Friday, March 29, 2013

What's Baking? March: Sprinkles!

Oh this was fun! Our March What's Baking? theme was sprinkles. Anything you want, as long as it has sprinkles! So I went right out and bought a giant thing of sprinkles. Actually I toyed with the idea of making my own, but that was a little overly ambitious. I forget how few empty hours I have now that I'm teaching!

Jen the Beantown Baker hosted this month, so go see what everyone else made!

I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to make, but then friend N posted an adorable cookie idea on facebook- Easter basket cookies! We have no lack of sweets at Easter, but these were too cute to pass up.
See? Ridiculous in its cuteness.

Now, the original recipe, like many Easter cupcake and cookie recipes, used coconut, to simulate Easter grass. Several members of my family do not like coconut (ranging from don't care for to despise utterly), and I thought sprinkles would be the perfect substitute. I also found, way in the back of my pastry tools drawer, a jar of Easter sprinkles I bought a few months ago. Yes!!

For the cookies, I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe (from Alton Brown), and instead of rolling them out, I took a little less than a tablespoon of dough, rolled it into a ball, and placed each ball into the well of a mini muffin tin (spray well with nonstick cooking spray!!). I pressed my thumb into each, like when you make a thumbprint cookie, and baked at the normal 357F but for a few minutes longer, 15-17min.

 Alton Brown's sugar cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1T milk
1t vanilla or other flavoring (if you want, not in the original recipe)
3-3.5 cups of flour
3/4t baking soda
1/4t salt

Beat the butter and sugar together for a until minutes until nice and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk and flavoring. Sift together 3 cups of flour with the soda and salt, and add in 2 batches to the butter/sugar mixture. Usually you'd refrigerate this dough, but I just floured my hands well and started rolling it into balls.

I let the cookie cups cool in the pans, then pulled them out and let them cool overnight before frosting.

I used my favorite frosting recipe, from the Magnola Bakery Cookbook. I just made half a recipe and it was plenty.

1stick butter, room temperature
4-5 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1t vanilla

Combine butter, 2 cups of sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl and beat til well-combined. Gradually add in more flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you reach the desired consistently. Beat for at least a couple minutes between each sugar addition. Color if desired (I planned to, but then thought it might camouflage the sprinkles too much).

Assembly: pipe a little bit of frosting into the well of the cookie cup (I used a star tip but it doesn't matter. I find piping easier than spreading. More things to wash, but also more control). Sprinkle with the sprinkles a the "easter grass", press in if necessary. Add in a few jelly beans to be your Easter eggs, and then cut a licorice lace to a good length and stick into the frosting to be your basket handle.

Note: the handles are decorate, not functional. You can't pick up the cookie by the licorice lace handle!
Note #2: if you plan to bring these somewhere else to serve, unless you have a really tall tupperware, I recommend assembling everything but the licorice lace handle, pack them all in your tupperware, and then add the handle when you're arranging them on the serving plate. Seems obvious, but possibly not until you've already done a bunch and now have several licorice laces with frosting-y ends.

 here you can see my supplies: I wanted Starburst jellybeans, but the Easter candy section at the grocery store was pretty picked over. these are Sweettart jelly beans, which are pretty good. I also got Swedish Fish jellybeans, which are dangerously good. :-/

Monday, March 18, 2013


Guacamus! Humole! Fun with words*!

I went to Shaw's the other day. (like, a week and a half before I made this). Shaw's is not my grocer of choice, but they're next door to CVS and I had to go there, so when I knew I needed to pick up milk and other perishable staples, I figured I'd just run over to Shaw's, it'd be easiest. That day, Shaw's had a special on avocados: 88 cents each. Whoa! This is an incredible deal!! Half the time I go, avocados are $1.99 each. If I go to Big Y, with a gold coin I can get a bag of 4 avocados for $5.99 (I think the bags are usually $9.99 or around there). So I grabbed 2 avocados. And the next day, tried to figure out what to do with them.

Normally I just make guacamole. It's easy, it's delicious. But it's also more of a summer thing for me. One time I made avocado tempura, but deep frying would be harmful to the fit of my clothing right now, so that's out.

After browsing around, I found an avocado hummus recipe. It looked tasty, and different, and kind of healthy! Splendid.

And funny side note: I never got around to making it. First I wasn't in the mood, then the school week happened and it was all I could do to make a tuna salad sandwich for dinner. I kept checking on those avocados as they sat in the fridge: one was still firm-ish so I wasn't worried, but the other was becoming quite soft- yikes! Finally the day came where not wasting these lovely, inexpensive avocados was more important than grading labs. And guacamus occurred.

recipe based on roasted garlic avocado hummus, by This Country Girl Cooks

4 garlic cloves
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 avocado
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
2-3T lime juice
1/2t cumin
1/8t (or more to taste) chipotle powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (I used a fat pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper- I figured I'd eat with salty chips/crackers and they'd provide enough salt)

Roast the garlic: peel the cloves and place on a cookie sheet (baking dish, whatever) in a 375F-ish oven for about 15 minutes, until soft. Let cool.

In a food processor, combine: garlic, chickpeas, avocado, cilantro, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2T lime juice and the spices. Puree. Add more olive oil and lime juice if necessary (depending on the softness of your avocado, it may not be necessary. My avocado was so soft I could have mashed it when my hands. It was perfect).

Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, cracker, carrots, cucumbers, etc.

Nutritional info:
makes approx 16oz hummus, 8 2oz servings
per serving:
170 calories
11.2g fat (1.7g sat, 1.4g polyunsat, 7.2gmonounsat)
15.5g carbs
4.5g fiber
3.5g protein
not including your dippers, of course!

And the bonus? I happened to make this just before St. Paddy's Day. Complete coincidence, but I was pretty excited when I realized my convenient timing.

*I choose to call this guacamus: I think it sounds vaguely Latin. Dictum ad tua mater**.

**I have never taken Latin, forgive my Latin grammar.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Foodie pen pals February reveal!

Oh friends, it's been so long since I posted a FPP package!! I'm so glad to be back in the group.

This month my goodies came from Tracy and she really chose well for me! She sent a big bag of granola, som delicious peanut butter sandwich cookies, honey nut chex mix, 2 luna bars and some "Ultra Spice" chai. I opened the tea immediately- I love all the Twinings Chais, but I hadn't seen the ultra spice flavor before! I'm saving the Luna bars for a Nashoba day, since sometimes I don't have a lot of time for lunch and I like to have a granola bar on my way home (since it can take me 45 min or more to get home some nights... I may or may not stop off to run some errands) and the pb cookies have been dessert a few times, along with some caramel cookie gelato- definitely hits the spot! Thank you, Tracy!!

Interested in receiving your own delicious box o' goodies?

Are you interested in joining us for Foodie Penpals next month? Here are some more details:
  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
  • Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for November, please CLICK HERE  to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.