Archive for the ‘Recipes From Books’ Category

Big Brother was in kindergarten last year and his teacher commented on how much she liked the home-made cookies and breads I’ve sent for snack time.  I offered to bake heart-shaped cookies for Valentine’s Day and she jumped at the chance.  She explained that they should be plain so the students can add frosting and decorations during the class party.  No problem!

I chose a recipe from one of my recent additions to the kitchen library.  This was a previously untested recipe so I was risking complete failure by doing this and not sticking to my recipe for Christmas cutouts.  I held my breath and went ahead.

The recipe only made about a dozen large hearts and I needed to bake at least 27 cookies for the party. After the first pan was cleared off to the cooling racks Little Sister helped herself to a cookie the size of her head. I heard the faint noise of munching behind me and realized what just happened. I couldn’t get mad. I knew another batch would have to be made to make my quota anyways. Pleading with her, I scooted her out of the kitchen and looked for a distraction in the form of a cute fuzzy animated panda. “Panna!” Little Sister plunked herself on the couch with her cookie. The rest were safe for the next 98 minutes.

Heart Cookies for a Decorating Party

Adapted from Sugar Cookies by Martha Stewart Living Magazine (COOKIES cookbook)

  • original recipe, plus
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (added)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (added)

I chilled the dough for an hour, then rolled it thicker than the recipe calls for.  I put the giant hearts on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and baked until firm but not browned.  This is a great recipe for any shape of cookie to suit the holiday.


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This is it.  This is the year I jump on the hippie bandwagon.  You’ve probably seen it coming, last year I started really looking into what we are doing to ourselves through food.  I believe the hype, but it’s not hype at all.  That’s what the people hurting you want you to believe.  Hype.  Stupid hippie hype.

Evidence that “they” are feeding us B.S. (pun intended) came up during the 2012 election and Prop 37 in California.  Big bucks were poured into the No campaign for Prop 37 so that manufacturers would not have to label foods with genetically modified organisms.  There is a petition against GMO salmon right now that I’ve signed and I hope you will too.

I’m reading labels and looking for the Non-GMO Verified stamp.  No high fructose corn syrup, which includes pop.  I’ve found alternatives to my Dr. Pepper crutch, one is a Dry Soda in Vanilla that was fizzy and refreshing and natural.  Pop in Canada was (and I hope still is) made with real cane sugar, I’ll admit this is not much better but at least it’s a step away from the corn that could be GMO corn.   No aspertame, this is not a hard change to make because I’ve never liked the weird flavor and after taste.

Eating more organic food, less meat, and drinking water has dramatically improved my skin.  I was smearing on a prescription cream for rosecea every morning, I haven’t used the cream in over a month!  Getting all the chemicals and possible GM contaminated foods out of my system also seems to help with mood swings.   Feeling kinda crappy?  Eat an avocado and a pommegranate, I’m not sure what combinations of omega-3’s and vitamins would be in there, all I know is how I feel after boosting up on good food.  The only meat I’m not sure will forever disappear from my kitchen is bacon.  I know about the monsterous hog farmers who keep the pigs so confined that they can’t turn around in their pens.  I’m hoping that places like that will be forced to change.

At the AFBA Christmas party, I received a copy of Michael Natkins’ book Herbivoracious which is full of (lacto ovo) vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan dishes.   Just reading through this book makes me drool!  These are a few recipes earmarked so far:

    • Chana Chaat with Pappadams
    • Risotto Balls [Arancini di riso]
    • Tempeh-filled Potstickers [Gyoza]
    • Quuinoa Cakes
    • Middle Eastern Rice and Lentil Pilaf [Mujadara]

2013 is out with meat-n-potatoes, in with wholesome veggies and grains, smaller plates, and no soda pop.

C’est bon, mes amis!

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Not a perfect roll because it was baked slightly too long, however it was delicious.  I started with Paula Deen’s blackberry jelly roll recipe and changes it to suit the flavors I wanted.  Instead of vanilla extract I used my Heilala Ground Vanilla
bean paste and I added about a quarter cup of milk steeped with chai.  The goal was to make a chai jelly roll but the chai wasn’t pronounced enough, so I’ll name it after the most expensive ingredient in the cake, the vanilla bean.

Otherwise this is a very light sponge cake filled with a frosting that is half buttercream, half whipped ganache.

A few chocolate dipped strawberries can’t hurt either.  I used a scant teaspoon of coconut oil in 4 oz. 60% cocoa squares melted in the microwave in 30-second intervals.  Stir to cool the melted chocolate then dip the berries.  I chilled them in the freezer for a few minutes.

Now, I will go drink my chai with this slice of birthday cake, good nite!

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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’ll come right out and say that Gevalia wanted to send me coffee to test and write about their products.  Sure!  Who doesn’t like free stuff?  I’m normally a tea drinker at work and rarely prepare coffee at home.  I usually leave coffee to the baristas, it tastes better when someone else makes it.  However, this Gevalia Stockholm Roast Kaffe was so smooth, almost sweet, that I’ve renewed my hopes of finding a coffee palatable for home brewing.  I might be way off the path here, but this is my opinion after all.

I know there are local coffee vendors, hint hint, but Gevalia was the first to find me in the blogosphere.  Kudos for being first!

I’m always elated when a parcel arrives.  I also love to share the giddiness, therefore I will give one of my readers the joy of a box of coffee to enjoy while reading my blog.  Join the throngs of contestants by leaving a comment below with your favorite time of day to sip a cup o’ jo.

This coffee was also good iced.  Since Texas is too darn hot 98% of the time, this is the mode of choice for the barista prepared caffeine beverages I like.  Make a frosty with it and you are my new BFF!  Again, very little sugar was required.

Don’t know what else you can do with coffee?  Ever baked with it?  I got the idea from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten), you know, that episode where she made chocolate cupcakes with a ganache and put coffee in the second batch (or maybe the first… I don’t recall the order of the batches).  Her friend took the “A” batch and the “B” batch to a pack of drooling women confined to a conference room without natural light (this can bring out the PMS in any woman forced to conference chocolateless).  Anyways, guess which cupcakes tasted better?  The ones with the coffee, of course.  I must say, it does highlight the flavour of chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  If you have a chocolate cake recipe you like that calls for water or milk, try using a strong brew of coffee as the liquid (keep some portion of the milk if called for, the acidity might be a key factor).  Try Paula Deen’s Texas Sheet cake using this swap!

If only they could send that Swedish guy (who is really an actor from Cali, but hey) with the coffee….


* Contest Rules *

Open to US and Canadian residents

Please include your email address in the comment submission form or I can’t find you if you win!  To clarify: you don’t have to put your email in the comment field, include it in the form field *above* the comment and *below* your name.  Sorry for any confusion 🙂

Leave a comment once per day until contest closes on Oct 19, 2012.

Bonus entry if you Tweet this post, leave 1 extra comment for a Tweet.

Winner: 35th comment!

Thanks everyone who entered!

Update: The winner doesn’t want the coffee.  I’m drawing again:

Congratulations #9!   I’m sure you really want the coffee, not links, comments, and such like the last person….

OK, people… use real email addresses when entering contests.  Second person either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care.  Let’s try this one more time I will pick #28 my favorite number because random.org  isn’t working right now.  So the winner (hopefully) is Jennifer!  I will be contacting you shortly!


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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 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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The early summer days have yielded figs galore.  I’m lucky enough to have received two different types of figs from family and friends this week.  What am I to do with so many figs?

Fig Cake

Adapted from Open-Faced Plum Cake, Martha Stewart

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 large black figs, halved
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Grease two round cake pans (8-inch or 9-inch diameter) and set aside.

Cream 6 tablespoons of the butter with 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in the egg and then the milk.  The mixture may look a little curdled, it will be fine.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients.  Gradually increase the mixing speed to make a smooth batter.

Divide the batter between the two greased pans and smooth it out to cover the bottom of the pans.  Lay the fig halves on top of the batter in a pretty pattern.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the figs and cake batter.  Dot the fig halves with the remaining butter.

Bake until the edges are golden and the cake has puffed around the figs.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

The kids loved this cake and polished off their first slice before I had a chance to eat mine!  They both had a second piece before we headed to the park to enjoy a brief reprise from the 100 degree weather.

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