Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil

So I made mention of this recipe a few weeks ago via facebook and instagram, but am only now getting around to sharing it with the rest of you. I will be getting into some details about what exactly is keeping me so busy lately in the next few days, but for now you’ll just have to settle for this. And when I say settle, I mean you should be prepared to drool a little over it. Unless you hate springtime, and strawberries, and rhubarb, and other such lovely things. Which would be weird, you know, since Spring is the best. But I digress.

I usually love nothing more than a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, but I went the crumble route this time for a bit of a change. Ahem. Ok, that’s not really true. I needed a breakfast that I could eat on all week and I thought crumble sounded better than pie. Crumbles have oatmeal toppings and stuff, and oats are definitely healthy and breakfast-esque. Call it whatever you want, but I’m just gonna call it delicious and let you decide which meal you want to add it to.

 

Oh! You may have noticed that I added basil to it. Well, that’s an interesting story, actually. See I had just poured all these beautiful strawberries into my baking dish and I noticed a piece of a strawberry leaf stuck to one of them. In typical Emily fashion (easily distracted) I thought “Hey, that’s pretty. I wonder if I have any herbs to throw in here…” Turns out that the only herb I had was basil, and I kind of thought that might not be too bad. And it was actually awesome.   The bright basil flavor perfectly balanced out the sweet strawberries/tart rhubarb, and I felt like a total genius. So go out and try something new. It might be awesome. Also, try this, because I can guarantee that it is.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil*

Serves 6-8

Topping:

1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (coarse sugar)
Zest of one lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ pints strawberries
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

Filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, basil, and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Remove topping from refrigerator and use your fingers to break it apart over the fruit.  This part doesn’t have to be pretty – just crumble it over top and it will spread out as it bakes.   Place baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes.

*I usually like to be very clear where I’ve gotten my recipes from, but in this case, I have no idea from whence it came.  I had this recipe saved on my hard drive simply as Fruit Crumble and I haven’t the slightest whom to credit it to.  If it looks familiar (like I may have plagiarised it from you) do drop me a line and I’ll be sure to give credit and link back.

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Sometimes you just need a brownie…

I tend to hear people say they need a brownie/drink/massage when they’ve have a rough day – and there’s definitely something to be said for indulging in a favorite treat when you’re feeling down.  But today has been pretty good, and I made a pan of brownies to celebrate.  It’s my Friday today, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, I found a lovely little bloom on my peach tree, and why not add some chocolate to make it just that much better?

Homemade Moon Pies

Are you guys familiar with Moon Pies?  They’re a southern favorite – you can get them at any gas station or snack machine below the Mason-Dixon line.  We loved these as kids and I am so excited to (finally!) be sharing this recipe for a homemade version with you.  I first made these almost a year ago for a baby shower that I co-hosted – the shower was Children’s Book themed and I made these to accompany “Goodnight Moon”.  They were divine you guys, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to give you the recipe.  Now don’t be intimidated.  When I tell people that I make homemade Moon Pies they all get this look on their face, the “That’s so cool. I can’t believe you can do that.  Why did you do that? You’re a crazy person.” look.  But really, they’re pretty straightforward.  A Moon Pie is basically a graham cracker cookie with marshmallow filling, dipped in chocolate.  The cookies take about an hour to make, but 30 minutes of that is dough-chilling time, and I usually get my marshmallow fluff going while I’m waiting (you could totally use store bought marshmallow fluff if you wanted to skip this step.  Then it’d be super easy and you’d have no excuse not to try this).  The filling is as simple as whipping egg whites and boiling syrup, and if you can’t drop a cookie in a bowl of melted chocolate, then I don’t know what to tell you.  I usually make these at a pretty leisurely pace – I did the entire process in about 3 hours a couple of days ago, but if you were being really efficient and wanted to knock it out I’d think that you could do it in about an hour and a half.  I got the recipe from a really good source, and I only tweaked one minor detail: I did only single layer cookies, rather than the “Double Decker” version.  So although there are several components to this cookie, they are all relatively simple and even beginner bakers should be able to handle this project.  If you’re looking for something to put in your Christmas Gift Baskets and you want to blow everyone’s mind with your baking prowess, I’d totally recommend this.  Happy Holidays!

MOON PIES

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, makes around 24 sandwich cookies

For the Cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

For the Marshmallow Filling:
2 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
Pinch salt
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

For the Chocolate Coating:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
¼ cup vegetable oil

To Make the Cookies:

With a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, add the egg and the vanilla extract, and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour and the salt, and mix just until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough in two, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º while dough is chilling.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2½-inch diameter round cutter, cut out the rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about ½ an inch apart.  Try to end up with an even number of cookies, since you’ll be making sandwiches with them.  Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

To Make the Marshmallow Filling:

Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the the egg whites with the cream of tartar and the salt until firm peaks form, gradually increasing from medium-low speed to medium-high speed as the egg whites gain volume. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, boil the corn syrup over high heat without stirring until it registers 230 to 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer (thread ball stage). Slowly drizzle the hot corn syrup into the egg whites and beat at high speed until glossy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, beat in the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar.

Using either a pastry bag or a spoon, mound about 1½ tablespoons of marshmallow filling into the center of a cookie. Top with another cookie and press lightly to spread the marshmallow to the edges. Repeat until you run out of cookies.

To Make the Chocolate Coating:

Using a double boiler (or in the microwave on 50% power and in 30 second increments) melt the chocolate and vegetable oil together until completely smooth. Let cool for a few minutes – you don’t want it to be piping hot when you dip the cookies or they tend to slide around a little and lose their shape.  Using a fork, dip the sandwiches into the chocolate, turning over to coat. Place cookies on a wire rack set over a baking sheet or wax paper and allow to set at room temp for a couple of hours – or move them to the fridge to speed up the process.

Peanut Butter Bars

So, is it just me or does pretty much everyone look forward to the special holiday editions of Reese’s Peanut Butter products?  The Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Pumpkins, Christmas Trees, etc, pretty much make my day when they appear on store shelves.  They’re just better than the normal ones, for some reason.  But that’s beside the point.  I really wanted to tell you about these peanut butter bars I’ve been making.  They have the taste and texture of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but in bar form – and homemade, so you don’t have to worry about any mystery ingredients.  I like to have a little something sweet around for after mealtimes or a snack, and this recipe make a pretty good size batch (I cut them into 1 in squares, so I get a ton of them) that I can keep in the fridge for that little bite of something indulgent.  This recipe requires no baking, and while I like to use my double boiler to melt the chocolate, you could just stick it in the microwave if you wanted to skip that step, so they’re super simple to make.  I can usually have them chilling in my freezer in about 25 minutes, so it makes for very little work with a pretty high yield of awesome.

 

Peanut Butter Bars Recipe

Adapted from Just a Pinch

Serves: 20-36 bars

Base:

1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (2 sleeves ground to a fine crumb)*

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1½ cups peanut butter

Topping:

¼ cup peanut butter

8oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped.

 

Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, letting the ends overhang.  Combine first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Spread evenly into lined baking dish.

Combine chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter in a double boiler.** Melt, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Spread on top of the peanut butter bar base and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and cut into 1inch squares.  Enjoy!

*I tried to do this with the ziploc bag/rolling pin method, but the crumbs just aren’t fine enough and you won’t get a smooth texture.  It still tastes delicious, but this is one case where if you have a food processor, this is the time to use it.

Also, I may occasioally not be so good with keeping my pantry stocked and only had 1 sleeve of honey grahams, so I substituted a sleeve of chocolate grahams for the remainder and it was awesome.  Just a little more chocolate-y flavor, which is never a bad thing in my opinion.

**You could also do this in the microwave if you prefer.

 

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I made this with one of my few remaining Meyer Lemons, and I must confess that I was a little worried that the recipe wouldn’t be appropriately wonderful for my rare and precious lemons.   I’ve been dying to cook with them, but I have this irrational fear of using them in a less than spectacular way – you know, of making something just average and wasting them.  It’s silly I know, but I’ll only have them for these few months and I don’t want to waste them on something mediocre.  So.  I hunted around forever before settling on the recipe that I used, and even then I adapted it quite liberally to suit my high expectations.  And readers, it was totally worth it.  This simple little loaf is the very essence of Meyer Lemons.  It’s sweet, tart, and as you pull it out of the oven you will be greeted by the most divine scent: slightly pine-y, citrus-y, and totally delicious.  You won’t want to wait for it to cool so you can smear the slightest bit of salted butter on and enjoy it curled up on your favorite comfy chair.  It’s a typical quick bread type recipe that comes together in no time flat, and then you just have to wait impatiently for it come out of the oven.

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Bread            

Adapted from AmyBites

A few notes:  I added extra lemon zest, juice, and poppy seeds.  I really wanted a pronounced lemon flavor and I love the little crunch of the seeds, and I got what I felt was a well-balanced loaf.  Keep in mind that I used Meyer lemons though, and they have a less pronounced flavor and aren’t as tart as regular lemons, so you may want to adjust if you can’t find them.  Also, milk would be fine in the place of the heavy cream if you want to lighten it up.                                                                                              

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a loaf pan.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using electric mixer, cream unsalted butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla bean paste. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in lemon juice and poppy seeds.

Pour batter into pan and bake in center of oven until a tester inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 65-70 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto rack. Cool completely.

Book Themed Baby Shower: Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs, Favors, and Games

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I know you all could probably figure out how to do the Very Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs from the description (easiest recipe ever, right?), but I wanted to do a post explaining some of the other parts of the shower, and these were just too cute not to mention.  And let’s be honest, just a few years ago I wasn’t the most crafty of girls, you know, and I would have wanted a step- by-step post telling me exactly what to do to make my shower food/favors/games/etc turn out exactly like the picture or article I was using for inspiration.

Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs: I wasn’t lying, dear readers, there really is no recipe.  It’s just fruit on a stick.  The only thing we did to make it special was to choose fruit that would make up the traditional ROYGBIV rainbow and arrange it accordingly.  I used plain wooded skewers and I used the folowing fruit for my rainbow: watermelon, canteloupe, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and red seedless grapes.  I used precut melons from Publix, since I didn’t need much, and canned pineapple slices that I cut into chunks (have you seen the fresh – I use the term loosely – pineapple that we get here in Georgia? More like fresh-but-picked-so-far-before-ripening-you-may-as-well-call-them-seeds).  For the rest I just cut up some kiwis (I needed 2 kiwis for 12 kebabs), and the fresh blueberries and grapes from the produce section.   I wish I could take credit for the rainbow idea, but one of my creative co-hosts came up with it, and I just executed it 🙂

Favors: I didn’t mention our favors before, but they were amazing, and very creative.  We used jam, in the small 4 oz Ball jars – they were meant to be a play on baby food, and I think it really turned out well.  At our last shower we also used jam for favors, because I had an abundance of it sitting around and we thought it would be cute.  Turns out, it was one of our best ideas, because everyone loved it there, and when we reprised it for this shower we had the same reaction.  I think because so few people can these days, and especially young people – until recently I only had 1 friend under the age of 50 who had canned anything – people are really impressed by it.  This time one of my co-hosts made the favors: we had Apple-Pear Butter and Blueberry Plum Jam to go with this children’s book.  I think people don’t realize how easy (and super fun!) it is to can, and so when you offer them a jar of preserves they imagine that you’ve been sweating over a pot of boiling fruit for days on end to produce it and they’re just in awe.   But really, small jars of jam or preserves, or even pickles, are great for shower favors both because they are one-of-a-kind, and because they are homemade .  I love giving homemade gifts for favors (or any “thank you” gift – hostess gifts, etc) because I feel like it’s such a genuine way to show someone that you appreciate their gift/time/hospitality.  Or just for a random Tuesday.  I’d love to receive another jar of Blueberry Plum Jam for no reason except that Kelly wanted to send me one.  I’m just saying.

Games: We had a really fun little game of Children’s Book Trivia – created by another of my co-hosts.  My friend Julie usually takes the game portion of our hosting duties, mostly because she’s awesome at it.  I don’t know if she used a template for this, or if she made it up on her own, but it was just a list of 15-20 questions about children’s books…I don’t have kids and haven’t been in the children’s secton in 20 years, but I knew 75% of them, so it was on a level that most anyone attending a baby shower would be able to participate in and and enjoy.  For prizes for the winner (not me, alas) she had a little pail of goodies (including glitter silly-putty! Jealous!).   It was a good game that went along with our theme, and was suitable for a wide audience (ie, those of us without kiddies had a fighting chance) and would be really easy to replicate.  I’ll try to get a template up here for reference for those of you who might like something to print out.

The second game we played was really fun, though a little more challenging.  We were given small packages of  baby food (no lables!) and had to identify the contents by their  appearance.  It was a little harder, but still lots of fun.  I’ll admit that I guessed a lot, and didn’t come close to winning, but it was fun watching everyone try to puzzle through it.  Also, since they aren’t perishable, we were able to give them to our future Mom to get a head start stocking her pantry.

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Decor: I showed you this picture before and, honestly, this may have been my favorite part of the shower.  It was just too cute.  It was just purchased tissue paper balls hung up in a “Caterpillar” shape and with wee eyes and legs attached, but it was the first thing our geusts saw when they came in the hosue, and it was a really great memorable and inexpensive way to decorate.   You could hang it from the ceiling, over a buffet table maybe, or just set it out on a table behind food or gifts, or do as we did and hang it from a banister or railing.  The Mama-to-be loved it, and in fact told us that she was going to leave it up as long as possible because it was so cute – which is another plus.  You can give it to the guest of honor to use in the nursery or playroom and it’s another little gift.

All of the things we did here were pretty simple – and totally doable by almost anyone.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or need clarification on any of the ideas or products we used.

Next up:  Moonpie recipe.

Book Themed Baby Shower

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I’ve been dying to tell you all about this, because, quite frankly, it was awesome.  This is the third shower I’ve hosted with this group of ladies, and we are a great team.  We’ve sorted out our particular talents so that each of us is doing something we’re good at, and also that we enjoy…it really makes for one heck of a shower when you have such amazing co-hosts. The book theme was really fun and easy to work with, and we were able to coordinate all the food, games, and decor with no trouble at all.  My co-host with the Cricut (such an amazing device!  I want one!) made the banner above, as well as the tissue paper Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, and the clothesline for the  gifts was her idea as well.  Another friend (the adorable young man below belongs to her) came up with some children’s book trivia games for us (I didn’t win.  I was actually sad about that, but then, I don’t read a lot of children’s books these days…), and our fourth co-host made us some lovely invitations, of which I have no photo…but they were made to coordinate with our banner (above) and you can rest assured, they were adorable.  Your truly was responsible for the food, and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had with it.  Everything I made was meant to go with one of the books and here’s the list:

Green Eggs and Ham – Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Goodnight Moon – Homemade Moonpies

Give a Mouse a Cookie – assorted cookies, including Homemade Oreos, Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbreads, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip (not made by me, but I will be telling you about them, because they have a secret ingredient that is Killer)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Carrot Cupcakes

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Baked Chicken Meatballs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – fruit Kebabs

We also had Lemon-Berry Punch, which was a Martha Stewart recipe and came out quite well.  I’ve already share the meatball recipe with you, and I will be sharing the rest of them over the next week.  The carrot cupcake recipe came from (where else?) SmittenKitchen, and I’ll just direct you over to her site for the recipe.  As usual with Deb’s recipes, they turned out wonderfully – moist, tender, and tasty.  I did pipe wee carrots on top of them, and I was quite proud of how they looked, since I usually have no great gift for decorating.  Please do email, or comment, if you have any questions about any of our decor or the theme, etc.  We had so much fun being creative with it, but it took a few skype brainstorming sessions and quite a bit of time on Pinterest for us to put all of our ideas to solid plans and then to reality.  For now, enjoy some photos of the happy Mama-to-be, and be sure to check back in a day or two for the recipes!

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Blue Velvet Cupcakes for a Bridal Shower

Have you ever made red velvet cake?  I have, twice, and from two different recipes no less.  You always here that velvet cake can be a little tricky (or maybe that’s just me?), and indeed, my first attempt was mediocre.  It had a decent flavor, but the texture was all off, and it was quite dry.  So the second time I tried a different recipe and unfortunately fared little better.  You see, red velvet cake is kind of a thing in the south.  We’re known for our cakes down here, and you’d be hard put to find a cake that is more decadent and steeped in tradition than this one.  Everyone’s grandmother has her recipe, and each one is better than the last – and bless your heart if it’s dry or flavorless.  So when I was told that the favorite cupcake flavor of the guest of honor at the bridal shower I was co-hosting was red velvet, I was a little nervous.

The future bride sharing a secret with her maid of honor.

I have a confession to make here:  I love to host things.  I love to entertain, to have guests over, and to see people enjoying something I’ve baked or prepared just makes my day.  It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it, and I really want everything to be just perfect.  Because I had had two previous red velvet duds, I was worried that these might turn out the same.  And to make things a little more interesting, I had decided to make them “Blue Velvet Cupcakes” to go along with the bride’s colors, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get just the right color blue.  I ended up following a recipe from Sprinkle Bakes that had “Finding the perfect hue” in the title.  I’ve had good luck with Sprinkle’s recipes before, so I ran with it, and what do you know?  Perfect cupcake, perfect color. I will probably use this recipe for velvet cake in the future, and just change the color as I please (Orange velvet cake anyone??).

At least one of our guests could’ve cared less about my cupcakes. Those club crackers sure are a crowd pleaser!

Following Sprinkle’s instructions, I purchased Wilton gel food coloring and used a combination of blue and violet to get that deep navy blue.  I used just the tiniest bit of green in the frosting (another of the bride’s colors), and I was really happy with how they looked.  My crafty co-host made those cake stands you see above, as well as most of the other decor, and I think everything came together really well to make this a very special day for the future bride.

Isn’t that sign to die for? My friend Kelly made that with her Cricut, which I’ve heard is one of the coolest things ever.

Our third co-host (that’s her adorable son up there enjoying the crackers) provided the entertainment, and since she’s something of a game guru, that of course turned out perfectly.  She has this great game where she passes out paper bags with small kitchen items in them and you have to guess what the item is by feeling it through the bag – no peeking!  It sounds easy, but some things are really hard to tell without looking.

Bridal shower guest trying to guess what’s in the bag…It’s harder than it sounds!

To sum up:  cupcakes – decadently delicious, decor – visually stunning, games – wildly entertaining.  In short, we spent a lovely afternoon showering the bride-to-be with love and gifts, and everything turned out perfectly.

 

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

This is an adapted Paula Deen recipe. The food-coloring portion has been modified to create (what I consider) the perfect shade of blue for Blue Velvet Cupcakes. The frosting is also not original to the recipe.

12-14 servings

Cake:

2 cups sugar

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, at room temp

2 eggs

1tbsp cocoa powder (I used Dutch Cocoa)

1tbsp Wilton royal blue gel food coloring

1 small dab Wilton violet gel food coloring

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp vinegar

Frosting:

1 lb cream cheese, softened

1/2 lb butter (softened)

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake pan(s) with paper liners.

Cake:
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into cupcake papers. Batter will be thick! Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip. Embellish as desired.

 

A few notes:

I got 24 cupcakes out of this.  There’s no way I was only going to get 14.  I actually could have gotten 26, but I may have, um, sampled the batter.

This stuff is blue.  Really blue.  Don’t wear your favorite apron, and don’t use your cute decorative hand towels. 

Key Lime Pie

And it’s officially summer.  Key Lime Pie has been made.  Actually, one of my coworkers particularly loves Key Lime Pie and requested that I make it for her birthday.  In September.  Of last year.  Better late than never right?

Anyhow.  This is a particularly good rendition of the famed pie, if I do say so myself.  What makes it better than all the rest you ask?  And how exactly do you change Key Lime Pie, which is really just lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks?  Well, you know those egg whites you always toss out? (Unless you’re me and can’t bear to waste anything so you freeze them in an ice cube tray for a future pie making endeavor – but that’s beside the point.)  You whip them until they hold stiff peaks, and then fold them into the filling, which makes it beautifully light and airy.  I love love love Key Lime Pie,but even I sometimes find it too dense and heavy, or even, depending on the limes used, too tart to enjoy.  This was the perfect balance of lime-y tartness and light sweetness.  And an added benefit is that is comes together in no time at all.  So start your summer off on the right foot – get to whipping up your own birthday pie.  Just try to be a little more punctual than I was.

Key Lime Pie

Crust:

  1. 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs from about 12 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  1. 2 large egg whites
  2. 4 large egg yolks
  3. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  4. 1/2 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice

Garnish:

  1. 1 cup heavy cream
  2. 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Crust:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle with the melted butter and stir until well combined. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until set and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the oven on.

Filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large mixing bowl with a whisk or hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice and whisk until combined. Gently fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture then add the remaining egg whites and fold until just evenly combined. Gently spread the mixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until just set in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream and sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Cut the pie into slices and top each with a dollop of whipped cream.*

DO AHEAD: The pie can be baked and stored, covered, in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.

*I like to spread my whipped cream over the top of the pie – if you’re transporting it at all, it’s much easier, and it’s already there so dishing it out later is a cinch.  I also grated a little lime zest over the top to pretty it up, but that’s up to you.