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Sorry for such a long absence!  Summers around here are usually pretty busy and three days of the week are spent at our cabin with no internet access.  I do plenty of cooking and baking, but very little documenting.  We had a great summer.  Beautiful weather, a lot of late days on the lake, and late nights on the deck.  We can’t wait for next summer to do it all again, but for now are enjoying what has so far been a very gorgeous, yet very busy fall.

For this week’s Sweet Melissa selection JoVonn of the Givens Chronicles chose Sweet Melissa’s Peanut Brittle.  I love peanut brittle and have never made it before.  I actually kind of like making candy, though it does terrify me a little bit.  I just have this thing against getting burned, even little minor finger tip burns freak me out.  I successfully managed to make this brittle without incident, and found the recipe to be quite easy.

I was in the mood for some fall flavors, so I added 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and replaced 2 TBS of the butter with 2 TBS of canned pumpkin puree.  I think the pumpkin made the brittle a bit chewier than normal and the pumpkin pie spice gave it a nice kick.

 

I love the orange color of this brittle.

Great selection, JoVonn!  Please visit her blog for the recipe and check out what the other Sweet Melissa bakers made this week!

 

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday selection was chosen by Gloria of The Ginger Snap Girl.  She appropriately chose gingersnaps!  The timing of this recipe could not have been better.  My brother was in town and is a huge fan of gingersnaps.

These cookies had great flavor.  They were chewy, which disappointed me since I like the crunch of gingersnaps that come in a box, or a bag.  Those are so crunchy they hurt my mouth (in a good way) but I think that’s hard to replicate with fresh baking.  My brother, the true ginger snap connoisseur, loved them!  He probably ate 2/3 of the batch on his own!

This is all that was left of the cookies!

These cookies bake up flat and I think would really benefit from some icing.  Or sandwich some fluffy frosting between two of them!   These would be a perfect addition to a Christmas cookie exchange.

Please visit this post for the recipe.  Thanks Gloria for your very timely selection!

Visit the Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers list to see what everyone else did with this recipe.

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe was chosen by Ellen of Blue Tree Green Heart.  This recipe could not have been simpler and was exactly what I needed!  I love macaroons and was eyeing up the Two-Bite Macaroons from Whole Foods the other day when I realized this week’s recipe was macaroons!  Craving solved.

I’m not kidding when I say this dough came together in maybe 5 minutes.  The hardest part was separating the eggs.  And how hard is that?!?  The recipe suggests you finely chop good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, which I imagine would result in a chocolate flavored macaroon versus one with bites of chocolate in it.  I decided to go with good-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips anyway to save time.  The recipe also states that you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  How easy is that?  So, I made 1/2 a batch and will back of the rest in a few days.

ready for baking

I did omit the orange zest since I do not like orange and chocolate together.  Why ruin perfectly good chocolate with fruit?  Makes no sense to me.

ready for the taking

The next time I make these, and judging from the many requests from my husband and the other two in our office it will be soon, I will omit the chocolate and maybe dip half of them into melted chocolate.  They’d be like an Almond Joy then.  Well, a Mounds anyway.  Sometimes you feel like a nut…

A quick google search told me that the coconut I used is gluten free, which means my nephew can have a few of these!  This recipe just keeps getting better and better…

To view the recipe check out Ellen’s blog, and visit the other SMS bakers to see more variations.  Thanks Ellen!  This recipe is definitely a keeper in our house.

This past week was CRAZY – no time for SMS.  We had a graduation, a work happy hour, a graduation party, a long drive to Wisconsin, a wedding and a long drive back from Wisconsin.  Whew.  I’m exhausted.   I will make the pralines this week since I have all the ingredients.  I’ll share them with our friends coming up to our cabin this weekend and then share the results with all of you!

Go check out Tess’ blog – The Cookin’ Chemist – for the recipe and a brief history on pralines.  Hers look really good – like so good I could almost taste the butterscotch-y, sugary-y goodness.  I’m looking forward to making these!  Also, check out the other fabulous SMS bakers – you will be sure to get inspired! These ladies are up to some great things any day of the week.

I did finally try out my new baked mini-donuts pan. Fabulous. These little guys are so frickin’ cute I can hardly stand it.

Mini-donuts

I tried a recipe I found off tastespotting and it was just OK, so I’m not going to link to it.  I think next time I’m going to make the recipe that came off the back of the pan’s packaging.  There is more fat in that recipe which will likely make a tastier donut.  Fat = Yummy.  I made 4 different varieties – powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar, chocolate glaze and a vanilla glaze.

vanilla glazed mini donuts with sprinkles

The vanilla glaze was by far my favorite but in no way satisfied my craving for donuts.  I’ll keep playing with the pan and trying out different recipes and will share the best one I find.  Stay tuned…

bourbon salted caramel sauce

Wow!  Is it Sunday already?  The days have been flying by!  Ater a week of rain we finally had a beautiful weekend.  Let summer begin!  We spent yesterday on our boat at our cabin.  It was a gorgeous day for bar hopping around the lake, soaking up the sun.  It felt great.  The last thing I wanted to do was go home and bake, so I didn’t!  I waited until the very last minute, as usual.  (My mom is reading this and rolling her eyes, thinking that some things never change).

mini bread pudding

This week’s SMS was chosen by Carmen of Baking is My Zen.  Carmen, unlike me, is ahead of the game with this recipe!  She chose it because she wants to get a head start on her holiday baking and try out recipes before the big day (Thanksgiving).  Carmen, you over-acheiver!!  You’re making the rest of us look bad…Well, I for one am glad she chose this recipe because I will make this bread pudding again.  I’ll just wait for a less than perfect day to do it!

Despite the rather long list of to-dos with this recipe it came together quite quickly.  I made the bread pudding in a 2 qt baking dish and 1 little ramekin since our friend is having us over for dinner and I said I’d bring dessert.  Rather than make the recommended rum raisin caramel sauce with this pudding I made a salted caramel bourbon sauce.  I just heated up a 1/2 tsp of fleur de sal with the cream while cooking the sugar and water and added 1 TBS of bourbon at the end.  I had a bite after I was done taking pictures and it is really good.  I might stop and get some vanilla ice cream on my way to my friend’s house, or maybe whip up some cream since I think it will benefit from something cold with it. (Plus, it’s not really rich enough with the 8 eggs and 2 cups of cream…ahem).

Go to Carmen’s blog to get the recipe (and check out her AWESOME photo tutorial – well done!).  You won’t regret it.  And check out what the other SMS bakers did this week.  I’m always inspired by these ladies.

mmmmm....caramel sauce

This week’s challenge was hosted by Chaya of My Sweet and Savory.  Chaya chose Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble.  Melissa’s book includes a basic sweet muffin recipe and several variations to that recipe – the orange blueberry muffins are just one of several variations.

Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble

Blueberry muffins are a classic and the addition of orange zest (which you rub into the flour mixture to release all the oils, something I have never heard of doing) really comes through.  The pecan crumble was out of this world.  I like a muffin with a topping!  Of course, since I have nut haters in my family I only made 1/2 the muffins with the topping and those without it were still good.

Ugh...such a terrible picture...

This was a great recipe and I love the versatility.  There is also a savory muffin recipe and several interesting pairings that go along with that in the book (like bosc pear and blue cheese – yum!).  The muffins came together quickly – they could easily be made the morning of a brunch.  My only complaint (and I generally have many…ask my family and friends!) is that I chose to make these muffins on the cloudiest/rainiest/darkest day we’ve had in a long time so my pictures are terrible!  To get the recipe go to Chaya’s blog or buy the book!  To see what the other fabulous SMS bakers did this week check out their sites.  Thanks Chaya for giving me my go-to muffin recipe!

On a more personal note I wanted to say that my husband and I are looking to adopt.  This is something we have given much thought and consideration and has been about 1 year in the planning/research stages.  We are working with an agency here in Minneapolis and plan on utilizing their services to help get matched with a birthmother.  As you can imagine there is a significant amount of wait time in doing that so we are going to do our own outreach as well.  I started a website to help attract potential matches and will do some other outreach as well.  I invite you to check out the website (there is also a link on my blogroll) and keep us in mind if you or someone you know is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.  That’s probably all I’m going to say about that on here and keep this space as my own…

Thanks for reading!

If there was one recipe in the entire Sweet Melissa Baking Book that screamed “Tracey” it would be this recipe.  The peanut butter/chocolate combination is my favorite flavor combo (with salted caramel being a close second).  Ever since I was little I have loved peanut butter cups, chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter and nutella sandwiches (those were the days – I’d never eat one now!) or just dipping chunks of chocolate into peanut butter.  My palate has changed, and maybe even become a bit more sophisticated, but I will always go back to this flavor combination.  It’s a classic.

I was even more excited to make these after reading the recipe and discovering they are gluten free (or can be made gluten free with the right chocolate and peanut butter choices).  My nephew is on a gluten free diet, not because he has celiac, but because he has some sort of gluten intolerance.  I was babysitting him last week so the timing was perfect.

Peanut Butter Truffles

I’ve never made truffles before but have made plenty of ganache.  There really isn’t a big difference.  I used 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate and 6 oz of milk chocolate because I love milk chocolate with peanut butter.  I just divided the peanut butter infused cream in 1/2 to make the two batches.  The milk chocolate ones were definitely more difficult to roll into balls.  They were very soft, even after sitting in the fridge overnight.  Maybe because of the milk fat?  I have no idea.  I do know that the milk chocolate flavor brought out the peanut butter flavor more so than the bittersweet chocolate did.  The bittersweet chocolate really overpowers the peanut butter flavor.

Peanut Butter Truffles neatly lined up

Since I live with some nut haters I rolled 1/2 of them in cocoa powder and the other 1/2 in crushed peanuts.  The peanuts give the truffles a nice texture.  Had I not been babysitting a 2 1/2 year old I would have tried to dip these in melted chocolate.  I think a crunchy outside would really go nicely with the creamy soft inside.  Next time.

Thanks to Mara of Love Your Mother for hosting this week.  For the recipe visit her blog or go buy the book!

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