Brightening a Cloudy Day

Yesterday was a fairly dreary day here in the Finger Lakes. Clouds and rain filled the sky.  However, plans had been made.  My daughter and her husband were going apple picking (rain or shine) and they promised to bring us a taste of their harvest.  In return, I offered to make Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese for dinner.  A fair trade in both our opinions.  We always like to fill our family’s bellies when we have them for dinner, and considering that most of our family doesn’t like to cook, it’s a fairly easy task for us to accomplish. 

When my daughter walked in the door her hands were full with a bright and colorful bouquet of flowers.  Apples were not the only thing she had been picking.  What a perfect way to brighten an otherwise cloudy day. 

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of these flowers to share here on my blog.  As for the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese, the recipe will be forthcoming one of these days.  And the apples?  I’m going to make a batch of homemade applesauce.

Hope these help color your day bright!

Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

When I was a kid, my sister and I would disguise ourselves in our annual Halloween costumes (on Halloween) and we’d join the throng of other kids in our small town for a night of trick or treating.  Our goal was to fill our big orange plastic pumpkins with as much candy as we possibly could. We usually didn’t have much trouble doing that either.  After a final stop at the fire hall for a cup of cider and a doughnut, we’d head home to sort the candy we had scored that evening.  Once everything was sorted; the trading began.  She had her favorite candy and I had mine.  It only seemed logical to negotiate for more of what each of us really wanted. 

Once the negotiating was done, and we’d eaten enough sugar to keep us fueled for the next few days to come, I’d stash my candy away for safe keeping.  My sister say’s I would have saved my candy until Easter, but we’ll never know that because after she ate all of her candy, she’d find my stash and eat that too.  So much for all that negotiating… 

My daughter and I recently got together to make this Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark.  It is one of the easiest Halloween treats that you can make, and it looks impressive.  If you can chop, melt, and pour, you’ve got it made in the shade. 

Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

1/2 c. white chocolate candy wafers

1/2 c. (lime green, black and orange) Celebrations Sixlets, chopped

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Measure chocolate chips into separate glass bowls.  Microwave one at a time – for about 1 minute each.  Stir completely, and pour onto prepared cookie sheet into thirds.  Repeat until all chocolate has been melted and poured onto cookie sheet.  With a toothpick, swirl the chocolate together.  Sprinkle the chopped Celebrations Sixlets on top.  Place in refrigerator until chocolate has hardened.  Cut into desired sizes.  Store in refrigerator.

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Did you stash your candy as a kid?  Or did you raid your siblings stash?

Thanks to SweetWorks Candy for providing the Celebration Sixlets and the adorable Halloween pumpkin gumballs featured in this post.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

If you’ve ever grown a garden then you know all too well how quickly zucchini squash can take over your life.  This year we bought one little plant to put in our garden.  One little plant!  Five zucchini’s later, with more on their way, and I’m asking“what the he– are we going to do with all of this squash?”  We are still trying to get rid of bags of shredded zucchini in our freezer (from year’s past) by feeding it to our chickens.  And yet, we planted more?? 

Did I mention that I don’t really love zucchini either?  It is a veggie that (in my opinion) is pretty tasteless.  I’ve never known it to be the star of the show.  Spaghetti sauce makes it taste better, batter and butter make it taste better, and then of course there is chocolate which makes everything taste better. 

Optimal picking of zucchini is when they are small and don’t have gigantic seeds in them, similar to cucumbers, but you have to watch them closely because they can literally grow too big overnight.  I might add that I’m not always good at picking them in their prime either. 

The best way to use up those slightly bigger than you had planned on zucchini is to grate them up and make a nice bread or cake with them.  And that’s exactly why this Chocolate Zucchini Cake came about.

This cake is super easy to make.  It’s also super moist, on the sweet side, and the reason I skipped the frosting.  Other than seeing a fleck of green every now and then, you will even forget that there is squash in it.  If you have kids and want to sneak some veggies into their diet then this is one way of doing it.  Just maybe not the best way.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 stick (1/2 c.) margarine, melted

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 c. sour cream

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. grated zucchini

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously grease a 16×10 cake pan.

Put all ingredients (except flour) in a large mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly with electric mixer.  Add flour and mix completely.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.  Cool completely before cutting.  Sprinkle confectionary sugar on top and serve.

Any suggestions on how to use up all this zucchini?  What is your favorite zucchini recipe? 

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TGIF – In Case You Missed Any of Them

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I thought I’d recap this week.  Just in case you didn’t have a chance to catch one of my posts, here is what you might have missed. 

A  recipe for Frozen Vanilla Peach Yogurt, and photo’s of pretty little flowers.

The start of a new baking project featuring a sourdough bread starter recipe.  And hopefully, I’ll be sharing my an update on the sourdough adventure with you this weekend.

And one of the best darned Kahlua Hot Fudge recipes that your ever going to get your hands on.

Happy Friday everyone! 

Frosted Carrot Muffins

Rather than save stacks of magazines from years gone by,  I make it a habit to rip out the pages from my magazines that I am super impressed with.  And that’s where this recipe came from.  The original recipe for these muffins was featured in one of my favorite magazines; Country Living (January 2009).

Carrot Muffins

I significantly modified the original recipe, and while there is a little more tweaking to yet to be done, I think I am onto something here.  Frosted Carrot Muffin anyone?

Frosted Carrot Muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 16 standard-size muffin pan cups with baking wrappers and set aside.

1/3 c. olive oil

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/3 c. brown sugar

2 large eggs

3 tbsp. milk

1 c. grated carrot

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, cream together oil, sugars, milk, and eggs.  Mix  in salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and flour.  Fold in grated carrot.  Divide batter equally between baking cups.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Immediately remove muffins from the pan and cool completely.  Frost with your favorite frosting recipe. 

As far as the tweaking goes, I’m going to work on making this muffin slightly moister.  I’ll be sure to update you once I accomplish that.

Do you rip pages from your favorite magazines to refer to later?  Or, do you have stacks of magazines to refer back to?

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The Chocolate Chip Cookie Debate

What is our fascination with chocolate chip cookies? 

I don’t know about you, but after many times of making the claim that I’ve found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, I give in and try one more recipe.

I admit, the first thing draws my attention to a new chocolate chip recipe is a good photo.  We’ve all seen them; the perfect image of a chocolate chip cookie that convinces us it fits our criteria.

The latest recipe I decided to try came from the blog, Apple A Day.  And yes, it was the photo that snared me, just like a spider snares a fly in it’s freshly spun web. 

After quickly reading the recipe, I found something else that convinced me I needed to make a batch of these cookies; corn starch. 

I was intrigued with the idea of using corn starch in a cookie.  Would it really make a big difference in the texture?  And how about the taste?

I  modified this recipe slightly by eliminating the 1/4 c. of granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and by using margarine in place of butter. I mixed all of the ingredients by hand, and I refrigerated the dough briefly before putting dropping  it on the lightly greased cookie sheets. 

My cookies did not turn out looking like those made by Kelsey.  They were much thicker and denser.  But… I think I might have got different results if I had creamed the butter, sugar, and egg briefly with an electric mixer.  I would also recommend using parchment paper when baking these cookies because the bottoms browned fairly quickly at 350 degrees.

I really liked the flavor of these cookies.  I think the corn starch gave them a unique taste.  After cooling my cookies, I placed them in an airtight container and found that doing this softened them a bit more. 

Before making a batch of these cookies I would highly recommend reading the reviews left by an Apple A Day readers.  I didn’t read the reviews before making them.  If I had done so, I might have done a couple things differently.

My verdict?  I will definitely make these cookies again.  I’m really drawn to the tastiness of them,  but am I (really) done looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe?  Never!

What do you think?  Do you have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe out there? Or, are you snared into trying new recipes like I am?

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Just a taste

I’m a sucker for bite-sized treats because sometimes you just need a taste. 

With a cup of your favorite tea.

Chocolate Cream Puffs

1/4 c. margarine

1/2 c. water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 eggs

Line one extra large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen mini-cream puffs.

In a small bowl, add sugar, cocoa, and flour.  In a medium sized saucepan, add margarine, water, and salt.  Bring water mixture to a full boil and remove from heat.  Pour in flour mixture and stir until dough forms a ball and batter pulls from side of pan.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating with electric mixer until batter is smooth.

Using a small teaspoon, or the star tip on a pastry bag,  drop onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until cream puffs are firm to the touch.  Turn off the oven and crack the door open.  Allow cream puffs to cool slowly in the oven.

Fill  your cream puffs  with a scrumptious  filling of  choice.  I filled my with a Boston Cream filling,  and I used a very fine pastry bag tip to do so.  This was time consuming but worth the effort.

What is your favorite bite-sized treat?

 

Orange and a Little Bit of Red

I was in the mood for orange.  Orange is one of my favorite colors.  Right up there with the colors red and pink.  And since I haven’t spent a lot of time with my camera lately (and felt a little guilty about it) I decided to spend some quality time with it.

These sweet little Mandarin oranges (and a few strawberries) assisted me in this photography adventure.  They make life so much brighter.

 

I would love it if you’d share your favorite photo on Pinterest.  Happy Orange (and a little bit of red) Day!

Homemade Raised Yeast Doughnuts

I’ve got to tell you that I’ve never met a doughnut that I didn’t like.  So, I decided to try my hand at making homemade doughnuts. But my little doughnut making endeavor started out as a complete failure. I followed a recipe that I found on Pinterest for baked yeast doughnuts.  While I was a bit reluctant to bake raised yeast doughnuts, the photos looked good so I thought the recipe would be too –  WRONG! To put it (not so) nicely –  the recipe for the baked doughnuts – sucked…  I wasted my ingredients and time to get what turned out to be a cross between a rock and a burnt bagel.  Don’t believe me?  I ended up breaking the failures into pieces and feeding them to our chickens. At least someone was happy with them. Refusing to accept failure, I decided to make another batch.  This time I turned to McCall’s Home-Baked Breads (vintage) cookbook for a recipe.  I also decided  that raised yeast doughnuts were not meant to be baked and I dug out the shortening, thermometer, and big cooking pot. Fortunately, I had success with the second recipe.  The doughnuts were light and airy and tasted delicious just like doughnuts should.  This is the first time I’ve ever made raised doughnuts so I was considerably happy with the way they turned out.

What’s your favorite doughnut?

For a great picture tutorial (and a similar recipe) on doughnut making check out  this post at The Pioneer Woman’s site.

The Chocoholic Cupcake: Another Valentine’s Day Dessert

A couple weeks ago I announced that I was going to make a few  treats in an effort to pick the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert.   The only requirement for the dessert; it must have chocolate in it.  And as you might imagine, this is becoming a harder chore than I originally thought.

The first recipe I presented was for Strawberry Kiss Cheesecakes.  They definitely hit the spot, and after making them I had to wonder if I would be able to top them.

Well… now I present the Chocoholic Cupcake.  The cake is dark, moist, and less sweet than a lot of chocolate cupcake recipes.  I like to top them off with either  vanilla or chocolate buttercream frosting which is sweet and buttery and compliments the dark chocolate cake.

I have to say that it is nearly impossible to choose a favorite between the two desserts I’ve made so far.  I have at least one more dessert to make before picking a favorite, but now I’m wondering if we should celebrate Valentine’s Day with just desserts and wine!

Chocoholic Cupcakes

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 c. brown sugar, not packed

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 c. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. cocoa

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. skim milk

1 c. boiling water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes. 

Prepare cupcake tins by placing paper liners in each cup.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, add sugars, eggs, skim milk, and oil.  With an electric mixer beat ingredients for 2 minutes.  Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa; mix again until completely blended.  Add boiling water and flour; beat until smooth and creamy.  Stir in vanilla extract. 

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

I couldn’t resist decorating these cupcakes with bright gumballs from SweetWorks candy, along with Hershey’s creamy milk chocolate hearts and kisses.  Both are so festive!

And drum roll please…. 

TheMaryJaneFam blog, Raising Jane Journal, featured photos of my one and only Pink Paradise today.  They also shared a link to my Tin Can Tourist post as well.   I feel so honored!  If you have a minute,  please hop on over there and check it out.

Also, an important reminder all you glampers  –  the International Glamping Weekend is scheduled for  June 1-2, 2013.  Follow the link above to find out more.

I shared this recipe at:

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