December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I didn't really talk much about this in my last post, so I'll do that now. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I know I did. I so enjoy just sitting around with my family and friends, playing games, eating delicious food, and talking. It's just the best. I'm sad it has to end, but I'm looking forward to what the new year has to bring. Speaking of the new year, I'm making New Year cookies tomorrow, and I'll have pictures of those asap. Well, hopefully I'll have pictures of those. If they turn out horribly (I'm still working on my cookie decorating say the least), there may not be pictures. Or maybe I'll show you just how bad they look so you can see the progress I make as I keep practicing.

Here's what I have to show you today. I had a couple of orders from sweet friends and friends of the family on Christmas Eve. One was for Red Velvet Cake and the other was for Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Since these were orders, I obviously couldn't cut into them to show you the inside...but you get the picture :) So, here are my creations!

Red Velvet Cake

Carrot Cake Cupcakes 

December 27, 2011

4th Annual Dessert Fest

I love home. Home is so good.

I love sitting by the fire and Christmas tree. I love hanging out with my family and friends. I love having NO school work to do. I love having no stress. I love not missing home...because I'm there. I love relaxing and just doing whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it.

However, I'll have to meet reality again in a couple of weeks, and I'm already dreading it.

BUT. And this is a big "but". Passion 2012 is LESS THAN A WEEK AWAY! I can't even begin to describe my excitement. The Passion movement brings such joy and, well, passion to my life. Passion City Church has been such a blessing to me. My family got to enjoy their Christmas Eve service, and it was just as good as I had expected. Needless to say, it made me even more excited for the 4 days I'll be spending in Atlanta next week.

Anyway, I'll start talking about food now. Every year, my friends and I have a mini progressive dinner to celebrate Christmas together. This year was the 4th one, and it was just as fun as always. My house was the dessert house (shocker, eh?), and though I don't have pictures of everything I made, I do have a couple. Here we go...


Gingerbread Cookies

Aaaaand here are all of my friends...some of my favorite people ever, and some of the greatest blessings God has given me. 

December 15, 2011

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Hello from Gatlinburg, Tennessee! 

I'm sitting in a room FILLED with my best friends right now...eating food...watching Pride and Prejudice. What could be better? We got to Gatlinburg yesterday afternoon, walked around town some, and then drove a couple more miles to our 15 person mountain cabin. This place is BEAUTIFUL. We've just been relaxing and spending time together, which I really love since I don't get to see these people too often! And, of course, I miss them dearly. 

Anyway, I'm a little behind on my blogging. Instead of seeing pictures of the food I made for this trip (Oreo Balls, Peanut Butter Chocolate Sqaures, and Yellow Cake Mix Cookies), this blog post will be about a dessert I made a few days ago...Red Velvet Cheesecake. I'm not gonna's good. Really good. I feel like I say that a lot, but it's so true this time. It does take a pretty good while to put it together, but it's totally worth it. If you find yourself in a baking mood, I would recommend trying this! 

Red Velvet Cheesecake 

Red Velvet Cheesecake 

Red Velvet Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp red gel-paste food color
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.

With an electric mixer on med-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix in food color and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisk well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam), add mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

Line two 9 inch spring form pans with parchment paper. Divide the batter equally between the two pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the pan. Allow to cool completely before assembling with the cheesecake.

White Chocolate Cheesecake
2 oz white chocolate, chopped
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature ( 2 packages)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the white chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, using an electronic mixer, mix the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. add the sugar and mix slowly until smooth. on low speed, mix in the flour. turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add one egg at a time and mix until smooth. scrape down again. mix in the vanilla and cream until the mixture is smooth. Using a large spoon, stir in the melted white chocolate until incorporated.

Pour the batter into a parchment paper lined 9 inch spring form pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the center is set when you shake the pan slightly. Allow to cool before removing from the spring form pan. Allow to cool completely before assembling with the red velvet cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting
24 oz cream cheese (3 packages), at room temperature
3 sticks of butter, at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla
3 cups of powdered sugar, plus more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electronic mixer until well combined. Add more powdered sugar to taste, if a more sweet frosting is preferred. Use immediately to frost the cake.

After assembling the cake, allow it to rest in the fridge over night, before serving. Serve immediately after taking it out of the fridge.

-If you have time, you can do a crumb coat on both round cakes. There's enough icing to do it, and it makes icing the final product WAY easier. It keeps little red pieces from being all over the cake. If you don't know what a crumb coat is, I'll explain...
Just put a thin layer of icing all over each cake. Then, cover them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil (or put them in an airtight container) and freeze them for a bit. Once the icing is hard, take them out of the freezer and assemble the final product (cheesecake included). 
-Remember to put a layer of icing between the cake and cheesecake. This keeps the three layers from falling apart when you cut a slice.

November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Cheer

Thanksgiving's over (insert very, very, very sad face), and I'm back in Athens, ready to finish this last week of classes and take on my first set of college finals! I thought I would sit down and write this post before studying starts to take over my free time.

Anyway, Thanksgiving break was so great. I spent most of it cooking, shopping, and relaxing with friends and family. I'm so thankful for each and every moment I had with them this past week. I love being at home. Home is good. I also love Athens, though. It's an awesome city with awesome people. You know what else is awesome about it? Our SEC East Champion Bulldawgs are going to the SEC CHAMPIONSHIP this weekend! I. Am. So. Excited. It's going to be a good weekend full of Christmas parties, football, and friends.

Onto the main topic: food. First, here are some Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes...

Now for the FOUR Thanksgiving pies. Last year, my mom and I made four pies for the four members of our family. This seems excessive. It IS excessive. However, everyone has their pie that they HAVE to have if it's gonna be a traditional Thanksgiving. Dad's is Pumpkin, Mom's is Pecan, Drew's is Apple, and mine is Chocolate Chip. Luckily, my wonderful grandparents came to our house for Thanksgiving this year, so we had two extra mouths to help us eat our pies :) 




Chocolate Chip 

That's all for now! I'll be back in a couple of weeks with Christmas goodies to share! 

November 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

So I'm a little late getting to this blog post, but better late than never, right? Anyway, last Tuesday (the 15th) was my brother's birthday and last Thursday (the 17th) was my mom's birthday. I came home from school on Thursday to surprise my mom for her birthday, but before she got home from work, I had some time to make some yummy birthday cupcakes! I asked my mom what kind of dessert she wanted for her birthday, and her special request was just some vanilla cake with vanilla icing. Yes, it's that good! We do love chocolate around here, but this cake is just about even with anything chocolate!

Tomorrow is THANKSGIVING! Be prepared for some pie pictures, along with Pumpkin Spice Cupcake pictures and come in the next few days!

November 1, 2011

Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Hey y'all!
This is my final post for quite a while. I'm not going home again until Thanksgiving, and this cake is the last of what I baked this past weekend. It's a good one to end on, though, because this cake is the epitome of a perfect fall recipe! It's not too hard, and it tastes delicious. I wish I had pictures of the inside of the cake, but I don't. I was in a rush to cut and serve it, and I never got around to taking a picture of the pretty inside. Just imagine a nice cream cheese swirl through the center! 
Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake 
Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake 
            1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
            1/4 cup butter, softened
            1/2 cup granulated sugar
            1 large egg
            2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
            APPLE CAKE BATTER:
            1 cup finely chopped pecans
            3 cups all-purpose flour
            1 cup granulated sugar
            1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
            2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
            1 teaspoon salt
            1 teaspoon baking soda
            1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
            1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
            3 large eggs, lightly beaten
            3/4 cup canola oil
            3/4 cup applesauce
            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
            3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples (about 1 1/2 lb.)
            1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
            1/4 cup butter
            3 tablespoons milk
            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
            1 cup powdered sugar
            1. Prepare Filling: Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth. Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.
            2. Prepare Batter: Preheat oven to 350º. Bake pecans in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Stir together 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next 3 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in apples and pecans.
            3. Spoon two-thirds of apple mixture into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan. Spoon Cream Cheese Filling over apple mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of pan. Swirl filling through apple mixture using a paring knife. Spoon remaining apple mixture over Cream Cheese Filling.
            4. Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).
            5. Prepare Frosting: Bring 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 3 Tbsp. milk
            to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1
            minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Gradually whisk in
            powdered sugar until smooth; stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to
            cool and thickens slightly. Pour immediately over cooled cake.

Garlic Breadsticks & Penne Rustica

Last Saturday, the day of being in the kitchen ALL day long, I made something REALLY good. I'm not trying to brag. I'm just trying to emphasize how good this recipe is so you'll make it yourself. The recipe is for copycat Olive Garden breadsticks, and luckily, they really do taste like Olive Garden breadsticks. If you don't believe me, give it a shot! We made copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica to go along with it, and I don't have a good picture of that, but I'll give you the recipe anyway! It was SO good. However, big took a lot of effort to make. If you're looking for a quick pasta recipe, this is not the one for you :)

Olive Garden Breadsticks 

Olive Garden Breadsticks 
1 1/2 cups warm water (between 110 - 120 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.

In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.

Add to yeast mixture. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.

Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not overknead!

Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips.

I ended up with 10 breadsticks, but you could easily make more by rolling them shorter or thinner.

Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and once heated, pop in the breadsticks. In microwave, combine the following:

1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 cup margarine)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt

After 6 or 7 minutes, brush the breadsticks with half the butter mixture.
Then continue to bake for 12-15 minutes. Immediately upon removal from the oven, brush the other half of the butter on the breadsticks.

Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica 
Gratinata sauce (use 4 1/2 cups )
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 cup marsala cooking wine
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups heavy cream

Penne Rustica
1/2 ounce pancetta or bacon (I used an ounce which was 1 strip of bacon for me)
9 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces grilled chicken breasts, sliced (1 large breast or 2 small)
8-12 ounces penne pasta, cooked
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped pimiento (optional)
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon chopped shallot
 pinch salt and pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (for garnish)

1. For Gratinata Sauce: Saute butter, garlic, and rosemary until garlic begins to brown.
2. Add Marsala wine and reduce by one-third.
3. Add remaining ingredients, reduce by half of the original volume.
4. Set aside.
5. For Penne Rustica: Saute pancetta or bacon until it begins to brown.
6. Add butter, shallots, and shrimp.
7. Cook until shrimp are evenly pink but still translucent.
8. Add chicken, salt, pepper, and mix thoroughly.
9. Add gratinata sauce and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
10. Simmer until sauce thickens.
11. In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with the cooked pasta.
12. Pour into a large casserole dish or roaster.
13. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup more parmesan cheese, pimientos and sprinkle with paprika.
14. Bake at 475 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

15. Remove and garnish with fresh rosemary sprig.

October 29, 2011

The Goodness of Fall

Hey everyone!

First off, GO DAWGS. Such a great win against the Gators today. Now onto the food.

Because I have such limited time to bake, I take FULL advantage of it when I come home. That's why I have about four recipes to post within the next couple of days. For this post, I'll give you two REALLY good pumpkin recipes.

The first is for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars. These were SO delicious. I'm serious. I'm not just saying that. One of the best pumpkin recipes I've had. MAKE THEM. Soon. It'll be Christmas before you know it. The second is for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies. These weren't quite as good as the bars, but delicious and worth making. They're really easy, too. I definitely recommend giving them a shot.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars 

1 3/4 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup mini- chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar, measured then sifted

1/2 cup mini- chocolate chips (for topping)

1. Prepare batter: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 10x15-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugars until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves. Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan coated with nonstick spray. Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center- about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool completely.
5. Prepare frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Frost bars and sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies
Yield: 24 small brownies 

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 T vegetable or canola oil
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground nutmeg 
2/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 11" x 7" pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, eggs, and oil until smooth. Set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt, and brown sugar. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
4. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until passes toothpick test. Cool completely before cutting.

October 11, 2011

19 Years Young

Hey everyone!

As a lot of you probably know, my birthday was on Saturday. I was able to spend it at home, celebrating with family and friends, which was wonderful. Anyway, while my mom was willing to make me any cake I wanted, I chose my favorite vanilla cake. If you've never had it, it really is SO good. She made the actual cake, so I can't take all the credit for it this time, but I did ice and decorate it. It's not birthday themed in any way, but I wanted a reason to decorate a cake for fall, and my birthday cake was the perfect excuse!

October 7, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

It's beginning to look a lot like.....FALL! I am loving the cool weather and the changing leaves. I'm also loving the fact that I'm home for my birthday weekend. I'm so excited to be able to spend this time with my wonderful friends and family. The treat of the day today is some Pumpkin Cream Cheese bread that I just made. This bread is REALLY good. Like, really. You have to like pumpkin though, because they don't call this pumpkin bread for nothing. Some pumpkin foods just have a sort of spice to them and not much pumpkin flavor, but this bread really has that flavor. So, anyway, warning: this is true pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

For those of you who love pumpkin as much as I do, YOU WANT TO MAKE THIS! Here's the recipe...enjoy!
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread
1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want the filling to be)
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1  2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 to 1 1/4 cup(s) pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1  1/2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Cinnamon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons half & half
1/2  to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pans. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg, and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. Set aside. In a large bowl, blend 1  2/3 cup flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, canola oil, eggs and sugar; beat well. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Fold in the chopped pecans or walnuts.

Pour half of the pumpkin bread batter evenly into the two prepared loaf pans. Spoon cream cheese mixture on top of the pumpkin batter layers in each loaf pan and then spoon or pour  on the remaining pumpkin batter (if you don’t have enough pumpkin batter to cover the cream cheese layer entirely, that’s okay, because you’ll be swirling them together anyway). Take a knife and stick straight down into the top pumpkin batter layer and middle cream cheese layer; swirl the knife around in these two layers, creating a marble effect; this will give the cream cheese filling a nice swirly shape as it bakes.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool bread in pans for 10 minutes; remove to a rack to cool completely. While waiting for the bread to cool, mix your cinnamon glaze: combine powdered sugar and half & half, blending well; then add cinnamon and mix until smooth and creamy. Note: the cinnamon makes this glaze darker in color, so if you want a lighter, creamy color glaze, just add a dash of cinnamon to the mixture. Drizzle over completely cooled bread loaves and then sprinkle on nuts for garnish.

This recipe makes two 8 x 4-inch loaves, so you can make one to eat now and one to save in the freezer for later. 

September 25, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies

This is procrastination at it's finest. I'm back at school, and while I desperately need to be studying my journalism notes, I'm writing this blog post. Oh well. Everyone needs study breaks, right? Anyway, I had a wonderful weekend at home, and in addition to making the pumpkin doughnuts and milky way cupcakes I posted yesterday, I made some Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies. Phew. That's a long cookie name. I included the recipe (from one of my favorite blogs, Picky-Palate) below the pictures if you want to give it a shot :)

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 sticks softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chocolate chunks 
1 cup cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
2. Place peanut butter into the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. In a stand or electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined. 
4. Place flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add to wet ingredients along with cocoa powder and chocolate chunks, slowly mixing until just combined. Drop dollops of frozen peanut butter into dough and turn mixer on for just a few turns of the mixer to get swirls of peanut butter through the dough. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until cooked through. Let cook on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve with milk.
Makes 3 dozen cookies.