Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Brownies… they were a bit dry but that can be fixed!


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What smells like roasted corn?

Umm, nothing dear!

It was a spur of the moment quick bread.  I didn’t note the size of pan required for the recipe, and I modified the original to include sour cream and a little olive oil since the last egg in the fridge mysteriously disappeared.  The roasted scent was from the globs of dough burning on the bottom of the oven.  More was on the way from the seething undersized loaf pan on the top rack.  A cookie sheet on the lower rack was pushed in as I grabbed the closest utensil to scrape the rapidly hardening expulsions.  My heart sunk, was the whole thing ruined?

I left the darn thing in the oven to finish baking, hoping my late night dessert would survive.  Every door and window was open in an attempt to evacuate the billows of smoke coming from the oven floor.   With all the commotion in the kitchen I was surprised no one came out to investigate!

Happily, the loaf finished baking.  It’s not the prettiest lemon poppy seed cake/loaf but it could be one of the tastiest.


I shared the first slice with Hubby.  And saved the rest for breakfast.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

This original recipe was a cranberry nut quick bread.  I changed the flavour using lemon zest, juice, and poppy seeds.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 4 Tbsp poppy seeds

Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, adding the poppy seeds to the wet bowl.  Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix by hand until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moist.  It will look dry and clumpy, that’s OK!

Spoon the batter into two 5 x 4 inch loaf pans or into muffin tins.  Be sure that the pans or tins are half full or your oven will end up like mine.

Bake at 350ºF for about 50 – 60 minutes.

You might want a cookie sheet under that.  You can thank me later.

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I know, my iPhone camera sucks, I’m sorry.  This is the only picture I had time to take before all the Snickerdoodles vanished!

There’s been a tremendous amount of change going on in my life and I’ve had to leave the kitchen to get to know more neighbors.  These cookies were a thank you batch for a neighbor, an in kind trade if you will.  Since school started I’ve been driving from work to the school to pick up Big Brother and drop him off, then returning to work.  All told it’s a 1 hour 20 minute excursion at a minimum.  This was wasting precious fuel, my lunch hour, and my wits.  There is no bus service because we only live 2 miles from the school.  There’s no way in hell he is walking, alone, along a 45 mph road for two freaking miles!  So I made the trip.  I asked a neighbor, who has kids at the same school, if she could lend a hand with pickup.  I offered money for gas and instead she wanted cookies!  Sure, I can pay you in cookies!!!  The Snickerdoodle was the first flavor she said she liked.  Done deal.

I’m grateful for the friends and neighbors that have crossed my path.  It’s difficult to come out of my shell (aka kitchen) especially in turbulent times, but those small steps outside of the comfort of the oven, measuring cups, and stacks of flour are now more powerful than I could have imagined.  It gives me a glimmer of hope that things will get better, one batch of cookies at a time.

Next time you see someone down and out, please bake them some cookies.  It will make them feel warm and fuzzy, even if it’s just during that moment they are presented with those warm chewy delights.  They are a light in their darkness.


The recipe I used was from COOKIES by Martha Stewart Living Magazine.  I found a similar recipe on her website here.  Here are the changes to the online recipe you might want to use:

  • no cream of tartar
  • use 2 tsp baking powder instead of baking soda
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • no vegetable shortening
  • add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • oven at 350ºF

Depending on the size of your dough balls, it may take anywhere from 8 to 14 minutes.  I would go for heaping tablespoon size balls, they result in a chewy center.  The batch made almost 3 dozen regular size cookies (about 3.5 inches in diameter) .  Put a pinch of the cinnamon sugar mix on the balls after you roll them, that way you get extra cinnamon in the middle of the cookie.

We enjoyed these cookies and I hope you will too!

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Adapted from several muffin recipes in Babycakes (Erin McKenna)

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp guar gum
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Prepare two muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

Mix the banana, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.  Set aside.

Sift (or whisk) together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, guar gum in a separate bowl.  Set aside.

In a small bowl or cup, combine the hot water and cocoa powder until the cocoa is disolved.  Pour the cocoa into the banana mixture and mix well.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well.

Pour a little less than 1/3 cup of the muffin batter in each muffin tin.  The batter will rise slightly so don’t over fill the tins.  Bake for 20-24 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle of one of the muffins.  If your oven is notorious for uneven baking, rotate the pans half way through.  Gluten-free flour tends to dry out in the oven very easily so check the muffins as they get close to the 20 minute mark.

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I bought a used copy of the cookbook written by Erin McKenna, owner of Babycakes in New York City.  It’s aptly named Babycakes:Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About BakeryThere were several pages dog-eared by the previous owner, I wonder if they tried all the recipes they marked for later.  There are plenty of beautiful glossy photos to drool over as you decide which recipe to try first.

My first attempt was the Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake (shown above), and I broke Erin’s first rule: I didn’t follow all of the directions.  And the cream cheese frosting/glaze was made with xylitol (a sugar alcohol) instead of leaving the cake bare.  The cake was very moist, with a good amount of sweetness to counter the tart lemon zest and juice.  If I didn’t tell you it was gluten and sugar-free you wouldn’t have noticed.  That’s what Erin McKenna strives to achieve in each recipe in her book and at her bakery.  Her shop is on my to-see list if I ever get to visit NYC!

The second recipe was an adaptation of the Cherry Cobbler.  The filling was rhubarb and Granny Smith apple instead of cherries.  I was planning to make a pie but this seemed like it would work with the spelt flour lattice topping.  I didn’t have evaporated cane juice and used brown sugar instead.  I should have baked this a little longer as the underside of the crust became soaked with the juices of the fruit and turned into a sticky mush.  Best to bake and serve immediately, as with any pie or crumble.  I liked the flavor of the spelt topping though, it had a light nutty flavor and reminded me of oatmeal.  Paired with the cinnamon-apple-rhubarb filling this could be eaten for breakfast or dessert, heck anytime!

Next up: Chocolate Cake!  I made the same rookie mistake of baking this fella a little longer than I should have.  As soon as the middle is set you should take it out of the oven.  The original recipe calls for a crumb topping to be added half way through baking.  Instead I left the cake alone and added roasted cherries that I washed, seeded and quartered.  That’s a great thing I learned from this cook book: roast your fruit to amplify their natural flavors so less sweetener is required.  Then I made a vanilla cream sauce to top it all off.  This is my version of a black forest cake.  A splash of Kirsch over the cake would have made it closer to the real thing, but it was tasty nonetheless.

Last on my first round of tests were the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Oh the chocolate!  I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips for this recipe.  A couple of notes: regular sugar was used instead of evaporated sugar cane in the same measurement called for, I added 1/4 cup rice flour and a little more Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free all-purpose flour to absorb the oil.  They still came out on the oily side but I guess they will stay moist longer that way, I’m not a fan of greasy cookies though.  The cookies are tender (I didn’t over bake them, yay!) and very delicate with a brownie-like texture in the middle.  With a bit of engineering, these will be perfect doppelgängers to gluten-laden cookies.

My overall conclusions about gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free baking from this book are these; use lower temperatures and the least amount of time possible, buy the best ingredients possible on your budget (and shop around, Sprouts puts GF baking stuff on sale %25 off, try on-line at Amazon.com or BobsRedMill.com) and most importantly READ the recipes first.  With entrepreneurs like Erin blazing the trails of alternative baking and better access to the squirrely ingredients necessary for vegan baking, it’s easy to make the switch.  Whether you cannot tolerate gluten anymore, want to cut down on refined white sugar, or for the animal lover in you – this is a great book to help you on your journey!


This review was solely out of my own curiosity and wanting to share my thoughts on the book.   Recipes were respectfully omitted to honor the copyrights of the author.

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My mistake was being lazy and using a can of strawberry frosting.

A CAN!  My bad, I know.

The cupcake themselves are delicious though!  The recipe belongs to Candace Nelson of the famous cupcake shop, Sprinkles Cupcakes,  who shared this on Martha Stewart.

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…. yours truly!

I’ve been eyeing Melissa Joulwan’s cookbook since reading about it here and on her blog The Clothes Make the Girl.  Now I have an autographed copy!  Thanks Melissa!  I donated a box of Spiced Ginger Molasses Cookies to the silent auction that was paired up with a gift certificate to Easy Tiger.

My friend and I enjoyed mini cupcakes dressed in flavours inspired by cocktails.  You could text in your vote for the best cupcake and see the results on the projector screen during the event.  Oh, yes I should tell you more about the event!  But first, here are three of the tasty bites competing for numero uno cupcake.

Black and White Russian Cupcake

The Black And White Russian topped with a marshmallowy meringue and chocolate covered espresso bean.  This handsome little guy was the first one I tasted.  It was a moist chocolate cake and all together a good cupcake, however it didn’t scream cocktail to me.

Black Cherry Pomegranate Martini Cupcake

Something that reminded me of a trifle was the Black Cherry Pomegranate Martini, it even came in a mini martini cup!  This looked like a cocktail the most, it got my design award.

Steve’s Special Cupcake

My official vote went to the Steve’s Special Cupcake, Guinness chocolate cake and Irish Whiskey spiked frosting.  Just delicious!  I’ve never had a better cupcake.  If you are looking for a recipe try this one on Smitten Kitchen.  Might not be the best thing for a kid’s birthday party, these would be great for a groom’s cake though!

The event was a benefit for Bake-A-Wish Foundation.  There was hardly a dry eye in the room as we listened to the presentation about the impact Bake-A-Wish has on so many children and elderly lives in Austin.  I can sympathize with those kids who never had a birthday cake.  I was a farm girl way back when, we lived off the land and last time I checked birthday cakes don’t grow from the ground.  I recall my 16th birthday.  I said “My favorite cake is Black Forest, could I please have one for my birthday?” A Sweet Sixteen is supposed to be special and we didn’t have a cake that night.  Granted, we did have an apple pie Mom made using frozen apples from either our trees or my uncle’s.  Mom makes a mean apple pie, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

I want to give someone a birthday cake that they want to have but might be too afraid to ask for it.

Let the kids have some cake on their special day!

I don’t know how much the Austin Food Blogger Alliance managed to raise for Bake-A-Wish, but every dollar counts.  If you missed the event or you are reading this from afar, you can donate directly to the non-profit at www.bakeawishaustin.org

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My neighbour was over for a visit while I was baking this Key Lime Cake I saw on Food Network recently.  The adults liked it better than any of our kids!  Making cream cheese frosting is quick and easy (plus it’s all natural and tastes so much better than the canned stuff).

No recipe is perfect, I find this especially true with recipes on Food Network.  Look at the comments before you try something.  This cake had too much oil, or the recipe writer/baker was heavy on the flour.  Everyone said to use less oil, I followed their lead and the cake wasn’t too oily or too dry.  Get the original recipe from the link then use my suggestions>

Key Lime Cake Recipe

My notes:

  • Use only 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • Add lime zest from about 6 key limes to the batter
  • Replace the orange juice with 1/4 cup lime juice + 1/2 cup So Good light coconut milk
  • Reduce the glaze in half (1/4 cup lime juice + 1/4 cup confectioners sugar)
  • Cut the baked cake in half and stack them together with about a cup of frosting between the layers.  Continue frosting as usual.

The frosting was made with Ideal sugar-free confectioner’s sugar (16 oz.), 8 oz cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, vanilla and lime juice (just enough to make a smooth frosting).

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Pumpkin pie is a reminder of fall. It’s a delicious, traditional treat, and it would be hard to imagine Thanksgiving festivities without one or two pumpkin pies to finish off the meal. No matter how stuffed people are from a large holiday dinner, they always will find room for at least one slice. Pumpkin pie is a good choice for reasons other than its tradition and popularity. It’s a lower-cost dessert to bake, and uses healthy ingredients, making it one of the better dessert choices. Replace sugar with agave nectar for an even lower sugar dessert! Check out the following three reasons why making pumpkin pie is a healthier, low-cost option.

Making pumpkin pie from scratch is a frugal choice

Around the holidays there are always pre-made pies available in your grocery store’s bakery section. At other times of the year you can often find them amongst the frozen foods and desserts. This may make you wonder why you should bother making your own. The answer is that making your own allows you to control what goes into the pie. This is always beneficial to the healthfulness of the recipe and the frugality of the dessert. Purchasing your own ingredients means you can opt for the cheapest choices, and take advantage of deals at the grocery store. An added bonus is that once you have the basic ingredients on hand, you can continue making more pies without additional cost. In the long run, you’ll be amazed by the amount you can save if you avoid the pre-made pie. Next time you’re craving pumpkin pie, skip the bakery section and instead try this low-calorie pumpkin pie recipe, it only costs around one dollar to make!

Using less ingredients means spending less money, and saving on empty calories

There are many different types of pumpkin pies. These days you can find recipes that include layers of cream cheese, or caramel and pecan toppings. These will certainly add variety to your table; however, the traditional pumpkin pie uses fewer ingredients. BetterBudgeting.com suggests that the less-traditional recipes are much sweeter than the original. You’ll save some money, and some calories, if you stick to the tried-and-true version of the recipe.

Starting with fresh pumpkin is a healthy choice

Store-bought pumpkin pie filling usually has added sugar, and other things, like preservatives. If you start with the whole pumpkin, you’ll know that everything going into your pie is high-quality and fresh. When picking out your pumpkins you should choose smaller ones, as they pack a lot more flavor then the larger pumpkins.  Bonus points if you are growing your own pumpkins!

When it gets closer to the holiday season, you may find yourself thinking of pumpkin pie. And why not? It’s an excellent dessert option. Remember, to be frugal and healthy, stick to fresh and fewer ingredients, and make your own from scratch.

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Remember that roasted fig and strawberry jam I made?  Well, I saved some for a rainy day and found this recipe for homemade fig newtons.  It’s raining, pouring actually, so I took to the kitchen to try out the recipe.  It needs a bit more flour, but the flavour and texture is very similar to the real McCoy.  The strawberries were few in comparison to the figs, but the hint of red-cheeked berries is there in the background.  Next time I will add more strawberry, maybe half and half!

Viva la fig!

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