Monday, December 28, 2009

Darning Baker's Challenge

Gingerbread House! So I joined an online group here we bake something once a month then post about it. It is pretty cool and hopefully will get me to try new things. This month, being December and all, was Gingerbread Houses. I had never made one (personally) that was not graham cracker, so it was fun. Here are some pictures, and recipe to follow! (I cut the recipe for the house in half since I only made one.

Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

I also made stained glass windows, but instead of using hard candy, I used Gummy Bears! I wanted to add more detail but it was a busy week and I was tired..

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I couldn't find the axe...

Sorry, it has been a busy month (not that anyone really looks at this blog, but I feel I should make an excuse for myself) and most of the foods I made I have already blogged about (sorta, ok so we ate things before I took a picture...) and I had a Thanksgiving book and MANY Christmas books to blog about...guess they will have to wait until my little family and I get back from our Christmas vacation!!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Cookie Crust

Yum, that is all I have to say, I added some of the Hazelnuts I got from OhNuts! and some Nutella to put my own spin on things. I merged 2 recipes together to get this, and I sure did like it. The cookie crust and Nutella sweetened the Mousse just perfectly and it sure was good!

Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Cookie Crust

For the Crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened (or margarine)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (pecans, black-walnuts or butternuts)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.
2. Add the butter, brown sugar, walnuts and vanilla.
3. Blend well.
4. Press the mixture, a small amount at a time, into a 9-inch pie plate, building up the sides and fluting the edge.
5. Cover the fluting with a strip of aluminum foil to prevent over browning.
6. Cook at 350 for 7 min

For the Mousse:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 + 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1/8 cup sugar
Chocolate shavings and/or chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Combine chocolate, vanilla and salt in processor. Bring 1/2 cup cream to boil in heavy small saucepan. With processor running, gradually pour hot cream through feed tube and process until chocolate is melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

While cooling, melt some Nutella in the microwave, then poor over the the cookie crust to coat the bottom. Use as little or as much as you like :). Let cool.

Beat 1 cup cream and sugar in large bowl to stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture.
Pour mousse into prepared crust. Chill until set, about 3-4 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream in medium bowl to firm peaks. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip. Pipe rosettes of cream around edge of cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings and/or Hazelnuts.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A new Cookie

A friend of mine (Troy's cousin's wife :) ) and I got together on Friday to bake and to let me in on the secret to couponing.  It was a lot of fun, and we made these little beauties, Chocolate Ginger Cookies.  Neither one of us had had the combination of chocolate or ginger before so we gave it a shot, and they were good!  I like the combination of those 2 flavors, it gives sort of a mellow rich flavorful which is very pleasing to the tasties! :)  And how did couponing go?  Well I went out for a quick trip yesterday as a trial run with only a few coupons (to test the waters), and I spent $8 and saved $11!  I can definitely get a hang of that!  Can't wait to keep learning!  Thanks Laura for teaching me some skills :)  And for finding a fun recipe!

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soften
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup molasses
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Course sugar

1. Mix together shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg and molasses.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Blend the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until it forms dough.

3. Mix the chocolate chips into the dough. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

4. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Scoop out the dough and shape into 1 inch balls. Place balls 3 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Flatten the balls slightly and sprinkle the tops with course sugar.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Alphabet Book

Gone Wild
An Endangered Animal Alphabet
By: David McLimans

I LOVE this book.  Not much to it, just an alphabet, and only in black, white, and a little red, but it really introduce kids to endangered animals and sparks some great conversation about the animals around us.  I read this to my little one last night and she was entranced by the pictures-her type of book, being 4 months old she still likes the contrast of the black and white.  I have read this book to a group of preschoolers, and they also liked this book a lot.  I think it can also be used for older kids especially to introduce discussion on endangered animals.

Banana Bread

I got an email last week from Sam at Oh! Nuts asking me if he could send me some nuts to bake with then post the items on my blog.  Of course I agreed and asked for some Hazelnuts, Macadamia Nuts, and Walnuts.  I have some big plans for the weekend or early next week, but today I made Banana Bread and used some of the Walnuts and Macadamia nuts.  I used a new recipe that I found on allrecipes because I felt like trying something new.  I read everyone's reviews on this recipe and they all loved it...but they all made their own tweaks.  So I decided to go outside my comfort zone and tweak as worked out ok.  I will give you the Original recipe with the tweaks out to the side.  I like the bread regardless.  I am a banana bread fan so I am good to go with a nice slice and warm banana bread in front of me.  Give it a try!

Best Ever Banana Bread


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (don't have buttermilk in the house? (like me) use 1 tsp of lemon juice and enough milk to make 1/3 c.  then let sit for 5 min.  Wah-lah buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar (I used 1 c white, 1/2 c brown.  Why?  I don't know)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) (I used walnuts and macadamia nuts)

(I also added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and a tiny bit of vanilla)


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray one 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray coating.
  2. Blend together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and bananas.
  3. Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir in pecans. Mix well.
  4. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
So should you choose to make this yummy bread, try using your own variation!  Don't be afraid to deviate from the recipe!  Don't be like me!  I'm recovering.  The next recipe I am going to try doesn't come from one thing, I am throwing a couple of things together, so we'll see!!!!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pre-Christmas Christmas Cookies

I guess since I made my Halloween goody post after Halloween, I could redeem myself by posting Christmas cookies in November!  But, don't let the time of year stop you, you can make these cookies anytime!

Here is a little view of my Kitchen at it's cleanest point after I started baking......notice my Sous-Chef in the corner debating wether or not o choke herself with the teaspoon...sometimes I can be a good mother.

Here's a closer view.  She wasn't much help, she cried for the last 20 min of prep.  I would fire her, but she's just too darn cute.

Santa Surprise Cookies

Both of these recipes are from a cookbook my Mom gave al of us kids for Christmas last's fantastic!!!


      2 sticks butter, softened  

 1 cup creamy peanut butter

      1 cup light brown sugar, packed   

      1 cup sugar    

 2 eggs

      1 tsp. vanilla     

3 ½ cup flour

      ½ tsp. salt     

1 tsp. Baking Soda  

32 oz. bag Snicker Brand Miniatures 

11 oz. Dove Brand Milk chocolate    gifts

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and sugars using a mixer on a medium to low speed until light and fluffy.  Slowly add eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined.  Then mix in the flour, salt and baking soda. Up wrap all the Snickers.  Divide dough into 1-1 ½ inch pieces and flatten.  Place a snicker in the center of each piece of dough.  Form the dough into a ball around each Snicker.  Add more if needed.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  Let cookies cool on bak

ing rack or wax paper.  For a real restive look, Drizzle melted Dove Milk chocolate gifts over the top of each cookie. 

Cashew-Carmel Cookies


  1 2/3 cup all purpose flour  

 ½ tsp. salt

      2 ½ cups roasted, salted cashews

      2 TBLS. Plus 1 tsp. canola oil   

½ cup butter, softened

      ¾ cup white sugar   

 1 large egg

      1 tsp. vanilla     

24 soft caramel-candy cubes (Kraft)

     ¼ cup heavy cream 

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour and salt together.  Coarsely chop 1 cup of cashews; set aside.  Process remaining 1 ½ cups cashews in a food processor until finely chopped.  Pour in oil.  Process until mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes.

Put cashew mixture, butter, and sugars in a bowl.  Mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low; gradually add flour mixture.  Mix in reserved chopped cashews.

Shape dough into 1 ½ inch balls; space 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake 6 minutes; gently flatten with a spatula.  Bake until bottoms are just golden, 6-7 minutes more.  Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Melt caramels with cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring.  Let cool.  Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookie; let set.  Store airtight in single layers.  

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Treats (After Halloween)

Here are some festive ways to get in the spirit of Halloween and fall.  This weekend I made some Skull cupcakes and Carmel Apples.  I suppose you can use the Skull cupcake idea for next year, but the Carmel Apples are good anytime!

Skull Cupcakes
(Found on the Family Fun Website)-Sorry, I'm not creative enough to come up with these on my own..maybe next year.

Items needed:
24 Cupcakes (or however many you want to have)
12 Marshmallows
48 Junior Mints
24 Chocolate Chips
Slivered Almonds

1. Cut each Marshmallow in half, then pull down a side of the cupcake wrapper and stick the marshmallows in that lip created.
2.  Frost
3.  Add Eyes (Junior Mints), Nose (Chocolate Chip), and Teeth (Slivered Almonds cut in half)
4.  The End, Enjoy-or add any embellishments you want!  Like stitches or color the frosting, or add a bow to make a lady skull, it's up to you!

Carmel Apples
(These are simple no brainers...)

-Apples (I used 4 large ones, you can use 5 med or 6 small)
-Bag of Kraft Carmels (I don't like saying caramels like the spell check is prompting me to do)
-Popsicle Sticks (mine came with the carmels)
-Peanuts (Optional.  In my house the husband does not like them on his Carmel Apples, but I love them.  I am definitely a nut girl)
-Wax paper

1.  Follow instructions on bag :)!!!!  Or just read this...on medium low heat, melt carmels with 2 tbls of water. 
2. Coat Apples
3.  Cover in chopped nuts if desired (Quickly because the nuts wont stick if you let the carmel cool!)
4.  Refrigerate for 1 hr.
5. ENJOY!!!  We sure did!

Happy Post Halloween!  Happy NOVEMBER!  Making more cookies this week, will post them AND a new book next week!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fitting for a Tuesday

By:  David Wiesner

I have always loved this book.  Now if you don't know this book, there are practically no words.  Fantastic for an imagination boost!   If your child is old enough, make up your own words, or just sit and look and the awesome illustrations and let your mind go!  I think this book should be found in every home.  It is different and fun.  Check it out for yourself.  One of the best ways to get kids excited for reading is to be excited yourself!!!

Baked Carmel Popcorn for a rainy day

So it was when I was sitting on the couch trying to ignore the little voice in my head telling me that I want something sweet that I realized I had all the ingredients to make this yummy fall treat!  (FYI, unless you have a lot of people eating 10 :)  I would cut the recipe in half-I always do)

Baked Caramel Corn

6-8 qts. Popped popcorn (2 batches) 

Bring to a boil (don't be impatient like me a put the heat on high.  Keep it at medium and play the patience game!!!):

      1 cup of butter/margarine   pinch of salt

      2 cups brown sugar, packed   ½ tsp. Cream of tartar

      ½ tsp. baking soda

Coat popcorn and bake on cookie sheet at 250 for 15 minutes.  Store in covered container.   

An easy way to coat the popcorn is to put the popcorn and coating in a brown paper grocery bag and shake-that's what we did when I was a kid.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Early Reading

How sweet is that?  Bryn now gets a story read by her daddy every night.  She loves to just sit and listen.  What a perfect picture.  Even if she doesn't know what is being said, she is still learning how to listen!

Apple PIe/Crisp

Boy was this a yummy yummy dessert tonight.  I don't have a baked picture because I didn't get a chance before it was eaten, but it sure was a lot of flavorful goodness!  Here is the recipe, and I have also added the pie crust recipe my family always uses:

Apple Pie/Crisp

1 pie crust

5-6 apples peeled and sliced

1 T lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

2 T flour

1tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

½ tsp nutmeg


Preheat oven to 375

Sprinkle apples with lemon juice and stir together with above mixture

Gently toss until coated

Pour mixture into crust

Cover with crumb topping (see below)

Bake for 1 hour


Crumb Topping

½ cup flour

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

Stir together then cut in 3 T cold butter and mix until mixture becomes crumbly...I did 1 1/2 this part of the recipe as was suggested by Jodi, which worked really well!  

Pie Crust

    3 cups flour     

    ¼ cup margarine or butter  

    1 cup shortening    1 tsp. salt

Cut shortening and margarine/butter into flour and slat mixture until it resembles course corn meal.

Add:  1 egg beaten     5 TBLS. water

      1 TBLS. vinegar or lemon juice

Mix the above into the flour mixture.  Mix together quickly.  Divide into three pieces.  Roll out between 2 sheets lightly floured waxed paper.  Makes 3 single pies or 1 double and 1 single. 

And what do you do with the leftover pie crust?  Make PIE CRUST COOKIES!  These are some of my very most favorite things.  I look forward to them and often hide them when I have made a pie or something and someone comes over (selfish, I know).  Good thing Troy doesn't have the same enjoyment for them as me!-he isn't a huge cinnamon fan.

Just roll out the leftover pie crust, sprinkle Cinnamon and sugar, then cut the uncooked dough into squares (I just run a knife along the flattened dough like a big tic-tac-toe board), then cook at 350 till done (usually about 12-15 min).  Enjoy!  It was a LOVELY fall day today, perfect for an apple treat!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Starting something new

Well I figured I would combine some of my favorite things and blog about them, food and Children's Books. Strange combination, I know. I am sure there are people blogging about even weirder things. I know there is at least one person out there who will keep up with this blog, so Jen, I'm doing this for you! Now I can keep up on these things and share them! So here we go!!!! Mt very first entry. I promise to keep up on this blog as opposed to my old food blog that I have now neglected. But what can you do. Sometimes you have a baby and forget about what you used to enjoy, well not anymore!. I'm feeling a little festive today, so I will give you all a little review of this holiday book (and you'll get a food post this weekend, and more next week since next Saturday is a big day for all of you who enjoy each and every holiday!

The House that Drac Built
By: Judy Sierra
Illustrated by: Will Hillenbrand

This is a fun book that builds, like "There was an Old Woman who Swallowed a Frog".  This is a repetitive book since it always comes back to the first and most memorable phrase, perfect for preschoolers and young elementary students!  It starts with "This is the House that Jack built", and moves on to Zombies, Werewolves, Mummies, and so on.  I think this is a fun book, the illustrations are pretty intense, but I am a sucker for Holiday books, especially Christmas, but Halloween is great as well, and I always love picking up a festive book to read because it always takes you back to some place or time.  This book's illustrations reminds me of Halloweens when I was little and was afraid of the "Scary stories to tell in the Dark" books (but the illustrations aren't as creepy).  But one thing I really liked about this book, especially for children is that the children (trick-or-treaters) enter the book towards the end and help to make well of the situation.  See, during the build of the story, a few characters reek havoc on some of the more innocent characters in the book(if a Mummy and Werewolf can actually be considered innocent :) ), and the Children come to save the day and sort of comfort the disheveled cat, bat, and so on.  

So would I recommend this book (Not that I'm any expert or anything, I just have an affinity for children's books)?  I think so.  Some of the character's illustrations may be a little scary, but hey, it's Halloween!  This is a book I have in my collection, and don't worry, my 3 month old isn't scared :)

Check out your local library for a copy if you don't want to purchase!

(I promise that next time I wont write so much stuff and spoil the ending!)