31 March 2011

Faux Grilled Cheese (Mini Pound Cake)

Do you watch Ace of Cakes? I love that show. Recently I started watching Cake Boss and I like it too. It's amazing what they can do with cake. I think it's so cool how they start with a regular sheet cake and end up with the state of Alaska or something. It's the same reason I devour my Family Fun magazine each month. There are usually at least a couple of recipes where food looks like something else. This "grilled cheese sandwich" idea came from Family Fun magazine. It's another great food "fake bake" for April Fool's Day. A grilled cheese sandwich that's actually cake and icing. Brilliant!

The other part of this post, besides the great fake-out, is the pound cake. You can start with any kind of pound or loaf cake you want for the fake sandwich. You can even buy the frozen kind (I won't tell!) I wanted to bake something from scratch, but with all the baking that's been going on around here I did not want tons more dessert laying around where I can binge eat it all it will go stale and get thrown out. So instead of making an entire pound cake I made a mini one.

One regular loaf pan will make three mini loaves, so if you're getting a mini loaf pan you'll want three. I have three separate ones that I like, but one of these days I'm going to get one like this so they are easier to manage (little pans like to fall through the spaces in my oven rack). The recipe below is for one mini loaf.  In my readings recently I've come across recipes that make smaller versions of yummy foods. I'm trying to teach myself how to cut the recipes down so sometimes I can make less. It's a good thing I majored in math. Whew! Lots of fractions and dividing went on here while I was doing this recipe! The amounts look funny (like 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons, etc.) but it worked. My first fractional recipe worked!

Making the faux grilled cheese was easy once I had the cake. Color some white frosting orange (your favorite recipe or canned), cut two slices of "bread", and make a sandwich. I used a brown food writer marker (you can get them at craft stores and even some grocery stores) to draw the lines on it to simulate grill marks from a panini maker. I'm sending one in my daughter's snack box for April Fool's Day. I think she'll like it. A lot.

The pound cake is really good. It has a hint of lemon. If you don't use it for the grilled cheese, it would be yummy with whipped or ice cream. Or, make a simple lemon or vanilla glaze for the top (I put recipes below). I'm happy there is only about half the mini loaf left, and if I eat it all, I won't feel as bad as if I ate half a regular sized loaf (and believe me, I would have).


Mini Pound Cake (and a Faux Grilled Cheese)

½ cup + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cake flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
½ teaspoon lemon zest
3/8 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream


1.       Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a mini loaf pan (approximately 5 ¾ x 3 ¼ inches). You can buy disposable ones at the grocery store or invest in good ones. (Tip: when buying a mini loaf pan, buy 3. One regular loaf = 3 mini loaves. Lately I’ve seen a large pan that has 3 mini loaf pans in it like a cupcake tin. This would be much easier to use than 3 little pans.)
2.       Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside.
3.       Cream butter in a large bowl with hand-held mixer for 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and egg white separately, mixing well in between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla and mix until combined.
4.       Add 1 tablespoon of the milk or heavy cream and half of the flour mixture to your batter. Mix on medium speed until just combined. Repeat with the rest of the milk and flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Scrape the sides and stir into batter.
5.       Pour into mini loaf pan. If your loaf pan is a loose pan (not joined with two others as a muffin tin is), place it on a baking sheet before placing in the center of your oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from pan.

To make the Faux Grilled Cheese: Mix your favorite white icing with food coloring to turn it light orange (the color of cheddar or American cheese). Cut two slices of your mini loaf and make a sandwich with the orange tinted icing. Use a brown food writer to draw lines on the sides to simulate grill marks.

To serve as a dessert for two: Slice and serve with whipped cream or ice cream and fresh berries. Or, make a simple glaze to drizzle on the top. Lemon Glaze: 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 4 teaspoons heavy cream or milk, 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest. Mix together and pour over cake. To make a Vanilla Glaze, omit lemon zest and replace 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract for the lemon juice.

Source: Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, grilled cheese idea from Family Fun Magazine

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29 March 2011

"Pizza" for April Fool's Day

When I was a kid I hated April Fool's Day. I was always worried that someone would play a joke on me. I did not (nor do I now) like being the butt of a joke or being made fun of. Kids can be mean.  However, Jordan, at 6, has not had the pleasure of being pantsed in a locker room full of girls, so April Fool's Day is awesome for her. She loves joking around. She's definitely her daddy's little girl. Last year we froze orange juice in her glass and topped with just a few sips of regular juice so she couldn't drink it. She loved it. And, she has also informed me I can't do that again, since it's already been done.  So, what's a baker to do on April Fool's Day? "Fake bake" of course!

This is a super easy prank you can pull on your kids (or anyone actually). The "crust" is a sugar cookie and is topped with frosting and candies made to look like pizza toppings. (Yes, I know the frosting is pink, not red. I used "Christmas Red" from Wilton. I used a lot, and only got hot pink. Later on I was at Michael's and saw "Red-Red". Next time I will try that one!)

You can use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or a boxed mix. Choose what size pizza you want and cut it into a large circle. Bake according to the directions of the recipe and let cool completely. The "cheese" is white frosting. (I used canned.) I just melted it in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds and poured it on. For the toppings, just raid your pantry. I found all of mine in Jordan's treat box. Much of it was from her Valentine's Day candy. The box came from a local pizza establishment. They gave it to me for free.

The tootsie roll "sausages" were made with mini tootsie rolls. I heated them in the microwave for about 10 seconds until they became malleable. I then rolled them into a long rope and cut little pieces, which I formed into sausage balls. The "pepperoni" are circles cut from a fruit roll. If you don't have a small round cookie cutter you can use the lid of a water bottle, or just cut triangles. The M&M's represent bell peppers and olives. The possibilities are endless. Make a ham and pineapple pizza with a pink fruit roll-up and candied pineapple. Tootsie rolls could also be formed in to mushrooms. Let your imaginations run wild!

Serve this fake pizza to your family on Friday and wait for the laughter. It's SO much better than being pantsed, that's for sure!

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24 March 2011

Popcorn Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats

I think I need to work on the title. It's a bit of a mouthful. Which is fitting, because so are these treats.

As promised, here is the first of a few yummy treats I have planned to share. Think Rice Krispie treat with popcorn instead of the Rice Krispies. I added some mini chocolate chips in for good measure, because really, everything is better with chocolate.

I don't know what made me think of making these. Possibly it popped (pun intended) into my head because we were at the movies last weekend and were eating popcorn and I remembered how I used to LOVE eating movie theater popcorn mixed with chocolate, especially Junior Mints. (Really. It's an awesome combination.)  Anyway, I thought, why not make marshmallow treats with popcorn instead? So that's what I did.

I used a bag of microwave popcorn. Now, I wanted to make fresh popcorn (you know, the old fashioned kind, on the stove). So I went to my cabinet and pulled out my bag of kernels. Then I noticed the brand was Kroger. Thinking to myself, hmmm here in Sacramento I've never seen Kroger brand, so I looked at the expiration date. Those kernels? Expired in 2004. Yes, you read that right. 2004.  Seven years ago. Mind you, we moved to this area from Arizona (where the Kroger brand is sold) in 2007. So I packed and moved an already (3-year) expired bag of popcorn kernels to the place we currently live and then kept them for another 4 years. (In my defense, our kitchen cabinets are so deep they remind me of Mary Poppins' bag. They just keep going and going and going...)

So microwave popcorn it was. I used a more "natural" product (funny, to think that anything microwaved would be natural), without butter and just a slight sprinkling of salt. I didn't want too much other flavor in the finished product. Besides the popcorn, all you need are butter, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. Super easy, just like the original Rice Krispie treat. I thought they were very yummy and they definitely have kid approval (Jordan ate two after dinner). My husband wouldn't touch them. He thinks marshmallows and all their products are vile and disgusting. Weird.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them. And maybe you should clean out your pantry this weekend. I know I will be!

Popcorn Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats

by Crazy for Crust

  • 1 bag (about 3.3 ounces) microwave popcorn, popped (I used Orville Redenbacker's Tender White)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 6 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Coat a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Sift through your popped popcorn to make sure you've taken out all the un-popped kernels. You don't want someone to break a tooth on your dessert.
  3. Place your butter in a very large microwave bowl. Microwave for about 30-45 seconds until melted.
  4. Add your marshmallows to the butter bowl. Stir to coat with the butter. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 45 seconds. Stir to make sure the marshmallows are totally melted. Add your popcorn and stir carefully. (Really, stir carefully, or your counter will be a mess!) Stir in your chocolate chips and immediately add to your baking dish.
  5. Spray your hands with cooking spray. Press the popcorn mixture into the pan, compacting it as much as you can. Let cool completely before slicing. You can refrigerate them to speed up this process.

These will be best eaten within a day - great for a party!

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White Bean Dip

I know, I know. Two posts in one week with NO SUGAR. What is this world coming too?  No fear, desserts will be back soon. I've got a couple things in the works for this weekend that I am very excited for.

In the meantime, you need to try this dip. It's awesome! I made it for a party a couple years ago and it is now my go-to recipe for any gathering. Even my husband, who's not a huge bean fan, likes this dip. It will remind you of hummus, but is made with white beans (cannellini beans). I love hummus, but always forget to buy the tahini. (And when I want to buy it I wander the aisles of the grocery store for hours trying to find it.) This white bean dip is easy to make and the ingredients are easy to find.

Another great thing about it is that you can make it a day before you need it. Maybe even a couple days. I know I've eaten the leftovers for two or three days after I've served it. The flavors just get better (read: the garlic gets stronger!) over time. The recipe says to serve it with pita chips, but it's also great with pretzels. I've never tried it in a pita (as a sandwich) like you would with hummus, but that sounds really good too.

It's super simple to make. All you have to do is put your ingredients into a food processor, chop, then add the olive oil and blend until smooth. I know you can buy dips like this in the grocery store, but for about five minutes of work you can have a fresh product and you control the ingredients.

I just had to show the blended picture. You have no idea how much I love my new food processor. It's a 12-cup size. Probably a little overkill, but so much better than just the teeny-tiny one I've used for the past 10 years.

Wow, I need a manicure... Sorry, lost my train of thought there. Yummy!


White Bean Dip

1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more to taste)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (Be careful you don't buy cilantro! When buying, smell it first - you can smell the difference between the two.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1 garlic clove

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the beans, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped.  While the food processor is running, add the olive oil slowly until the mixture is creamy. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with pita chips.
The dip can be made one day ahead. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Source: Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentiis

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23 March 2011

Snack Time

Sorry I didn't post a recipe today. I ran out of time.

I spent my day stuffing myself with Trader Joe's Honey Wheat pretzels dipped in Nutella  creating new recipes for this blog.

And then I spent more time eating heaping pretzelfuls of Nutella counting the calories of all the great foods I'm eating for my diet.

Hopefully I'll be done buying more Nutella making up loads of new recipes and counting calories tomorrow so I can post something productive here.

Thanks for your understanding.

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21 March 2011

Potato Leek Soup

Yesterday was the first day of Spring. Sunshine, flowers, and nice days, right?


Here in Sacramento? Winter got its calendar dates mixed up and forgot it was supposed to exit Saturday night. It's been raining here for what seems like a week, and there is another week of it coming. I know, I know. It rains in Spring. But this rain? It's cold. I'm back in my turtlenecks and Uggs.

So, what's for dinner? Soup, of course. I love making soup. It warms you from the inside out. And it tastes yummy too. This soup is one of my favorites: Potato Leek Soup.  You might ask, what is a leek? This is a leek:

It's in the onion family. It looks like a green onion on steroids. In fact, it tastes like a cross between a green onion and a regular onion. I love cooking with them.

If you've never used them before, be sure to clean them very well. They are grown in sandy soil and it can get caught in the layers. I cut off the tough green stems, dice the rest and soak them in water for a few minutes. Then pull them out of the water and drain. The dirt should sink to the bottom of the bowl of water and you'll have clean leeks ready for cooking.

The other part of this soup that makes it so yummy is the bacon. Isn't everything better with bacon? (Of course, if you want the soup to be vegetarian, leave this out.)

You can serve this soup chunky or pureed. I prefer pureed, because honestly? I don't like chunks. It's a texture thing, leftover from my (still somewhat) picky eater days. I puree my soup with an immersion blender, but you can also do it in batches with a regular blender (just be careful when blending hot liquids).

Once it's blended you have to determine if it's thin enough for soup (sometimes it turns out too thick, like baby food). You can add some more stock or water to thin it. Then, if you want a really rich, yummy soup you can add whipping cream half and half milk to give it a creamier texture.

Top it with the bacon and you're good to go. (It's even good with some cheese on top.)

Stay warm and enjoy!

Potato Leek Soup

3 slices bacon
1 leek
3 russet potatoes (medium-large)
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
Pinch salt and pepper for leeks, then potatoes, then to taste
½ teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped
2 tablespoons half and half or milk
Additional stock or water, if needed

1.       Heat a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Cook your bacon until crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
2.       Meanwhile, slice and wash your leeks. Cut off the rough green tops and dice the remaining white portion. Soak in a bowl of water for a minute or two, remove and drain.
3.       Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to the bacon pot. Add your leaks, season with salt and pepper (about an 1/8 of a teaspoon each) and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
4.       While the leeks are cooking, peel and dice your potatoes. (The soup will be blended so the size and shape don’t matter, however the smaller the potato the faster the soup cooks.) Add the potatoes to the pot with the leeks. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper and the thyme and cook 2 minutes.
5.       Add your stock, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the  potatoes are fork tender. Taste for seasoning – add more salt and pepper if needed.
6.       If you are using a regular blender to puree, work in batches to blend your soup. If you have an immersion blender, use it in the pot to save yourself lots of clean-up.
7.       Return to stove. At this point, if your soup is too thick (like baby food and not like soup), add more stock or water until it reaches the desired consistency (probably around ½ cup). Taste for seasoning - add more salt and pepper if needed.  Stir over low heat until warmed through. Add your milk/half and half/cream and stir to combine.
8.       Remember that bacon? Crumble/chop it and serve it on top of your soup. Grated cheddar cheese would also be awesome on top.

Serves 2-3.

Source: recipe has been adapted from Rachael Ray

18 March 2011

Maple Cream Cookies

Did you know that tomorrow is Maple Syrup Saturday? It's true. A few weeks ago I googled "food holidays" and so many came up I started laughing. Food on a stick day? Waffle day? And those are just a couple for March!

Maple Syrup Saturday stood out to me, probably because the day before a friend of mine had requested "cookies like those maple ones at Trader Joe's." Have you ever had those cookies? They sell a version at the dollar store too, as well as some grocery stores. They are shaped like a maple leaf and filled with maple cream filling. They are sweet, delicious, addicting, and downright dangerous. (It's easy to eat 3 or 4 or 5 or...in one sitting.) I did a little online research and found some recipes to try. I ended up adding a few things to both the cookie and frosting recipes to make them more like what I wanted.

You'll notice my cookies are round and not maple leaf shaped. I don't have a maple leaf cookie cutter. Do you know how hard it is to find a maple leaf cookie cutter in March? It's not still winter anymore right? There is no snow falling anywhere. No one still wants to eat comfort food. I guess I better go shopping for my fall cookie cutters in July. (I know I could have gotten it online, but I wanted the cookies now. Once she mentioned those cookies I had to have them!)

These cookies are very good. You'd think they would be overly sweet, but they aren't. If you don't want to sandwich them you can put the frosting on top of each individual cookie. The star of this recipe is the frosting. I want to make it again, soon. I already have a few ideas for it. One involves muffins. I'll keep you posted!

So enjoy some maple syrup this Saturday! Make some pancakes or waffles or make these cookies. I know I'll be making at least two one of those!

Maple Cream Cookies

For the cookie:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

1.       Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease them.
2.       Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
3.       Cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add in the egg, syrup, and maple extract and mix until well blended. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet carefully to avoid wearing your flour. Beat until just combined.*
4.       Shape into 1 inch balls (about 1 tablespoon each) and place on cookie sheet. Try to make the balls the same size so they will match up well for sandwiching. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a drinking glass.
5.       Bake 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool completely before frosting.

*At this point, if you’re lucky enough to have a maple leaf cookie cutter and wish to use it, refrigerate your dough until firm enough to roll (probably about 1-2 hours). Use flour to help you roll out the dough and cut out your cookies. If your cookie cutter is not symmetrical, be sure to flip it over to cut half the cookies or flip the cut-out over on the baking sheet (so the cookies will match up when sandwiching them).

For the icing:

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon maple extract
1 tablespoon whipping cream

1.       Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until combined.  Mix in the maple syrup and maple extract. Add the cream and beat until combined and smooth.
2.       Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Frost the bottom half of the all the cookies and then sandwich them with the top of the cookie. When I started out I was not using a lot of frosting and then went back and filled them more when I realized how much I had left. You will use about a teaspoon per cookie.

Yield: about 40 sandwich cookies or 80 stand-alone cookies

Source: Cookie recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com. Frosting recipe adapted from I Dream About Food.

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