Posts for Desserts Category

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Beverages, Cookbooks, Desserts, Recipes - Jennifer - January 31, 2011

With the very real threat of nearly two feet of snow being dumped on my community over the next two days, I’m settling in for the duration.  The kids will likely be home from school, and they can play in the snow all they want.  We have a huge yard, and I have a great view from the kitchen patio door.  I will happily make hot cocoa for them, but I’m planning something a bit more interesting for myself!  This could be a lengthy hibernation, so I’ve armed myself with two books of warm deliciousness by renowned chef and cookbook author Rick Rodgers: Tea And Cookies: Enjoy The Perfect Cup Of Tea–With Dozens Of Delectable Recipes For Teatime Treats and Coffee And Cake: Enjoy The Perfect Cup Of Coffee–With Dozens Of Delectable Recipes For Cafe Treats.

Tea And Cookies features 13 teas and 9 cookie recipes, while Coffee And Cake offers up 11 coffees and 10 cakes, so we’ll have no shortage of combinations to try while riding out the storm.  And when the snow stops flying, I can look ahead with Rodgers’ Spring Gatherings: Casual Food To Enjoy With Family And Friends!

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Who’s the Boss? You or the Cake?

Cookbooks, Desserts - Jennifer - January 26, 2011

I have a fondness for fun cakes.  I tried to do something special for each of my kids’ first birthdays, even though I sometimes took the easy way out, skipping the baking step and using frozen pound cakes for my medium.  But I have a genuine appreciation for fun, pretty, or inventive cakes, which is why I enjoy TLC’s Cake Boss  so much.  Here are some of my own attempts:

 

Pound cake regatta

 

Pound cake fire engine

 

Sheet cake Larry the Cucumber (Veggie Tales)

Sheetcake graveyard with the Scooby Gang

They’re not perfect, but the kids completely loved them, and that’s what is important to me.  Ever striving to improve my techniques, I thought I’d turn to the Master Baker himself, Buddy Valastro, so I consulted his book  Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia for inspiration.  And inspiration is what I found!  A fourth-generation baker, Valastro tells his tale by way of his parents’ stories and the traditions passed down to him, literally and lovingly, by “hand.”  He rounds out his narrative with plenty of recipes and photos.  I know I’ll never achieve Cake Boss perfection, but it sure is fun to try!

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Star Wars in the Kitchen: Very Little Use of the Force Required

breakfast, Desserts, kitchen gadgets, Uncategorized - Jennifer - January 13, 2011

No one has to ask my kids twice if they want pancakes. Or cookies. Or cupcakes. Or pretty much anything sweet. Combine their passion for goodies with their obsession for Star Wars (my three boys range in age from 10 to 6, and “obsession” is putting it mildly), and just try and keep them out of the kitchen! I really wish I had discovered Williams-Sonoma’s line of Star Wars products before Christmas, but fortunately we have some birthdays right around the corner.

The cookie cutters are beyond cool, and you can choose from two sets at $19.95 each:  Heroes & Villains, or Vehicles.  Unfortunately, I’m not a very talented decorater, so the kids might have to settle for the general shape and a lot of imagination!  Also available, and much more likely to be used regularly in our house, are the Star Wars pancake molds

Let’s not forget the importance of our tools.  It would hardly be seemly to flip our Star Wars pancakes with anything but a Darth Vader or Storm Trooper Flexible Spatula ($12.95 each).

And of course, our little intergalactic chefs must look the part while hard at work in the galley.  The Star Wars Kids’ Apron  is available with ($24.95) or without ($19.95) personalization and even comes in adult sizes so no one has to feel left out.

Also available from Williams-Sonoma are Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire Cupcake Decorating Kits ($12 each) and Vehicle Sandwich Cutters ($19.95).  Enjoy them much you will.

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A Brand of Therapy I Can Endorse

Desserts - Jennifer - January 10, 2011

Over the course of our relationship, my husband has done some seriously touching things that show me how carefully he pays attention and how thoroughly he cares.  For instance, we had been dating only a short time when I found out that my favorite toothpaste was being discontinued.  I’m disturbingly brand-loyal, and had bought up the remaining few tubes I had found locally. That year for Christmas, I unwrapped a heavy box from him to find 26 tubes of my beloved toothpaste for which he had scoured the entire Chicagoland area.  And this was well before the Internet era in which he could have ordered online.  Hey, I don’t need jewels or grand gestures when I have a guy who understands my dental idiosyncracies, and I’m not kidding!

He likewise respects my dark chocolate obsession, and any time he finds some unique brand or variety out there, he snaps it up for me.  Dark chocolate Raisinettes?  Yum.  Dark chocolate Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups?  You bet.  Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout?  Yes, yes, yes, please!  (I also love dark beers.)  So how on earth could I pass up The Chocolate Therapist: A Users Guide to the Extarodinaty Health Benefits of Chocolate by Julie Pech?  Well, I couldn’t, so it’s the latest addition to my rapidly growing Kobo ebook collection.  After all, it’s not every day you get to learn about all the wonderful ways one of your favorite vices is actually good for you!

Somehow, chocolate isn’t as guilt-inducing when you see a list of ailments it can help, with the research to back up the claims.  The Chocolate Therapist also offers sections on wine and chocolate pairings, chocolate resources, and comic relief in the form of  “Where Do You Hide Your Chocolate?”  And just so you know, I have several carefully concealed hidey spots, but I’ll never tell.  And I also have a husband who truly looks out for my “health” and well-being!

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Quickest, Easiest, Kid-Friendliest Dessert EVER!

Desserts, Recipes - Jennifer - January 4, 2011

I know it’s not really cooking, but I love a quick dessert that basically entails dumping a bunch of ingredients together, mixing and refrigerating.  It’s especially handy to have something you can whip together quickly for those spur-of-the-moment invitations that crop up from time to time.  Here’s my winter stand-by:

PUMPKIN MOUSSE

1 lg. can of pureed pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
1 sm. package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 sm. tub of Cool Whip
Cinnamon (start with 1 tsp. and add to taste)

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. Serve with graham crackers or other small cookies for dipping.  We’ve been using Honey Maid Spongebobs and chocolate Mini Teddy Grahams for kid appeal.  And believe me, they belly up to the bowl when Spongebob can go diving into the Pumpkin Mousse!

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Kobo eReader Solves Kitchen Storage Woes!

Desserts, Dinner, Recipes, Tips & Tricks - Jennifer - December 26, 2010

When we first moved into our little 1920s Craftsman bungalow, I thought the teeny-tiny kitchen was quaint and cozy. I soon discovered that it was also short on storage, shorter on counter space, and generally a nightmare in which to work. My supremely talented husband has tried hard to eke out some extra storage in that space, even creating a cabinet in the soffet above the pantry so that I would have somewhere to stash my cookbooks. The problem? I had to stand on a chair and still reach over my head to get at them, so I wasn’t using them at all anymore. Then we added some shelves to the end of a lower cabinet, and I was able to move a few of my most-used books there, where they would be more accessible.

We’ve been in our home more than five years now, and my dreams of blowing out the back of the house to create a dream kitchen and master suite have been stored practically away in the “20-years-from-now” file. But when I recently started working for shesconnected on a Kobo project, my foray into ereading unexpectedly led me to a workable solution for one of my kitchen storage issues.  There are over 500 cookbooks available to download onto my Kobo eReader, where I can read them, store them, access and search them, anytime I want!  Some of them are even free, and none of them will take up any additional space in my kitchen, thank goodness.

Now, for the fun part:  shopping!  I have some good, comprehensive cookbooks that handle the basics, so I thought I’d look for something a little more fun, maybe even quirky.  And I found all that and more when I purchased  The Cooking Club Cookbook: Six Friends Show You How to Bake, Broil and Bond.  Having lived most of my life in the suburbs, I never imagined how metropolitan living can make it so impractical for many city dwellers to cook (efficiency kitchens, hauling groceries up flights of stairs, inconveniently located produce, etc.).  The authors of The CCC are six city-living friends who decided to make cooking fun by getting together for once per month theme dinners.  The book’s sections are broken down by theme, some ethnic (Spanish, Mediterranean, Asian), some fun (Comfort, Spa, Sexy), some practical (Grill, Quick, Brunch).  Each part features an explanation of how the Cooking Club arrived at their choices for the evening, and includes all the recipes that comprised the theme, appetizers, main course, sides and dessert.

One of my favorites, and the one I’m certain to most often revisit since my kids will love it, is the comfort food chapter, “Stealing Home.”  On the menu:  Mini-Me Mac and Cheese; OoohBaby, It’s Chili Outside; Batter-Fried Chicken Bites; Beaten-to-Within-an-Inch-of-It’s-Life Sweet Potatoes; Penny’s Broccoli Casserole; and Cinnamon Raisin Bread Puddin’.  Curiosity piqued?  The Cooking Club Cookbook is available in paperback by fine booksellers, and as an ebook from kobobooks.com and Borders.com.

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What All the Coolest Parents Are Giving This Year

Desserts, Recipes - Jennifer - December 14, 2010

Not only is my husband handsome, sweet, caring, smart and an excellent father, but he makes me this:

TASTY TOFFEE
2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/3 c. water
1 pkg. chocolate chips
1 c. finely chopped toasted nuts (ie. almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Line a jellyroll pan with foil, up and over the edges. Melt butter in a 3 qt. saucepan, stirring in sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Try not to splash on the sides of the pan. Clip your candy thermometer to the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. Stir frequently for about 15 minutes, until candy thermometer reads 290, which is the soft-crack stage. Pour into pan and spread evenly. Cool until top is just set, about 5 minutes, then sprinkle chips on top. Let stand two minutes, then spread melted chips over toffee and sprinkle with nuts. Allow to harden several hours, then break into pieces.  Some people like to quick-cool in the refrigerator, but I’ve found that the chocolate often separates from the toffee when I break it after refrigerating.

My husband made me four batches of toffee today.  And what I mean by “made me” is not that he made it for me to EAT, but that he made it FOR me because I had to work my day job, and he was off today.  We give toffee as teacher gifts at Christmas every year.  One pan yields about 2-1/2 lbs. of toffee, which I divide into four cello bags.  Our four kids have nine teachers between them, and this is a much more affordable way to be able to give to everyone, including the office staff, and still have some left over for our holiday celebrations.

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Why I’m Seldom Allowed to Do the Grocery Shopping

Desserts - Jennifer - December 6, 2010

I have a pretty selective memory, especially when it comes to grocery shopping and a bargain. Take for instance, the giant tub of animal crackers that I once bought at a wholesale club: 4 lbs, 14 ounces! Well, with four kids, that’s barely over a pound per child, so I thought, “How long could it take them to go through that? It’s such a good deal!” Well, as it turns out, it took a long time. At some point, that tub was shoved to the back of the pantry and forgotten, and when I rediscovered it at the beginning of the school year, the kids declared the cookies “funny” tasting. Indeed, they even smelled “funny.” Yep, they were beyond stale, so I tossed the remainder.

But the next time I was shopping at that same wholesale club and came across the giant tub of animal crackers, I bought them again anyway. And as I barely made a dent in those cookies while portioning them out into the lunch boxes this morning, I decided I needed to find some different ways of using them. So I  came across this recipe for Seven Layer Bars that uses animal crackers instead of the expected graham cracker crumbs.  I will be making these many, many times before I reach the bottom of that cookie tub!

Animal Cracker Seven Layer Bars

1-3/4 cups animal cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 (14 oz) can condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if you use a glass pan).

Mix together crumbs and melted butter; press into bottom of greased pan.

Combine the chips, coconut and nuts, and sprinkle all but about ½ cup of the mixture over the crust. Drizzle condensed milk on next. Sprinkle remaining chip mixture over top, and press down firmly with back of a greased spatula or a sheet of parchment.

Bake on center rack for about 25 minutes. Let cool completely, and cut into bars. Makes about 32 servings.

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