Friday, August 31, 2012

Cooking Competition

Here are the results from the home cooking competition I entered at the local exhibition. I was also awarded fourth overall exhibitor, for which I received a basket full of goodies, including ingredients and baking equipment. This basket seems to be perfectly suited to me because it contains cocoa, chocolate chips, and a muffin tin that is formed to make animal shaped muffins. It looks super cute and I cannot wait to use it! I was also awarded a ribbon for my first place chocolate cake, which means it was the best entry in the Cakes And Sweets category, which included ten different sections. I am quite happy of my winnings, especially considering there seemed to be more entries this year than last year, preserves are included in the point accumulation, and I did not do preserves while many others did, and most of my competitors have many more years of experience than I do.  Points are awarded for each award, higher points for a first place win and lower points for a third place win. Then the points are added up to determine the overall top exhibitors. Here's how my entries placed:

4th Place Overall Exhibitor
CHOCOLATE CAKE - Classic Chocolate Cake - 2nd
BROWNIES - Double Chocolate Brownie Bars - 1st
BAKED SQUARES - Chocolate Coconut Squares - 2nd
DARK FUDGE - Chocolate Potato Fudge - 2nd
SOFT MOLASSES COOKIES - Soft Molasses Spice Cookies - 2nd
MUFFINS - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins - 2nd
DECORATED CUPCAKES - Flower Cupcakes - 1st
DESSERT USING LOCALLY GROWN FRUIT - Blueberry Struesel Cake - 1st

CHOCOLATE CAKE - Classic Chocolate Cake -1st 
plus ribbon for best entry in category
BROWNIES - Double Chocolate Brownie Bars - 1st
BAKED SQUARES - Chocolate Coconut Squares - 1st
DARK FUDGE - Chocolate Potato Fudge - 3rd
SOFT MOLASSES COOKIES - Soft Molasses Spice Cookies - 1st
MUFFINS - Strawberry Banana Muffins - 2nd
ZUCCHINI LOAF - Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf - 1st
Pictured above is the basket of goodies I won! Listed below are the dates of when I featured each of these baked goods on my blog, in case you would like to have a second look at some award-winning recipes!

Classic Chocolate Cake - I have never actually shared this recipe, but it has been featured many times as decorated birthday and celebration cakes. I refer to it as my "signature chocolate cake recipe".
Double Chocolate Brownie Bars - March 23rd, 2012
Chocolate Coconut Squares - May 27th, 2012
Chocolate Potato Fudge - May 14th, 2012
Soft Molasses Spice Cookies - August 28th, 2012
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins - August 25th, 2012
Decorated Cupcakes - August 29th, 2012
Blueberry Struesel Cake - August 24th, 2012
Strawberry Banana Muffins - July 5th, 2012
Double Chocolate Zucchini Loaf - August 10th, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baking & Entering

The past few days I have been very busy baking up a storm. I have entered a bunch of my baked goods in a local baking competition at the exhibition. I competed in this for the first time last year, and I was quite pleased with the results. I entered five different items twice, each in the junior and the senior category since I qualified for both. I placed either first, second, or third with every item in both categories. The results of last year are posted in my entries from September 1st and 2nd, 2011. This year, I qualify for both the junior and senior categories again, so I will be entering five of the same items in both, along with two additional items in just the senior category and three additional items in just the junior category. The junior and senior categories do not contain the same listing of baked items, and the senior has a lot more selection, which is why I am baking a few individual junior and senior items. However, since many items overlap, I chose many of those, since this way I only need to bake the item once but can enter it twice. 
So lately I have been busy baking, frosting, decorating, slicing, packaging, and labeling my baked goods. I haven't featured many of these items on the blog because they are mostly tried and trued recipes I have made before, so they have already been featured on the blog before. I also had a few things stored in the freezer that I will be exhibiting, to save time and some baked items actually benefit from a short time in the freezer (and some certainly don't). All items need to be sliced to perfection, just the right size and shape. Then they need to be placed on paper plates in plastic bags and tied up and labeled. It's all a little bit time consuming, and a bit tedious to ensure everything looks perfect, but the baking part is certainly fun and it all pays off. This year I have fifteen separate entries, composed of ten different baked items, because five of the items are being entered twice into both the junior and senior categories. Here is a picture of all of my entries, sliced, bagged, labeled, and ready to go. I will have the results tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buttercream Flower Cupcakes

These are a few cupcakes I decorated using chocolate cupcakes from my signature chocolate cake recipe, and my signature buttercream icing in purple, pink, blue, and green. I just chose three simple flower designs, all of which I have done before. The pink and blue flowers I have done on cupcakes before, but they were miniature cupcakes, which seemed to work better because it required less petals and covered less space. They are featured in my March 1st, 2012 post of Flower Cupcakes, along with some buttercream roses. The purple flower I have only done on cakes before. These are featured in a few of my cakes, most recently on my mother's birthday cake on August 21st. They can look slightly different depending on exactly how you pipe them. All three designs seemed to work out fairly well on these large cupcakes. I filled in the centers of all of the flowers with some simple green icing, using either my open #3 round tip or my open star tip for the pink flower. The purple flower is a simple drop swirl flower using flower tip #150. The blue flower is simply swirls using an open star tip. The pink flower also uses flower tip #150, in an outward and upward motion, which is a bit difficult to describe. These are all simple flowers you can pipe directly onto cakes or cupcakes, which certainly comes in handy if you are not very good at piping buttercream roses or working with fondant or gum paste. These are also simpler, and often tastier than a slab of fondant or a mountain of buttercream.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Soft Molasses Cookies

This cookie recipe came from a local newspaper almost a year ago, and I am only getting around to trying it now. These cookies certainly are soft and moist as long as you do not overbake them, and they are very spicy and certainly taste like molasses. I used dark brown sugar, which brought out the molasses flavor even more. I did not have any nutmeg, so I just left it out, but added some of my secret ingredients instead. I also did not have any turbinado sugar on hand, so I sprinkled the cookies with more dark brown sugar before baking. I found this dough fairly wet when I mixed it up, so it definitely needs to chill. I used a small ice cream scoop to form the cookies, which may have been a bit too big. The cookies spread and flattened out quite a bit, but they are still nice and soft.
Soft Molasses Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar for topping, optional

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the molasses and egg and beat until fluffy.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a measuring cup, dissolve the coffee in the vanilla, then add the water.
To the butter mixture, add half of the flour, followed by half of the coffee mixture, then repeat with remaining flour then coffee mixture. 
Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour, overnight, or up to one week.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Drop dough by teaspoons two inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with a little turbinado sugar, if desired. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies are puffed and golden but still soft. Cool on the cookies sheets for two minutes before removing to cool completely.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Battered Cucumber

Here is my father's attempt to use up some cucumber, specifically the larger ones that don't have the best flavor. He decided to make a batter and fry up some of the cucumber. He sliced it, then dipped it in a batter mixture he made up based on several different recipes. He used an egg, some milk, a pinch of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a lot of flour to make the batter. He fried the cucumber on a griddle, the one we use for pancakes (I think this was because we had pancakes earlier that day, and the griddle was already set up). The result were some pieces of cucumber that were not crisp and crunchy from the garden, but not soft and tender from cooking either. I think they needed to be cooked a little longer, because the batter on the outside wasn't very brown and crispy either. Speaking of the batter, it reminded me very much of pancakes. Whether this was due to the cooking method or the batter itself (or both), I don't know. I like cucumbers and I like pancakes, but together I don't really care for cucumbers wrapped in pancakes. Actually, at first I thought it was cucumber wrapped in mozzarella cheese, because that's what it looked like to me. Oh well, I applaud the effort, and it wasn't too bad of an attempt to use up cucumber (hey, it got us to eat some, didn't it?). However, i think a breadcrumb coating might be better. Or a thinner batter with some more flavor to it - add some spice to it. Maybe the cooking method wasn't quite the right choice either, deep-frying may have given a better texture with slightly more flavor. Even shallow frying, which is just using a little oil in the bottom of the pan, would have worked better too. Oh well, you can't discover anything until you experiment. Maybe next we will try cucumber wrapped in mozzarella cheese, I have had that combination before and it is pretty good.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cucumbers Galore

Yesterday I took a walk out to our tiny vegetable garden along the side of the house. I noticed, as usual, the cucumbers seem to have taken over the tiny patch. Sure, they left enough room for a few decent tomato plants, and a little bit of room for some peas, beans, green peppers, and lettuce, but the majority is cucumbers. That isn't a terrible thing, since I really do like cucumbers and I eat quite a bit of it. But there is only so much cucumber one can eat. Cucumber is best eaten fresh and raw from the garden, just after a quick rinse. Peeling isn't necessary and slicing is even optional. But once you eat some raw cucumber with your meal, or even as a sack, and add some to your salad and some to your sandwich, what more can you do with it? Cucumber isn't really a vegetable you can add to many cooked dishes, it doesn't work well in baked goods like zucchini does, and its high water content means it doesn't withstand freezing very well. The only other option is to pickle and preserve it I guess. Since we don't have the proper equipment for that, and aren't really big fans of pickles, and preserves, and that kind of thing, we will share our cucumbers with those who do. This is what I harvested yesterday. Some of these cucumbers were left to grow way too big. We will keep the small ones for eating as is, because they will have much better a flavor than the big ones. I also found a few tomatoes while I was at it, a few regular and a few cherry, which are so fun to eat just to rinse and pop in your mouth. Happy harvesting to all!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oatmeal Chip Banana Muffins

I am always looking for a little something different to make when it comes to banana muffins, since we always seem to have ripe bananas around. Our usual banana muffin recipe does not contain oats, so I decided to try this oatmeal banana muffin recipe and add some mini chocolate chips to it. I found the basic idea for this in Company's Coming "Muffins & More". These muffins turned out a bit darker than I expected. They don't taste burnt at all, so maybe they are meant to be dark, but using a lower oven temperature of 375F or even 350F probably wouldn't hurt. If you do use 400F, try checking the muffins a few minutes earlier. This muffin recipe also uses the standard two bowl muffin mixing procedure. Although many muffin recipes call for adding the combined liquid ingredients to a well in the combined dry ingredients, I usually prefer to add the dry to the liquid, as I find you won't end up with dry flour at the bottom that way, and less mixing is involved, which is preferable in muffin making to prevent them from becoming tough.

Oatmeal Chip Banana Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup mashed overripe bananas (about 3 large)
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix the first seven ingredients. Make a well in the center.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the remaining ingredients. Add to well, stir until moistened. Divide among muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blueberry Streusel Cake

There were still some fresh blueberries lingering in the fridge, so I decided to look for a recipe that specifically calls for fresh blueberries instead of frozen, because I can bake with frozen blueberries anytime. I found this tasty looking cake, which I also remember eyeing last year, but I didn't get the chance to make it then. This year I made up this cake ahead of time, and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Then it got baked later on in the day so I could enjoy it warm from the oven as a snack. It is delicious warm, but I bet it would be good at room temperature and probably quite tasty cold as well. You could serve this cake with ice cream or whipped cream if you wish, but it really doesn't need it.
Blueberry Streusel Cake
1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray an 8x8 inch square baking pan.
STREUSEL: In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until crumbly.
CAKE: In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the baking powder, salt, and 1/3 cup of flour. Stir in 1/2 of the milk, then 1/3 cup flour, remaining milk, and remaining flour. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle  blueberries over top, then sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

 "Blueberry Cake.” . Joy of Baking, n.d. Friday, August 24, 2012. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Lovin'

I love summertime for many reasons; the warmth, the sunshine, the vacations, the freedom and relaxation, but most importantly, the food. With summertime comes an abundance of fresh, great tasting produce. A great number of fresh fruits and vegetables are in season some time in the summer. It is even better if you have your own garden. Then you can just walk outside, pick something and eat it. It doesn't get much fresher or tastier than that! We have a very small vegetable garden and a little rhubarb plant in our backyard. It isn't much, but we already have more cucumbers than we know what to do with, and they certainly taste better than any you would buy at the store, no matter how local or fresh they claim to be. We also have some tomatoes and green peppers. Our other vegetables aren't quite ready yet, but hopefully they will be soon. We are also lucky enough to have neighbors and friends with gardens who are willing to share and trade their vegetables with us. I also look forward to the fresh fruits of the summer, even if I can't find them in my backyard. There are Farmer's Market's and local grocery stores that carry these fresh, local fruits at reasonable prices. We had an excellent strawberry season, with a few batches of strawberries still coming in. Blueberry season just began, and I have already taken advantage of it and baked a few blueberry items. Fresh cherries can still be found around, which are best for eating just as is, in my opinion. And peaches and plums are still around too. Aside from fresh fruits and vegetables, there are some other tastes of summer too. Fruit smoothies, any grilled food, corn on the cob, hamburgers and hotdogs, lemon meringue pie, and of course, ice cream, all remind me of summer. I may not get a chance to enjoy every summertime food now, but I'll be sure to have a taste of one of these in the wintertime to bring me back.
PHOTO CREDIT:"758icecream" .Photo Dictionary, n.d. Wednesday, August 22, 2012. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Bars
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, cut up
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
A handful of finely chopped peanuts for the top, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch square baking pan.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the first five ingredients until melted and smooth. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes until set and edges are golden. Cool.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter. Spread evenly over base. Sprinkle with peanuts, if desired.
These are some quick and easy bars I whipped up. Anyone who likes the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter will love these. They are so quick and easy and keep well. Do not refrigerate them before cutting, or they will be too hard. Actually, don't bother refrigerating them at all, they are better at room temperature. This recipe may easily be doubled to fit a 9x13 inch pan. I didn't have any peanuts for the top, so I was trying to think of something else that might look nice, just to add a little more jazz to the bars. I thought of both toffee bits and shredded coconut, but I did not want to open either package just for a handful, and these flavors didn't really go with the chocolate and peanut butter. I settled on a simple dusting of icing sugar.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mom's Birthday Cake

For her birthday yesterday, my mother asked for a simple, moist white cake. Since I usually refuse to use a cake mix, though my mother does like them, we settled on a one bowl white cake I have made before. It has a pretty good flavor and is fairly moist. It is also a very firm cake and is very easy to decorate. 
My mother also prefers my father's "margarine milk" icing to my buttercream icing. She often finds my buttercream icing too sweet and rich (which is why I love it so much). My buttercream icing uses a large proportion of butter, along with icing sugar and milk. My father's margarine milk uses just a little margarine, along with a lot of icing sugar and milk.  This is another reason I needed a sturdy cake, margarine milk is either made quite runny or too stiff to spread on a delicate cake. So I got my father to make his margarine milk icing and completely fill and frost the cakes for me. As I had expected, margarine milk icing is not as easy as buttercream icing to spread and frost cakes, which is another reason I prefer buttercream. Margarine milk just does not achieve the same fluffy texture as buttercream, so it is either too runny and runs off the cake, or is too stiff and tears the cake. It seemed to spread pretty well on these cakes though, which was good. Then I used my usual buttercream icing for the piping, flowers, and decorations, because buttercream is much easier to pipe.
For the piping decorations, I used some pastel pink, because it is my mother's favorite color. I paired it with some pastel blue lettering, and some green for the leaves and stems of the leaves. I searched and looked at a lot of buttercream flower decorating ideas online, and practiced some, drew some out, and tried to decide which ones I liked the best. I find cake decorating goes better if you have a plan of what you are doing. Of course you can never really fully decide until you are in the process, and then you may discover that some decorating techniques won't work on your cake. For example, when I was trying to decide what techniques to use on this cake, I ruled out flowers going up the sides of the cake, because the cake was not high enough to do this. I also ruled out two borders and just made one. I ruled out certain types of piped flowers because I can't do them well (I'll keep practicing). That's why I shied away from buttercream roses, they don't turn out the greatest, especially on hot days.
I finally settled on piping some sweet peas, which are basically half roses, as a border around the top edge of the cake. These are made by using the same tip as for buttercream roses, and basically making three flat petals. I spaced them out, and used my leaf tip to pipe some leaves attached to them and a vine going around the edge of the cake. Next I piped the lettering. I am practicing my own writing, so I did not use the fancy lettering press I have. It also would have been tricky to use this in a circle, as I did here. I did this not only to make room for the flowers in the middle, which I wanted to be the focal point of the cake, but also because I wanted to practice this. This is a good technique to master as well. To finish, I piped several drop swirl flowers in the middle of the cake. I like to refer to these as pansies, and they are an easy alternative to roses. They use the same tip, but you do not need a flower nail to make these, you can pipe them directly on the cake. I used my leaf tip to add the centers of the flowers (a plain open tip would have worked, but why change tips if you don't really need to?). Then I added some leaves as well. My mother loves flowers, she loves pink, so I just made a simple flower themed cake with a lot of pink. I knew she wouldn't want the cake overdone or too fancy. 
Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Veggie Bean Burgers

Here are some homemade veggie bean burgers I made. This was my first time making veggie burgers (or any type of burger at all actually). There are so many vegetable burger recipes out there using so many different ingredients! I didn't know whether to make a tofu burger, a bean burger, a vegetable burger, a potato burger, a mushroom burger, or a grain burger. Veggie burgers often contain some form of soy based protein or beans, along with some vegetable fillers, often onion, carrot, and celery, and a grain to bind it together, such as flour, quinoa, brown rice, or breadcrumbs. Many veggie burger recipes don't use egg because they are also vegan recipe. Most veggie burger recipes contain a bevy of healthy, and often strange or expensive, ingredients, such as quinoa, brown rice, lentils as fillers; as well as a slew of vegetables, including corn, pumpkin, squash, and spinach. You can also just grill a portabella mushroom cap, and eat that like a burger. I have had a few of these "burgers" before, and when done right, they are very tasty and have a nice, meaty texture. For my first try, I decided to take the basics of a simple recipe I found online, and alter it as I pleased. I settled on a simple bean burger recipe with chili sauce to give it a bit of kick. I haven't tasted many veggie burgers, so I don't know how good this one was, but it certainly had flavor, and a texture I liked, soft and moist with a crisp exterior.
Chili Bean Burgers
1 can (540 mL) white kidney beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Tablespoons finely shredded carrot
1 large egg
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Mash the beans in a bowl with your hands. Mash them to your preference - more if you like a smooth-textured veggie burger, less if you like some texture. Add in the onion and carrot, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well, using your hands if necessary. Form into patties (I got five from this recipe). These can be wrapped in waxed paper and refrigerated until needed, or cooked immediately. They can be fried in a pan of oil at medium heat for about 10 - 12 minutes, or grilled on the barbecue for 10-15 minutes. Serve on a bun with your favorite toppings.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hamburger Buns

Tonight we are barbecuing hamburgers and veggie burgers for supper, so naturally I decided to try making my own burger buns. Surprisingly,  I have never tried this before, we usually just use store bought buns, but I wanted to try my hand at making some. There are actually many recipes for this, and you can adapt regular dinner roll recipes and simply shape them differently (this works for hotdog buns too). I decided to try a simple recipe for my first time. They turned out ok, but didn't rise all that well while baking, despite rising nicely beforehand. I also may have baked them a bit too long, so they are more crisp rather than soft and chewy, but still tasty. Because they did not rise well, they were cut thin, and a bit tricky to slice in half. Next time I will choose a less humid and rainy day to try them, but they certainly went well with the hamburgers and veggie burgers barbecued tonight, which I will feature in tomorrow's post.

Hamburger Buns
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 package (8 grams) active dry yeast
1 large egg
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, stir the sugar into the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until bubbly. Stir to dissolve yeast. Add eggs, oil, and salt. Work in enough flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  Shape dough into balls the size of tennis balls. Flatten slightly and place two inches apart on a baking sheet. Allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zucchini Pie

This zucchini pie is not the typical type of a pie you would think of. It is more like a quiche with no crust, but less eggy. It can also be baked in either a pie pan or a square pan. It is good warm, cooled, or cold, and stores well in the refrigerator. It cuts quite nicely into small squares or large wedges, and can easily be doubled for large crowds. It is quick, easy, and very tasty. A good way to use zucchini during zucchini season when you get tired of it plain. I used yellow zucchini because that's what I had, but green will add more color. The yellow looks like cheese, speaking of which, you could always add some grated mozzarella cheese to the batter too, it would be delicious. You can use whatever spices you would like, and serve this pie with whatever you wish! My grandmother shared this recipe with me, so I am not sure where it originally came from. I used a decorative quiche pan to bake mine, any type of pan will work really, just adjust cooking time accordingly.
Zucchini Pie
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon oil (or melted butter)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 cups fresh zucchini, grated or finely chopped
1 cup diced onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon marjoram 

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch pie plate or an 8x8 inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the oil.
In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs and the oil. Add the zucchini and onion. Add the flour mixture along with the remaining ingredients. Pour into prepared pan. Save some of the Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top, or use extra. It turns golden and crisp and adds some more flavor and texture.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until set.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blueberry Hazelnut Cheesecake Squares

Blueberry Hazelnut Cheesecake Squares
1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 packages (250 grams/8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream (milk works too, as long as you use full fat cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
CRUST: In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except the butter, then cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden and firm.
FILLING: In a large bowl using a wooden spoon, beat the cream cheese and the sugar. Add the flour, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cream and extracts, then gently fold in blueberries. Pour onto prepared crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is just set. Let cool to room temperature for an hour, then cover and refrigerate for at least three hours.

This is a new blueberry recipe I just tried this year! I already knew that cheesecake and blueberries go well together, and I like the combination of blueberries with hazelnuts. All together this makes really nice squares. I usually do not bake with nuts, but hazelnuts are my favorite, and they really add a buttery texture and nice flavor and crunch to these squares. These squares come together fairly easily, and taste really good. It comes from my huge baking book, that I like to refer to as my baking bible. I used one of the tablespoons of flour called for in the recipe to coat the blueberries so they would not sink in the batter. I also found that my pan of cheesecake took a lot longer to bake, maybe because I used an 8x8 inch pan, which would make the batter deeper, but I found it cooked a lot better when I turned up the oven temperature to 350F.

Williams - Sonoma. "Blueberry Cheesecake Squares with Hazelnut Crust." Recipe. Essentials of Baking, San Francisco: Oxmoor House, 2003. 152.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blueberry Season

August is the month when one of my favorite fruits is ripe any ready to pick: blueberries! Blueberry season always brings back memories of picking blueberries in a blueberry field near my grandparent's house with all of my family when we would go down to visit in late August. We don't really get to do that anymore, now we rely on our local Farmer's Market for large boxes of fresh blueberries. Blueberries are a bit of a pain to pick anyway, because they are so small, and often small leaves, twigs, and grass end up in your collection as well, or too many blueberries end up in your mouth. I love baking with blueberries. My mother and I have a few go-to blueberry items we bake every year, which include her special blueberry muffins, and the recipe for blueberry yogurt cake we discovered in our newspaper a few years ago. I also like to try new blueberry recipes each year. Last year I tried Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins and Blueberry & Brown Butter Squares, a bit of a coincidence that they both used brown butter, but that flavor seems to pair very well with blueberries. I still have new recipes using blueberries on my list of baked goods I would like to try, so I will be sure to get to some of them. We keep some blueberries out to use for baking within a few days, and freeze the rest for baking with later on. Blueberries freeze very well, and frozen blueberries are almost interchangeable with fresh in baked items. I tend to use blueberries mostly in breads and muffins and loaves, but they are also good in squares, cakes, and even some savory dishes. And of course they make excellent jam!
PHOTO CREDIT:J-11.jpg" .The Garden of Eaden, n.d. Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cherry Peach Muffins

This is a recipe I found and revised. I had a container of cherry yogurt in the fridge that I did not really like. There was nothing wrong with it, just not the type I like and am use to. I certainly did not want to waste it, so I found a recipe that actually called for a large amount of cherry yogurt. Then I changed around the rest of the recipe to match the ingredients I had. The original recipe did not call for peaches, but I think they pair well with the cherry flavor. The cherry yogurt I used was a very thick, Greek fruit on the bottom yogurt, so I made sure it was well stirred before using. It added a few chunks of real cherry and it also had quite a bit of sugar, which made the muffins fairly sweet. The yogurt also made the muffins nice and moist, even though the batter seemed fairly dry and thick as I was mixing it. It was not nearly as liquidy as most muffin batters, and I was thinking of adding a splash of milk, because the recipe does not call for a liquid besides eggs and yogurt. The muffins did not need it though, the yogurt is sufficient liquid to bind the ingredients together. I got 15 large muffins out of this batch, and they rose quite nicely!

Cherry Peach Muffins
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 1/2 cups cherry yogurt
2 1/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup peeled, chopped fresh peaches (2 medium)

Preheat oven to 375F. Line muffin cups with paper liners or grease them. 
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, then extract and yogurt. In a separate large bowl, stir the next four ingredients together, make a well. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir until just moistened. Stir in the peaches. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until muffins are well risen, firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is a popular side dish that goes well with many different meals. It is most commonly served with pasta, in particular Italian pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. Garlic bread can be purchased all ready and premade at many grocery stores in the bakery, bread, refrigerator, or freezer section. However, it is pretty easy to do at home yourself, and does not take much longer. Making your own garlic bread is also cheaper, and it will be fresher than storebought garlic bread. Simply pick up a freshly baked crusty bread in the bakery section of the grocery store. Many stores bake these breads fresh every day, so go early in the morning, or ask out back if they have any just baked. They often come in special bags when they are this fresh. There will probably be a choice of breads, generally crusty Italian breads are used for garlic bread, but French bread, Farmer's bread, or a whole wheat or multigrain version of any of these breads will work well too. Slice the bread in half horizontally. Spread both sides with garlic spread - a storebought tub works fine, but if you want to make your own garlic spread, even better! Do not be shy with the garlic spread, use lots! Put the halves back together. This can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator until needed, or heated right away. Just pop it in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil at 350F for 10-15 minutes until hot. Then slice and serve. This is basically the same as the garlic bread you can purchase at the store, Italian bread sliced and spread with garlic spread, but it is cheaper and you can use fresh bread, while premade garlic bread at the store is usually made with day-old bread.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hearty Biscuits

This is a biscuit recipe my uncle gave me. I love to make hearty breads with nutritious ingredients such as flax, bran, and whole wheat flour, so I was eager to try this recipe. I thought I was one of the few people who really enjoys all of these healthy breads, but I guess not. These biscuits also contain heart-healthy olive oil and honey and molasses, which are slightly more nutritious alternatives to just sugar. They also add a very nice flavor. These biscuits are quick and easy to make, and next time I will probably double the recipe. They are good for breakfast with peanut butter, or jam, butter, molasses, or honey. They go well with fruit and cereal. Because they are a batter and do not require kneading, they are also very moist.
Hearty Biscuits
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
drop of molasses
3/4 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add in the butter, and toss in the oil, honey, and molasses. Stir in the milk. Drop dough by tablespoons onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes until golden. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Balloon Birthday Cake

This is a basic birthday cake I decorated. I used my signature chocolate cake recipe and my signature vanilla buttercream icing. I spread one of the cake layers with a layer of buttercream, topped it with the other, and iced the entire cake. Then I used my cake comb to make a design of lines around the side of the cake. I used two different colors of buttercream, pink and green, for decorating. I did a simple dot border, alternating big dots in green and small dots in pink, around the bottom of the cake. Then I did a rope border around the top, again alternating pink and green. I wrote on the cake in a pink and green pattern too. I made two basic green balloons and piped some pink ribbon to them. The balloons are a simple idea I picked up looking at other cakes. They are much simpler and quicker than buttercream roses, which is good given I didn't have a lot of time to decorate this cake. Also, this is not the case here, but balloons may be a better choice for cakes for boys, who may feel roses are too girly. For the balloons and the bottom border, I used my new decorating tip. It is an open #3 tip, which is simply a round opening. It is a bigger opening than a basic #1 open tip I used for writing on the cake, but you can also get tips with much bigger openings as well. These tips are good for filling in shapes, covering large amounts of space with icing, or making large swirls, such as those on cupcakes. This is a pretty basic and simple birthday cake, but a design that you see on many store-bought and bakery cakes. It is fairly quick, simple, and classy, and always seems to go over well.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nutri Batter Bread

Nutri Batter Bread
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
1 package (8 grams) instant dry yeast
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup natural bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup sunflower or sesame or pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine, softened
3 Tablespoons mild molasses
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups additional whole wheat flour
In a small bowl, stir together the water and yeast. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand undisturbed for ten minutes until bubbly. Stir to dissolve yeast.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine next nine ingredients. Add 3 cups of flour, mix well. Cover bowl with greased waxed paper or plastic wrap and a damp tea towel. Let rise for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Stir batter down, mix in remaining flour. Divide dough evenly among two greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover pans with greased waxed paper or plastic wrap and a damp tea towel. Let rise for about one hour, or until doubled in size. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. 

This is yet another whole wheat bread recipe. It contains a lot of good stuff - oats, bran, wheat germ, seeds, whole wheat flour, and molasses. It makes two loaves, and is fairly easy because it does not require any kneading, and the two rises are fairly short. It makes good sandwich bread- easy to cut. The recipe comes from my go-to bread cookbook "Breads" by Company's Coming.

ParĂ©, Jean. "Nutri Batter Bread." Recipe. Breads, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1996. 11.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

These are Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Loaves my mother makes every year during zucchini season. My mother also took this picture, and I have to admire her photography skills and excellent taste in prop styling. Thanks Mom! In August, when the zucchinis are ready to harvest, we always like to have plenty of small ones, like the one pictured here, to boil and eat fresh or to use in stir-frys and other dishes. We also like to have a few bigger zucchinis, the ones that are left to grow a little too long. These big zucchinis don't taste very good fresh, but they are excellent once cut-up, shredded, and used in baked goods. You could always use small zucchinis for baking too, but then you need to shred a lot more zucchini, and they are good for eating fresh, so why not enjoy them like that. However, the giant zucchinis aren't even good for baking. They really have a poor flavor, and they are only good for hollowing out, stuffing with other delicious ingredients, and baking for a long time until tender. 
The large quantity of chocolate in these loaves helps to mask the zucchini quite well. These loaves are double chocolate - cocoa in the batter, along with plenty of chocolate chips. However, small threads of green do poke through all of the chocolate. When my brothers and I were younger, my mother used to tell us that this was simply green coconut. The shape and size did look like coconut, and at the time we didn't know that there isn't really a such thing as green coconut unless it is dyed. But this worked in convincing us to try it, and we have loved it since. We certainly never suspected that it was actually a vegetable. The secret slipped out when we heard our mother discussing the recipe with a friend. By that point though, we had already eaten so much of the loaf and loved it that we didn't care. That made it a lot easier for my mother to make the loaves, as now she could make them when we were around and not have to hide the fact that she was using zucchini. A relative also shared a recipe for zucchini crisp with me. It is just like apple crisp, with an oatmeal and brown sugar topping, except the base is made with cubed zucchini instead of apple. She says no one can tell that it's actually a vegetable crisp and it is delicious. She also sent a recipe for candied zucchini, which I haven't yet tried but it sure sounds interesting. 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Candy Coated Chocolates Squares

Candy Coated Chocolates Squares
1 cup hard margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup candy coated chocolates
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup miniature candy coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until well mixed. Add the flour, soda, and salt. Stir in the candy coated chocolates and chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with miniature candy coated chocolates. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. These bars even cut quite nicely when piping hot, so if you can't wait to dig in, go ahead! They also cut well once cooled. Make these bars quite large, they are fairly thin (and yummy).

I call these candy coated chocolates squares because I don't like to be partial to brand names, but I think it is obvious the two major brand name candies I am referring to (either one will work in this recipe). I found a bag of candy coated chocolates in the cupboard, and decided to use them up before they got forgotten (surprisingly, we don't eat a lot of candy straight from the bag). I was in the mood for making a pan of squares (yet again), so I looked up some recipes. I found a few different, some with coconut, nuts, peanut butter, and other goodies, but I opted for something simple. This is the recipe I developed from looking at others. It is very easy and quick, and the base for the bars is quite good. I also added in some chocolate chips for an extra kick of chocolate, but butterscotch or white chocolate chips or nuts could be used as well. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Choc PB Crumble Bars

My grandmother also made these squares (can you tell I was visiting her this past weekend?) They are another recipe from that magazine we both had, and another recipe she managed to try before me. I remember first getting the magazine, and my mother saying to me how good these squares looked. I guess we three generations all think alike. When she was visiting a few months ago, my grandmother asked me about the chocolate squares called for in the recipe, and if she could substitute chocolate chips instead, and how many she would need. So I wrote her a little note with all of the conversions on it. She took that note and soon made these squares, and of course kept some aside in the freezer for me and others to try. I am sharing the recipe and my feedback on these squares, because I have not baked recently since I was on vacation, and also because I like to rate and share recipes that not only I made, but others made too. I also like to review foods from restaurants, stores, and bakeries. These squares are very good. I am a big fan of any oat squares, and the chocolate and peanut butter flavors balance well, without the peanut butter being too strong and overwhelming. They also seem quite easy to make.
Choc PB Crumble Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 squares (one ounce or 28 grams each) semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch rectangular cake pan.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar. Mix in the oats, flour, and soda well. Press three cups of this mixture into the prepared pan, reserve the remaining mixture.
In a medium microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate and stir in the peanut butter. Spread over crumb mixture in pan. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

 "Peanut Butter & Chocolate Crumble Bars.” . Kraft, n.d. Wednesday, August 8, 2012. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Triple Lemon Loaf

This is a slice of triple lemon loaf my grandmother made. The recipe came from a cooking magazine that both she and I subscribe to, and we had been discussing this recipe. We both agreed that it looked tasty, quite simple, and very lemony. However, she beat me to it and made it first. The recipe makes two loaves, so there was plenty for sharing. The recipe also states that the loaves freeze well, which is what my grandmother did to save some for me and others to try. These lemon loaves get a triple hit of lemon flavor: lemon jelly powder, lemon cake mix, and actual lemon juice and zest. The lemon jelly powder, along with some oil and four eggs, help to keep the loaves extremely moist. The loaves are also pierced after coming out of the oven and are soaked in a lemon juice and icing sugar mixture, which makes them even moister. These loaves are incredibly moist - the slices are easy to cut and serve, but they almost melt on your tongue, and are a bit sticky to the touch. The loaves are definitely sweet enough, the glaze helps with that too, but not sickly sweet. My mother described them as "Just like biting into the filling of a lemon meringue pie."

Triple Lemon Loaves
1 cup boiling water
1 package dry lemon jelly powder
1 package lemon cake mix (two layer size)
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 large eggs
1 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 8x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pans very well.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the water and jelly powder for about two minutes, until dissolved. Add the cake mix, oil, zest, and eggs, blend with a mixer until well blended. Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. With a large fork, pierce cakes at 1/2 inch intervals.
In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar and juice until smooth. Pour over top of loaves, allowing the loaves to soak it in. Let loaves cool in pans for 30 minutes, then remove to cool completely.

Monday, August 06, 2012


This is my grandmother's infamous coleslaw. It is really the only coleslaw I have ever eaten, and it is delicious! This coleslaw is not a creamy coleslaw at all, which makes it especially good to serve with my grandmother's potato salad. That way you don't have two overly creamy and rich dishes, and they contrast each other but pair together nicely. The coleslaw is made with a whole lot of cabbage, along with some carrot, celery, radish, and onion. My grandmother has a mini food chopper that makes coleslaw very quick and easy. She just washes the vegetables and roughly chops them, and lets the food processor do the rest. Then she tosses everything together and adds a little oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Not too much to make the coleslaw too oily or wet, and just enough seasoning to bring out the real taste of the vegetables. I particularly like the texture of this coleslaw because all of the vegetables are finely diced rather than being grated or shredded. This coleslaw goes well with really any meal - chicken, fish, beef, sandwiches, pasta, etc. It is often served by the cupful instead of the spoonful, and although it will keep well in the fridge for awhile, it never seems to stick around for very long.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Heavenly Hash

Here is another one of my alphabet posts, where I list as many different foods as I can think of that start with a certain letter. Today I will do the letter H. Again, these are coming strictly from my head, I won't include any brand names, and I won't list every individual type. For example, a cookie is a cookie, I will not then proceed to list chocolate chip cookie, coconut cookie, cream-filled cookie, etc.  Well, actually I'm pretty strict on those rules for common letters that have a lot of foods beginning with them, I'm a little less strict on the less often used letters, such as e, f, and g. H also seems like a bit of a difficult or uncommon letter.

  • Heavenly Hash Ice Cream
  • Hotdog
  • Hamburger
  • Ham
  • Hashbrowns
  • Hops
  • Hazelnuts
  • Havarti Cheese
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Hake
  • Hummus
  • Halloumi Cheese
  • Horseradish
  • Hot sauce
  • Hot Peppers
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Hare
  • Haggis
  • Hollandaise Sauce
  • Hard Sauce
  • Hermit Cookies
  • Hero
  • Hotcakes
  • Honey
  • Hush Puppies
  • Huevos Rancheros 
PHOTO CREDIT:" Greek Puff Letter H.jpg .Inside The Costume Box, n.d. Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Apple Orchard Bars

Apple Orchard Bars
1/2 cup melted butter or hard margarine (one stick)
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup peeled, chopped apples (about two medium)
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9x13 inch rectangular cake pan.
In a large bowl, melt the butter and stir in both sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, and salt. Mix well, then add remaining ingredients except 1/2 cup coconut. Spread batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until top is golden brown.
This recipe is from another one of those murder mystery novels with recipes incorporated in them that I absolutely love to read, "Fudge Cupcake Murder". My grandmother actually made these squares for us to taste during our visit after I lent her the novel. These squares are very moist, and have a nice, strong but not overwhelming, flavor of cinnamon that pairs really well with the apple. They contain a nice amount of coconut, which adds texture and flavor. Because some of the coconut is reserved for the top, it also gets nicely toasted in the oven. 

Fluke, Joanne. "Apple Orchard Bars." Recipe. Fudge Cupcake Murder, New York: Kensington, 2004. 300-301.