Friday, July 9, 2010

Cream Cheese Pie

I found this Paula Deen recipe for Cherry Cream Cheese Pie a few months ago and it turned out amazing (from Paula Deen, would you expect anything less?!). So, I thought I would make it again, but with a little twist for the Fourth of July. Simply trade the cherry pie filling for fresh berries, and you will get a fresh, delicious summer treat.

Here is Paula's recipe, just slightly modified:

1 (8 ounce) package light cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14 ounce) can light sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (fresh is very important)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust
2 cups chopped berries -- strawberries, blueberries

In either a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment or using a hand held electric mixer, cream the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk mixing on low speed until well combined. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla and pour into the crust. Place the pie into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight, until well chilled and set.

Top the pie with the berries just before serving.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baptism Cookies

When asked to make cookies for two little girls' baptism celebration, I jumped at the chance...then quickly realized that I don't exactly have cookie cutters in my collection that really fit that theme. I bought a cross cookie cutter (the obvious choice) and then settled on two other designs that I already had cutters for, to accompany the cross cookies.

I knew I wanted to have a lamb somewhere in the overall theme, but could not find a cute lamb cookie cutter. All of them were more or less farm animal shapes, so I opted to paint little lambs/sheep onto a simple round cookie with each of the girls' names on them. I really like how they turned out -- those cute little fluffy things!

Last but not least, I decided on a cute daisy design to tie the whole thing together. This was by far the most time-consuming cookie, just FYI. I know, hard to believe, but it is true. Why? I thought you may ask. Because the center was a different color, and because I 'flooded' each petal, that meant I had to individually pipe the border for each and every petal, then flood each one separately without interfering with the yellow center.  I love these daisies but whew they are not for the weak of heart (or hand).

So, what do you think??

(SSH kudos to Sarah for diving into sugar cookie decorating with a fury...and some really great results!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010


This week, I made my first ‘order’ of sugar cookies for a luncheon in honor of two new little bundles of joy. I really, really enjoyed decorating these cookies, and was enlightened on how many baby-themed cookie cutters there were out there. Unfortunately, this was a rush order and I didn’t get to search for more than the cutters I already had, so these are pretty basic, but I still love them nonetheless. It forced me to go a little above and beyond on the simpler shapes!

Once the cookies are cool (I let mine sit overnight in an airtight container), pipe a border for the shape you want to create.

That will need to dry for a while so it creates a wall to contain your flood icing. I usually outline all of my cookies and then go back for decorating them. Once dry, you can use the thinned-out icing to ‘flood’ them. I prefer to use a spoon to pour some icing onto the cookie, then spread it out evenly, making sure that it touches the border.

If you want a flat design, you should flood one or two at a time, and no more than that, so you have time to go back in and add your other designs before the flood icing dries. If you wait to long, any icing that you add to the cookie will be raised.

To do polka dots, just drop a contrasting color of icing, thinned out, onto the wet flood icing. Just know that wet icing will expand a little bit, so don’t put the dots too close together, or make them too big!

If you want to do ‘pearls’ around the edges, wait until the flood icing is dry before you put the dots on the cookie. If you want the dots a little bit above the surface, wait until the flood icing is almost dry before doing the dots, so that they are rooted in the icing, but are still raised above the surface.

Letters are a pain and there are some good tips out there on how to make a good looking monogram or something but I say practice, practice, practice (and use a good, clean icing tip). I think mine turned out okay, but I need some more practice...which I will get lots of as I next week with another baby-themed order!

Happy baking!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes, From Hershey's

This recipe is not my own, I must admit. It actually comes right off the back of a Hershey's Cocoa can! BUT don't let it fool you, Hershey's knows chocolate and these cupcakes are amazing. The recipe is for 'Perfectly Chocolate' Cake with 'Perfectly Chocolate' frosting - you are going to love it!

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
3. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes and let cool completely. Makes about 30 cupcakes.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa, then alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.
Now for the fun part - frosting the cupcakes! I made regular and mini cupcakes, and even frosted some with cream cheese icing. This tool, mentioned in an earlier post, makes frosting cupcakes easy, and they look great!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Organic Mushroom Ravioli - Fresh and Fast

I have been working my butt off lately at work, and consequently my husband has been doing a lot of the cooking. So tonight, it was my turn! I bought some Rising Moon Organic Ravioli at Whole Foods last weekend and was excited to make it tonight. The kind I made was Wild Canterelle Mushroom, and I added a market-fresh mushroom-garlic-herb-parmesan topping (because I ran out of cream, and also because I didn't feel like a heavy sauce for this pasta). It really made for a very yummy (vegetarian) hodgepodge of a dinner, so I thought I would share.

Make the ravioli as directed on the package. While the pasta is cooking, sautee chopped mushrooms with minced garlic in some EVOO. Salt and pepper the mushrooms and then add a splash of sherry vinegar (from Jerez de la Frontera, preferably!). Once the mushrooms cook down, turn down the heat and set aside. Drain the pasta after 8 minutes of cooking and toss in a medium bowl with some EVOO (enough for coating).

Chop the herbs of your choice and mix in with the pasta - I used chopped oregano and parsley but basil would be superb! Mix the mushrooms in with the pasta, add about 2 tbs of Italian breadcrums, then plate your pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and viola!

I think the whole meal took MAYBE 20 minutes. And it was perfect for our house of two! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frosted Animal Cookies

Lions, Tigers and Hippos, Oh My!

I made some frosted animal cookies last weekend for my nephew's first birthday party and they turned out SO CUTE (if I do say so myself!). I used the same cookie recipe that I blogged about before, when I made some sugar cookies for Valentine's day, but they were decorated pretty modestly and this time around I thought I would go bold :)

I am just going to share some pics of the cookies with you, and at the request of my friend, Sarah, I am going to provide you with some of my favorite tips and tricks for making some really great iced cookies. If you would like to get the recipe for the cookies, or the icing, click here. Just note that I used a different royal icing recipe this time around, found here.

So...where do you start?

I always start with outlining the area that I am going to 'flood' or fill.  That way, you have a border for your design, you can control where the icing goes {the outline serves as a frame or a dam for the icing so that it doesn't spill out of the designated area}, and you have a clean, finished design. Use an icing bag/Ziploc with a hole, or squeeze decorator bottles so you get a good, controlled line. You can see the outline in some of my cookies, though it blends with the flooded icing. Some cookie decorators use a different color for their outline than their flood color, which can be cool too. Just pick whatever works for your design, and make sure to let it dry before you flood! :)

Same Color Border

Different Color Border
Photo from Bake at 350 Blog

Once the border sets, you are free to start flooding! The key is to make the icing thin enough to spread easily, but not too thin that it doesn't give the cookie a nice coating. I prefer to use a spoon when I put the flood icing on the cookie because it is easier to spread and move around. I just place some icing on the cookie and use the spoon to push the icing into the areas of the cookie, and right up to the border. You can always add more, if needed.

Some details/decorations should be done while the flooding is still wet, which means you have pretty much have to work cookie to cookie instead of flooding all of them and then doing the detailing. For example:

Stripes, Dots or Spots...

...and any detailing that you want to be flush and not raised

Like a lion's mane

Monkey paws and funny face

Elephant and hippo toes

Or simply swirls
This Photo from Bake at 350 Blog

I do love the look of monochromatic decorating, and sometimes I think it is necessary. For example, when I did the ears on my elephant cookies, it would have looked weird if I did the ear outline in a different color than the elephant's body, so I used the same icing (NOT thinned out), and just piped the ear design right onto the dried icing. It is a subtle design element, but sometimes less is more!

It works really well when doing classy cookies, like these, from Bake at 350 Blog:

When doing the eyes for the animal cookies, I really wanted them to 'pop' {not literally!}, so I added the eyes last, to make them raised a bit. I used a toothpick and dipped it into the white icing, then onto the cookie. For the black dot, I did the same thing, but didn't use a lot of icing, and very gently dabbed the toothpick into the white dot, so it would be one piece.

Here are a few tips to remember when making the cookies:
  • After you make your cookie shapes and have them arranged on a baking sheet, put them in the refrigerator for a few minutes so they are chilled. Once you are ready to bake them, put them straight from the fridge into the hot oven. This will keep the cookies from puffing up too much or spreading, so the shape is still defined.
  • Keep a damp paper towel on top of any bowls of royal icing that you are not using. It will keep it from drying out.
  • If you thin your icing out and then decide it is too thin, or that you need thicker icing for decorating, just leave it out for a little bit and the icing will begin to thicken.
  • Warm water seems to work better when adding to the icing to make it thinner.
  • When mixing colors, search online for color combinations to use. I just have the standard colors, and brown and black were harder to make and more time consuming. I recommend searching for a good food color that you can just use and do not have to worry about mixing to death.
  • I recommend using a tabletop mixer when making the icing. You have to mix for a little while before the icing is ready and it is nice to just turn the mixer on and walk away.
  • If you make mistakes with the icing, you can usually just wipe it off {but you have to react quickly}. This works especially well when you are piping decorations onto already-hardened icing. Just gently wipe clean if you mess up on a small area. Larger areas...good luck... :)
  • I prefer to pick up the cookies when I do the outlines and fill them, but you can lay them out on a cookie sheet and do them like that as well.
  • Leave the cookies out to dry overnight, in a dry, cool place. If they get warm or there is moisture in the air, they can take a while to dry, or worse - dry with spots or weird lines.
I think that about covers it. If you have any questions, just let me know!! Good luck with your cookie-making!

I will be making some more iced cookies next week with my mother-in-law, for a couples shower, and I am really excited to do some simple, elegant designs. I will post the results of that session soon, and I promise to include step-by-step instructions on decorating techniques.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Sandwich

We have been trying to eat healthier and thought this would make a yummy lunch this past weekend. We were right! This sandwich was AMAZING, so I am sharing the simple recipe with you in hopes that you will not only make it, but indulge in it as well :)


Foccacia Bread, sliced about 1" thick
Basil Leaves
Fresh Mozzarella
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste


Heat your panini press/grill/grill pan to medium-high heat. Drizzle one side of the foccacia bread pieces with the EVOO, turn upside-down and set aside. Place the tomato slices (as many as you like) on one of the pieces of bread and then stack the mozzarella on top of the tomato. Arrange a few basil leaves on the mozarella and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put the second piece of bread on top of the sandwich, EVOO-side up so that the sandwich doesn't stick to the grill. Once heated, set the sandwich on the grill and close the panini press. Allow time for the bread to get golden in color and for the cheese to melt, about 8 minutes. Keep an eye on the sandwich though as cooking times may vary.

Your result: DE-Licious!