Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Cake for Jenny

Yesterday was all about Katie's birthday (and really so is the whole weekend in Napa). But for extra celebration, we're also spending time with our best friends Ryan and Jenny as a little belated birthday event for Jenny. I posted a cake for her birthday earlier this month (March 3rd to be exact). I wasn't blogging last year at this time so now is my chance to share the simple little birthday cake I made for Jenny last year.

I don't remember exactly what flavor of cake & frosting was underneath the fondant, but I'm sure it involved chocolate. On the last day of your birthday month, Jenny... Happy Birthday!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Time to Celebrate with Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles

Today is a very special day for two people in our family - Katie and my nephew, Andrew. They share a birthday today. I wish I had a picture of them together, but I don't... maybe for next year I'll work on that. It would be wonderful to see both of them on their special day. However, most of the time they are on completely opposite sides of the United States - causing a true challenge to actually share a birthday party.

This year we are celebrating with Katie (but we're thinking of you too Andrew) in Napa. Woooohooo! The big 2-1. And I can't think of a classier way to celebrate than sipping wine and enjoying the phenomenal food in the Napa valley. It fits Katie perfectly. And might I add that I am honored that I get to join her.
love this picture of Emily, Mark, and Katie
(Emily won't be able to join us this time - but in 9 years we can all celebrate her 21st birthday in Napa)

I'm surprising Katie today with one of her favorite cookies, snickerdoodles, gluten-free style of course.

Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles
for the cookies...
1 1/4 cup oat flour
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the coating...
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

prepare the coating...
In a shallow bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

prepare the cookie dough...
Combine the flours, xanthan bum, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until the dough is smooth. Scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the flour mixture. If the dough is soft, cover and refrigerate (up to an hour).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Shape the dough into 2 inch balls (I used a medium ice cream scoop to create uniform cookies). Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar coating and place on the prepared cookie sheets. Using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick.
Bake the cookies for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon sugar while the cookies are still hot. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mom's Filled Cupcakes

A treat from my childhood... I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that we ALWAYS had dessert in our house growing up. These filled cupcakes were a regular in rotation. One of the classics like chocolate chip cookies, no-bake cookies, Texas sheet cake, etc. Hmmm... curious that they all have chocolate. I guess I was destined to liked chocolate. The cupcakes are a moist chocolate cake with a cheesecake-like portion in the middle and a simple sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

I must have requested the recipe from my mom several years ago, but never actually made these myself until now. I dug out the email that I had printed from my mom in 2005. Here it is. Let me warn you - the chocolate cupcake really has no egg. I read this recipe at least three times thinking, "There must be a typo. Mom must have forgotten to type in the egg or eggs in the cupcake ingredients."  The only cupcakes I remember seeing without eggs were the vegan ones Katie made a few months ago. Surely my mom wasn't making vegan cupcakes when I was a kid. So I called her, but she wasn't home (and I really wanted to make these cupcakes) and I didn't want to waste all of the ingredients to only have the cupcakes turn out flat without egg. So I called my younger sister, hoping she had made these cupcakes before. She was home - whew! AND she confirmed that indeed the cupcake batter does not have any egg. 

Now to save you the mental turmoil of worrying that the cupcake will be a failure without egg - don't worry - they work perfectly. My mom did not skip the egg in the email in error. Sorry for ever doubting you, Mom.

Mom's Filled Cupcakes
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg 
1 (6 oz) package chocolate chips (1 cup)

2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup cooking oil (I used canola oil)
2 cups water
4 teaspoons vanilla

powdered sugar for dusting

Make the filling... Combine first the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl using an electric mixer. Blend until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Set aside.

Make the cupcake batter... Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl (sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda). Add the water, oil, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended (batter will be thin). 
Line muffin/cupcake pans with paper liners. Fill each liner 1/3 full with cupcake batter. Top with a heaping teaspoon of filling. Cover with a little more cupcake batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cool and dust with powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy!

I attempted to improve upon my mom's classic recipe by adding a cream cheese frosting and mini chocolate chips in place of the traditional powdered sugar. It just wasn't the same. I suggest sticking with the powdered sugar. Lesson learned... don't mess with an already fantastic recipe.

One note: I remember the ratio of cheesecake filling to chocolate cake having more cheesecake-like filling when I was a kid. I think next time I may double the filling amount and reduce the chocolate cupcake batter some. These were still delicious as is. Hope they become a new favorite for you too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Breaded Chicken with Sage Lemon Butter Sauce

My husband found this recipe so we decided to try it out for dinner tonight. It was delicious and I'm sure we'll make it again. We served it with a simple green salad and some garlic flatbread.

Breaded Chicken with Sage Lemon Butter Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, diced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
juice of one lemon
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 eggs
3 chicken breasts, cut into cutlets and pounded thin
canola oil (for pan frying)
salt & pepper to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add shallots and cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the cream, wine, broth, sage, and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half (about 20 minutes).

In a shallow bowl,  lightly beat the two eggs.

In a second shallow bowl, combine the panko, bread crumbs, Parmesan, cayenne, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with some salt & pepper. Dip chicken pieces in egg, then bread crumb mixture, pressing the coating onto the chicken.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add breaded chicken pieces in a single layer (don't overcrowd the skillet). Cook until golden and then flip to cook the other side (about 5 minutes per side). Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining chicken pieces.

Immediately before serving, whisk the two remaining tablespoons of butter into the sauce. 

Serve sauce with the chicken for dipping.


recipe from

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fresh Orange Cake

Cake for breakfast?!... I'm game! This cake is super moist, fresh, and full of good-for-you oranges... making it perfect for breakfast. Or a great summer dessert. I used little cutie clementines, but you could use whatever orange or other citrus fruit you like. I'm sure it would be delicious with meyer lemons substituted for the oranges!

Fresh Orange Cake
4 oranges (or citrus fruit of your choice)
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup almond flour
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup powedered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice

In a large pot, cover the whole oranges with water and boil for 2 hours. Add more water to keep the oranges covered as the water boils down. Drain the oranges and cool until able to handle. Cut the oranges in half and remove any seeds. Coarsely chop. Place the all of the oranges - everything... skin, pith, pulp (except the seeds) in a food processor and puree.

Butter and line an 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.(Remember I made a recent post showing how to measure and cut a nice round lining for your pan.)

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium-high until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the sugar, almond meal, flour and baking powder and mix until combined. Add the orange puree and stir to combine. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick will come out clean.
While the cake cools, make the icing...
Whisk the powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle the glaze on top of the cooled cake. Top with orange zest.  


recipe from

Monday, March 26, 2012

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Mmmm... fresh strawberries. One of my favorite fruits. Paired with french toast makes it even better. Now that the weather is getting warmer and warmer, it's perfect to enjoy this breakfast outside on our little bistro table.
Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
1 loaf cinnamon swirl bread* 
4 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch salt
fresh strawberries, sliced
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
* You can use whatever bread you like - i just happened to have this cinnamon swirl bread from the local market.

First, prepare the cream cheese filling by using an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and continue beating until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Add just a pinch of salt.

Heat a griddle or flat skillet over medium-low heat. Melt about a tablespoon of butter on the griddle. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating it completely. Let any excess drip off into your bowl and place each piece of bread on the griddle. Cook until golden brown on the bottom side (about 4 minutes). Flip bread and cook until the opposite side is golden brown (about another 4 minutes). Place on a plate in a warm oven until you've prepared all of the french toast. 

Assemble the stuffed toast by placing a slice on the plate, spread with cream cheese filling, sprinkle with slice strawberries, and place another piece of toast on top. Repeat with a third piece of toast if desired (that's how I did it).

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup if desired.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Greek Lemon Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce

I love Greek food. I reeeeaaaallllly want to go to Greece someday. I don't know if this recipe actually is authentic Greek, but it's very tasty. It actually comes from our good friend, Kirk, in Southern California. We've made this lemon chicken many times - usually grilled in the summer. But this week it has been quite rainy in Oklahoma so I baked it in the oven and it was just as delicious. I served it with a Greek salad, hummus, homemade tzatziki sauce, and pita bread.
Greek Lemon Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 2 lemons

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Lightly score each chicken breast with a sharp knife. Put the chicken and marinade in a ziplock bag and marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. 

Cook slowly on the grill or bake at 400 degrees on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

Serve with hummus and/or tzatziki.

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat. Serve with chicken or pita bread.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Birthday to You!

Today is Steff's birthday (she's my sister-in-law aka Stephanie). So I thought I'd share a collection of fun cupcakes to celebrate her special day! Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Steff!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Perfect Sugar Cookies

Sometimes you just need a little sunshine. It's spring now, so depending on your location, that might mean lots of cloudy rainy days. Hopefully these will brighten your day even if it's a rainy one.
My dad has called me Sunshine since the day I was born, I think. Ever since I can remember anyway. So he'll be especially excited to see these cookies!
I actually use this recipe all year. It is so simple with only a few ingredients and a few simple steps. This is my classic sugar cookie recipe that I use for decorated Christmas shapes, Valentine hearts, Easter eggs, and sunshines. Try it with any shape you like!

Looking for some quality fun time with your kids? Cutting out these cookies, baking them, decorating them, and (of course) eating them is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening! Decorating Christmas cookies at my Grandma's house with my cousins was one of my favorite traditions (my Grandpap playing DJ with all of our favorite Christmas songs). Years later we had a cookie decorating party at our house for Emily's 6th birthday. It was so much fun! No matter what - these cookies are going to result in smiles :)

Perfect Sugar Cookies
4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups butter (softened)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3 eggs

Combine flour and salt in a small bowl.

Beat the butter using an electric mixer. Add sugar and beat. Add vanilla and beat. Add eggs one at a time. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

Form the dough into two discs and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

Roll dough to about 1/8 in thick, cut out shapes, place on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes. Do not overbake these. If they are just barely browned on the bottom that's perfect. This way they'll stay soft and chewy for days.

Decorate with your favorite frosting. I use a simple powdered sugar frosting.

Combine about 2 cups powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon water, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon softened butter.  Mix until smooth. Add more water if the frosting is too thick or more powdered sugar if it is too thin. Add food coloring if desired (I only use Wilton or Americolor gel/paste food coloring).


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jerk Shrimp Pizza

This is a favorite in our house. In fact, when Andrew broke his jaw during football practice a few years ago his first food request after 6 weeks of only liquids through a straw (because his jaw was wired shut) was Jerk Shrimp Pizza. Maybe it will become a favorite in your home to rival the more traditional pepperoni.

Jerk Shrimp Pizza
1 package refrigerated pizza dough (or you can use your favorite dough)
1 pound medium shrimp
1 bell pepper, diced
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
1 mango, diced
2 green onions, diced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 bottle Caribbean or Jamaican Jerk sauce (I use Lawry's but you can use whatever brand you like)

First, if your shrimp is raw, toss it in some of the sauce and cook in a small skillet over medium heat until pink.
If your shrimp is already cooked (or once your raw shrimp is cooked), toss in some extra sauce (about 1/4 cup).

Prepare your dough to your liking. I typically use the refrigerated pizza dough spread on a baking sheet so that it is thin. I bake it for about 7 minutes at 400 degrees to make the crust a little more crispy (our family just prefers it crisp, but if your family like thick crust try it on thick crust).

Remove the crust from the oven and top with about 3/4 cup of the sauce (or as much as you like). There's not a typical red pizza sauce in this recipe so treat the jerk sauce as you would normal pizza sauce. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the pizza. Top with the bell pepper, onions, mango, and shrimp. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro. Slice and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gluen-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Historically, I'm not very good at making anything that involves yeast. I follow the instructions each time, make sure the yeast and warm water mixture gets frothy (so I know my yeast is good), but somehow my dough never rises like it's supposed to. These gluten-free cinnamon rolls are another example of dough that didn't quite rise exactly the way I wanted it to, but these were still delicious! The flavor was perfect. Perhaps the dough would rise better if I used regular wheat flour. Someday I will try it. For now, here's the wheat-free version...

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan fum
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup coconut flour
 for the filling...
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened
 for the frosting...
1/2 package cream cheese (4 oz), softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract

Make the dough...
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the sugar, butter, salt, eggs, baking powder, xanthan gum, and flours. Mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball using your hands (dust them with some gluten-free flour). Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's a rectangle about 21 inches by 16 inches.

Make the filling by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter over the dough and sprinkle with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the surface. Leave about 1/2 inch around the edges without butter or cinnamon sugar (this is where the dough will stick together to lock in the filling).

Gently roll the dough into a tight roll, keeping the filling inside. It will be a little tricky. I've found that gluten-free dough is often much more delicate than dough made with wheat flour. It breaks easily so don't get frustrated if your dough has some cracks. Just roll it up the best you can, keeping as much filling inside as possible.

Slice the roll into 12 pieces and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (about 2 inches apart). Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for another hour.

Make the frosting...
While the dough is rising, place the softened butter and cream cheese in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment on slow speed to blend together for about 6 minutes. Switch the attachment to the whip and whip the cream cheese/butter mixture for 10 minutes on medium speed for about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and mix with the whip on slow for about 1 minute. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix for another minute. Last add the vanilla and lemon extracts and whip for one more minute on the medium speed.

If you don't have a stand mixture, you can use a hand-held mixer. However, it may not get as creamy and fluffy (or you're arm will get tired from mixing for at least 30 minutes).

Bake the rolls...
at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool for just a few minutes, then top generously with the frosting.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Magnetic Nail Polish

I'm always excited to try new things... recently I tested out magnetic nail polish. If you haven't seen it yet, here's what it looks like.

It's super simple actually... You paint it on like normal nail polish (and you only use one coat)! The tricky part is you have to hold the magnet over each nail right after you paint it. You don't want it to start drying before you hold the magnet over it.

Here's the brand I used - Layla. I got it at Ulta. I think that China Glaze brand also makes a magnetic polish. This brand comes in about 5 different colors. I chose the color called "gun metal."

Paint one nail then hold the magnet that's on top of the cap (it's the little black layer you see right on top of the cap in the picture above) directly over your nail (as close as you can without touching your nail). Hold it there as still as possible for about 10 seconds. Magically you nail will go from this...

to this...
Hope you try it out! You can experiment with the way you hold the magnet over your nail to get different designs. Have fun!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

To celebrate St. Patrick's day, we had lots of green goodies in our house today.

Shamrock Sugar Cookies...

Lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting (colored green with food coloring)...

Mini cupcakes (also lemon, but not tinted green)...

We also had some corned beef, marble rye bread, potatoes, green punch, and sushi (the seaweed is green and so is the wasabi).

Hope you had a fun day too!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nail Polish Strips Really Work

So I got these fun nail polish strips at Christmas, but was a little skeptical that they'd really turn out well. I have to say that they were much easier to apply than I expected. Here's how I did it followed by status of how they survived on my fingers... for two weeks!

I used Sally Hansen nail strips, but I would expect that most other brands would work the same way. The kit comes with several sizes of nail strips, an orange stick, and a file/buffer. I also used an Essie clear top coat to give my nails a little extra protection.
 Here's the How-To:

Start with clean, dry nails. Use a napkin or paper towel with some nail polish remover on each nail to make sure they have no oils. This is important to help the strips stick. (This is actually a step I always take when I'm painting my nails too. The polish adheres to the nail better and doesn't chip as quickly.)
 Next select the right size strip for each finger nail and lay them out so you don't get confused as you're applying. (You can see mine in the background of the picture below.
 Then simply remove the backing and line up the strip at your cuticle. Stick in to your nail and press firmly all over to make sure it's completely stuck on the whole nail. You'll have a big long strip hanging off the end of your nail depending on the length of your nail.
 Using the file/buffer that was included in the kit with the nail strips, carefully rub it at the edge of your nail and you'll notice the excess strip start to pull away from your nail. Carefully remove it and discard it.

Here's the first one I applied.
 Here's the finished product. I think they look fun and really were easy to use.

The best part is that these nail polish strips honestly lasted 2 weeks on my nails. This is no small task! My nails take a beating every day! I'm in the kitchen cooking and baking as much as possible, then cleaning up. A normal manicure usually only lasts me a maximum of 3 days before it starts chipping.

The picture above was the day I first applied the strips. The pictures below show you how great they still looked days later...
6 days later

10 days later

14 days later
A few very small chips by the end and of course the gap that forms near the cuticles from my nails growing. They could have lasted even longer than 2 weeks, but I just got bored and ready for a change. I hope you give them a try!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to line the bottom of a round pan

Here's a cool trick... cake recipes will often call for lining a round cake pan or round springform pan with parchment paper. Parchment paper (or waxed paper) doesn't come in nice circular pieces. So here's how you create one with just a few clever folds and a pair of scissors.

Start with a square piece of parchment paper.
 If you don't have a square, fold your rectangle into a triangle like the picture below by folding the bottom left corner up to the top edge.
 Cut off the extra edge, unfold... and you have a perfect square.
 Fold the square in half - bottom edge up to the top edge so the seam is on the bottom and the opening on the top.
 Fold in half again. This time taking the left edge onto the right edge.
 Next fold into a triangle by bringing the top left corner down to be on top of the bottom right corner.
 Fold into a smaller triangle by bringing the diagonal edge down to be on top of the bottom edge.
 Hold the folded paper over your pan so that the point is in the middle of the pan.
 Cut the triangle along the curve of the pan side.
 Open the cut, folded paper and you have a perfect circle! Ta-Da!
 Place the circle of parchment paper in the pan. Grease if directed by your recipe. Fill with your batter.