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April Fool’s BrownEs

So, for those of you who know me, definitely know the following two things about me: 1.) I have a love for baking and 2.) I will do just about anything for a good laugh.  In light of those two little facts, I decided to have some fun with my co-workers on this fine April Fool’s Day! I made BrownEs to take to work with me. I made sure that I let them know I was bringing brownies to work with me the night before…did all of their mouths start watering? Of course they did! Did I feel a little bit sad afterward? Not really…okay, except for once. But that was only because I forgot that I was supposed to be at work at 9 pm and at 9:15 a coworker called to see if I was coming in. My manager said I had better make sure to bring my goodies in. Since I was running late, I didn’t want to stop, so I showed up with the BrownEs that I had already made.  I am not going to give you the recipe, because once you see them, I am sure you will all be able to figure out exactly how they were made. Needless to say, they definitely served their purpose and I am sure some of them even made it home to unsuspecting family members. So, here ya go!!!!

 

 

BrownEs

 

 

Needless to say, I will be making some edible homemade brownies in the near future…and no, not the magic brownies!

 

Our Easter Bunny Carrot and Zucchini Cake

This is going to be a quick and easy post. Someone had posted this cute little bunny and I decided that we just had to try it. Since we have a new renter who has been bugging me, literally, for MONTHS, for Zucchini bread…because that is what I made when I discovered that I loved to bake. I had a huge zucchini we had gotten from my mother-in-law’s garden and I made probably a dozen loaves of bread and took them to work…I decided to alter my carrot cake recipe when doing this little guy. His face is my regular Carrot Cake recipe and the ears and bow-tie are Zucchini cake. Once the batter was made, but before adding the carrots, I divided the batter into two equal portions and put 2 c. carrots into one portion and 2 cups zucchini into the other. I baked the cakes the day before I decorated them so they would have plenty of time to cool. The next day, I took the Zucchini cake (it is really easy to tell which is which because the zucchini cake will be lighter than the carrot cake) and got to work on it.  I use springform pans when I bake cakes so I can just take the sides off…I used the side ring of my pan and “cut out” the ears of the bunny by pressing the ring into a third of the cake so that it made the ear shape…I did the same thing on the opposite side of the cake to make the second ear. What you have left is literally shaped like a bow-tie (can you guess what that is for).

Bunny Cake

I decorated the carrot portion of the cake first and used the frosting to “glue” the ears and tie in place. This was a super fun project because Brianna and I were able to sit and decorate the cake together. It really was a special time for me because she is at that anti-parent stage, so anything I can do to spend a few extra hours with her is definitely worth it.

I am sure there is not many people out there with a platter that is big enough to support this cake…I know I didn’t…so what I did was take a sturdy cardboard box (that was remaining from one of our many Costco runs) and cut the bottom out of it and covered it with tin foil…and whalaaaa, a custom-made platter! I know this is after Easter, and I should have posted this last week, but seeing as how I didn’t finish it until Easter morning, it is here now. I hope you all try it and enjoy it as much as my family did!

Carrot Pineapple Cake

Carrot Pineapple Cake

I really wanted to make Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, but my husband decided he wanted Carrot cake…and me being the wonderful wife that I am, I made him what he wanted. And as usual, I went on a hunt to find the perfect recipe to suit my needs. I found a fairly straight forward recipe for the base of my cake (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/carrot-cake-xi/detail.aspx). However, I was quite thrilled with the idea of adding pineapple, that I saw in several other recipes. Sometimes I will make my own frosting, but because we had things to do this night, I used store-bought frosting and food coloring to color some of the frosting orange and some green. This cake turned out so freaking moist and, that, I attribute to the added pineapple. Don’t worry if you have no decorating supplies or abilities. This is the first cake I have decorated in this manner and if I can do it, so can you!

2 c flours
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 c sugar
4 eggs
1 c oil
4 c shredded carrots
1 to 2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 10.5 oz can crushed pineapple, juices drained and reserved
2 cans of your favorite frosting
Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue food coloring (if desired to color frosting)
#10 or #12 coloring tip…or two sandwich baggies (ziplock works best) … see the secret at the end

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour desired pan(s)…this recipe is good for 1 9×13 or 2 9″ rounds. I use no-stick spray and always flour the pans with a little bit of the dry ingredients instead of just flour. I find this keeps the cake from sticking, but also keeps the bottom from having a floury taste or coating.

SIFT together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside. On high-speed beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy (this really took about 7 minutes for me). Slowly add the 1 c. of oil and juices from the crushed pineapple. Add about 1/3 of the sifted flour mixture and beat until incorporated…continue adding the flour mixture until all is incorporated. Fold in carrots, pineapple, and nuts. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes if using a 9×13 or 30 minutes for rounds…always check after about 20 minutes. Remember that the longer it cooks, the drier the cake will be. Using a toothpick inserted into the middle, I always pull the cakes out when there is just a trace amount stuck to the toothpick (the cake is going to continue to cook for a few minutes after you pull it out of the oven). Allow to the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to complete cooling process. In the meantime, you can prep your frosting. Obviously, I used plain white (vanilla) and then colored some orange and some green. Going back to Art class with Ms. Braun at James Monroe Junior High, red + orange = yellow; green = green…but I added a couple of drops of blue to darken the green. You can play with it here to get the colors you want.

When the cake is completely cooled you can frost it…we like frosting so I was generous in this area. If using two rounds, frost one and then place the other on top…and frost. Here is the fun part, where you all are yelling, “NIKKI, I DON’T HAVE THINGS TO DECORATE WITH!!!! WHATEVER AM I GOING TO DO?” And this is where I tell you to CALM DOWN!!!! Do you have plastic baggies (preferably Ziploc) ? Then you are good to go!!!! Completely frost the cake with the white frosting first. Next, put your orange frosting into your piping bag (or Ziploc baggie) with the #10 or #12 tip. IF YOU ARE USING A BAGGIE, make sure to squeeze all of the air out of the baggie.  If using a baggie carefully cut about 1/8th of an inch off of one of the bottom corners. To create a carrot, start at the top and squeeze you bag allowing the frosting to “build up” a little bit and then pull down letting off the pressure to create the tip of the carrot. Using another piping bag or baggie, you can add the green for the leaves of the carrot.

I did the edges as I did just because I had extra frosting. For the top you can use the baggie and just do “dollops” around the cake…you can also do this around the bottom of the cake; however, I used my “flower” tip to do the orange and just my #10 tip to do the green around the bottom.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE DECORATING IS TO JUST HAVE FUN!!!! It doesn’t have to look perfect…as mine clearly didn’t…just have some fun with it and enjoy.

 

Baked Egg Rolls

Baked Eggrolls
Oh, yeah…what else was I supposed to do with the Phyllo I had left over from the Baklava? Last night, we were laying in bed and I was looking through recipes when Ted rolled over and said, “Mmmmm, egg rolls sound so good right now. And thus, the hunt was on to find a recipe that had an awesome filling…after, not too much searching, I found the one I was going to use and alter to my liking (http://www.steamykitchen.com/13029-my-mothers-famous-chinese-egg-rolls-2.html). I chose to use pork, but really any meat would do…chicken, turkey, ground beef, shrimp…and I can only imagine how much healthier these are than traditional deep-fried egg rolls. This is how I made these; but, you could really fill these with your favorite combination of meat and veggies.

1 lb. ground pork (chicken, turkey, beef, or shrimp)
1/2 head of cabbage
3 carrots
1/2 tsp fresh shredded ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Phyllo sheets
1/2 c butter, melted
1/2 c milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly brown the meat in skillet. In the meantime, shred cabbage, carrot, and ginger. I used my food processor and it finely shredded everything and saved so much time…and a few knuckles, I am sure. Add the vegetables to the meat and mix well. Add the cornstarch, sugar, soy, and sesame oil. Turn heat to med-low and cook for about 10 minutes (long enough to soften the veggies and meld the flavors).
egg roll filling
Turn the filling mixture out on a cookie sheet and elevate one end to drain any liquid from the filling. I used some pretty lean meat and this step really was not necessary, but I did it anyway, just to make sure. This is a VERY important step because wet filling will create soggy rolls. Just like with the Baklava, we are going to use 3 sheets of Phyllo (with the sheet cut in half width wise). It is still important to brush butter over each sheet; however, we are also going to brush a little bit of milk on each sheet (except the top sheet). The milk will make the sheets stick together so they don’t roll around when you are trying to roll them. Now we are ready to stuff and roll. I used an ice cream scoop (well, two scoops per egg roll)…but my egg rolls were large, obviously you can decide on what size you want yours and adjust accordingly.

Place the filling in the corner and roll from corner, diagonally. Try to roll as tight as possible without breaking the dough.
filling and wrapperrolling eggroll.1rolling eggroll.2rolling eggroll.3all wrapped and ready to bake

Consistency, obviously isn’t my strong suit here.  When you get to the end, gently brush with a little milk to secure the flap. Place rolls on to a wire rack (I used the racks I have for cooling cookies) over a  cookie sheet. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a wire rack, they can be place directly onto the cookie sheet. I just like to use the wire racks as much as possible so there are no soggy (or burnt) bottoms. To make life a little easier, instead of trying to brush the rolls with butter (because we want them to get nice and flaky), I used my “butter flavor” no stick cooking spray. Pop them bad boys into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes…timing will depend on how dark you want them and the size of the roll, so you should probably check them about every 10 minutes.

Just remember, when you eat these, they will be flaky…

flaky

Ted wouldn’t let me put his face in the picture….hahahahaha

Peach and Pecan Baklava

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I have always loved Baklava, but thought it would be hard to make. One day while trying to decide what to bake, I found an easy Baklava recipe (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-baklava/)…but I was craving something peachy that day. Then the light came on…why not add peaches to Baklava. I am not a big fan of mixed nuts and peaches, so I just used the pecans. I hope you try and love this as much as we did.

This seems very long, but I have added a few notes in and the whole assembly time was less than a half an hour and was extremely easy.

1 pkg Phyllo dough sheets
1 lrg can and 1 small can of peaches, 
1 12 oz bag of pecans
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1/4-1/2 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Brush the bottom of a 13×8.5 casserole dish with butter (I used Blue Bonnet). Prepare filling by draining and reserving the peach syrup…you will use this again at the end. Chop peaches into small pieces. Finely chop nuts. Put in a bowl and mix in white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix well. Unroll Phyllo dough and cut the entire stack in half width wise (so you end up with two stacks of 13×8.5…they will fit perfectly into the bottom of the casserole dish). Every recipe I have ever read in regard to Phyllo says to cover it with a wet cloth so it does not dry out; however I have found that it tends to make the sheets stick together, so I just cover mine with a dry cloth so they don’t dry out as fast. Melt about half a cup of butter. Start assembling by placing 6 sheets of Phyllo (one at a time, brushing each with butter) in the bottom of the casserole dish. Next put about 1/2 c of the filling on top of the Phyllo…spread around (it obviously is just going to scantly cover the dough). Layer two more sheets of Phyllo (again, one at a time, brushing each with butter). And filling…2 sheets of Phyllo…filling…get the picture. Do this until you are out of filling (I think we did a total of 5 or 6 layers). For the top layer, you want to do another 6 sheets of Phyllo (one at a time, brushing each with butter). You can sprinkle some white sugar over the top for a little added sweetness, if you want. VERY CAREFULLY, use a sharp knife to cut the assembled piece before baking. Cut into 4 rows lengthwise and the diagonally eight times to yield 32 diamond pieces.

Image

Bake for 55 minutes (be sure to check it after 30 minute to make sure it is not browning too quickly; if it is, cover with foil). While the Baklava is baking make the syrup for pouring over the top. The syrup is made using the reserved peach juices, honey, and vanilla extract. Bring all items to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When the Baklava is done baking, recut where you had previously cut prior to baking (this is VERY important because you want the syrup to get down inside). You can sprinkle a little brown sugar, for a little added sweetness, over the top prior to the next step.Ladle syrup over Baklava covering completely…NOTE: you probably will not use all of the syrup…but as the Baklava soaks it up, you can add more if you want. Allow to sit, uncovered (Ted has a huge issue with leaving things on the counter uncovered so as soon as the oven cooled down, I threw it back in there), for at least 5 hours to soak up all of the juices.

Now, comes the fun part…ENJOY!!! I think this would be great served a little bit warm with vanilla ice cream or with whipped cream. I am going to do it with whipped cream tonight.

Why, Hello there!!!!

I am branching out from my usual social media and going to try my hand at blogging…we shall see what this brings. Here I will share with you the recipes (of all varieties) that I try, what we thought of them and where I found the original recipe (if I found it somewhere besides in my little brain). Most of my recipes are found from some place or another: cooking sites, cookbooks, other blogs, etc. But I am almost always guaranteed to make some sort of change to the original recipe that I found; however, I will always include where the original came from, because I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I hope everyone tries and enjoys some of the recipes I post.