Intentional waste.  I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it.  Most waste in this world is more out of negligence than it is specifically intentional.  Yet, I find that there are a few things that I specifically overbuy in order to justify my vices.  I would like to say that I was trying not to waste bananas in making this cake, yet if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I did, in fact, knowingly buy more bananas than I knew I could consume in a reasonable amount of time.  Why?  Because this cake is one of my favorites.  Perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s moist and wonderful.  I’ve experimented around with using partial wheat flour and applesauce in place of some of the oil.  It all works, but somehow I find myself always coming back to this original recipe and in a bunt pan, this is absolutely wonderful.

3/4 C. oil
1 egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
3 smashed over-ripe bananas

2 1/4 C. Flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 C. brown sugar
Cinnamon to taste

Mix together first set of wet ingredients, then slowly add the second set of dry. Place in a buttered/floured bunt pan and sprinkle the cinnamon-brown sugar on top. Swirl in with a knife. Bake at 350F for about 40-45 min.

All I can say is this was delicious.  I have a ton of rhubarb currently growing out in the backyard AND had an ice cream craving at the same time.  When I went searching, I found this recipe and fell in love with the combo of the tart and creamy rhubarb with the crunchy, hearty oat cookies.  I think I might make ice cream sandwiches out of the two next time…yummmm….

Rhubarb Ice Cream with Oatmeal Shortbread

Ice Cream

3- 3 1/2 cups Rhubarb chopped in 1/2″ chunks
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter
1 Vanilla bean, seeds removed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, not packed
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

7-10 drops cherry blossom extract (optional) – Rose water would be lovely as well

Combine the Rhubarb, butter, vanilla bean and seeds, vanilla extract, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan. Cover and place on medium-low heat. Simmer until Rhubarb is soft. This should take about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and break up the Rhubarb with a wooden spoon. In a medium bowl combine the cream and milk then add the braised Rhubarb. Add the cherry blossom extract if you are lucky enough to have some. Let chill completely.
Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Oatmeal Shortbread

1 1/2 sticks butter, softenend
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tb. white sugar
1 yolk
1 tsp salt
1 Tb. vanilla extract
3/4 cup ground oatmeal (this can be done in a blender or food processor)
1 cup flour

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Add the yolk and salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Add the ground oatmeal and flour. Stir just to combine.
Roll into a 2″ log then wrap with parchment and chill.
Preheat oven to 350*.
Slice chilled log into 1/4″ discs – if you want them to look perfect use a 1 1/2″ round cutter. Sprinkle the tops with oatmeal then bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
Let cool on a wire rack then serve with your ice cream.

(From Not Without Salt–a blog you should be reading, if you’re not already)

To indulge or to eat well—that is the question.  Well, I’m here to tell you that this is indulging…..and eating well.  I love it when those two things go hand in hand.  It’s not as often as I would like, but when it crosses your path unexpectedly, what’s a girl to do?

I was over at the Pang House (good friends who like good food) the other night and when this cookie monster was offered the bewitching treat.  The flavor was peanut-butter-y with dark chocolate chips littered throughout and the texture, well, it was to die for.  Thankfully they were small, so I helped myself to two.  Even Mr. I-Don’t-Eat-Sweets-Husband-Man helped himself to a couple.  Now THAT’S saying something.

½ cup butter
½ cup ground flax seed
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white or raw sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Cream together butter, sugars, and flax seed. Add egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients (except the chips). Mix with wet and then add in the chips.

Bake walnut sized balls on cookie sheet for 10 min.

Success—at least sort of.  For my niece’s 2nd birthday party, I was asked to make a cake for her Tinkerbell themed party.  Since everything was nature-ish, with butterflies, fairies, flowers, etc., it was fun to come up with something girly that would fit her personality.  What I ended up with was a cupcake tower of pink frosted cupcakes, fairy wings, and Tinkerbell herself seated on top.  In front of the tower (although harder to see from the pic), was “Rachael-bell.”  Everything was covered in “fairy dust” (sanding sugar).  She seemed to get a kick out of it, which I’m sure had nothing to do with the massive sugar rush or the fact that she got to play with the figurine once the goodies were consumed.

I think my favorite thing was that they TASTED so good.  I’m tired of seeing cakes that look great and taste like cardboard.  This recipe was found at Bakerella and was perfect.  This is definitely going to be my go-to yellow cake recipe.

**This recipe was originally for a 3 layer cake**

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (room temperature)
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
3 cups of sifted self-rising flour (White Lily)
1 cup of whole milk (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (McCormicks)
1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour (3) 8 inch cake pans.
Using a mixer, cream butter until fluffy.
Add sugar and continue to cream for about 7 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg is added.
Add flour and milk (alternating to creamed mixture), beginning and ending with flour.
Add vanilla and butter flavoring to mix; until just mixed.
Divide batter equally into three cake pans.
Hold each layer about 3 inches above your counter and carefully drop the pans flat onto counter several times to ensure release of any air bubbles. This will help you have a more level cake.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes (depending on your oven) until done.
Cool in pans for 5 – 10 minutes.
Remove and immediately wrap each layer in plastic wrap to seal in moisture. Cool completely on wire racks.
Once cooled, you are ready to assemble your cake.
Here’s a little trick to add moisture into your layers:

Combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water.
Bring to boil and boil for approximately 3 minutes. Let cool.
Pour liquid into a spray bottle or pouring bottle.

Cake assembly:

Unwrap first layer and using a serrated knife, level off the top of your cake.Place layer onto your dish. Take a straw and poke holes into the layer. Using your spray bottle, spray top of layer several times; enough to give it a little moisture. Be careful – don’t add too much. Add a layer of frosting to your bottom layer. Repeat on second and third layers.Frost the sides.

Easy Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1b. 10X powdered sugar
1-3 teaspoons milk, half and half or cream

Using a mixer, cream softened butter and vanilla until smooth.
Add sugar gradually, allowing butter and sugar to cream together before adding more.
If you want your frosting a little creamier, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and beat on high until you get the right texture.
Then, just use icing colors to tint the frosting the color of your choice.

This is usually just enough for a 2-layer cake, so I would recommend doubling this for a three-layer.

Here we go again.  It’s birthday number 2 for my niece and I’ve been commissioned to make the cake again.  The only problem is that I always want to take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with new things when the pressure for results is on.  Last year it was fondant, and this year it’s melting chocolate and molds.  Since her birthday is Tinkerbell themed, I wanted to do something visually appealing, but fun for the kids too.  So, the two things I needed to make with the melting chocolate were candy letters (for spelling “Rachael-bell”) and fairy wings.  Although letter candy molds are easy enough to find, there really aren’t any fairy wing molds out there for common use.  So here’s what I did:

  1. I drew out a few variations of fairy wing outlines on paper that were the size I was looking for.
  2. I placed a sheet of wax paper over the top of the wing outlines, allowing me to work on a removable surface while still being able to see through to the original outlines.
  3. Melted the chocolate per the instructions on the back of the package (mine were Wilton brand).
  4. Placed the melted chocolate in a disposable pastry bag.
  5. Traced the outline in blue, and then came back and filled in the bulk with white.
  6. Allowed the wings to cool completely, then placed them for about 10 min in the fridge.
  7. I then pulled them off of the wax paper, carefully, and placed them on a cookie sheet to keep them steady and hopefully in-tact.

I have to say that although they aren’t 100% perfect, that melting candy/chocolate is much easier to work with than fondant.  As far as how it holds up, I’ll have to let you know.  Posts of the cupcakes to come soon.

These are my go-to cookie.  They are moist, chewy, fluffy, and always disappear at any function they attend.  They are a cross between a regular chocolate chip and a peanut butter cookie, making their flavor outstanding, but not overbearing on the peanut butter side (difficult to overdo in my world, but for many…).  This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa’s Party cookbook and, if I recall correctly, is served as the dessert to a Rainy-Day-Soup Party.  Mmmm….A soup party sounds wonderful right about now when the weather is miserable.  I may just have to make some with the leeks I pulled out of the yard yesterday.

1/2 lb. Butter, Softened
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar, Packed
3/4 C. Sugar

2 Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Cup Peanut Butter

2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt

1 lb. Chocolate Chunks or Chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time until combined.  Add the vanilla and peanut butter and cream together.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, b. powder, and salt.  Add half of this dry mix to the butter mixture and combine thoroughly.  Mix in the remaining dry, and then the chocolate chunks.  Scoop onto greased cookie sheets (or ones lined with parchment paper), and bake for 8-15 min (depending on the size of the cookies).  Soooo delicious.

Madeleine: the famous cake-cookie.

As a wrap up to our French Week, I decided to end on a sweet note.  They also served to break in my most recent splurge, since these little guys require their own molded baking pan (thanks to Ace Hardware for a 20 percent off sale).  The light, tender, and slightly sweet goodness that this cookie embodies serves as a perfect compliment to sherbet, afternoon tea, or even your morning coffee.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

2 eggs
1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄4 tsp. almond extract
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
4 Tbs. (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, heavily brush softened butter over each of the 12 molds in a madeleine pan, carefully buttering every ridge. Dust the molds with flour, tilting the pan to coat the surfaces evenly. Turn the pan upside down and tap it gently to dislodge the excess flour.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar and salt. Using a wire whisk or a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat vigorously until pale, thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Sprinkle the sifted flour over the egg mixture and stir or beat on low speed to incorporate.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the lemon zest and half of the melted butter just until blended. Fold in the remaining melted butter.

Divide the batter among the prepared molds, using a heaping tablespoon of batter for each mold. Bake the madeleines until the tops spring back when lightly touched, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and invert it over a wire rack, then rap it on the rack to release the madeleines. If any should stick, use your fingers to loosen the edges, being careful not to touch the hot pan, and invert and rap again.

Let the Madeleine cool on the rack for 10 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the tops with confectioners sugar and serve. Makes 12.

*(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Paris, by Marlena Spieler (Oxmoor House, 2004)).

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