Strawberry Pie {National Strawberry Day, February 27}

I really wish I knew how I started in on finding out what national day it was… I spent a whole afternoon looking up dates here recently. It’s actually kind of fun to see all the weird, interesting, National day holidays. And today happens to be:
  • National Kahlua Day
  • National Polar Bear Day
  • and
  • National Strawberry Day

And then on a fun side note, this morning when I turned on tv, Mickey Mouse was helping the giant and he had a belly ache from eating “too many strawberries.” How fitting!

Yesterday we went to Sam’s and bought some beautiful strawberries. Fun fact about Strawberries and it’s not really a fun fact about strawberries but more so about strawberries involving me… When my mom was pregnant with me, there were 3 grocery stores in town. She craved strawberries and cool whip but felt guilty going every day to buy that, so she would bounce between the three grocery stores so they didn’t look at her every day and feel sorry for the poor pregnant lady. lol. They always joked they were surprised I didn’t come up red or with strawberry hair. Instead I came out purple but that’s another story for another day…..

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Banana Bread {National Banana Bread Day}

I would like to start out this post by stating that today is National Banana Bread Day. It is also National Toast Day. So if you Toast your banana bread, does that have you celebrating both holidays? Just a thought… Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I was one of the lucky kids who grew up knowing not only my grandparents but also one set of my great grandparents. My great grandpa died in 1998, 10 days shy of his 108th birthday and my great grandma died in 2002. Both in November. Great Grandpa was the 13th and Great Grandma was the 1st. Some people make fun of me because I remember dates really well and I sometimes really wonder how I do it. But I can remember my great grandpas because of a story. In October of that year he asked my great grandma if November had a Friday the 13th. She told him no, she thought it was Saturday the 13th. Then the week before Friday November 13th, he asked her again if next Friday was the 13th. She said, yes I believe it is. His response was, That’s a good day. He passed away on Friday the 13th.

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Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes

If there is one thing they tell you to do, it’s try something new. While baking cupcakes isn’t a new concept for me, I’m not so good at it. It’s really always been a bit of a challenge for me, and I’m not really sure why. So when the January/February 2017 Food Network Magazine came out and they had a whole section devoted to cupcakes for each month, I just knew I had to partake… and at least try.

As we know, I messed up the January cupcakes just a bit… but it was more icing related issues than it was cupcake related issues. And the cupcakes themselves were excellent.

When I saw the cupcakes for this month, I was quite excited. While they don’t want them to be for a special occasion but say a random Tuesday, these cupcakes scream Valentine’s Day to me. No, I didn’t make them on Valentine’s Day or even for Valentine’s Day because I was busy getting ready to attend a wedding, but I knew I was going to make them no matter what.

This morning I had a few minutes so I went into the kitchen, gathered up all the ingredients and went about my way making Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes.

One of the ingredients it called for was instant espresso powder. Well, I didn’t have any and didn’t have much luck finding any at the store either, so I used instant coffee instead. Really other than the fact that it isn’t quite as strong of a flavor, they are easily swap-able with each other.

Other than that one swap, I followed the recipe to a T.

This month I was able to measure out the batter into 12 cupcakes compared to last month when I somehow only wound up with 11 cupcakes. So I’m making progress.

The cupcakes called for a glaze over the warm cupcakes of strawberry jam or jelly mixed with lemon juice. I used jelly. I have to point out that between the nice chocolate flavor with the flavor of the icing, I didn’t really taste the strawberry layer. I took my Mother-in-law over a cupcake this morning when I went to check on cows and she too didn’t really taste that strawberry jelly layer.

Unfortunately this isn’t the “right” time of year for strawberries. While I liked them, hubby thought they were a little under-ripe.

When I was making my frosting, or icing if you prefer, my white icing tasted great. The white chocolate melted up nicely, then mixed with the powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla, it turned out to be a very good tasting icing. Not to sweet, but it was sweet enough, and I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate.

Sadly, my chocolate icing on the other hand, when added to the butter, then mixing in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, something happened and it got chunky. I’m not exactly sure what I did incorrectly, but there were those chocolate chunks in my chocolate icing. Whoops. Why does it seem like I keep messing up the icing in these cupcakes?

Then… piping the icing on…. <sigh>. So I prepared my piping bag, it said to use a large circle tip. Well from my years in cake decorating classes, the teacher said to fit with a coupler and just use that. That’s what I proceeded to do… I placed my white icing in one side of the bag and the chocolate in the other just as the directions suggested. That’s when things went down hill fast. I started squeezing out to get both colors. Well this makes just enough icing for all 12 cupcakes.

In the end I was short icing so I had to spread it on with a spatula. So while they weren’t real pretty, they tasted pretty darn good, but hubby didn’t really agree. He wasn’t crazy about the different flavors together… but my mother-in-law on the other hand agreed with me. I’m not sure there needed to be the strawberry layer because it didn’t really shine through, but otherwise, the cupcakes were pretty good. I like the icing too, so I assume this might make a good cake some day…. never know….

Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes (via Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2017, pg 59)
Ingredients:

  • For the Cupcakes
    • 1 c flour
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
    • 3/4 c whole milk
    • 1 c sugar
    • 3/4 c vegetable oil
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4 c strawberry jam/jelly
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • For the Strawberries & Icing:
    • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 12 medium strawberries
    • 2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temp
    • 2 pinches salt, separated
    • 2 tsp vanilla, separated
    • 2 tbsp whole milk, separated

Directions:
For the cupcake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.
  2. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.
  3. Combine the cocoa powder and espresso powder in a large bowl
  4. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not simmering; pour over the cocoa powder mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Let cool a few minutes, then add the granulated sugar and whisk until dissolved.
  6. Whisk in the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla, then whisk in the flour mixture until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when gently pressed.
  9. While the cupcakes are baking, mix together the strawberry jam/jelly with the lemon juice and brush on the warm cupcakes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate covered strawberries

  1. Microwave 4oz semisweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring, until melted.
  2. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate; place on wax paper.
  3. Let set, 20-30 minutes.

For the Icing:

  1. Microwave the white chocolate and the remaining 2 oz semisweet chocolate in separate bowls, stirring each, until melted.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Beat 6 tbsp butter and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth.
  4. Beat in the melted white chocolate.
  5. Add 1 c confectioners sugar; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp milk
  6. Set aside the white chocolate icing
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 with the semisweet chocolate to make semisweet chocolate icing.
  8. Spoon the white chocolate icing onto one side of a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Spoon the semisweet chocolate icing next to the white chocolate icing so the two flavors are side by side; pip swirled icing onto the cupcakes.
  9. Top each with a chocolate-dipped strawberry.
  10. Enjoy, especially on a random Tuesday.
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Red Velvet Cake Recipe + Ganache Recipe

So let’s step back in time to last month when we had our cake decorating day. Why on earth would we go back in time? Well I held off on sharing a recipe with you because I knew we’d be using it again! So my goal was to wait and share it this month.

Here’s the story. So as I mentioned earlier we had a cake decorating day. That day when I showed up I already had my chocolate cake made, Deb chose a Red Velvet Cake, Kristi chose a butter cake, and Tracy went with a chocolate cake as well. Deb and I went to work on her cake when I showed up… and I use me loosely because I more so stood and watched. She had this Red Velvet Cake she absolutely loved so I took a picture of the recipe and sat and watched her make it. I believe it was out of the newspaper from years ago.

She didn’t make the icing that is included in the recipe though. Instead, she made a cream cheese icing that Tracy found for her. I’m not really sure of the icing recipe they used truthfully. Oh and the funny thing about this picture… Deb stained her hand, a t-shirt and her house shoe red…. whoops.

Then it was a matter of what to do over the icing to make it prettier. They added a ganache recipe over the top and topped with chocolate covered strawberries. This is when the whole idea of this post was born.

Kristi and Justin’s wedding was on Valentine’s Day. From what I heard, they originally weren’t going to have a wedding cake (don’t quote me on that though!). When Kristi saw Deb’s cake and better yet, when she tasted it, she asked if we could recreate this cake for her wedding. Hmmm… let’s think about that for a minute…. YOU BETCHA! It didn’t take a minute to come up with that answer.

Deb, Tracy, and I discussed it and we came up with the option to make a layer cake. Kristi found a cake stand (similar to what’s in the picture) and her bride groom said he could make that for her easily. Perfect!

The colors of the wedding were predominantly turquoise so we decided to make the ganache turquoise with a chocolate ganache for some color contrast. Then we decided to top it off with chocolate covered strawberries.

Chocolate covered strawberries are the perfect thing for Valentine’s Day! They (I was off watering cows before I could come over to help) made a quart (I think, let’s go a bunch) of chocolate and white chocolate covered strawberries for the cake. Then what was left over, we placed out for friends to eat. Let’s just say the cake was excellent and the chocolate covered strawberries were G-O-N-E gone.

On a side note… did you know that Ebay apparently has recipes? That’s where our ganache recipe came from.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe:
Ingredients:

  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (or white chocolate if you want to dye another color)
  • 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • Food coloring if dying white chocolate ganache

Directions:

  1.  Combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Heat roughly 1 minute, stopping every 20 seconds to stir until smooth.
  3. Stir in light corn syrup (and food coloring if using) and let cool slightly until just barely warm.

Note: Placing bowl in the fridge helps speed this along if you’re in a hurry.

Now that you have the Ganache, this is how to get the “drippy” look

  1. Chill your frosted cake.
    • Chilling the frosted cake helps slow the drip of the ganache down the side of the cake.
    • this step also helps keep the icing from melting against the heat of the ganache.
    • It is suggested to chill your cake for a couple hours to overnight.
  2. The perfect consistency of ganache is for the ganache to be pourable, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
    • Too thin? Melt some more chocolate chips and add.
    • Too thick? add a bit more light corn syrup
  3. Pour the ganache in the very center of the cake, then using an offset spatula, spread evenly to the very edge of the cake, allowing the ganache to run off the edges of the cake.
    • If you notice a bare spot, give the ganache a gentle push off the edge with the spatula so it will drip.
  4. Chill the finished cake until the ganache is firm.
    • If planning on topping the cake with fruit, candies, a cake topper, etc… wait until ganache is firm.

 

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Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve been in the mood to make cookies. We’re talking 4 days of wanting to make cookies. I look at the oatmeal and think, I want oatmeal cookies. In fact, to be more specific I wanted the Buncha Crunch Oatmeal Cookies but I didn’t have a bag of Buncha Crunch.

So for a couple days I went back to the drawing board… trying to decide what I could use in place of those… for that light airy feel. Well… sadly I never came up with an option. So then I grabbed my Better Homes and Garden’s book. It had some oatmeal cookies that had chocolate chips in them. I thought, boy those could be good. But then I wanted the mini chocolate chips if I did that.

I went and dug in the freezer for mini chocolate chips and didn’t find any. Bummer again.

Then I grabbed a cookbook I put together with all kinds of recipes in it like 15 years ago or something. Maybe not quite that many… more like in college, so 10 years ago…. And there in all it’s glowing glory, Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. Now I’ll share the recipe with you after all this hype.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c butter
  • 1/2 c sifted cocoa
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c quick-cooking oats

Preheat oven 350˚F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream brown sugar and butter together. Add cocoa, vanilla, and milk. Mix well. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend into butter mixture. Stir in oats.
Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

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Bonnie Butter Cake

Let’s jump back in time a few weeks, back to our cake decorating day. When I got to Deb’s house, I had already made my chocolate cake I used to decorate, but Deb whipped out a Red velvet cake real quick from a newspaper clipping she had. When Kristi got there, we debated what type to make her so we quickly grabbed Deb’s 1970’s version of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and had her flip through the different cakes.

Her son wanted to be involved in the cake decorating day too, but she told him it was just for the girls, so she brought a couple smaller pans and asked if we could make him a cake to decorate as well (you know, once she got home). I said absolutely. Well after we made up one batch of cake, we weren’t sure if our layered cake was thick enough, so we doubled the batter.

When we doubled the batter, that gave her the ability to make 3 more small loaf pans, because we didn’t need it all for just 2 layers of cake.

Kristi’s dad was having an 80th birthday celebration the next day. We used 9″ square pans to bake the cake in. Then I showed her different ways to decorate the cake. I also showed her how to make icing roses. I made 2 and she made 2. Now, if you’ll notice there are only 2 total on the cake. Well… that’s the mystery of the whole thing… One of mine I scrapped back in the bowl because it wasn’t very good. That would mean there are 3, right? Well… we never did find the third rose.

the cake… the cake was awesome though!!!

Bonnie Butter Cake
2/3 c butter (or margarine, softened)
1 3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour (or 2 3/4 c ap flour)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 c milk

Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour baking pan, set aside. In large mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy.Beat 5 minutes on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl with a whisk. On low speed, mix in flour mixture and milk alternatively. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake oblong pan 45-50 minutes or layers 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Ice cake (as in frost).

It recommends frosting cake with a French Silk Frosting or a Lemon Frosting. Instead we used a buttercream icing that is good for decorating and since we did a layer cake, we placed strawberry preserves between the layers for an added, extra special touch.

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Buncha Crunch® Oatmeal Cookies

If there’s one candy bar I really like, it’s a Nestle Crunch. Back before Christmas I was walking through Walmart when I stumbled across Buncha Crunch® cooking bits. What? Nestle Crunch ready to be put in cookies? I’m sold! I grabbed a bag, then brought them home and threw them in the freezer. I didn’t want cookies right then, but wanted the baking bits ready to go when I wanted them. That’s just the way I roll.

This week I was in the mood for cookies so I dug the crunch bits out of the freezer and decided to use the recipe on the back. And they have oatmeal in them. That means they’ve got to be good, right?

Now if you follow my Math (I once was good at it, some days though I question myself big time these days) It said that it makes 5 1/2 dozen. A dozen is 12. 12 times 5 = 60 plus a half dozen, which is 6, equals a total of 66.

My cookie scoop didn’t give me that many. I think I wound up with just over 50. Plus my cookie scoop broke. Oh well, it was cheap.

I also didn’t bake all of them. Nope, I froze some of the cookie batter so that it was ready to go any time I wanted cookies again. I just placed them into the freezer, then a freezer bag, and labeled the bag with the temperature/time so that I wouldn’t have to remember how to bake them.

Mmmmmm cookies!

By the way, I’m watching recorded Pioneer Woman episodes from Food Network. She’s talking about how when she started her blog it was easy and now it’s hard. <sigh> sad but true. But here’s the recipe for these delicious cookies should you want to make them and I think you should. Then invite me over, I’ll help you eat them!

*Note: If you can’t find the Buncha Crunch bits, just buy the Nestle Crunch Bunches (the little clusters) and they were just as good if not better!

Nestlé Buncha Crunch Cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 c sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
4 1/2 c oatmeal
1 3/4 c (8oz pkg) Nestlé® Buncha Crunch® baking bits (or 12-14oz of the Nestlé Crunch Bunches)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl.
Beat Butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy (about 5 minutes).
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Stir in oats and buncha crunch baking bits.
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9-11 minutes or until very lightly browned.
Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely

Makes about 5 1/2 dozen cookies.

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3-Ingredient “Diet” Icing

Yesterday hopefully I changed your life with a “diet” cake. Seriously… a cake mix and a diet coke. That can’t be real bad. A few sugars/carbs scattered throughout all the pieces of cake so it’s not even one slice. Just think of that.

But I mentioned that when I heard about that, I wasn’t sure how to ice that baby so we made full-fledged sugar icing. Still better because of the cake but……..

The other day I was searching the internet. I have no idea how I came upon this recipe, but it changed my life for the better. And seriously, you could eat it just plain, I’m telling you.

Ingredients: Milk (I chose skim, but you can do unsweetened almond milk and remove even more sugars although the skim milk doesn’t have many sugars at all…..), Sugar free coolwhip, and sugar free pudding mix (I went with cheesecake so this stuff tasted just like cream cheese icing, only better).

Then you’ll need a bowl to mix in, a whisk, and a spatula (if you pronounce like Paula Deen, Spatuler)

Add half the milk you’d normally add to the pudding. So the pudding calls for 2 cups, you just put 1 cup in. Then use your whisk and whisk together. When it gets thick, fold in the coolwhip.

And bam, 3-ingredient icing. Then add it to your cake… or you know, eat it out of the bowl. No judgement here! And for the 9×13 cake I made yesterday, I didn’t even use all of the icing… see the skim milk sugars spread even thinner.

Now this isn’t decorator’s icing, but for just icing a cake… heck yeah. You subtract out all of the sugars and remember that all the calories stay in the piece you don’t eat and you’re golden! I’m telling you!

 

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Chocolate Cake – 2 Ingredients!

You just never know what we’ll be doing on Wednesdays. I typically spend my Wednesday’s at the Extreme Sports Scuba dive shop. Today happens to be Wednesday so you know where I am, right? Well what am I doing you may ask?

  • I wrote a blog post about a SCUBAPRO Nova 720 Flashlight with as many puns as I could about flashlights, ✓.
  • I ate lunch, ✓.
  • Oh and I made a diabetic friendly cake with icing, ✓.

Wait, what?

Are you confused? Don’t be, I’ll explain. A few years ago, like 10, someone told me about a cake to try. I laughed when they told me what the cake consisted of… A Chocolate Cake mix and a can of diet coke.

You’ve got to be kidding me, right? No siree Bob, I’m serious as a heart attack. btw, I wonder where that phrase came from… really both of them… No siree Bob and serious as a heart attack. Another pondering for another day. Back to the cake…

I called my grandma up and asked her if she believed it. She said, well I have the stuff, let’s try it so I went to her house and guess what… it worked and it was really good. Now at the time I was told that was a weight watchers friendly recipe. A way to have your cake and eat it too for few points.

We were being impatient waiting for the cake to cool to ice it… therefore we inverted it, on a little to small of plate, and then stuck it in the freezer. It worked and tasted even better!!

I’m not sure how many because that was 10 years ago and I wasn’t doing weight watchers. The thing was, how do you ice it? The only icing recipe my grandma knew had a bunch of sugar in it, therefore… you may forgo the calories/fat/points/etc on the cake but you made up for them in the icing.

10 years and I never came up with an icing recipe. But don’t you worry, I did the other day. This recipe is awesome. You’re welcome. Make sure you make a chocolate cake so you’re ready to go for this icing recipe! It’s a good one! The “diet” Icing Recipe!!

And I definitely want to say, don’t discount this cake because of the diet coke. Some people might. Don’t!!

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Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread

A few weeks ago we actually had snow… can you believe it? Snow. Last week we had an ice warning and a couple weeks before that we actually had snow. Okay okay so it was a light dusting, but still…. We had snow. I think we had one snow day last winter too. So far this winter, I think I’ve warn my heavy coat twice maybe. Once was in Texas and the other was up in Kansas City. Not even around here, granted we’re only 2 1/2 hours south of Kansas City. And I just got a new heavy coat for Christmas. Anyway, I have it so I’ll be ready!

That morning when I woke up, I was in the mood to bake. I had a bunch of bananas that needed to be used for banana bread or cake or muffins or something of the sort.

When my parents went to Hawaii they brought back a banana bread mix. Now I never had enough bananas for the mix because usually I had 1-2 and this called for 5 but this day I actually had enough.

I even followed directions and mashed the bananas before adding to the mix. Usually when I make banana bread and it says to mash them in a separate bowl, I usually just peel and mash in my hand as I’m adding to the banana bread mixture. Yup, that’s me. I follow directions real well sometimes. ha! Hey, they get mashed I just don’t dirty up a bowl that way. All I have to do usually is wash my hands. But this particular day I was feeling real rebellious and mashed them in a bowl. Look at me go.

Now it called for 4 mini loaf pans but I don’t think I own mini loaf pans so I made 2 regular sized pans and just separated between the two. I had to bake a little longer but it worked out perfectly!

And this stuff was friggin awesome. Now I want to know how they made it. It was strange all I added were the bananas and some melted butter. No eggs… wonder if they used meringue powder in it? Who knows… all I know is YUM!

 

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