Thursday, October 28, 2010

Candied Orange Peel

This post might seem a bit strange. I am giving instructions for candied orange peels, but you can use lemon or grapefruit peels too. The only clue I will give for this post is, you will need this for November 1st.  What happens on November 1st???? Cupcake of the month.

I work on the cupcake on the month about two months ahead of time.  I knew exactly what recipe I was using for the cake back in August, but I was toying with the garnish for bit.  Then I decided on candied orange peel to compliment the flavors in the frosting.

After researching instructions on it, I decided on Giada DeLaurentiis's method.  It was simple and only took about 45 minutes from start to finish. The result is yummy, and my husband requested a whole container of them to snack on.

To garnish eighteen cupcakes I used one orange.  Simply remove only the orange peel from an orange.  Be careful not to remove the pith. I used a citrus peeler and it worked beautifully.  Then cut the peel into thin strips about 1/2 inch wide.

Then bring about two cups of water to a boil and blanch the orange peels for about one minute. Drain, rinse the peels in cold water, and repeat this process.

In a small pot, combine 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water until dissolved. On medium heat, cook the orange peels until they become translucent. About 20 minutes.

Roll the orange peels in sugar to coat, and allow to dry on a cooling rack.

This is a great garnish for cakes or cupcakes. You can also dip half of the peel in melted chocolate.  Store the peels in an airtight container for a week or freeze for several months.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Cinnamon Soft Pretzel)

One of my children's favorite treats is a cinnamon sugar pretzel from the famous pretzel shop in the mall.  Recently we made our trip to the mall (about an hour away) and all the boys, Jay included, feasted on this treat.  On the way home that day, I told the family I would try to find a recipe to make those at home. 

Fast forward to last evening, I was looking through my Taste of Home Cookbook, and found a pretzel recipe that looked easy.  In the past, all the recipes involved making the dough, cooking them in boiling water, and then baking. I really didn't want to go through that much trouble. This particular recipe had you make the dough, dip it in hot tap water, then bake.  I was in! I made the dough just before dinner, allowed it to rise for 30 minutes, and then baked them. The whole process was easy and a bit fun. Rolling the pretzels reminds me of playing with Play Doh.

The reason I chose this for Wholesome Wednesday is the dough itself has no egg, oil, or butter making it low cholesterol.  The topping is the treat part, but the whole recipe (which yields 14 pretzels) only uses 3 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cups of sugar.  You could probably use a sugar substitute and reduce the sugar. I had left over cinnamon sugar topping after coating all the pretzels.

recipe for dough

1 package active dry  yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water (110 to 115 degrees, really hot tap water)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cake flour
2 to 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and add sugar. Wait a few minutes for yeast to proof. Then add cake flour and salt, stir well.  Add all purpose flour until a soft dough forms. On a floured surface turn dough out and knead for about 6 to 8 minutes. Dough will become smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.  Divide into 14 balls. Roll each ball into a 15 inch rope.

In a bowl, add 2 cups hot water (120 to 130 degrees) and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.  Dip each rope into the water and lay on paper towels to drain.  Shape into pretzel and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven, until golden brown.


3 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Brush each pretzel with melted butter and roll into sugar mixture.  Allow to cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for several days.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Easy Chicken Wing Dip

It's Sunday and at our house, if the husband is off of work, normally it's a day of football watching.  Well today, his plans are being hijacked, as we have a Halloween Party to go to.  I am working at the party, so Jay is on kid patrol.  To make up for it, I made him chicken wing dip.

As a native Buffalonian, I have had many different prepartations of chicken wing dip. I have made them with bleu cheese or ranch dressing, but my absolute favorite is the one I enjoyed at my sister-in-law's house.  I asked her for the recipe and have been making it ever since.  I may have made a few changes to the original recipe, but the same flavor is there.

What I like about this recipe is the creamy texture of the cheese and the spicy nature of the hot sauce.  Mind you this recipe verges on the med to hot side, so if you like it a bit milder, use only 1/2 cup of hot sauce. I always make a full or double batch, and freeze it in smaller containers.


2 8oz packages of softened cream cheese
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup of hot sauce (I use Frank's)
2 cups cooked shredded chicken ( I use canned chicken breast)
1 tsp season salt

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy with a mixer.

Then add hot sauce and season salt, mix until creamy.  It will look like frosting.

Then with a spatula, fold in chicken and cheddar cheese. Sprinle top of dip with a little more cheddar cheese. Transfer to an oven safe baking dish. (At this point,  I make smaller portions to freeze.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Enjoy with chips, crackers, or celery sticks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip Bat Cookies

I love making little treats for the boys that make them smile.  The whole month of October I have been cutting their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into ghosts.  Adam loves to show his classmates at lunch time his ghost-wiches. So after making the ghost treats for a party on Sunday, I thought I better make something Halloweenish for home.

When I was a young baker, I asked my mom to make chocolate chip cut out cookies. My mom explained it wouldn't work, but I insisted it would. So I made a dough, cut out my shapes, and proceeded to bake them. What I wound up with was a big blob on my cookie sheet. What I didnt' realize was chocolate chip cookie dough is much different that cut out dough and won't hold it's shape during baking.

Fast forward a couple years later, I discovered if I baked the cookies in a cake pan first, then cut out my shapes, it would work.  So this weeks treat for the boys is chocolate chip bat cookies. You can use any shape cutter you desire, just follow the simple steps bellow.

Preheat your oven to the temperature your cookie recipe calls for. Then line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.

pan lined with parchment

Next prepare your favorite cookie dough recipe. I cheated and used a packaged cookie mix that yields three dozen cookies. Press dough into the bottom of pan in a 1/4" layer.

Mine baked for 16 to 18 minutes at 375 degrees.  Baking times will vary depending on thickness of dough in pan.  They are done with the cookies turn golden brown and not  longer wet looking.

Allow to cool in pan. Then using the edges of the parchment paper lift out of pan, and cut with any shape cutter you wish.

tip: don't throw out all the little cut out scraps....use them to make an ice cream sundae or put them in a container to save for a nibble here and there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ghostly Treats

On this coming Sunday, I will be helping our church with our annual Halloween Party. I will be dressed as a nice witch and helping with the toddler games. I really can't wait!  As a good witch I decided to make some treats for my cauldron. I thought about making spiders, but I was afraid the legs would brake off, so I settled on ghost cookies.

In the recent months I have found several blogs I absolutely adore.  One in particular, from Denmark, is fabulous and has so many great cookie and cake designs.  Browsing her tutorials, I saw the remarkable sugar cookies, that are decorated very nicely. She uses royal icing, pipes the border, then floods them. They are spectacular!!!

Flooding.....this brought me back to my days of the Wilton cake decorating classes I took in my 20's.  We learned how to flood, and honestly, I didn't like it. It was messy and I always got air bubbles.  Well, I read this particular guide on how to decorate cookies, and there seemed to be some useful tips.  I decided to give it a whirl.  To my surprise, the tips helped and the ghosts came out very cute and neat.

Three tips in particular helped me last night. The first was to use a hand mixer with the dough hook attachments to make the frosting. I don't know why this works, but it was a breeze. The second was to let the royal icing rest after thinning it for flooding, to let the air bubbles come to the surface.  Finally, putting the icing in a squeeze bottle gave me excellent control when flooding.

I'm going to give the link for the tutorial on working with royal frosting, as she does an excellent step by step guide. Also the sugar cookie recipe I am sharing is a basic shortbread recipe with a few twists. It's a recipe I have been given by a dear friend, but I changed a few things. The result is a cookie that holds up great for cutting out, but also has a tender texture.

Working With Royal Icing By The Cake Journal

sugar cookie recipe

3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup powder sugar
1/2 cup sugar (i used vanilla sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups of flour

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Mix until forms soft dough.  (do not over mix or the cookies will spread during baking). Divide into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out desired shape, place on greased cookie sheet, and bake 13 to 15 minutes, depending on size.  Don't over bake, the top of the cookie will be pale, but golden on the bottom.  Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

If you are cutting all the cookies at once, keep the sheets refrigerated until ready to bake. If the dough is too warm, it will spread and not hold its shape.

Decorate as desired. I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes on the ghosts. Get creative and fun with this!
tray full of ghosts

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cake Like Frosted Sugar Cookies

We've all had them. We've all passed by them in the grocery store. The soft sugar cookies with the frosting. So good, cake like, and sweet. The only thing not so sweet about them is the price. Around here it's almost $4.00 for ten cookies. In my book, not a good value, especially when you can make about about six dozen for almost the same price.

Last Christmas my nephew gave out the gourmet version of these cookies as gifts. They were wonderful and yummy, and lasted about five minutes. So I began my quest to find a similar recipe. I believe I was successful, and now these are my go to cut out cookie.

I scoured the Internet for days, and all the recipes were basically the same. Lots of eggs and egg yolks, sugar, butter, vanilla, flour. I found that the recipe could easily be halved. I also discovered they freeze beautifully. Thaw them on the counter for about 3 hours and the cookies are just as delicious as when they came out of the oven. The bonus in that tidbit, make a whole batch, freeze half and have cookies for any holiday.  Frost them with a basic buttercream and decorate with sugar, sprinkles, etc. Store them in a container with wax paper in between the layers and they will stay fresh on the counter for about a week, or freeze for up to three months.


4 Sticks of butter

2 1/4 C. Sugar
4 Eggs
6 Egg Yolks
2 Tbsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
7 C. Flour

Cream butter & sugar until fluffy, then add eggs. Blend well, add vanilla and dry ingredients. Divide dough into two discs, wrap in plastic & refrigerate at least 2 hours. On a well floured counter, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut desired shape and place on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes. The cookie will be pale (do not overcook), let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. Frost with your favorite buttercream recipe. Yields about 6 dozen.

Buttercream frosting:

4 C. powder sugar
1 stick of softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk

Blend until a spreadable consistency.

tip:  Make sure the dough is super cold before baking, otherwise they will spread and loose shape.  If you are rolling them all at once, refrigerate the cookies on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before going into the oven.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (Strawberry Nutella Snack)

About two years ago I discovered Nutella. I have always seen it in the grocery store, and have heard people talk about it. Then one day I was watching Food Network and one of the chefs was raving about it. I took the plunge and bought a small jar. I loved it and so did the boys. Now we buy the big economy size jar.

One of our favorite snacks is so simple and tastes so delightful.  I take graham crackers (low fat honey) and spread a thin amount of Nutella on them. Then all I do is top the crackers with sliced strawberries. It's light, and is a great end to a meal. It's my way of indulging in dessert without feeling too guilty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Holiday Gift Ideas from Philosophy

I have been a Philosophy girl for about six years now.  My love affair began when I was pregnant with Adam and I needed a pick me up.  I ordered the 3 in 1 shower gel in the cinnamon buns scent, and I was sold. Over the last six years I have tried their fragrances, skin care, and various shower gels. I honestly can say I haven't found a product I don't like.

So as I was getting low on my favorite face cleanser, Purity Made Simple, I cruised on over to their website.  Much to my surprise they have a coupon code until October 14th for $10.00 off a $40.00 purchase. I was so excited, I decided to share it with everyone in the blog-o-sphere. So shop quickly and at the checkout enter 10OFF40.  Also if you spend $50.00 there is always free shipping. 

Be sure to check out their holiday gift sets, stock up, and save $10.00. Or do what I did, and get myself an extra treat.  Tune in on Wednesday for another great recipe!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wholesome Wednesday (French Onion Soup)

We have welcomed fall here in Oneonta. Cool temperatures, rainy weather, and the leaves are turning. Two of those three I don't mind, as for the rain, it really could go away at this point.  However, fall conjures up memories of my mom's homemade chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. To keep with that theme, today's post is an easy recipe for French Onion Soup.

I first learned how to make French Onion Soup when I was a cook at an Italian restaurant. It was a staple on the menu and I probably served hundreds on any given night.  That recipe was very basic, and while tasty, was very high in salt.  As I am getting older (almost mid 30's, sshhhh...) I realize I can not keep up with high sodium foods.  So after a few attempts at this soup, I have come up with a lower sodium recipe that still boasts flavor.


French Onion Soup (serves 6)

2 softball sized sweet onions, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
4 cups low sodium beef stock
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp black pepper
2 to 3 tsp salt (to taste)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Worchestire Sauce
6 slices of low fat mozzarella or provolone cheese
6 slices of baguette

In a large skillet heat oil and gently saute onions over medium heat with thyme, salt, and pepper for about 5 minutes.  You want the onions to just slightly soften.  Then in a crock pot add stock, garlic, bay leaf, Worchestire Sauce, and onions.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours. 

To serve, ladle soup into a heat safe coffee mug to about 1/2 inch from top of mug.  Place one piece of baguette on top of the soup and top with cheese. Heat under broiler for about two minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.  Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Easy M & M Halloween Costume

As the boys get older, I ask them what they would like to be for Halloween.  So this year, when I asked Adam, without hesitation he said a red M & M.  I thought ok, how hard can it be??  So I ventured to the fabric store and bought a yard of red felt and went home.  After about a day of pondering, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. After all, if I messed it up, I was only out about three dollars. 

To my surprise, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Now, while I am very crafty, I am not terribly handy with a sewing machine. I can sew a basic straight line, and subtle curves, which is all I needed to do with this.  In  hindsight, I realized the whole costume could be done with a glue gun. 

Here's what you  need and how I did it:


3/4 to 1 yard of felt, depending on size of child (for a child 1 yard, for an adult probably 2 yards)
1 small piece of white felt (8x10 sheet from craft store)
sewing pins
access to a printer or copy machine
sewing machine, glue gun, or iron-on adhesive tape

Step 1:  Fold the yard of felt in half. Have your child lay down on it with their shoulders at the fold. Draw a circle around them from their shoulders down and around their waist. (Adam is 5 years old and is a boys size 6, I actually only used between 1/2 and 3/4 of a yard.)

Step 2:  Cut the circle out with sharp scissors, cutting the fold so you have two pieces of fabric. Then pin the costume on the shoulders, leaving an opening for the neck. Continue to pin down the sides of the costume, leaving arm openings, and leave the bottom completely open.

Step 3:  Once the costume is pinned, CAREFULLY try it on your child to make sure the head and arm openings are big enough. Then simply stitch, glue gun, or using adhesive tape, secure the seams.

Step 4:  Turn the costume right side out, so the seams are on the inside.  Now on your computer, scroll through the fonts of lower case M's to find one that looks like the logo.  Print out the letter to fill the entire 8 1/2" x 11" paper. If your printer can't print that large, then take it to the copy store and have them enlarge it. (I went to our copy store and the very nice clerk, kept enlarging for me until it fit.)

Step 5: Cut out the "m", now you have a pattern. Lay it on the white felt, trace around it with pen or marker. Cut out the "m" and glue it to the front of the costume. That's it your done!!!

This post has been featured at Craft Gossip.  Linking to these parties!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cupcake Spotlight the October Edition

I have to admit this month's cupcake original cake recipe was nixed halfway through the process. I wanted the cake to have an apple taste, so I made a scratch yellow cake and added apple pie spice. What I wound up with was a typical spice cake, not the flavor combination I was looking for. So after much deliberating, I decided to try another cake about a week ago.  In that one I used a boxed yellow cake mix, and added applesaue and apple cider. The outcome was an apple cake that was moist and had a true apple taste, success!

I kept the same frosting and came up with a cute Halloween inspired idea. My inspiration for this one was Adam, and his favorite Halloween candy....candy corn. This decoration, is simple to make, and requires just a few extra minutes when frosting. So, check out the cupcake spotlight page for the full recipe and tips. Remember, the recipe is only up for the month of October.

Sneak Peak:  If you like pumpkin then don't miss November's cupcake!