Here’s a fun hexagon cake that I made over the weekend. Mickey and Daisy are both made of out white chocolate, using a technique called flood work. Flood work allows you to trace images with chocolate and, when they harden, transfer them to the cake. (How-to post to follow). I tried to continue the whimsy of the characters with a fun multi-colored bubble border. And yes, Kristin, (my Disney obcessed cousin) I thought of you the whole time I was making it – and no, this can’t be the basis for your wedding cake one day.
As we gear up for comfort food, let’s not forget what truly makes us warm and fuzzy inside: cocktails! (And we all know I enjoy a good cocktail.) And of course, Fall being my favorite season, you would expect I have a few fantastic autumnal cocktails up my sleeve. I promise you won’t be disappointed with this easy pear martini. Using good quality pear nectar, coupled with Absolut Pear Vodka, this martini tastes as if you have bitten into a perfect, sweet pear… only with an added kick. The key to this simple drink is to use good quality ingredients. Pear nectar (fancy word for juice) is available at most grocery stores these days (usually located in the juice aisle). There are a couple of companies who offer fruit nectar, but I prefer the brand, Hero, for its true flavor and texture. Along with being thick and silky, the nectar is actually slightly gritty; it mimics that wonderfully sugary, sandy texture of a pear. It is the closest you can get without poaching and pureeing your own pears.
So while I enjoy this martini at the end of a long work day, it would be a fantastic starter for a dinner party or a great addition to any cocktail gathering. Without a laundry list of ingredients, it whips up quick and goes down even faster.
Recipe: Pear Martini
These are our (The Crown Market’s) fall kids cupcakes…although I continue to say they are appropriate for the kid in all of us. The pumpkin cupcakes are piped using a large round tip and accented with a pretzel stem, buttercream leaf and vine. Unfortunately, we can’t take all the credit for the scarecrows; the heads are plastic picks that we place on the cupcake. We add the straw detail by piping yellow frosting with a grass tip. However, all together, they look so cute! What could say fall more than scarecrows sitting in a pumpkin patch? (Hint hint, a large order of these cupcakes displayed together would make a really impressive spread!) These cupcakes will be available all fall (or at least until Thanksgiving when the Turkey cupcakes arrive). Each cupcake retails for $1.69.
Here is a fun cake I made last week at work. A mom came in and requested a Big Bird cake for her daughter. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do when I took the order, but I was surprised how easy Big Bird is to draw when you have a leaf tip that pipes perfect yellow feathers! It came together in surprisely little time. Most importantly, I had fun making the cake. I will continue to say it: children’s cakes are my favorite to make.
One of my first food memories is of me standing over a large pot of bubbling applesauce. I was perched on a stool in my Aunt Vicki’s kitchen, my nose hovering as close as possible to soak up the amazing smell. I don’t remember much else other than that snapshot, but I have never forgotten the intoxicating aroma. Aunt Vicki and I were making homemade applesauce – yes, I said making. (As far as I was concerned, applesauce grew in jars.) Whenever I smell baking apples to this day, I am immediately reminded of that afternoon. It was about twenty years later until I had another taste of homemade applesauce, yet somehow my memory of the sweet sauce was perfectly on point.
So let’s start from the beginning: Aunt Vicki. As the story goes, the first day my parents moved in, Vicki Giffin showed up on their doorstep with a large welcome basket filled with goodies, tea, and her lifelong friendship. Aunt Vicki became my surrogate grandmother, seeing that mine was a long drive away. Some of my first childhood memories are of Aunt Vicki. A woman way ahead of her time, Vicki was a vegetarian nurse who taught yoga (and yes, this was the early 80s). She was famous for all sorts of kooky things, ranging from setting her lamppost on fire one Halloween (she made a “ghost” out a sheet – however did not account for the flammability of said sheet) to spending ungodly amounts of money to save a tree in her backyard that was in the way of an impending addition (by the way, the addition was a jacuzzi room). She had a working slot machine in her living room, an ancient rake hanging on the family room wall, and every toy imaginable in her basement. She was one of the coolest people I have ever known. Along with all these quirks, Vicki had the largest heart. She was kind, genuine, and loving. Unfortunately, Vicki’s life was cut short by a very rare form of brain cancer. While she is no longer with us, her memories live on in all those she touched. I smile and think of her every time I make my own sauce. (more…)
Once I established the “hybrid season” rule to justify fall baking, I have been thinking about what other dishes could be considered hybrids. (For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about – I have created a new culinary term: “hybrid season dish” to define something you can make in that awkward time that straddles two seasons. For example, here in New England, the weather is sunny and 75, but the leaves are starting to turn. It seems silly for watermelon and BBQ in September, but on the other hand, 70 degree weather doesn’t really say soups and stews. ) So I have been thinking about those few unique dishes that work with multiple seasons and their flavors. Maple Cheddar Chicken is one of those dishes. While still cooking outdoors on your grill, this dish invokes the flavors of fall (maple, sage & apple) without weighing the dish down like more traditional fall dishes. (more…)
Ok, I know that it is not technically Fall yet, but even the slightest chill in the air makes me start to crave all the great autumnal flavors. (Fall is my favorite season after all.) While baking pumpkin bread and breaking out the cranberries is a little premature, I compromised and baked these fantastic Carrot Cake Cookies. A sandwich cookie, these treats are comprised of a soft, cake-like carrot cookie and a sweet cream cheese frosting. Everything you love about carrot cake in a bite-sized package. The cookies are easy to make and combine shredded carrots, dried currants, and oats, along with cinnamon and ginger to recreate the flavors commonly found in the classic cake. (Currants are similar to raisins, but are smaller and therefore work well for these small cookies.)
I was looking though the blog and noticed a lack of cookie posts/recipes. You may have guessed: cookies are simply not my favorite. These cookies, however, are winners – and coming from a non-cookie lover such as myself, that is quite an endorsement. I wish I could take credit, but these cookies are Martha all the way. I first made these in college as part of a care package for Scott, who at the time, was studying at a different university two states away. (Yes, he was as lucky as a bachelor as he is as a married man.) Baking was my stress reliever when I was in school (or vehicle of procrastination, however you choose to look at it.) But when the papers were piling up and the reading seemed endless, I would head to my little kitchen and bake. I would rarely make anything twice, and in reality, those college years were the foundation to my culinary repertoire.
So for this short period of time where the weather is sunny and 75, but the leaves are beginning to turn, try this seasonal hybrid.
Recipe: Carrot Cake Cookies
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