Prepping for Valentines Day

Robert and I don’t usually celebrate Valentines Day. The only time we made plans was our first year. I’d never had a date for Valentine’s before, so I wanted to know what it was like. We’d been together for a little over a month and I had no idea how to cook. So I dressed the table with rose petals and candles and made the simplest meal I could – spaghetti and meatballs. Of course, my mum had to help me otherwise we would have had crunchy pasta for dinner.

There it is! The table from our first Valentine's Day!

We haven’t celebrated since our first year together. While I always get drawn in by the aisles and aisles of heart shaped goodies, I don’t see the point in designating one day for love. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, so I want to be mushy every day. Like I said though, the heart shaped sprinkles and cookie pans get me every time. I have visions of making whoopie pies, cookies, and puddings all in the shape of hearts! It’s particularly bad this year since we’re newlyweds. So we’ve decided to semi-celebrate. We’re not going out for dinner and a movie, but I am making a special meal and dessert for us. After all, I can cook now and I love preparing dinner for us.

So here comes the fun part- deciding what to make!  I want this meal to be special, so I turned to Pinterest for all the fun ideas. Here’s a few recipes I have in mind. Today I’m just posting the desserts, but next blog I’ll share my dinner ideas!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

This picture makes me drool!

Found on Pinterest, originally from loveveggiesandyoga.com

Carrot Cake Donuts

Robert has been pointing out donut recipes for a while and I’ve always been too intimidated to try them. As if they are somehow out of my league because I’m still a baking newbie; however, I do love a challenge and I definitely want to try them.

Found on Pinterest, originally from abeautifulmess.typepad.com

Cheesecake

One of Robert’s favourite desserts and one of the items on my foods to conquer this year.

Found on Pinterest, originally from marthastewart.com

The last idea I don’t have a picture for, but I’m thinking heart shaped Peanut Butter and Jelly Whoopie Pies. I have no idea how I’m going to decide, but I suppose it will be whatever I feel like eating on the day of. I know Robert won’t mind what I make, as long as it’s something he enjoys.

What do you have in mind for Valentine’s Day? Have you searched through Pinterest as much as I have?

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Making Whoopie!

I’ve been talking about whoopie pies for months now! They are just so fun looking and I’ve never actually tried one. For me, whenever I see them I just feel like a big kid. Well, I FINALLY made them this weekend and they are even more fun than I imagined. I love, love, LOVE them! Not more than cupcakes, but definitely close. This was also my first attempt at gluten free baking and I thought it went well. I couldn’t even tell the difference between regular baked goodies and the gluten free taste. The batter was so soft, too! I’m definitely a fan of these little treasures!

So enough gabbing! Time to share the recipe!

Gluten Free Vanilla Whoopie Pie

Source: Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon of xantham gum

4 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (I’m not a big fan, so I used another 4 tablespoons of butter)

1/2 cup of buttermilk

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1/2 cup of dark brown sugar (packed) – I used light because we had no dark and it worked well

1 teaspoon of white vinegar

2 1/4 cups of gluten free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur)

2 large eggs

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the baking powder, flour, and xantham gum in a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, preferably a standing mixer if you have one, beat the granulated and brown sugars along with the butter. Once creamy, add the buttermilk and the eggs, too. Mix everything until well blended.

Now, in a smaller bowl or a measuring cup, add the baking soda, vinegar, and the two tablespoons of milk. Blend into the batter and add the flour mixture, too. As the last step, blend in the vanilla extract.

For the baking process, I used these wonderful whoopie pie pans from Wilton. You really don’t need them, but I wanted to make sure mine came out looking nice. I have a terrible habit of making my cupcakes overflow and my cookies look deformed. If you have one of these pans, fill the little cavities. If not, put about a tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet. Make sure there’s at least two inches between each one.

Bake for roughly ten minutes. Mine took exactly ten minutes and were a good consistency.

Honey Buttercream

Source: Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

Ingredients:

3 to 4 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons of honey (I used a little more, maybe 4? It needed a stronger honey taste)

3 cups of confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup of unsalted butter

Method:

Combine the butter and the confectioners’ sugar. Once the combination is crumbly, put in the honey, lemon juice, and heavy cream. Mix until completely blended and you’re ready to sandwich between your whoopie pie!

 

 

 

Disney Crazed!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a few days. I just started a new job on Monday and have been working the usual 9-5 shift. Combine that with rush-hour traffic and the fact I currently live 45 minutes from work, when I get home I just pass out on the couch! I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but since times are hard, hubby and I have been living with my parents. This week, my mum has kindly offered to cook while I get used to my schedule – I know, I’m very lucky! As such, there won’t be any recipe posts until the weekend, but with my love of blogging I couldn’t stop posting for a week!

For the last few days I’ve been hit by the Disney bug. It could be because Robert took me on a date to see “Beauty and the Beast” or it could just be because Disney is wonderful! Either way, I’ve been a little obsessed. In honor of my current mood, I thought I’d share the cupcakes I made for a friend’s bridal shower.

The cupcakes themselves were just chocolate and vanilla. The icing was vanilla buttercream dyed with blue food colouring (since they were having a boy). The ears were pretty simple, although I did get help as I’d never worked with fondant before.

Here are the basic steps:

Either dye fondant with black food colouring or purchase black fondant from Michael’s.

Roll the fondant out, and using a small bottle cap, cut out circles for the ears.

Unless you are putting out the cupcakes that day, leave the ears to harden a little before putting them in the icing. Actually, even if you are preparing them that day, I’d still leave a little time for the ears to dry. If you put all the ears on right away, there is a good chance they will fold over.

When hardened, place carefully on either side of the icing. Even after they’ve dried, they will still be a little soft, so don’t push too hard when adding them to your cupcakes.

VOILA! Mickey Mouse ears!

I was so excited with the way these turned out. Not only were the cupcakes moist and fluffy, but everything went together nicely. I didn’t have any disasters in the kitchen and the mom-to-be (as of yesterday, new mother) loved them. In the end, that’s what mattered the most.

 

My Pinspiration a.k.a my favourite Pinterest recipes

I saw this post on another blog and thought how great of an idea it was. Pinterest has become quite an unhealthy obsession for me, but since hubby is always on his games, I can’t help but gravitate towards all of those glorious pins. It’s not just the recipes either. I’m always looking through the home decor section and the weddings, too. Yet, when it comes to the recipes, there are so many fabulous pictures I get eager to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

Alright, so here we go! These are the top Pinterest recipes I am longing to try.

1. Avocado grilled cheese

Photo from Pinterest- originally from aturtleslifeforme.com

I love avocado and I love cheese. Put the two together in a sandwich and I may have found food euphoria.

2. Bacon, egg and toast cups

Photo from Pinterest - originally from marthastewart.com

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I enjoy making quirky recipes. So when I saw this picture, I was not only drawn in visually, but my taste buds were going crazy!

3. Slow cooker cilantro lime chicken

Photo from Pinterest - originally from pipandebby.com

I love chicken coated in fruity marinades – particularly lime ones. Plus, what’s easier than throwing it in a Crock-Pot and not having to worry until dinner time?

4. Snickers cake pops

Photo from Pinterest - originally from mightydelighty.blogspot.com

Cake pops are almost as fabulous as cupcakes – almost. I’m still trying to get the art of the chocolate coating down, but I definitely want to experiment with a Snickers pop!

5. Banana pudding with caramelized bananas and bourbon banana sauce

Photo from Pinterest - originally from zoebakes.com

It’s the bourbon sauce and caramelized bananas that drew me in. Hubby is more of the pudding guy, and while I’m not sure how he’d feel about this recipe, I still want to try it. It just sounds so decadent.

There are so many cupcakes I want to try, too. Since I’m a little cupcake obsessed, I knew that could be a post of its own. So stay tuned, I’m sure there will be a cupcake inspired post soon.

The foods I hope to conquer in 2012

It didn’t take me long to throw all of my Christmas money into baking gadgets and cookbooks. As I mentioned earlier in “Baking on the Brain,” I already got tools for cupcake and cookie making. Well, I also splurged on a handful of cookbooks. I usually stay away from them as they are so expensive, but if you can’t enjoy a little luxury during the holidays when can you? I had so much fun exploring the shelves upon shelves of books.

This is what I walked away with.

I also got a few more recipe books before Christmas, too. With my new gadgets and books, I’m really excited for what I can make next year. In-fact, I already have a few foods/baked goods I hope to conquer in 2012.

  • Whoopie Pies – I love the idea of a whoopie pie and the different combinations you can put together. Hubby wants me to try a jalapeno and maple bacon pie; meanwhile, I’m excited to try a smores whoopie.
  • My own pastry – My mum is the queen of pastry making (at least, to me she is)! Her pastry always comes out perfect, and this year, she’s suggested I try it for myself. I haven’t used a lot of pastry in my baking before, but I enjoy making things from scratch. Even if I don’t use it often, I’m excited to learn.
  • Thanksgiving dinner – I am hoping that Robert and I will be settled in our own place by next Thanksgiving. If we are, I want to start the tradition of cooking for everyone at our house. I picked up a holiday recipes cookbook and I’ve already picked out a few dishes – like coconut sweet potatoes!
  • Healthy baking – While I always get the “life is too short to worry” responses, I eat way too many cupcakes. It isn’t healthy to eat as much sugary foods as I do. Since I don’t want to give up baking or eating cupcakes, I’m challenging myself to learn healthier ways to bake. I can’t wait to start experimenting.
  • Cheesecake – This is one of Robert’s favourite desserts and there are so many interesting recipes. I’m particularly eager to try the pretty designs on top of the cake.

My first attempt at red velvet

There is something wonderful about red velvet. Maybe it’s the pop of red, or maybe it’s how delicious the cream cheese frosting is, but red velvet is one of my favourite flavours. I had always been a little nervous about trying to make it. Not that I’d truly looked at the ingredients, but I knew vinegar, food colouring, and a variety of other ingredients I hadn’t used were involved; however, I wanted to bake something for the Christmas celebration with my cousin-in-laws. Remembering how much they love red velvet, I decided it was time to give the recipe a try.

I was happy with the cake, but the icing was way too sweet. Usually I do okay with my cream cheese frosting, but I think my exhaustion got the better of me this time. After all, I had done a lot of baking that week. The recipe was actually for a raspberry red velvet (complete with alcohol) which I am longing to try. Since I needed a plain red velvet for this event, I skipped the raspberry additions. Stay tuned though, I’ll definitely be trying that twist soon.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Cupcakes 150 Sweet Recipes

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of butter

1 1/3 cups of buttermilk (or sour milk)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of red food colouring

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (unsweetened)

2 tablespoons of milk

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cocoa powder and flour in a bowl. Once mixed, leave to the side, and beat butter in a separate bowl. Now combine the sugar with the butter. The recipe suggests gradually adding a 1/4 of a cup until all the sugar is mixed in.

Now add your eggs. Make sure to mix in each egg separately and beat each time you add one. Once the eggs and sugar/butter mixture are combined, add the milk, food colouring, and vanilla. Stir until mixed.

Take the flour and cocoa from earlier and add about 1/2 a cup to your batter. Briefly stir, and then add some of the buttermilk to the mix. Continue alternating the flour and buttermilk until both ingredients are gone.

In a separate bowl, mix your vinegar and baking soda. Now add to the batter and combine well.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Cupcakes 150 Sweet Recipes

Ingredients:

5 1/2 to 6 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 cup of butter

2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 package of 1/3 fat cream cheese (8 oz)

Method:

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with handheld or standing mixer. Once light and fluffy, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.

Side note: make sure to taste after about 3 cups of sugar. As I mentioned, mine was far too sweet, and testing along the way you’ll be able to determine the right amount of sweetness for your tastes.

These are the ones I took for my cousin-in-laws. The recipe makes more than nine, but I left some for my brother who also loves red velvet.

 

Happiness is a new baking gadget

For the last few weeks, my cousin-in-laws have been excitedly dropping hints about my Christmas present. Well, today we exchanged gifts, and let’s just say excited doesn’t even cover how happy I was.

Disney and a baking gadget for my kitchen? Oh how well they know me! If you can’t see the picture clearly enough (since my camera doesn’t take the clearest pictures), it’s a baking tool that makes mini Disney cakes/doughnuts/biscuits/pancakes and other yummy baked goods. What makes me the most excited is that Pluto, my FAVOURITE Disney character, is in there, too.

My cousins had the cake mix ready, so I didn’t even wait to get home to try my out my new gadget. Unfortunately I was too excited to remember to grab a picture. No worries though, I’ll definitely be making them again very soon!