Category Archives: food

Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 3.31.27 PM My mom loves vanilla cake so I decided to make her a special vanilla bean cake for her birthday.  This cake will turn chocolate cake lovers into vanilla cake lovers.  It is extremely light and bursting with vanilla flavor.  It is very refreshing!

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste (5 vanilla beans)

Frosting

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 4 sticks of butter
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Vanilla bean paste from 2 vanilla beans

Directions:

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Prepare 2 or 3 9 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.  I did two so I could freeze the batter and use it later!
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time.
  5. Mix on medium for about 10 minutes for until very fluffy.
  6. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk into the egg mixture.  Mixing on low.
  8. Take out the paste from the vanilla beans and add it to the batter.
  9. Add the vanilla extract.
  10. Mix on medium until all is incorporated.
  11.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  12.  Let cool before frosting.

Frosting:

  1. Combine sugar and egg whites with a mixer.
  2. Put egg mixture into a pot and put on medium high heat.
  3. Whisk mixture for about 5 minutes until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Then bring back to stand mixer after the midrange has cooled.
  5. Mix for about 10 minutes until light and fluffy.
  6. Add butter one tablespoon at a time.
  7. Add vanilla and vanilla bean past.
  8. Frost cake and garnish with fresh raspberries.

This cake is extremely light and special.

Enjoy!

Lizzie

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Reese’s Cookie Cups

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My lacrosse team held a bake sale to raise money for epilepsy awareness.  My whole team pitched in to support our amazing team captain, Lauren Wemple, in her effort to raise awareness.  Instead of just making plain cookie cups I decided to put Reese’s on the bottom of the cookie cups.  They were a hit!  I would say they sold out within minutes!

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Recipe for the Cookies:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 bag of Reese’s

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar together.
  2. Add eggs one at a time and mix together.
  3. Add vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.
  5. Mix a half of the dry ingredients to the wet ones and repeat.
  6. Place a Reese’s at the bottom of the muffin cup.
  7. Place two tablespoons of cookie dough on top of the Reese’s.
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden.

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Chocolate Crackle Cookies

1Chocolate crinkles/crackles were a huge part of my childhood. Whenever we stopped by the local bakery, I would either get chocolate crackles or peanut butter cookies, without fail. I’ve wanted to make these for quite some time, but I am literally one of the worst cookie bakers ever — maybe it’s the oven, but they never come out quite right — but I finally decided to give it a shot.

After trying this recipe, I am inclined to say it is foolproof. The cookies were the perfect consistency and didn’t fall flat in the oven — just make sure you chill the dough thoroughly! I also would recommend adding a little extra cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup) to the batter if you want more chocolatey cookies.

3Here’s the recipe, from Martha Stewart:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling

4Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Chop bittersweet chocolate into small bits, and melt over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide the dough into quarters, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.
  3. On a clean countertop, roll each portion of dough into a log approximately 16 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, using confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking. Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and transfer to a baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes. Cut each log into 1-inch pieces, and toss in confectioners’ sugar, a few at a time. Using your hands, roll the pieces into a ball shape. If any of the cocoa-colored dough is visible, roll dough in confectioners’ sugar again to coat completely. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, 12 to15 minutes.
  4. Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

2Enjoy!!

— Halie

Baklava

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If you’ve ever had a bad experience with baklava and aren’t disposed to try this recipe, I hope you think again: I’ve always tried baklava at restaurants and have been seriously disappointed, but this recipe is simply addictive. I prefer my baklava without pistachios or honey, and I find that it is best served cold, rather than warm, because the sugar syrup tastes better. You can make this ahead and store at room temperature for days — it’ll keep a while, and only tastes better with a few days to let the sugars sink in.

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Baklava is also incredibly simple to make — it does require some patience, but it’s not a complex process. The key is to use a lot of butter between every single layer of phyllo — otherwise the pastry will flake apart after it’s been baked. (Plus, everything tastes better with butter.) To work with the phyllo, I recommend thawing it in the fridge for a good 4-8 hours before you begin baking. If it’s too frozen, it will flake, and if it’s too thawed it will be sticky and the layers impossible to separate. If it does flake apart (this happened to me when I made this batch of baklava), don’t worry — just try and fill the pan as best you can by piecing layers together.

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Finally, I recommend using a pyrex glass casserole dish for baklava (as pictured). Your baklava will bake perfectly and it’s just the right size for the phyllo sheets.

Here’s the recipe (adapted from here):

Ingredients

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (you can also substitute orange blossom water)

For the pastry:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed

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Directions

  1. To make sugar syrup, boil together sugar and water for about 2 minutes over high heat, being careful it does not burn or boil over. Just before removing from heat, stir in the rose water. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. To make the pastry, first clarify the butter. Melt in a pan over gentle heat. Spoon off the milky froth that rises to the top and the solid residue that settles to the bottom. One pound of butter should yield about 1 1/2 cups clarified butter. You can pour the butter into a mug for ease of use later on.
  3. Place walnuts and rose water in bowl of food processor and process in spurts until walnuts are minced. (The rose water helps keep walnuts from getting oily.) Add sugar and process briefly to mix well.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on a work surface. Open phyllo pastry and spread on the surface.
  6. Using the clarified butter and a pastry brush or clean paintbrush, butter a 10- by 14-inch baking pan liberally, bottom and sides. Place one sheet of phyllo pastry in bottom of pan (only half the sheet will fit). Butter surface of pastry, then fold the other half over and butter it. Proceed with the remaining sheets, buttering each one, until you have used about half the sheets in the box. The phyllo sheets should be somewhat crowded in the pan, folded up a little along the sides and at each end. Be sure to butter the corners of the pastry.
  7. Distribute the walnut mixture over the pastry in an even layer.
  8. Place the remaining phyllo sheets over the walnut mixture, again buttering liberally between each layer. When all the sheets have been used, cut the pastry with a sharp knife lengthwise into strips about 1 inch wide, then on the diagonal to make diamonds. Be sure to cut right down through to the bottom of the pan. Pour any remaining clarified butter over the top of the pastry.
  9. Place in oven for 30 minutes, then raise temperature to 425 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and immediately pour cold syrup over hot pastry. Set aside to cool to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy! This is a fantastic recipe, and great for entertaining — I guarantee it’ll be a hit.

— Halie

Restaurant Review: Franks Diner in Kenosha, WI

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I have become obsessed with watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network.  There are a good amount of restaurants that have been featured on the show in near Chicago, however, I chose to visit a small diner in Wisconsin this past weekend.  I drove up to Wisconsin with my mom for breakfast and we had a great time.  Franks Diner is in an old train car and the staff are full of character.  First, I ordered one of their homemade cinnamon rolls which was amazing!  Hands down the best cinnamon roll I have ever had.

BeFunky_Instant_1 My mom ordered oatmeal, which was also fantastic.

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I also ordered a garbage plate — one of the items they are famous for.  The garbage plate includes hash browns, eggs, onions, and bell peppers while including options to add different meats, vegetables, and cheeses.  I ordered a garbage plate with corned beef, and cheddar cheese.  It was fantastic.  The garbage plate also comes with toast, which is of course homemade and delicious.

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I wish I lived a little closer to this diner, but distance won’t stop me. I will be back for more!  I encourage you to visit this diner if you are ever in or near the Kenosha area.

Inside Franks! "Shut Up and Eat!"

Inside Franks! “Shut Up and Eat!”

You can check out the diner website here.

Kenosha is a small city on Lake Michigan, and I encourage you to walk down the walk from Franks’ to the beach.  The lighthouses were beautiful even in the 30-degree weather!

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Enjoy!

— Lizzie

10-Grain Muffins

Picture 2I love Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain hot cereal and when I saw a muffin recipe using the cereal I knew I had to try it.  These muffins are great for breakfast or snacking plus they are easy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup bob’s red mill multi grain cereal
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix the cereal and the buttermilk in a bowl.
  3. Let the cereal and buttermilk mixture sit for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cream the sugar and butter in a separate bowl.
  5. Add the egg and mix.
  6. Then add the dry ingredients and mix.
  7. Once 10 minutes has elapsed add the milk mixture stirring until combined.
  8. Spoon into muffin pan and bake for 15 minutes.

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These muffins are great, but I bet they would be even better if you added apples and honey or even raisins.  Let me know if you find any great mix-ins!

Enjoy!,

Lizzie

Dark Chocolate Tart with Oranges and Almonds

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Oranges, almonds, and — obviously — chocolate are some of my favorite ingredients ever. Hands down. I drink orange juice by the gallon, keep tubs of raw almonds on my desk (Target sells yummy raw almonds by the bucketful, believe it or not), and enjoy chocolate — but that’s just a normal-person thing.

I came across this 2003 Bon Appétit recipe on Epicurious by accident whilst browsing for food for our annual Christmas dessert party and knew I had to add it to my menu. I’ve never been a huge tart person, and indeed I’ve never made a tart, but this recipe screamed delicious: fudgy chocolate, chewy candied oranges, slivered almonds — all in a perfect, crumbly chocolate tart shell infused with cinnamon. Although this recipe has a few components that must be made separately (read: tart shell and candied oranges), it is overall quite easy (the filling comes together in, like, 60 seconds) and well worth the time spent making it!

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Here is the recipe. [My notes are in brackets.]

Ingredients

Candied Orange Peel:

  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Tart Crust: 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour

Filling:

  • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

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Directions

Candied Orange Peel:

  1. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (orange part only) from orange in strips [note: you can also use the cutting method from this post]. Cut strips into matchstick-size pieces and place in small saucepan. Cover with cold water; bring to boil. Cook 30 seconds; drain. [Note: this is to blanch the bitterness from the peels. I did this twice when I made this tart, and I highly recommend doing this. It is well worth the extra five minutes!]
  2. Rinse saucepan; add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and peel. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until peel is translucent and syrup is thick, about 20 minutes. Using tines of fork, transfer peel to plate and cool.
  3. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature. [Note: the peel doesn’t need to be made far in advance; it only takes 15 minutes to cool.]

Tart Crust:

  1. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl until smooth. Beat in cocoa powder. Add flour and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  2. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 11-inch round. Peel off top sheet of paper. Invert dough over 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Gently press dough into pan. Press dough overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with fork. Refrigerate 30 minutes. [Note: For the best use of your time, this is the best time to make the candied orange peels — while the tart crust is refrigerating. This will give the peels plenty of time to candy and then cool — and you can also bake the tart during the candying process.]
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until sides look dry and bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. Using back of spoon, press up sides of dough if falling. Cool completely.

Filling & Tart Assembly:

  1. Toss almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl. Chop all but 2 strips of peel. Sprinkle chopped orange peel, then almond mixture over bottom of prepared crust. Place cream in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth; mix in Grand Marnier. Pour into crust. Refrigerate until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with remaining 2 orange peel strips. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep refrigerated.)
  2. Using sharp knife, gently loosen crust from pan sides. Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges; serve cold.

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That’s it! This is a super easy recipe and I highly recommend it. It’s also great to make ahead, as the tart only gets more delicious with a few days in the fridge. This was one of the hits of the night at my Christmas party (aside from the baklava, which really stole the show — recipe coming soon), and can be one at your next event too! (Or just make it for yourself — I won’t judge.)

— Halie