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!


In celebration of Cinco de Mayo this week I decided to make a tres leches Cake.  This also satisfies my (self-imposed) rule to make 2 recipes out of each food magazine I subscribe to, so it’s a win for everyone.

Tres Leches Cake with Cool Whip (not whipped cream!)

A few years ago I was watching the Martha Stewart Show.  She had some woman on who was going to make a lighter version of a tres leches cake.  I can get behind this since I often try to adapt recipes to make them slightly less unhealthy.  I’m not trying to fool anyone but my husband, who will only try certain foods if he believes them to be light – weirdo.  She used a reduced fat milk, fat-free evaporated skim milk and fat-free sweetened condensed milk.  So, in the spirit of the lighter tres leches cake she put Cool Whip on the cake.   Martha was appalled.  She would never use Cool Whip in her kitchen.  How gouache.  You would have thought the woman smuggled in some imitation vanilla extract (gasp!).  After the tongue lashing, Martha actually started whipping her own cream to put on top of her cake.  It was ridiculous.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually adore Martha Stewart, but sometimes the way she belittles her guests grates on me.  So now, tres leches will always remind me of her, and not some trip to Mexico I’ve taken or a memorable meal at a restaurant.  Thanks Martha!

Lately recipes for a tres leches cake have shown up in a lot of the magazines I receive.  And, the cake has been popping up on several restaurant menus.  This makes me think tres leches cake is destined to be the new red velvet and since I am one to always follow trends (rather than start them!) I had to make one.  And, as an homage to that poor woman on the Martha Stewart Show, I was going to use Cool Whip.

you can actually see how moist (wet) this cake is!

I adapted a recipe from the May issue of the Food Network Magazine by using fat-free evaporated skim milk and fat-free sweetened condensed milk.  I did use the whole milk it called for mainly because I like to have whole milk in the house.  It’s so good in coffee.  You could use a reduced fat milk, I’m sure, though I wouldn’t use skim.  The cake came together beautifully and smelled wonderful while baking.  After it bakes you need to pour 2 cups of milk, a can of evaporated milk and a can of sweetened condensed milk.  This was a lot of liquid for a 8 inch square cake!  I took my time and made sure each drop was absorbed before I started pouring more.  I was worried it would flood out of the pan!

My husband and I loved this cake but our 9-year-old thought it was too “wet”.  When Dan corrected her and told her she meant moist, she corrected him and said “no, I mean wet!”.  She was right – it was very wet, but we loved it.  I’d definitely make it again, with the lighter modifications, as an ending to a Mexican themed dinner party.  It’d be delicious after grilled fish tacos.  I always need balance after I eat something as healthy as grilled fish!

mmmmm....wet cake

Tres Leches Cake

(adapted from Food Network Magazine May 2010)


  • Vegetable oil for greasing
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk (I used fat-free)
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (I forgot this bit…oops…)
  • Cool Whip (To piss Martha off further I used LIGHT Cool Whip.  The horror!)
  • Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Make the cake: Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer until pale and slightly thick, about 6 minutes. Slowly beat in the melted butter, then beat in the vanilla and 1/4 cup whole milk.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula to make a thick batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Run a knife along the edges to release the cake from the pan.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 cups whole milk, the evaporated milk, condensed milk and rum in a bowl. Pierce the warm cake all over with a fork, then pour the milk mixture gradually and evenly on top, letting the cake absorb the liquid until all is used. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Top each piece with Cool Whip, sprinkle with cinnamon.  Enjoy!

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!

Take a look at what my mom has been up to.  She designed these blocks (the panda and the elephant) herself.  Are you freaking kidding me?!?  I wish I had half that talent.  Well done Mom!

Appliqued Elephant

Appliqued Panda

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my food magazine “collection” (which I know is just another word for crazy) and what I can do with all of these magazines I subscribe to each month.  It’s seriously out of control, and is not helping by offering $5 subscriptions!  I do enjoy reading all of the magazines I receive but only make a few new things each month, so I decided to make at least 2 recipes out of each magazine, each month.  If several months go by and I’m not making anything then I’m not going to renew that magazine.  I swear.  This will help weed out some of the magazines I get and hopefully we will discover new recipes we enjoy making and eating.

I have been getting Everyday Food for years and love that magazine-lette (it’s wee…it’s not a full-blown magazine).  I typically make several dishes from each issue and many of their recipes are my go-to recipes when I don’t know what to make.  Their Lentil Soup from 2003 is one of those.  It’s quick, delicious and often requested by friends and family.  It’s the perfect winter soup recipe and is vegetarian to boot.  Another favorite (and also vegetarian) is their Quick Chickpea Curry recipe from the Jan 2010 issue.  This is not something we would normally eat.  I love Indian food, but prefer an Indian buffet rather than just one dish for the variety.  This curry was quick (as the name implies) and was a perfect lunch to whip up while we both were working from home.

Quick Chickpea Curry from Everyday Food

You can find the recipe here or below:

Quick Chickpea Curry

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Chopped cilantro and lemon wedges (optional), for serving


  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until dark brown around edges, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, curry, cinnamon, and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add chickpeas, ketchup, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 minutes. Uncover, and increase heat to medium-high; cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro, with lemon wedges alongside if desired.

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays was hosted by Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.  I’ve always enjoyed reading her blog (and not just because she spells her name like me!).  This week’s recipe was Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie.  Rhubarb is big in Minnesota, and a spring/summer staple around our house.  I first had it about 10 years ago at my friend’s parent’s house when they made a very quick, very delicious rhubarb crisp made from rhubarb plucked straight from their yard.  I’d never had rhubarb before and loved the fact that you could make something so delicious from a weed growing out of your flower beds.  I took some freshly cut stalks home with me that night and have held an appreciation for home grown food since then.  My grandparents were gardeners, growing typical Italian produce.  I was too young (and not yet a foodie) to fully appreciate the abundance of tomatoes and peppers that was available, but fondly remember getting together at their house to can the tomatoes and hot peppers.  This is actually something that I’ve started to do (with the help of my mom), though it’s tough to find bushels of roma tomatoes in Minnesota!

Pile of strawberries and rhubarb

As the weather turns warmer we are starting to plant our own garden.  Last year we planted some rhubarb that is slowly starting to reach the stage where we can pick it and enjoy it.  Rhubarb, like asparagus, has as 1 season grow period so we couldn’t touch it last year.  I hope we have a large crop this year, because this cobbler pie will be made again!  My only issue with it (and I have this problem with every fruit pie) is that the juices didn’t thicken up as well as I would have liked.  It likely required more baking time, though I did bake it for the entire 1 hour and 10 minutes, or more corn starch.  The taste was excellent and paired nicely with some vanilla bean ice cream.

juices bubbling - fresh out of the oven

Go check out Tracey’s blog.  She has the recipe posted, or if you have the Sweet Melissa Baking Book the recipe is in there.  Thanks Tracey for this very seasonal pick!

this morning's breakfast - straight out of the pie plate!

In September 2008 my mom gave me her old new sewing machine (she preferred her older one) after she moved out of her house in Ohio.  I, an avid knitter who always said “knitters make the fabric with their hands, sewers just use a machine to sew the fabric together”, really took to sewing.  So instant!  So gratifying!  So unlike knitting!  The exception to this instant gratification of sewing for me is quilting.  I much prefer throwing together a little wristlet or pillow than carefully selecting fabric, cutting the pieces out, sewing the pieces back together and then, then, you have to make a back, sandwich that together with a layer of batting, sew the sandwich together and put a binding on.  Exhausting!  Plus, I have no patience.  But, I love the look and feel of quilts and the idea of making something so comforting.  (Not that a purse does not give you comfort…)  The first quilt I made, with a lot of help, was froma Kaffe Fasset kit my mom gave me.  This took out the need to choose fabrics on my own, which I think was the point.  I learned to piece squares, and hopefully get the corners to match up.  My mom helped me quilt it (by helped, I mean she quilted it!) and put the binding on.  Then she left.  I was on my own with a sewing machine.  Not quite knowing where to start, I dragged my friend to a quilt fair with me.  She is a knitter also, so I was really hoping there would be some yarn around to make the trip worth while for her.  We came across the Crafty Planet booth (I’ve mentioned before how much I adore Crafty Planet!)  where they were selling 1 yard cuts and fat quarters (and yarn too!).  I picked out a bunch of Amy Butler prints, and some other unidentified prints.

Amy Butler prints

After a few more trips to Crafty Planet I had enough fabric to make a quilt! And had spend a small fortune…

Perfect for a chilly spring morning!

I pieced it on my own, waited for my mom to get back into town and she quilted it for me.  I only have made 4 quilts ever, this one being number 2, but I can already tell where I went wrong in choosing the fabric.  This pattern needed fabric with small prints and a very, very subtle background.  I thought my polka-dots were subtle enough, but I find them distracting.  I do still find this quilt very pleasing.  I love the colors, and the backing.

Amy Butler backing

On an unrelated note, I’d like to mention how thrilled and honored I am to have my quilt featured on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog as a Quilt of the Day!  So. Exciting.  If you’re finding me from their website – welcome!  When they emailed me to ask if they could feature that quilt (duh! of course you can!) it motivated me to start posting more and to take more pictures of projects I have done.  Thank you Kristin and the Sew, Mama, Sew! team!


A few years ago my friend Melissa gave me the Sweet Melissa Baking Book as a gift.  I never made anything from it for no other reason other than sheer laziness., blogs, magazines, etc. were all easier resources for me to use when searching for recipes, though I did often see references to the cookbook (or baking book as it were) in the blog-osphere.  I did come across the Sweet Melissa Sundays group and thought this would be a good way to try a bunch of difference recipes from this revered baking book and an excuse to have baked goods at least once a week!

Oranges and Cinnamon

Mermaid Sweets
chose this week’s recipe – Sweet Potato Bread with Cinnamon-Orange-Rum Glaze – and I will admit, this is not one of the recipes that jumped out at me when I first perused this book.  I never would have tried this recipe were it not for the SMS group and I thank you for it!  This bread cake (who are we kidding calling it a bread?!?) is so unbelievably moist and the cinnamon-rum-orange glaze gives it a nice flavor and helps seal all that moisture in.

This is what you will need:

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Bread

I had never purchased/had a use for/thought about using canned sweet potatoes prior to this recipe.  They smelled like baby food and looked a little strange and pathetic in the can.  I think canned pumpkin or pureed butternut squash would substitute nicely for the sweet potatoes.  (If you’re anything like me and freaked out when Libby’s said there was a pumpkin shortage this past Thanksgiving,  you have TONS of canned pumpkin lying around.)    I like to make recipes as-is the first time around before deciding on substitutions or alterations so I stuck with the canned sweet potatoes.  Nuts are an exception to this rule.  I love nuts but my husband and step-daughter do not, so I find myself leaving them out of most recipes.  It’s a shame, too, because the recommended pecans would work very well in this bread cake.  I also think topping it with a more marshmallowy frosting would work well around Thanksgiving as a twist on the classic sweet potato dish we’ve all had.

Just out of the oven

Visit the Mermaid Sweets blog for the recipe or go out and buy the book!  There are some really great recipes in there and I’m looking forward to trying out a lot of them over the next several months.

It’s been unseasonably warm in Minnesota and we’re seeing signs of Spring weeks earlier than we usually do.  No complaints here, but after yesterday’s post reverting back to the Super Bowl – amazing what a look through iPhoto will drudge up – I thought I’d bring it back to the here and now…

Angel Food with Berries and Cream

Angel Food with Berries and Cream

Since it was in the mid-70s and we were having some friends over for BBQ chicken I thought a summery berry cake would be a good ending.  This cake was delicious and I have spent most of the day thinking about it.  I cannot wait to get home and have a slice!

Angel Food with Berries and Cream

1 store-bought Angel Food Cake (not a loaf)

12 oz  – 1/3 less fat cream cheese

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 80z tub of Cool Whip (thawed) – I used the light Cool Whip

Assorted berries – I did strawberries, blueberries and raspberries though I think thawed frozen cherries, blackberries or any other combo would be delicious

With a hand mixer whip the cream cheese with the powdered sugar until a smooth consistency.  Fold in the Cool Whip and stir gently until smooth.  (I will fully admit that I did not wait until my Cool Whip was thawed, so I ended up mixing it into the cream cheese mixture with the hand mixer.  No harm done, it worked perfectly, but I know you’re supposed to gently fold in whipped cream to keep the volume.  Whatevs, I say.)

Slice the cake through the middle, separating it into two layers, a top and a bottom.  I always have a hard time keeping a straight line but the hole in the center helped me keep an eye on the knife.  Set the top aside and spoon about 1/2 the cream cheese mixture on top of the cake.  Sprinkle with 1/2 the assorted berries and put the cake top on.  Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture over the top and sprinkle with the remaining berries.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


This post is a few months too late, but it’s never too early to start preparing for football season, right?!?  At least my husband thinks so.  I’m more about the food.  We had a few people over for the Super Bowl this year and I decided it would be fun to make football rolls for our pulled pork sandwiches.  There is nothing better than a homemade roll, and as I’ve mentioned before, the bread machine is a dangerous kitchen tool.

Are you ready for some football?

I wish I had a picture of the finished product.  Seeing these faux pigskins filled up with pulled pork, Carolina sauce and coleslaw…too good.

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