additional 8-10 minutes, until the mixture stiffens. The mixer bowl will still feel warm to the touch but no longer hot.

Match up the cookies in pairs according to size. Flip over half of the cooled cookies. Lightly coat a spoon with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon approximately a quarter cup of marshmallow onto each flipped cookie (less if you used a smaller cutter). Use the remaining cookies as tops; gently push down until you can see the marshmallow come just to the edge. Chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes while making the chocolate coating.

 

Chocolate Coating

1  lb. bittersweet chocolate (61%–70% cacao)
2  tbsp. vegetable oil or canola oil

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Once only a few unmelted chunks remain, remove from microwave and stir until chocolate is smooth. Let it cool slightly and once the chocolate is no longer hot, slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream. Allow the chocolate to cool for about 5 minutes before proceeding with assembly. Depending on your cookie yield, you can probably get away with 12 ounces of chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. With my 19 two-inch cookies, I had a fair amount of chocolate left over.

 

Assembly

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil and place a cooling rack inside. This will allow extra chocolate to drip off the cookies while they set. The lining will make clean up easier. Submerge chilled cookies in the melted chocolate, using a fork to gently lift the sandwiches out of the bowl, scraping excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. Place on cooling rack and let set until shell hardens (several hours in my case). Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Garden and Gun Feb/Mar 2014.

 

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Thirsty Thursdays — Blood Orange Martini

13 Feb

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Howdy, friends! I hope this post finds you well and warm. It sure has been chilly here in South Alabama! That means we have been spending a lot of time indoors and I have been doing a lot of baking, cooking, knitting, and sewing. I promise I will show you more of the fruits of that labor, but first I think you need to quench your thirst with one of these tasty and in-season cocktails (and wouldn’t it be perfect for a Valentine’s dinner in?).

My husband and I recently returned from a much-needed week in the Caribbean and I have spent all week longing for that warmth and sunshine! Luckily, this drink helps to quench that desire just a little bit.

If you aren’t familiar with blood oranges, don’t feel bad. I didn’t know they existed until about 2 winters ago. They are similar to a regular orange in taste and outward appearance, but the fun part is that the flesh and juice varies from pink to red, hence the “blood” descriptor. Funny thought, in medicine we have a tendency to name things (even gross ones) after food. For example, a flat brown birthmark is called a cafe-au-lait spot. In the case of blood oranges, we have a food item named after a part of the body…

I hope everyone enjoys their Valentine’s Day!

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Blood Orange Martini
Serves 2

4 ounces good-quality vodka (I used this one made from sweet potatoes)
1 ounce orange liqueur (I used a blood orange liqueur, Solerno)
5 ounces blood orange juice (from 2-3 oranges)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Blood orange twists for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake to combine. Strain into two chilled martini glasses and garnish with orange twists. Enjoy!

Inspired by The Hungry Mouse.

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King Cake Cupcakes and a Winter Weather Bulletin

29 Jan

Hi, friends! I hope you are warm and toasty wherever you are today. Here in the Deep South/Alabama Gulf Coast, we are freezing our little tushies off! It has been quite an adventure with below freezing temps for the past 2 days and various types of wintry precipitation all around (only sleet and ice at our house, sadly). The weather has been so “extreme” by our standards, that most businesses, including my office, have been closed since yesterday afternoon and will remain closed until at least tomorrow.

After this little experience, I cannot start to imagine how people survive in the far northern states where it regularly drops 20-30 degrees below zero during the winter. We Southerners wouldn’t know how to function! I have to admit, I would take 95 degrees and 100% humidity any day of the week.

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Our little house with its dusting of ice/sleet.

But don’t you worry, all this down time has given me the opportunity to sew and bake like crazy. Over the past two weeks, I have baked 4 loaves of bread, 1 batch of dinner rolls, sewn 5 (!!!) garments (more on those to come), and made these delicious King Cake Cupcakes. What else can you do when it is “Snowmageddon” outside? (As sarcastically dubbed by a local radio station in response to the media frenzy.)

Growing up near Mobile, Alabama (the home of Mardi Gras), I have eaten my fair share of King Cakes. I have had cakes shipped in from “authentic” bakeries in New Orleans, local grocery store King Cakes, and even homemade King Cakes (yes, yours, Catherine). I have always been a fan of the yeasty delight reminiscent of cinnamon rolls with cream cheese filling and sweet icing and tri-colored sugar on top. And being the baker that I am, I have never tried to make my own King Cake until now. Boy, am I glad I did! These little delights are tasty! And not that hard to pull off. I will walk you through it below but first a little more history on the King Cake (and if you want to see my other post about Mardi Gras traditions and a delicious drink recipe, click here).

King Cake, as we coastal Southerners know it, first originated in French Louisiana in the 1700s, where it was introduced by colonists from France and Spain. Many European countries still have their own versions of King Cake but it is different from ours. I am only going to highlight the Southern Coastal variety in this post but you can read more about all types of King Cakes in this Wiki article and on the blog, Joe Pastry.

First of all, you are only supposed to make King Cakes after Epiphany (January 6) and before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Some people might say it was a sacrilege to make them at other times of the year but many bakeries have started adapting the King Cake idea to other holidays.

The simplest King Cake is cinnamon roll-type dough with sugar glaze icing and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles. Most varieties, though, will have a filling (cream cheese — my favorite, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry). All are topped with some form of glaze and traditionally should have a plastic baby trinket inside. This little baby represents the Baby Jesus and the legend goes that whomever gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy the next cake. When I was a child, I remember the excitement and anticipation surrounding this little toy that might be hidden in your cake (so you had to eat carefully according to your mom, as not to choke on said baby). Nowadays, though, most places will not put the baby in the cake because of the risk of choking — or should I say the risk of a lawsuit. Instead, the baby will be cradled in some excess icing in the center of the cake.

The recipe I am presenting here is a simple brioche-type dough with a brown sugar studded cream cheese filling. The simple powdered sugar glaze has a hint of citrus to balance the sweetness of the cake. While baking with yeast dough can be intimidating, it really is quite simple if you follow the directions given.

I originally found this recipe on the Garden and Gun blog. I would not recommend following the directions on their website, though, because they are not complete. After a little research, I realized their recipe was just a scaled down version of Emeril’s recipe here, but both are apparently variations of the 1983 Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook. If you want to reference a source, please use the Food Network recipe, not the one on the Garden and Gun website.

To make the King Cake Cupcakes, you start by mixing up an enriched yeast dough.

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After it has doubled in size, you punch it down then roll it out into a rectangle.

 

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Next, you spread the dough with the softened cream cheese mixture, then roll it up into a log.

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Slice the log into 15 even pieces and place in paper-lined cupcake pans.

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Let the cakes rise one more time,

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Then bake them at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

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Once they are cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and sprinkle with purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.

 

King Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Dough:

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon, plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup warm milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (or 6 Tablespoons) melted butter

Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Decorations:

  • Green, purple, and yellow sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • Small baby trinket

Whisk together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved, then let rest until the yeast is foamy, bubbly, and active, about 5 to 10 minutes. Combine flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, nutmeg, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or you can also mix by hand). Fit mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low speed, and add milk, egg yolks, and melted butter, a little at a time, until all ingredients are combined; continue mixing on low about 10 minutes (or knead by hand).

At this time, if the dough has not formed a sticky ball in the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, no more than ½ cup total.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer and let mix again for another 10 minutes. Turn onto an oiled surface and knead by hand into a tidy little ball, 5 minutes or so.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Stretch and roll your dough into a long rectangle, approximately 12″ x 18″.

Combine the filling ingredients and the spread mixture onto the surface of the rectangle. Roll the dough up starting on a short end, and slice into 15 equal medallions.  Place medallions flat side down in lined cupcake tins. Cover, set aside, and let rise again until double, about 30-40 minutes. Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves the desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary). You can do this easily with a whisk.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cupcakes, hiding a baby trinket or charm inside one of the cupcakes before icing, if desired.  Decorate with Mardi Gras beads or yellow, purple, and green sprinkles.

2013 in Review

1 Jan

Now that 2013 is officially over, I thought I would take a minute to reflect on what the past year has held.  The year started out with lots of excitement when I traveled across the country by myself to attend a 3 day sewing workshop with Gretchen Hirsch and Heather Ross. While there I made quite a few friends, in particular Lauren, who started her own blog not long after the sewing weekend. She and I worked on the same pattern so we were able to give fitting assistance to one another. I also got to visit the brick and mortar Hart’s Fabric, which has become one of my favorite places for fabric shopping.

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My next trip took me to Washington DC for work-related business but I managed to squeeze in a little time to shop at G Street Fabrics.

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I participated in Me Made May for the first time and surpassed my expectations by not repeating any items for over 2/3 of the month.

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I attended a local sewing workshop with Sandra Betzina and made her pattern Vogue 1291. I also got to enjoy a lovely dinner party at a friend’s home with Sandra.

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I participated in the Spring Sewing Swap hosted by Kestrel. I was paired up with Shelly of Shelly’s DIY Style and got some great goodies all the way from Australia.

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I reviewed a pattern for one of my favorite indie designers — In House Patterns — and ended up with a gorgeous, breezy Blossom top. I currently have my next pattern to review cut out. Will be making a muslin soon.

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I participated in a garment sewing competition on the Hart’s Fabric website and thanks to all my wonderful readers, I won a $50 Hart’s gift certificate!

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In August I made an evening ensemble to wear to our hospital’s charity gala. I ventured into couture sewing with a lace bustier with spiral steel boning and self-drafted a silk charmeuse skirt.

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The last major sewing of the year involved creating dresses for my nieces to wear in my sister’s wedding — sewing for little girls is so much easier!

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I did squeeze in a quick sewing project right before Christmas — 10 infinity scarfs from my stash fabric to give as gifts to all the girls in my family. I used this tutorial but didn’t snag any pictures of my finished products before giving them away. Maybe one of the recipients will send me a picture so I can post it…

Top 5 Recipes

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Decadent Hot Cocoa Mix

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Caesar Salad

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Bourbon and Rosemary Roasted Chicken

cuba libre

Cuba Libre, Reinvented

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Goat Cheese Spinach Dip (most searched post of 2013)

Top 5 Sewing Projects

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Knit Maxi — McCall’s 6559

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Bustier Top  Simplicity 1664

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Lace Bustier — Vogue 8849

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Date Night Dress — New Look 6457

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Belle Bow Blouse — In House Patterns

Top 5 Things I Learned

New binding for knit necklines

Underlining to create neat seam finish on vertical seams

Using spiral steel boning

Handpicking zippers

How to draft a skirt pattern

5 Goals for 2014

Post my backlog of completed sewing projects

Learn how to match patterns on fabric when creating a garment

Make some good basics for my wardrobe (knit tops, specifically)

Sew a jacket

Fess up that I have learned to knit in the last few weeks!!!

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Dulce Neck Cozy — free pattern on Ravelry

Thirsty Thursdays — Best Hot Cocoa Mix Ever

20 Dec

Wouldn’t you love to have a recipe for a simple but delicious treat you can whip up to satisfy your chocolate tooth or to give as a cute, homemade gift? This hot cocoa recipe will serve both purposes.

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I have never been a big fan of store-bought hot cocoa mixes — they are just too weak. And that’s even after mixing it with milk instead of the prescribed water. Fortunately, I found this recipe that allows me to keep my own homemade cocoa mix on-hand for chocolate emergencies.

This recipe is also great made in bulk to fill cute mason jars and give as gifts — to teachers, neighbors, coworkers, etc. I made gift boxes of homemade goodies for my stepson’s teachers and included this cocoa mix, this Cheez-It Crack, Fantasy Fudge, these nuts from Ina Garten, Spiced Caramel Pear Jam (will try to blog soon), and homemade marshmallows (made by The Marshmallow Fairy).

 

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A few notes on ingredients — since the flavor of the cocoa really shines through, please use the best cocoa powder you can find. I have tried this recipe with both Callebaut Dutch-processed cocoa and Hershey’s natural cocoa, and there is a definite difference between the two. The mix made with the Hershey’s cocoa has a chalky feel on the tongue while the Dutch-processed cocoa was silky and smooth. I assume this is because Dutch-processed cocoa typically has a higher fat content than store-bought cocoa. For the bulk recipe I made to put in jars, I substituted the vanilla extract with pure vanilla bean powder that I bought at my local health food store, but I think regular vanilla bean seeds could be substituted 1:1.

A few notes on serving — it is important to heat the mix with a small amount of cream or milk before you whisk in the rest of the milk. This extra step ensures your cocoa powder “blooms,” or develops its full chocolate flavor. You can substitute low-fat or fat-free milk for the cream, but don’t skip this step. You can also garnish the cocoa as desired. I stirred homemade salted caramel sauce into mine, topped it with homemade whipped cream, then drizzled a little more caramel sauce on top. And cute mugs don’t hurt. Yum!

Below you will find a recipe to make both one single serving and a 1-pint jar of mix for gift-giving (or just pantry stocking). Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

 

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Decadent Hot Cocoa Mix for One

Yield: 1 one-cup serving

  • 3 Tablespoons high-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup half-and-half or 1/2 cup whole milk plus 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or any dairy combination to equal 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the dry ingredients with 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and whisk over medium-low heat until the cocoa and sugar have dissolved and liquid has become dark and silky. Whisk in the remaining dairy and heat until steaming, whisking frequently. Pour into a mug, garnish as desired, and enjoy!

Decadent Hot Cocoa Mix in Bulk

Yield: 2 cups of powder (enough for 1 pint jar), roughly 6-8 servings of hot cocoa

  • 1 cup high-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, whisking to blend well. Pour into one-pint container and store at room temperature. To serve, whisk 4-6 Tablespoons of mix with 1/4 cup dairy until melted and smooth. Whisk in 3/4 cup dairy and heat until steaming. Garnish as desired.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.

Thirsty Thursdays — Mimosa Punch

24 Nov


Howdy, friends! I hope everyone is getting geared up for this holiday season. Here in the US, we are celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday so we will get our season of indulgence started soon!

 

IMG_2150

 

I am posting this Thirsty Thursday a few days early so you can add it to your Thanksgiving menu. I have been making this Mimosa Punch for a year or so now — it is an excellent addition to a holiday brunch, baby/bridal shower, or any other occasion where a few people are gathered. I recently served it the morning of my sister’s wedding for the pre-wedding breakfast and while everyone was getting ready. It received rave reviews and there were only a few drops left when all was said and done.

This recipe is simple to make and requires minimal prep. Chill all your ingredients in advance and/or serve the punch over ice. Either way it is delicious. I think the addition of orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, makes this punch better than your standard Mimosa. I would love to hear what you think after you try it!

And if you are looking for more drink recipes to serve a crowd, check out my Coffee Punch, Apple Pie Moonshine, or Eggnog. Cheers!

 

Mimosa Punch

  • 2 quarts orange juice (I prefer pulp-free, not-from-concentrate juice — freshly squeezed would also be delicious)
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
  • 1-750 mL bottle champagne or sparkling wine (I usually buy the cheap stuff such as Cook’s)
  • 2 liters ginger ale
  • Sliced fruit for garnish, optional (I usually use strawberries and oranges)

Chill all ingredients in advance. Immediately before serving, combine orange juice and liqueur in punch bowl or beverage container. Slowly pour in ginger ale and champagne. Stir to combine. If desired, garnish with sliced fruit.

Adapted from this recipe.

 

Thirsty Thursday — Cuba Libre, Reinvented (or Rum and Coke Martini)

12 Sep

cuba libre

 

Well, we’ve all made it past hump day and we’re only one day away from the weekend. This cocktail is the perfect addition to your weekend, whatever your plans may be.

Mr. Homemaker and I were inspired by a recipe we saw in a recent issue of Garden and Gun magazine. They featured a re-engineered bourbon and coke, and while Mr. Homemaker loves bourbon, I just can’t stand the stuff. So after we made the recipe as written for him to try, we came up with the great idea of adapting the recipe to use rum, a more globally accepted beverage in our house.

So this “reinvented” recipe is a little different from the original rum and coke (obviously). Traditionally, the beverage is made by combining 1 part rum with 2 parts Coke. The version I am sharing today is the opposite — 3 parts rum to 1 part Coke, making it more suited to sipping like a martini than chugging like a soda.

Compared to the Garden and Gun recipe, we like the drink with a little less booze and a little more Coke syrup. We also swapped out the lemon twist for lime to keep up with the typical Cuba Libre gig. The orange-flavored bitters also add to the citrus-y appeal of the drink. We suggest using the best gold rum you can find as the flavor of the liquor is featured.

So while making a concentrated syrup from Coca-Cola may seem a little odd to you, go ahead and give it a try. I can assure you it will keep for at least a month in your fridge just in case you decide to use the whole can of Coke to make up a huge batch of Coke Simple Syrup.

 

Cuba Libre, Reinvented

Serves 2

 

For the Coke Simple Syrup:

  • 1/4 cup Coke
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Heat in a small saucepan over low heat stirring occasionally until all the sugar has completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. One batch makes enough for about 6 cocktails.

 

For the drinks:

  • 3 ounces good quality gold rum
  • 1 ounce Coke Simple Syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Lime twists to garnish

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake vigorously then strain into two chilled martini glasses. Enjoy!

 

Inspired by Garden and Gun.

 

 

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