Monthly Archives: April 2010

I Got My Mind Set On…Cookies…

I was in the dentist’s office the other day (Where I have spent entirely too much time lately. Seriously. Oh my goodness, NO MORE DENTIST. PLEASE!) and as I picked up an outdated, dog-eared People magazine (What’s this about Tiger Woods? I hadn’t heard…EYEROLL!) I immediately started humming along with the radio being pumped into the waiting room.

Ah, yes, the music in the dentist office. It’s special, isn’t it?

“This is DJ DDS spinning your mellow but upbeat 70s, 80s and 90s soft rock hits here on 102.7 THE TOOTH FM. We just heard the Goo Goo Dolls with Iris, and before that, the Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder classic Ebony & Ivory. Special shout out to all the folks out there in Dental-land rapidly losing all feeling in an entire half of their face. Sit back, relax and let that awkwardly placed blue paper towel around your neck catch the drool while you swing to sounds of one of my personal favorites – hold on to your spit suckers, friends – this is Peabo Bryson with A Whole New World comin’ at ya next!”

ANYWAY.

The song that got my foot a-tappin’ that afternoon was an old George Harrison song that I hadn’t heard in like 10 years. You know the one. It’s the one that gets insanely stuck in your head. The minute you see it, you’ll be singing it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Got my Mind Set on You.

Oh, you’re singing it already, aren’t you. HA! It doesn’t help that it’s pretty much JUST that one line over and over and over again set to crazy catchy melody that just plays over and over inside your brain – slowly driving you mad.

Well, needless to say, that song pretty much cemented itself into my brain for the next week. So when I decided to get in a little royal icing practice, one line from that song continued to play as I meticulously outlined, filled and piped on cookies.

Sing it loud and proud if you know it!

“It’s gonna take tiii-me/A whole lotta precious time/it’s gonna take patience and time. To do it/to do it/to do it/to do it/to do it/to do it right, child!”


Maybe old Georgey boy there had his mind set on pretty cookies. Okay, probably not, but this old 80s tune provides a pretty good lesson when it comes to decorating cookies.

See, I had my mind set on cookies. Beautiful, flawless cookies. I’ve actually never tried to do it/to do it/to do it/to do it/to do it/to do it right and really set aside the time needed to successfully decorate with royal icing. I admit to rushing it in the past. What did I get for rushing it? So-so results. See: Here. Also: Here. Not this time.

Now, I don’t know if my attempt was SUCCESSFUL in a “You’re a rock star, quit your day job and decorate cookies full time” kind of way and I can’t call them flawless, but these are probably my most successful cookies to date. For someone whose hand is so unsteady, she literally cannot cut a straight line with scissors (um. That’s me, in case you were wondering) I think these came out pretty good.

I made the majority of the batch into ice cream cones.

Fun for spring! What do you think my flavors are? Hm. I’m gonna go with strawberry and peach. Two of my personal favorites.

So while I was absent-mindedly singing 80s hits under my breath and making cookies, I learned a few things along the way:

If you’re a beginner/amateur like me, the fewer icing colors you deal with, the better. In the past I have tried to work with 5 or 6 colors at once – this time I stuck to 3. I can’t even tell you how much stress this alleviated from the whole process. Less = more. As in less cursing and more smiles.

Simple shapes are best. The less detailed the shape, the less likely it is to look messy. Take these hearts, for example. One easy shape and two icing colors. Wa-la! Fairly attractive.

You can’t rush the flooded icing drying time. It takes how long it takes. This time I waited until I was 100% sure they flooded icing was dry before proceeding (I hadn’t in the past) and I was 100% more pleased with my final result.

“It’s gonna take time/a whole lotta precious time/It’s gonna take patience and time…”

Oops. See? Still in my head.

Thanks for baking lesson, Mr. Harrison!

Source notes: Sugar cookie recipes and tips and tricks for dealing with royal icing are plentiful on the interwebs! For the cookies, this time I used the Roll Out Sugar Cookie Recipe recipe from this GREAT comparison post by Bridget at The Way Cookie Crumbles. Bridget’s comparison posts are SO helpful and wonderful! These cookies are quite good and probably my favorite I’ve tried so far. I’m not a huge sugar cookie fan to begin with but even I found these pretty irresistible. 🙂 Big thank you to Bridget for the awesome recipe!!  The basic royal icing recipe is available here at the Wilton website.

For more inspiration or to learn from the REAL experts who are far superior to me in art of cookie decorating – check out: Bake at 350, Annie’s Eats and Good Things Catered.

One Year Ago: Everything Bagels

On a side note – I dare you to check out the video to Got My Mind Set on You and NOT tell me that dance is awesome to eleventy-billinoth degree. I’ll make it easy. Here ya go. Enjoy. 😉

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I’m (Not) Lovin’ It.

In the interest of being totally and completely honest, I’m about to post a recipe I’m not in love with. If there were some ominous watchful eye that would strike down anyone that tried to modify recipes from the original, I would not be making these again. They’re not worth being stuck down, that’s for sure!

Since that is clearly not the case, I’m blogging this recipe for two reasons. 1. Others might like it. Just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean others feel the same way. And 2. I do believe certain modification could improve the final result.

The recipe: Banana Whoopie Pies. The reason I don’t love them: Well, the texture and the flavor to start out. Hm. Isn’t that what food is? Texture and flavor?

Let’s start with the flavor. Holy Rot Your Teeth Out, Batman! These are insanely sweet. Between the cookie part, the chocolate chips, the nuts and the filling, it’s just too rich for my blood. A little TOO delightful. TOO much of a good thing. I used my tablespoon cookie scoop to shape the pies and found even that size to be far too large. I could hardly finish one they were so rich. And the recipe suggests using a large scoop for the pies – whoa. I can’t even imagine.

And the texture. Now, I’ve never made or had a whoopie pie before so I’m not sure what I was expecting. I guess something a bit more cakey? Lighter than a cookie maybe? Obviously, I have no idea what I’m talking about. These were pretty dense and chewy – like making a frosting sandwich out of banana bread. The recipe calls for two cups of either whole wheat, white whole wheat or all-purpose flour. I used one cup whole wheat and one cup all purpose so I’m sure that attributed to the textural properties of the cookie as whole wheat flour does tend to make things denser. Then with the huge chocolate chips and the nuts, I just couldn’t fall in love with the final product. It was all too much.

Improvements. I think they can be made here. First, I’d nix the whole wheat flour. Maybe whole wheat flour and whoopie pies aren’t meant to be friends. That’s okay. A whoopie pie isn’t supposed to be a shining beacon of nutritional merit anyway.

Second, I’d cut back significantly on the amount of chocolate and use mini-chips instead.  I think minis would disperse more evenly throughout the batter and provide just a hint of chocolate –not overpowering chunks. I’d probably eliminate the walnuts too. I’ve never been huge fan of walnuts, but I thought I’d give it a try and see if I’ve changed my mind.

Upon further review, the answer is no. I have not changed my mind.

Walnuts, meet Cilantro. You two go stand over there and don’t touch any of the other foodstuffs. Thanks.

If you decide to give these a try, let me know! I’d be curious to see what others think. If you make any other changes, I’d like to hear about those too! One of these days, I’ll try these again with the changes I mentioned, but not today. I just can’t eat anymore whoopie pies. For now.

So there here it is, without further ado: A Recipe I Don’t Love.

But you might love it. 😉 You’ll have to let me know if I’m the crazy one! It’s entirely possible. Oh yes.

BANANA WHOOPIE PIES (Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 medium to large) mashed bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour, white whole wheat or all-purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk as needed
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional) – I omitted

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the bananas. Beat until mixture looks curdled. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Whisk together the flour and baking soda; add to the banana mixture, mixing until evenly combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix for 1 minute more. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Scoop the dough by the quarter cup for large cookies, and by the tablespoon for small cookies. Allow plenty of space between them.
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched with your finger, and the edges are a very light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a rack to finish cooling completely before filling.
  6. To make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add just enough milk to make the mixture a spreadable consistency. Stir in the walnuts (if using).
  7. Spread the bottom of one of the cookies with the filling. Place another cookie on top of the filling, bottom side down. Press until the filling just reaches the edges. Makes 10 large or 20 small whoopie pies.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago:
Mushroom Rigatoni Bake – One of my favorites!
Soda Shop Cupcakes – How does a rich chocolate cake smothered in swirls of malted milk buttercream sound? Good, huh?

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Filed under chocolate, cookies, fruit

All Puffed Up

Sometimes it’s kinda fun to make a meal out of something that technically isn’t a meal. Like cereal. Is cereal dinner? From a balanced nutrition standpoint, probably not. But when it’s late or you’re tired or you just don’t feel like turning on the oven and dirtying up a bunch of pots and pans, cereal totally hits the spot. And I don’t know about you guys, but whenever Eric and I go on vacation, we always find a local ice cream parlor and make big ol’ sundaes dinner at least once. Ice cream for dinner is a vacation MUST!

Obviously this is not an every day thing, but every once a while it feels nice to forgo all the rules about what makes a balanced meal and just have fun with food.

Eric really likes finger food type stuff. Anything bite-sized that he can just pop into his mouth is always going to be a hit with him. The guy has been working extra hard lately and needed a little bit of cheering up. Let’s face it – if he needs cheering up, then I need cheering up. If he’s blue, I’m blue. I must love the guy or something. Huh. How about that. 😉

So on Saturday, I decided we’d have a non-dinner dinner. Not a balanced meal? Meh. So what. It’s Saturday. For dinner, we had bread, cheese and meat. In tiny puff form that made it extra easy to eat way too many. Success. Although, for the record, I did cut up some raw veggies to eat on the side. So, I did do SOMETHING right. 🙂

These little babies are super easy to make and a lot of fun. They are the perfect make-ahead snack for a game day or an appetizer spread. They are light, fluffy and cheesey with a great hint of crunch around the edges (which I just cannot resist. EDGES RULE!) The pepperoni gave them great flavor. Really these are pretty customizable. Perhaps bacon, cheddar and scallions for your next brunch spread or Parmesan, garlic and herb for a side on lasagna night. Any veggies, cheese or meat you desire can be mixed into this puffy batter. The combinations are endless!

PEPPERONI PIZZA PUFFS (Recipe Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (I used 1% with fine results)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)  (I used turkey pepperoni)
  • 1/2 cup store-bought pizza sauce (I used Newman’s Own marinara – my preferred jar sauce!)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping. Serves 4.

Note: These can be made ahead of time. Place baked puffs on a baking sheet and put in the freezer until frozen. Transfer to a storage bag. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees, place puffs on a baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until warm.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under appetizers, bread, muffins, pizza

“Peace” of Pie

When I was 12 something really bad happened.

It was something so awful, so horrible and wretched I cried for days. DAYS. It was something that took my inflated pre-teen ego and clothes-lined it. Sent it flying, landing on its back with a thud and staring at the stars circling above.  I was stunned. Shocked. In complete and total dismay. How could it be? How could THIS happen to me? TO ME of all people??

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Rainy. Cold. October. Middle school cafeteria with its linoleum floor and teal and red stripes on the walls. Gym uniforms, ponytails, squeaky white shoes. Most of the 7th grade girls are there, all knees and elbows, awkward and a bit clumsy. Skinny legs jump anxiously, butterflies flutter from one nervous tummy to the next as we await our fate at the bottom of the stairs. Girls are ushered through heavy swinging doors three at time, heads high, shoulders back. Smiles bright with braces and colored rubber bands. The unmistakable sounds float from the rafters above – the echoes of shouting voices, the hollow clasp of hands, feet leaving and meeting the floor with each jump, each cartwheel, each handspring. It can only be one thing…

Yep. You guessed it – cheerleading tryouts – the End All, Be All of my 12-Year-Old Existence.

I waited ever-so-patiently through my 6th grade year for the chance to try out for cheerleading as a 7th grader. (6th graders weren’t eligible to be on the team). I eyed the older girls in the hallways on game days with their red and white pleated skirts and matching sweaters, my face pea-stinkin-green with envy. I could.not.wait to be one of them. And being my cocky, invincible, pre-teen self, I was 110% sure there would be a place on that squad for me.

See, by the time I was ready to try out, I had already been cheering for two years in a Pop Warner league. Yes. I had EXPERIENCE. I knew WHAT I WAS DOING. I knew what a Herkie was. I was a FLYER and I had cradled FROM A FULL before. My squad went to actual COMPETITIONS. I had 1ST PLACE TROPHIES at home.

Yep. This thing was in the bag. Easy-peasy. No prob, Bob.

Right?

WRONG.

No one told me (or Will Farrell or Cheri Oteri) that to make the squad at school you have to have…oh, what’s the word…um…TALENT. Yes, you have to be, you know, GOOD. To be a Pop Warner cheerleader you had to get in line on registration day early enough to snag a spot, pay your dues, and show up. That’s about it.

At 12, I was a wisp of a thing, weighing in at staggering 80 pounds. I was gangly as all get out. My arms and legs had grown long and skinny, but the rest of me hadn’t caught up yet. I had no muscle, zero flexibility and I couldn’t tumble my way down a flight of stairs. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked during that tryout – trying my best and smiling wide – most likely a beat off and step behind the rest of my group.

Still though, after hours of painful waiting that cold October day, I wanted nothing more to than see my name on that list. You understand, right? You tried out for cheerleading too? Surely you remember how important it was to be chosen?

When they finally posted the list announcing the new squad, one thing stood out to me immediately – my name wasn’t on it. I was officially cut. Rejected. I would not be cheering on the BMS boys basketball team from the sidelines in my red and white pleated skirt and matching sweater.

What!? Oh no. Oh no. Oh NOOOOO!

Dreams? Slashed. Day? Ruined. World? Crashing down.

I managed to hold it together as I weaved my way through the throngs of girls, some shrieking in the delight at having made it, others shrugging with indifference to entire situation. Once I hit the door, it started – the epic, blubbering cry-fest that lasted days. I was not going to be a cheerleader and I was never going to get over it. I was devastated. Hell, devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it. Try mortally wounded. Try a shell of my former self.

Of course, I’m poking fun at myself here. A shell of my former self? LOL. Please. Looking back on the Day my Entire World Came to End, I can’t help but laugh. How silly, right? To get so upset about something as trivial as making the cheerleading squad? But you know. You understand. Because you were 12 once too.

Out of this tragedy a new tradition was born. My dad, seeing how upset I was over my cheerleading fate, offered a simple, but amazing gesture to help cheer me up. Even though I’m sure he thought I was being a bit ridiculous (can you say OVERDRAMATIC?), it still broke his heart to see me cry, no matter what the reason.

So, we went out for pie. Just the two of us, late in the evening after supper, we went to Baker’s Square for a slice of pie and a conversation. And although the pie helped cheer me up (I liked the dutch apple the best, warmed, no ice cream, please :)) I think the company cheered me up even more. See, my dad had a way of explaining this so I could understand them. (What am I saying, HAD? HAS a way…) He didn’t coddle me. He didn’t say they made a terrible mistake and that he was going to burst into the front office at school and demand they put me on the squad. He simply said, I needed more practice and could try again next year. He said in life there are going to be disappointments – that’s part of it, so better start getting used to it. He explained the meaning of the word “overconfident” and that it’s good to be knocked off your high horse every now and then – keeps you humble, keeps you thankful. Maybe I didn’t have cheerleading, but I had a warm, cozy bed to sleep in at night, food to fill my belly and a family that loved me very much. And if not making cheerleading was the worst thing that happened to me that year, I was doing pretty good.

Suddenly, it all made sense. The hurt and disappointment just sort of melted away. As quickly as it came, it went. By the time my slice of pie was nothing but a few crumbs and sticky fork, the tears had dried up. I smiled up at my dad. My hero. And I realized I was a pretty lucky girl with the best dad ever. A truth that remains constant to this very day!

After that, whenever I was down in the dumps, depressed, or feelin’ blue, my dad would cheer me up by taking me out for pie. I’m pretty sure, if we still lived nearby my parents, he would STILL take me out for pie. In fact, I know he would! It always seemed to help.

This Pineapple Strawberry Pie is sure to cure what ails ya. If what ails ya is you got cut from the team you are in luck! And if what ails ya is the winter blahs, then you’ve struck GOLD! Pineapple gold! What screams spring more than fresh berries and tropical pineapple? The correct answer is…NOTHING! :)What a fun and delicious combination of flavors!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had pineapple as a pie filling before. When I stumbled on this recipe, I was immediately interested. I wondered if it might be a tad too sweet so that’s where the strawberries came into play. Pineapple and strawberry is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations and I thought the berries would help cut the sweetness in the filling. The result is a light and dreamy filling that tastes just like sweet, spring sunshine.

The crust and filling come together like any other standard pie. If you can take the time to make your own crust, the results just can’t be beat. In a pinch, store bought works just fine. Make sure you really strain that pineapple – it is very, very wet and it will yield way more juice than you need. I was very pleased that my pie had a nice, tight filling when I lifted out the first piece, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that way if there’s too much juice left in the pineapple. Nothing worse than runny pie filling! 🙂

Hope you’ll consider trying this different twist on a fruit pie! You won’t be disappointed!

And, for what it’s worth I didn’t throw in the towel on cheerleading after my 7th grade tragedy, I kept going with Pop Warner for a couple more years. I did eventually make a few squads – in 8th grade and in high school. And when I eventually got cut from the varsity squad as a junior, it didn’t sting so much. Why? Because I’d grown up. And because I had a great role model. I think we went for pie after that too, but there were more laughs and fewer tears. Thank you, Dad. 🙂

PINEAPPLE STRAWBERRY PIE (Recipe adapted from: Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Egg wash

For the filling:

  • 2 20-oz cans unsweetened crushed pineapple (make sure it’s pineapple packed in juice, not syrup!)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons juice from pineapple
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsps. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS:

Make the crust:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse three times to combine. Add butter and pulse until crumbly. The mixture should resemble small peas. Add water and pulse again until the dough comes together. Remove from food processor and divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

  1. Pour the pineapple into a sieve set over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Use a spatula or the back of your hand to gently press the pineapple to remove as much of the juice as possible. Reserve and measure the juice.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons of reserved juice and cornstarch until thoroughly combined. Add remaining half cup of juice, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt, whisk until combined. Add the pineapple and strawberries and stir gently until evenly coated.

Assemble and bake:

  1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Place the first disk of dough between two layers of floured parchment paper. Roll into a 12 circle. Carefully lift the crust into the prepared pan, letting it naturally relax into the sides. Do not pull or stretch the dough. Trim off the excess. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with flour. Put the pan into the fridge until cool again, about 15 minutes. Roll out second dough disk for the top crust.
  3. Add pineapple mixture to pie shell. Add top crust, seal and crimp edges and cut slits near the center. Brush the top crust and edges with egg wash.
  4. Bake 30 minutes and check crust for browning. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil. (Which I should have done with my edges, but didn’t. LOL.) Bake another 15 minutes or until crust is evenly browned. Cool pie on a rack for at least two hours before serving. Makes 10 generous servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

PS…I’m going to submit this pie to a fun blogging event called You Want Pies with That? hosted by Amy at Sing for your Supper and Jessica of My Baking Heart! This month’s theme is SPRING! Check out the round-up later this week for other blogger’s delicious, springy pies!

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Donut Stop Believin’

Raise your hand if you grew up in the Chicago area and vacationed on a lake in Wisconsin as a kid. Yep. Me too.

Is that a requirement for a proper Chicagoland upbringing or something? Is it written in stone somewhere? I’m thinking yes, because it seems like every family had a spot in Wisconsin they returned to year after a year. As a child of the greater Chicagoland metro area, thou shall:

  • Enjoy assorted field trips to the aquarium, planetarium and Art Institute.
  • Stop putting ketchup on your hot dogs by the age of 10.
  • Spend at least a week every summer “Up North”

See, it is written. 🙂

For as long as I can remember, my family went up to Northern Wisconsin for a week every summer to stay on Plum Lake.  At 4, at 11, at 18 there are pictures of me standing on the shore, smiling my wide “school’s out” smile. I look different in each one, but the background is frozen in time. My mom stayed on that very same lake every summer when she was a girl. The beach, the pier, the slanty, rugged cottages – everything looks exactly the same, whether it be 1960, 1990 or beyond. It’s pretty near and dear to our hearts to say the very least!

Here we are! Mom at Plum Lake circa 1962 and me around 1989. The best parts of these photos? Mom’s bathing cap. That.is.Awesome! Gotta keep that nasty lake water out of your hair! And my life jacket. Like I’m going to drown there in three inches of water. That whale is the best! I forgot about that thing… Thanks for pics, Mom and Dad!

Plum Lake is miles and miles from the hustle and bustle of the big city – under a dark, cool canopy of lush, green forests. Nestled among the trees is a beautiful, clear, sandy bottom lake and clusters of tiny cottages straight out of days gone by. A week at the lake was a week full of casting a line off the pier, boat rides and skipping rocks. A week full of sand in your bed, swing sets and drippy ice cream cones. Slamming screen doors, supper clubs, and small town shops. Salt water taffy, buckets of minnows and belly laughs.

And donuts for breakfast. Every.single.day. The best part of all! Hey, it’s okay on vacation, right? Waking up in the morning, watching the sun toss millions of tiny sparkles across the lake, and sinking my teeth into a soft, fresh donut was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

A tiny bakery in St. Germain was the source of this delicious bounty. Every couple days, I’d get up early and head to town with my mom. Once inside, I’d breathe in the heavenly aroma of sugar, butter and frying dough. Marveling at the piles of treats in the glass case, my stomach would begin to grumble. Choosing was always the hardest part! These were some seriously good donuts. Me personally? I was partial to the cake donut with chocolate icing (they slathered it on nice and thick too. No wimpy, tasteless, crumbly glaze here. There were TEETH MARKS in the icing after you took a bite. Now that’s what I’m talking about!) and the apple fritters bursting with juicy bits of real apples and drenched in glaze that stuck to your fingers and lips.

Up North. What a great place to be a kid. And eat donuts.

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve visited Plum Lake but I’d really like to get back there someday to carry on the tradition with my own kids. Maybe I’ll even have a donut or two while I’m there, considering I can’t even remember the last time I had one.

See, donuts are just not real high on my list of acceptable foods to eat. Apples, broccoli, brown rice. Acceptable for every day. Fried dough covered in sugar? Not acceptable for every day.  Personally, I think it’s kind of hard to find a good donut – not to mention all the unnecessary calories – so that’s why I tend to avoid them. And since I don’t fry at home, I don’t see homemade donuts in my future any time soon.

Instead, I’ll just rely on these baked donut muffins to curb any fried dough cravings. I spotted this recipe over at Elly Says Opa! and have had it saved for a while just waiting for that donut craving to hit. Not saying these are healthy by any means, but baked usually beats fried. It’s like scissors to paper, if you will. These are so easy to make and really do mimic the flavor profile of a cake donut – soft, moist with just a hint of spice. The chocolate glaze makes them just a little bit naughty while still remaining mostly nice. 😉 And who can resist colored sprinkles?? Not me! They may not be the same as the real thing I remember so fondly from my childhood, but they’re a good grown-up stand in. 🙂 Eric had a hard time deciding if they were breakfast or dessert. I told him, it’s okay to swing both ways. 😉

CHOCOLATE GLAZED DONUT MUFFINS (Recipe Source: Originally adapted from: Elle’s New England Kitchen, as seen at Elly Says Opa!)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Muffins

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • scant 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1-1/4  tsp. vanilla extract

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sprinkles (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a standard muffin tin.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the canola oil, butter, milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, combining gently by hand until just moistened.
  3. Spoon the batter in the prepared muffin tins and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.
  4. To make the glaze, combine the chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over some simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is incorporated.
  5. Dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze and immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Makes 12 muffins

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under breakfast, chocolate, muffins

Here Comes the Sun

Can you feel it? That prickly warm feeling, the stinging in your eyes? That’s the Sun. He’s back. Finally. After a long, cold, lonely winter (do do do do do…)

Oh, Sun how we’ve missed you! So very glad to have you back.

Now….Please don’t go. Oh, please, please don’t go.

You want to see me beg, Sun? Is that what you want? Because I am not above graveling.

We have had a string of warm days here in fabulous northeast Iowa and it has totally wet my whistle for all things summer.

Ooo! Hello, once-purple flip flops! Welcome to your tenth summer of wear!

Hello, t-shirts and tank tops I forgot I had! It’s like a whole new wardrobe!

I’m pretty good at tuning out the weatherman’s warnings too. “Unseasonably warm,” he says. Followed by, “cold front coming through,” “highs in the low 50s” and “rain.”

LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU! Sorry, the sound of my flip flops slapping against my feet is drowning out all predictions of drearier weather ahead. 😉

Can I just tell you my favorite thing about these warm days? After sitting at work under a vent that blasts ice cold AC down the back of my neck for 8 hours (yes, it’s started already) there is absolutely NO better feeling than walking outside and getting into a hot car. NOTHING. So cozy and warm. So nice to have the feeling return to my fingers and toes. Thank you, Sun, for turning my dark car with dark interior into a toasty, little oven of heaven. 🙂

Anyway, with the warm weather, I’m starting to think about grilling. I haven’t yet started to think about dragging the grill out of the garage, giving it it’s yearly bath, refilling the propane tank, etc. etc. etc., but I’m thinking of grilled flavors. Luckily, I can get a taste of it without all the work by using my handy-dandy GRILL PAN!

These Orange-Ginger Shrimp Skewers are a great, bright way to usher in the warmer temps. The sweet and spicy kick from the marinade was so refreshing after a winter of heavy, rich foods. We really enjoyed the citrus flavors here and subbing in pineapple for the orange segments added a tropical feel to the dish. I ended up using ginger powder instead of fresh ginger because the piece of ginger I *thought* I had in the freezer was nowhere to be found! Must have gotten thrown out in clean out in the last few months. When I make this again, I’ll for sure use fresh. The flavor of fresh ginger is important to a dish like this.

Now, I do think the skewers would benefit from the a slower cook over indirect heat on the grill as the sugars in the dish burned a bit in the screaming hot grill pan. Or, it could just be my inability to control the heat on my finicky electric range. It runs at two temps…off and melt-your-face hot. I’ll be trying this recipe again on my outdoor grill once the season really gets rollin’ here!

ORANGE-GINGER SHRIMP SKEWERS (Recipe adapted from: Cooking Light via MyRecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2  cup  fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 2  tablespoons  minced green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger (I used 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
  • 1  tablespoon  minced fresh cilantro (I omitted because I don’t care for it.)
  • 2  tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1  tablespoon  vegetable oil
  • 2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
  • 1  minced hot red chile (I subbed a jalapeno that I seeded and chopped. Hubs is not real big on spicy so I thought a jalapeno would be add a nice, tame heat in the background.)
  • 1  pound  large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, add shrimp and pour in half the marinade; tossing to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes. Reserve remaining marinade
  2. Remove shrimp from dish, discard shrimp marinade. Thread shrimp and pineapple chunks alternately onto each of 8 (8-inch) skewers.
  3. Heat large grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Cook skewers 4 minutes on each side or until done, basting with reserved marinade.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago:
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
– Includes chocolate! Hooray!
Italian Turkey Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Quick Kicked Up Tomato Sauce – That’s a mouthful! A mouthful of deliciousness!

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Filed under fruit, shrimp