Archive for April, 2012

April 30th is National Raisin Day!

“The word raisin dates back to Middle English and is a loanword from Old French; in French, raisin means “grape,” while a dried grape is referred to as a raisin sec, or “dry grape.” The Old French word in turn developed from the Latin word racemus, “a bunch of grapes.” (Source)

I think one of the most common desserts in which you will find raisins, are Oatmeal Raisin cookies.  However, rice pudding also comes to mind (well, my mind) and I haven’t made rice pudding in a while. I had some apples sitting out on the counter, so I decided to make an apple raisin rice pudding!

I know you can eat rice pudding cold or warm. My personal preference is to eat it warm. That way I can add whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to the bowl of rice pudding. Yum!

Apple Raisin Rice Pudding
Makes: 3 cups
Prep time: About 1 hour

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup long grain white rice
1 medium apple, peeled and diced into small pieces (I used a Granny Smith apple)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the water, whipping cream, and rice. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the diced apples and continue to simmer, stirring frequently (adjusting the heat if needed so that the mixture doesn’t boil).

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, salt, brown sugar, vanilla bean paste, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Once the rice and apple mixture has soaked up almost all of the liquid, remove the pan from the heat. Take two spoonfuls of the rice mixture and add it into the egg mixture. Stir quickly and make sure everything is fully combined. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and place it back over the heat. Reduce to medium low and let the rice pudding thicken (10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat and enjoy while warm, or let cool and then enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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Remember Friday’s recipe for Armenian Nutmeg Cake? Well, this recipe was the 2nd recipe option for the Daring Bakers’ challenge. We were given 2 recipes, but only required to make and post one of them.

Well, I was intrigued by both recipes, so I made them both!

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

According to the information Jason gave us, vanilla scented nazook is the most common, so that is the filling I made. To help bring out the vanilla flavor, I used vanilla bean paste and vanilla sugar (but pure vanilla extract and regular sugar will work just as well!).

Makes: 40 pieces
Prep time: 4 hours (1 hour active, 3 hours resting)     Bake time: 30 minutes

Pastry Dough:
3 cups flour, sifted
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Egg wash:
1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the pastry dough:
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine the flour and dry yeast. stir to combine. Add in the sour cream and butter and mix on low speed until it is well combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment and continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl (you may need to add a little more flour). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours (I left mine overnight).

Make the filling:
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, vanilla sugar, butter, and the vanilla bean paste. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

To make the nazook:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 4 even pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the pieces into a ball, then roll out into a large oval or rectangle. Roll the dough until it is thin, but not transparent (it doesn’t have to be an exact size). Spread 1/4 of the filling on top of the dough, making sure to leave 1/4 inch around the edges. Starting from one of the long sides, begin rolling the dough- making sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Once the dough has been rolled, place it seem side down and flatten it slightly with the palm of your hand. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg wash, then with a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) slice the roll into 10 even pieces. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between each pastry.

Repeat with the remaining 3 sections of dough. Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Note: This is a subtle vanilla-flavored pastry. Feel free to add spices or finely chopped nuts to the filling!

Made with love, not calories!

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Another week…another weekly running recap!

Sunday: Rest
Monday: 30 minute run
Tuesday: 30 minute HIIT
Wednesday: 30 minute run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 30 minute incline walk
Saturday: 1 1/2 hour run

Well, I think Mother Nature is laughing at us! We have been getting nice days scattered about here and there. Not so, this week. It’s dreary and chilly (high of 59 degrees). As you know that I am a cold weather wuss (Chilly Willy), there was no outdoor running for me this week!

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The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

Our challenge for this month was to make one of the items that Jason shared with us. However, after reading through the recipes, both of them were intriguing and I had all the ingredients on hand- so I made both recipes! Today I am sharing the recipe for the nutmeg cake, and on Sunday I’ll share the Nazook!

The nutmeg cake is really easy to put together. The mixture that you make for the crust actually gets double-duty. Half is used for the crust and the other half is used for the cake! You can play around with the spices, depending on what you prefer (I backed off a little on the nutmeg and added some cinnamon). Also, Jason’s recipe calls for nuts on top of the cake- I left those off, but some of the other pictures I saw had anything from pecans, to sliced almonds!

Armenian Nutmeg Cake
Makes: 12 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes     Bake time: Recommended: 30-40 minutes (mine went to 45 minutes)

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the brown sugar. Add in the butter and using a fork or pastry cutter, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Take 1/2 of this mixture and press it into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Whisk until frothy (about 2 minutes by hand). Add in the milk/baking soda mixture that you made earlier. Whisk until it is well incorporated. Pour this egg/milk mixture into the large bowl (that contains the remaining half of the crumb mixture). Whisk until everything is well combined. Pour this over the crust. Sprinkle on the nuts (if you are using).

Bake for 30-40 minutes (though I had to take mine to 45 minutes), or until the top is set and the toothpick test comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool. Note: after 10 minutes, run a knife along the inside of the springform pan. This will help it to release better once the cake has cooled completely. (I did not do this and my crust gave me a little hassle once I tried to remove it from the springform pan!) Cool the cake completely, and enjoy!

*Original recipe note: Jason’s directions call for 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg. I’m not used to nutmeg being the primary spice in baked goods, so that’s why I went 1 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.


Batter poured on top of the crust.

Missing a few slices!

Stay tuned…Sunday I will be sharing the Nazook recipe with you!

Made with love, not calories!

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April 26th is National Pretzel Day!

Per wiki“2003- Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declares April 26 National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy.”

Did you know you can get free pretzels today? Check out this link!!!!

I’ve made pretzels once before. And I got a little frustrated when my pretzels wouldn’t stay together during the water bath. Nick laughed at me. I got mad. Then I realized he was right to laugh (I get a little “type A” personality when I bake!). So maybe they weren’t all picture perfect, but they sure tasted good anyways!

For National Pretzel Day, I decided to do pretzel bites! Tucked inside those pretzel bites are pieces of mozzarella cheese and pepperoni! The dough is real easy to work with. It was a little sticky while forming around the pepperoni and cheese, but that seemed to help me, as it was easy to seal the edges. The recipe makes 24 bites, which would be perfect as appetizers for today’s football draft, however, I just baked up 12 of them and put the other 12 in the freezer. I’ve never tried that with homemade pretzels, so once I bake up the frozen ones, I’ll update this post as to if it works and the baking time!

Pepperoni and Mozzarella Pretzel Bites
Adapted from Bobby Flay-Food Network
Makes: 24
Prep time: 2 hours (1 hour active, 1 hour resting)   Bake time: 15 minutes

1 1/2 cups warm water*
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
96 pieces pepperoni
24- 1 inch pieces mozzarella
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt

*Note: the water temp should be between 105 and 115 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick your finger in the water. It should feel warm, not hot.

In a stand mixer with the hook attachment, combine the water, yeast, brown sugar, and butter.  Mix on low speed until just combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the mixer back on low speed and add in the salt and start adding in the flour, 1 cup at a time. After 4 cups of flour, slowly add just enough additional flour that the dough pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl. Let the mixer run for 3 minutes- adding a little more flour if needed.

After 3 minutes, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (adding flour if needed). Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning once, in order to coat both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

While the dough is rising (no singing the Door’s song…NICK!), get out the pepperoni slices and cut up the mozzarella into 1 inch squares. Set aside.

After 1 hour, put 3 quarts water into a large stockpot, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the baking soda.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Retrieve your dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 even pieces, then cut each of those into 6 pieces (total of 24). Take one piece of dough and flatten it out (I just used my palm to flatten it). Place 2 pieces of pepperoni (one on top of the other) on the dough. Top it with 1 piece of cheese, then 2 more pieces of pepperoni. Starting with the edges closest and furthest away from you, fold the dough over the filling. Then fold over one side, then the other- pinching the edges to seal completely. Set aside and repeat until you have 12 pretzel bites completed.

Once 12 are filled and ready, and the water is boiling, using a spider or a slotted spoon, slowly place 6 pretzels into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds (15 seconds for each side), then remove and place onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, mix the egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush the egg wash on the top of each pretzel bite. Sprinkle with pretzel salt or coarse sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Note: While these are in the oven, go ahead and finish making the other 12 pretzel bites. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before moving the pretzel bites to a serving plate. Enjoy!

Before rising.

After rising.

For more recipes using yeast, check out the weekly showcases on YeastSpotting!

Made with love, not calories!

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Here is another “filled” cookie! Carrot cake cookies that are filled with cheesecake. So easy to make! And I’m going to say they are healthy for you because there are carrots in them! Ok, so maybe they aren’t really healthy, but I can dream can’t I?!!

These were inspired by this recipe. Maria makes awesome cookies, so I knew this would be a good one! I just made a few minor adjustments to work with the added moisture from the carrots. The hardest part is waiting until the cookies are completely cooled before eating one (that cheesecake filling is hot!)! :)

As a side note, these are a continuation on my obsession of filling cookies with something delicious!
Other recipes include: Brownie filled Chocolate Chip Cookies, Biscoff filled Snickerdoodles, and Coconut filled Brownie Cookies).

Cheesecake filled Carrot Cake Cookies
Makes: 20 cookies
Prep time: 2 hours and 15 minutes (15 active, 2 hours resting)     Bake time: 13 minutes

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 box spice cake mix (18.25oz- I used Duncan Hines)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Note: You can do this with a hand mixer, but I just mixed it by hand with a fork. Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, use a small ice cream scoop to scoop the dough out onto wax paper. You will need 20 centers. Place in the freezer for 2 hours.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla, flour, shredded carrots, and vegetable oil. Stir until everything is well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Once the 2 hours is up (and the cheesecake centers are pretty solid), preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough* and flatten with the palm of your hand. Place one cheesecake ball in the center and fold over the dough, sealing in the center. Place the dough ball onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie. *Note: I scooped out all my dough before adding the centers, just to make sure I had enough for 20 cookies.

Bake for 13 minutes or until the top of the cookies are set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes move the cookies onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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I like cheesecake, but it isn’t my favorite thing to bake. I haven’t been able to be consistent in not getting cracks in cheesecakes. A water bath works for one, but doesn’t work the next time (that sort of thing!). I’m not giving up though!

However, the other day when I was looking at some cream cheese, thinking that I should make a cheesecake with it, my heart just wasn’t in it. Cheesecake cookies though- that made me smile :)

And of course there is chocolate in them!!!!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookies
Adapted from this recipe
Makes: 1 1/2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 8 minutes     Bake time: 13-15 minutes

1/4 cup butter, softened
1- 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add in the sugar and the vanilla bean paste and stir until well incorporated. Stir in the flour until fully mixed (the dough will be stiff if mixing by hand). Add in the mini chocolate chips.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop the dough and place it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (leaving about an inch between cookies). Flatten the cookies slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 13-15 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, move the cookies onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Enjoy!

Note: The bottom of the cookies get lightly brown while baking. This gives the cookie a crunchy chew (if that makes sense!).

Made with love, not calories!

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