Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Very 80's Easter

     When I was a kid, my Mom made lemon cupcakes with coconut sprinkled frosting in little baskets to take to school at Easter.  My Great Aunt made cakes shaped like bunnies with lemon cake and coconut sprinkled frosting to feast on at the huge family Easter luncheons she used to throw.  When I was pregnant with my first son and craving lemon everything, I had to have lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting (generously supplied by my friend Susan, who I am convinced is the reason I survived my first pregnancy without killing somebody in a lemon craving induced stupor).  What I'm saying is that lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting and me go waaaay back.

     Unfortunately, the kind of cake and coconut I ate growing up is not how I eat anymore.  I haven't bought a Duncan Crockerbury box in a decade at least.  I don't use sweetened coconut or green food coloring (with one exception).  But I really, really wanted to make those little cupcake baskets with my boys that my Mom made all those years ago. 

Naturally colored Easter cupcakes lemon and coconut with matcha for green

So I did.

     I found Trader Joe's jelly beans, flavored and colored with fruit juice, modified an America's Test Kitchen recipe to taste exactly like the ol' boxed cake lemon flavor, and colored the coconut with matcha powder.  The result was pretty much exactly like what I remember from childhood.  Except the jelly beans.  I'm particular about jelly beans.  Beware the dark purple TJ's jelly beans.  They are not grape.  TJ's, if you're going to throw licorice about all willy nilly, you gotta warn folks.  Allz I'm sayin'.

Easter cupcakes with natural colors and flavorings

A beautifully decorated little basket with a not grape jelly bean on it.  And two others.  Who might be in cahoots.

To make the baskets Mom used to use construction paper, but I found a sweet little set of scrapbooking papers at Target.  Cut strips about 3/4 inch wide and 9 inches long and tape or staple them to an empty cupcake wrapper.  These are great for holding other candies or nuts, too!

How to color coconut for Easter grass with matcha powder

     To make the coconut, I found Bob's Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut, and got some matcha powder at my local natural foods store.  I heated 1 tsp coconut oil in the microwave until it melted, then stirred in 4 Tbs coconut until just moistened.  Then I stirred in 1/2 tsp matcha powder.  It was a nice mossy/grassy color without changing the flavor too much.  Keep in mind, eating it plain, you will be able to taste the tea, but once you add the flavor of the frosting, you can't taste it any more.

  Since the Bob's Red Mill coconut doesn't have as strong a "coconut" flavor as the moistened sugar-coated stuff, I added 1 Tbs coconut oil (in solid form) to my butter cream frosting.  I used two sticks of softened butter, 1 Tbs coconut oil, 4 cups of organic confectioner's sugar, and about a Tbs of milk. Cream everything together with a mixer until frosting is smooth and fluffy. You may want to adjust the sugar and milk levels of your own depending on how fluffy you like your frosting.

Lemon Cake
Yields: 24 cupcakes

1/2 C whole milk, room temp
4 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract (I used Nielsen Massey)
1/4 tsp vanilla beans
1 3/4 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
16 Tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin tins with 24 liners.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together.  In the bowl of your mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla beans, and zest together.  On low speed, mix the butter pieces in one at a time until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.  Beat in all but 1/2 C of the milk mixture, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until smooth, light, and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 C milk mixture and the lemon extract until the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.  Give the batter a final stir with a rubber scraper and portion into cupcake liners till they are 3/4 full.  Tap the pans on the counter to release bubbles and settle the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes, rotating the pans 1/2 way through baking time.  Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on a wire rack.

The boys have been begging me for these all day.  I love these.  I may never share them.  You're just lucky I shared the recipe with you.  In fact, I take it back.  You can't have it.  Happy Easter, ya cake thieves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stinging Nettles with Grits and an Egg

   So it's been a while, I guess.  I took a little hiatus.  I focused on my kids, survived the holidays, ate horribly and gained weight and lost weight and gained it back.  I went to Maine to see my brother marry the most wonderful woman on earth.  I learned that I really like candid photography.  Food photography is easier because usually the subject stays still for ya but candid photography is so much more rewarding when you get "the" shot.  

This was that shot:

chiaroscuro portrait photography

I swear I didn't pose her this way.  The light, you guys!  The light...  I can't even.  *Sigh*

     Anyway, I learned some stuff about myself in my time off.  I miss black and white photography, I like taking pictures of people, and apparently, I like to eat stinging nettle.  Who knew, right?

     Stinging nettle is crazy painful and also crazy good for you if you can get past the crazy painful part.  It's also delicious!  So somehow, I have gone my almost 40 years without ever seeing stinging nettle in the wild or getting stung by it.  But I found some at recent farmer's market and managed to sting the fool out of myself almost immediately.  Dag, ya'll.  Ow.

     So anyway, I decided I needed grits this morning and stinging nettle was going to go along with it.  So good.  I guess I was supposed to remove the leaves from the stems before cooking, but I couldn't find any specific directions about that online.  I just went ahead and cooked the stems, too.  It was fine.  No stings, good flavor, just a little too furry for my husband's taste.  I'll probably strip the leaves next time.

Stinging Nettle with an Egg and Creamy, Cheesy Grits

Stinging Nettles with Grits and an Egg
Serves 4

1 C grits
4 C water

4 eggs
3 C stinging nettle very lightly packed
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook grits to package directions, mine called for 1 C grits to be rinsed, then placed into 4 C boiling water and simmered for 30 minutes.  I add cheese to mine, I like sharp cheese like Beecher's Flagship, but I encourage you to find your favorite local cheddar.  Stir in a little butter and salt and pepper to your taste.  In the mean time, fry or poach four eggs.  I like mine over easy, but poached eggs would be fantastic on this.  Rinse the stinging nettle.  I used tongs to transfer mine to a salad spinner, rinsed in the basket and spun it around until dry.  Heat olive oil in a large pan, then dump nettles in.  Watch out for stingers!  If I were to cut the leaves off first, I would use gardening gloves to hold them while I removed the leaves after washing.  Heat leaves until just wilted and plate as shown.

     The boys weren't having the nettles.  They saw me get hurt and were NOT having any of that business.  My husband and I were a little trepidations, but the flavor was like a pleasantly strong spinach and pared well with the eggs and grits.  If you can't find nettles or are in the boat with my boys, sub out the nettle with spinach.

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Christmas... Sorta...

Shortbread 12 Ways

You know how crazy this time of year is.  I know you do.  Because you are in the middle of buying gifts, decorating, running around between events, and trying to please everyone in every way to make this dang holiday jolly even if it kills you.  I know you are because I am and if you aren't then my whole "vive la Pinterest" thing is a bad life decision.  I don't have time to make bad life decisions.  I'm too busy.  In lieu of the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies this year, I thought I'd try something a little different.  This year, it's one cookie 12 ways!  I have taken the humble shortbread, very simple and delicious on its own, and jazzed it up with lots of yummy, Christmas-time flavors!  Each portion will make 10-12 cookies, so when you're done, you'll end up with nearly 12 dozen cookies to share or hoard however you see fit.

Start with a basic shortbread recipe:
3 C butter
1 1/2 C sugar
7 C flour
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly.  Add flour gradually, 1 C at a time.  Mix until well blended; do not over mix.  Then, separate into sandwich bags, putting a heaping 2/3 C of dough into each one. Add desired ingredients and press to combine. Roll into one-inch balls, or desired shape, and place on un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes.  Note that some have special baking or ingredient instructions.

Shortbread 12 Ways: Orange Spice Cookies 
1 tsp orange zest, 1/16 tsp ground cloves, dash ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 Cookie Recipe 12 Ways: Vanilla Mint Cookies 
Vanilla Mint: 1/8 tsp peppermint extract, 1/8 tsp vanilla beans or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Peanutbutter Chocolate Chip Shortbread One Recipe 12 Ways 
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 1/2 oz chocolate chips (I used chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate), 1 tsp peanut butter, 1/16 tsp salt

Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies: One Cookie Recipe 12 Ways 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/16 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp molasses

One cookie recipe 12 ways: Maple Pecan Cookies 
1 heaping Tbs pecans, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. When cookies come out of the oven, drizzle tops with maple syrup.

One cookie recipe 12 ways: lemon shortbread cookies 
1 tsp lemon zest

Mini Cheesecakes with a shortbread crust 
Makes 12 cups, Roll dough into balls, then press into a mini cupcake tin, using a spoon or your fingers to make the cup shape.  Bake 15 min, run knife around each cup immediately and pop out before they cool. Filling: 1/2 C cream cheese, 1 tsp sour cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 Tbs powdered sugar, 2 tsp lemon juice, place in a plastic bag, and cut the corner out, fill the cups with the mixture and serve, no additional baking required.

Figgy Pudding Jam Thumbprint Cookies: One Cookie 12 Ways 
1/4 tsp jam, Recipe found at The Kitchn

Oh Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies: One cookie recipe 12 Ways 
1 tsp dried juniper berries, crushed, 1/16 smoked tea, crushed (Notes: These actually taste like a Christmas tree smells!  I love them.  Try them with a goodish hunk of mild goat cheese.  I used Wuyi Smoked Pine tea from Shen Zen Tea.  If you can't find something comparable in your area, you can omit it. I found the juniper berries in the bulk spices section at a local grocery store.)

Candy Bliss Cookies: One Recipe 12 Ways 
Roll into balls, then press 1/2 Seattle Chocolates HotButter Rum candies, or other favorite chocolate candy into the top

Christmas Cheer Shortbreads 
1 Tbs sprinkles, 1 tsp vanilla extract

Eggnog Shortbreads: One Christmas Cookie 12 Ways 
1 tsp vanilla, when cookies are done baking, sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg

If you want to make a larger batch of one cookie, you can double the ingredients, but for larger batches than that, for the cookies where fluid is added, I would just add enough to make the cookie pliable, you don't want it to get too wet and gooey.

Wishing each and every one of you a very happy low-stress holiday season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014...

Simple Animal Crackers Recipe

Last year I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I loved it.  The boys loved getting surprise cookies in the mail, heck, I loved getting surprise cookies in the mail.  Who wouldn't love surprise cookies?  So of course I signed up again this year!

This year I got cookies from:

and I sent these darling little Animal Crackers to:
Ann Marie from Let's Give Peas a Chance
Hannah from Fleur-de-Licious

 Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen with be co-hosting the round-up at the end of the week so you can see all the delicious cookies the fantastic bloggers who participated this year shared with each other!

And so, without further ado...

Animal Crackers

1 ½ Cups plus 2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
½ C oat flour
¼ C packed light brown sugar
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp finely grated organic lemon zest, plus 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
4 Tbs chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ C buttermilk
2 tsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor or a large bowl, pulse or whisk the all-purpose flour, oat flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse or use a pastry blender or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. 15 pulses with a food processor.

In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla and stir until the honey has dissolved. Add to the flour mixture and pulse or sir with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. Remove the dough from the processor or bowl and knead gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth, 10 strokes. Flatten the dough into two equal-size disks, cover in plastic wrap, and chill them for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Place one piece of the dough on a well-floured surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick lifting the dough and rotating to make sure it's not sticking to the work surface and adding all-purpose flour as necessary.

Animal Crackers Recipe 
Use lightly floured cookie cutters to cut out animal shapes. Using a lightly floured bench scraper or offset spatula, transfer the cut-outs to one of the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps once and cut them out in the same way. Bake the animal crackers until light golden brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once from back to front while baking. Cool the crackers on the sheet until they firm up, 5 minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. While the first batch of crackers is cooling, repeat the rolling, cutting, and baking process with the remaining dough and scraps.

Animal Crackers Recipe

Ms. Manning has an icing recipe in her book if you'd like these to be even more festive!  Happy Holidays to all my fellow bloggers!  Keep your eyes peeled for another batch of CotC cookie recipes coming soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Another year, another cake...

     The ol' blog is celebrating its 4th year today!  I can't believe how quickly it's gone by. 

The boys had a Minecraft party this past weekend, and I will be posting pictures and recipes, but for now, I thought I'd post this little cupcake to celebrate another year of food, friends, and fun.

Chocolate Joe Joe's Vanilla Cupcakes:
Modified from America's Test Kitchen Classic Yellow Sheet Cake from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

2 3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 C sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C whole milk, room temp
1 /3 box Joe Joe's cookies with chocolate centers, crushed

Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.  Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.  Alternate adding flour and milk, starting and ending with flour.  Stir in the cookies.  Portion the batter into the prepared cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then set onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Frost when completely cool.

Modified from America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Frosting from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

10 oz chocolate chips
1 C heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 C confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

Place chocolate into a food processor.  Bring the cream and salt to a boil in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and process until smooth.  Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to process until combined.  With the machine running, add the butter one piece at a time.  Continue to process until smooth.  Transfer the frosting to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until thick and spreadable (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Enjoy, everybody! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Winner!!

Congratulations to Nicollette Dailey!  You have won a copy of this fabulous book of your very own!  Please e-mail me your address and I will get your book in the mail right away!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fork & Beans Give Away!!

 Gluten-free vegan cornbread

     My friend, Cara Reed, at Fork & Beans is well known to my regular readers as the genius who converts my Christmas cookies every year for those who can't have gluten.  I am so happy to announce that her first cookbook Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking is out and rocking!  Besides all her fantastic recipes, this book contains lots of tips for egg substitutions, two gluten-free flour recipes, lots of sauce and toppings, too!  Oh.  And gluten-free and vegan Girl Scout Cookie replicas.  You heard me.  Lucky, lucky you!  She has allowed me to share one of the recipes from her book and give one of you a free copy!  Since we're getting into soup season around here, I thought I'd share a cornbread perfect for pairing with soup, chili, or just a tall glass of (dairy free) milk.  Gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing, anyone?  Cara also suggests adding jalapeƱos, canned chilies, or vegan cheese to mix it up a bit.

Gluten-free vegan cornbread

Stone-Ground Cornbread

Makes 8 slices

1 c/165 g Cara’sAll-Purpose Blend (page 166)
1¼ c/153 g stone-ground yellow cornmeal
½ c/100 g granulated sugar
3 tsp/11 g baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 tsp/9.5 g Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 6 Tbsp/90 ml water, whisk until frothy (I used Cara's chia seed substitution on p. 172)
1 c/120 ml nondairy milk
4 Tbsp/56 g vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Coconut Spread that I melted in the microwave.)

Preheat oven to 400°F/ 200°C and grease an 8–inch/20-cm round pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

Drown in nondairy butter.


My whole family liked this!  Even my youngest who doesn't like cornbread.  It's sweeter than what we normally make, being Southern and all, but the flavor and texture are nice and my husband said, "It doesn't taste gluten-free at all!"  My eldest said, "It's sweeter and butterier than normal."   Considering there's no butter in it, I'd say that was a pretty good endorsement!

Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious Gluten-, Egg-, and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets Give Away
Who wants to win this?!  I know it's you.  Whether you're making the switch to gluten-free, cooking for gluten-free friends or relatives, or maybe you want to give this as a Christmas gift.  Now's your chance to win!  Just leave me a comment below or on facebook and you will be entered.  Last day for entries is November 20th by 5pm PST and the winner will be announced November 21.

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