Recipes

Redirecting My Focus

I have always loved cooking however, my baking skills was not something I could brag about.  I could only bake things from a box.  And, sometimes I do turn to the box recipes because there are a few things, like Ghirardelli Brownies, that are so good from the box and so easy that it’s almost not worth the effort to make them from scratch.  However, my tenacity and will to be “a good” from scratch baker has been very rewarding.

It was always very frustrating when I put in a lot of time and effort into making a dessert for it to just end up in the trash and my family questioning why I even tried.  Actually, I’ve never had a very strong sweet tooth.  My husband on the other hand loves dessert.  Because of him, I have grown to like dessert better and his love for dessert gave me the inspiration to keep trying.

Once I learned the basics, I’ve discovered that it’s actually not that complicated.  First, read and re-read the recipe.  Make sure you have the exact ingredients and the basic tools or whatever tools and pans the recipe calls for.  Measure out your ingredients and make sure you didn’t leave anything out (I once forgot to add the sugar to a cake…that’s a big problem in a dessert). Then, follow the recipe exactly how it’s written.  Also, learn a few rules that are important to anything you bake, for example: do not over mix anything that has flour, baking temperature matters, atmospheric temperature and altitude also make a difference in whatever you’re baking.  And, when in doubt…Google!

When I was younger, Google was not a thing.  Now, however, it’s so easy to find conversions, adjustments, and ways to tweak on the internet; it’s a very useful resource, but do not settle for the first results on your query…research a little.  If you find similar answers on a variety of sites, then it’s probably accurate.

So, that being said…I’ve decided to redirect my focus on this blog to sweets on the slab…with the occasional savory.  Hope you enjoy my desserts and remember, in life moderation is the key to success in everything from politics to portion size! Don’t over indulge but do enjoy!

Coconut Macaroons

I’ve been making this recipe for years, and at this point I can’t even remember where I got it, but it’s delicious.  What I love best about it is the two main ingredients are egg whites and coconut flakes, so go ahead and enjoy this little treat!  These macaroons are a perfect addition to your Easter Brunch table.  Pile them in a pyramid on a lovely cake plate!

Sometimes I dip them in chocolate…just to be fancy, and also…we love chocolate!  Or, if you love lemon, add the zest of one lemon to the batter. And be sure to add the full 3 cups of coconut. When I first started making these, I skimped on the coconut because even though I love coconut flavor, the texture of the flakes is something I’ve grown to love.  The flakes add substance and make a nice rounded cookie, also gives them that amazing coconut flavor they deserve. Without sufficient coconut flakes, you’ll end up with a disc like, rubbery cookie instead of a nice round, amazing, moist cookie and the outer flakes become crispy and golden; just perfect!

Makes 22-24 macaroons


Ingredients:

  • Egg whites from 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 3 cups (or a little more) sweetened coconut flakes
  • 6 oz. (1 1/2 bars) Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet baking chocolate bar


Instructions:

  1. In a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed over a 2 quart sauce pan (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water), warm the egg whites, sugar and salt whisking until it is nice a creamy and warm to the touch but not hot.
  2. Remove from the heat and using a wooden spoon stir in the vanilla, flour and coconut flakes.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350º.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place small mounds (1 heaping tablespoon) of the batter on the lined sheets, spaced several inches apart.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges and top starts to turn golden.  Remove from the oven, allow them to sit for 5 minutes and then place them on a cooling rack.
  6. If you will be enjoying these without the dipping them in chocolate, they are delicious when still a little warm!  If you would like to dip them in chocolate you can melt the Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet baking chocolate in the double boiler.  Have a sheet pan prepared with wax paper.  Once the chocolate is melted and the macaroons are completely cooled, dip one half into the chocolate leaving one half without chocolate and place them on the wax paper.  Refrigerate for about 20 minutes so the chocolate hardens and then enjoy! When I’m in a bit of a rush, I use Dolci Frutta Hard Chocolate shell and I just follow the instructions on the label.

 


 


 

Carol’s Coconut Cake

I first tried this recipe at my friend, Carol’s house.  She used a recipe from Our State Magazine. A North Carolina favorite!It is a moist and delicious cake with just the right amount of coconut flavor.  So many times people I know say, “I don’t like coconut…it’s not the flavor but the texture.”

Well, the texture of this cake is just like any other, but it’s very moist and delicious.  As far as the coconut flakes go, that’s something that you can control.  If you don’t like the texture of the coconut flakes, you can just add a little less.  What I do is I mix some coconut flakes with chocolate sprinkles or shaved chocolate and chopped up almonds.  I use that mixture as a topping on the frosting.  Even people who say they don’t like coconut, love this recipe; I was one of those, so I know!

This time, I used the recipe to make cupcakes.  I followed the same method, omitting the filling and coconut syrup. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!


Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325º.  Grease and flour two or three 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until the butter melts. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool at room temperature.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using a hand or stand mixer set to medium-high, beat the eggs and 3 cups of sugar for about 3 minutes until it is thick and pale yellow, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined (one thing I’ve learned about baking almost anything that takes flour is that the more or more vigorously you stir, the tougher your baked goods will be, so be gently!).  Add the cooled milk mixture and the vanilla and almond extracts and again stir gently until smooth.
  6. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared cake pans.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  If you would like to make a three layer cake, use three pans and bake for about 25 minutes.  If making cupcakes, you can get 24 out of this recipe and you should bake them for about 15-18 minutes.  Insert a wooden tooth pick or knife in the center; if it comes up dry, your cake is done, if not bake for a few more minutes and then check again.  Place the pans on a cooling rack and allow them  to reach room temperature before removing the cakes from the pans and before frosting.

To make a butter cream/coconut frosting and filling:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
  • 6 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 – 5 Tbsp (or more) well-stirred cream of coconut
  • 3 cups coconut flakes (use as much or as little as you desire).  I personally like the flakes as a topping so I do not add this until the end.  I mix in chocolate shavings or sprinkles and finely chopped almonds.
  1. Beat the butter, vanilla and coconut flavoring in a large bowl using an electric mixer set on medium speed until it is smooth.  Add 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar along with 1 Tbsp of the cream of coconut and beat in between each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go along.  Do not add all the powdered sugar at once you’ll you will end up with a cloud of sugar!  When you have incorporated all the powdered sugar and cream of coconut, set aside 1 cup of the buttercream frosting to use as filling.
  2. To make the filling: If adding coconut flakes to the filling, add 1 1/2 cups of coconut flakes to the reserved cup of buttercream.  It should be spreadable, so add some cream of coconut as needed to achieve a spreadable mixture.
  3. Make coconut syrup by simmering the coconut water and the remaining 2 Tbsp granulated sugar in a small sauce pan over med/low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat.
  4. For assembly: Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake plate or stand, this will be the base.  Tuck pieces of parchment or wax paper under the edges all around to keep the cake plate clean as you frost.  Brush or drizzle about 2 1/2 Tbsp of the coconut syrup and then spread the filling.  Top with the next layer, repeating this step if making a three layer cake.
  5. Brush or drizzle the remaining coconut syrup over the last layer (top) and frost the entire cake with the buttercream.  You can frost it smoothly using a spatula or place the frosting in a piping bag using the tip of your choice to decorate.  You can also top with a mixture of sprinkles, coconut flakes and chopped almonds.  Gently remove the wax paper from around the bottom edges of the cake.


 

 

 

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Center and Vanilla Buttercream

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I made this cake for my husband’s birthday.  It’s actually his favorite.  Before I knew how to bake, I used to make the Duncan Hines Devil’s Food cake mix and add Reese’s peanut butter chips to the center, then top it with which ever brand of vanilla frosting was available at the grocery store.  He loved it then, but this is now…when I’ve learned how to bake from scratch!  Finally!  It took me a few years….

The recipe for this cake came from addapinch.com.  It claims to be the best chocolate cake (ever).  I used almond milk and it actually is one of the better ones I’ve tried.  Tastes almost like, but even better than the Duncan Hines!  Hahaha! I made a peanut butter frosting to spread in the center and then topped it with my own buttercream frosting.

He was not disappointed on his birthday…as he isn’t any other day I give him dessert!  He’s a sweetie!  Happy Birthday my Dear!

For the cake recipe follow this link: https://addapinch.com/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-ever/


Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

Combine the peanut butter, and the softened butter in a bowl; whip using a hand mixer.  Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time and then add the whipping cream.  Continue whipping until creamy and smooth.  You may add extra whipping cream if you want it to be creamier.


Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperaturedsc_0298
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • pinch of Kosher salt

Cream the butter using a hand or stand mixer.  Add the sugar a little at a time.  Add a pinch of salt.  Add the whipping cream and the vanilla. Continue to mix until creamy.

  • Add some special sprinkles!  I used white and gold toned sprinkles to match the peanut butter and also added some chocolate shavings.


 

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

dsc_0276Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?  They are perfect for a snack with a glass of milk, topped with ice cream and chocolate syrup drizzle as a dessert, or just on it’s own is perfectly fine too! And, of course, you should always make sure they are perfectly    warm : )

This recipe actually came from Neiman Marcus.  As far as I know, they have since changed their cookie recipe, but they were kind enough to included a recipe card in the cookie box when you ordered them.  I actually prefer this recipe, over the new one.

The last few years I had been making the New York Times chocolate chip cookies (which don’t get me wrong…are delicious!). I had kind of put this one aside and out of mind.  Recently my daughter asked me to send her the cookie recipe, so I automatically sent the NYT.  She proceeded to say, “No, the other one…”  I knew right away she was talking about the Neiman’s cookies.  I was so happy to get reacquainted with them!  I follow the recipe exactly, and the only thing I do differently is I top them with flaky sea salt.  Continue reading “My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies”

Yeh’s Valentine’s Day Almond Cake


Let me begin by saying how much I love almonds!  I’ve made several recipes made with almonds; this by far has been my favorite.  Not only was it delicious, but it turned out beautifully.  Molly Yeh is a pro at making cakes and especially very creative when it comes to decorating.  Her Valentine’s Day Almond Cake recipe is very user friendly.

I followed the instructions carefully for the cake.  I didn’t have all the gadgets required, but I made it work with a little creativity and a little help from my sis.  I did make my own raspberry buttercream frosting instead of the whipped cream frosting she uses. I used fresh raspberry syrup in place of food coloring. I also decorated it with my own flare.  This cake was not just yummy, but also a lot of fun to decorate!  Hope you give it a try, it’s well worth the effort! Follow the link for her recipe and if you’d like to try my frosting see below…

http://mynameisyeh.com/mynameisyeh/2018/2/valentines-day-almond-cake

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Ingredients for frosting and decorations:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 cups (or more if you like it really sweet) confectioners sugar
  • 3 or more Tbsp raspberry syrup, made with 6 oz. fresh strawberries, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar and 1 Tbsp water
  • a couple of pinches of Kosher salt
  • your choice of sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Leave the butter on your counter to soften; about 45 minutes or so.
  2. In a small sauce pan, combine the raspberries, granulated sugar and water and heat on medium until the raspberries breakdown and soften and the liquid is nice and pink.  Strain the raspberries and the liquid through a fine sieve into a small bowl and set aside to cool. If you think there are raspberry pieces or seeds in the syrup, strain it twice. You will only be using the syrup, so discard the fruit that remains in the sieve.
  3. Place the butter in a deep bowl and whip with an electric mixer.  Add the confectioners sugar and the heavy whipping cream, alternating between the two, a little at a time. If you add the powdered sugar all at once, you’ll end up with a white cloud of sugar all around you. Add a couple of pinches of Kosher salt.  Continue whisking so it’s smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the raspberry syrup a tablespoon at a time until it’s the perfect pink for you.  I prefer this over food coloring…healthier and tastier! I ended up using about 5 tablespoons, but you can add as much or as little as you want.  I had left over syrup that I placed in a small bowl and served on the side so if anyone wanted to drizzle a little over their piece of cake.
  5. For the decorations, I used 3 different sizes of heart shaped cookie cutters. If you don’t have them, you can make a stencil out of parchment paper and place it over the cake, then remove it carefully once the sprinkles are on.  From Michael’s, I purchased a few Valentine themed sprinkled and combined them with a few others I had, minced some slivered almonds and combined them all in a small bowl to create what I call a “sprinkles extravaganza!”  Once the cake is frosted, carefully placed the cookie cutters on the surface of the frosting and using a 1 tsp measure to add sprinkles to the inside of the heart shapes. Try not to make it too thick vertically, but enough so each heart shape is completely filled edge to edge. Pat the sprinkles down gently so they stick. Carefully remove the cookie cutters and using tweezers (or the edge of a knife or spoon) gently remove or adjust any runaway sprinkles.  Have fun!

 



 

Savory Ground Turkey (Turkey Picadillo)

dsc_0199Growing up, my mother always made picadillo, which is ground beef seasoned with Cuban style seasonings.  I guess the American dish that reminds me most of it, I think, is Sloppy Joe, but without the bun,  We always had it with white rice, fried plantains. and on occasion her famous black beans…..is there any other way?  Yes…fast forward to 2019, made with ground turkey and served with brown rice and roasted vegetables!  Even though we still occasionally enjoy “picadillo” the way my mom used to make it, this version is a delicious, easy to make healthy option. Continue reading “Savory Ground Turkey (Turkey Picadillo)”