Friday, October 29, 2010

Classy Junior Mint Cake

This cake is up for auction Sunday, October 31 at the Senior Citizen's Center in Alamosa, CO.  The festivities of the Sunshine Christian School Fall Festival Taco Dinner and Pie Auction begin at 4:30 pm.  All proceeds go to the school.

It's a chocolate fudge cake with buttercream mint frosting in the center.  I used Junior Mint candies pressed into the cake when it came out of the oven so they would melt into the cake and flavor it a bit.  The flowers are gum paste and the brown things are Jumior Mint candies. The green covering is home made fondant.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reeses Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Reeses Peanut Butter Cupcakes: What really makes this yummy is the frosting.  Just get your favorite chocolate cake recipe and make the cupcakes and let them cool.
Frosting: 1 stick butter at room temperature
1 cup Jiff creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream

In medium mixing bowl place butter and peanut butter.  Beat till smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and beat till light and fluffy.  Use a large tip and pastry bag to apply frosting and sprinkly with mini Reeses Pieces.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Artichoke Dip

Gamma Susie's Artichoke Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 8-oz package cream cheese room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 4-oz jar marinated artichokes drained
1 Tablespoon dried Basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh grated parmesean cheese

In a small fry pan saute minced garlic in oil.  Set aside. In large mixing bowl place cream cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix well.  In a blender or food processor place artichokes and blend till small bits but not pureed.  Add to cream cheese mixture along with 1/2 cup parmesean cheese and the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Spray a pie plate.  Pour mixture in baking dish and smooth out evenly.  Place in a 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Place back in oven until cheese melts.  Serve warm with bagettes.

This is a great way to use up some bread.  slice into one inch by 3 inch pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Put in oven at 350 degrees until lightly browned.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wedding Cake Top With Gum Paste Roses

This is a German Chocolate cake with fondant covering, buttercream frosting edging, and gum paste roses.  I first tried to make my own German Chocolate cake but I didn't calculate the altitude well, so I used a Betty Crocker box mix. What was nice about the box mix was there wasn't a need to altitude adjust.  I live at 7600 feet so I have to pay attention to this.  I did add 2 tablespoons flour to the mix and it came out perfect.  I also used Betty Crocker Pecan Coconut Frosting. 

This cake was fun to make.  These are the first gum paste roses I have done.  There are mistakes of course but I made a pretty cool "first" wedding cake.  I did pretty good at making the rose buds too.  For the green ribbon I made a strip of fondant and attached it to the cake by brushing a little water between the strip and the cake.  Then I brushed a light film of water over the fondant to make the ribbon shine.  Then I was able to apply sugar pearls, one at a time, to the edge of the ribbon.  Water makes the fondant sticky so that part was easy, it just took time to apply.

My problem right now is when I put the fondant on the cake I get air bubbles.  I need to figure out how to get those out before I decorate.  I think one way is to have the cake eye level and in good lighting so I can spin the cake around to make sure it is smooth.

This batch of fondant came out speckled.  Normally I wouldn't have used it but I kind of liked the textured look so I kept it.  I used butter cream frosting for the edging around the bottom.

I can understand why these types of cakes are so expensive.  One bakery charges $5.00 a slice for wedding cakes.  This is because the gum paste flowers are time consuming.  Each step takes time to make, dry, and apply.  I loved doing it and though there are flaws, this being my first wedding cake, I am really happy with how it turned out. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bran Muffins with Lemon Glaze and Walnuts

Bran Muffins with Lemon Glaze and Walnuts

I found this basic recipe at and adjusted it for altitude and added a little something. Makes a great bran muffin that isn’t heavy. Really good and keeps you movin’ if you know what I mean! HA if for High Altitude adjustment.

4½ cups Kellogg’s Original All Bran
(DON’T TRY FLAKES. This is the only cereal that works!) If you like ground flax seed you can reduce cereal to 4 cups and add ½ cup flax seed.
1⅓ cups (HA +1 tablespoon) boiling water
2¼ cups sugar (HA reduce to 2 cups)
3 cups (HA + 3 tablespoons) buttermilk
4 eggs
¾ cups canola oil (HA reduce to ½ cup)
3¾ cups flour (HA + 3 Tablespoons)
3¾ teaspoons baking soda ( HA reduce to 3 teaspoons)
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or your favorite nuts.

Follow instructions precisely please!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Combine the All Bran and boiling water. Stir well with spoon and let stand
3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and oil, then add the sugar.
4. Combine and sift together in another bowl flour, soda, and salt
5. Combine All Bran mixture and liquid ingredients, stir well.
6. Add flour mixture and stir just until flour is incorporated (DO NOT OVER MIX or muffins will not have the right texture)
7. Bake in greased muffin pan in pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. I used cupcake paper liners and it worked well. I also did the large muffins in a muffin pan with paper liners. These I had to bake an extra 5 to 10 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick. If it comes out “clean,” your muffins are done. Remove from pan and let cool while you make the Lemon Glaze.

Lemon Glaze

In medium to large mixing bowl place 4 cups of powdered sugar. Grate 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon rind and add to sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3-4 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add lemon juice a tablespoon at a time. Glaze should be somewhat thick but loose enough to drizzle off the spoon. Drizzle over warm muffins. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of glaze and drizzle a bit more glaze on top of nuts. Serve warm or cool.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Day With Mom At Arroyo Grande Village

When I was five my folks moved to Arroyo Grande California.  My Dad just graduated from Dental School from Loma Linda University.  They bought a small tract house on Huasna Road.  There were only three houses, all newly built at the time.  I drove back to the old home place and the hills I played in as a child are now covered with homes. 

The Village has changed much too.  I went to Arroyo Grande Junior Academy and walked home from school every day through town on Branch Street.  If we had .25 we would stop at Don's Variety and buy nickle or pennny candies or a small trinket.  We also knew Buzz at Buzz's Barber shop.  His partner was Kelly who belonged to the group that ran the Portuguese Hall.  They would have Soapa Dinners every year and we would go over and serve pop in exchange for meals and sometimes tips.

They used to have back then the Harvest Festival.  It was great fun to go on rides or visit booths and get food or win small prizes.  We loved it. I understand that they still have it. They also have a Farmer's Market but that started after we moved away.

The park south of Branch street has been kept up nicely.  The foot bridge is there and is one of a kind.  I think it was built back in the early 1900's or there abouts.  North of Branch Street are the same old houses that were there when I was a kid.

Mom and I walked the streets and tried to recall what used to be there.  The old church is there and is called the Harvest. East of that is the Doc Burnstein's Icecream Lab. That place used to be Bernardo's Icrecream, I think.  The new owners fixed it up even more and it is a cute and quaint place to get genuinely great icecream. The old sewing and fabric shop is now The Old Village Grill.  They make the messiest and juiciest burgers.  There are tables on the sidewalk and all were full of happy slurrping customers.  Don's Variety is still a variety gift store but Don is long gone.  Don and his wife used to put their baby in a play pen in the window so he could watch the passers by.  The old Commercial Grocery Store is an empty building, or at least it looked that way.  One of the EC Loomis & Sons are still there and the building that I think used to be the lumbar yard is now an Antique store. Dr. Wical's office is now an Italian Restaurant. The Arroyo Grande Pharmacy is now a dress shop. Buzz's Barber shop is a gift shop and a guitar store. The butcher shop is still there but under another name.  The cycle shop around the corner is still there, though I don't know if it is still run by the same family.  The bars are still there. Amazing how those seem to flourish through the ages.

Next to the old church on the west side is a new shopping center with a restaurant called Alphies Broiler.  We sat on the patio and had soup and salad for lunch.  The soup was fantastic! It was vegetable soup that they make there with all fresh ingredients. They make their own vegetable stock from veggies they cook throughout the day.  It makes for a wonderful home made soup base. They make all their own sauces and dressings and just about everything right there and it shows.  Very fresh! Mom had the Salmon Salad and she really enjoyed it though it was a bit much for her.  It was a perfect day for eating on a sidewalk patio.  The owner came out and talked to us.  He bought the place 6 years ago from someone who tried to make a go of it.  He kept the name Alphies and he seems to be successful as most of the seats were full.  He also has a coffee shop two doors west and you can go in and order from there as well and eat lunch while enjoying a great cup of jo. This restaurant rates 4.8 stars out of five and I can see why.  You can check them out on the internet and there is a map to help you get there.  The price was reasonable and the food was great.

 When we were done with lunch we walked across the street to a store called A Sweet Shop Named Desire. They have great chocolates and fudge but the fun part about this shop is that they have a wall in the back that has the old candy bars that we used to be able to get as kids.  UNO chocolate bar was one of my favorites.  I didn't get one but I did get English Toffee because that is one of my Dad's favorites.  The owner talked with us and said they are putting in a wall of Jelly Bean dispensers by Friday of this week.  I will be back in Colorado by then but I do like a good Jelly Bean.  They also have a few antiques there and its fun to browse for unusual items.  The owner said that he does weddings.  Candy "bars" are a raging thing and he needs to do those to make the shop pay.  I liked the ambience and it was fun to see the nastolgia on the shelves.  I'm not sure what the store was before the candy shop went in. It could have been the hardware store.  Not sure. 

A friend of ours told us about a new store going in on the east side of town.  It is called The Chocolate Sheep. The owner is a former school teacher.  She has educational toys that you wouldn't find in places like Walmart.  She said the she and her mom took a Chocolatier Class and learned to make their own chocolates.  She gave us a sample of a chocolate gnache truffle with cocoa powder coating.  It was yummy! I bought a piece of dark chocolate almond bark.  It was equally as good.  I think she is going to put other types of gifts in there too. Besides chocolate she has frozen yogurt.  The store was pretty empty but I think more stuff is ordered and coming to fill it up.  I hope she is successful there.  Very friendly and good treats.

Because I am looking to possibly open a sandwich and sweet shop I am interested in what people have done.  We came across a bakery that I thought was perfect. It's on the north side of the street. Their signature cupcake, Chocolate Covered Cupcake was divine and their eclairs were great.  Thus the name Eclairs Bakery. The girl that served us said the owner bought the store several years ago. She has been working there since then and is loving it.  They make any cake you want.  Their slogan is "you dream it, we make it."  There were only three tables in the store for customers to sit at and two out side on the side walk.  You can go on line at  to see the kind of cakes they make and they are beautiful.   They also do pastries and coffee.  A great little place to visit town folks and sip coffee and nibble pastries.

It was fun to sit at a table on the sidewalk, smell the delicious smells in the candy store, and sit in the town bakery and enjoy good people and great pastries.  All in all it was a great day with my Mom and I am glad we got the chance to do it.  I recommend a day out with your Mom in Arroyo Grande Village or some similar quaint place.  It makes for great memories.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

California, Mom, Moles, and Cooking Up A Storm

I came out to California to help my mom after she had her eye surgery.  She is having cataracs removed and new lenses put in. My dad thinks he can help her and he probably can, but she needed a woman's touch, especially mine.  So nice to feel needed. We have had a great time together.  We just hung out the first day and I took it easy.  It was nice to have a break from the daily grind at home.  Mom had to have pre-op preparations like eye drops and cleaning her eyes with special solutions.  

Mom did well during the surgery.  I drove her up to her appointment in Arroyo Grande and got her settled in.  Dad came along and and when mom went in for her surgery I took dad to a nice little breakfast place. He didn't order anything but I did and he ended up eating half of my blueberry muffin.  We had a nice visit.  I haven't had the chance to just sit with dad and talk.  He is always off doing something.....hummmmm.....I think I inherited that trait.

The day following her surgery we did errands in town and went to the mall.  I asked her where she would like to go for lunch and she asked for "Red Robin" next to the shopping mall.  They have great shakes and onion rings there and she loves both.  She isn't feeling any pain.  Just a slight headache. After lunch we went shopping at Maceys and found a great sale.  Up to 80 per cent off and a bunch of stuff.  She found a pair of jeans and found two pair of jeans and four tops for around $90.  Since I don't get much of a chance to shop in Alamosa I bought!!!

Since I have been here I have had the chance to cook and taste test some of the recipes for my cookbook.  I am also doing extra so that I can put stuff in the freezer.  Mom and dad can pull something out after I leave and just heat it up.  That way mom doesn't have to worry about cooking until both eyes are feeling good in about a month.  I've made Savory Egg Pastry Puffs, Four Cheese Vegetarian Lasagna, Almond Coffee Cake, Gingerbread Cupcakes, and Poached Pears in Port Wine Sauce. All the recipes are in the recipe section of this blog.
California weather is beautiful right now.  It rained for a day or so in the beginning but is beautiful now so I've been walking for about an hour every day.  My shins are sore because they have lots of hills and valleys to go up and down.  Good for walking.  I'm sure when I get back home it will be freezing cold, the flowers will be dead, and the leaves all gone off the trees.

I went outside to see the yard and it's like taking your life in your hands.  They have a million moles digging tunnels everywhere in their yard.  I kept sinking into holes both in the orchard and in the lawn. Unbelievable!  What do you do to get rid of those things.  Dad says he sticks a hose into the hole and hopes to drown 'em.  Don't think that is working dad.  He doesn't use poison and he only has so many traps.  I think they are ganging up on him.  I fully expect to come and visit and just see the roof of the house sticking out of the ground because of a huge sink hole created by the tunneling moles.  It will be occupied by those nasty moles and mom and dad will be tied up in the closet somewhere with the hose turned on.

As long as I am here I want my mom to relax, enjoy home cooked meals she doesn't have to make, and not sink into any holes.  So just relax mom.   I think I have it all covered!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

This was the Winning Recipe from Betty Crocker fall baking contest. It is awesome. And I don’t really care for gingerbread. But this is very much worth eating!!!

Cupcake Batter:
1/2 cup granulated sugar (HA 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (HA + 2 TLBS)
1 teaspoon baking soda ( HA 3/4 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup water (HA + 1 TLBS)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons milk

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 18 regular-size muffin cups.

2. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, 1/2 cup butter, the molasses and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the allspice and water. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup.

3. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pans; place on cooling racks. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, the lemon peel, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. On low speed, gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth. Beat in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreadable.

5. Pipe or spread a generous amount of frosting on top of each cupcake. Store covered in refrigerator.