Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Clementine Cream Crepes

Hello again my friends. This year is really flying by. I woke up and realized that we are one month away from Christmas! Goodness! I have to start getting seasonal decorations up!

Speaking of seasonal things, it's getting to be citrus fruit season in the stores. Have you also noticed the bags of clementines and mandarin oranges everywhere? I usually see them under the brands of Cuties and Halos. They're so tiny and tasty.

I had a flash of brilliance and bought a bag. They are great to send for the kiddos lunches, or drop a few in my purse to snack on at work. I've used clementines in cooking as well.  They are so easy to add since they're seedless and add a lovely and gentle sweet orange flavor.

For fun, I made crepes and a sweet whipped cream- ricotta filling, enhanced with the juice and zest from clementines. They were divine! I knew I had to share the recipe with you, because they were too good to keep to myself.

By the way, if you don't have access to clementines, other small sweet citrus fruit will work well too. Tangerines, tangelos, satsumas, or even navel oranges will do. But the larger fruit will contain more juice, so you will need to use less. Don't forget to watch out for seeds.

1 batch sweet crepe batter
1 cup ricotta cheese
zest of 2 clementines
juice of 1 clementine
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 clementines, peeled and separated into segments
additional powdered sugar for dusting

1. Using a small food processor, pulse together the ricotta cheese, clementine juice, zest, and powdered sugar until mixed well. Set aside for a moment

2. Whip the whipping cream until it holds firm peaks.  Fold the ricotta mixture into the whipped cream, being careful not to deflate it much.

3. Cook the crepes according to the recipe.  I used a smallish 10" frying pan. I usually get about 10-12 crepes from one batch.

4. While slightly warm, spoon some clementine cream down the center of each crepe and roll up.

5. To plate, place two rolled up crepes side by side. Add an additional dollop of cream and some clementine segments on top. Dust with powdered sugar. Powdered Vanilla Sugar adds a little extra dimension to this, if you like.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Past birthday cake gallery, part 2

Hello, friends. I'm sharing more cake-y goodness today. Cake photos!
WARNING: Some cakes are nice to look at, some cakes are less than perfect. It seems like every other cake has a problem. Now, let's get gawking! Everyone, jump in the time machine!

Wait, what? Time machine?

Back to 2011. We'll start with Tinkerbell and her fairy friends. I ordered this from Safeway's bakery. They had an example cake (click this for reference photo) on display that was very cute. It was a rectangular cake with layers and the fairies sitting in different places, like along a waterfall and stream.  The cake I took home was not layered and was nowhere as detailed as the example cake. No edge piping. Shortage of flowers and vines. Horrible cake writing. Shortage of talent on the decorator's part. Thanks Safeway. Total. Cake. Fail.

2012 was a bad year for birthday cakes. It  was also the year my son wanted a very fancy shaped homemade Optimus Prime Transformer cake. I attempted it. I royally ruined it. I baked two cakes and they would not come out of the pan. They crumbled and ripped in unnatural ways as I tried to tip them onto the cooling racks. Some cake flew onto the floor. It was horrible! In a panic, I phoned the husband to pick up a cake while at Costco. I told him the story of cake disaster and you know who overheard it all. He went to the bakery ladies and very matter-of-factly told them he needed a new birthday cake because Mom ruined the homemade one. This is what he bought home.

For her fourth birthday (still 2012), I figured the Safeway Tinkerbell cake was so bad, I'd be better off making homemade cake and doing it myself.  I had a great idea, easy execution, just yellow cake, same as the Transformers Bumblebee Cake, tinted buttercream frosting, and some miniature dolls. The cake had a minor mishap. I decorated it and put it in the fridge until party time. I took it out shortly before the party and the cardboard base flexed. The center of the cake did not flex so well and the lovely Cinderella-blue base frosting cracked.  I gave it some more blue frosting to smooth the obvious part, but couldn't do much about the white piped edge. It was very tasty, though. At least the cake didn't crumble like the Optimus Prime that didn't happen.

Our next cake was ordered from one of the local Raley's grocery stores. It was for my son's seventh birthday (2013).  They had the Rango set in their catalog, so we picked it.  We'd already looked through dorky themes and wanted to get something different. After all, two Transformer cakes had already happened and I wasn't about to get him a third after the broken cake incident! Considering that the "dirt" looked like smeared poo instead of sand, the little cactus frosting blobs were actually pretty cute.

Last year (2013), my daughter was into Lalaloopsy dolls like crazy. No bakeries offered a decent Lalaloopsy cake, so I enhanced one. I picked up a cake from Costco that had the generic sunshine, rainbow, and Happy Birthday message. We were off to a great start! I added the number 5 candle, the two mini Lalaloopsy dolls, and a Lalaloopsy unicorn. This cake was a total hit!

This photo is from my son's eighth birthday this year (2014). It was hectic, so I took my chances and bought a plain cake off the rack at Winco.  Winco's cake are pretty decent taste-wise for a grocery store chain. It was far from perfect, I mean, look at the colors they used! (Green and yellow are associated with the Cheese-heads, this boy's second least favorite team.) At least it was reasonable with the little plastic football decorations and it had plenty of room for me to add the Happy Birthday writing and number candle.

If you missed my other birthday cake posts, check these out.

Past birthday cake gallery, part 1
(includes Blue's Clues and Thomas the Tank Engine for his 1st and 2nd birthdays)
Butterfly cake (her 1st birthday)
Disney Cars Cake (his 3rd birthday)
Disney Frozen cake (her 6th birthday)
Honeybee and sunflower cake (her 2nd birthday)
Transformer's Bumblebee car cake (his 5th birthday)
Ugly Transformer's gear cake  (his 4th birthday)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Frozen Cake

Hello dear followers!  Is it really, officially Autumn? The weather is slowly cooling down, the days are getting noticably shorter. I suppose it will be Winter before we know it.

Speaking of cold and winter, my daughter turned six last week.  She insisted on doing a Frozen theme. Well, my idea for executing the Frozen theme was pretty basic. I did not go all out like some of those mamas on Pinterest with way too much free time on their hands. I kept it simple. We gave out Frozen party favor baggies with various candies for the girls, and cars baggies for the boys. We gave her a few Frozen things as gifts. The cake was really the only thing that adhered to the theme. And I didn't even make it myself!

I have been so short on time since school started! We ordered a half sheet cake from the Atlantis Bakery, simple white cake, white buttercream filling and frosting. I asked for light blue edge piping and darker blue text for "Happy Birthday Haley".  They offered an edible image, so I took it. We also asked for a couple fondant flowers for a little extra oomph. They even gave it some edible sparkle.

We zipped from the Atlantis to the party locale and I was ready to enhance the cake.  I had hunted down a set of tiny dolls, Elsa, Anna, and Olaf, that I arranged on top along with a sparkly blue number six candle. I came prepared with extra sparkle dust, and some cans of Duff's spray coloring in blue and silver, but I didn't use them. The cake was "Frozen" enough with the dolls and candle.

white gum paste lilies

Voila! A super easy Frozen birthday cake was born!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Peach Pie

One of my favorite things from childhood was eating fresh peaches from our peach tree. Back in Oklahoma, I had planted a peach pit it in our garden and it thrived! The tree was huge and just outside my bedroom window.

We enjoyed sliced fresh peaches with sugar, peach ice cream, and peach pie. Mom always made the best peach pies.  I could never understand why people frequently added cinnamon to their peach pie. It covered up the peachy flavor.

Fast forward to grown up Jenny and her house in Nevada. We planted our own peach tree a few years ago and it finally produced a nice crop of fruit. I devoured a few peaches right away, then we peeled and sliced the rest. We froze a bunch for later and made two pies. We even had sliced peaches and crepes for breakfast the next day!

These pies were as simple as could be. No cinnamon. No almond extract. Just peaches, sugar, and tapioca to thicken the juices. And they were divine!

Ingredients for one 9-inch pie
4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Minute Tapioca
Pie dough for a double crust pie, see Pie Crust No. 1
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Combine the sliced peaches with 1 1/4 cups sugar and the tapioca granules. Mix well and let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes.

2. Prepare your 9" pie plate by lining with one layer of pie dough. Fill with peach mixture. Top with second layer of pie dough and crimp edges. Poke a few vent holes in the center of the top layer.

3. Use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with milk, enough to make it damp. You don't have to use it all.  Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the crust.

4. Bake in a 400F preheated oven about 40-45 minutes. It will be bubbly and hot.

5. Remove from oven and let cool.   

6. Enjoy with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's extra delicious outside on a warm summer evening!

Hey! If you like this, you might also like these recipes, too!
Apple Crisp
Bread Pudding
Pecan Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Sweet Dessert Crepes

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ulitmate S'mores

Hello again, dear readers. It's almost summertime here in Nevada. You can basically say we had our one week of Springtime weather, so it might as well be called Summer already.

We just had Memorial Day. The waterparks are open for business. People are out fishing and camping. It's time for every scout's favorite campfire treat. S'MORES!!!!

I'm sure most people are familiar with the original s'more.  If you've seen the latest Hershey TV ad, then you've seen Hershey's chocolate teamed with Jet-Puft marshmallows and Honey-Maid graham crackers. Now, those are good, BUT I can up the ante. I can IMPROVE THEM!!!

What you need is to think outside the s'more. You need to evolve the s'more, layer by delicious layer. You must know by now that is not health food. It's a devilish delicious treat.

Let's start with the cracker. You can stick to graham crackers if you like. I picked up a box of Honey Grahams at Trader Joe's, as well as some of their Speculoos.  You could experiment with chocolate chip cookies, like Keebler or Chips Ahoy. Maybe Oreo's sound good to you, which are Vegan and a bit on the small side. If you don't want to fuss with the Oreo filling, get some Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. They're similar in chocolatey goodness without the white stuff.

Now, go to the candy aisle. Grab some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups if you need Vegan options. Grab some snack-size Milky Ways. Heck, grab some Dove or Cadbury chocolate bars, even the Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars are good.

Then, what about the marshmallow layer? You need something sticky to hold it all together. I love toasted marshmallows for this.  However, maybe you'd like some Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter? Or Biscoff Cookie Butter, which is also Vegan and very yummy. Something else I've tried that's good is frosting, good old vanilla buttercream frosting. Or if you're really adventurous, toast some fruity chewy candies like Starburst. Yeah. Let's get crazy!

As for the campfire treat component, you don't have to be camping. You can toast marshmallows over your gas flame cooktop, grill, or a candle. You can even just pile stuff together and microwave it until the marshmallow puffs up, but then it's not toasty.  I suppose if you don't want the marshmallow, then this is a moot point.

We're all about live fire and marshmallows here!

The bottom line, the point I'm making is to take something and sandwich it all together. Why not mix and match? For me, it's not really a s'more unless it has toasted marshmallow.  For some of my friends, the marshmallow is optional. Make it, try it, and find what your ultimate s'more is.

My friend Barb loves chocolate chip cookie, Hershey, toasted marshmallow.  Shannon is into the speculoos cookie and cookie butter. The hubby loves graham cracker, Peanut butter cup, toasted marshmallow. My new favorite is graham cracker, Milky Way, toasted marshmallow.  What's yours?


Cracker layer: (Choose 1)  graham crackers, chocolate chip cookies, Oreo's, Speculoos cookies

Chocolate candy layer: (Choose 1)  Reese's, Milky Way, Snickers, Cadbury, Hershey, Dove, Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers

Smooshy layer: (Choose 1) Marshmallow, Starburst, Mamba, cookie butter spread, peanut butter, buttercream frosting

1. Arrange your cracker layer on a plate.

2. Add a piece of chocolate on top of the cracker layer.

3a. If using marshmallows, Starburst, or Mambas,  toast it on a long stick or fire-proof kabob skewer. Push it off onto a second cracker. It will be hot and gooey.

3b. If using a spread, apply to a second cracker.

4. Place second cracker on top of candy, smooshy side inwards.

5. Devour!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Split Pea Soup

Hello again, my friends.

I can't believe it's already May, the end of May at that!  April flew by! School will be out soon. The weather is getting quite warm. We had a few cooler, rainy days, but I think we are officially at the end of "soup weather."

We'd had a ham so I had this huge ham bone with tons of meat still stuck to it. There are so many things you can do with the ham, like scalloped potatoes and ham, or ham salad. The ham bone is perfect for flavoring beans or peas.

Split pea soup is the best when you have a whole ham bone. I've tried using little ham steaks cut up, but the flavor isn't there. You need the bone. It's the same as stock from beef or chicken. You need the bone and marrow for body and depth of flavor.

Split pea soup is really easy, not many ingredients and not much work. It's great with some bread and a salad.

1 bag dried split green peas (approx. 16 oz)
8 cups water (2 quarts)
1 white or yellow onion, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 ham bone
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse peas and remove any debris.  Add peas, onion, carrot, and water to a large stock pot.  Bring up to simmer over medium heat.  Let it simmer, covered, about 1 1/2 hours.

 2.  When the peas are fairly tender, and beginning to break down, add the ham bone. Simmer another hour.

3.  Taste test your soup. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove the ham bone.  If you want a super smooth soup, you can puree it now.  If you want a chunky soup, don't puree it.

4. My ham bone still had plenty of ham on it, so I cut off and diced up what I could. I got about a pound of meat off my ham bone.  The ham went back into the pot. I pureed after the ham went back in so it was not completely smooth. I used a stick blender to do this. Be careful not to splash hot soup all over.

5. Taste again and adjust seasonings as desired.  Serve hot with crusty, hearty bread and extra cracked black pepper. If you like bread bowls, a round sourdough loaf hollowed out would be perfect for this.

Enjoy!  See you again very soon!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Annie's Homegrown Lasagna Review

Hello, dear readers. I have been a busy mama and trying to make new things at home has been a challenge. You might remember that I joined Influenster a while ago. I was very surprised when I was given something totally awesome to review. Annie's Homegrown frozen lasagna!

OK, you're probably thinking "What's the big deal about frozen lasagna? It's not that great."

Well, that's what I thought too. I've had other brands of frozen lasagna that were fairly bad with thick, pasty pasta, gummy cheese, processed meat, and sometimes it was all I could do to eat it because I was that hungry.

We've eaten other products from Annie's and I'm happy with them. The kids love the bunny gummies and cheddar snack mix. They are so-so with the mac & cheese. I was definitely game to try the new frozen family size entrees.

I picked up my box from Target.  They have other flavors, Mac & Cheese, Butternut Mac & Cheese, Chicken and White Cheddar Shells, and the classic Lasagna.

Here it is right out of the box. So far, so good. Looks like real cheese on top so that's good. I popped it in the oven, let it bake and then we dug in.

The box says it serves 3.5.  Well, the four of us ate the whole thing. The boys took slightly larger portions than what we girls got. The ricotta layer was salty and good.  It wasn't swimming in tomato sauce. The texture of the pasta was just right, also the noodles were not too thick. 

We loved it. My husband even said it was almost as good as my homemade lasagna. Now that says something!

I even managed to get Haley, the pickiest 5-year-old, to eat it and she absolutely lit up after she tasted it.

My conclusion was to buy this again! It only took a little over an hour to bake, so the effort was minimal.  The lasagna itself tasted great and not at all like other frozen ones we've had before. Also, knowing that Annie's using organic ingredients and wholesome, responsible sources was a bonus. 

For the sake of total transparency: Please note that I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Hey, if you like Annie's products, you might like my recipe for Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

Hello again! It's March and we're nearing St. Patrick's Day.

We have a few little family traditions. They are pretty easy to adhere to. We like to eat corned beef and cabbage, wear green, and go visit Grandma Rose for her birthday since it falls the week before.  Sometimes, we even go to the St. Paddy's Fair put on by our hometown church, if we are there the right weekend.

One of my newer traditions is making homemade bread to go with dinner. I've tried a few variations on Irish soda bread, and this is by far the easiest. We love quick and easy, especially when it's tasty!

There are many, many different recipes for soda bread. I've tried to keep this true to what Irish people would have made historically. No raisins, no sugar, no fancy stuff. Just plain, hearty bread. This is not light and fluffy white bread. It's dense, chewy, and crusty. You will definitely want to load it up with butter and use it to sop up juices on your plate.

I love that this is baked in a Dutch oven.  I actually have a lidded Calphalon stoneware baker that is perfect for this. Le Creuset enameled cast iron French ovens are also great. You can use glass, stoneware, cast iron, or even two metal cake pans (one on top of the other to create a lid). The covered baking makes the crust really crunchy.  If you like this technique, also check out my Basque Sheepherder Bread.

4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or sour milk* see note at bottom)
sea salt or flaky salt, to taste

1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and mix with a big wooden spoon until it starts to hold together. You'll probably need to use your hands to finish mixing.

2. Knead a few times on a floured board.  Do this so there isn't too much gas trapped, but don't over do it so the bread gets tough. It should be a bit crumbly looking.  Roll and shape into a neat circle.

3. Slice an X on top of the loaf.  Place in a greased and floured Dutch oven that is about 3 Qt size. Sprinkle salt on top of the dough, if desired.

4.  Bake at 425F with the lid on for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes.  The bread should sound hollow when tapped and be a lovely golden brown.

Wheat: substitute 2 cups whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the AP flour. Keep the other ingredients the same.

Extra smooth white: substitute 2 cups cake flour for 2 cups of the AP flour. Keep the other ingredients the same.

*Sour milk is the same quantity of regular milk with a teaspoon or so of lemon juice or white vinegar added to it. Let it sit on the counter about 5 minutes before using in a recipe so it can thicken and start to look curdled.