Don’t Stop Believing

When I started thinking through this post, I was fixing myself breakfast.  I was letting my dog out to go be with her boyfriend (she normally doesn’t want to go out until at least 6:30, but at 5:45, I can hear his bark next door, and she’s got to be out there, running along the fence with him).  I was singing this song in my head.  No, let’s just be honest, I was singing it out loud.  But it has nothing to do with the major point of this post, which is this:

Let’s just stop pretending that anything ever is perfect.  I know, I know.  This is a food blog.  Where the author eats loads of cupcakes and pies and never gets fat.  Where the dirty dishes created by cooking a) don’t exist, b) never appear in the background of photos, and c) never stress us out.  (I don’t have a dishwasher, so… you know… ha!)  Where we totally compost because like… omg, who doesn’t? but said compost NEVER attracts fruit flies.  Where you totally have a marble counter top, or, at the very least, something substantially better than white laminate.

Let’s just get something straight.  I’m pretty sure nobody ever has had a marble countertop.  It’s all angles, smoke, and mirrors.  Or more simply, a marble cutting board.  I often trick you into believing I have a wood countertop.  I don’t.  I just have a bamboo tray that a lot of my food ends up on because I rarely eat at a table.

But I really enjoy tricking the whole world into thinking my life is perfect, especially my food.  I never make mistakes.  I never run out of eggs mid-recipe at 5 in the morning.  I never get a tornado warning on my phone while I’m cooking that tells me to “take shelter now!”  It just never happens.  Not to me, anyway.

Baby Shower Cake

But this cake.  It happened.  It was undeniable.  It fell over during my walk to the car in the morning.  I fixed it.  It fell over in the car.  I fixed it.  And then it fell over while I was trying to find room for it in the fridge at work.  I cried.  And my coworker fixed it.

I had worked the whole thing up in my head.  Like anything I bake can make or break a baby shower.  Not one person said, “ew… who made the cake?”  Because not one single person was there for the cake.  Duh!  I’m just not that important to the whole world.

So go on over to Joy the Baker and make this cake.  Make some whipped cream and layer the cake with the cream and assorted berries.  Take it to a party.  Have a good time.  But whatever you do, don’t cry over it.  Perfection wasn’t going to happen anyway.  And nobody expected it.

Lemon Streusel

I’m really big into streusel right now.  Fat, flour, and sugar combine to create this crumbly goodness right on top of soft cakey goodness, and I just can’t get enough of it.

Typically, I’m into a cinnamon streusel.  Cinnamon is one of those ingredients where I almost always add at least double whatever amount the recipe calls for.  It’s so delicious that more of it will necessarily be more delicious.  And, in truth, it usually is.  I have yet to be disappointed by it.  But I wanted something a little less warm and cozy and a little fresher to combine with the lemon.  This streusel is cinnamon-less, something that is likely never to happen again so enjoy it while you can.

Lemon Streusel

I’m calling these “cupcakes”, although their lack of frosting might push them more towards the muffin category.  My reasoning is this: these were served for a coworker’s birthday today, and I think we can all agree that they are definitely birthday worthy.

This recipe is the love child of takeamegabite and joythebaker.  Really, I’ve been dreaming about the idea of lemon and streusel in these cupcake liners since I got them on clearance a few weeks ago.  But I’m not really confident in my baking skills (especially not gluten free baking skills), to just grab a bowl and a spoon and make it happen.  I need a starting point.  When I saw this berry buckle recipe, I knew that would be my streusel.  But as I stressed just the teensiest bit over the creeping birthday deadline and not having any idea how I was going to do the lemon cupcake beneath the streusel, Joy taught me all about the lemon + sugar rub down.

Lemon Streusel Cupcakes

This recipe happened at 6 in the a.m. with slippers, PJs, and bad lighting.  It happened when I blended recipes from two of my favorite food bloggers.  It happened when I found a jar of just enough lemon curd in my fridge.  It happened.  And boy, am I glad it did!

Lemon Streusel Cupcakes
Adapted from takeamegabite and joythebaker

For the cupcake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups BetterThanCup4Cup
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup lemon curd
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup BetterThanCup4Cup
  • 1/4 cup butter at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Mix the sugar and the lemon zest with the back of a small spoon until that sugar is all lemony fresh.  Then cream it with the butter.  Mix in the eggs and milk.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until flour is just moistened.  Don’t overmix that mess.  Spoon into cupcake liners until 2/3 full.  Top each cupcake with a teaspoon of lemon curd.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and flour for topping.  Work in the butter with your fingers until it’s all crumbly.  Sprinkle over the cupcakes.

Bake for 20ish minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes so the topping doesn’t go everywhere.  Then pack one up for your husband to take to work and give the rest to the best friend/mentor you can find.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

At school, I have a “work husband” named Mr. Williams.  We teach the same students, but different subjects.  He’s my partner in crime and has been an amazing mentor to me these last two years.  He’s patient with me, answers all my questions, and complements my strengths and weaknesses exactly perfectly.  He takes care of me.  So obviously, I take care of him.  But I’m not nearly as good at the whole knowing what to do in completely unpredictable situations thing.  I’m good at the cooking thing.

So I bake him muffins, cookies, brownies, whatever.  Because he deserves to be treated right.  Especially on his birthday, which was earlier this week.  And while Mr. Williams loves every kind of food (no really, I sometimes take him recipe fail rejects, and he eats them up happily), I wanted to make him something he would really enjoy.  I know that his favorite candy bar is Mr. Goodbar.  … so I set out to make a Mr. Goodbar inspired pie.

Creamy chocolate custard is layered on a crunchy peanut crust.  If you’ve never made a nut crust for a pie or cheesecake, you should really get on it.  It’s a great gluten free alternative to a graham cracker crust, and honestly, I think it’s substantially tastier.  Gluten-full folks just think you’re incredibly creative and don’t miss the gluten in the slightest.  You also don’t have to spend all that money on gluten free graham crackers.

And if you think that any recipe that requires you to separate eggs is high maintenance (I’ll admit it, I totes did until just a few years ago) and a recipe that calls for only the egg yolks OR the egg whites but not both is completely out of reach, I really want you to reconsider.  Really, it’s just an excuse to make key lime pie with the egg whites.  Who doesn’t love a good excuse to make key lime pie?  The egg whites can go into a ziploc bag and into the freezer until you’re ready.  Then you just thaw and use like you normally would.

Really and truly, this whole thing took me about half an hour to whip up, although it was in a couple different stages.  Don’t be afraid.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

Teacher birthday parties tend to happen on tables littered with math homework and pencil boxes.  Don’t mind the background of the photo.

So let’s get to this recipe.  I made two 8-inch pies, but I think it would go great into a large spring form pan instead.  Bottom line is… it makes a lot.  Feel free to half the recipe according to your needs/desires.

Mr. Goodbar Pie

For the crust:

  • one 12oz. container of roasted, unsalted peanuts (or about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted

In a food processor, pulse peanuts until finely chopped.  Add the sugar and pulse until combined.  Pour in the butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.  Press into the bottom of two 8-inch greased pie pans and up the sides.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until just starting to brown on the edges.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while you put together the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or baking chocolate roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  While that’s slowly melting, whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow.  Then mix in the sugar, vanilla, and 1 cup of the cream.  Set aside.

At this point, your chocolate is probably well on its way to getting all melty.  When it’s thoroughly melted, mix in the remaining 1 cup of cream.  Slowly pour some of the egg mixture into the chocolate cream mixture, whisking constantly.  Now pour the egg/chocolate mixture into the remainder of the egg mixture, again whisking constantly.

At this point, I like to pour the whole mixture through a fine sieve, just to ensure a thoroughly creamy texture with no chocolate chunks or eggy bits.  I suppose you could skip this step, if that’s not really a thing for you.

Pour into the prepared peanut crusts, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the middle of the pie is no longer wobbly.  If you choose to bake this in something other than 8-inch pie pans, cooking time will vary.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before topping.

For the topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. chopped Mr. Goodbar

Using a mixer (or a very dedicated arm), whip up the cream and powdered sugar until you reach stiff peaks.  Spread evenly over cooled pie.  Sprinkle Mr. Goodbar pieces over that.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

And then get ready… because people are gonna lurv you.

Spring Breaking

There was a lot of fear among teachers that with all these snow days, we were going to lose our spring break.  Such was not the case.  And while I’m sure I’ll wish differently on June 11 when I’m still at school with 24 delightful 5th graders, I’m pretty happy about it right now.

A large portion of my spring break plans had been awhile in the making.  I purchased a popsicle mold that I was dying to put to use.  I know my crazy couponing is less than interesting to you, but you should know that I purchased said popsicle mold with an amazon gift card recieved from SavingStar.  … so… you know… that’s cool.

I knew takeamegabite had loads of good popsicle recipes, but when I started browsing through them, they seemed a bit much for my first try.  I wanted something simple, something I couldn’t mess up.  Though Smitten Kitchen is hardly the place I go looking for easy recipes, she does have a simple pink lemonade popsicle recipe that fits my lemon obsession exactly right.

photo 1 (7)

 

The colors from the just the preparation had me swooning.  But my first lick of the finished popsicle beat it, hands down.

photo 2 (9)

In truth, the first taste was just a bit too tart for my liking (though my husband thought it was perfect).  The second and third tastes, though, were exactly right.

I really wish I had loads of interesting recipes for you.  I promise that I’m working on a divine Mr. Goodbar Pie which I’ll share sooner or later.  But the rest of my spring break has been spent redecorating or vacationing.  More on the vacation, udis muffins, how inspiring glutenhatesme is, and an amazing gluten free restaurant in Beaufort, NC later.  For now, check out my totally rad living room project from the week.

New Couch

We bought a new couch from the Trosa yard sale.  I’m basically in love.  I don’t really put cookies on a tray on the couch like that.  Ramona would eat them.  I put them in a fancy cake plate on the table, duh.

But the new couch really got me to want to fix up the other living room furniture.  A trip to the Scrap Exchange gave me exactly what I needed.  I bought loads of cool fabric for recovering two chairs and making beautiful accent pillows.  One of the chairs and the pillows will have to wait until the summer, but this chair needed some TLC.

Chair - Before and After

Obviously, the left is the before.  The right is the after.  This chair belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  He has very fond memories of sitting in that chair, reading his grandmother’s Tarzan books (the collection is now kept in the bookshelf to the left).  So when Ramona tore apart the cushions (that’s why they aren’t pictured), he didn’t want to just throw it out.  Personally, I think it has a pretty groovy shape, so I was happy to recover it.  The results are far from perfect, but I’m more than satisfied.  And even though I eventually do want to paint and recover the other chair in the living room, just changing this and the couch have made a huge difference.

Finished Chair

I’m hoping to do a complete before and after look of the living room, but I will tell you that we’ve already rearranged a tad.  Now the chair is positioned in front of a really cool vintage reading lamp from the Habitat ReStore.  I love having tons of good local resources for purchasing cheap (gotta love that on a teacher’s salary) recycled/repurposed items for our home.  Especially since I moved into a home that my husband had already purchased when we got married, it’s fun to go shopping together to create a design that belongs to both of us.

Fat Cottonwoods

Southern New Mexico is a pretty familiar place for me.  My parents both grew up here.  Both sets of grandparents still live here.  Numerous aunts and uncles live nearby.  I’ve spent a lot of time here.  No amount of familiarity could ever make this view any less breathtaking.

White Sands

White Sands National Monument is a supremely under-appreciated experience.  There are views of the mountains surrounding you, and the white sand seems to go on forever.  The dunes are giant and absolutely amazing to sled down.

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I just love feeling the cool evening breeze.  And coming home to eat this peach cobbler afterwards?  It’s just too much!

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I cannot tell a lie.  I based this almost entirely off of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.  I gluten-freed it with Cup-4-Cup.  I may have used more pecans than it called for.

This recipe was stolen from Smitten Kitchen, but inspired by 2-lbs-for-a-dollar peaches and the pecan tree in my grandmother’s back yard.  Please make it.  It’ll make you happy.  Promise.

Let’s talk about…

Let’s talk about summer vacation.

random birdhouses

Let’s talk about traveling gluten free and the beautiful New Mexico sky.

New Mexico

Let’s talk about snow in July and cows in the road.

cows

Let’s talk about nosy aunts and amazing sisters who crouch in random caves.

hannah

Let’s talk about ancestors that watch you while you sleep.

ancestors

Let’s talk about how I’m marrying this guy on August 9th.

me and joel

Or maybe let’s not talk about it at all.  Let’s just put it out there and talk about this lemon cake instead.

yum

My sister-in-law had this cake for her birthday this year.  Tell me you don’t want to marry my remaining single brother so you can get me as a sister-in-law.  Or… you know… you can skip the whole marrying my cranky brother thing and instead make it yourself.  I could give you a recipe, but it goes a little more like this…

White cake mix (GF if you’re into that) + 1 lemon jell-o mix + whatever else the cake mix calls for.  The lemon glaze was just lemon juice and powdered sugar.  The blueberry filling is the real gem, and I’m almost embarrassed to tell you my secret.  This was a variation on my favorite weekday (oh, come on!  any day…) dessert, affectionately referred to as “fruit soup”.

You take any frozen fruit (in this case, blueberries, obvi) and add some sugar and a teensy bit of water (depending on the amount of juice the fruit will give off.  You put it in a pot on medium-high heat.  When the mixture comes to a boil, you add a slurry of water and cornstarch.  Stir until thickened.  Then… you know… eat.

It’s like fruit cobbler minus the the cobble.  It’s easy, inexpensive, and delicious.  I haven’t gotten up the courage to serve as a legitimate dessert to people, but as soon as I find a more respectable name, I’m sure I will.

Sideways Recipes

I’ve been reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School to my fifth graders.  On Thursday, we read my absolute favorite chapter: Maurecia.  It’s all about this little girl who hates everyone/thing except for ice cream, but eventually gets tired of all the different flavors.  Her amazing teacher Mrs. Jewls ends up making Maurecia-flavored ice cream which Maurecia can’t taste, but all the other children think is amazing.  The teacher realizes her mistake: Maurecia ice cream is the flavor that Maurecia tastes when Maurecia isn’t tasting anything.

Debbie-flavored ice cream
Debbie-flavored ice cream

I’m no Mrs. Jewls.  But this is Debbie-flavored ice cream.  At the very least, it’s inspired by her existence.  This blackberry white chocolate chip ice cream is positively amazing.  Sometimes, when you want to make birthday ice cream for somebody, you should really just wander around the grocery store and pick up ingredients.  You’re playing with cream and sugar.  What can go wrong?

Once I had already purchased the blackberries and white chocolate, I went online and started looking for a recipe.  This is backwards.  I’m pretty ok with that.

I came across this recipe, but it wasn’t working for me.  For one, I didn’t have half-and-half.  I also (whoops!) had only purchased one pint of blackberries.  … so I kind of made things up, basing my methods loosely on the Pioneer Woman’s and loosely on what I do every time I make ice cream.  What happened was amazing.  Check it.

Natural light is important!
Natural light is important!

…so I take pictures of my food on the railing of my front porch…  No bigs.

Blackberry White Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

loosely adapted from the Pioneer Woman

  • 1 pint fresh blackberries
  • 1 Tablespoon lime/lemon juice (I used lime because I had it, but I doubt it matters)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Make the blackberry “syrup” by combining the first three ingredients in a saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes.  Press through a strainer to get as much juice as possible.  Set aside.

Pour white chocolate chips into a food processor.  Pulse a few times to create smaller chunks, but not so much it turns into a powder.

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I’m a firm believer in 1% in ice cream, although all recipes call for whole)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups cream

Pour the cream into a bowl, place mesh strainer over top.  Whisk egg yolks together in separate bowl.  Combine milk and sugar in saucepan.  Cook over medium/low heat until hot and steamy.

Whisk a small portion of the milk mixture into the egg yolks.  After tempering the egg yolks, add to the milk mixture.  Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly.  Pour through mesh strainer into the cream.  Whisk to combine.  Mix in the blackberry syrup.  Chill thoroughly in an ice bath or in the refrigerator.

Right before freezing, mix in the white chocolate chips.  Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Key Lime Pie-ish

You just said ‘whoopsie daisy!’ No one’s said that for 50 years, and then it was just little girls with blond ringlets!

Mistakes are the stuff of life.  I don’t mean like the best part of life or anything like that.  But they just happen.  Mistakes are what makes life seem real.

One of the cabinets in my kitchen opens on the wrong side.  I’m fairly certain it was a mistake.  I try to open it from the wrong side every single time.  But you know… that’s real life.

Real life is sleeping through your alarm, accidentally quitting a program without saving your work, biting into a Ferrero Rocher without realizing you’re totally allergic to the little wafer inside it.  It’s all of these things and more.  Mistakes happen.  They just do.  But sometimes, mistakes turn into this:

totally sweet mistake
totally sweet mistake

I like these kind of mistakes.  And due to an unfortunate mistake and an overabundance of egg whites in my fridge (thank you, ice cream), this bad boy isn’t even too bad for you.  I opted for a crust-less lime custard of sorts.  Inspired by key lime pie, but certainly not the same thing.  You could put all of this in a pie crust, but GF graham crackers are not cheap, and honestly, I’m not such a huge fan of the crust in the first place.  The custard with whipped topping was perfect.  You could also add in a bit of lime juice if you prefer something more tart.  I’m a wimp, so this is how I like it.  Anyway, here’s how it went down.

Key Lime Pie-ish

Filling:

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 4 teaspoons lime zest (from about two limes)
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (you could juice your own here, but I cheated – true fact)

Topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Mix the egg whites and lime zest until the egg whites have a greenish tint to them.  Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and the lime juice.  Now pour into custard dishes.  Place filled custard dishes in a water bath and bake for 15-20 minutes or until set.  Let cool in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, whip the cream with the powdered sugar.  Scoop on top of the filling and serve with a little grated lime zest on top.

What Could Go Wrong?

Sometimes people get a little bit too fussy.

Fussy = needing a recipe to know that cream cheese, cream, powdered sugar, and strawberries should go together.

Fussy = bothering to mix extra pectin into jam you’ve already canned when it didn’t set properly.

Fussy = not being able to laugh when you’re watching Numb3rs and they have a site that looks a lot like Google, but says “Internet Search” where the logo should be.

Do you know what’s not fussy?  PB&J sandwiches.  Do you know what’s less fussy than that?  PB&J cookie sandwiches.  Yes.  I just went there.

PB + J + dessert = amazingness
PB + J + dessert = amazingness

I’m really into these cookies.  They’re classics.  And while I’ve worked on some variations like these and by adding M&Ms.  But none compare to this absolute stroke of brilliance I had when I accidentally made strawberry sauce instead of strawberry jam.  Whoops.  Mixing strawberry sauce with cream cheese, cream, and powdered sugar, though… what could possibly go wrong?

Nothing, as it turns out.  Especially when you put that mixture in between two peanut butter cookies.  The boyfriend was doubtful.  He was wrong.  Seriously wrong.

a match made in heaven
a match made in heaven

No recipes here.  Just have fun when you make mistakes cooking.  Figure out delicious things you can mix with your mistakes to make something even better.  But mostly… when in doubt, add cream cheese and/or cream.  So not even kidding.