Saturday, July 4, 2015

June's Apron Winner...4th of July Cookies & July's Give-Away Apron

My mother had a saying in her kitchen..."The faster I go, the behinder I get!"  That's just how I'm feeling since making the cross-country move almost two years ago.  I've been discombobulated with moving twice (make that three times because we had to live in the basement for 10 days while our floors were being installed), signing to do my 3-D flowers with a new company, trying to get my gardens put in, and just the everyday chores of running a household.  Whew, that made me tired just listing them:-D  A little behind, but the winner of June's cheery apron is Vee!  Yes, you eligible to win multiple times and I will get this mailed to you soon.

Now, today's post is a tribute to our wonderful country--Happy Birthday, America! you don't look a day over 239 years!!

Growing up in Maryland, I have visited Fort McHenry on several occasions and each time, I get chills thinking about Francis Scott Key writing the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry" in 1814 describing the battle of the War of 1812, that would go on to be our National Anthem. Our flag stood steadfast during the bombing and can only imagine the depth of emotion that went into his writing. This poem was first recognized by the United States Navy in 1889, and by Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but wasn't made our National Anthem until a resolution of Congress in 1931 and signed by President Herbert Hoover. 

...O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The red, white, and blue "banner" of our country, sewn by Betsy Ross in 1776, at the request of George Washington, was not recognized until 1777 by the 2nd Continental Congress as our National Flag.  The cookies I made has a red and white stripe (a small representation of the 13 colonies) and the star for the states that have grown to 50.  A fun project, but for me, growing up in a military family, means so much more with the pride I feel for being born and raised in this country.  Hope you all have a memorable 4th of July.

4th of July Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups KAF All-purpose Flour

Paste colors in Red & Royal Blue
Equipment--a small star cookie cutter

Make up the dough.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.  While the mixer is running on low, add the egg and vanilla.  Scrape the sides once more.  Add the dry ingredients together and mix until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a large ball and divide in half.
With one half, roll to a 12" x 2 1/2" tube.
Wrap this tube with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Divide the second ball into two-thirds for red and one-third for blue.  Using "surgical gloves" work about 1/2 tsp. of red paste color into the larger ball.

Place the ball onto parchment paper and form a rectangle with your hands.

Place another sheet of parchment over this dough and roll it to a rectangle, approx. 12" long x 6" wide.  Take the vanilla tube out of the refrigerator and place in the center, then, roll the red dough around it and seal.

Wrap in the parchment, then, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Finally, using a new pair of gloves, work about 1/3-1/2 tsp. of blue paste color into it.
Flatten this ball slightly and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate all the components 2-3 hours or even overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the blue dough out, between parchment paper (don't add extra flour or your cookies will be "tough.")
Use a serrated knife to slice the red/white dough, approximately 1/4" thick.  Use the small cookie cutter to cut a star in the center of the white dough, then, cut a star from the blue dough and insert into the opening.
Repeat with all the slices.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough--this recipe made 2 1/2 dozen.  With the leftover white dough stars, you can be creative and place 3 together and sprinkle with colored sugared or re-roll the dough into a tube and roll in sugar, refrigerate an hour and slice and bake.  Your choice...because in America, you have that right.  Enjoy!

Finally, this month's apron proudly displays the colors of Red-White & Blue and you could be the lucky recipient (and don't have to live in America, I ship internationally too:-D) if you post a comment to any of the posts for July.  Good luck and again Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Coconut (flour) Pizzelles

When I was growing up (in the 50s & 60s) I had never heard of Celiac Disease and of course eating gluten-free. Moreover, my mother never baked with anything other than wheat flour.  A few years ago, I was surprised to learned that one of my dearest friend's husband wasn't diagnosed until he was in his 40s that he had this celiac disease and had suffered through the symptoms not knowing what was caused them. Over the last 10-15 years it's definitely become part of our lives to be diligent in distinguishing those affected by the inability to consume products made with wheat.

We see a lot of products that are gluten-free on the shelves and even restaurants are denoting some entrees (especially pizza) that are made without wheat.  I've experimented with many alternatives and want to share with you an incredible produce I use in my baking gluten-free--Coconut Flour.

Coconut flour (which I purchase at is produced from dried coconut meat; a natural byproduct of coconut milk production.  This soft flour is popular for baking for those following a grain-restrictive diet such as paleo diets or the GAPS or SCD diet.  It offers a gluten-free and protein-rich alternative flour, but that's not all.  Did you know that it's rich in fiber, a good source of lauric acid (a saturated fat thought to support the immune system, thyroid function, and good skin health), and exceptionally good source of Maganese.

This extraordinary absorbent flour means that your ratio exchange IS NOT 1:1 with wheat flour.  In baked goods, you generally want to substitute about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour to 1 cup of wheat flour.  This took me a little time to comprehend until I started experimenting with it.  The first recipe was a vanilla cupcake where I used only 1/2 cup of coconut flour instead of the 2 cups of wheat flour called for in the recipe and they turned out perfect!  You can also use coconut flour with wheat flour, substituting 20% of the wheat with it.  Today, I wanted to make one of my favorite cookies--Pizzelles, which is one of my family's favorite cookies!
Coconut (flour) Pizzelles
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
1/4 tsp. Coconut flavoring (or you can do 2 tsp. Vanilla extract)
3/4 cup + 3 T Coconut flour
2 tsp. baking powder

In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat eggs until a golden yellow, about 5 minutes.  Turn mixer on low and gradually add the granulated sugar and coconut flavoring.   Add the warm butter while the mixer is on low and beat until combined.  In a separate bowl, mix the coconut flour with the baking powder, using a hand whisk.
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and slowly add the flour/baking powder mixer, whisking to combine.  This is very important because the coconut flour has a tendency to clump .  When all the flour mixture has been added, let the mixture set about 20-30 minutes to thicken slightly.  Meanwhile, preheat the Pizzelle iron.
I used a small scoop to place the batter on the iron, close the lid and allow to cook until the iron clicks "ready".
The pizzelle iron makes two at a time.  Continue making the pizzelles until you've used all the mixture.  Pizzelles are a wonderful cookie and because they come out slightly soft, you can "mold" them to any shape.  Rolled up or placed in a small ramekin (or over a muffin tin) and make a bowl to serve your favorite ice cream in!

I love making healthy alternatives for my family.  My granddaughters have been visiting all week and we baked a lot. I'm just as concerned that my grands learn healthy alternatives as I was with my daughters and my mother with our family.  In addition, we've also begun a "treehouse" project this past week so they will have a place (free of television & computers) to play and create.
My hubby and I laugh and say this treehouse is nicer than our first apartment!  There will be a pulley on the side to send up healthy treats (like these cookies), as well as swings, and a slide pole.  More photos to follow. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Peanut Butter~Banana~Marshmallow Muffins

...Or, simply, the Elvis Muffin!   My sister was actually a big fan of Elvis, I'm more a Beatles fanatic, but when I came across this peanut butter powder at Costco yesterday, I thought of Elvis, go figure.  I knew he was a peanut butter & banana & Fluff fan, so creating this muffin had to be in honor of him.
This PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that can be used in various recipes; especially smoothies or mousse, and can, of course be reconstituted into the spreadable version.  Since I had, once again, leftover bananas (hubby was traveling) I decided to make up a muffin and see if the flavor was actually true.

Peanut Butter~Banana~Marshmallow Muffins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup + 3T PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
4 medium bananas, peeled and smashed with a fork
1/2 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups KAF All-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

30 miniature marshmallows or 16 regular size

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees and line a muffin pan with liners or use aluminum cups that are lightly sprayed with a baking spray.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugar together.  Add the next four ingredients and mix well. Remove the bowl from the stand. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients and add to the batter, stirring until incorporated with a rubber spatula.  Finally, add the sour cream and stir to combine.

Use a #20 scoop and add one scoop to each cup or muffin wells.  Add two miniature marshmallows or a quarter piece from a regular size marshmallow.
Cover with one more scoop of batter.  Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then, lower the temperature to 325F-degrees and bake 17-20 minutes more.  Press on top of the muffin to feel if it's done.  Let cool slightly, then dust with a little confectioners' sugar and serve.

Well, "I'm all Shook Up" how good these were--Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Refrigerator Spice Cookies with Almonds

Refrigerator cookies have been around somewhere after the ice box was conceived in 1802, by an inventor, surveyor, engineer and entrepreneur named Thomas Moore from Brooksville, Maryland and was granted a patent for it.   My Grandfather Will, after he retired from the Navy, worked on changing over old ice boxes to electrical refrigerators for a living.

This type of cookie is indispensable for us busy bakers and I know that's why my Grandmother Gladys liked baking them.  She had gone to work during WWII and figured out making up this dough and keeping it in the refrigerator (or freezer) made for instant gratification with a limited amount of time used.  My mother adapted her recipe and I've been baking them for years; they're one of my "cookies of choice" for mailing because of their shelf life!

Like my pie dough I make up in bulk, it's nice to have several rolls of refrigerator cookies in the freezer when the urge hits.  The dough is pretty standard and I still make up her original recipe (with a few flavor changes) using Crisco and not butter--an ingredient that was in short supply during the war.   Grandma Gladys always made a nut version, but I'll give you some substitutes that also work.

Refrigerator Spice Cookies with Almonds
1 cup shortening (I use Butter-flavored Crisco)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice
1/4 tsp. ground Cardamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped nuts (I used sliced almonds)
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugars together, scrapping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  While the mixer is running on medium, add the eggs, one at a time (don't expect the mixture to cream together as if you're using butter.)

Add the spices with the dry ingredients and nuts and mix on low until the dough is thoroughly combines.  Divide in half and create two rolls of dough.  Grandma always wrapped the dough in wax paper, but plastic wrap is my choice.
I also shaped the "roll" into a rectangle, but round is good also:-D  Refrigerator several hours or overnight.  (You can also place the rolls in a freezer bag and freeze the dough for later; it will keep 3-6 months.)

Preheat oven to 400F-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, one at a time, and slice just about a 1/4"-thick.  Place on the parchment, spacing them about 1 1/2-2 inches apart.
Bake in the preheated oven about 6-7 minutes.  Fast, huh!  Allow to cool slightly, then, remove to a rack to cool completely before putting them in your Cookie Jar or sending them to family.

Substitute 1/2 cup cocoa, decrease flour to 2 1/4 cups & add chopped pecans.  Use 1 tsp. vanilla extract instead of spices

Add 1/2 tsp. Coconut flavor and 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Add 1 T red food coloring, 2 T cocoa, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and chopped pecans for Red Velvet refrigerator cookies

Add zest of 1 lemon (orange or lime), 1 tsp. juice to dough

So many recipes can be made, but you get the picture. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

HoJo's Coconut Cake, May's Apron-Giveaway Winner, and June's Giveaway Apron

If you're not afraid to date yourself...who remembers Howard Johnson's?  I do and was happy to see a story about this iconic restaurant on King Arthur's blog "Flourish" this past Sunday--  From the early 50s to the 70s, travelers knew this restaurant well.  I remember the grilled hot dogs in butter, fried clams, and of course, the ice cream and cakes.  This Coconut Cake is one of my favorites and like the author, PJ Hamil of KAF, I've had a love affair with coconut since I was a kid.  I was anxious to make their version with the only difference is that I topped the lovely frosting with toasted coconut instead of the flaked.   
You can click on the link and read the entire story and get the recipe.  The cake is similar to a pound cake, but moister and the hints of extra coconut flavor in the batter and coconut milk powder in the frosting made this my new favorite cake. Enjoy!

It was another crazy month, but let's get to the Give-Away for May...Congratulations to Mary at The Last Act blog!
To claim your apron, please send me your email address and I will be happy to send it to you.

Next, yes, I've done an apron for June. A month that honors my brother Joe, who passed away in 1969 at the age of 14 and my Grandma Gladys, who taught me so much about gardening.  This apron has the cheerful colors of summer and actually leans towards the tropical feeling. 
If you would like to win this bright apron (perfect for preparing picnics!), all you need to do is post a comment. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cheerwine Soda Sheet Cake

Just in case you've never heard of this happens to be produced by the Carolina Beverage Company right in Salisbury, North Carolina.  It is the oldest soft drink company (since 1917) and still run by the same family.  This soda is cherry-flavored, burgundy colored, and has the highest carbonation ratio of any soft drink.  All I know is that it's a winner and I'm proud it comes from our state.

So, I decided to make a cake, based loosely on a coca cola cake that was made popular in 1997 by Cracker Barrel restaurants.  This version with Cheerwine is so moist, however, in spite of the ingredients, does not come off overly sweet, which is a good thing.  Even the icing, or topping, is quick and is better to go on the cake while still warm.  With all the picnics we do during the summer, this is sure to be a hit.

Cheerwine Soda Sheet Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup Cheerwine (not diet!)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups KAF all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup Cheerwine soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioners' sugar (16 oz-1 box)

1 cup rough chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray a 9" x 13" sheet pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper.  I used my spring-form pan, but a regular sheet pan works great.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together for 4-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well.  In a 2-cup glass measure, mix the Cheerwine, buttermilk and vanilla together.  Also, mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar mixture while the mixer is on low speed alternately with the wet ingredients; starting and ending with the flour mixer. Mix on medium for 1 minute.

Use the rubber spatula to scrape down sides and make sure all ingredients are incorporated.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes (mine passed the wooden skewer test after 30 minutes).  Remove pan and add the marshmallows on top.  Return to the oven and cook 2 minutes more.  (*I actually cut regular marshmallow into quarters because I didn't have miniature...get miniature!)
Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.  Add the Cheerwine and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and pour the warm mixture over it.  Whisk to combine, then, pour over the cake and use a rubber spatula to spread on top of the softened marshmallows.  Finally, top with the broken pecans.
Yes, it's that easy and delicious.  Fancy enough to serve at dinner or picnic.  I know it's one my mother would have done for our July 4th picnics if she knew about Cheerwine; you can of course, substitute coca cola, but  here in North Carolina we wouldn't think of it.  Enjoy!


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Brown Butter Fruit & Nut Banana Bread

This morning, it looked like banana bread would be on my baking list with four very ripe bananas left on their hanger by my hubby.  Along with some new ingredients I bought through King Arthur Flour catalogue; Strawberry & Apricot Jammie Bits and I would create a bread full of flavor, but very healthy too.
This is a two-loaf recipe, however for ease of freezing, I baked eight mini loaves and one regular loaf.  Also, I boost the flavor by browning the butter and roasting the nuts, pecans, but you could use walnuts or even macadamia.

A few facts about Banana Bread (since I've made about a thousand loaves and found interesting):

~First appeared in American cookbooks in the 1930s.  Pillsbury entered it in their cookbooks in 1933 and Chiquita Banana's Recipe Book in 1950.

~National Banana Day is February 23rd.

~Some people believe that banana bread was the by product of The Great Depression--resourceful homemakers didn't want to throw away overly ripened bananas.  Others believe it was to promote the discovery of baking soda and powder for leavening.

Whatever!  Banana bread sure has become a never ending delight in our about yours?

Brown Butter Fruit & Nut Banana Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted to a golden brown
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 bananas, peeled and mashed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups KAF all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup Strawberry & Apricot Jammie Bits (or you can use dried fruit, finely chopped)
1 cup pecans, walnuts or macadamia (rough chopped or in the case of pecans, I broke them with my hands.

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Lightly spray two loaf pans, mini loaf pan, or muffin pan with baking spray.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together sugars and bananas.  Add the oil and vanilla extract to the melted browned butter, then with mixer on low, add to the sugar/banana mixer.
Allow the mixture to set for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, lightly toast pecans in the oven.  Remove from the oven and cool a few minutes.

 Add two cups of flour, the nuts and fruit and mix on low just until combined.  Add the sour cream and the remaining 3 cups of flour and mix on low again.
Use a rubber spatula to turn the batter over a few times to make sure all the flour has been incorporated, being careful not to over mix.  Scoop into prepared  muffin, mini or loaf pans.

Bake:  Muffins--20-22 minutes; Mini Loaves--25 minutes; Loaf pans--55-60 minutes. 

Memorial Day is very special to me.  We always had a picnic at my grandparents and remembered all our family members who served in the military; both grandfathers, father, brothers, nephews and uncles. I hope your day is filled with wonderful memories too. Enjoy!