Friday was my husband, Josh’s birthday! He loves all things peanut butter and chocolate, so I made him a chocolate peanut butter pie for his birthday dessert. The weekend was packed with other parties and cooking/prep work, so I simplified an Alton Brown recipe since I was short on time. This turned out really good; it tasted like a giant Reese’s peanut butter cup!
I went with a store-bought chocolate crust this time (I had no idea they made these!). I try to avoid store-bought whenever possible because it always tastes better when homemade, but the crust was actually pretty good. It was easy to use and didn’t require a blind bake either.
For the peanut butter mixture, I used Jiffy creamy peanut butter. (Alton has you making your own peanut butter from scratch, which I’m sure is delicious, but time consuming. Another time!) I mixed peanut butter with unsalted butter in the food processor and then added in powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste. This mixture was poured into my pie crust and then baked at 350 for 10 minutes.
Once the pie was finished cooking, I heated heavy whipping cream in the microwave very briefly (30 seconds) and then poured chocolate chunks in to melt. After it sat for two minutes, it was melted enough that I was able to whisk the mixture into a smooth ganache topping. I poured the chocolate mixture evenly over the peanut butter layer and placed it in the fridge overnight. [Note: it only needs to sit for an hour and a half in the fridge before eating. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more prone to cracking. Mine had a big crack the next day, but we were enjoying it ourselves, so appearance didn’t matter. If I were taking it somewhere, I would try to make it the day of!]
Recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Adapted from the kitchen of Alton Brown
1 9-inch chocolate pie crust
4 Tbsp unsalted, sweet butter
1 ½ c creamy peanut butter
3 oz powdered sugar (I measured mine out by Tbsp with a food scale)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
¼ c heavy whipping cream
2 oz German sweet chocolate baking bar, cut into smaller pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the peanut butter and butter in a food processor. Pulse for 1 minute, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and process for another 2 minutes. Once smooth, pour the mixture into a chocolate pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool, while you prepare the topping.
Put the heavy whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Gently whisk the chocolate with the cream for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Spread the mixture over the pie and place in refrigerator for 1 ½ hours before serving. Enjoy!
Happy Cinco de Mayo! We just got back from a party, where we brought tapas and dessert! 😊 Everything was a hit, and some of these I will definitely make again soon! Here’s what we brought:
Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie
My parents make this one frequently, and it’s always a crowd pleaser. This is Marcela Valladolid’s recipe and can be found here.
I used 12 whole graham crackers in the crust, along with the melted butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. (The other ½ cup of brown sugar will go in the filling.) If you can’t find Mexican chocolate, you can use 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt) with ½ tsp of ground cinnamon! The pie only cooks for 10 minutes in the oven, but it will continue to set up on the counter.
I actually took two pies today because I grabbed the wrong chocolate bar out of the pantry and didn’t realize it until after it was cooked! My first pie used semi-sweet chocolate, while the second followed the recipe. Both tasted great, but I still prefer the darker chocolate personally.
I found this recipe from tastes better from scratch, and it’s really easy! You just need to start it early since there are a couple of stages. It has to set on the counter for at least 8 hours after the first few steps, so make it the day before you want to serve it!
I made vinyl labels on my Cricut and found these colorful plastic cups at Albertson’s for 25 cents each! Everyone enjoyed drinking their horchata over ice in their personalized cups.
After making two chocolate pecan pies, I wasn’t planning on making another dessert…but I had pinned this a while back and had all the ingredients already on hand. It was really quick to whip up and I’m glad I made them. They went fast! It’s not quite as crunchy as a churro, but the flavor is spot on.
Mexican Street Corn Salad Cups
These turned out so pretty! I found this recipe from take two tapas, but I did alter it a little bit.
First, I boiled corn on the cob instead of using frozen corn. Any time I make corn, I add honey to the water, which makes it a little sweeter! (8 ears of corn was about 5 cups.) After cooking them, I cut the kernels off. My dad taught me this cool trick; you can take a bundt pan and place the corn in the middle hole. When you slice the kernels off, they fall right into the pan!
Other alterations I made:
1 whole red bell pepper, diced (instead of ½)
½ jalapeno, diced finely (instead of 1 whole)
6 Tbsp Mexican crema (instead of 3 Tbsp sour cream)
1 c. Cotija cheese, grated, plus additional for topping! (instead of ¾ c)
¼ tsp chili powder (It mentioned it in the recipe description, but it wasn’t listed in the ingredients.)
Salt and pepper, to taste
The corn mixture tasted great both in the wonton cups and by itself. Some of our family even put it on their street tacos, over steak!
Shrimp Guacamole Bites
I wasn’t able to get a picture of the shrimp bites because they went too fast! This recipe is by well plated by Erin. I used frozen cooked shrimp since it was on hand. I tossed them in olive oil and the spices and baked them for 4 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I prepared fresh guacamole with pomegranate seeds (it gives them a sweet crunch!) and topped round Tostito chips with the guacamole, shrimp, and grated Cotija cheese.
Manchego Cheese and Prosciutto
The last appetizer was pieces of manchego cheese wrapped in prosciutto slices. My parents went to Spain recently, and this was something they would eat over there, alongside marcona almonds. Yum!
My kitchen is a disaster, and I spent forever washing dishes, but these Christmas treats are worth it! Today I made chocolate covered cherries, peppermint bark, and chocolate pretzels, and then I tried out a new sugar cookie recipe. I hope you enjoy these treats!
Recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherries
16 oz powdered sugar
5 Tbsp soft butter
2 Tbsp half and half cream <–I used whole milk today but used a little less.
½ tsp vanilla
2 10-oz jars maraschino cherries, well drained
8 oz Guittard melting chocolate or other melting milk chocolate
Drain cherries and lay on a paper towel to dry.
Knead the powdered sugar, butter, cream, and vanilla. Flatten a spoonful of dough in the palm of your hand and roll dough around a cherry. Place on a parchment lined sheet and repeat with the rest of the cherries. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Using a toothpick, dip each cherry and return to the sheet. Let them cool and continue to harden in the refrigerator. Store in a cool, dry place! Enjoy!
Back home there is a cake decorating shop that I absolutely love. For quite a while my mom would bring me melting chocolate (milk, dark, and white!) when she visited, and my dad would joke, “They don’t have chocolate in Arizona!”. I recently found a shop that carries good chocolate, so my mom won’t be having to lug chocolate around in her suitcase anymore. However, the same shop back in Texas has the best peppermint pieces for bark. I haven’t found it here, but you could certainly crush candy canes and create a similar effect.
The peppermint bark uses a 2:1 ratio of white chocolate to peppermint pieces. I usually melt 1 lb of white chocolate in a double boiler and then stir in ½ lb of peppermint pieces. Once fully incorporated, spread it out on a wax paper covered baking sheet, and then refrigerate. I spread the chocolate fairly thin; it cools quicker and then breaks into pieces easier. I store my bark in a container in the refrigerator, so it lasts longer!
These are extremely easy and always a hit! All you need is a bag of square pretzels, Hershey hugs, and m&ms. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap as many hugs as you want and then place each one on a pretzel. Bake for 3 minutes, just enough to slightly melt the hugs. Take out of the oven and immediately place an m&m on each hug. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let it continue to cool and harden. (Funny story: The grocery store was out of Christmas m&ms, so I had to sift through a regular bag and pick out the red and green ones! The things we do…ha!)
I found this cookie recipe through Williams Sonoma – it’s a recipe courtesy of baker Patti Paige. These cookies are delicious and remind me of shortbread. I didn’t frost mine because they are great as is! The cooking time will vary. The recipe says 9-15 minutes, but mine were ready in 7-8. I think mine were thinner, thus the shorter baking time.
2 ½ c + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp (I was 1 Tbsp short, so I replaced 1 with shortening)
1 c + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract <– I used clear
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Using a mixer, combine the butter and sugar on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix it until a dough forms.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Tear off 6 sheets of parchment paper – place a dough ball on 3 of them, and then place a sheet on top of each ball. Roll each ball into a flat disc, about ¼ inch thick. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take one disc out of the fridge and loosen the parchment paper until it comes away from the dough. Set it back on top of the dough (loosely) and then flip over and repeat with the other piece of parchment paper. This will keep the cookies from sticking!
Cut out shapes and place on a lined baking sheet. Cook for about 9 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned, and then let cool briefly on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
(These cookies don’t spread, so you can place cookies pretty close together when baking.)
Tomorrow we’re doing a photoshoot for my little girl, complete with a cake smash! Despite her main birthday colors being pink, green, and gold, I decided to play with color and bring in a rainbow of sprinkles for her cake. I’m always drawn to cake pictures that have dimension, and I’ve seen several that include macarons on the top.
Fortunately for me, I took a macaron cooking class at Sur la table a couple of years ago and learned the techniques behind them. These delicate cookies take a little bit of practice, but they are fun to make, and I’m going to share some of my notes from class (that you don’t see when you look at a macaron recipe). Please note that weather can affect macarons. They are easier to make if it’s drier – I’m quite lucky living in the desert for this. If it’s been extremely rainy and humid, your macarons may not turn out.
I used the ingredients for a basic macaron from my Macaroons cookbook by Love Food. In my cooking class, we used the same ingredients, but we weighed everything. I thought it would be easier to list the ingredients in cups on here, rather than in ounces. Please note that the following recipe does not make very many macarons. You will want to double the recipe if you are taking them to a party. However, for practicing the technique, the smaller ingredients are perfect!
I began by measuring out almond flour and powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. Since it was very fine, I did not put it in the food processor. I placed it and the powdered sugar in my drum sieve and sifted it over parchment paper. Then I transferred the mixture to a bowl, used a fork to make sure it was mixed well, and set it aside.
Next, I separated the eggs, one at a time, and placed the egg whites in my KitchenAid mixer. I added a pinch of cream of tartar and then whipped them on a medium-low speed. You want it to get foamy (like beer foam) before adding the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in a couple drops of food coloring, and then increase the speed to high. Let it whip until stiff peaks form and it gets glossy in appearance. To check if it’s done, you can stop the mixer, pull the whisk attachment out, and dip it in the whipped egg whites. Pull it straight up, and if there is a peak coming off the whisk (and it holds strong), then it’s ready. I really wish I had taken a picture of this step; I will try to get one and add it in later!
Now it’s time to add in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. You want to add in a third of it at a time. Don’t pour it all in at once! You’re going to fold it in, using a clock-wise motion. Go around the bowl once (“clean the bowl”), cut through the middle, and then around again. Keep doing this pattern until it’s all incorporated. Around – cut through – around; around – cut through – around…
Then I transferred the mixture into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. My class recommended a #12 tip, but I used a #10. It’s just one size smaller. (If you double the recipe, don’t overfill the bag! You can always add in more.) Get out a baking sheet and some parchment paper. Sur la table also sells silicone mats that have circles printed on them for macarons! (I traced circles on the back of my parchment paper but then decided not to use them.) To keep the parchment paper in place, “glue” the corners down with some of the filling.
Hold the bag straight up and down on the parchment paper and gently squeeze to let the filling come out. Use one hand to squeeze the bag and the other hand near the tip, as a guide. Don’t try to pipe circles. Just keep it in one place and count to 6. 1-2-3-4-5-6-stop. Keep doing this, leaving a space of 2 fingers between each circle. If you have a little swoosh in the middle, you can gently smooth it out with your finger (and a tiny bit of water).
Once the circles were completed, I hit the bottom of the pan on my table to release any trapped air. Then I walked away and let them sit for 30 minutes.
During this time, I made a unicorn shirt for a friend… random request! 🙂
After 30 minutes, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees and checked on the macarons. I let them sit another 10 and then they were ready to go in the oven. There should be a slight crust on them, and they should not stick to your finger when touched. They should almost seem hardened on the outside. I baked mine for 12 minutes, but I did check them after 10. Then I let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Later in the day, I made my buttercream filling. I beat the butter and vanilla extract, and then added in powdered sugar. Once it was smooth, I folded in some dehydrated strawberry pieces.
To assemble the macarons, you can pipe the filling on the cookie or just use a knife. I went the simple route and spread it on with a knife and then sandwiched the pairs together. (Kind of twist them together instead of smooshing them.) I tried to get a little extra filling in mine so I could roll the sides in sprinkles. Once you learn how to make the cookie part of the macaron, you can do all kinds of fillings. One of my favorites is a lemon macaron with a white chocolate ganache! Stay tuned and I’ll make that one soon!
Recipe for Macarons
(Ingredients from Macaroons by Love Food; Directions from Sur la table cooking school)
Ingredients (for the cookie):
¾ c ground almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
2 extra large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (not in the book’s recipe; added in from my cooking class)
¼ c granulated sugar
Optional: gel food coloring
Ingredients (for buttercream filling):
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Optional: 4 strawberries, finely chopped ( I used a few pieces of dehydrated strawberries instead, chopped fine.)
(^This is a pretty standard buttercream frosting, just minus the milk. You want it to be thick for filling the cookie, instead of thinned out.)
Directions (for the cookie):
In a food processor, blend about a third of the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour into a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Using a drum sieve, sift mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue: Using a mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment), whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once sugar is incorporated and mixture is thick, scrape down sides of bowl (add food coloring if desired) and increase speed to high. Whip until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.
To complete the macaronnage step: Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold using a large spatula. Fold in the rest of the flour in two more additions, then check for correct consistency. The batter should be firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain round tip. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the bottom of each sheet on your table to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake macarons until crisp and firm, about 10-12 minutes. (If they are still soft inside, lower oven to 300, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top looks crinkled, your oven might be too hot!) Allow macarons to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
Directions (for the filling):
Beat the butter and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the strawberries if desired. Pair up macarons and use the filling to sandwich them together. (Spread onto the bottom of one and sandwich flat sides together.)
Lately I’ve been doing more projects, and the theme seems to be wood! Wood reminds me of Autumn, and I can’t wait for the cooler weather and pumpkin everything. I’m especially looking forward to sweater weather and boots! My little girl will turn one this Fall (where did the time go??), and I must do my crafting while she sleeps, as she is into everything now! I’m currently working on various birthday party décor.
I wanted to buy a frame to hang pictures from, but they can be very expensive, and I couldn’t find one big enough for what I had in mind. I have been taking photos of little one every month and want to hang one from each month of her first year. Twelve photos are going to take up a lot of room! I told my friend Taylor about my vision, and she encouraged me to make it myself. (Taylor and I are always doing house projects together and sometimes have quite lofty goals. But we always manage to accomplish our tasks, even if they take more work than we imagined!) I thought, “Why not?” so she went to Home Depot with me to gather supplies.
I bought four pieces of hobby wood and asked one of the employees to saw them down to be 28 inches long. They each measured 2.5 x 28 x .5 (width, length, depth). I also bought some brackets with screws. (At home, I already had my other supplies, including wood glue, a drill and bits, and a screwdriver.)
I began by sanding my wood and then laying it down into a rectangle configuration. I laid the brackets down and then used a sharpie to mark where the screws would go. Then I got out my drill and (using the smallest drill bit) made small holes on each mark. You have to be careful not to go all the way through the wood, but the drill helps make the screws go in easier later. (As a side note, I got to use a heavy duty electric screwdriver recently – if you own one of these then you don’t need to use a drill – but I was putting in my screws by hand and didn’t want to strip them, hence the drill!)
Once all the holes were made, I began loosely screwing the brackets on. I left a little space to squeeze in some wood glue, and then tightened all the screws. The brackets aren’t the prettiest, and I doubled up on them, but they’re on the back and doing their job!
Next, I decided to attach my wire that the pictures will hang from. I measured and made marks on both sides (on the inside of the frame) and then hammered three nails on each side. I cut wire (32 inches long) and twisted it up (2 inches on each nail).
Then came the fun part – painting and decorating! I used several coats of white paint and then affixed fabric flowers and glitter stars. I used removable mounting squares that I had left over from teaching. I plan to reuse the frame to hang Christmas cards and want to be able to change out my decorations! I cut out paper stars using my Cricut and glued them on to clothespins and then added glitter numbers. I still need to attach my picture hanging hardware to the back of the frame and then hang up photos, but I’m really pleased with how this project is turning out! It was a lot easier than I imagined it would be and cheaper than buying a frame. Another diy win!
This did not get posted yesterday, so pretend it is still the fourth! 🙂
Happy Independence Day!
I LOVE themed parties and making decorations for them, so I decided to make another blog category, called “Celebrate!”. My nephew shares his birthday with today’s holiday, and he is obsessed with Minecraft. I decided to make him a few Minecraft things for his party, and I can’t wait to see his face when he sees everything in a little while!
My husband and I made a trip to Target for Minecraft birthday presents and we found sheets, some legos, and a Creeper shirt! (I’ve never played the game, but I am becoming very familiar with the characters and objects, as I have been perusing Pinterest and Google images!) We also ordered some “pixelated” sunglasses for everyone to wear by the pool.
I decided to wrap the presents in Minecraft packaging, so I got out my Cricut and got to work designing images from the game. TNT, a creeper, and a diamond sword were designed and then cut and glued together.
With my Cricut I also cut out a larger diamond sword for the birthday cake. It involved a lot of squares! I glued the squares on cardstock, cut it out, and then glued squares on the back to make my sword double-sided. Then I laminated it so the frosting wouldn’t ruin it.
I ordered a piñata from iPinata, a site I found through Etsy, and they did a great job! It’s a TNT cube from the game, and this object seems fitting for a piñata! Instead of an explosion of destruction, treats will rain down around the birthday boy! We didn’t want to fill it with just candy, so we picked up little toys – bouncy balls, decks of cards, Minecraft figurines, silly string… but I also bought candy that resembled objects from the game. Hershey nuggets symbolized iron bars, licorice bites became TNT, and Swedish fish represented fish from the game. I printed out the images from the game and stapled them onto mini treat bags.
Last, I made an individual cake for my nephew. His parents have an ice-cream cake ordered for everyone else to eat, but we thought it would be fun for the birthday boy to have his own cake. I went the easy route and used Funfetti cake mix and mixed the batter according to the box directions. I used a 4-inch round, filled it 2/3 full, and then poured the remaining batter into a 9×13-inch pan. The small cake went in first and baked at 350 degrees for about 27 minutes. It took a lot longer than I expected for such a small cake. (The larger cake was made and then turned into patriotic cake balls! I just didn’t use a whole can of frosting with it.) Once my mini cake was cool, I made up a delicious buttercream and tinted it green for grass. I covered the entirety in green and then put square candy melts along the sides of the cake to be dirt. (Note: I made the squares ahead of time and stored them in the fridge until time to use. I used milk, dark, and white (with green coloring) chocolates.) The Cricut-made sword will go into the cake once it’s ready to serve. A 4-cupcake box was the perfect size to store the cake overnight, and it should travel well.
In case anyone is interested in an easy, yummy buttercream frosting, here is the recipe my mom and I use:
½ c Crisco (vegetable shortening)
½ c butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk
In a large bowl, cream the shortening and butter and then add in the vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time, beating on medium speed. Add the milk and beat until light and fluffy. When not in use, keep frosting in the fridge in an airtight container. It can be stored up to two weeks! Just stir before using.
(If you want it to be white, use clear vanilla extract. If you are tinting it a darker color, the brown coloring of the vanilla does not matter.)
My husband’s relatives are visiting from Brazil, and it’s his cousin’s birthday tomorrow! I love a good opportunity to bake, and a birthday is the perfect occasion! I decided on a chocolate cake and went with a recipe that is loved in our family. It uses boxed cake mix, so it’s simple, but the added in sour cream, pudding mix, and chocolate chips make it more moist, rich, and extremely delicious!
I baked two 9-inch round cakes and decided to put chocolate frosting and heath bar in between them. I pulsed heath bars in my food processor to make a fine powder for this. I wanted the flavor but not too much crunch in the middle of my cake. Then I frosted the entire cake in more chocolate and added heath bar to the top as well. I piped on a few dollops of frosting and then covered it up to sit overnight.
I also made chocolate bark with heath and almonds and plan on putting some on the top of the cake tomorrow! I want to add some more texture to the cake with varying heights of bark.
To keep the chocolate theme going, I decided to try my hand at making a candy bouquet. I see them in stores all the time, and it didn’t seem too difficult. I bought some of the birthday boy’s favorite chocolate bars and taped them onto wooden dowels. Then I wrapped them in tissue paper and stuck them in a mason jar. I added some ribbon, glitter stars, and a birthday card and then it was done! Very quick to assemble, and I’m happy with how it turned out.
Here’s to a fun birthday celebration tomorrow and most likely a chocolate induced coma!
Recipe for Rich Chocolate Cake
1 pkg (approx. 18.25 oz) dark chocolate cake mix
1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 (8 oz) container sour cream
½ c warm water
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 ½ c mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10 or 12 c Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Increase speed to medium-high; mix 3 more minutes. Stir in chocolate chips by hand and then spoon into prepared pan.
Bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Cool completely. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
(Note: I usually use a Bundt pan, but for this cake, I used two 9-inch rounds. They took about 30 minutes to cook. Just test with a toothpick before removing.)