Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Graduation Party Planning

For the past few weeks our family has been in the midst of planning a graduation party for my brother. We have been thinking about it for over months now, but in the past week or so we have begun to finalize details and really plan everything out. The majority of the planning is, of course, food. We are planning to have quite the crowd here which requires quite the amount of food. And since it is a party we are hosting, we did not think potluck was the way to go in this case, although several of the guests are planning on bringing a dish to serve as well. When planning a menu for an event like this, many variables need to be taken into consideration. These include number of guests, oven space, fridge space, season, dietary needs, preparation time, etc. We have already made several changes to the menu, but we think we have it pretty well finalized. My mother put me in charge of three desserts, as well as one vegetarian main course. Instead of making a bunch of fancy appetizers, we are simply serving some snack items from the store, so attention can be focused on the mains and the desserts. We are trying to do as much ahead as we can, but many things do need to be completed at the last minute. so far, here is the menu we have come up with.

Appetizers: Fresh fruit, crackers, chips, chocolates. 
Main Courses: Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Pineapple Chicken, Baked Ham, Deluxe Rotini and Cheese, Vegetable Quiche.
Side Dishes: White Rice, Macaroni Salad, Rolls.
Desserts: Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Brownie Bites, Cherry Coconut Squares, Shortbread Cookies.
Contributed Dishes: Salad, Vegetable Tray Egg Rolls, Appetizer Assortment.

I don't want to give too much away by giving away details of the dishes (especially the desserts) but over the next two weeks or so, I will be featuring every one of these dishes that has not already been featured before, so check back for all of the details and pictures!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Message On A Brownie

What do you make when you don't have time for a cake, but want to convey a message on food? Well, a quick, easy, and equally as effective option is brownies. Cookies work too, but I find brownies, or another type of square for that matter, to be quicker, because you simply bake them in a pan and then cut them up - no rolling, forming or cutting shapes out involved. Brownies are one of the better options for squares though, because they have a smooth, even texture and appearance on top, and they do not need a lot of icing, but are definitely good with icing. With these brownies, I did not put an entire layer of chocolate frosting on top, as they did not need it (though it is certainly a possibility). But I did use some plain vanilla icing to pipe on the letters I wanted.

I baked a batch of the brownies from the recipe featured in yesterday's post. Then I cut them into squares, organized them on a good-sized platter, and piped letters on the brownies to spell out my message. To do this, I just used a quick vanilla icing and my piping bag fitted with a plain open tip, but a plastic bag with a hole snipped from the corner would work just as well. This idea works well with long and short messages. For short messages, just pipe on a letter per brownie, and use any extras for spaces or shapes to add to the message. For longer messages, cut the brownies a bit larger and use one brownie per word. This is a good alternative to cake as it is easier, quicker, and less messy to serve and easier to eat. It is also good for those who are not great at cake decorating or if you are looking to make a dessert other than cake.
Most viewers probably don't really understand my message. I guess it is what's referred to as an inside joke. However, it is basically another spin on that "Keep calm and...." phrase.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chip Brownies

Brownies are a classic. There are many different brownie recipes out there, using different types of chocolate  and slightly different ingredients, but they all have the same concept. This is a really easy, rich and decadent version that makes a large batch. They need no icing, and you can make them different every time by using a different type of chips. Or if you like nuts, add some of those as well. The recipe comes from a Hershey's cookbook. 

Chip Brownies
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or hard margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups chips of choice (chocolate, milk chocolate  dark chocolate, white, butterscotch, peanut butter, toffee, etc.) or use a mixture of different chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in dry ingredients, then chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Publications International Limited. "Hershey's White Chip Brownies." Recipe. Hershey's Classic Recipes, Lincolnwood Illinois: Publications International, Limited, 2000. 37.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

How To Make Perfect Muffins

Muffins follow relatively quick and easy recipes, and make a delicious breakfast, snack, or light lunch. Here are a few tips to ensure a perfect batch of muffins!

  1. Start with your ingredients at room temperature. This includes milk, eggs, and butter, even if it is melted.
  2. Prepare your pan. I usually go with paper liners, as greasing muffin cups can make the edges tough or overbaked, or cause muffins to stick. if you do grease, use shortening or a proper spray and grease liberally.
  3. Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
  4. Whisk all of to your wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  5. Add the wet to the dry and stir until just mixed. Just until all of the ingredients are moistened, other wise the muffins will be tough.
  6. If you are adding an ingredients such as chocolate chips, blueberries, raisins or nuts, that were not included with the dry ingredients, gently fold them in, do not stir.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. I like to user an ice cream scoop to get a perfect, round shape.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Check at minimum baking time and every minute after. Baking times should be adjusted as muffin sizes are adjusted.
Keep in mind: Muffins are quick breads that require a short baking time at a higher temperature, and plenty of baking powder and/or soda to rise. Try to use the ingredients called for in the recipe, as they will yield the best results. To make muffins that are really moist, try recipes that use yogurt, sour cream or applesauce. If the muffins seem a little dry, add a little extra liquid. You can always make unique muffins by filling each cup halfway, then putting a spoonful of any filling you want (jam, chocolate chips, peanut butter, nutella, cream cheese, streusel, etc.) in the center before putting the remaining batter on top.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Banana Grain Drop Biscuits

This is another healthy, whole grain breakfast biscuit. This one contains banana, so it goes especially well spread with peanut butter. These biscuits are quick and easy - no rolling and cutting involved! It does make a small batch, about ten biscuits, but may easily be doubled. 
Banana Grain Drop Biscuits
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 overripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup milk or water
1 Tablespoon honey or molasses or maple syrup
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the first eight dry ingredient. Make a well in the center.
In a separate small bow, combine remaining liquid ingredients.
Add the liquid to the dry and stir until combined.
Drop dough by spoonfuls (I used an ice cream scoop for a nice round shape) onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Raving Reviews

I love baking for others. I love sharing my talent, my creations, and my joy of baking with others. Sure, sometimes it gets a bit annoying when you can't pack your baked goods in your lunch and enjoy them without others eyeing them or asking for some, but as annoying as this is, it is also flattering, and often I don't mind sharing (especially if there is something in return). As much as I enjoy baking for myself, I enjoy baking for others. I make many things that my family members acknowledge, but won't touch, such as all my whole grain breads and cereals. I am not sure how others outside of the house would feel about these, as I have never offered, but I have shared all of the recipes on here (they don't sound too bad, right? If you like that kind of thing...). So I bake a lot of things for myself, but most of my sweets are designed to cater to my family or friends or neighbors or other functions. Those s'more bars are a good example, I baked those as a gift for secretary's day. Of course, being a large pan of squares, we got to keep some as well (I have to try them and make sure they are good before I send them off). These squares were greatly appreciated, and i absolutely love hearing comments like, "These are the most delicious squares ever!" And, "If you keep baking like this, you definitely have a future in it!" All of these types of comments inspire me to continue baking, to try more ambitious and fancy recipes, and to continue to share my love of the art with others. Thank you for the praise! And remember, I accept negative feedback as well, it helps me improve.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Easy Caramel Sauce

As promised, here is the caramel sauce I used on yesterday's bars. this is my go-to recipe I use for caramel sauce all the time - it does not require any whipping cream, or any caramel candies, and is extremely quick and easy. It is perfect as a sauce for cakes, apple desserts, ice cream, and more. It also works as filling and topping for bars and cookies. It hardens pretty quickly, so works well as filling, but can be reheated gently to become more like a sauce. If allowed to harden, it makes a great caramel hard candy. 

Easy Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
2 Tablespoons golden corn syrup
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the sugar and corn syrup. Stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Boil, without stirring, for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir. Slowly stir in the milk, mixture may splatter slightly. Stir in vanilla, if desired.
I have doubled this recipe before, and even halved it for just a small amount. Both work well. This gets really hard as it cools, so doesn't store well. Make it fresh as you need it. Be sure to use either milk that is not fat-free or cream. If you use milk, you may not need as much, depending on how liquid you want the caramel to be.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

S'more Bars with Caramel Drizzle

S'more Bars with Caramel Drizzle
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 ounces/350mL) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
caramel sauce, to drizzle, optional
additional milk chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, or chopped chocolate, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt the butter and pour it in a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan, tilting to coat pan.
Sprinkle the graham crumbs over top and press down.
Pour the milk in an even layer over the crumbs.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips over evenly.
Sprinkle the marshmallows on top.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and drizzle with caramel sauce, then sprinkle on additional chocolate chips.

This is a really quick and easy recipe - no mixing bowl involved! They aren't exactly like s'more bars, but similar. I added the caramel drizzle on top for a little extra garnish and to make them a bit more special, but it is completely optional. You can use purchased or homemade, I will share my go-to recipe tomorrow. Be sure to cut these before refrigerating, as they will become pretty firm. They are probably better stored at room temperature, but can be refrigerated to firm up a bit after cutting. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Quickly Decorating Cupcakes

I got a nice surprise today when I found dozens of freshly baked cupcakes just waiting to be decorated along with a batch of fresh icing. This does not happen every day. There were over sixty of them and I ended up decorating a lot of them. I stuck to my simple swirl flower design, which has been featured on my blog a few times before (March 1st, and August 29th, 2012, as well as features on other cakes). I don't have a picture of the ones I did today, so I will attach a photo of the same design I did in the past.
I was slightly limited in resources, with only a small batch of white icing and plastic bags, not real piping bags. I did have a nice variety of tips, and I stuck to my favorite - the open star tip. Tips are a bit more difficult to use with plastic bags and no couplers, but I made do. I only had about a half an hour or so, but I did have help, and all of the tough work was already done for me. I also really appreciated the compliments I received, and the great feedback on my simple, but yet so pretty design idea. This was my largest batch of cupcakes yet, I though forty-eight was a tall order, but this seemed easier as I did not have to make the cupcakes or the icing, and I only used one design and one color. I am becoming better, faster, and less messy with each batch of cupcakes I decorate, which just goes to show practice makes perfect!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recipe Organization

Keeping recipes organized is difficult. Knowing exactly where to find a recipe when you need it, and saving good-looking recipes you come across for the future is tough. I have yet to find the perfect system  I used to use a notebook, which was organized by cookbook, and keep record of all of the things that sounded good, and after I made them, I would comment on how they turned out. That worked for a while, but I began to acquire too many cookbooks, and kept needing to add more notes in a certain section, and it didn't fit. Also, I would clip recipes from magazines, newspapers, and print them from online and out them in a binder, and write on them. This works fairly well, though they are hard to organize and keep in the binder, and I keep needing to upgrade to a bigger binder.

Because I read all of my cookbooks cover to cover, and read my favorite ones numerous times and look through them a lot; it is sad but true that I have somewhat memorized them. I know exactly where to find certain recipes, and where to look for certain ideas, and what type of recipes each book contains. I don't have it down to the exact page number, but I'm pretty close. And when I want a square recipe, I know to turn to my favorite squares books. 

Lately, I have been finding a lot of recipes online. They just pop out at me while I am visiting blog sites and such. I have a new favorite website that uploads new recipes numerous times throughout the day, and the majority of them appeal to me. And I love (but hate) how one recipe will link to another good-looking recipe, which will link to another, which will link to another.........
All of this has lead to numerous additions to my Favorites folder. I have that pretty organized into many different subcategories. For example: Recipes - Desserts - Bars. However, this is one of the larger folders, and I will likely need to sub categorize that again, using categories such as Chocolate, Fruit, No-Bake, etc. So far, this technique has been working fairly well, however, I am adding far too many recipes, and I know I will never have time to make them all. At least I have a good selection to choose from! 

My blog is my ultimate recipe organizer. Here, I can keep track of all the recipes I have found, made, and develop. Each post is complete with recipes, comments, suggestions for  next time, and picture. Tags and the search bar help me find things quickly and easily, as does the side menu of past posts. Not that I often make things more than once, because I'd prefer to find something new, but still, the blog has proved to be useful. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake

This is an absolutely delicious, sweet, warm cinnamon roll swirl cake, great for breakfast  snack, dessert, or even lunch! The bottom is a moist, rich, buttery white cake recipe. The topping is just like the filling for a cinnamon roll. It is dropped by heaping spoonfuls on top of the batter, and then swirled with it. If you manage to swirl up enough of the batter with it, you can create the appearance of actual cinnamon rolls - no rolling and cutting involved! Actually, this dish basically is cinnamon rolls without all the extra labor. Just mix up the dough, put it in the pan, make the filling, and swirl it on top. Much simpler when you don't have time to make actual cinnamon rolls, and it is just as tasty. The icing is optional, just like some people like iced cinnamon rolls and some don't. I am sure you could substitute a cream cheese or caramel icing for some extra decadence if you wish! If you like cinnamon rolls, this is a must-try!
Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (skim) milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (pure) vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, not margarine, melted
1/2 cup butter, not margarine, melted
3/4 cup (dark) brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup icing (confectioners') sugar
2-3 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
CAKE: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, eggs, and vanilla, mix well. Slowly pour the butter over, then stir to combine. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
TOPPING: Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Drop by spoonfuls onto the batter in the pan. Swirl the topping and the batter together using a butter knife. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the batter comes out clean.
ICING: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and drizzle over the cake while it is still warm.

I cut down slightly on the butter amounts from the original recipe. I still found the dough a bit greasy before I put it in the oven, but once it is baked it seems okay. It certainly did not miss the extra butter though. Real butter is a must for flavor! Pure vanilla is also recommended. The glaze is optional. I made mine without, and it was delicious and sweet; but the icing would add a little extra specialty and sweetness. Add the icing if you plan on serving this for dessert and not breakfast. Just be aware that icings made with milk usually should be stored in the fridge. So leftovers (if there are any) will need to go in the fridge, unless you use water instead. It is convenient that the cake is iced while still warm though. This cake is best served warm, and cuts quite well even straight from the oven. It can also be eaten cold or reheated in the microwave.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Baking Measurements

When baking, it is constantly stressed that ingredient measures are precise. Baking is a science, a complicated chemistry, that involves much experimentation for perfect results and proper ratios for success. Professional bakeries, and even many serious home bakers, often opt to weigh their ingredients in lieu of measuring them, for the utmost accuracy and precision. All ingredient measurements are important, and eyeballing should only be done with recipes that are not exact and by long-time, confident bakers. For example, I always eyeball ingredients for my buttercream recipe, as it is quite lenient. I also often eyeball certain ingredients, such as butter, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips, but this is not the best way to go, and I only do this when baking at home, not for others. Ingredients that should be measured particularly carefully include baking powder, baking soda, liquids, and flour, for proper consistencies and success in rising. 
Cooking in this sense is more lenient, as ingredient amounts do not need to be one hundred percent accurate for the most part, and there is more leeway. Recipes stating ingredients such as; salt and pepper to taste, a splash of oil, enough butter to coat the pan, 1-2 onions, diced, a few sprigs of thyme, etc. And when recipes call for a pound of meat, how many times to we actually end up cooking exactly one pound? Cooking, because the main goal is to cook the meat so it isn't raw, does not really require any more complicated chemical reactions.

The proper way to measure dry ingredients, is to scoop them into the appropriate dry measuring cup, heaping them, and then level them off with the back of a butter knife to get the exact amount. How many of us actually do this? I'll admit, I don't always. I usually use the top of the lid on my flour bin to level off flour though, which is almost as exact. 
For liquid ingredients, they should be measured in a liquid measuring cup (with a pouring spout), and placed on a level surface and looked at at eye level until it is level with the appropriate line. I read somewhere that counter tops are not perfectly level, and that the inside of cupboards should be used instead. However, I believe my cupboard shelves are much more likely to be warped than my counters, so I always use the counter top or table as a level surface.
PHOTO CREDIT:"2010-02-18-MeasuringCups" http://www.thekitchn.com/kitchen-tools-need-both-dry-an-109007. The Kitchn n.d. Friday, April 18, 2013.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Coconut Marshmallow Mud Cake

This Coconut Marshmallow Mud Cake is a favorite dessert of my brother's, and loved by the entire family, it is a specialty of my mother. It's also a special treat because it seems elaborate (though really isn't), and we don't get to have it very often, it was always reserved for special occasions. We refer to it as Mississippi Mud Pie, though it isn't really a pie, and I'm not sure how Mississippi is involved. Nevertheless, it is chocolaty, fudgey, and deep, rich, and delicious. Even if you are not a fan of one of the ingredients, such as coconut, nuts, or marshmallows, you will appreciate them and what they contribute to this dessert! The photo doesn't do this dessert the justice it deserves. Here is the process:

A rich, fudgey chocolate brownie layer baked in a 9x13 inch pan. Contains cocoa, shredded coconut and chopped nuts, if desired.

A jar of marshmallow fluff is spread over the base as soon as it comes out of the oven.

A rich chocolate icing is dolloped over the marshmallow fluff while the brownies are still warm. 
The icing can be spread in a single, smooth layer over the marshmallow fluff, but this is quite difficult to achieve. As an alternative, the icing may be swirled with the marshmallow with the top of a butter knife, as if making a marble cake or cheesecake. We much prefer the latter option, as not only is is easier, but we think the swirls of chocolate and marshmallow look really pretty too!
Serving options:
  • We have never tried them warm from the oven. My guess is they would be delicious but extremely messy, soft, and difficult to cut.
  • Allow them to cool to room temperature, then try. Still messy but not quite as bad.
  • Refrigerate them until firm, and enjoy cold. Much easier to cut.
  • These should be stored in the fridge, but allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Take a square straight from the fridge and reheat it in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds. It warms the brownie and melts the topping a little, without being too messy. This is my favorite way to eat them!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trial Runs

When you are planning to bake or cook for a special occasion, public function, donation, or company, you should always do a trial run of all the dishes you plan to make. You should plan well in advance, and know exactly what you are serving, how you will make it, what you can do in advance, how you will reheat food, serve it, etc. When baking food for functions or to give to other people, never make a recipe that you have not made before, tasted, and are confident in making. If you do want to try a new recipe, make sure it is something you will be able to sample and have time to redo if necessary. For example, do not choose a bundt cake recipe because it is really obvious when you have cut a slice out of it to sample! A few crumbs from the pan is not enough to adequately rate a baked good.

My mother has recently tested out a few recipes that she plans on serving to company. I am also preparing for this event, but I'm using mostly tried and true recipes I have made numerous times before. With rial runs, my mother can get immediate feedback from family members who are not afraid to be honest, and tweak the recipe based on this criticism. It also allows her to make any necessary ingredient or quantity changes. Making the recipe in advance also forces you to go through all of the motions, and this way when you make it for others, you will feel more confident in your actions, and will be able to anticipate possible drawbacks. When you test a recipe that does not turn out perfectly, you should do another test with the changes you made, to ensure these changes really do solve the problem, unless the changes are very minor. If you want to try a more elaborate dish to impress company, it is especially important to do a test run, since you may not be familiar with the process or ingredients. Trial runs will take a lot of stress off your shoulders, will ensure you are not set for failure, and enable you to sample some yummy treats! Bottom line is: never serve a dish to company that you have not tried and approved before!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Great Grains Cereal

Another great dry breakfast cereal recipe I developed. Spicy, crunchy, hearty, and healthy. It goes great with fruit, yogurt, and milk. Feel free to vary the types of grains or amounts, and add different nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. This makes a fairly big batch, so I store some in the freezer to prolong the shelf life.

Great Grains Cereal
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup natural wheat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cups water
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except the applesauce and water. Add the applesauce and half of the water and stir. Gradually add enough remaining water, allowing grains to soak it up, to make grains stick together, you may need more. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes or so, until cereal is browned and of desired crispiness. Cool and store in airtight bags or containers. I store mine in the freezer to keep it from spoiling.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Multigrain Batter Bread

Multigrain Batter Bread
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons granulated (white) sugar
1 package instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3 cups whole wheat flour, divided

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for about ten minutes, until frothy. Stir to dissolve yeast.
Stir in the next four ingredients. Add the next five ingredients, mix well. Stir in one cup of flour, then another cup.
Allow the dough to rise in the bowl for approximately one hour.
Stir in the remaining one cup of flour. Divide the dough evenly among two greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for another hour.
Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. 
This is another quick batter bread recipe, that requires no kneading and seems to rise better than my traditional breads. It also contains a nice mix of healthy, hearty grains. I developed this recipe from looking at several other whole wheat batter bread recipes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mini Broccoli & Mushroom Quiches

Mini Broccoli & Mushroom Quiches
4 large eggs
2 Tablespoon milk
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese, plus extra for the top
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped or sliced mushroom
1/2 cup chopped broccoli

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease or line six muffin cups.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Divide among muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

This is a quick and easy supper that can be changed up to feature different vegetables, cheeses, and spices. The amounts can also be adjusted to make more or less. This recipe will serve two or three as a main course, or makes six miniature appetizers. I lined the cups with paper liners, as I was afraid they would stick to the pan, but it turned out the liners stuck to the pan and made it difficult to release the quiches. Next time I will just grease the cups. This recipe is very versatile. You could add a crust made from bread or potato, or add some chopped meat to the egg mixture. You can also make the mixture in advance and just pop it in the oven about 20 minutes before you are ready to eat.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Whole Wheat Biscuit Mound

This is a super quick and simple biscuit recipe I made as a little side to go with supper tonight. It is a nice biscuit recipe that does not require any kneading, rolling, or cutting. Just mix it up and pat it onto a sheet. It can also be made into individual biscuits dropped from a spoon if you prefer, but a large biscuit mound is easier and more appealing in some ways as well. This is just a plain biscuit recipe, nothing special, but you could add spices, honey or molasses, or raisins or cheese for a different flavor. This recipe also makes a very small amount, but may easily be doubled.

Whole Wheat Biscuit Mound
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
3/8 cup (90 mL) milk
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Stir the oil and milk together and add, stirring quickly. Add a splash more milk if necessary. Gather the dough into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet, then gently flatten out into about 1/2 inch thick. It does not need to be a precise shape, rectangle, circle, or clump all work. Thickness does not need to be exact either, but be aware that cooking times may vary.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Cut or break a mound off, and enjoy hot with butter and/or honey.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grilled Cheese

Apparently today is National Grilled Cheese day in the United States. Why not International Grilled Cheese Day or World Grilled Cheese Day like they have World Nutella Day? Well, I suppose grilled cheese sandwiches likely originated in the states. Oh well, I am going to celebrate anyway. Or I would have if I had known before I finished all of my meals today. Well, I will still celebrate by dedicating today's blog post to grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches are probably right up there with peanut butter and jelly for being an easy classic often loved right from childhood into adulthood. It is also one of those sandwiches that can be passed off as fancy, many restaurants sell more upscale versions of grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese makes a quick and easy meal that goes with a variety of foods, including salad, tomato soup, and fries. Grilled cheese originated with two slices of sandwich bread, a little butter, and a slice of cheese grilled in a pan on the stove, but it has evolved into much more. 
Any type of bread can be used: focaccia, cibatta, baugette, sourdough, rye, multigrain, flatbread, pita, challah, etc.
Any type of cheese or combination of cheese can be used: cheddar, mozzarella  cream cheese, Havarti, Gouda, Swiss, Gruyere, Parmesan, etc.
Vegetables may be added: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, apple, peppers, olives, spinach, mushrooms, etc.
Meat may be added: ham, bologna, bacon, roast beef, chicken, turkey, etc.
Any number of condiments may be used: ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, salsa, tomato sauce, horseradish, etc.
Cooking methods also vary. "Grilled cheese" is sometimes made in a panini press, on the barbecue, or in the oven.
Bottom line is, grilled cheese is a classic sandwich loved by many, and can be tailored to suit any taste or occasion. My favorite types of grilled cheese are grilled cheese with mozzarella and tomato or apple slices on whole wheat bread. However, I must admit I am not a grilled cheese master. Some people seem to really have a knack for making a delicious grilled cheese, and though I can make it, it is not outstanding. I'll stick to my desserts!
PHOTO CREDIT:"images" http://www.totuckshop.ca/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1222. To Tuck Shop, n.d. Friday, April 12, 2013.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thanks for the Grub Award!

Last night I received an award for my baking. This was a totally unexpected award, and one I appreciate very much. Last night there was a little semi-formal gathering involving my brother and may of his friends, and their teachers and colleagues. Awards were given out to both the teachers and the students, as well as a few other awards to unsuspecting individuals. I actually was not present at the ceremony, but if I had known I was getting an award, I would have went!
My brother's friends presented me with the, "Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub!" award, as a thank you for the occasions where I have provided them with baked goods. Every time my brother had his friends over, I always ensured there was a fresh baked good for them. These include Mathematical Cupcakes (April 21st, 2012), Calculator Cake (July 10th, 2012), and Sudoku Cookie Puzzle (July 13th, 2012) among others. I have also provided baked goods for some other events they have had, such as Catan Cupcakes (March 22nd, 2013), and Mini Choco Caramel Pi Pies (March 14th, 2013). My most recent contribution to these, in case you hadn't guessed, math-loving students was my second Big Bang Cake (April 2nd, 2013). They seem to really appreciate the baked goods I make, and always seem to gobble them up! I really enjoy baking things for them, and receiving great feedback (and gaining more blog viewers)! I also like the challenge of trying to come up with mostly math-oriented treats.

They also presented my mother with an award, as lately she has been sending in cookies to them, on a weekly basis now, because they really appreciate them and it helps with the stress of work of course. Plus, my mother likes to try new recipes, and besides the tasters in the house, she likes to share and receive other feedback (usually in the form of an empty tin and a thank you note). My mother's award was entitled, "Yummy in the tummy, hip-hip-hip-hooray!" and she was very much surprised and grateful for the award.

So I would like to thank all of those involved for the award, as I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of it, and the creative name. I am really glad you enjoy my baked goods, and I look forward to making more for you all in the near future!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sweet Chocolate Glaze

This is the chocolate glaze I made for my torte yesterday. It is so quick, simple, and versatile. It is a small added touch that can make any dessert more decadent and eye-appealing. And it uses ingredients that you probably have on hand already.

Sweet Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup icing (confectioners') sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup warm water (or coffee if you like)
*Or use any amount of sugar and cocoa, following the ratio of sugar to cocoa, 4:1, adding water as needed.

Mix the sugar and cocoa together, than slowly add in the water, stirring constantly. Add as much as needed for desired consistency.

This recipe makes just a small amount, just a touch for a little drizzle over something. Double this amount for a cake or a pan of squares. This can be as thick as an icing, or as thin as a sauce, cater it to your needs.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Dark Chocolate Truffle Torte

This is a dark chocolate truffle torte I made, then garnished with icing sugar dusted on top in the shapes of a teddy bear, a shooting star, and a moon. This isn't necessary, but it just makes the dessert look a little prettier, I think. I also spread a simple chocolate glaze on top of the torte, since the torte is made with dark chocolate and may be a little bitter. The glaze and the icing sugar should add a little sweetness to the torte.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Torte
100 grams dark chocolate (85% cocoa), broken into pieces
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in the microwave or on the stove, and stir until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until edges are set but center is still slightly jiggly. Chill well before serving and garnish as desired.

I baked mine for 35 minutes, and the edges formed a brownie like crust, but the middle was still very fudgey and rich. I wanted to make sure it was fully cooked. The center will still be slightly jiggly, but will set upon cooling. 
You can use a chocolate with a lower cocoa content for a sweeter tart, or use semi-sweet chocolate and reduce the amount of sugar. 
This tart is fudgey and quite rich, especially if you use sweeter chocolate  But it is decadent and chocolaty and I really like it, as would any dark chocolate fan. A glaze really helps pull it all together, I will feature that tomorrow. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Applesauce Cereal Chip Muffins

Applesauce Cereal Chip Muffins
2 cups toasted oat "O" cereal, finely crushed
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
3 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or line muffin cups.
In a large bowl, stir together the first six dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and mix until moistened. Divide among prepared cups. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
This is a really quick and easy muffin recipe, once you get the cereal crushed. I used multigrain cereal because that's what I had on hand, but plain will work too, and apple cinnamon would probably be really good! This is a different muffin recipe, the cereal adds a little texture, sort of like adding rolled oats to the batter would. The applesauce keeps the muffins moist, the cinnamon adds a touch of flavor, and the chocolate chips make them delicious! I came across the recipe online.

“Choco Chip-Applesauce Muffins.” https://lifemadedelicious.ca/Recipes/C/Choco-Chip-Applesauce-Muffins.aspxsc_lang=en&lcid=en&utm_source=110830_LMD_ENE_EN&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110830_LMD_ENE_EN. Life Made Delicious, n.d. Monday, April 8, 2013.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Blog Gone International

Lately my blog has been receiving more attention than ever before. I'm not exactly sure why or how it happened, but everyday I am getting more and more pageviews! I know I have gained quite a few viewers through word of mouth, family, friends, and social media sites. My audience has certainly expanded as well; now not only do I have viewers in my country, as well as a few friends and relatives in a select few other countries, but I also have viewers from over ten different countries, covering four different continents. That's pretty impressive considering all my posts are published in only one language, but I suppose English is becoming increasingly popular. Much of my attention has been coming from searches. The most popular searches among my blog posts lately seem to include my Easter posts, my snake cupcakes, my Catan cupcakes, and a few of my breads. My Big Bang Theory cakes seem to be generating quite a bit of attention as well. Overall, the posts with the most pageviews include Figgy Pudding, 40th Anniversary Cake, Calculator Cake, Link Cake, and Owl Cupcakes, among others (I am noticing a cake theme going on here). I also noticed that when entered into a popular search engine, my blog has recently gained a nice little description, "blog about cooking, baking, cake decorating, recipes, and many culinary-related aspects updated daily by a young, ambitious baker." I am not sure who wrote that or how that got there, but I really like that description, and think it is very kind and accurate! 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my fellow blog readers, whether you are a casual reader, just happened to stumble upon one useful post, or are a daily reader of my blog - thank you! I appreciate each and every page view. I originally started this blog as a way for me to keep track of all of the recipes I have made, and organize all of my pictures in an easy to find format. I also wanted to share with family and friends who didn't always get to sample every one of my baked goods, or did and wanted the recipe. But now, my blog has certainly expanded into much more than that, and I am so glad others are finding my blog helpful, enjoyable, and entertaining, as that really makes me want to continue blogging and improving on my baking and blogging skills even more. When I know I am sharing with others, I become that much more dedicated. So thank you all! :) 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Pepper Steak

Pepper Steak is one of my father's favorite dishes that my mother apparently does not make nearly often enough. I am not a huge fan of it, as I am not a fan of steak or even red meat in general, but this is about the only way I will tolerate steak, so it must be pretty good. It is also the only way my mother will tolerate peppers. The recipe comes form one of my mother's old recipe books, and she began making it ages ago. 
The recipe basically begins with sauteeing some green pepper, onion, and mushrooms until soft. To this tomato sauce, soy sauce, water, flavor, and spices are added. This mixture is poured over strips of steak placed in a casserole dish. Then the entire dish is baked for about an hour until very tender. This results in tender chunks of steak cooked in a thick, spicy sauce that is perfect served over a bed of rice, or with pasta or noodles if you prefer. You can also use different color peppers for more color and flavor. here, you can see some of the big chunks of pepper along with the steak in the thick sauce, served over a bed pf rice you can hardly see.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Mom's Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

These are blueberry muffins my mother often makes. It is a simple, trusted recipe she has been using for years now. She makes blueberry muffins for company or friends, for special occasions, or when we are looking for something a little different. This recipe is successful with either fresh or frozen blueberries, and we always purchase a big batch of blueberries each year to freeze and have on hand for these muffins and blueberry coffee cake. However, these muffins taste extra special during blueberry season when we are able to use fresh blueberries. For the first time ever, my mother decided to try something different with this recipe. She doubled the batch, and then sprinkled a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon on top of each muffin before baking. I didn't get to taste one warm from the oven, but a few hours the later the topping was still crisp and sweet. By the next day, the topping had softened into the muffin a bit, and was now moist and delicious. Either way, they were good, and an easy way to add a little something special to these favorite muffins. I don't think we will ever let her make them again without this special topping! It just goes to show that an old recipe can be improved upon, and changes can be welcomed, you just need to experiment a bit!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Quick Knead Yogurt Grain Bread

This is a quicker yeast bread to make than most, with just a short knead and one rising time. It contains the nutrition of a lot of great grains and a little yogurt as well. It also rises very well and is a great sturdy bread for sandwiches or toast.

Quick Knead Yogurt Grain Bread
3/4 cup very warm milk
2 Tablespoons liquid honey
1 package instant yeast
1 large egg
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup natural wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
Grease or line a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the milk and honey. Add the yeast and stir. Let stand for 5-7 minutes until frothy. Stir. Add remaining ingredients except one cup of flour. Beat with a mixer until a dough forms. Add remaining flour and yogurt and beat, then knead just until a ball of dough forms.
Roll dough into a short log and place in prepared pan. Allow to rise for about an hour.
Bake at 375F or about 35 minutes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


This is the ganache I used for the last three days posts: the two cakes and the truffles. This may be my new go-to icing or cake covering for chocolate cake. It is quick, easy, shiny, pretty, and fuss-free. It is also chocolaty without being too rich. It just takes a few minutes to make, and then gets poured over the cake immediately, then allowed to set. Then you may decorate as normal. It seems daunting, but really isn't. If you have a wire rack and an offset spatula, they are the perfect tools for the job, though you can do without.

Easy Chocolate Ganache
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or 1 cup chocolate chips)
*Other types of chocoalte can be used. Dark for a not as sweet ganache, and milk for a more mellow ganache, etc.
1 Tablespoon corn syrup

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and corn syrup, stir for several minutes util melted, smooth, and glossy. Pour into center of cake, then spread excess over sides and allow to drip down. Quickly spread ganache smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. The best way to cover a cake like this is to begin with a cold cake. Set it on a wire rack set over a lined baking tray for easy clean up. The excess ganache will drip off the rack onto the pan. Put the rack in the fridge and allow to harden before carefully removing the cake.
This ganache made enough to cover two eight inch round cakes, with a little leftover to make six truffles. However, keep in mind that the coats of ganache were quite thin, and could easily be made thicker by using more ganache. This recipe is probably the perfect amount to coat a two-layer eight or nine inch round cake. Leftover ganache can be refrigerated to harden, then rolled into truffles, coated with coconut, nuts, sprinkles, cocoa powder, or icing sugar, if you like.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Another Big Bang Cake

Remember the Big Bang Theory cake I made for my brother's birthday in February (see February 21st)? Well, after seeing that post on my blog, one of his friends said, "I want a big bang cake!" After hearing this, I asked my brother when her birthday was. He told me March 31st, which happened to be Easter this year. Well, I like excuses to make cake, and she also happens to be a fan of my blog, so I just had to make a cake to surprise her! I was certain she would appreciate it. I did not do the exact same design, but took the same basic ideas.
I began with an eight inch round chocolate cake layer covered with chocolate ganache, just like my Easter cake. Then I piped a take on a shell border around the bottom of the cake in red, and a yellow border around the top that kind of reminded me of the lightning bolt often featured under the phrase "Bazinga". I used a tip I forgot I had, which I think is meant for making leaves, but worked very well for this too. Then I wrote Bazinga! across the middle, using a large open round tip so it would "pop". Using a thin, open tip I wrote Happy Birthday Gabby in red below that. Then above that I piped on some atoms, a famous symbol in the television show. Again, another simple, but nice looking cake, and certainly easier than trying to pipe the characters faces in buttercream, or piping on one of the complicated equations featured on the show. 

Monday, April 01, 2013

Bunny Ganache Truffles

These are a few little truffles I whipped up with leftover ganache from yesterday's cake. I tried to shape them into bunnies, which wasn't easy with really soft ganache. The recipe said extra ganache could be chilled and then rolled into truffles. I might have needed to chill it longer, or even put it in the freezer, as it was still really messy. But ganache is rich, chocolaty and smooth, and I hate to waste! To make these bunnies, I rolled small balls, than a tiny ball for the tail. Then I used a pair of scissors to make two small cuts in the head for the ears. Because I had some leftover buttercream, I piped on some eyes and  a nose. Then I placed them on a plate with some candy coated chocolate eggs. I placed them in the fridge to harden before eating. These truffles can be kept in the fridge for at least a week or two, or frozen for longer storage. I think they look a little bit like cats, so I suppose I could make something like this for Halloween too!