When Life Gives You Lemons….

Whenever I mention lemon bars, my husband tells me that he had the best lemon bar as a kid. My husband told me that before trying them, he always thought that lemon bars sounded like a weird combination of candy and pastry, and the thought of eating them sounded VERY unappealing.  That was all until he just so happened to try a really good one, that happened to be left in the fridge after a party.   He claims that no other lemon bar has ever been as good as that lemon bar.  My husband said that the bar was cold, tart and refreshing, and has not had one as good since, so I decided to try to recreate this lemon bar.

I found a great recipe in my Taste of Home magazine. It seemed simple, and I had all of the ingredients here at home (score!).  Plus, this hot Houston weather was calling for a cool, tart treat. Not only was this a super easy recipe that took no time at all to get together, but I also had the world’s cutest helper in the kitchen.  Maxwell loved helping mama pour in the flour and sugar.  It was so sweet to see him looking up over the mixer to see what was going on in that silver bowl.  Now, this would have been a beautiful picture, did Mama take one? UGH! Nope! For sure next time I WILL be taking pictures of my little man helping me bake.

 

After they baked and sat for a minute, we were unable to resist these cute lemon bars, we had to try them right away before they were even cold, and they were delicious.  We decided to try them cold too, and popped them into the freezer to chill.  They were amazing! The lemon layer was so refreshing and silky, and the crust was slightly sweet.  The crust made the perfect partner for the tart lemon layer. These are the perfect summer day treat!

*My husband LOVED the lemon bars.  His only request was next time to double the lemon layer, because it tasted so darn good.  :)

 

Bake-Sale Lemon Bars-Taste of Home (June/July2013)

¾ cup butter softened

2/3 cup confectioners; sugar

1 ½ cups plus 3 Tbps, all purpose flour-divided

3 eggs lightly beaten

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

Additional confectioners’ sugar

  • Preheat the oven 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until blended.  Gradually beat 1 ½ cups of flour.  Press onto the bottom of a greased 13×9-in. baking pan.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and remaining flour until frothy; pour over hot crust.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until topping is set and lightly browned.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Dust with additional confectioners’ sugar.  Cut into bars.  Refrigerate leftovers.  (If you have any left!)

Sweet Determination

For the past 3 years, I have been on a quest to find the perfect white cake recipe.  I have been looking for a moist, soft, and flavorful cake.  I have tried dozens upon dozens of recipes, only to be disappointed.  I have thrown away many, many batches of cupcakes, because they were too dry, had a strange texture and overall a blah flavor.  I have been creative adding and subtracting different ingredients, but had not yet found the perfect combination that I was looking for…..until Saturday night.

I believe I have finally discovered the perfect recipe for the white cake that I have been searching for.  This cake is moist, very flavorful and has an amazingly light and soft texture.  They were absolutely delicious fresh out of the oven and even more tasty with a smooth vanilla frosting.  These little guys are the answer to my cupcake prayers! The cupcakes were still moist and scrumptious the next day.  I even decided to do a test and leave a few out on the counter all night and low and behold….they were still fluffy and delish.

I know that I have only tried this new recipe once, and I still need to test it more and possibly make some changes, but I am super pumped.  I still need to do some taste tests, which will be happening this week, so get ready friends and family!!

What have I learned from this? If at first you don’t succeed, dust that flour off and try again!

Crunchy Cake Batter

Everyone knows that one of the best parts about baking is being able to lick the leftover batter off of the beater.  As a little girl, I remember helping my Mom bake in the kitchen and loved that fact that my sister Allie and I each got a beater to lick.  Of course my Mom would always try to take off as much batter as possible, but she still left plenty on it for each of us to have a little treat.  As an adult, I know that I am not alone I still look forward to the leftover batter on the beater.  So when my sister told me about Funfetti Cake Batter Chex, I didn’t waste any time.

 

In addition to this treat being completely delicious, it is super simple to make.  It only contains 5 ingredients, and I am sure, like myself, you have most of these items in your pantry.  It takes no time at all to whip up a batch of Cake Batter Chex.  It is the perfect treat to take to a party, and believe me you will NOT have any leftovers to take home.  Honestly, when you eat this snack, you will not believe how much it tastes like you are eating cake batter settled in the nooks and crannies of the Chex cereal.  It’s a sweet and crunchy snack that will not disappoint!

Here is the super simple recipe according to the blog: Six Sisters’ Stuff  that I found on Pintrest.

Let your Funfetti Cake Batter Chex addiction begin!

 

Funfetti Cake Batter Chex

Ingredients:

5 cups Chex cereal (I used Rice Chex, but Corn Chex would work great!)

10 oz (5 squares) vanilla flavored Almond Bark

1 1/2 cups Funfetti cake mix (any kind of cake mix would work)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vegetable shortening

 

Directions:

1. Melt Almond Bark according to the package directions, adding vegetable shortening to thin (I heard that you can make it without the shortening, but it worked great for me to use it).

2. Pour the cereal into a large bowl and drizzle the melted Almond Bark over the cereal. Mix gently with a large spoon or spatula.

3. Dump the cake mix and powdered sugar onto the cereal and mix gently with large spoon until all the cereal is evenly coated.

4. Enjoy!! It’s so good!

 

 

Sweet, Caramel, Gooey Puffcorn

Grandmas are some of the best bakers in the world.  They seem to know how to make everything, and no matter how hard you try, nothing you make tastes exactly the way grandma makes it.  My grandmothers are two of the best bakers known to mankind.  My Grandma Bernice makes one of my all time favorite snacks, caramel puffcorn. It is a delicious layer of caramel draped over puffcorn, which turns it into a sweet and gooey snack.   Carmel puffcorn is a treat she makes whenever the whole gang is at her house.  My husband loves it so much that she even shipped some to us last fall! J   As a child, I remember Grandma Bernice always having a huge white metal bowl sitting on her counter holding this delicious treat.  It is so addicting that every time you walk past this bowl, you have to snag a handful of it.  Grandma Bernice also has a massive batch of this sitting on the table at what she calls lunch, the “snack time” after dinner, before you leave for home.  A person will never leave her house hungry.

puffcorn

While in Iowa this summer I saw puffcorn in the store and I had to buy a bag to take home with me to Texas.  Believe it or not, in the 6 years I have been in Houston, I have NEVER seen a bag of puffcom in any store here.  If you know where I can buy it here, please share the wealth!

Caramel Puffcorn

1 package puffcorn (I used Old Dutch)

1 cup butter

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup in a 2 qt sauce pan, cook on medium heat until mixture has melted.  Once mixture has melted, add the baking soda.  The baking soda will cause the mixture to foam and rise up in your pan.

Pour puffcorn into large roaster pan.  Pour caramel mixture over the puffcorn and stir until mixed.

Place in oven at 250 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring at least every 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, pour on wax paper and break apart. Let cool and enjoy!

** I lined my roasting pan with parchment paper.  This made for a super easy clean up.

One Tough Cookie

Like every good baker, every now and then I go into other bakeries and test out their goodies. I like to check out what’s new in the baking world, taste their different flavors and frostings. This helps me to get new ideas on different flavor profiles and decorating ideas. I like to do my research and see what Sweet B’s is up against.

Being a foodie, I love to talk about food with everyone. In one of my most recent conversations with a coworker, we were talking about a new bakery that is in our area. She was raving about their sugar cookies and how they were the best sugar cookies she has ever had. This sparked my interest. Right after work, I made a detour and stopped at the bakery and picked up a couple of their sugar cookies. These cookies waited patiently on the passenger seat, until I got home so I could give them my undivided attention.

This bakery had huge circle sugar cookies that were topped with colored royal icing, and they looked delicious. After pulling the cookies out of the bag, I noticed how crumbly they were; they completely fell apart. Both cookies were in pieces before I even got to try them. After a few bites, I realized they reminded me of something. They have a processed taste similar to the cookies that you buy in the tin at Christmastime, and I was not impressed.

Nothing about the cookies made my taste buds excited. I didn’t think they were special at all. Sugar cookies should have a light taste with a hint of vanilla. They shouldn’t be overly sweet, dry or crumbly. Even the frosting should not be so sweet that it takes away from the cookie. Well, this is my obviously biased but honest opinion. Of course I think that I make a much better sugar cookie. I think I’ll take a few of my sugar cookies to let my coworker try and get her opinion. What’s your idea of a a good sugar cookie?

A Good Thing in a Smaller Package

Recently I attended my friend Jillian’s wedding in Wisconsin. As soon as I walked into the reception hall, my eyes were immediately drawn to Jillian’s unique centerpieces. They were 6 inch wedding cakes! Each table had their own little cake covered in white buttercream frosting, decorated with different designs in her wedding colors. What a cool idea! I knew right then and there that I needed to get a 6 inch cake pan so I can make these adorable little cakes.

After a trip to my favorite cake supply store, I became the proud new owner of a 6 inch cake pan. How perfect! People are always looking for smaller cakes. They often want something for a celebration but don’t want the guilt of eating too much cake and I completely understand. Smaller cakes are also ideal for people that don’t want to spend too much and have too much leftover. For some folks, it’s just enough cake without over doing it.

It seems to be a trend in the baking world. People want smaller cakes. You will notice this in your chain supermarket stores and bakeries; smaller cakes and even half cakes are very popular. Consumers want their cake, but they don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on it. This might also explain why cupcakes are all the rage right now. Sometimes, a 6 inch cake is the way to go!

Last week I made a 6 inch cake for a 1 year old’s birthday. The cake was used as a topper for a cupcake tower. It turned out to be very cute! It was decorated perfectly for a little girl. Pink and purple ribbons of butter cream surrounded the little cake with purple covering the top. The cupcakes were decorated with white, purple and pink buttercream with a sprinkle of colorful jimmies on top.  The 6 incher is definitely one of my favorites to make and decorate and please believe that I’m adding it to the menu. It’s budget friendly and you will love how charming and tasty this miniature cake is.

Grandma Mary’s Biscuits

My Grandma Mary has been baking and cooking her whole life. She is a very talented woman, in and out of the kitchen, and I feel very blessed that she has shared her recipes with me. You can taste the love she puts into her food. Whenever I make one of Grandma Mary’s recipes, the delicious aromas and scrumptious tastes bring back many wonderful memories of her dining room table.

 

biscuits and jam

One of my favorite recipes of my Grandma Mary’s to make is her baking powder biscuits. These biscuits are fantastic and make my mouth water by just thinking about them. They taste great with butter and homemade jam, covered with chicken and gravy, or used to mop up the last couple spoonfuls of soup. Now Grandma Mary doesn’t roll out the dough and cut out the biscuits in perfect rounds. She simply drops spoonfuls of the biscuit dough onto a cookie sheet and throws them into the oven. Because she doesn’t cut them out, the biscuits come out of the oven with cute golden brown little peaks and points on them. I once rolled out the dough and cut out the biscuits into the traditional rounds but, they didn’t taste the same. I know, I know, I am crazy right? My Grandma Mary has always made her biscuits this way, and I will continue to keep the tradition going strong and do the same.

CROC-a-Doodle-DO

One positive thing about a tile kitchen floor is that it is very easy to clean up baking messes. One negative about that tile kitchen floor, is sore, and tired feet. After spending hours barefoot in my kitchen, I would be hobbling around on my sore and Crocstired feet; I knew I needed to find some comfy kitchen shoes.

 

I went through a couple trial and errors. First I tried my trusty flip-flops, which were not a good choice; they were too thin and they did not have enough support. Then I went to my favorite pair of tennis shoes, which worked for a while, but I really did not want to wear the same shoes I walk around outside in, inside the house. And I wanted something that was easy to kick off or slip on. As a religious watcher of Food Network, I had noticed many of the chefs wearing Crocs. My sister also wears them at work, around the house and has raved about how comfortable they are. It only made sense Crocsto try them out.

 

One outlet mall trip later and I had me a brand spankin’ new pair of Crocs! My feet were in love with them the minute they had their first step. After being on my feet for about 5 hours baking and decorating eight dozen cookies, my Crocs passed the test. They have great cushion and support, and my feet and I are very thankful for these new shoes. They are worn everyday in my kitchen.

 

I like my Crocs so much, that on our trip the Mall of America, I had to get myself another pair… well make that two pairs. These are some really cute Crocs that are flats, that I can wear to school, and now I will be comfy all day long.

  brown crocsblack crocsHow do you keep your feet comfortable in the kitchen?


A Rainbow of Colorful Cupcakes

During one of my morning internet/blog searching sessions, I came across some awesome pictures of multi colored cakes. These cakes were amazing! They had so many colors and designs in them; I knew that this was my next challenge for myself.

 swirl cupcakes

After restocking my color supply, I decided to embark on my new challenge. After whipping up a batch of my favorite vanilla cupcake batter, I set out to work. First things first, I would try to make my cupcakes ready for football season and make them into Green Bay Packer colors (GO PACK GO!). Pouring a little batter into two smaller bowls, I added green food coloring gel to one bowl and yellow to the other. After a quick stir I, began to layer the different colors into the cupcake liners. They turned out perfectly! My Packer cupcakes looked stunning, festive, and were scrumptious.  Of course my sister gave me the seal of approval after receiving her picture text. Allie thought they looked awesome and told me to try out some other colors.

packer cupcakes

Feeling a little more creative and confident, I tried out three colors, pink, purple, and blue. Again I separated the batter into three different bowls, added the color and stirred them up. This time I decided to try to make swirls on top by taking a tooth pick and swirling it on the top of the cupcake. They turned out looking fantastic!

tye dye cupcakes

This was a fun time in my “test kitchen”, I tried out something new and I feel pretty darn good about it. I can’t wait to make these for someone!

colorful cupcake

What have you discovered in your “test kitchen” ?

Berry Delicious

My mom and Grandma Mary love to garden. Whether it is flowers, veggies, or fruit, they both have green thumbs. We happened to arrive in Iowa at the perfect time…raspberry time! Mom and grandma’s raspberry bushes were bursting with sweet, red, plump, fresh raspberries. I absolutely love those berries, fresh off the vine, in jam on toast, over ice cream, and in desserts. raspberries on the vine

 

bowl of berries

While we were in Iowa a few years ago, my mom made a raspberry buckle using the raspberries she froze from her garden, and we all really enjoyed it. After seeing her huge crop of raspberries, I knew I had to make this recipe using her garden fresh berries.

pan of berries

Raspberry Buckle

• 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

• 1 cup of granulated sugar

• 1 cup of flour (spooned and leveled)

• ½ teaspoon salt

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• 2 ¾ cups of raspberries (2 containers ½ pint each)

• Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)

• Whipped cream (optional)

 buckle

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 quart oval or square baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition to combine. In another bowl whisk together your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder). With mixer on gradually add the flour mixture until well incorporated.

Spread batter in pan. Scatter the raspberries on top. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

dessert

Let me tell you, this dessert is amazing! You have the sweetness of the cake and the tartness of the raspberries, it is incredibly delicious. Mom says her favorite way to enjoy it is right out of the oven with some whipped cream on top. I completely agree, however it is still very tasty eaten out of the pan the next morning!

 I would have to say that this Raspberry is off the charts and it is my #1 summer dessert. 

 What is your favorite summer dessert?