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Bunny Cake

done1 A good friend of mine Lisa, who you may remember from her recipe ‘Stuffed Jalapeno’s’, decided to have a little Easter party for her daughter and her friend’s this past weekend.  My two little one’s were invited and as I never like to show up to a party empty-handed, I decided to bring a little cake along!

Lisa is a full-time working mom and she did an amazing job with the party, the kid’s had so much fun.  She put out a great spread for lunch,  had an Easter egg hunt, coloring, a pin the tail on the Bunny game and Easter baskets to top it all off.  The kid’s didn’t stop talking about it afternoon after leaving!

I baked my own recipe for chocolate cake and buttercream, you can certainly use a box cake mix for this recipe.  However, I would use a real buttercream for filling and decorating.  Also, feel free to use any flavor cake for this.  Then just collect your candy and nuts and you can get started.  The only real rule here is to get creative!

Here are most of your ingredients… You will need three layers of prepared cake, frosting, green sprinkles, chocolate eggs or some sort, bunnies, a spreading spatula and a cake stand.

I decided to go with three different buttercream frostings. I am doing a strawberry buttercream filling, vanilla buttercream colored green for the top and chocolate buttercream for the sides.

Start with any flavor cake baked into three layers.

Start by spreading your filling on each layer. You will want to try to divide your filling in half for this.

Be sure not to go all the way to the edges because when you place your next layer on, it will spread from the weight.

Place the next layer on.

And repeat with the remaining filling.

Place the third and last layer on top.

Next I like to add on the side frosting, spreading evenly, but it’s supposed to mimic dirt, so a little roughness is nice here.

Once you have it all spread on be sure to go up over the edge just a bit and then clean up the plate.

It’s always a good idea to trim the cake bottom… Here I’ve used sliced almonds that mimic rocks in the dirt, but you can really trim with anything you like.

Once this stage is complete, move onto the next step.

Pile your green frosting up on top, right in the middle of the cake.

You will want to be sure you are gentle with this step so you come just to the edge of the top of the cake, spreading evenly.

Now go around the edge of the top of the cake with your chocolate eggs.

I like to go around with a little turn and it is ok if there is green on the outside of these… you don’t want them falling off.

Move all the way around the cake.

Pile up some sprinkles right in the middle of the top of the cake. My sprinkles are an Easter mix with cue little eggs in them. Use whatever you like here. Even brown sprinkles would be cute.

These Peep bunny’s come in rows, so when you detach them from each other, they will have a raw edge.

To mask that raw edge, simply take another bunny and rub the sugar from the back of the bunny on the raw edge of the one you will be displaying.

And it does a good job of masking it.

Now to affix the bunny’s to the top, you will need some tooth picks or serving picks as I am using here.

Insert the tooth pick or serving pick into the bunny.

Once it goes in about halfway, you are ready to use.

I use three different color bunny’s here, you can get creative, use the same color or use 5 bunny’s (I like to stick to odd numbers)

Be sure they are placed just as you like.

Bunny Cake

Serves 12-16

Ingredients:

3 8″-9″ cake layers (any flavor)

4-5 cups buttercream frosting, divided (see recipe below)

1 bag chocolate candy eggs

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/8 cup green sprinkles

green food coloring

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

3 Peep bunnys, assorted colors

8-10 chopped strawberries (optional)

Directions:

Divide frosting in 4 parts.  Two parts will be filling, add chopped strawberries or any other flavoring if desired.  Add green food coloring to third part until desired green color is acheived (usually 4-5 drops).  Add melted chocolate to fourth and final part.

Place first cake layer on cake stand.  Add one part of filling and spread.  Place second cake layer on top.  Spread second part of cake filling. Place final cake layer on top.

Spread chocolate frosting on sides of cake.  Trim bottom of cake with sliced almonds.

Spread green frosting on top of cake.  Rim the top of cake with candy eggs.  Pile up green sprinkles in center of top of cake.

Pierce Peep bunny’s with toothpick’s and affix to the top of cake in a decorative fashion.

Enjoy!

Basic Buttercream Frosting

Yield 5 – 6 cups

Ingredients:

3 sticks softened unsalted butter

6 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup milk

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Cream butter with an electric mixer.  Turn speed to low and add in confectioner’s sugar.  Add milk.  Add vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

*Gluten-free

 

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Tiramisu Trifle

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One of my favorite gifts to give is a dinner party… especially for men.  I never know what to get them, really and I do know that the way to make just about any man happy is to make him a good meal! It’s also a lot more personal.  I love that at a dinner party you truely get to spend quality time with the people you love.  It’s a favorite birthday gift, but this year I decided to add a dinner party gift to both my brothers-in-law for Christmas.

The way I make I try to make it an extra special gift is to ask them to pick a country and I will design a dinner with that country in mind.  My brother-in-law, JR, picked Italy for his country this time around, so he and my sister came over last Sunday and we had ourselves a nice little dinner party and a fun game of cards (Quiddler). So we started with a Lobster Risotto, then moved onto Spaghetti and Meatballs (recipe soon to come) with garlic bread and finished things off with giant individual Tiramisu Trifles!  And if do say myself, everyone was pleased!

This trifle recipe is simple, the recipe is easy to follow, it’s a bit less expensive than most recipes you will find and it’s egg free (I did this for time’s sake , not for allergy sake, but hey, if it works for you great!).  Some of the cost is cut down because it is a mixture of cheeses, half Mascarpone cheese (a mild Italian cream cheese) and half American cream cheese (which is less than half the cost of Mascarpone).  Also, making the cake portion with a box mix instead of buying traditional lady fingers gives the trifle a fun different texture and adds in some savings as well.

To make my Angel Food Cake, I am just using a simple box mix… which involves this flour mix and water, so easy. But, if you prefer you can

Add the required water from package instructions.

Mix.

Bake in a square pan like this or in an angel food cake pan.

I start the process of breaking the cake apart by making some cuts. But the real work will come with breaking apart with my fingers.

Remove and break apart as you place in glasses.

Start with one bar of softened American cream cheese.

One 8 oz. Mascarpone cheese. This is like an Italian cream cheese that is slightly less tangy and a bit softer.

Add in the Mascapone.

Add in confectioner’s sugar.

Add in cream

The cheese mixture should be nice and smooth and fluffy now.

To make real whipped cream add cold whipping cream or heavy cream into the bowl of a cold electric mixer, start the mixer going on med/high with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add in confectioner’s sugar and beat until a whipped cream forms. Careful not to over whip turning your mixture into butter :)

Make some espresso.  If you don't have an espresso machine, you can buy some instand espresso powder and brew some that way or just make a cup of very very strong coffee.

Make some espresso. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can buy some instant espresso powder and brew some that way or just make a cup of very very strong coffee.

Espresso has this natural head of foam on top… If you don’t have a machine, don’t worry about it.

Start by adding in a bit of cake and some espresso, enough to soak the cake.

Now some cheese mixture. When completing this step, be sure to get the mixture to all the edges of the glass effectively sealing off the layer… this way, when you place the cake on top the espresso will settle into the cake in that layer instead of sinking to the bottom.

Next a bit of whipped cream… and repeat… In this size glass I am able to do three layers.

As the glass gets larger, the amount I am putting in fills in a larger space so I am using more.  Just be sure the cheese filling kind of seals off the layer below it so the esspresso is able to really soak into the cake.

As the glass gets larger, the amount I am putting in fills in a larger space so I am using more. Just be sure the cheese filling kind of seals off the layer below it so the espresso is able to really soak into the cake.

Top with a good amount of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings.

Top with a good amount of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings.

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Tiramisu Trifle

4-8 (depending on size of glasses)  ingredients:

1/2 prepared Angel Food Cake (mix and water)

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

1 8 oz. package Mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup plus 3 Tbs. Confectioner’s sugar

1 pint heavy whipping cream, divided

1 cup prepared espresso, cooled

chocolate shavings for garnish

 Directions:

For cheese layer – combine softened cream cheese, Mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/3 cup Confectioner’s sugar in an electric mixer and beat on med/high with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy about 3-4 minutes.

For the whipped cream layer – Place the remaining heaving whipping cream in the cold bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment.  Beat on med/high until foamy.  Add in 3 Tbs. Confectioner’s sugar and continue beating on high until a whipped cream forms.  (About 2 minutes) *Careful not to over beat.

For the cake layer – Prepare per package instructions and allow to cool fully before using.  Break apart with fingers until you have pieces roughly the size of quarters.

To build – Line up 4 large glasses or 8 smaller glasses for ease of use.  Add in cake, drench with a couple Tbs. espresso, add 2-3 Tbs. cheese mixture (being sure to touch all sides), add in 2-3 Tbs. whipped cream.  Repeat process until you reach the top of the glass.  Top with remaining whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours before serving.  Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.  Enjoy! 

 

When the cookies come out of the oven, they won't look quite done.  They will have lightly browned edges and they will be very fragile on the cookie sheet itself.  Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about 5-6 minutes before moving them to the cooling wrack.  Then allow to cool completely before moving to a cookie jar... Of course you could sneak one with a glass of milk on the way!

Stacy’s Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I have been to many the Christmas cookie swap in my day.  I actually went to two just last week.  One cookie that is ever impressive is the Chocolate Chip Cookie.  It’s in need of no special decoration or presentation, a well made Chocolate Chip Cookie can hold it’s own in any crowd!  To me the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie must be chewy but also a little crisp on the edges and not cakey, but have some body to it.  With being so particular, it’s probably no surprise to know that I have experimented with dozens of different recipes throughout the years.  Finally I decided to take the best elements of each and combine them into one YUMMY cookie!  Take a look at what I did…

Start with some softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add in brown sugar.

Add in white sugar.

Once you have both sugars in with the butter, beat on medium high until creamed together.

Add in one egg at a time being sure to mix well after each addition.

This is what you should have when that is done.

Add in a shallow tablespoon of pure vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl add in flour.

Baking soda.

And salt. Whisk together until combined and no lumps remain in flour.

Add into the mixer in two additions and beat on low until just combined. Then scrape down the sides and mix for about 10 seconds on high until thoroughly combined.

Add in semi-sweet chocolate chips and stir by hand.

Scoop out into 1Tbs. scoops with the small Pampered Chef Cookie Scoop if you have it.

Place two inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for exactly 10 minutes.

When the cookies come out of the oven, they won't look quite done. They will have lightly browned edges and they will be very fragile on the cookie sheet itself. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about 5-6 minutes before moving them to the cooling wrack. Then allow to cool completely before moving to a cookie jar... Of course you could sneak one with a glass of milk on the way!

When the cookies come out of the oven, they won’t look quite done. They will have lightly browned edges and they will be very fragile on the cookie sheet itself. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about 5-6 minutes before moving them to the cooling rack. Then allow to cool completely before moving to a cookie jar… Of course you could sneak one with a glass of milk on the way!

Stacy’s Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 30 cookies (using 1 Tbs. scoop)Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups All purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugars in an electric mixer using a paddle attachment. Cream for about 1-2 minutes. Once thoroughly combined add in 1 egg at a time until well combined.  Add in vanilla, mix another 30 seconds.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to mixing bowl in two additions mixing until just combined.  Scrape down the sides and mix on high for about 10 seconds.

Add in chocolate chips and mix by hand.

Scoop out using a 1 Tbs. cookie scoop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet leaving 2 inches between each scoop.  Bake for exactly 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5-6 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 

Once they are all filled, they are ready for the oven.

Roasted Pumpkin Pie Tarts

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No dessert says the holidays like Pumpkin Pie… For years I made my pumpkin pies like most everyone else in America, with a can stuffed with pureed pumpkin.  Until I started wondering why I was tossing out all my Halloween pumpkins and going to the grocery store to buy what I just threw out!  I had to stop the madness!  So, I started roasting my own pumpkin and mashing it up myself.  What I discovered was that the taste of a roasted pumpkin simply does not come in a can! Who would have thought???

It did take a little trial and error at first, this was before the days of Pinterest after all.  So what I learned was that you don’t want water-logged pumpkin pie, pumpkin requires a little draining, no biggie.  A pumpkin, even a small one is more than enough for one or even two pumpkin pies, so freezing the remaining pulp is a great idea.  And low and behold, one does not need condensed milk to make pumpkin pie! Go figure!

This is a super flavorful and healthy pumpkin pie recipe that can be made into single serving size tarts like I show here, or into a full size pie! Just use your favorite pie crust, either one you are making yourself or right out of the box, either way, this filling is amazing!  Just two simple extra steps and you get to utilize those Halloween pumpkins for more than Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and forget about using bland canned pie filling forever!

This pumpkin pie starts with a pumpkin… crazy I know!

Cut your small pumpkin in half.

Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and set aside for roasting!

Once your pumpkin is hallowed out, it’s time to roast it.

Spray a parchment lined cookie sheet with some non-stick cooking spray.

Roast for about 1 1/2 -2 hours until the skin buckles when touched.

This is what it looks like when roasted.

Scoop the flesh out from the skin.

Discard the skin. (this is great for your compost pile if you have one)

Place the flesh directly into a strainer set over a bowl. You want to drain any excess liquid.

Here is the liquid that came out of my pumpkin after a few hours of draining. I likely would have gotten a bit more had i done this over night.

Now mash the pumpkin and scoop out two cups full.

Place your two measured cups of roasted mashed pumpkin in a mixing bowl and store the rest for another pie or soup… this freezes well.

Add in 1/2 cup of half and half.

Some raw honey.

Cinnamon

Ground ginger.

Add in some fresh nutmeg… please do not replace the fresh nutmeg with the jarred stuff, it is not the same at all and will significantly change the flavor of your pie. If you do not have fresh nutmeg, simply omit the ingredient.

Add in two eggs.

Salt.

Mix.

Add in sugar.

Mix again.

This is the Pampered Chef Brownie Pan, it’s great for making small tarts and single portion foods.

Roll out your favorite pie crust.

Cut into square pieces to match the tart tray.

Spray with non-stick cooking spray and start forming your shells.

Once they are all formed you are ready to start filling.

I am using the large Pampered Chef Cookie scoop here.

Fill each shell.

Once they are all filled, they are ready for the oven.

Once they are all filled, they are ready for the oven.

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Roasted Pumpkin Pie Tarts

Serves 18

Ingredients:

1 small (3-4lb.) pumpkin

1/2 cup half and half

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 heaping Tbs. raw honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

8-10 grates of nutmeg

2 pie crusts

cooking spray

Directions:

To prepare Roasted Pumpkin:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.  Cut pumpkin in half, remove seeds and place both halves cut side down on a parchment lined cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Roast for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until tender.  Allow to cool.  Remove flesh from skin and place in a strainer set over a bowl to drain for a few hours.

To make tarts:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Mash drained pumpkin.  Measure 2 cups of mashed pumpkin and place in a mixing bowl.  Add in all ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Cut and fit crust into pie plates or tart pans.  Fill with mixture and Bake for about 40-45 minutes until golden brown on top.

Allow to cool, enjoy!

*Gluten-free when using a gluten free pie crust.

Then each person can put as much or as little as they like.

Semi-Homemade Cherry Cheesecake Pie

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Each and every winter holiday HAS to include my Cherry Cheesecake Pie! It’s a must.  My dad and uncles ask for it each and every year and would be terribly disappointed if it didn’t make it’s way onto the dessert table! My mom used to make this growing up for every winter occasion and over time the responsibility got transferred to me, gladly.  This recipe is so easy.  It’s so easy in fact that it wasn’t until very recently that I ever really made a real actual cheese cake!

This pie hits all the flavor notes you look for in a cheesecake and it’s creamy and velvety to boot.  This could quite possibly be the easiest cheesecake recipe you will ever find! Half the ingredients are ready-made, which makes it a piece of cake, or pie as it were.  And the filling itself is a grand total of 4 ingredients!  With the pre-made pie crust and pre-made topping, that’s 6 ingredients!  So, if you have been asked to bring desert and you are looking for something quick and easy that will please a crowd, I highly suggest giving this recipe a try!

On this specific night, I made a cheesecake pie for dessert at my book club.  Normally, I make two of these babies and put topping on one and leave the other plain.  But, my book club is made up of a small group of ladies and so one was just fine.  The only issue was that neither of my sisters like cherry topping, they prefer their cheesecake pie plain.  So, I solved the issue by leaving the pie naked and serving the topping in a bowl on the side.  Which worked out great because I got to have extra topping! Haha!

Let me show you how I do it!

Start by adding two bars of room temperature cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix for about 2 minutes on high.

Add in one egg and scrape down the sides. Beat on high another minute until egg is fully combined.

Add in sugar.

And vanilla.

Unwrap a pre-made graham cracker pie crust.

Add mixture to the crust.

Smooth it out. Pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes or so at 350°F.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes until you start to see golden brown spots on top. When it comes out of the oven, it will be a bit puffy and have some cracks in it. This is normal.

The puff will fall, the cracks will remain.

Grab a can of pre-made pie filling, if you don’t like cherry, you could use blueberry or strawberry, heck even peach if you like.

Cover the top of the pie with the filling or dish it out individually like this. Place the pie slice on a plate and keep the filling in a bowl for people to help themselves.

Then each person can put as much or as little as they like.

Then each person can put as much or as little as they like.

Semi-Homemade Cherry Cheesecake Pie

 Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 bars cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. real vanilla extract

1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust

1 can cherry pie filling

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add in 2 bars of cream cheese and beat on high for about 2 minutes until it is completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in egg and beat on high for another minute until completely incorporated.  Scrape down the sides again and add in sugar and vanilla and beat again until completely incorporated.

Pour mixture into the pre-made pie crust and smooth out.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown spots start to form on top.  Allow to cool and add topping as desired.

*When using a gluten-free cookie base, this recipe is easily made into a gluten-free recipe.  The filling is gluten-free. Check can ingredients for the topping.

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Madrinha’s Coconut Queijadas (Queijadas de Coco)

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My family, being Portuguese, is rather large by today’s standards.  My father grew up with 7 sisters and a brother and was one of 9 siblings.  This made for great parties growing up! I feel like almost every weekend of my childhood was spent attending a birthday party, baptism, 1st Communion, graduation, Confirmation, holiday celebration or just getting together to get together!  And at every single one of those events my Titia Tina, who would eventually become my Madrinha at my own Confirmation, would make these delectable little treats.  A creamy, crustless, coconut creation that once you try you will wonder what on earth you were doing all your life that you missed out enjoying it.

As I got older, I wondered how she made this family mainstay.  So, I asked time and time again… Her response was always, come on by when I’m making them and I’ll show you.  Well, time never allowed for an in person lesson unfortunately.  But, for my wedding shower, my cousin Stephanie, her daughter, nailed down the recipe with measurements for me and submitted it to be part of my family wedding recipe collection! (which by the way is one of my very favorite ideas for any bridal shower… what a wonderful way to preserve family recipes and memories!)

I was so excited to get the recipe and so I tried it right away… And I was absolutely amazed at just how easy and inexpensive it is! For such a fabulous treat! So, now I am sharing it with all of you. Here’s how we do it…

Start with 4 eggs in a large bowl. My bowl is by Pampered Chef and it has the pour spout (that is ideal!).  Wisk the eggs.

Measure out sugar.

Add sugar in while wisking.

Wisk your eggs and sugar until smooth.

For this recipe margarine is called for, not butter. I have never tried it with butter, but suspect it would be similar if you needed to substitute. Since this is what the recipe calls for and it’s much less expensive, it’s what I use.

You’ll need to melt the butter, so place it in a microwave safe container, in this case I use my handy-dandy Pampered Chef measuring cup and call it a day.

Add in your melted margarine wisking briskly, remember you have eggs in that bowl that can easily cook with still hot liquid.

You should have a creamy consistency after adding in margarine.

Measure out flour.

Add in your first measurement of flour and wisk.

Then your next. And continue wisking.

Add in 1 lemon rind. Be sure it is all in one solid piece like so, you will be removing this before baking.

You want to incorporate the lemon right into your batter.

Measure out your milk… I am using that same Pampered Chef 2-cup measuring cup so it still has some of the margarine in it, those are the yellow specks you can see.

Now add in your milk.

Once you have a nice smooth consistency, You are ready for the coconut.

Measure out your sweetened coconut. I’ve never tried unsweetened coconut in this recipe, but if you want to reduce the sugar content, I suppose this is where you might do that.

Spray your pan with cooking spray. This recipe is not made with cupcake liners.

In my madrinha’s recipe she suggests pouring your batter into a measuring cup with a spout to pour batter into the muffin tin… If you don’t have a handy-dandy spouted measuring bowl, definitely do this.

Fill each compartment about 3/4 of the way up.

As you are pouring your lemon peel will surface, be sure to pull it out and discard, it has done its job.

Once filled, you want to place pan in a pre-heated oven at 375°F for 20-30 mins. depending on your oven… it could go as far as 40 mins if they aren’t browning. When you come to 20 mins or so, turn on your oven light and take a peek, try not to open your oven if you can avoid it. You will be looking for a nice sunny golden brown.

Allow to cool once out of the oven.

Notice how it is “puffed up” right now and the center has not fallen… this is because it just came out of the oven and it is much too soon to remove it from the muffin tin.

Scoop each one out with a large soup spoon so you don’t dent the bottom edges taking it out of the pan. As you can see, the centers have now fallen with the cooling and they are looking perfect.

And this is what each little gem will look like when you place it on your serving platter.

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Madrinha’s Coconut Queijadas (Queijadas de Coco)

Yields: 2 1/2 – 3 dozen

Ingredients:

4 cups of whole milk

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 stick margarine, melted

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 lemon rind

cooking spray

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, wisk eggs.  Add in sugar, wisk.  Add in margarine slowly while wisking briskly. Add in flour and lemon rind and continue to wisk.  Next, add in milk while slowing wisking.  Lastly, add in coconut and slowly mix into the batter.

Spray a 12 count muffin tin with cooking spray (if you have 3 muffin tins, this would be ideal).  Fill each 3/4 up with batter.  Bake 20-30 minutes until lightly golden brown.  You want to check your oven starting at 20 minutes utilizing your oven light, not opening your oven.  It may go as far as 40 minutes depending on your oven (ie. gas vs. electic).

Allow to cool before removing from tin.  Each queijada will be puffy when first coming out of the oven, they will fall as they cool in the center.  Place each in a cupcake liner and then onto your serving platter.

Enjoy!

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Triple Chocolate Brownies

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Triple Chocolate Brownies… need I say more?

You may be thinking, why would I need to make brownies myself when they come so nicely packaged in a box from the store. Well, I have to tell you, sometimes I think the same thing! But, and that’s a big but, they are not the same.  When you make a brownie yourself, you are controlling exactly what goes into it, you know the quality of the ingredients and can pick your very favorite chocolates to add in!  For instance in this recipe, I am using Valrhona cocoa, Nestle milk chocolate and Ghiradeli bittersweet chocolate.  There is no box on the planet that allows for that combination.  But, beyond all of that, it’s surprisingly easy!  There actually aren’t very many ingredients.  In a box, there is 1-the box, 2-eggs, and 3-water or oil and then you mix in whatever, so 3 ingredients total… Here there are 6, to me that’s not a huge difference.

For today’s brownies, I had the kid’s helping me which we all had a lot of fun with! Lucas got to be in charge of the dry ingredients bowl. Alaina took care of the sugar.  And they both helped with cracking eggs, mixing and eating stray chocolate chips! All very important jobs! It’s a simple enough recipe that I wasn’t going crazy trying to organize myself while trying to keep track of the kids.  And the more you get your kids involved in cooking, the more they will like to help eat their creations, so sure today is brownies, but when we want to make say Split Pea Soup, this will come in handy!

Lucas loves helping. Right now he is in charge of the dry ingredients bowl.

Lucas loves helping. Right now he is in charge of the dry ingredients bowl.

Alaina is loving being in charge of the sugar!

Measure out the unsweetened coco powder. This is your first chocolate and the most focused on, so be sure to use the best you can get your hands on. I ordered this Valrhona on-line.

Lucas is taking his job very seriously.

Add in salt.

Here it is all sifted. You could at this point add in baking powder, I omit it when I am looking for a more dense fudgy brownie.

Once your ingredients are ready to go, move onto the wet.

All four eggs made it into the bowl… yay! I wasn’t able to help the kids with cracking these eggs and take the pictures at the same time, but the kids each helped crack the eggs right into this bowl! If it were up to my son, this recipe would have a dozen eggs!

That’s it for wet ingredients, just eggs. Now onto the mixer.  If you have a stand mixer, this recipe is super easy, if you don’t, it’s still easy, it will just take you 2 minutes longer.

We start here with some butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.

With softened butter, it doesn’t take long to beat with the paddle attachment on the mixer. The kid’s love watching the mixer go… and they love working the buttons!

Add sugar in. Beat on low for a minute.

Add in one egg at a time. Mix well after each addition.

Add in vanilla. Beat one more minutes to ensure everything is thoroughly combined before you add in the dry ingredients.

Mix until just blended and switch to mixing by hand.

Here is your second chocolate… Add in mini milk chocolate chips.

And your third chocolate… Mix in bittersweet chocolate chip these are big, you could chop them or just use as is like I did.

Prepare your pan with butter. I like taking a pad and a piece of paper towel to apply. I don’t care for cooking spray with brownies, I like the slightly salty taste of the butter.

I am using a stone pan, use whatever you like, just be sure it is well buttered.

Add in your brownie batter.

Add in your brownie batter.

Spread evenly. And bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350°F for a 9″x9″ pan… If you are using a 9″x13″ pan, you will yield thinner brownies and therefore need to reduce the baking time to about 20-25 mins.

Allow to cool for at least 1 hour.

Once cooled, cut either 16-24 pieces.

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Triple Chocolate Brownies

Serving Size: 16-24

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa

1 tsp. baking powder (optional, omitting yields a more dense fudgy brownie)

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

4 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup mini milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat oven 350°F.  Prepare a baking dish with butter.

In a medium bowl wisk together flour, cocoa and salt. (If you choose to make more fluffy brownies, add in baking powder.  If you choose to make more dense, fudgy brownies as pictured, omit baking powder.)

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or just in a separate bowl with a wooden spoon) beat butter until smooth.  Then add in sugar and beat another minute until combined.  Add in one egg at a time until well combined (this is a bit more tricky if doing by hand, but just be sure it is thoroughly combined after each addition).  Add in vanilla and beat another minute to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Add in the flour mixture in two additions on low speed.  Once combined, stop the mixer.  Do not over mix.  With a wooden spoon or rubber scraper, add in chocolate chips. Mix until combined.

Spread mixture evenly. And bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350°F for a 9″x9″ pan. If you are using a 9″x13″ pan, you will yield thinner brownies and therefore need to reduce the baking time to about 20-25 mins.

Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Cut into either 16 or 24 pieces. Serve. Enjoy!

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Portuguese Baking Soda Cookies (Bolachas de Bicarbonato)

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Portuguese people love to enjoy their sweets with a cup of hot tea.  There wasn’t a day that went by that my Vavó didn’t have a cup of tea with either some homemade stove top pudding (Papas) or a cookie, some of her cake (see Vavó’s Cake).  The trick is that most Portuguese baked goods are not overly sweet making them really very appropriate for that cup of tea. These Portuguese Baking Soda Cookies are no exception… Made from a very tender dough, these soft and cakey cookies are toned down enough to handle all the sugar you pour on top to decorate them with!

This week in preparation for Independence Day, I have taken this classic Portuguese cookie and made it into a celebration of America.  These cookies normally decorated by children with different colored sugars are easy to turn into an accent for any special occasion or holiday.

Here are all the ingredients you will need for the cookie itself. This does not include the decorating ingredients.

Start with some butter and sugar.

Start with some butter and sugar.

Start with creaming butter and sugar with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.

Start with creaming butter and sugar with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.

Properly creamed butter and sugar should look like this.

Properly creamed butter and sugar should look like this.

Your next step is to add in these three ingredients.

Add egg and be sure to scrape down sides!

Add egg and be sure to scrape down sides!

Just mix in the egg for a few seconds.

Then add in your milk and vanilla… this isn’t the most flattering picture, but it is what it is.

Be sure ingredients are well combined.

Flour

Add the baking soda and kosher salt to the flour.

Add your flour in three segments. Combine using the lowest setting on your mixer for about 10-20 seconds at a time until well combined.

Dough will crumble a bit.

Dough will crumble a bit.

Knead dough by hand for a few minutes until it starts to come together when pressed.

When dough is ready to hold together, it should look something like this.

Flour your work surface.

Form your dough into a disc on your work surface. Remember, this dough is very tender. I work with about a half the dough at a time.

Roll out gently.

Turn half way each time you want roll.

This dough should be rolled out to about 1/4″ thickness.

Cut rows two inches wide to start creating your rectangle.

Turn and cut three inches wide creating a rectangle.

Place each cut cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Leave about an inch between cookies.

Place each cut cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Leave about an inch between cookies.

Make a thick egg wash by combining two egg yolks with a splash of water.

Make a thick egg wash by combining two egg yolks with a splash of water.

Use a kitchen brush.

Brush cookies with egg wash.

To create the patriotic lines, just use a straight piece of paper just so.

Continue with the red stripes by using two pieces of paper to guide the sugar.

Bake for 16-18 minutes at 350°F until they start to beome slightly browned around the edges. Let stand on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transfering to a wire rack for drying.

Bake for 16-18 minutes at 350°F until they start to become slightly browned around the edges. Let stand on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack for drying.

Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Recipe for Portuguese Baking Soda Cookies (Bolachas de Bicarbonato):

(Yields about 2 dz 2×3″ cookies)

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter

1 egg

1/4 cup whole milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

For topping:

2 egg yolks

1 splash water

colored sugars

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.  Prepare two cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add in egg, milk and vanilla.  Beat until fluffy.  Be sure to periodically scrape down sides.  Add in flour in 1/3 increments.  Do not over beat.  Dough will appear crumbly and soft.

Knead dough with your clean hands until it comes together when squeezed.  Flour a work surface.  Form a disc with half the dough.  Roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness.  Cut into 2″x3″ rectangles.  (I also made smaller rectangles for the blue accent cookies)

Beat together two egg yolks with a splash of water to create the egg wash.  Paint each cookie with the egg wash and decorate with sugar however you see fit.  Pop into the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack for cooling.  Let cool completely on rack.  Serve, enjoy with a cup of tea!

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Vavó’s Cake

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My Vavó (grandmother) was not a big baker, at all.  But, she baked one dessert on a regular basis, this cake. I think this cake is the only reason she even owned an electric mixer, as I never saw her use it for anything else.   On any given day, I could walk into her dining room and in a similar cake plate as you see here, there would be her cake.  Any time I make this cake, it brings me right back there with my Vavó, enjoying a cup of tea and this deliciously simple dessert.

Memorial Day in my family was always about remembering those who have passed.  We have  always been thankful for those service members who have given their lives to bring us the freedoms this country has afforded us all.  And in addition to that, we would always go to the cemetery to place flowers to remember family members and friends no longer with us.  This was a yearly tradition for my grandmother.  I show my love and remembrance in other ways… So, this post is in dedication to her – para alma da minha Vavó.

If you are looking for a moist decadent cake, this is not the one.  This simple sponge cake is meant to be enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.  It is a very basic, no frills cake with the exception of that crusty top that crunches in your mouth.  It is meant to be dry and dense and have a slightly sweet taste.

Start by separating your eggs.

Keep your yolks seperate and place your whites in a bowl of an electric mixer.

Keep your yolks separate and place your whites in a bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat egg whites until stiff and remove and place in a seperate bowl.

Beat egg whites until stiff and remove and place in a separate bowl.

Then place your egg yolks in the same bowl you originally had your whites in and beat until they combine.

Then place your egg yolks in the same bowl you originally had your whites in and beat until they combine.

Add in one cup of sugar, beat until combined.

Add in one cup of sugar, beat until combined.

Then add in the other cup of sugar and beat until combined again.

Then add in the other cup of sugar and beat until combined again.

This is what your yolks and sugar should look like… uniform and creamy.

Next, measure out your flour.

Next, measure out your flour.

Then measure your baking powder.

Then measure your baking powder.

Add in your baking powder to your flour.

Wisk together to sift.

Then fold in your whites with your yolks.

Then fold in your whites with your yolks.

Then add in your dry ingredients.

Then add in your dry ingredients.

Mix in with the paddle attachment of your mixer... Then scrape down the sides and bottom. and mix again.

Mix in with the paddle attachment of your mixer… Then scrape down the sides and bottom. and mix again.

You will quickly come to a consistency like this.

My grandmother always used an angel food cake pan for this cake... I don't know what it would look like in any other pan, so this is what I use.

My grandmother always used an angel food cake pan for this cake… I don’t know what it would look like in any other pan, so this is what I use.

Spray your pan with baking spray, the kind with flour in it… although my grandmother would always use butter. Spray is just easier and gets the job done.

Pour

Drop the pan once or twice to release any big air bubbles from the pouring.

Place in the oven for around 35 – 45 mins at 350°F or until a butter knife comes out clean (or a toothpick, but my Vavó always used a butter knife)

And there you have it.

Para alma da minha Vavó

Para alma da minha Vavó

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Ingredients for Vavó’s Cake:

(serves 8 -10)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

8 eggs, separated

1 tsp. baking powder

Directions:

Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside. Beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy.  Fold whites into yolks.  In a separate bowl, sift flour and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients into wet.  Mix to combine, scraping the sides.  Place in a greased and floured angel food cake pan.  Bake 35 – 45 minutes at 350°F until a butter knife or toothpick comes out clean.

Portuguese Rice Pudding from thePortugueseAmericanMom.com

Mom’s Portuguese Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce)

rp hydrangia plate

Arroz Doce! Mmmmm… This is a great way to start off my blog for a couple of reasons. #1 – This is Easter week and coming from a Portuguese family, no Easter (or any holiday really) is complete without rich and creamy, Portuguese Rice Pudding. Growing up, I can’t recall a gathering without it.  #2 – This is a super easy recipe, but for some reason, it took me years to master it.  My mother can attest to the many times I called her reviewing her recipe and trying to figure out how I possibly could have missed a step.  So, what I would like to do is take you through the process to help you avoid the pain I endured from failed attempt after failed attempt and lead you to a perfect rice pudding in one shot for your Easter table!

Now please, please, please don’t confuse Portuguese Rice Pudding with traditional American style rice pudding you may find on your grocer’s shelves which is little more than vanilla pudding with cooked rice mixed in for kicks.  No, no, no… My mother’s rice pudding is anything but!

A couple of tips I have learned over the years before we get started.  First, you will need a heavy bottom stainless steel pot with a lid.  I’ll be honest, most of my cooking is done in non-stick cookware, but it just doesn’t work so well for this recipe because sometimes the rice will stick to the bottom (regardless of what type of cookware you use) and if it does, we need it to stay there; otherwise, you will end up with a bunch of brown bits floating through your final product, not so pretty or tasty.  Next, the type of rice you use for this dish is pretty critical.  You will need to find regular medium grain rice.  Please don’t try this with a brown rice or a boil in the bag rice or any type of minute rice and absolutely nothing parboiled.  Just plain cheap medium grain white rice is fine.  If you want to get fancy, you can get the slightly pricier River Rice, which is my Mom’s preferred brand, but its not necessary if you just follow these guidelines.  Also, I want to note that this recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled if you have a big enough pot, but I would not go further than that.

OK… Let’s get started…

water

Start off with 3 cups of milk and one cup of water in that heavy bottom pot I mentioned.

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Whole milk is preferred, but 1% or 2% works just fine too… however, I would stay away from skim… note: I have done this with lactose free milk and it works out just great!

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Add a small pinch of salt, don’t go crazy here.

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Add in one lemon rind, just like this and turn the burner on to medium/high until the liquid comes to the start of a boil… so, you’ll want to watch that pot because the start of a boil can turn into a boil over in seconds with that much milk in the pot. (if you don’t care for lemon, you can absolutely leave this ingredient out, it will still be delicious… this method leaves the dish with a subtle undertone of lemon – nothing strong)

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Next, add in the rice and stir. Then cover the pot and turn the burner down to med/low – low. (so just above the lowest setting on your knob) Be sure to stir periodically.

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After about 20 minutes or so, this is what you should see in your pot. If not, give it a bit more time, but keep your eye on it, because it can happen quickly.

sugar

Sugar is essential to this recipe… Please don’t reduce this ingredient as you will not have the results you are looking for. Stir this in when your rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed as shown above. The sugar will then cause your rice to have more liquid as the sugar melts in. (((Here is where I always messed up… for some reason I skipped this step, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! This is what gives the pudding it’s proper consistency))) Cover the pan and cook another 5-10 minutes on med/low heat… Stir frequently! (every 2-3 minutes)

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Once the liquid has once again mostly absorbed into your rice, very very quickly stir in the yolk of one large egg… you want to mix in rapidly so you don’t end up with chunks of cooked egg… this is meant to thicken your pudding and add some richness. And you are done! (If you have an egg allergy, this step can be left out, it will be a little different, but still pretty yummy)

remove lemon

Now you will have something that looks like this… pour into a shallow dish and gently shake back and forth to disperse the pudding… at this point, fish out the lemon rind as it has done it’s job.

cinandshot

While your pudding is still hot, grab some cinnamon and a cookie cutter or anything with a small rim, it’s traditional in my family to use a shot glass as seen here, for decorating.

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Gently touch the rim of your glass on pudding to moisten. Then dip into the cinnamon. Then back to the pudding to start your design. Repeat in any pattern you like. If I’m not doing this for a party or to serve as dessert for a dinner party or something, I will totally just sprinkle the cinnamon on top. But, since we are talking about Easter, this is what I do. A fun bunny design cut out of paper and laid on top would be great too… be creative.

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And here it is! Yum!

 

Portuguese Rice Pudding recipe:

(serves 6)

1 cup rice, medium grain, white

1 cup water

3 cups milk, whole (1 or 2% also works)

1 cup white sugar

1 lg. egg yolk

1 lemon rind

1 scant pinch of salt

cinnamon for dusting

Instructions:

Bring water and milk to a boil with the lemon rind and salt on medium high.  Add in rice and stir, turn burner down to just above the lowest setting, cover the pot.  Stir occasionally.  About 20 minutes later most of the liquid should be evaporated… also, test the rice to see that it is fully tender… this is when you add in the sugar and stir.  The mixture will become liquefied again, continue cooking on low for another 5-10 minutes, stirring more frequently.  Once most of the liquid has once again absorbed into the rice, add in the egg yolk, stirring vigorously.  Pour into a shallow dish and sprinkle with cinnamon or form a design with cinnamon. Enjoy!

note: this is a naturally gluten free recipe… just ensure that each ingredient brand you use specifically is gluten free (as it should naturally be) and you are good to go!