Archive for May, 2012

May 31st is National Macaron/Macaroon Day!

Macaron “is a sweet meringue-based confectionery made with egg whitesicing sugargranulated sugaralmond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. The macaron is commonly filled with ganachebuttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. Its name is derived from the Italian word maccarone or maccherone.Source

A macaroon “is a type of light, baked confection, described as either small cakes or meringue-like cookies depending on their consistency. The original macaroon was a “small sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds”[1] similar to Italian amaretti. In North America, the coconut macaroon is the better known variety.” Source

I decided to try my hand at making macarons! I have never had one, so I wasn’t going to wing it and try to create my own recipe. I turned to a reliable source and used David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Macaron recipe. The recipe comes together easily, and while my piping wasn’t the neatest (not all the same size and I didn’t tap down the little peaks), I was still happy with the results. I will make these again, as I think I should have gotten better “feet”, but as a first attempt, these have a great flavor and texture. They are a nice departure from what I normally bake!

Oh, and for the filling? I just used strawberry preserves!

If you are interested in making macarons, go to the link above (for David’s recipe). His recipes are always fabulous and delicious!

Made with love, not calories!

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Turtle Cookies

The other day I was going through my baking cupboard and boy, was it full! You know that commercial where the lady opens up the cupboard and everything falls out? Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened to me! Bags of chocolate chips, caramel chips, butterscotch chips, coconut. Bars of chocolate, packets of yeast, and packets of unflavored gelatin. That’s all shoved onto one shelf!

I decided instead of buying more stuff at the store, I would make cookies that would use up some stuff that’s in the cupboard. I know, brilliant idea! Out came the bag of caramel chips and chocolate chips. I had some pecans in the freezer- let’s throw those in too! Turtle cookies!

Turtle Cookies
Makes: 3 dozen
Prep time: 15 minutes     Bake time: 13-15 minutes

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup caramel bits 
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add in the salt and baking soda. Stir in the flour until just incorporated. Add in the pecans, caramel bits, and chocolate chips and stir until combined.

Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Leave about 3 inches between each cookie. Bake for 13 minutes or until the cookies are set and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, move cookies onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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Strawberries are here!!!!!

Do you know what that means?

Lots of strawberry recipes are going to be coming your way!

I love strawberries, but this year I seem to be obsessed with them! Maybe it’s because so many food blogs have already been posting their strawberry recipes (like starting 3 weeks ago)- and I’m jealous!

Well, now it’s my turn!

1st up, we are going to be roasting some strawberries! I read this on How Sweet Eats, and I wanted to try it. Yum! Roasting the strawberries gives them a deeper flavor.

In order to capture the true taste of the roasted strawberries, I decided to keep the dessert simple (and with the rest of the roasted strawberries, I am going to play!!). A classic napoleon. Baked puff pastry layered with a vanilla bean pastry cream and roasted strawberries. Simple and elegant.

Roasted Strawberry Napoleons
Makes 6 servings
Pastry cream recipe lightly adapted from All Recipes

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (I used Pepperidge Farm)

1/2 pint strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

1. Make the pastry cream:
In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the milk and 1/4 cup sugar. Place over medium heat and let come to a boil.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, egg, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar. Whisk until everything is well combined and smooth. After the milk has come to a boil, remove from the heat and pour 1/3 of the mixture into the egg/cornstarch mixture. Whisk quickly to combine. Repeat this 2 more times, making sure to whisk continuously. Once all the milk has been added to the egg mixture, pour this new mixture back into the saucepan. Place back on the heat and whisk constantly. After a few minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken up. After the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla bean paste. Pour into a heat-safe container, cover the surface with plastic wrap (this will prevent the pastry cream from forming a skin), and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Roast the strawberries:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Clean the strawberries (if needed) and remove the stems. If your strawberries are big, cut in half or quarters and place in a small mixing bowl. Mine were small (size of a quarter), so I left them whole. Add in 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix well. Pour the strawberries out onto a cookie sheet/jellyroll pan/baking pan (anything that has sides and is big enough that the strawberries are in one layer). Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Bake the puff pastry:
Leaving the oven on at 400 degrees, unfold your puff pastry and lightly roll a rolling pin over it. Cut it into 6 even pieces (I followed the 3 folds/seams, then cut each one in half, width-wise). Place the puff pastry onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet- leaving 2 inches between each one. Bake according to the package directions (mine said 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool.

4. To assemble:
Slice each puff pastry in half, making a top and bottom. Place the bottom piece on a serving plate and top with some of the pastry cream. Spoon on some roasted strawberries (and juice), then top with the puff pastry top. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or dust some powdered sugar on the top. Enjoy!

Puff pastry bottom, topped with pastry cream

Made with love, not calories!

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I have always wanted to make challah bread! It was moved to the top of my to-do list when I found out it was the Daring Bakers’ challenge for the month!

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

While I picked the “Easy Challah” recipe that Ruth provided, I decided to do a 6 strand braid! Even though I can’t braid my own hair, I thought braiding the challah was a lot of fun- and it looks beautiful!

The recipe makes 2 loaves. One loaf was eaten right away (mmmm, butter!) and the other loaf I saved for another recipe!

I enjoyed this challenge and I’m looking forward to making challah bread again!! Oh, and I can cross it of my baking to-do list!

Challah Bread
Recipe from templedavid.org
Makes 2 loaves
Prep time: 3 hours 10 minutes (40 minutes active, 2 1/2 hours inactive)
Bake time: 30-45 minutes

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 package rapid rise yeast
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (using your paddle attachment), combine the water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture and mix on medium speed until it is well combined. Turn off your mixer, cover with a dish towel, and let sit for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add in the eggs and mix until combined. Change to the dough hook attachment and add in the remaining flour mixture. Let the mixer run on low-speed for 10 minutes to knead the dough (or you can do this by hand on a floured surface). After 10 minutes, transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl. Cover the top lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, punch down the dough and knead for 3 minutes (using just enough flour in order to keep the dough from sticking). Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Working with one piece, divide into as many strands as you like, and braid your dough. Place each braided loaf onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (I was able to use 1 cookie sheet for both loaves). Brush each loaf with the egg wash, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

After 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. After 1 hour, remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and brush each loaf again with the egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake till golden (about 25-30 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the loaves to cooling racks and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Ruth provided us with video’s to assist us with the braiding technique. Here is the one for a 6 strand braid.

Made with love, not calories!!

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Another week…another weekly running recap!

Sunday: Cleveland half-marathon (race recap here!)
Monday: Rest!!!!!!
Tuesday: 2 mile walk
Wednesday: 30 minute run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 2 mile walk
Saturday: 1 hour run

Easy week this week! I took a few days to let my body recover from the race! The remainder of race day is always the hardest for me- I walk around very slowly! By the next day, the ITBS pain is gone and I’m just left with a little muscle soreness in my thighs. Ah, the joys of getting older!

Next race: Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon!

Have a wonderful (and safe) holiday weekend!

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May 26th is Cherry Dessert Day!

“National Cherry Dessert Day is one of several food holidays which focus on the cherry. Other national observations for the fruit include National Cherry Cheesecake Day on April 23, National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day on January 3, National Cherry Turnover Day on August 28, National Cherry Popover Day on September 1, National Cherry Pie Day on February 20, and National Cherry Cobbler Day on May 17.” (Source)

Since I enjoy making cookies, I thought I would just stick with a simple cherry cookie, in order to celebrate the day! And guess what I did. Yup, I added chocolate! Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies! I used dried cherries- I like the texture, and I think they add a really nice sweetness. They are a nice change from the classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!

Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes     Bake time: 11 minutes

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries, finely diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Add in the egg and vanilla bean paste and stir until well combined. Stir in the salt, baking soda, and flour. Add in the oats and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Leave 2 inches between each cookie and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-11 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden and set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, move cookies onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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I am so excited and honored to say that today I am doing a guest post for Chef Dennis!

Every Friday, Chef Dennis features a blogger on his post. I am delighted that I am this week’s featured blogger!

I am sharing a recipe for Orange Cardamom Scones… I hope you will check out the recipe!!

Please join me at: A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis!

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Purple Ombre Cake

Have you seen these before? Aren’t they beautiful?

I have seen these cakes on Pinterest and knew that I wanted to make one for a special occasion.

That special occasion presented itself recently. My mom loves the color purple, so I decided I would make an Ombre cake for Mother’s Day. I made a vanilla bean cake with vanilla bean frosting. It turned out beautiful…and delicious!

Note: The directions below will make 2- 9 inch cakes. I wanted a four-layer cake, so I doubled both the cake and frosting recipes. If you are making a 4-layer cake, as I did, please make sure to double your prep and bake time (p.s. and the ingredients- but you already knew that!).

Purple Ombre’ Cake
Cake recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Bake time: 20-25 minutes

2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites* (3/4 cup), at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 3/4 cup vanilla bean sugar (regular sugar will also work)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
Gel food coloring

1/2 cup crisco
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 pound powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar)
1/3 cup whole milk
Gel food coloring

To make the cakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2- 9 inch cake pans. Note: you can either grease and flour the cake pans, or grease them and line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to fit (I like this method!). Set the prepared pans aside.

In a small bowl, combine the milk, egg whites* (I used Egg Beaters 100% Egg Whites), and vanilla bean paste. Mix well and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix on low speed. With the mixer still running, add in the butter and let this mix until it resembles small peas. Add in all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Beat this on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on and add in the remaining milk mixture. Let this mix for an additional 20 seconds.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Note: my top layer did not have any color added to it. Each pan received 1 pound 4 oz. of batter. So I  poured the plain batter into the 1st pan, then added coloring to the remaining batter and whisked to combine, then poured that into my 2nd pan. Note: I only used 1 drop of color, as I wanted to work my way from light to dark layers (when I made the 2nd batch of cakes, layer #3 received 2 drops of the gel coloring, layer #4 received 4 drops of coloring- I really wanted the last layer to be dark).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sides pull away from the pan and the toothpick test comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove cakes from the pans and place on cooling racks. Let cool completely before applying the frosting.

If you are only making a 2-layer cake, make the frosting while the cakes are cooling:

In a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, combine the shortening and butter. Whisk on high speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer on high for 1 additional minute. Turn the speed to low and add in the vanilla bean paste. Add in the powdered sugar, alternating with the milk. Once those have been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer on high and let it run for 5 minutes. This will allow the frosting to get light and fluffy.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, place the darkest layer of the cake (bottom side up) on a cake board or cake plate. Spread on a layer of frosting (between 1/3 to 1/2 cup), then top with the next lightest layer (note: don’t forget to level your cakes, if needed), working your way to the top. Do a light covering of the entire cake with frosting (crumb coat), and refrigerate for one hour.

When you are ready to decorate, divide your frosting if you wish to have different colors. Note: I made 3 piping bags: #1, I left the frosting as is, #2, I added 1 drop of gel coloring to achieve a light purple, #3, I added 3 drops of coloring for a darker color. To make the rose design, please see this link. Once you are done frosting the cake, refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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On Sunday, my day started dark and early for the Rite-Aid Cleveland half marathon! I left the house at 4:30 am, in order to make the drive and find parking before they started closing the roads. Traffic was light, so that was a plus! I made it into a parking lot and just chilled for about 30 minutes. At 6am, I made my way to Cleveland Browns stadium, where the start/finish areas were located.

I did not need baggage check this year (last year was rainy, so I had warm-up clothes with me that I needed to check), and I was happy about that as the line was Really. Long. That seems to be an area that they could work on, to get it to flow a little better (maybe 2 rooms instead of just 1?). So I was able to just wander around and take in the atmosphere. I did see a friend and an ex-boss (I received hugs from both!), they were also running the half marathon (and they both did awesome!).

About 6:30am, I made my way to the starting area. Cleveland doesn’t have corrals, and last year they didn’t have anything to indicate where you should start (depending on your finishing time), so there were a lot of slower runners and walkers that started too far up front. This year, they had pacing markers and the announcers did a good job in making sure people paid attention to the markers in order to line up accordingly. That helped a lot!

I like Cleveland’s course. Running through neighborhoods where the people come out and cheer you on. Musicians that are out there with just a guitar and an amp- simple, but effective.  There really is only 1 steep incline throughout the half-marathon course, so it’s considered a fast, flat course!

The only negative I saw, was at some of the later water stations – they seemed to be ill-equipped with water and Gatorade. It was a warm day- when I finished, it was 80 degrees, so I’m sure people were taking in lots of fluids. However, a few water stations had either gotten hit with a big group of runners and they couldn’t keep up with the demand, not enough volunteers for the demand, or not enough supplies. I’m not sure what happened, but I do know that the volunteers were working hard to fill cups as fast as possible.

Heading into the finish is always wonderful! The amount of people cheering from the sidelines is enough to make me pick up my pace and it makes me smile (as they yell at you- Finish strong!). After you finish, Cleveland does a great job at getting runners liquids and food. Water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, popsicles, bananas, chips and pretzels- all of these were available to the runners within 100 feet from the finish line. And you can’t forget the finishers medal! So cute! I’m not sure how many years Cleveland has used this design, but I love the spinning guitar!

Overall, I really enjoyed myself and I had a good race. My pacing was better, but I still have a tendency to slow down in the 2nd half of the race- I need to keep working on that!

Race day apparel: Cleveland swag tech shirt and        Skirt Sports running skirt!

Heading towards the start!

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Potato Chip Cookies

Anyone reading not like the combination of salty and sweet?

If you don’t, then you will want to skip this recipe!!

Potato chip cookies are that perfect combination of salty and sweet. They have the texture of a shortbread cookie, with an added crunch. And can you believe I didn’t add chocolate to the recipe? Ha! You could add chocolate, but I didn’t (this time!).

Now, keep in mind that every brand of potato chip has a different level of saltiness. You will want to taste test a few potato chips before making this recipe. My potato chips were not all that salty, so I added a some table salt to the recipe and sprinkled sea salt on top of the cookies before baking. If your potato chips are salty, reduce the amount of salt that the recipe calls for.

Be warned though, the cookies are just as addicting as potato chips…it’s really hard to eat just one!

Potato Chip Cookies
Adapted from Food Network 
Makes: 24 cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes     Bake time: 11-13 minutes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt, optional (see above)
3/4 cup crushed potato chips, divided
2 cups flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla and salt (if using). Stir in 1/2 cup potato chips, then add in the flour. Mix until well incorporated.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough, then roll it into a ball. Place it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle on a few pieces of crushed potato chips and a small pinch of sea salt, then lightly press the potato chips into the cookie.

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the centers are set and the edges are lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, move cookies onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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