Sweet Stuff

Orange-Ginger Poppyseed Mini Muffins

I LOVE to make mini muffins.  They are perfect little bites of deliciousness that appeal to kids and adults.  I have my favorite recipes but am always looking for a new one to add to the mix.  I found a Southern Living recipe recently that I tweaked a little and now am really happy with it.  I think you will be too! The key to muffins is to not over-mix or over-bake. Those little holes you sometimes see in muffins are from over-mixing. Appropriately called “tunnels.” No tunneling now, ya hear! You can make these by hand, electric mixer not required!  [amd-zlrecipe-recipe:14]

“Carrot” Covered Strawberries

I saw these beautiful treats on the Harry & David website and decided to give it a go myself.  I was very pleased with how they turned out.  Most people love chocolate covered strawberries and this way gives it a fun twist for Easter.  Here’s exactly how I did these.  I’m including the Tips and Tricks I use.

-For dipping, choose berries that have nice green tops, dark red flesh, and are relatively the same size.
-For the covering, I used orange Wilton Candy Melts.  They are basically colored white chocolate disks.
-Rinse the berries and lay out on a towel to dry. A big key to success is to have berries as dry as possible before dipping.
-In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the candy melts for 1 minute on 50% power and stir.  Continue melting and stirring in 30-second increments until candy is completely smooth.
-Gather the entire green top of each berry into your fingers before dipping, with none of the leaves hanging down to get into the chocolate.
-Holding the strawberries by the green tops, dip and “roll” them until the orange covering comes as close to the base of the green as possible.  Tilting the bowl helps.  The goal is to have none of the red berry showing.  (If there is any showing, push the green tops down a little to hide it once the berries are on the paper.)
-Shake off excess chocolate and lay each berry on waxed paper or parchment (lay berry on its side).
-Give it 10 minutes or so to set up.
-Pour more of the candy melts into a disposable pastry bag and microwave in 30-second increments on 50% power to melt, squishing the bag in your hands between time increments until completely melted.  Snip off the end of the bag for piping.
-Set a rack over a baking sheet and place the dipped berries on the rack.
-With a sweeping motion, pipe lines of melted candy on the berries, being sure to sweep wide, “off” the berry so that some runs down through the rack.  This will create the layered effect of orange on orange that looks so pretty. The lines should be 1/4″-1/2″ apart. Doesn’t need to be perfect!  Ok to cross them over.
-Once the berries are set again, place on waxed paper or parchment, cover and store in the refrigerator.

That’s it!

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake for Valentine’s Day

This past Valentine's Day I wanted to do something really special and challenging, so I searched Pinterest for a knockout Valentine's dessert.  Found it and here it is. The layers don't show up all that well in the photo, but there are three different colors.  I chose to add only a tiny bit of pink food coloring to the raspberry layer because I prefer a more natural color to the artificial pink.  The cake wasn't difficult, it just took quite a while to complete because I had to wait for each layer to set up before proceeding.  But as I watched my family members' eyes roll back into their heads with delight, I knew it was worth it!  Go ahead and give it a try.  I dare ya!

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

Prep Time: 2 Hours Cooking Time: 25 Mins Total Time: 2 Hours 25 Mins


     For the Brownie Layer:

    • 3⅓ oz (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
    • 2 oz (2/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • 4 oz unsalted butter
    • 7¾ oz (1 cup +2 tbsp) granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract

     For the Chocolate Mousse:

    • 9 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1¾ cups heavy cream, divided use
    • Pinch salt
    • 2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
    • 2 tbsp water

    For the Raspberry Mousse:

    • 1½ cups fresh raspberries
    • 9 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1½ cups heavy cream, divided use
    • Pinch salt
    • 2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
    • 2 tbsp water
    • Pink food coloring, optional

    For the Vanilla Mousse:

    • 9 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1½ cups heavy cream, divided use
    • 4 tbsp honey
    • Pinch salt
    • 2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
    • 2 tbsp water
    • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)

     To Finish:

    • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 4 oz heavy cream
    • 1 pint fresh raspberries
    • Chocolate curls or other decorations


      To Make the Brownie Layer:

      1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment and spray well with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside for now.
      2. Cube the butter and place it in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally as the butter melts. Add the sugar, and stir until it melts. Don’t allow the mixture to come to a boil.
      3. Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool to lukewarm. Once it has cooled, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well between each addition. The mixture will start out grainy, but as you add the eggs, it will become shiny and smooth. Whisk the vanilla in. Finally, add the dry ingredients, and stir them in with a spatula.
      4. Scrape the brownie batter into the prepared pan, and bake it for 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool the brownie layer completely before proceeding.

      To Make the Mousse Layers:

      1. Prepare your pan. You need a 9-inch pan with sides at least 3 inches tall, and the ability to remove the bottom. Either a cake pan with a removable bottom or a springform pan will work. Line the inner wall with a 4-inch high acetate cake collar or strip of aluminum foil or waxed paper. Make sure the acetate or waxed paper is long enough so that it overlaps itself, and if you are using foil/waxed paper, make sure you cut the strip tall enough to extend at least an inch over the pan’s sides, since the cake is about 4 inches tall.
      2. Place a cake cardboard in the bottom of the pan, then carefully place the baked brownie on top of the cardboard. Prepare the chocolate mousse layer: combine the chocolate, ¾ cup of cream, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour it into a large bowl, and let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
      3. While you wait for the chocolate mixture to cool, prepare the gelatin. Whisk together the gelatin and the cold water in a small bowl, and set it aside to let the gelatin absorb the water. When the chocolate is at room temperature, microwave the bowl of gelatin for 15 seconds, until it is melted. Whisk the melted gelatin and chocolate together.
      4. Whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream to firm peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate, and once it’s incorporated, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mousse on top of the brownie, and spread it into an even layer. Refrigerate the cake for 25 minutes, until the mouse has started to set and is firm enough that a second layer can be added.
      5. For the raspberry mousse, make a quick puree by blending ½ cup fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor. Pour them through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds, and measure out ¼ cup raspberry puree. (If you have extra puree, save it for another use.)
      6. Combine the white chocolate, raspberry puree, ½ cup of heavy cream, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Continue to make this layer the same way you made the chocolate layer, by melting and cooling the chocolate, whisking in melted gelatin, and folding in whipped cream. Add a few drops of pink food coloring to boost the pink color, if desired. At the very end, stir in the remaining 1 cup of fresh raspberries and pour the mousse over the chocolate mousse layer. Spread it into an even layer, and refrigerate again.
      7. Finally, prepare the vanilla bean layer. Combine the white chocolate, ½ cup heavy cream, honey, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Continue to make this layer the same way you made the previous two layers. At the very end, stir in the vanilla bean paste and pour the mousse over the raspberry mousse layer. Refrigerate to set the mousse layers very well, at least 4 hours or overnight.
      8. To finish the cake, push the bottom out from the pan, or unhinge the sides, and unwrap the acetate strip. Transfer the cake to your serving platter. Make a quick chocolate ganache by putting the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and heating the cream to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth, shiny mixture.
      9. Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, and use a spatula to nudge it right to the edge and over in evenly spaced drizzles. Don’t worry if the top is not smooth—it will be covered up! Add the fresh raspberries and chocolate curls on top of the cake. Refrigerate to set the ganache.
      10. For the cleanest slices, cut the cake when it is well chilled. Use a large sharp knife, and wash it frequently between cuts. For the best taste and texture, allow the cake slices to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving.
      11. Store Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

      Pumpkin Chocolate Nut Quick Bread

      chocolate pumpkin nut breadThis autumn treat falls into my husband’s “Get this stuff out of the house before I eat it all” category.  Consequently, I make it, we gobble up a few pieces and then I slice it and wrap it for sharing at my next school meeting, work appointment or social gathering.  I love the smiles that spread around the room when I walk through the door with freshly baked treats.  It’s how I sprinkle a little stardust wherever I go and keep my hubby  (and myself) from doing that kitchen fly-by thing we do when there is something tempting on the counter.    So here it is.. a moist and delicious “totable” treat for you to sample and share.  I keep these ingredients on hand to have a quick go-to when I need to come up with a baked good for company, hostess gifts, or other gatherings.   You can also bake this into muffins, just increase temperature to 375 and decrease baking time (time depends on the size of your muffins).  My son and his friends like the muffins best, especially when I leave out the nuts and double the chocolate.



      When your fruit needs a dress

      Everyone in my family loves fruit salad but I’ll admit it can get kind of boring.  One way to make it visually more interesting is to cut the fruit in different shapes and serve in pretty beverage glasses.  To liven up the flavor, try this twist on a fruit salad dressing I learned in culinary school.  A bonus:  The dressing keeps the fruit from turning brown.

      Fruit Salad Dressing
      -Equal parts orange, lemon and lime juice
      -Lime zest
      -Chopped mint
      -Honey or Maple syrup to taste

      Mix all together and adjust sweetness to your liking and to fit the kind of fruit you’re serving.  Toss with fruit and chill.

      Almond Joy Brownies are an easy treat for a busy weekend

      I found this sweet little recipe recently in The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book.  I have found much simple success over the years by stirring stuff into brownie mix.  And most kids and husbands really like brownies!  My favorite brownie mix is Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme.  It has a wonderful rich chocolate flavor and can be used whenever you need a basic brownie mix for a recipe.  If there are other wet ingredients included in the recipe, I just leave out the chocolate syrup packet that comes in the box.  Here are some tips for making brownies:

      -Line the pan with foil with an inch or two over-hang
      -Cool completely in the pan and then remove using the foil “handles”
      -Carefully remove the brownies from the foil and place on a cutting board
      -Use a small serrated knife or even a plastic knife to cut them
      -Make small back and forth “sawing” motions to cut the brownies with the least amount of destruction.  If you slice through them in long strokes, the edges tend to tear and look ragged.

      Here’s the Almond Joy Brownie recipe


      Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is just heavenly!

      We went on a Caribbean cruise last year and, of course, the food was a highlight!  There was one menu item that held special prominence, especially for my hubby.  It was the warm chocolate melting cake on the dinner dessert menu.  We were there for seven nights and big daddy had six of them!  Why only six, you might wonder?  We went to a specialty restaurant one evening and they didn’t serve it!  This man LOVED that dessert!  Admittedly, he wasn’t the only one.  Little man and Mama had their share as well.  After much searching, I found a recipe that is pretty darn close.  The key is to bake it just the right amount of time so that it’s cooked on the edges but not in the middle, hence the melting part.  I baked a test cake first to get the timing right before I screwed up the whole batch.  So go ahead and indulge a little.  Just pretend you’re on a cruise where you don’t count calories.

      Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

      Orange Balls and Chocolate Bon Bons Take Center Stage in Candy Land

      What could be better than holiday cookies?  Cookies AND candy! A tired dish makes for an attractive way to offer a variety of items at holiday gatherings.   For gift giving, I use pretty holiday muffin cup liners to separate the different confections in a basket or tin.  You can also wrap the different items in clear treat bags tied with a ribbon and place them in a holiday mold or loaf pan.  Don’t forget a little label to tell the recipients what they’re about to enjoy.  I also label all the food served at holiday parties.  It sure saves the host from repeating the food names over and over.  Here are two of my favorite confections that just fly off the serving plates!

      Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bon Bons

      Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bon BonsNana’s Orange Balls

      orange balls

      Gettin’ Close to that Cookie Time of Year!

      I LOVE to make cookies. Always have.  One of the most fun aspects of the holiday season is making cookies!  My mom and I used to start weeks ahead of time making a different kind of cookie every couple of days.  We would look through a bunch of recipe books and mark those that looked good.  Of course, Daddy had to pick out a few.  (He always went for the ones with pictures).  We got into the habit of taking cookie requests from various members of the family so many of my recipes are marked as “someone’s favorite cookie.” After making our grocery runs we’d crank up the kitchen and go into full cookie mode. Normally one of us had to guard the freshly baked cookies from my dad long enough for them to cool  so we could whisk them safely into the freezer.  But then there was the day we came home and found him sitting in front of Oprah with a variety plate of cookies, looking a little guilty as we entered the living room.  Mom says, “I thought all those cookies were in the freezer?”  “They were!” he says.  After getting busted that one big time, Daddy took to sneaking frozen cookies one at a time in hopes that we wouldn’t notice.  We usually managed to save enough of them for cookie trays that we delivered to friends and neighbors.    I have continued my cookie tradition into married life, starting my cookie plans in November each year.  I try to mix in a few new ones each year along with everyone’s requested faves.  Cookies are great for swaps, gifts, office trays, family parties, or just snacking from the freezer.  So, now that you’re inspired, let’s talk cookie!   I’m going to start with two oldie but goodie recipes.  You’ve probably eaten these two your whole life and I’ll bet you still enjoy them.  You don’t really improve on simple perfection when it comes to these two old stand-bys.

      No-Bake Peanut Oatmeal Cookies

      Crisco Chocolate Chip Cookies