Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Calling All Peanut Butter Lovers

With a slight lean, still a masterpiece!
I don't like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. For all of you who just shouted what and that's unAmerican, yes, it's true. I just don't like them. I don't know why. I like peanut butter. I like chocolate. I don't like peanut butter cups and I am thankful. It may be one of the very rare candies that I don't like.

Sometimes I decide to make things I don't really care for, but others around me do,  because my rational is that maybe I won't eat them. That was my plan going into this next venture. Peanut Butter Silk Cake for most may sound like pure silky heaven, but to me, not so much.

My sister in law had just watched my children for me and I thought I would bring half of this over to her as a thank you, even though she probably deserved a metal of honor. She LOVES peanut butter cups, so I thought this would be a perfect surprise.

Here is what I did:
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup veggie oil
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter (I didn't use because this step didn't work)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I didn't use because this step didn't work)
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 container of chocolate frosting
1 cup chopped peanuts optional, but I did use them

Preheat the oven to 350 or 325 for dark or nonstick pans. Generously grease the bottoms only of 2 8 or 9 inch round pans with shortening or I used cooking spray.

Tryin to crack
the eggs.
Waiting patiently
for a taste.
Two pans and ready
to bake!
In a large bowl combine cake mix, water 1/2 cup of peanut butter, oil and the eggs. Do this on low for about 30 seconds, just to get it combined evenly. Then beat on medium for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour into the two pans and bake about 30 to 35 minutes, BUT ALWAYS BE SURE TO DO THE TOOTHPICK TEST!!! Hey people just because this is the suggested bake time, if that toothpick comes out clean before the time, take the cakes out! No one wants a dry cake, yuck!!!

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and then place your cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over to release the cake from the pan. Let them completely cool for at least an hour on the racks.

Ok, now this is where I deviate completely from what they wanted me to do for the filling because it doesn't work and I knew it wouldn't, so I am not even going to put it in here and confuse you. The just of what happened is you boil it down to make a Carmel mix and then you are supposed to put it in the fridge, which I knew would make it hard and crunchy, not gooey for the filling. I tried it, TWICE. It doesn't work, so I altered the filling. See below.

In a chilled medium bowl, beat the whipping cream on high until soft peaks form. Looking at whipping cream coming out of the carton, you wouldn't think it would whip up like it does. Trust me, whip it good, it will peak. Then add in the 1/2 cup of peanut butter and continue to whip it until it is all smooth and creamy. This will go in between the cake layers.

Could have probably trimmed
off more, but this worked.
Waiting for the next layer.
Is it ready yet??
Now, it says to split each of the cakes into two layers. I did this and when I went to frost the cake, it started to slip slide all over because the cream in between and the layers were thin. Next time I make this, I don't think I will split the two cakes into layers, I will just use them as the layers.

Ok, trim the cakes tops off so that they are flat. Don't throw the tops away, it is so good, eat them! Back to trimmed cakes. Now you have the two trimmed cakes, put one onto the serving plate and put the peanut butter whipped cream on top of it, about 2/3 of an inch away from the edges, and then set the next cake on top of that.

Frost the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting. Press the chopped peanuts along the edge of the cake into the frosting, if you like that sort of thing.

Store it covered in the fridge.

Back to my sister in law and this cake present. Yeah, the cake didn't make it over to her house. It was so delicious. The actual cake was so smooth it really was silky. Although I still don't like Reese's, I do love this cake!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Pesto waiting for it's carby friend,
dipping bread.
You know what I love about Italian restaurants? They aren't afraid of carbs. The vast majority of Italian restaurants that you go into will serve you some sort of bread before your meal arrives. One of my favorite Italian places to go that does this is Parmesans in Frankfort. It's on Route 30, which is a little torn up right now, but it is worth going there. I love this place. They will bring you out these lovely dough knots with a cup of pesto sauce for dipping. It is sooooo good. Lick the container good. I want it right now just thinking about it good and it is just what I thought of last week at the farmer's market when I bought a big bag of basil.

Basil is delicious. Period. It smells wonderful and it tastes wonderful too. It's strong, but don't be intimidated because it makes great things, like pesto. So yes, I was inspired in the train station parking lot last Saturday to make pesto. Since I have never made this elusive pesto before, where did I go for inspiration? You got it, Google, my answer to everything.

I Googled it and looked a couple of different recipes for pesto. They were generally the same, variances on amounts of ingredients, some offered a few tips, so I wrote down what I thought sounded good and went from there.

Here is what I did:
2 cups of fresh basil, washed, leaves only, NO STEMS.
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (but you will add more at the end)
5 cloves of garlic, sounds like a lot and it is, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE garlic. Cooking is about the adventure and personal tastes. Feel free to personalize it for your likes!
2 Tbs walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs of lemon juice
1tsp sugar

Basil ready to become pesto.
In my food processor, I minced up the nuts first. I decided to do this because I didn't want the basil to become a mushy pulp if I added it first and then had to chop everything else in there too. Ok, chopped nuts add the garlic cloves and give another little chop. I used pulse on the processor so I could go slowly. Then I added in the basil. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the basil is finely chopped up. Don't over do it. You don't want sludge. Now, add in the olive oil, salt, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and sugar. Pulse some more until it is all incorporated and mixed well.

Now transfer it to a container that you can seal and add olive oil until the pesto is at the consistency you like it at. This is a preference thing. That's it. You're done.

Now I store it in the fridge, but be sure to take it out before serving because the olive oil will harden in the cold and will need time to "thaw" out some.

Serve it with bread to dip. I brought this to a party on a tray with sliced salami, slice provolone and bread to dip. It was delicious and looked great too. Give it a try for an out of the ordinary appetizer. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sweet Little Sliders

Little sliders ready for the next party.
Vegetarian sliders for all
of my meatless friends!
Here we are in midsummer and what are we all doing? Partying! That's right, it is prime season for the backyard bbq's and driveway parties. You all know them. You all have been to them. You all have wondered after going to all of these parties, what am I going to bring?

There are only so many dips you can bring before it has all been done already. How many times can you really eat buffalo chicken dip or popper dip in one weekend? Here is a fresh little idea that my friend Karen and I had talked about. We had both seen it on the web and thought, we could do that! That is how most of my creations start.

Red Bull cutter and my
little kitchen helper.
Here are some cute little sliders that you can take to your next party to wow all of your friends. They are not really that hard to make at all.

Here is what I did:

Box of brownies, prepared as the box calls. Let them cool and cut out circles. Now, normal people will use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter, but I didn't have one at the right size. However, I have learned that a Red Bull can is the EXACT size needed to create the "meat" for my sliders.

Box of yellow cake, prepared as the box calls. Line your cupcake tins with paper liners and fill them slightly more than half way. You don't want the cupcake to rise over the top of the edge when you bake them or your buns are going to be misshaped, every girls nightmare.

After the sliders are cooled and cut and the cupcakes are cooled, unwrap them, then cut them in half to make your "buns". This my friends took the longest to do out of alllll of the steps.
Burger and bun just waiting
for the toppings.

Ok, now you need the frosting to make your "ketchup", "mustard" and "lettuce". I used the basic frosting recipe.

1 block of cream cheese, soft
1 stick of butter, soft
run this for 5 mins in the mixer with a whisk
Slowly add in 4 cups of confectioners sugar blending after each addition.
1 or 2tsp of vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy.

Ready for the buns.
Now, I separated the frosting into three bowls and used, red food coloring for ketchup, yellow for mustard and green for the lettuce. Pretty obvious. Now, I used the Wilton coloring you can buy in the grocery store and the colors did not pop like I wanted. They were more of a pastel. I am pretty sure you can buy special Wilton food colors to get a bright red or bright green, but I didn't have that so I improvised. Then all you do is make a squiggly outline and top with the top bun.

I wish I would have gotten the sesame seeds to top the buns, but I didn't have time, so my buns were seedless, but still cute!

My little kitchen helper
escaped from bed for
a late night slider.
I brought these to work for a picnic and everyone thought they were super cute. They really weren't that hard to make. If I can make these, so can you!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy Sweating

The Honeymooners.
Just like marriage, not quite the fairytale you thought
it was gonna be, but pretty damn good!
It's July, muggy, sweaty, hot July. Some people may say it's too hot, but let's remember back to the snowy cold month of December. Quit complaining. I actually love December. Yes, it's usually freezing cold and snowy, but there is the warmth of Christmas, my son was born in December and my wedding anniversary is also in December.

This year will be lucky number eight for me and my husband. Yes lucky. Lucky one of us hasn't killed the other by now. All kidding aside, we made it to eight with two wonderful, annoying at times, children, our own roof over our heads and too many blessings to list. I must say, we are pretty damn lucky.

You may wonder why anyone would choose to get married in December. One simple word, sweat. Yes, I said sweat. Anyone that knows Jasen, knows that the guy sweats, a lot. Jasen demanded, no insisted, that we get married in December so that he would not be sweating in his tuxedo. This statement truly came from an unmarried man because any married man knows that it could be negative 30 outside and you are still going to be sweating the day you get married. Since I already knew I was going to take charge of this wedding planning and I was going to get everything I wanted for that big day, I felt that I could give him this one thing. I agreed to December, for the sole reason of sweat.

The big day came. The moment of truth. Here we go. The bridal march is playing. I'm coming down aisle with my father. Jasen is standing on the alter, smiling. My dad gives my hand to Jasen and there it is, sweat, right there in the middle of December. It didn't matter. We said our I do's. We had a beautiful reception. We went on our honeymoon. More sweat.

We went to Riviera Maya in Mexico and it was amazing! I packed everything I thought I would need there. I had a little suitcase dedicated just to shoes. Every girl knows, you can never have too many shoes. Jasen thought I was nuts, which I am, but there was one thing I packed that we will both remember as our honeymoon and it was the spray and lotion from Bath and Body Works in the scent of Coconut Lime Verbena. It is and will be one of my very favorite scents because it will always remind me of our honeymoon.

Coconut Lime Verbena just screams tropical vacation. It really does, so what could be better in the middle of a hot July in Chicago? You got it coconut lime cupcakes!

I am going to admit that I was slightly intimidated by this because I have never really made a cake from scratch. No box mix here. How the heck do you even start? Me being the internet queen, that's where I went. I have come across an awesome baking blog recently, You can pay to join and have exclusive access, but I have been frequenting the free blog section and I love it.

This is where I found the recipe for a Lime Cake with Lemon Lime Frosting. I immediately thought of Coconut Lime Verbena and decided to change the frosting to a coconut frosting. I made cupcakes because I am taking them to a party and lets face it, it is just easier to eat a cupcake than a slice of cake. I also embarked on making my own frosting. I envisioned a lovely light and fluffy puff of frosting atop of these little cupcakes. In my head, they were gorgeous. In the mixing bowl, the frosting was a disaster.

I told you all that I would post things, even if they didn't turn out quite like I thought they would and this is one of those times. My light and fluffy puff frosting in my head was actually a thick goo. I added all sorts of stuff to thicken it to become a fluffy puff. No deal. So here I am with this goo and I have to take them to a party. Oh well! Frost those babies. Put them in the fridge and pray for a miracle and a sign that says, eat these fast or they are going to melt.

We haven't gone to the party yet. No one has tasted them yet, so I can't really tell you if they were failures. Although they do not look like what I thought they would, they are still presentable, so I guess at least that is a win. Hopefully they will be great and no one at the party will know otherwise, unless they read this blog.

Here is what I did:
Lime Cake
2 1/2 cups regular white flour
2 cups regular granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
12 TBS unsalted butter, soft

Look at how he
does it with his
little pinkies all up!
3/4 cup lime juice, I used fresh squeezed, thanks to the brawn of the family, Jasen. It took about a bag of limes.
3/4 cup sour cream, I used the light and
the zest of one lime
The Enforcer. Look out limes!
I'll lay the smack down.

Set the oven to 350. This will not rise like cake normally does, even though you fill the cupcakes high.

Pretty full and they did not rise
like normal cupcakes.
In a bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and whisk these until blended.

I told ya! I'm not lyin here folks.
Now, you could make a cake and divide it into two eight inch pans, but I did cupcakes and I used paper liners. I filled them pretty far up. I baked them for 18 minutes, until the cake testing stick came out clean. I let them cool in the pan for five minutes and them let them finish cooling on wracks.

Does this look light and
fluffy to you?
Me neither.
Now for the frosting. That f'ing frosting. I thought I could make it better by adding some things, like I normally do, but I was wrong. Yes, I was wrong, so here is the recipe that was provided. Follow it. Let me know if it works.

Coconut Frosting-remember this was for an entire cake, which is A LOT of frosting. You could probably half this and be good for cupcakes.
2lbs confectioners sugar
2 sticks of unsalted butter, soft
1/2 tsp popcorn salt, which I learned is finer so it dissolves a lot better
1/4 cup milk
Oh yeah, it makes a big
sugary mess too.
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp coconut extract

Beat the butter and add the sugar gradually. I find that putting it through the sifter makes it better. Then add the milk and the flavorings, mix. Then beat on high for 6-8 minutes. It says if it is too thick to add more milk a tiny bit at a time. As you already know, mine was not thick, it was goo.

ahhhh, sweet toasted coconut.
You make me want a frappi!
I topped these with toasted coconut flakes, which I learned how to do today. Simple. Get a cookie sheet. Heat the oven to 350. Spread the flakes onto the sheet. Bake for 3- 5 minutes. Check it, it's a fast bake. Let cool. Not all of the flakes will be brown. It's ok.

So there you have it. The Honeymooner Cupcakes or for all of those that didn't get married in December because of sweat can call them Put the Lime in the Coconut and Shake It All Around Cakes.
Happy eating, happy sweating in the middle of July or December, whatever as long as it's happy.

Love you J.