Friday, May 27, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes - by Lisa

 I have been a baking fool this week! One early in the week, and then a recipe a day these last 3 days! Whew! I have to say, these tasty little cupcakes were by far my favorite of this month's choices. It's been awhile since I had carrot cake, and I've always enjoyed it. These cupcakes took it to a whole new level, and I loved the spicy kick that the ginger brought to them. I also made the cream cheese frosting to go on top, but I took a cue from Summer and made just half a batch of the frosting. It seems like that was the perfect amount!

These were really easy to throw together. I got to use the carrots from our local CSA, and the only special ingredients I needed to purchase were the crushed pineapple and orange marmalade.  Like Summer, my batter also yielded 14 cupcakes, so I had two extra little guys to bake off at the end.

I got to share these with friends of ours and they were an instant win! And of course, Caiden's eyes lit up when he saw them lined up on the counter. He got to have one as a special treat, and he loved it! I look forward to making these again!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sesame-Oat-Pecan Cookies - by Lisa

Oh man. I knew this would have to happen at some point. Baking FAIL. I do not know what on earth I did wrong here. Judging by the pictures in the cookbook, these cookies were supposed to look sort of like almond cookies. Mine? Well...a picture will do it far more justice than any attempt to explain.

That was batch #1 after baking for 10 min. I figured maybe the scoops were supposed to be bigger and did round two with less cookies and bigger dollops. And this time, I baked them for only 7-8 min. sigh

Yes, those are 6 cookies on a single sheet. Six enormous deflated sprawling cookies. I have no idea what went wrong. The oven was (supposedly) the correct temperature. I used the same pan I always use. I followed the directions to the letter. I've been baking with the same baking soda in other recipes without any problems. I have only 2 guesses as to what could have gone wrong:

1) The oven was actually hotter than it said it was. I had roasted some veggies for my little guy before starting this recipe, and I thought I gave the oven enough time to cool down. I even double checked it with an oven thermometer.

2) I had to heat my jug of honey in the microwave because it was crystallized. Maybe that affected how the batter behaved in the oven? I know melted butter can wreak havoc on cookies. Ug. So frustrating!

As for the actual recipe part, it was nice and easy. The one unusual item I needed was tahini. But luckily I already had it in the pantry for a future hummus making date. (Altho, thanks to the Vitamix, I can just use sesame seeds for making my hummus! But I digress...)  I processed the pecans, oats and other dry ingredients.

Then with the mixer, I beat the egg, honey, tahini, sugar and vanilla. It made quite the sticky batter!

Finally I scooped the batter onto my pan. They didn't hold their ball shape for long before spreading into little discs. I thought for sure these would puff up, but alas...

From what I can tell, they had an interesting flavor. I generally liked it well enough to keep snacking on it, but after awhile I noticed I didn't really care for the aftertaste. I really wonder what these would have tasted like if I could have gotten them to turn out like they were supposed to. I hope Summer's turn out well!

Geraldine's Chocolate-Date Cake - by Lisa

I don't think I've ever actually eaten a date before, and I actually looked online to see what the difference was between a date and a fig! Learn something new everyday, I tell ya! Anywho, I had no idea what to expect from this recipe, although the picture certainly made the cake look yummy! While this recipe actually had a fair number of steps to go through, it was still pretty simple to pull together. I did make one major change, and that was substituting water for the coffee. I wanted to be able to enjoy a whole piece of this cake, and if I added the coffee, I'd probably only be able to manage one small bite. The dates I picked up from Trader Joe's were not pitted, so I had to spend sometime cutting them open and removing the pits.
It didn't take long, but those suckers are sticky! After soaking them in hot water, I opted to puree them in my new favorite kitchen machine, the Vitamix. And anytime I get to put my Vitamix to the test is a happy time for me! :D These were pureed in about 30 seconds flat, if not sooner!

The batter came together easily, and sifting in the dry ingredients then stirring in the date puree came next. I poured it into the prepared cake pan and sprinkled the half cup of chocolate chips over the top. I let it bake for 60 min even, and I think it was pretty nicely done at that point.

We actually had to wait until much later that evening to sample it as Wednesday nights are our newly minted official date nights! So after Hubby and I got home, he served us up a slice each and we dug in. I thought from the little sample I took of the batter that the finished product would be more chocolaty than anything else. I guess the composition changed a bit while baking, because it had a distinctly unusual aftertaste that I didn't quite care for. Hubby thought it was ok, and I think he enjoyed it a little more than I did, but neither of us were terribly thrilled with it. I'm sure it would have been better with the coffee in it, if only I liked the taste of coffee. I had no idea what else I could have substituted tho, so I just stuck with the water. Oh well, can't win 'em all! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding - by Lisa

So I confess that this was one started out as of my "let's get it out of the way" choices, as I've never been quite sure what bread pudding was all about, and I always thought it sounded a little unappetizing. But I have to say, after actually making it and then tasting the final result, I was pleasantly surprised!

The only thing that gave me a little bit of trouble was actually tracking down a loaf of Challah bread. After calling 3 or 4 local grocery stores, I started thinking I might have to make my own from scratch. But then I suddenly remembered having seen a loaf or two at my local Trader Joe's. I called them up and sure enough, I was in luck! I so love TJ's!!

After chopping up the bread, I moved on to making the banana/caramel filling. That part was super easy and smelled a little like bananas foster while it was cooking.

Making the caramel

Cooking the bananas in the caramel

Bread and banana/caramel mixture

Next was whipping up the "heart attack" portion. ;) There is A LOT of half 'n' half and eggs in this dish! As I was assembling this part, I realized it was a lot like making the mixture for dipping French toast! I carefully poured the liquid mixture over the bread/caramel/banana mixture and made sure the bread was fully saturated. It sat on the counter for about 30 minutes before moving over to the oven.

I let it bake for 65 minutes, but I suspect it probably could have gone a little bit longer. When I cut into it, the middle pieces seemed to be a bit on the soggy side, but having never made bread pudding before I wasn't sure if this was normal or not.

Fresh out of the oven!
 The flavor was really yummy, even if I was a little weirded out by the spongy texture. Hubby really enjoyed it and even had it for breakfast the next morning. I shared it with some friends the following night, and it was well received by them too! If I make this again, I would probably let it cook a little longer. But I am happy to have finally tried bread pudding, and even happier to find that it is pretty tasty!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes - by Summer

I originally wanted to make these Mother's Day weekend, but I ended up not feeling too great on that Sunday, so I held off.  One of the things that I like about this recipe is that it didn't make a lot of cupcakes.  It can be a challenge to eat everything up that we make and currently I don't have the time or effort to try and figure out how to half a recipe right now (and in some cases, I wouldn't have the right pans). 

I have made carrot cake from scratch a few times.  It's one of my mom's favorites, although usually the recipes I have used, don't call for crushed pineapple or orange marmalade.  I ended up using about  4 small-med carrots for this recipe.  I also realized that I while I was pulling the ingredients together that I was out of ground ginger.  Since the recipe also called for ground nutmeg and ground cloves, I ended up using some pumpkin pie spice.  I don't really think it change the taste of the cupcakes too much if at all.

This recipe says that it yields 12 cupcakes.  I know from previous experience that my muffin/cupcake pans tend to be a little bit smaller, so I ended up with 14.  I have also learned from experience that overfilling the pans to get the correct amount isn't really the way to go for "pretty" looking cupcakes.

I decided that this recipe would be good to be paired with the cream cheese frosting recipe as suggested in the cookbook.  In hindsight, I would have definitely only made half of the frosting recipe.  I have a bunch left over and am trying to figure out what to do with the leftovers.

I really like the taste of this cupcake, especially with the cream cheese frosting.  They were moist and I liked the added taste of the pineapple.  I can definitely see making these again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Geraldine's Chocolate-Date Cake - by Summer

I purposely picked this cake to make this weekend for when my parents came to visit.  It's a chocolate cake, which I knew would be right up my dad's alley.  And my husband's mom also makes a date cake, so my husband was excited for this cake as well.

I know Lisa won't be overly excited about the coffee that the dates need to soak in before you puree them for this recipe.  In hindsight, I am not overly excited about this step because of my love/hate relationship with my food processor.  Not only did it leak and spray out everywhere when I turned on the food processor, but it also scared my son who was sitting nearby in his high chair watching me make the cake!  Other than that issue, this was an easy cake to put together.

It baked for about 55 minutes, but it was hard for me to initially tell if the cake was done.  The recipe says it's done when it pulls back from the edges.  It didn't really do that, but the edges definitely looked done.  The recipe also said when you touch the cake and it springs back lightly it's done.  Well - I tried that and burned my finger since you sprinkle chocolate chips on top (Lisa - do not try this method!!!) I ended up sticking a toothpick into the center and it came out clean, so I deemed it done.

I was worried it would be too dry, but it stayed nice and moist.  It was a big hit with my dad and my husband.  I explained that the cake would keep for 4 days at room temperature (per the cookbook) to which they both started laughing.  They couldn't understand how this cake would be around for that long!!!  I would definitely make this cake again, but next time, I'll probably use the blender instead of my food processor!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pear-Tart Cherry Crisp - by Lisa

Man! Talk about coming in right under the wire this month! I don't know where the last couple weeks of April disappeared to, but here we are on the eve of May already. Thankfully, this was a really easy recipe to put together and I already had all the ingredients ready to go from my grocery trip last week!

For some reason, I just have better luck using the food processor when it comes to cutting butter into recipes. So I was relieved it was the suggested method for this recipe! :) Consequently, it was super easy work making the topping for this dish.

The rest of the prep consisted of cutting up the canned pears and then mixing them with the dried cherries and other dry ingredients. Like Summer mentioned, I really like how this can be made at any time of year without needing to rely on seasonal fruit! One thing that jumped out at me was adding a healthy amount of ground ginger to the topping. I love ginger and was curious about how it would come out with this recipe.

Making the filling

Adding the topping

Before going in the oven
The crisp took just under an hour to bake, and man did it make the house smell good! I let it cool for about 30 minutes before digging in. I didn't add any toppings to it, and it certainly didn't need any! I thought it was delicious! I had also promptly forgotten about the ginger, and it wasn't until I was nearly done with my piece that I noticed the delightful flavor and aftertaste that the ginger added. It was a really nice surprise and just the right amount of kick to an already tasty dish. I definitely see myself making this one again!

Fresh out of the oven!