There’s no gluten, dairy, or processed sugar in these energy bars. In fact, no grain at all. My son spends a lot of time in the woods and wanted me to come up with something that could withstand being tossed in a backpack, but he didn’t want any sweetener or grains. (I know. I think he was a changeling, I really do.) I lobbied for a small amount of honey to make the bars sturdier but kept it to a minimum. And do you know what? These are good! Really good. The chia and honey work together to glue all the yummy nuts and seeds together. I also added some dried cranberries and blueberries.
For my first attempt, I used a three-seed mix of chia, hemp, and flax. There wasn’t enough chia to hold it all together well, so I tried again, added more chia, and got it right.
Baking times may vary a little, depending on how thin you spread the mixture, and on your oven. My oven doesn’t hold heat once it’s turned off. It has a fan that blows the heat out, which is a little annoying when I try to make meringues or crackers (things that I want to dry out slowly). So you may have to play with the timing a bit. I also wanted these pretty dry and crunchy; you can give them a shorter bake time if you want them softer.
You’ll probably want to hit a natural-foods market for ingredients. The recipe uses quite a variety, and you can usually buy small amounts in bulk there. Of course, once you’ve tried these you may go back for larger quantities.
4 cups chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, almonds)
½ cup dried fruit (I used cranberries and blueberries)
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
Heat oven to 325 F. Cover a large baking sheet with an 11½ x 16" Silpat (or parchment)
In a large bowl, whisk together the water and honey.
Add seeds and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. It should get thick.
Add nuts and fruit and stir well.
Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet, It will tend to get thicker in the middle, so try to smooth it out so the edges are the same thickness.
Bake for 30 minutes. Flip the bars over. (Either place another silpat and a baking sheet on top and flip the whole thing over, then cut into desired sizes - or cut into bars and flip each one over. Return to oven.
Reduce heat to 250 F. and bake for an additional hour. Without opening the door, turn off the oven and let the bars sit until cool. (They should be firm. If not, you can bake for additional time at 250 F.)
Stir seeds into water and honey. Let them thicken up!
Add nuts and fruit and stir well
Spread evenly onto silpat or parchment
You may want to have another baking sheet ready. After it’s baked for 30 minutes, it needs to be flipped over. You can place another baking sheet on top and flip (then cut bars and put it back in the oven) or cut bars and flip each one over before returning to the oven. Whichever seems easiest to you. I’m a “flip the whole mess over at once” kinda gal.
See? Wasn’t that easy? Now you can have a healthy snack whenever you need a pick-me-up. Put this on your calendar, because you won’t see something like this on my blog very often.
Sweet and tangy, these cute little mini-cheesecakes are perfect for a summer party. Serve them frozen on a hot day and watch them disappear!
Huckleberries are ripe right now, and I’m in heaven. There’s just nothing to compare to these flavorful berries. There is, however, an almost-as-good option if you don’t have access to huckleberries. Wild Maine blueberries are very similar. I bought frozen wild blueberries at the grocery store and they were delicious and reasonable. With fresh huckleberries going for $50-60 a gallon here, if I couldn’t pick them myself, I’d go for the frozen option!
Loaded with cream cheese, sour cream, and whipped topping, you’d think these little cheesecakes would be crazy-rich, but they truly aren’t. The combination of textures and the addition of lemon to the berry topping helps to confuse you into thinking you can eat twenty of these. I should know.
This may look sweet and innocent, but it will actually lure you into “just one more”.
And speaking of whipped topping, I really don’t like to use it. I much prefer real whipped cream. But I tried this with whipping cream, and the little bites were softer . . . pretty messy if you didn’t eat them the second they came out of the freezer. So I caved. I have one more cream cheese recipe coming up soon (it’s a doozy!) and I promise to use the real stuff in that one.
Have you ever used agar-agar? The berry topping can be thickened using cornstarch or agar-agar. I tried both and liked the agar-agar version slightly better. The topping reminded me a little bit of cranberry sauce (kind of gelatinous) while the cornstarch topping was more jam-like, but both were very tasty. The recipe below will call for cornstarch because it’s what most people have in their cupboard, but if you’d like to use agar-agar powder, simply add the lemon juice and water to the cooked berries and then whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons of agar-agar powder. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Top the cheesecakes while the mixture is still warm because it will set up quickly once it cools. If it gets too thick at any point, gently reheat it.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 double crackers) finely crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2½ cups fresh huckleberries (or use fresh or frozen wild Maine blueberries)
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
⅓ cup white chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup sour cream
1 8-oz tub thawed whipped topping, divided
Heat oven to 325 F. Prepare the mini tart pans by placing a small paper liner in each cavity. (48 liners in all.)
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Divide between the 48 liners - about 1 teaspoon in each. Tamp down well with a shot glass or tart tamper. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
In a small cup, whisk together the water, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Set aside.
In a medium pot, stir together the berries and sugar. Heat on medium-low until mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon (letting the liquid drip back into the pan) scoop 2 tablespoons of berries into a small dish and set aside.
Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into bubbling berry mixture and continue to cook at a low boil until thick - about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a small pan on low heat (or in the microwave), gently heat 1 tablespoon heavy cream and white chocolate until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese well. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
Add sour cream, melted white chocolate, and 2 tablespoons reserved cooked berries. Mix until combined.
Fold in 2 cups of whipped topping, reserving the remaining cup for decorating.
Fill each liner about ¾ full, leaving a little room for the berry topping. You can spoon the filling into the liners or use a pastry bag or heavy plastic bag with the tip cut off to squeeze it in.
Check the berry topping to make sure it isn't hot. Warm is fine. Spoon over the filling in each liner.
Freeze until ready to serve. Top with whipped topping and a berry, if desired.
Tamp down the crust and bake. If you don’t have a tart tamper, use a shot glass!
I use a pastry bag to fill them. Leave room for topping!
Add the berry topping and freeze
So if you live on the east or west coast, get a can of bear spray and head for the hills to harvest huckleberries or wild blueberries. If you’re stuck elsewhere, look in the freezer section of any large grocery store. Our health food section has a separate freezer section, and they have organic wild Maine blueberries. Score!
Before I post my last (for now) cheesecake recipe, I’ve actually been working on a healthy treat. Yes, yes, you heard that right. Check back in soon . . . or better yet, subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss this rare occurrence!
Each summer when our grandkids are visiting, we make a festive dessert. Oh, there’s always lots of chopping, cooking, and baking going on during that week, but we like to create one special sweet treat. This year we made a no-bake raspberry cheesecake for the 4th of July. Well . . . we baked the crust, but that’s all. We intended to add some blueberries to make it red, white, and blue, but we forgot. (It gets a little crazy around here with so many people in the kitchen.)
There are three steps to this dessert: topping, crust, and filling. It really won’t take that long, and if my grandkids can make this without whining, you can too!
Of course, I winged it and didn’t write down exact measurements. We were in a hurry (great-grandma was coming to visit) and slam-dunked it. You probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I just guessed my way through the recipe, so now that the kids have gone back to California (sob) it was carefully re-created and documented . . . and it turned out beautifully. I added lemon zest to the cheesecake the second time around and loved the subtle flavor.
And I even cleaned up as I went! Mark that down on your calendar, because it will probably never happen again. Who knows what possessed me – but it’s awfully nice to sit here working on this blog without seeing a mess out of the corner of my eye. I understand that some people actually do this regularly. Huh. Go figure.
Do you know what I really, really miss? Raspberry ripple ice cream. Just can’t find it anywhere. This immediately reminded me of that childhood treat . . . sweet nostalgia!
If you don’t have a springform pan, you can always make a couple of deep dish pies instead, using the same steps.
You will need a 9-inch springform pan for this recipe. (It could also be made in two deep-dish pie pans.) Plan ahead; this cheesecake is best if it's refrigerated overnight.
18 ounces fresh raspberries (about 3 cups, plus a few for decorating)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 1½ sleeves)
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 ounces white chocolate (chips or candy melts are fine)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
zest from 2 lemons
1 8-ounce tub of whipped topping, thawed
Heat oven to 325 F. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and place a round of parchment on the bottom.
In a small dish, combine the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir well and set aside.
If desired, remove and refrigerate 9 of the nicest berries to use later for decorating. In a medium pan on medium heat, bring the remaining berries, sugar, and salt to a boil. Cook at a low boil for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Cook and stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan evenly, going halfway up the sides of the pan. (A straight-sided measuring cup works well for pressing crust up the sides.)
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.
In a small pan on very low heat (or in a microwave at 15-second intervals) combine the cream and white chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and beat well.
Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon zest, and white chocolate mixture. Beat well.
By hand, stir in the whipped topping, just until incorporated.
Put half of the filling in the pie crust, spreading it to the sides. Don't smooth it; hills and valleys will make the raspberry swirl look prettier.
Check the raspberry mixture. Warm is fine, but if it's still hot, place the pan in a larger pan of cold water and stir. Drizzle ⅓ cup of the raspberry mixture over the filling in the pan. Cover with remaining filling and swirl gently, avoiding the crust.
Smooth the top, making it as level as possible. Pour the remaining raspberry topping over the cheesecake, cover with foil, and chill overnight.
If desired, decorate with whipped cream rosettes and the reserved raspberries.
Add sugar and a pinch of salt to rinsed raspberries and boil gently for 3 minutes
Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, and water
Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling berries. Stir until thickened.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.
Press into prepared pan and bake
Melt together the cream and white chocolate. Let it cool a little.
Add powdered sugar to whipped cream cheese
Add lemon and melted chocolate to the mixture
Stir in the whipped topping
Add half of the filling (don’t level it . . . leave it “gloppy”) and drizzle with 1/3 cup berry mixture
Cover with remaining filling
Swirl gently. (You don’t want to disturb that crust!)
Level the top (a small offset spatula works well) all the way to the edge. Add remaining berry mixture and smooth with a clean spatula.
Decorate with whipped cream and raspberries, or let it go au naturel.
It doesn’t really NEED adornment. I like mine straight.
In case you’re wondering, this is delicious when frozen, too! Trust me, I know. And it’s easier to cut and serve. Just take it from the freezer and let it sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.
If you’re feeding a crowd and want an easy way to serve burgers, here’s a great recipe for you! Two huge burgers, sliced like a pie, will yield twelve portions. The buns can be made a day or two ahead (or you can get them done really early and freeze them) so all you’ll need to do is cook those mammoth burgers and slice some veggies. Sweet, huh? You could even cook the burgers ahead and freeze them too; they’d be easy to warm up in the oven.
The Man thought this one up, of course. He’s the burger fan around here. Of course, he thought that each should be sliced into four pieces, not six, but he lost that battle. You know what’s really neat about this idea? The pieces are much easier to eat than a regular burger.
My apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot for messing with his lyrics. Since we went to the same high school (he was a few years behind me) I know he’d be okay with this. (Okay, okay. Eight years. He’s eight years younger. Are you happy now? Sheesh.) Go, Roughriders!
I used a 10-inch cast iron round griddle for one of the buns and an 11-inch tart pan for the other. Cake pans would work fine too, but I wanted something with low sides so the buns would brown all the way down. Both worked like a charm. In a pinch, just lay your round dough on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
¼ cup oil (I used peanut oil, but any mild-flavored cooking oil will work)
2 eggs, divided
Lightly grease two 10-11 inch round pans. Sprinkle with cornmeal if desired. (You may also use parchment instead of the grease.)
Put 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. (A sturdy stand mixer with a paddle attachment is best.)
In a small pot, heat the water, milk, sugar, and oil until very warm - 120-130 degrees. Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture, add one egg and one yolk (reserve the egg white for later) and beat until smooth.
Switch to a dough hook and add remaining flour until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 7 minutes.
Place dough on floured surface, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Divide dough into two equal parts. Working with one at a time, flatten with your hand, then roll out into a 9-inch circle. Place in prepared pan and pat firmly to make sure it's evenly thick. Press around the outside edge to make it slope down to the pan (creating more of a dome shape).
Cover with a towel and let the buns rise for 45 minutes. They won't double in size but will be puffy.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Add 1 teaspoon water to the egg white and whisk until foamy. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake buns for 15 minutes, or until the tops are rich, golden brown. Remove from oven and place pans on cooling racks for 5-10 minutes. Lift buns onto racks to continue cooling.
Slice in half horizontally and fill as desired. (Note: if using the same size pans to cook burgers, use extra-lean meat to avoid shrinkage.)
Well, these are addictive little devils! Sweet little sugar puffs that melt in your mouth, all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Trust me, you won’t be able to stop at one.
I did something out of character and took the easy route with these treats. I’ve made meringues many times using egg whites, but I tried using Wilton’s meringue powder and it worked beautifully.
If you’re fresh out of meringue powder, I’d advise a trip to the store – pronto. And get some superfine sugar while you’re there. You don’t HAVE to use it, but it dissolves into the liquid a lot faster and I highly recommend it. Here’s what you’ll need:
Superfine sugar (aka: Baker’s sugar)
large pastry bag
large star tip
red and blue paste food coloring (or gel, if it’s thick)
I tried using my gel coloring but it didn’t stick to the bag at all. Maybe because it’s “squeezable” gel, so it’s thinner. Paste coloring worked fine.
This is seriously so easy. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is get the stripes of color inside the pastry bag. I’ll give you some pointers, but the important thing to remember is that even if your stripes are wonky, the meringues will still look great.
Makes about 30 meringues (1½ inch) or hundreds of little bitty ones.
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon meringue powder (I use Wiltons)
½ cup superfine sugar
a few drops of flavoring if desired (use clear colors: lemon, peppermint, cinnamon are all good.)
red and blue paste food coloring
PREPARATION: Drop large star tip into the pastry bag. Fold down the top third of the bag (making a cuff) and paint alternating stripes of red and blue up the inside of the bag, starting at the base of the star tip and working up. Don't make them too thick or too close together, or you'll end up with purple! (I used 3 stripes of each color.) Set bag aside.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
MERINGUES: For best results, use a stand mixer (or a sturdy hand mixer and medium-sized bowl.) Heat oven to 250 F.
Beat together the water and meringue powder until foamy.
Add sugar very gradually, sprinkling it in a little at a time, scraping bowl occasionally.
Beat until thick and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. Add flavoring if using and beat until incorporated.
Place the prepared pastry bag inside a tall water glass. Carefully drop meringue into bag. Don't try to spread it, just drop it in there. Unfold the cuff of the bag and twist to close.
Pipe meringues on prepared pan. Squeeze near the pan and pull up slowly, releasing pressure as you go. Aim for about 1½ inches at the base. The first few won't be very colorful, but they're still pretty. They won't spread and can be fairly close together. Small stars can be piped for decorations, but pipe them on a separate sheet; they'll take less time to bake.
Bake large puffs for 25 minutes, (10 minutes for the tiny stars), then turn off oven (don't open the door!) and leave them for a couple of hours. If you have an oven that vents heat out when it's turned off, at the end of the bake time turn the heat down as low as it will go and let them bake for another 10 minutes before turning oven off.
Slooooowly add sugar to water and meringue powder. Beat until very thick and shiny.
I place the cuff over my hand and very (very) carefully paint the lines. I was pretty generous here and had some vibrant colors. I used less on the second batch and they were still bright and pretty.
Here’s what it looks like before the meringue is added.
Place bag in glass for support. Carefully drop the meringue into the bag.
Piping the puffs
Take your time when adding the sugar. Give it time to dissolve.
If you want to make the tiny stars (great for decorating cupcakes) hold the tip a little bit above the parchment and start squeezing as you push down and touch the sheet. Stop squeezing and pull up. You’ll get the hang of it!
To make both sizes, put the large puffs in the oven first. Let them bake for 15 minutes, then put the other sheet in too. Continue to bake for the remaining 10 minutes then turn off the oven without opening the door. Don’t peek – leave them to dry out for a couple of hours (or overnight). If you have an oven that vents the heat once it’s turned off, see the recipe for instructions.
Put a dot of meringue batter on the baking sheet under the parchment to hold it in place while piping.
If you want a little more white and a little less color in your meringues, just make 4 stripes instead of 6 inside the pastry bag.
Keep them dry, cool, and dark. In theory, they’ll last 2 weeks. I don’t think they’ll have that opportunity!
Here is the mini version:
Piped and ready for the oven.
Jazz up strawberry shortcake, cookies, cupcakes, or a bowl of ice cream. Or just pop them—one after another—in your mouth.
Layers of hash browns, bacon, sweet onions, cheese, ham, and eggs create a breakfast dish that you’d be proud to serve to company . . . or just scarf down yourself. My goal was to make this delicious dish while producing a minimum amount of pans to wash, and I was pretty pleased with the way it all worked out.
But my husband wanted hash browns. And I didn’t have Swiss cheese. Or heavy cream. Besides, I think I have some kind of genetic disorder that doesn’t let me follow a recipe exactly as it’s written. I.Just.Can’t. I have to fiddle and improvise, no matter how perfect the original version is.
So, my apologies to Cydnee for messing with her recipe, but here’s my version. Now you can choose between low-carb and almost low carb. (Aw, c’mon, it’s just one potato.)
Layer the uncooked bacon on the shredded potatoes (the bacon grease will help cook the potatoes) and bake for 30 minutes.
Chop onions and grate cheese.
Add onions to cooked potatoes and bacon
Combine the cream cheese, eggs, and milk. Add seasonings.
Add cheese, then ham, then egg mixture. Bake 45-50 minutes.
Seriously, that’s all there is to it! I peeled, grated, rinsed, and blotted dry one large potato for this recipe. If you want to save steps (and avoid washing a peeler, grater, and bowl) you can use fresh shredded potatoes from the store, or even frozen shredded hash browns.
The quiche comes out of the pan cleanly, making it easy to plate. And oh, boy does it taste good! The Man moaned his way through two huge pieces and drove me nuts coming up with variations to try next.
As a reminder, Father’s Day is coming up and this would be an easy, man-pleasing breakfast to serve him. He’ll love you for it.
If you want a little bang for your buck this Father’s Day, make the man in your life a camouflage cake. (If he’s not the outdoors type, use his favorite team colors instead.) I covered my cake with a fudgy coating topped with crushed chocolate cookies, chocolate deer, and candy trees. (My man’s happy place is in the woods.)
I’d like to call this a pound cake, but technically it isn’t. I used leavening (just a little) and my egg, sugar, flour, and butter ratio isn’t exactly the same. Still, if it looks like a pound cake, and tastes like a pound cake, well . . . it’s delicious.
I used thick, fudge-like icing on my cake. If you prefer a traditional drizzle, I recommend making a ganache. It’s easy and you can use it right away as a glaze or let it sit and thicken for a few hours, then spread it like soft frosting. To make the ganache, use equal amounts of a good dark chocolate and heavy cream. For a drizzle, 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream should do it. (Double this if you plan to spread it on the whole cake.). Chop the chocolate into tiny pieces and put in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently. Let it sit on the counter, stirring occasionally until it’s the consistency you want.
Here’s the recipe. I’ll give you decorating ideas below.
¼ cup strong coffee (mostly for color - you can just use buttermilk if preferred)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon "Special Dark" cocoa (or use regular cocoa and a little black food coloring)
Green food coloring
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 cups powdered sugar
6 ounces chocolate (chocolate chips are okay)
Crushed chocolate cookies (remove filling first if using sandwich cookies)
Green candy melts to make trees
Plastic or chocolate deer, ducks, hunters, etc.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line a large loaf pan with parchment. Spray any uncovered surface with baking spray (or grease and flour the exposed area). This recipe was made with a 10"x5" loaf pan. If your pan is smaller, don't fill more than ⅔ full. Make a few cupcakes if you have leftover batter.
In a large bowl beat butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes, scraping the side of the bowl often.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds with each addition. Scrape the bowl!
Combine buttermilk, coffee, and vanilla.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Alternately add flour and liquids, beginning with ⅓ of the flour, stirring well, then add ⅓ of the liquid. Repeat until all has been added. Mix until well combined.
Remove 1 cup of the batter and place in a small bowl. Fold in 1 tablespoon dark cocoa.
Divide the remaining batter between 3 small bowls. Add 2 teaspoons regular cocoa to one bowl, add green food coloring to one bowl (add a touch of cocoa or orange color if you want to make a khaki color) and leave the last bowl as it is. You will have dark brown, light brown, green, and cream/tan.
The first layer: using a small spoon, drop dollops of green, light brown, and cream batter in a random pattern in the prepared loaf pan. Place dark batter in a piping bag or sturdy food storage bag with the tip cut off and add long, skinny shapes here and there. Fill in some low places, climb the side of the pan - just don't use too much of it in one spot.
The second layer: repeat, taking care to fill in any low places. Tap the bottom of the pan on a hard surface and gently smooth the top. The colors will smear together on top, but that's fine.
Bake for approximately 75 minutes. Ovens vary, so check the cake at 1 hour by inserting a skewer into the center next to the crack (which is perfectly normal for a pound cake, by the way). If the skewer has batter or a lot of sticky crumbs on it, give the cake more time. It takes a long time to cook a pound cake in a loaf pan, and the edges may get a little dark before it's done. I just use a serrated blade to trim them if necessary.
Cool the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes before lifting the cake out.
FUDGY COATING: In a small pot, combine water, corn syrup, and powdered sugar. Stir over medium heat until hot but not bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Spread over cake and decorate as desired.
Cream that butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy (at least 3 minutes) then add eggs one at a time. Be patient and beat well!
Alternately add the flour mixture and the liquids.
Separate and color batter.
First layer. The dark brown is added using a pastry bag to get long, skinny shapes. What I didn’t realize was, since you’re cutting from the end, the squiggles should go cross-wise. Next time!
Second layer. Fill in those low spots!
Smooth the top and bake. Bake for a looooong time.
It will crack. Embrace it.
You can let it cool and serve it just like this, or drizzle it with glaze or ganache. You can wrap it snugly and hide it in the pantry where you’ll have sneaky little rendezvous with it for days (it just gets better and better as it ages) while you pretend to be looking for a can of mushrooms. Ahem.
Or you can decorate it however you choose. Here’s my cake. There are no smooth, perfect lines – this is a rustic cake for a man who’s into hunting.
I was really surprised by the lack of chocolate molds available in the shape of deer. Apparently, you can get deer heads or Bambi. I used a cheap little silicone mold I just bought, and it was not a good application for chocolate. If you want to get one, they’re on eBay and Amazon, but I’ve got to warn you, just count on getting a deer torso and head. The antlers and legs will break off. The mold is made for fondant, not chocolate. Honestly? I don’t even know how you’d get the fondant to come out of this delicate shape.
So, you could bake and decorate deer-shaped cookies. (I’ll bet you have a reindeer cookie cutter in your holiday stash.) Or you could print a silhouette of a deer, put a piece of waxed paper over it, put melted chocolate in a pastry bag and follow the lines, filling in as you go. You could buy cute hunter/deer cake toppers. Or you could just make trees and pretend the deer is hiding behind them somewhere. (Probably the most realistic scenario.)
I piped trees, froze them briefly, then flipped them over and piped the other side. Add a sucker stick or toothpick before piping side two – then it’ll stick neatly in the cake.
I used light green candy melts for the trees, then painted them with color dust for depth. They didn’t want to stay upright; a simple solution would have been to add a toothpick when I flipped them over and piped the second side. Instead, the toothpicks were put to use propping the trees up.
I wanted the top to look like dirt, so I crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, discarding the white centers, and put the crumbs on waxed paper. I iced the top and long sides of the cake, picked it up by the ends, turned it over and rolled the top in crumbs. Ta Da!
If your guy isn’t into camo and hunting and you’ve still read this far, you are my new best friend! Instead of camo, make the colors those of his favorite team, or turn it red, white, and blue for the 4th of July!
Remember to keep the cake well wrapped at room temperature. It’s good for days . . . if it lasts that long.
Taco ’bout sweet! If you’re looking for something different for Cinco de Mayo, I’ve got you covered, because these “tacos” aren’t what they seem to be. A wafer cookie is filled with crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and frosting, then topped with fake cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. (And yes, I used canned frosting. Even I am not nutty enough to make a batch of homemade frosting for just two-thirds of a cup.)
I used orange candy melts for the cheese, spreading it very thinly on a Silpat, then scraping it up with a knife. I used green melts for the lettuce, though green coconut would have been an easy alternative.
If I hadn’t chosen peanut butter-filled Oreos for the filling, I’d have added some maraschino cherries or even chopped red licorice for “tomatoes”, but neither sounded like a good match with peanut butter. Meh. Maybe next time I’ll use the cookies with the plain white filling.
A dollop of marshmallow fluff was perfect for sour cream.
The taco shells were easy but took a while since I could only bake two at a time without making a mess of things. But the recipe only makes 14 or so, and they bake for 6 minutes, so it’s not that crazy. Right? Right? Oh, c’mon, humor me.
Making cookie taco shells
I tried a couple of different methods and the easiest way to make the taco shells was with a stencil. I cut a four-inch circle out of cardstock, placed the stencil on a Silpat sheet (you can use parchment if you prefer) and spread the batter on with a metal spatula. They came out very uniform this way. They’re soft when they first come out of the oven and must be shaped right away. You’ll have to move quickly and drape them over a dowel or spoon handle.
Shaping the shells. They harden quickly!
Tip: if the shells get hard before you manage to drape them over the spoon handle, pop them back in the oven for a few seconds. As long as they weren’t overbaked, this should soften them up. Now move FAST!
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or thick Bulgarian style buttermilk)
yellow/orange food coloring (optional)
⅓ cup chocolate chips
15 sandwich cookies (I used peanut butter-filled), crushed
⅔ cup chocolate frosting
Toppings: orange candy melts, green candy melts (or green coconut), marshmallow fluff
Heat oven to 375 F. and cover two baking sheets with Silpats (or parchment, if preferred).
Melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl beat egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
Add flour and cream (or buttermilk) and beat until smooth.
Add butter. Beat on low until mixed.
Add yellow and orange food coloring, if desired, to make the shells the color of a corn tortilla.
Spread batter in 4-inch circles on Silpat sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between circles. The easiest way to do this is to make a simple stencil. Cut a 4-inch circle in the middle of a piece of cardstock. Lay the stencil on Silpat and spread 1 tablespoon of batter with a flat spatula. Lift stencil carefully and repeat.
Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan, carefully flip over with a flat spatula. Bake 1 additional minute, or until the cookies are beginning to brown. Immediately drape over a dowel or spoon handle (suspended between two cups or bowls) while you are baking the next sheet of cookies. Repeat.
Melt the chocolate chips and brush a thin coat on the inside of each shell, coming half-way up the sides.
Combine crushed cookies and frosting. Divide between each taco, crumbling to resemble meat filling.
"Cheese" can be made by melting ½ cup of orange candy melts and spreading very thinly on Silpat. Once it's firm, run the tip of a table knife along the candy to create shreds.
"Lettuce" can be made by melting ½ cup of green candy melts and spreading very thinly on Silpat. Once it's firm, run a fork along the candy to create thin shreds. (Or use green shredded coconut if desired.)
Sprinkle orange and green toppings on tacos and top with a dollop of marshmallow fluff to resemble sour cream.
Brush a thin layer of chocolate on the inside of each shell, halfway up the sides. This will keep the “meat” mixture from making the shell soggy.
Crumble the cookie mix into the shells.
Why yes, I AM using a putty knife to spread the candy melts. A bench scraper works well too!
Scrape the candy with a knife tip to create “grated cheese”.
Or, for smaller shreds, use a large serrated blade.
Use a fork to make finely shredded “lettuce”.
Transfer the candy to the taco with the fork. Your fingers would melt it immediately!
See? Not too hard! And how fun would it be to serve these at your Cinco de Mayo celebration?
They’re messy to eat—there’s no denying that. They remind me of those nasty dry shells that come in a box (except, these taste good and melt in your mouth) because filling tends to fall out as you’re eating. Serve these cookies with napkins or plates and have your camera handy. People will just love being tagged in photos while they’re eating these!
“Put de lime in de coconut” and treat yourself to a slice of this sweet (yet tangy), dense (yet moist) quick bread. An easy-to-make poured fondant icing crowns the bread with a fudge-like lime topping, a pleasure to bite into. Coconut cream and shredded coconut add unique flavor and texture to this bread.
Don’t expect cake, my friends. The line between cake and quick bread can be a little fuzzy, I know, but this is definitely bread. I had to keep talking myself out of adding beaten egg whites, cake flour, more leavening. If I want lime cake, I’ll make a lime cake! What I was looking for was a bread that would slice nicely for a spring tea luncheon my Homemakers’ Club is having next month, and this is definitely it.
You know by now that I rarely create easy recipes, preferring to fuss with my food. But this is sooooo easy. The hardest thing you will have to do is juice and zest the limes. I finally broke down and bought a little hand juicer (up ’til now I’ve heroically squeezed citrus by hand, wedge by wedge) which made it go much faster, so you may see more lemon and lime recipes from me in the near future.
Do not overmix. It’s okay to see small streaks of flour in the batter when it’s being spread in the pan. Too much stirring makes a heavier loaf and can create tunnels.
If you can’t find coconut cream, substitute coconut milk or regular milk. (Use 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons.)
Be patient! Don’t cut that loaf until it’s completely cooled. In fact, it slices beautifully if you wrap the cool, iced bread in foil and refrigerate it overnight. Besides, the texture and flavor are always better on the second day.
I haven’t tried this (yet) but I’ll bet this bread would be killer with chopped macadamia nuts.
I use a grater for lime zest because I like to see the flecks in the bread. A microplane will work well, too, but it won’t be quite as pretty.
1 can (5.2 ounces) coconut cream (or use ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
green food coloring (optional)
⅔ cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons water
2 oz white chocolate (about 22 Wilton candy melts . . . or ⅓ cup)
Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare one 9x5" loaf pan by lining with a piece of parchment (let paper come over the sides so you can lift the bread out easily) and spraying with non-stick spray.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together twice. Set aside.
With a fine grater, zest the limes, being careful to just grate off the dark green skin, not the white underneath. Juice the limes. You will need ¼ cup of juice for the bread and 1 tablespoon for the icing. If you don't have quite enough juice, add a little water.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well, scraping the side of the bowl often.
Add the coconut cream, vanilla, and just a tiny amount of green food coloring (if using). Mix until combined.
Add the coconut and dry ingredients. Stir gently just until most of the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix!
Spoon into prepared loaf pan and gently smooth the top. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Lift loaf out and let it cool completely.
ICING: (This can be poured on warm bread.)
In a small pan heat the powdered sugar, corn syrup, lime juice, and water until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate. Once melted, stir until it cools and thickens a little, then pour over the bread, allowing icing to drip down the sides of the loaf.
Let icing harden and serve or store. (This bread is even better the next day.)
May I give you one more boozy recipe for St. Patrick’s Day? My next post will be family-friendly, but I’m still on a Jameson whiskey roll and had a lot of fun creating these crunchy mint cookies. They have a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom and each cookie sports a Jameson-spiked ganache rose on top.
I vividly remember pounding out “My Wild Irish Rose” on the piano in the living room, singing along with neither grace nor talent. Fifty years later the song comes back to haunt me, as it does each March, along with other traditional Irish songs like “Danny Boy”, “That’s an Irish Lullaby”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, and “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”, though I read recently that this was actually written by a German composer. Oh, and that annoying unicorn song, but I am NOT getting that stuck in my head!
I love The Irish Tenors, and good old Bing crooned his way through some Irish ballads, but when I think of some of these songs it always takes me back to Joe Feeney on The Lawrence Welk Show. He wasn’t one of my favorites, but he sure had the perfect voice for Irish songs. (Grandma made me watch it, honest!)
Now, see? I gave you some nice ideas for tunes to hum while you’re making ganache roses.
The cookies are a slam-dunk. Very easy. If painting their little bottoms with dark chocolate and piping ganache roses makes you grind your teeth, you could take the easy way out and just pour a little bit of melted chocolate into the wells in the center. Or add mini chocolate chips to the dough. They wouldn’t be ROSE cookies, of course, but they’d still be tasty. And of course, you can make them without booze – just use cream instead.
Oh, and if you don’t (gasp!) have a shamrock cookie cutter, you can roll three balls of dough (a teaspoon each), add a stem, and press in the middle to create a shamrock. Flatten the petals down slightly. I learned the hard way that the cookies won’t get nice and crunchy if they’re too thick.
If you’re going for the gusto, here’s your recipe:
Makes approximately 18 large (3½-inch) shamrock cookies. These are baked at a low temperature so they don't brown, but get baked through for a nice crunch. If you prefer, you can use a total of ⅔ cup cream and skip the alcohol!
8 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
⅓ cup whiskey (I used Jameson) You may skip the alcohol and substitute cream if desired.
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
GANACHE: In a small saucepan on the lowest temperature, melt the chocolate, stirring often. Heat the cream until it's hot but not boiling, and add to the chocolate. Stir until combined. Remove from heat and gradually add the whiskey, stirring constantly until smooth. Cover lightly with a paper towel and set aside, stirring now and then, until the mixture is thick enough for piping. (This might take 2-3 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.) The ganache should resemble thick buttercream icing. Scoop up a spoon to test it; it shouldn't fall off the spoon when turned upside down.
Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a rose tip. Put a little icing on a rose nail (or I've used a flat meat thermometer in a pinch) and put a small piece of waxed paper or parchment on the nail. Pipe the rose just as you would with icing. (If the ganache gets too soft, allow it to cool off BRIEFLY in the fridge.) There are lots of tutorials on the Internet if you have never done this. Don't make the roses too big! Leave the paper under each rose and place them on a baking sheet. Refrigerate or freeze.
Heat oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is recommended) beat the butter until creamy.
Add the powdered sugar and beat well.
Add the egg, peppermint extract, and food coloring (make it a little darker than you want because it will lighten when the flour is added) and beat until completely mixed.
Add cornstarch, salt, and flour. This is a stiff dough - you will want to use a dough hook if you have one, or be prepared to finish stirring by hand.
Roll dough out between lightly dusted sheets of parchment. It should be fairly thick - between ¼-inch and ⅓-inch. Cut with a shamrock cookie cutter and place on prepared baking sheets. With your thumb, press in the center of each cookie.
Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes, or until just the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from oven and press the centers again, using your thumb (or a rounded measuring spoon, tart tamper, or the handle of your rolling pin) to redefine the well in the middle of the cookie. Move to a rack to cool completely.
Melt the 6 ounces of chocolate, either in a pan at lowest heat or in a bowl in the microwave at 15-second intervals. Stir well and, using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of each cookie and place chocolate-side-down on parchment, pressing gently to distribute the chocolate evenly. Refrigerate to quickly set the chocolate.
Place a dab of chocolate in each cavity and add a rose, pressing gently to secure it.
Use a dab of the melted chocolate to nestle each rose in its place. Dance a jig!
They’re as tasty as they are pretty; just the right amount of mint. And don’t forget, if you’d like to save a step, add some mini-chips to the batter and skip the chocolate bottoms. Or, hey, if you’re like me and there can never be enough chocolate, do both!
My wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows.
You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish Rose.
My wild Irish Rose, the dearest flower that grows,
And some day for my sake, she may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose.