Valentine’s Day Desserts

Show the one you love your decadent side for Valentine’s Day.

Old-Photo-Romantic-Couple-GraphicsFairy

The Graphics Fairy

Oh behave.

Better still, don’t behave.

cooking

Preparing or purchasing Valentine’s Day sweets for the sweet is a scrumptious tradition.  Sweet logic and delicious justification make Cupid’s case for whipping up one of these Valentine’s Day desserts delectably dedicated to the one you love.

Sharing is caring.

Food is love.

Calories don’t count on Valentine’s Day.

Let’s Valentine’s Day Desserts!

Cookie-Dough-Valentines-Hearts-1

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Valentine’s Hearts

Ingredients

¼ cup unsalted butter-softened

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk

1 cup mini chocolate chip morsels

For Dipping and Decoration:

10. oz semi sweet baking chocolate

1.5 oz white chocolate for garnish

A few drops of pink or red food colors

Directions

Beat softened butter and brown sugar until fully combined, then add vanilla and peanut butter and beat until fluffy.  Add flour and sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined.  Fold in the mini chocolate chip morsels.

Press the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch baking dish lined with parchment paper and set in the fridge to chill.

Pull off the parchment paper to lift the dough from the baking dish. Using heart shaped cookie cutter cut off the truffles and place them on a tray lined with parchment paper. Set in the freezer while melting chocolate.

Using a fork dip the truffles into melted chocolate ( one at the time), slightly tap the fork against the side of the bowl to trim the excess chocolate and place the truffle back on the parchment paper.  Set them back in the fridge to firm.

Melt white chocolate, stir in a few drops of red food color, transfer into a small bag, cut the corner off and pipe melted chocolate on top of the truffles.

~Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts




 

cake-plate

Valentines-Chocolate-Cherry-Stack-Cake

Chocolate Cherry Stack Cake

Ingredients

¾ cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sour cream

recipe Cherry or Chocolate Frosting (see recipe below)

recipe Chocolate-Dipped Cherries (see recipe below) (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two 6×2-inch round cake pans or springform pans.  Mix 1 teaspoon each flour and cocoa powder; dust pans. Set pans asideIn bowl combine ¾ cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.  In large bowl with electric mixer beat butter on medium to high for 30 seconds.  Add sugar; beat until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth.  Beat in sour cream and flour mixture.  Pour batter in pans; spread evenly.

Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.  Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool on rack.

Use serrated knife to horizontally cut cakes in half to make 4 layers total.  Place bottom layer on plate; spread with 2/3 cup frosting.  Repeat with layers.  Place top layer on cake.  Heap remaining frosting, swirling in peaks.  Refrigerate.

To serve, top with Chocolate-Dipped Cherries.  Serves 8.

cherry

Cherry Frosting

Ingredients

1 ½  cups powdered sugar

1  8 ounce carton sour cream

1  cup whipping cream (do not use ultra-pasteurized whipping cream)

2  tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

Directions

In a chilled large mixing bowl combine powdered sugar, sour cream, whipping cream, and cherry juice.  Beat with the chilled beaters of an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 3 to 5 minutes or until fluffy.

Chocolate-Dipped Cherries

Ingredients

16  maraschino cherries with stems

½  cup semisweet chocolate pieces

1  teaspoon shortening

Directions

Drain cherries; pat dry with paper towels. In small microwave-safe bowl combine semisweet chocolate pieces and shortening.  Cook on 50 percent power (medium) 1½ to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring once.  Dip cherries in chocolate; place on waxed paper until set.  Store, covered, up to 24 hours.

~Better Homes and Garden

eat-the-red-velvet-cupcake

The red velvet cupcake, molten lava cakes or cheesecake!

red-velvet-molten-lava-cakes

Red Velvet Molten Lava Cakes from Spache the Spatula look absolutely divine.   Click on the link to check out this and other tempting recipes from Spache the Spatula.   Red Velvet Molten Lava Cakes

red-velvet-cheesecake

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Ingredients

1 pound milk chocolate, chopped

½ cup butter

19 ounce package chocolate wafer cookies (40 to 45 cookies)

1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

1 cup slivered almonds

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup butter, melted

48  ounce packages cream cheese, softened

18 ounce carton dairy sour cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup buttermilk

11 ounce bottle red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

Chocolate leaves (optional)

Powdered sugar (optional)

Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Fresh raspberries and/or small whole strawberries(optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate and ½ cup butter over low heat; transfer to a bowl and cool completely.

Place wafer cookies, chocolate pieces, almonds and brown sugar in a large food processor.  Cover and process until finely ground.  Add the ½ cup melted butter; cover and process until well combined.  Transfer crumbs to a 10×3-inch springform pan with a removable bottom.  Press crumbs onto bottom and up the sides of the pan, leaving a ½-inch space at the top of the pan.  Set aside.

For Filling:

In a very large mixing bowl, beat the cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, buttermilk and red food coloring with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined.  Add 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks all at once.  Beat on low speed just until combined.

Pour filling into crumb-crust lined springform pan.  Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan on the oven rack.  Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 1 hour, or until 2 inches of outside edge appear set when shaken gently.

Remove springform pan from baking pan.  Cool cheesecake in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Use a small metal spatula to loosen cheesecake from sides of pan.  Cool 30 minutes more.  Remove sides of pan.  Cool for 1 hour; cover and chill at least 4 hours.

To serve, use a paper doily to decoratively sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder on the top, if you like.  Garnish the center with chocolate leaves and fresh raspberries, if you like.  Clean knife between each cut.  Makes 20 servings.

Bake and chill up to 24 hours.  Garnish just before serving.

~Better Homes & Gardens

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Photograph by Ryan Dausch

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H&M

Double-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon plus a pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 ounces white chocolate (not chips), chopped

½ cup heavy cream

Directions

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, ¾ teaspoon salt and the baking powder in a medium bowl.  Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg
and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  Cover the dough and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick on  a lightly floured surface, then cut out cookies with a 2-inch heart-shaped cutter.

Arrange about 1 inch apart on the prepared pans.  Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the cookies are slightly firm, 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes on the  pans, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Make the filling:

Combine the white chocolate, remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla and
pinch of salt in a large bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a saucepan, then pour over the white chocolate.  Stir until smooth, then refrigerate until cold, 25 minutes.  Beat with a mixer until creamy. Sandwich the white chocolate mixture between the cookies.

~Food Network Kitchen

strawberries-chocolate-whipped-topping-honey

Chocolate Strawberry Honey Nests

Ingredients

12 sheets phyllo dough

½ cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup strawberries, cleaned and sliced

3 squares dark chocolate, shaved

½ cup milk chocolate chips

3 teaspoons honey  or to individual taste

whipped topping

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

For Phyllo Nests 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough on cookie sheet or counter work surface.

Using soft brush, brush over sheet with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle entire sheet with sugar.  Top with another sheet.  Butter, sprinkle and repeat until  6 sheets thick.  Repeat to create another 6 sheets stack. Using a pizza cutter or large knife, make ten vertical slices and one horizontal slice down the middle of each stack.

Lightly spray a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line each muffin cup with 1 of the phyllo pieces at a time, covering sides and bottom to form a cup.  Repeat making 12 cups.

Using a microplane, shave dark chocolate over each cup to dust.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until light golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and immediately place desired amount of chocolate chips in each cup allowing to melt.

Top melted chocolate chips with strawberry slices, drizzled honey and whipped topping.  Dust whip topping clouds with cinnamon.

Valentine's Chocolate Candy Box CakeValentine’s Heart Candy Box Cake from The Cake Blog.  Trust me, this recipe is well worth the time, the effort, and the click on the link to check it out.  Valentine’s Heart Candy Box Cake

valentines-day-desserts-goods

devil's-food-cake-mix

Easy as the top ingredient!

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chocolate-sweetheart-cupcakes

Chocolate Sweetheart Cupcakes

Ingredients

2 sticks butter

1 ½  cup sugar

2/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

½  tsp. baking soda

¼  tsp. salt

2  large eggs

1  cup milk

2  tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½  cups all-purpose flour

Ganache

¾  cup heavy cream

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Lettering

3 oz. white chocolate

Directions

Heat oven to 350ºF.   Line 12 regular-size (2 1⁄2-in. diam) muffin cups with paper liners.  Beat butter, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl with mixer on low speed 1 minute or until well blended.  Add eggs; beat 2 minutes or until fluffy.   Beat in milk and vanilla (batter may look curdled), then flour just until blended.

Spoon scant 1⁄4 cup batter into each muffin cup, filling each about 2⁄3 full.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in centers of cupcakes comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes before removing from pan to rack.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 with remaining batter.   Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting and decorating.   Each recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

For the ganache:

Gently heat ¾ cup heavy cream over medium heat, then pour over 8 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.  Let sit for 1 minute; stir until melted and smooth.  Evenly spoon ganache on top of 12 large or 24 small chocolate cupcakes.  Let set for 30 minutes.

For the lettering:

Microwave 3 ounces white chocolate on 50% power in 20-second intervals until melted and smooth.   Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1.5 tip, then get creative!

~Woman’s Day

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

enjoy

D Is For The Decadent and Delicious Holiday Desserts Recipes We Love To Prepare and Present

D is for the decadent and delicious holiday desserts recipes we love to prepare and present.  These holiday desserts recipes aim to impress the sweet tooth of the gathered together.  Dessert is a four letter word to the calorie conscious crowd, but at Thanksgiving and Christmas (it’s coming!) I offer up a just desserts justification.  The holidays can find the cook, baker, host, hostess and holiday dinner maker stressed.  Stressed spelled backward is desserts.   Stress is bad, dessert is good.  Practice moderation, eat a piece of cake or pie and laisez le bon temps rouler!

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Cranberry-Orange Tart with Browned Butter Crust

Ingredients

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 ½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 50 wafers)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt, divided

Cooking spray

¾ cup fresh cranberries

¾ cup granulated sugar, divided

4 teaspoons cornstarch, divided

5 large eggs, divided

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 cup fresh orange juice

2 large egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.   Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook 6 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.   Let cool 5 minutes.   Place wafer crumbs, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine.   Drizzle melted butter over top of crumb mixture; pulse to combine.   Press crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray.   Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Combine cranberries and 3 tablespoons water in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. Combine cranberry puree, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Whisk together 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 egg in a medium bowl.  Drizzle hot cran­berry mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly until combined.  Return mixture to pan over medium heat; cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes or until mixture thickens.  Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids with the back of a spoon; discard solids.

Combine orange zest and juice, remaining  ½ cup granulated sugar, remaining 8 tablespoons butter, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Whisk together egg yolks, remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and remaining 4 eggs in a medium bowl.  Gradually drizzle hot orange mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Return mixture to pan over medium heat; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly.  Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids with the back of a spoon; discard solids.  Spread orange filling into cooled crust, smoothing top.  Spoon cranberry mixture over filling; smoothing top.  Let tart cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Cover and refrigerate 8 hours.

~My Recipes

pumpkin-pie-Southern-Living

Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

½ cup chopped pecans

1 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs

1 cup crushed gingersnaps

½ cup butter, melted

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

2 cups whipping cream, divided

2 (1.4-oz.) chocolate-covered toffee candy bars, finely chopped

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

2 cups milk

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*

½  cup maple syrup

Garnish: semisweet chocolate shavings

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool 10 minutes. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, next 2 ingredients, and toasted pecans until blended.  Press crumb mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate.  Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Microwave 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels and ½ cup whipping cream in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring at 30-second intervals. Spoon chocolate mixture over bottom of pie crust; sprinkle candy bars over chocolate mixture.  Cover and chill 1 hour or until chocolate mixture is set.

Meanwhile, whisk together sugar and flour in a heavy 3-qt. saucepan; add eggs, egg yolks, and milk, and whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until a pudding-like thickness. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat, and whisk in pumpkin and vanilla bean paste. Transfer to a bowl. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on warm filling (to prevent a film from forming); chill 30 minutes.  Spoon pumpkin mixture over chocolate; cover and chill 8 to 24 hours or until filling is firm.

Beat remaining 1 ½ cups cream at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add syrup, beating until soft peaks form.  Spread or pipe over pie.

~Southern Living

pecan-pie-bars-b

Easy Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients

1 can (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls

2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

¾ cup chopped pecans

½ cup corn syrup

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg, beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.  Unroll dough, separate dough into 2 long rectangles and place in 13×9-inch pan; press over bottom and ½ inch up sides to form crust.  Firmly press dough perforations to seal.  Bake 8 minutes.

Combine all filling ingredients except ¾ cups pecans in bowl and mix well.  Stir in pecans.  Spread evenly over hot, partially baked crust.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until filling is set and golden brown.  Cool about 1 hour; cut into bars.

~Sugar Apron

holiday-dessertsClick on the links below for full recipe

Cider- Spiked Apple and Pecan Tart

Fantasy Chocolate Pie

Double Chocolate-Espresso Truffle Pie

Pumpkin-Praline Layer Cake

 

enjoy

Crisp Fall Afternoons Are Made For Memories And An Apple Nut Cake Recipe

To kick off the fall baking season, I thought this reader favorite recipe for Apple Nut cake repost worthy.

apples-walnuts-copper1

Apples.

Pecans.

Walnuts.

Cinnamon.

Thought that would get your attention!

Fall is officially here, and although the signs of the season aren’t in full fall reveal, a few brisk mornings have teased the senses turning my thoughts and taste buds to the fall baking season.

rolling-pin-apples-cinnamon

Dave the Builder’s mother introduced me to a delicious way to welcome fall which has become a tradition.  In terms of a wonderful fall culinary complement, there is nothing better on a cool afternoon than a cup of strong Louisiana coffee and a slice of old fashioned Apple Nut cake.

I always think of my dear mother-in-law when the first day of fall comes. It’s been thirty three years since the first time I made this cake as a new bride.  I can see myself standing in the cooking corner of our tiny kitchen pouring the batter into my grandmother’s bundt pan, windows open, flour everywhere and a true autumn nip in the air.

That was many Apple Nut cakes ago, and over the years I have tweaked the Apple Nut Cake recipe to suit my taste.

I think it is an apple nut winner.

bundt-copper

My daddy was my apple peeling, apple cutting sous chef.  He knew the Apple Nut rule and took his apple peeling role seriously.  To enjoy apple nut goodness you must help in the peeling prep.  My mother now stands as the house sous chef.

The family that peels apples together makes memories together.

apples

Apple Nut Cake

Ingredients

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

½  cup brown sugar

2 eggs

½  teaspoon nutmeg

½  teaspoon cinnamon

½  teaspoon ground cloves

½  teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ½  cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

½  cup applesauce

3 cups fresh apples, peeled and sliced

 

Icing

½  cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¼  cup butter or margarine

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

½  cup chopped pecans

Directions

Peel and slice apples.  Add brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves and lemon juice to apples coating well; set aside.  Mix together sugar and oil.  Add the eggs and beat until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Combine salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour together.  Add dry ingredients in small amounts to sugar and oil mixture.  Next, add apples, applesauce and chopped pecans and mix by hand.

pecans-in-cake-batter

Bake in greased and floured Bundt pan in 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Well, so much for dirty baking secrets.

Baking is my thing.

Oven cleaning is not.

True kitchen confessions shall set you free.

apple nut cake recipe

Feast your eyes on that baked apple nut cake goodness!  This cake is so delicious no icing is required, but hold on to your apples.

The icing is fantastic!

For the icing:

In a medium saucepan bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly.  Boil for one minute continuing to stir or whisk constantly.

My other sous chef (my mother) displaying her mad icing prep skills!

Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Add powdered sugar and stir or whisk until smooth and continue until it begins to thicken slightly.  Immediately drizzle over cooled cake.  Top with walnuts or pecans.

fresh-apple-nut-cake

With Pecans

apple-nut-cake-with-walnut-caramel-icingWith Walnuts

enjoy

 

 

 

Refreshed: Lemon Angel Squares

They say when life hands you lemons you should squeeze the most out of the moment.  In the Places in the Home test kitchen, I take that not only as sound but as delicious advice.  I’m thinking Lemon Angel Squares.

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How do I love thee lemon? Let me count the ways I find to include you in the recipes of our culinary lives.  The citrusy goodness, the tangy zing of the zest and the brilliant flavor notes of fresh lemon juice balances as it brightens.   I prefer substituting a generous squeeze of lemon for salt in several of my recipes. Lemon is simply an essential ingredient favored for flavor by cooks, bakers and chefs in recipes of both the sweet and the savory kind.

Black_Butte_blackberryvia

Fresh in season blackberries and the herb of my heart, fresh mint, round out the flavor of these summer tastes so good treats. What we serve should look as good as it tastes.  The three part harmony on the plated side of a prepared recipe is simple- flavor it up, pretty it up and serve it up.  Aromas entice, but we eat with our eyes first.

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The Places in the Home test kitchen becomes sweet tooth central in the summer months. The is there anything sweet to eat gang prefers lighter desserts big on summer flavor (coconut, tropical, lemony, melons, berries, etc…) over heavier cakes and pies usually associated with cold weather noshing and nesting.  Yes, there is a distinct association between foods and flavors and the seasons. A quick inventory of the sweets shelf resulted in a Duncan Hines Signature Angel Food cake mix staring back at me.   Angel food cake stands on its own as a light dessert, and the fresh blackberries I picked up at the market would only add to the mix, but this dessert combination did not call out to me.  Isn’t it funny how creative one can become when a sweet tooth is involved?  A lone can of lemon pie filling, a gorgeous lemon primed and ready for zest, and a recent rediscovery of  the fresh mint I planted in a window box planter a couple of spring seasons ago filled in the blanks.  Cream cheese and powdered sugar are basic staples around my kitchen so it’s all good.

Duncan-Hines-angle-food-cake-mix

This recipe for Lemon Angel Squares is easy, delicious and a nice choice for a summer treat. The taste is fresh, the bite is lemon bright and did I mention this recipe is easy.  Just add summer.

lemon-ingredients

 

Lemon Angel Squares

Ingredients

1 16 ounce package angel food cake mix

1  21 ounce can lemon pie filling

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the angel food cake mix with the lemon pie filling and zest in a mixing bowl; blend until smooth.

lemon-angel-food-batter

Pour the batter into an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and top springs back when lightly touched, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool in the pan, and cut into squares.

Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients

3 oz. cream cheese

2-3  tbsp. milk

2 c. powdered sugar

1 tsp. lemon extract

Directions

Beat together all ingredients. It’s that simple!  Generously frost each square with cream cheese icing and garnish with blackberries and mint.

lemon-angel-squares

 

enjoy

Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III

All good things and great vacations come to an end. Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III winds down our 2008 spring break trip to Las Vegas in getting back to Vegas basics style.

Filling In The Vegas Days and Nights: Hotels, Casinos & Restaurants 

Venetian ~

Spending the afternoon at Venetian surrounded by copies of and renditions of famous Italian works and decor was the plan for our Thursday afternoon. The machines, bonus rounds and green felt covered tables will take a backseat to sightseeing and lunch at Grand Lux Cafe at Venetian.

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I get into the theme of it all and appreciate it for what it is- a gorgeous imitation of inspired artistic works of architectural wonder.

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People often comment negatively in regards to Grand Lux as a dining choice while in Las Vegas.  “It’s a chain. Why in the world are you eating at a chain restaurant?”

Grand-Lux-food

How do we love Grand Lux Cafe?   Let us deliciously count the ways:

The food is always excellent.  See images above.

The menu offers a wide variety of delicious something for everyone dishes.

The dining room design and decor is lovely.

The price is right.

If it ain’t broke…

I did not break with my dining at Grand Lux tradition ordering the seafood salad and a shared order of double-stuffed potato spring rolls. Dave ordered the fish and chips and gave it 4 forks out of a possible 5 review. The casino at Venetian was packed. I played $1 Top Dollar slots with no big wins. Dave didn’t fare too well at the tables so he was in hot pursuit of a $1 Double Top Dollar slot machine to play. We both love Top Dollar and Pinball.  I did not receive an ounce of respect, love or pay from the numerous Top Dollar or Pinball machines I played during this session.  I now fondly refer to them as “sucker machines” and Dave now fondly refers to me as a sore loser.  If it was in the cards for me to be a loser, at least the rocking band playing at La Scena (casino floor lounge that sadly is no more) was churning out some fantastic music.  Win, lose or draw I like to get my boogie on.  We have boogied to really fantastic lounge acts playing the casino lounges. That part of old Vegas is slowly going away too.  My parents tell of the now famous singers they saw years ago in Las Vegas when the entertainers were up and coming lounge acts.

Paris  ~

I got it together earlier than usual so we could be on our way to lunch at the Paris Le Village buffet.

Paris-Las-Vegas-Dining-Buffet-Le-Village-Buffet-1.jpg.stdimg.hd.xlLe Village Buffet at Paris

I knew I would want to play before lunch and also figured the line to be seated could be rather long on a Friday afternoon.  I could not squeak out a win, but left the casino floor for the buffet line even. That’s always a win in my book!  The lunch at Le Village was good, but this is a buffet that shines at breakfast. Dave pointed out the French onion soup and I informed him I had worked the French onion soup enough for a while. However, the crepe station did call out to me and I answered apple with raspberries, blueberries and crème fraîche, se il vous plaît.  5 forks out of 5 very French c’est si bon forks.

Paris-slotsvia

Moving Day: From Treasure Island to Rio We Go

I packed the room up with a cup of in-room brewed strong Louisiana coffee in hand. Traveling with a coffee pot isn’t for everyone, but we do it for two reasons.  In extremely short order after my eyes pop open in the morning and my feet hit the floor or carpet I need coffee- hot, fresh and Louisiana strong.  I also like to have a cup or two in the afternoons or early evening when we are relaxing in the room before dinner or a show or just regrouping.  The other reason is pure economics I swear we would go broke by the third day in town feeding our coffee fix.  A fellow Vegas travel nut cued me in on a coffee pot travel tip.

walgreens

There are several Walgreens and CVS locations up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Pop in a pick up a coffee maker and supplies and ignore the initial sticker shock investment.  It will pay for itself within the first day. If you don’t want to contend with packing it up and carting it home, simply leave it in the room. Easy peasy.  It is ridiculous what hotels charge for coffee ordered from room service or in the coffee shops, and speaking of coffee shops- coffee shops are quickly becoming an extinct dining option on the Strip.  I am not the biggest fan of the buffet, but for breakfast dining the beverage selection and cost included reasons this to be a reasonable option.  Dave went down to visit with the host with positive results. We checked out over the television and said goodbye to Treasure Island.

 cokevia

Our host at the Rio met us at VIP-Diamond check in and assigned us a room in the Ipanema Tower.  The room reminded me of the suites at the Stardust we loved. These rooms impress me more in terms of size and layout vs decor. Various tell-tale signs give the age of the property away, but nothing we can’t live with for five nights.  We got our gambling on for about an hour, and finally I declared victory with a $$$ win on a five-line .25 3X  4X  5X machine in front of the performing stage. Cocktail service at Rio was fast and frequent. My server took my Coke order. “Is Pepsi okay?” My “not in this lifetime” answer produced a chuckle on his part. I changed my order to a Shirley Temple (I was on the hard stuff this afternoon) and returned to my play. In a flash he returns with his own version of comedy with a “You had the ice-cold Pepsi?”  I spun my seat around to find him standing there holding my ST with the biggest grin on his face.  We both laughed and he became my cheering section for a big win.  The time clock was ticking for me to be back to the room to get ready for Cher.  Time clocks can be a good thing or a very bad thing when gambling.  It was a good thing this go round and the $$$ win money made it to the room.

Cheesecake-Factory-Forum-Shopsvia

I covered the Cher experience in a previous installment. We hit The Cheesecake Factory in The Forum Shops for our post show dinner of a shared pepperoni pizza, strawberry shortcake and two glasses of Riesling. Very tasty.

strawberry-cheese-cake-grand-lux

Happy Birthday, Dave!  Shopping for birthday gifts and perhaps something new for both of us to wear to the birthday celebration dinner this evening is the plan, and Vegas knows shopping. Dave was a sport and kept me company while I spent the afternoon shopping at the Fashion Show Mall.  Starbucks supplied our very light lunch break of shared pastry and coffees- just a quick bite of something to keep a headache at bay.  Our plan for the birthday celebration evening was for a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Range Steakhouse at Harrah’s (presently Ruth’s Chris). We enjoyed dinner at The Range so much on our last trip.  We were seated by the window and with James as our waiter (requested). His personality and professionalism adds to the evening.  Dave started with the lobster bisque and I selected the blue cheese and fresh apple salad. For our entrees we both ordered the 12 oz. center cut pork chop and shared Yukon gold mashed potatoes.  The manager knew we were celebrating Dave’s birthday and sent over the most fantastic chocolate cake with strawberries and coffee for two.  The food presentation and preparation was done very well.  The service and the wait staff could not have been more professional or friendly, and it all equaled a memorable birthday meal in Vegas.

Rio

We were dressed and waiting in the Rio valet at 8:15 AM Wednesday. Trust me, I am not the up and dressed and ready to greet the day while on vacation kind of girl.  By the time of day and level of enthusiasm, Dave realized I was serious about this slot tournament. I grabbed the keys, gave the valet a good morning hello and it was touchdown Flamingo events area.

Flamingo-hotel-Vegas

The tournament was open to all Total Rewards card holders so Dave put down a few $20’s and we were registered for 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, and finally 2:00 PM. Wow! That’s a lot of hope and fun packed into a late morning and early afternoon at the dirty bird, and you would think we had a snowball’s chance in the desert of winning. Goodness knows as many times as we entered we sure thought we did! We didn’t even come close to placing, but we had an absolute ball trying.

slot-32

The last day in Vegas gives me a pit in my stomach no words can describe. Staying busy cures it.  Gambling for this trip was officially over.  I had not been able to win enough to make it accumulate over what I started with, and the wins were too far apart from each other to save me.  I find it is easier to swallow if I quit without too much damage to the initial bankroll. The suggestion of In-N-Out Burger for lunch and a business mixed with pleasure venture was met with no complaints. We headed out to dine in style and visit a few design and antiques shops.

4950783496_cff6e4382c_bIn-N-Out Burger

We saw parts of Vegas new to us, and I lucked up on a few items I could easily pack. We grabbed a couple of coffees, parked and watched the airplanes landing and taking off from McCarran International.  I must admit after nine full days and nights in Vegas this was a nice change.  We caught a couple of afternoon fountain shows at Bellagio and it was Monte Carlo time.

bellagio-fountains

Dave and I discovered the Wizard of Oz penny slots complete with flying monkeys, the yellow brick road and the wizard himself.  The graphics and sound effects are amazing, and Oz turned out to be a magical place.  I put in a $5 voucher and cashed out with $$$ for a nice win.  The beautiful Glenda appeared to me in bonus round goodness resulting in the big hit.  I could become addicted to these machines with no problem.  There’s no place like home and Vegas on a sunny winning afternoon.

Vegas-sunrise

The Friday going home wake up call came at 5:30 AM with coffee shortly after. We checked out of Rio and at the car rental return by 9:15 AM.  We were through security and to Continental gate D 20 with fifty minutes to spare.  I took in the final sights of the Strip from my window seat on the airplane.  I settled in for the three-hour flight with good tunes, better memories and big plans for our next trip.  Getting home to a full house of family and friends on Hurricane Gustav alert and all he dumped on Central Louisiana naturally put priorities where they should be. Normalcy is back in our reach and has allowed me to share with you my trip report.  The overall casual tone was the right way to go for us this Vegas trip.  It was easy on the schedule, expectations and the wallet. I wasted no time bringing to Dave’s attention with all the money saved this trip it would be stupid not to book another trip out to our desert oasis within the next six months.  My logic has him thinking about it.  Then again, my logic always has me thinking about Vegas.

Thanks to all who have stayed with the reading.

 

images: The Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, Rio All-Suite Hotel, Google

A Most Fetching Friday

fetch·ing

 

/ˈfeCHiNG/

adjective

adjective: fetching

attractive.

synonyms: attractive, appealing, sweet, pretty, good-looking, lovely, delightful, charming, prepossessing, captivating, enchanting, irresistible

 

This week’s A Most Fetching Friday is dedicated to dessert, the art of baking (and no-baking), and the edible works created, admired and deliciously celebrated as the grand finale of the holiday dinner.

Thanksgiving-apple-pastry-package-del1014-lgnWrapped Baked Apple Crumble – Country Clever

beekman-boys-buttermilk-pie-with-pecan-crustButtermilk Pie with Pecan Crust – Country Living Magazine

apple-nut-cake-walnutsApple Nut Cake  with Caramel Walnut Icing

white-chocolate-pumpkin-cheesecakesNo Bake White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a Pecan Pie Crust

Butter-pecan-cakeButter Pecan Cake

butterscoth-pudding-Coquette-New-OrleansButterscotch Pudding with Snickerdoodle Cookie Crumbs & Bacon Whipped Cream

I hope you have a most delicious and fetching Friday.

Love your style!

Flavor Additions: Kahlua Coffee Frosting

Engagement festivities reigned supreme this past weekend.  The out of town guests arrived in Louisiana ready to meet and greet our family and to sample the local cuisine.

Gulf-Coast

Boiled crawfish, crawfish étouffée, fried catfish, and Gulf snapper headlined the menu, but it’s important to remember a simple fact of culinary life- Midwesterners can’t survive an entire weekend on Louisiana seafood alone. I’m a born and raised Louisianian, and even I can’t do the crawfish thing too often.

baking coloring page Graphics Fairyvia

It’s not a party until someone bakes, cooks, whips, or stirs! Fresh Louisiana strawberries served with fruit dip, Southern Krispy cheese straws, and dark chocolate brownies with Louisiana pecans threw a culinary life preserver to the anti-crawfish crowd.

brownies with Kahlua Coffee Frosting

To frost or not to frost a brownie is always a consideration. I made a last minute executive chef decision to go with the frosting, scrambling to the grocery store to pick up a can of Duncan Hines home-style milk chocolate frosting. What begins a store bought frosting ends a delicious Kahlua Coffee Frosting delight courtesy of a couple of flavor adjustments and infusions. Things become mighty tasty with the rich flavors of instant coffee granules, Kahlua, Kosher salt, and Hershey’s dark chocolate.

frosting ingredients

Kahlua Coffee Frosting

Ingredients

1 can Duncan Hines creamy home-style milk chocolate frosting

1½  teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons Kahlua

6 squares Hershey’s dark chocolate

Directions

Add instant coffee granules, Kosher salt, and Kahlua to frosting. Stir well to blend all ingredients together. The bite of the coffee granules is pitch perfect, the coarse Kosher salt wakes up the flavors, and the Kahlua complements the coffee so well.

Use a smooth edge knife to frost the tops of the brownies. Make dark chocolate curls with a potato or vegetable peeler by running the peeler across the top of the chocolate, allowing curls to fall on the tops of the brownies. Work quickly with the chocolate-it  melts super fast from the heat of  your hand.

enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes

This post is a collaboration with Williams-Sonoma, but all words and opinions are my own.

If your heart belongs to chocolate, and I know that it does, you are in for a delicious and decadent treat.  A dessert recipe for Valentine’s Day that will visually impress and tastefully delight even the most discerning chocolate lover is Williams- Sonoma Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes.  Six cocoa powder dusted ramekins will runneth over with warm chocolate goodness. I’m certain warm chocolate goodness is the consummate chocolate requirement of the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert.

Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes

Ingredients

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 Tbs. (½  stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4 egg yolks

6 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (optional)

3 egg whites, at room temperature

Crème anglaise for serving (see recipe below)

Directions

Preheat an oven to 400°F.  Lightly butter six 3/4-cup ramekins and dust with cocoa powder.  Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.

In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the pan over but not touching barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt the chocolate and butter, then whisk until the mixture is glossy and smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, 3 Tbs. of the sugar, the cocoa powder and the orange zest on medium-high speed until thick.  Spoon the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and beat until well blended.  The mixture will be very thick.

In a bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are very foamy and thick.  Sprinkle in the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and increase the speed to high.  Continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form.  Spoon half of the beaten whites onto the chocolate mixture and whisk in until just blended.  Add the remaining whites and stir gently until just blended.  Spoon into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.

Bake the cakes until they are puffed and the tops are cracked, about 13 minutes.  The inside of the cracks will look very wet. Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the ramekins.  Or run the tip of a small knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the cake, then invert the cakes onto individual plates.  Serve with a drizzle of crème anglaise. Serves 6.

Variation: If you would like your molten chocolate cakes to have crunchy bottoms and sides, dust the buttered ramekins with superfine sugar instead of with cocoa powder.

-Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Crème Anglaise

Ingredients

2 cups milk

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

¼  cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

Rinse the inside of a non aluminum saucepan with water and shake out the excess water.  Pour in the milk, place over medium-low heat and cook until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolk and sugar and whisk just until blended.  Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture into the pan.  Set over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow it to boil.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and let cool.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.

Makes about 2 cups.

-Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Holidays, celebrations, and special occasions almost always involve a memorable meal concluding with a distinctive dessert.  If you looked up distinctive dessert in the chocolate lovers of the world dictionary, you would see a picture of Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes. They are so good they are worthy of …

Seconds!

enjoy