Sunday, June 24, 2012

Breakfast Winner

It's been a fun start to summer! My husband and I attempted to get Bailey to swim in the swimming pool today. She swam once she was in, but she hasn't quite gotten the idea of jumping into the pool yet. She'll figure it out. We know she likes swimming (see the video on the Ms Bailey page).
The other day, my husband received a very large box in the mail. He opened it to see this:

We both assumed someone had sent us a gift, although there was no reason (no birthdays, no anniversary, no national coffee lovers day). We opened the package to see this:

Inside was a french press, 3 varieties of Starbucks coffee, a coffee scoop, and a tasting notebook. It turns out, my husband entered a contest through Starbucks (grand prize was a trip for four to Seattle) and he won first prize (this "Find the Roast You Love Most" package)! I personally like the medium roast better than the new blonde roast.

Today's recipes are for breakfast. They are more ideas then full out recipes.
The first is a Baked Egg Boat (based on this Baked Egg Boat). I used sesame braided rolls, eggs, ham, tomatoes, cheddar cheese,  and onions.

The second is a Breakfast Calzone. (based on this Italian Sausage Bread). I used Basil dough, eggs, cheddar cheese, sausage, red peppers, and green onions.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunny Day with Dads

Happy Father's Day!

We spent the day having a light lunch with my father and a pizza picnic by the beach with my father-in-law (my sister-in-law took the photo below). Both fathers were very happy and the food was excellent.

I am officially out of school, no tears here! I'll be tutoring and attempting to make some much needed money throughout the summer, but it's still SUMMER!

We've also started our own little vegetable garden (squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, etc). I'll have to take pictures as they grow!

Pillow Cookie (version 2)
Original Recipe

I followed the original recipe but instead of 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar I substituted 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons of honey. I also had some leftover mini heath bars which I used for half of the cookies, instead of the brownies.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Importance of Surprise

I was talking with my grandmother yesterday about birthdays. She told me that she always believed that everyone should be celebrated on their birthday. I couldn't agree more. I think that's why I always at least try to make a cake or cupcakes for the special people in my life. I hope in that way they see that I have thought about them and I care about them.

This weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday with a surprise fiesta party. She was very surprised! We decorated the back porch with sombreros, pinatas, and margaritas! I made lime margaritas and blackberry margaritas. My sister-in-law made sangria.

We had a taco bar for dinner and dessert was this "cake." It's rich, so only a little is needed. The actual cake is really brownie like in texture, just as the name suggests.

Toffee Bar Brownie Torte Cake
from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather
Oven 350

For the brownies:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
8 large eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt

For the frosting:
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tsp. boiling water, chilled

For the filling:
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tsp. boiling water
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup reserved frosting (above)

For garnish:
2 cups chopped toffee bits or finely chopped toffee bars

To make the brownie layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Combine the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a few inches of simmering water. Continue heating until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth, stirring occasionally with a spatula. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and salt, and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans. Gently smooth the batter in the pans. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the brownies are just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans 30 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge of each pan and invert the brownies onto the rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, add the chilled heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form. Blend in the sugar, vanilla and espresso mixture, whipping just until combine. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Reserve and refrigerate 1 cup of the frosting for use in the filling. Set aside the rest of the frosting.

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the mascarpone, espresso liquid, sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat on medium speed until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gently fold in the reserved 1 cup of frosting with a spatula.

To assemble the torte, lay 1 of the brownie rounds to a large serving platter. Spread half of the filling mixture evenly over the top. Layer with another brownie round, and the remainder of the filling. Top with the final brownie layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the frosting. Garnish with the toffee bits to cover the top and sides of the cake. Use any remaining frosting to pipe decorative swirls around the top edge of the cake, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Return in the Rain

My sister-in-law Kelley has a cat named Spooky. He is an indoor cat who somehow escaped during a family dinner last month. My in-laws and sister-in-law spent time putting up fliers around the neighborhood, checking under porches, posting on facebook, and shaking kitty treat bags around. Unfortunately, Spooky remained gone. The fear was that he wouldn't survive outside without front claws and without any true hunting instincts from having lived inside for so many years. Well today, after the rain had subsided, Spooky walked into my in-laws garage. He's thin and probably full of ticks, but he's back! I don't think I would have been as worried before or excited now if we didn't have Ms. Bailey. It makes you think about how much a pet becomes a part of your family, a member you don't want to lose.

Coconut Macaroons
Oven 300

3/4 cup (5 large) egg whites
2/3 cup granulated sugar
10 oz sweetened coconut flakes (Baker's)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan combine egg whites, sugar and coconut flakes and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until all the ingredients combine together, about 12-15 minutes. The mixture should be sticky and moist, not dry. Remove from heat and stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Set aside on a dish and let it cool in the refrigerator about 30 minutes.

Using a tablespoon, scoop tightly packed tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet covered with a silpat or parchment paper.

Bake 27-30 minutes or until golden.