Archive for ‘dessert’

September 19, 2011

How I Love Weekends.

These days I live for the weekend.  Monday through Friday is great and all, but the weekends are when I get to spend more time with my hubby and I get to spend some quality time at the house.  Cleaning is high on the list, but it doesn’t always happen.  Sporatic cleaning is my new tactic, that way cleaning doesn’t end up taking over a whole day where my hair gets pulled on the top of my head and I’m covered in dirt from head to toe at the end of five hours.  (Although, sometimes it’s necessary).  This weekend did not involve much cleaning, but it was a busy one!

The back door has needed some love for awhile.  It was off-white when we moved in, peeling paint on the outside, and it didn’t seal at all.  Levi put some weather stripping on it a few months ago, which helped in a huge way during our heat wave.  The dirty look of the door has been driving me crazy.  So this weekend, it got a face-lift!

It’s so happy now.  I just love it. 

The trim still needs some work, but that’s for another weekend.

Another new addition to the backyard is the shed that my husband, so graciously, put together.  We debated for awhile on building our own or buying a pre-fabricated shed.  After pricing everything, we decided to buy one and put it together.  One million pieces later . . . the shed is finally finished and organized!  Levi put everything in the shed yesterday.  The yard looks so much better (minus the dirt that is now our grass).  That man is a blessing.

Hagen is still growing, of course.  We think she’s around 90 lbs now.  It hurts when she steps on your feet.  But she’s a huge ball of love.

Weekends also bring time for gardening.  I’m starting out small this fall … and in containers. 

Weekend before last I planted herbs :: basil, cilantro, sage, parsley, and lavender.  Currently this pot is no longer stacked on blocks on the deck, because Hager beans still found a way to get to the plants.  We are down one parsley now.  I got two chains and hung the container from two existing hooks outside our office window.  The herbs like it there so far.  And it’s out of Hagen’s reach .. for now.

The front beds have two tomato plants, four red cabbage plants, and four cauliflower plants. I also planted lettuce, because I love it.  Bibb, Romaine, Arugula & Swiss Chard.  It sits on our stop sign table on the front porch.  The swiss chard has it’s own pot, because it’s large and in charge. The lettuce really took off this week with our spurts of rain. 

Last night we had our first salad.  It was delicious.

Some sort of baking or cooking frenzy normally happens during the weekend as well.  This weekend, the baking was for a coworker-turned-friend ..  Happy Birthday Matt!  He likes cookies.  He likes icing.  Hopefully the cookie cake will suffice! 

With that, I will leave you with my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe … for one of your upcoming weekends.

August 25, 2011

Brownies & Chocolate Chip Cookies :: Oreo Stuffed

I have this running joke with one of my friends as to how one would make an oreo healthy.  Put some flaxseed on it?  Use them as croutons on a salad?  None of the ideas have sounded successful enough to try yet, but we’re still working on it.  So instead, let’s take a step in the other direction … because these two recipes are awesome.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

I made both of these last week for a birthday at the office.  Overall, I think the cookies trumped the brownies – but all of them were eaten .. so that’s something!  The brownies were a little overbaked in my opinion, so I would cut down 2 or 3 minutes from the suggested baking time on the box.  Both of the recipes can be found at the links above, but here are some step-by-step pictures for your viewing pleasure.

This was the fun part.  Make two normal sized cookie dough balls, then flatten them a little before surrounding the oreo with dough.  It’s a little weird at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.  Make sure to press the sides of the dough together to form a complete ball.  They will be large and in charge.

Levi ate one at this stage.  He’s not much of a cookie fan, but cookie dough … yes. 

Monster cookies!

Sugar rush to. the. max. after eating one of these.  I could only eat one half at a time.  They are so good, though!  …and I’m not even a huge fan of oreos.

This is what you need for the brownies – any mix will do.  Yes, the ice cream and fudge topping replaces the oil and water in the normal mix.  These are thickkkkk.

I used cookies and cream because it sounded most appropriate to me, but you can try any flavor you’d like!

Like I said, it’s thick.  Get your muscles out.

Then layer.  Batter.  Cookies.  Batter.  An 8×8 pan works best.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you try these out!

May 31, 2011

Vintage Fresh [ love & teacups ] :: Style Shoot

So … in case you’re getting tired of all of the Ryan posts, here’s something fresh for you .. some images from my lovely peeps, Brandy & Brandon of Bella Pop Photography.  Yeah, they’re pretty amazing peeps I must say.  This style shoot was back in April at Honeysuckle Gardens in Midlothian, TX.  We also collaborated with Shannon Caldwell of Something You who made our models — Stacy, Lisa & Matt — even more gorgeous … and handsome (Matt was such a great sport).  This style shoot was an opportunity for me to show my abilities, but also to give ideas to incorporate at a wedding reception, shower, etc. The day was perfect, minus a little wind, and it was great experience for me .. pulling all of the details together.  The overall vision was a fresh take on vintage with a smidge of french influence.

I incorporated lots of fresh flowers from The Connection (previously The Flower Market) in milk glass vases, also used in my wedding. Brandy contributed some of her doilies to accompany some my grandmother had made, which heightened the vintage feel. The place settings were borrowed from my mother … I almost lost it when I found them in her cabinets, because I had never seen them before! Way too pretty to be collecting dust on a shelf. The spoon napkin holders were borrowed from Levi’s aunt, who made them using rustic silverware that had been passed down. All of the teacups and saucers were graciously offered by some dear family friends. Brandy made the macarons, which were delicious! I made the scones and intended to bake the wedding cookies, but unfortunately they flopped … so Central Market lent a hand there!

Overall, the table, tablecloth, and chairs were the only pieces that were rented. The troops definitely rallied to help me gather the pieces for this event!

I took inspiration from Martha’s fringe focused designs for the paper pieces for our shoot. Using paper selected from Jo-Ann’s and the convenience of Brandy’s printer, with our’s on the blink, these pieces came together seamlessly. I really love them a lot.

I tried some different paper dahlia techniques, but was never satisfied with the result. So I created my own method for the paper dahlias.. cutting tissue paper into small squares, pinching the middle of the paper and twisting the edges, then pinning the twisted middle to a foam ball with sewing pins, until completely covered with paper. I used hot glue and a sewing pin to secure fishing line to the ball to hang in the trees. For a more permanent application, hot glue would be a good option to secure each pin down, I just didn’t take the time. Unfortunately, the wind was a little rough on the dahlias … so they flattened on one side as the day progressed!

Stacy .. this girl has some definite style. Loved the skirt.

Lisa and Matt .. working their stuff. This was around their anniversary; what a great time for some new photos!

Happy Tuesday!

May 4, 2011

Chocolate Tiramisu

The week before Easter I was browsing through Sprouts (just opened on Hulen) and came across a huge island display of ladyfingers.  I’ve seen them used before in lots of different desserts, but of course the most popular is Tiramisu.  So, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try to make it … you know, family gatherings are always a great time to try something new .. they have to love you no matter what.

As it turns out, this dessert was amazing.  Chocolate and espresso, I mean .. c’mon.  This is one of Giada‘s recipes.  It’s not as pretty as most of the Tiramisu I’ve seen in restaurants, because the chocolate blends in with the ladyfingers.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty – especially with some choice fruit on top, maybe a dollop of extra whipped cream – and it’s absolutely delicious.  Just make sure to eat it within a couple of days .. soggy ladyfingers are not near as appetizing.

:: You will need ::

for the Chocolate Zabaglione:

2 tablespoons whipping cream, or heavy cream

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 large egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup dry Marsala

Pinch of salt

for the layers:

6 ounces container mascarpone cheese

2/3 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups espresso coffee (or really strong coffee), warmed

24 crisp ladyfinger cookies (recommended: Savoiardi)

Unsweetened cocoa powder, for garnish

Dark chocolate shavings

:: Let’s get going ::

(1)  Start with the Zabaglione .. Add cream and chocolate to a heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm.

(2)  Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and salt in a large glass bowl until blended.

(3)  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Yes, this bowl is ridiculously too big to set on top of that tiny pot … but I did it anyway. If not for the sake of convenience, at least for an amusing picture. Whisk the egg mixture over the simmering water until it is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

(4)  Using a large rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate to chill completely.

(5)  Now on to the filling .. Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and set aside.

(6)  With an electric mixer, beat the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone.

(7)  Then fold in the chilled Chocolate Zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate.

(8)  Whisk the warmed espresso and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in another medium bowl until blended.

(10) Line a a dish or loaf pan of your choice with plastic wrap,allowing the plastic to extend over the sides.

(11)  Working with 1 cookie at a time, dip 8 cookies into the espresso, and arrange in a single layer side by side over the bottom of the prepared pan.

(12)  Spoon 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies to cover. Repeat dipping 8 of the cookies in the espresso and layering the cookies and remaining mascarpone mixture 2 more times. Dip the remaining 8 cookies in the espresso and arrange side by side atop the tiramisu.

(13)  Press lightly to compact slightly (the last layer will extend above the pan sides). Cover the tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

(14)  Unwrap the plastic from atop the tiramisu. Invert the tiramisu onto a platter. Remove the plastic. Sift the cocoa over the tiramisu, and with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, make dark chocolate shavings and sprinkle over top.  In our case, I didn’t have extra chocolate to shave on top, so I opted for some fresh fruit.

March 21, 2011

Carob Swirl Cheesecake

Cheesecake. There’s just really nothing like it. This recipe is something special for three reasons. (1) It uses carob powder (caffeine free + calcium) instead of chocolate, (2) It has whole wheat crust, and (3) It has a pretty swirl effect that I just love. So this may sound like one of those healthy dessert recipes that tastes like dirt, but it’s absolutely delicious. Give it a try.

:: You will need ::

for the crust:

1 C. whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 C. butter, room temperature

2 tbsp. sugar

for the swirl:

1/2 C. butter

1/2 C. carob powder (can be found at specialty or health food stores)

for the filling:

24 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature

2/3 C. honey

5 large eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla

:: Let’s get going ::

(1)  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together the crust ingredients until it resembles sand.  Press into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan, forming a crust up the sides of the pan.  If you don’t have a springform pan, you could halve the recipe and fill a pie plate instead … but the springform definitely allows for a prettier presentation in the end.  You’ll see.

(2)  Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned.  Remove the pan from the oven and lower the temperature to 325 degrees.

(3)  In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Then add the carob powder and stir until smooth.  Take the pan off the heat and set aside.

(4)  Combine the cream cheese and honey with an electric mixer.  A trick for the honey … spray your measuring cup with cooking spray first – the honey will slide right out and you won’t waste time trying to scrape half of it out.

(5) Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Then mix in the vanilla.

(6)  Here’s the fun part.  Grab another bowl and pour half of the filling in.  Then add the reserved carob sauce to one of the bowls and mix it up.   Layer 1/2 of the plain filling on top of the crust, then 1/2 of the carob filling, spreading each layer across the surface of the crust.  Repeat that step, so that the carob filling ends up on top.

(7)  Still more fun to come … Now we get to make a mess of that pretty layered beauty.  Take a bread knife and hold it perpendicular to the counter.  Start from the center and work your way towards the outside of the pan in a spiral. 

(8)  Smooth over the top of the swirl and place in the oven to bake for 40 minutes.  Carob can’t handle heat above 325 degrees, so be sure that you’ve preheated the oven to the correct temperature. Then turn the oven off and let the cheesecake stay in the closed oven for 20-25 minutes.  Place on a wire rack to cool; Loosen the springform, but leave it in place until it cools completely.

Don’t fret about the cracks. It happens, and it adds a little personality. Notice the ‘k’ … ?! It did that all on it’s own. I forgot to take a picture of a sliced piece, but when you cut it open you can definitely see the layered goodness. Here’s to cream cheese and “chocolate“.

February 11, 2011

* Heart * Cake

This cake … oh, this cake.

It makes my heart flutter.

No, unfortunately I didn’t make it.  But, I will!  Unfortunately, my valentine is not a cake lover – his allegiance is to pies.  Indicated by his ‘groom’s cake‘ at our wedding.  In the future.. the near future ..I will find a reason to make this.  But for those of you who are looking for an ambitious Valentine’s Day dessert – I think this would do!

After finding this tutorial, I spent awhile browsing the oh-so-many other beautiful recipes on the site. I fell in love with i am baker.  So creative.  So many things to try!  Happy baking.



February 8, 2011

Sweet Things :: Wedding Detail

cake table

I have a major sweet tooth .  Which means that when it came to my wedding cake, I wanted something that tasted delicious … but it also had to look unique and beautiful.  I grew up baking with my Mom, so we thought it only fitting for us to make the cake.  We made the layers a couple of months before the wedding and froze them.  I know it sounds weird and makes you think the cake would taste mushy defrosted, but certain recipes freeze beautifully – plus, it is so much easier to frost when it’s still a bit cool (after totally defrosting, of course).

My boy, on the other hand, is not much of a sweet lover.  Except when it comes to pie.  The boy loves pie.  So for his ‘groom’s cake’ … we had pies.  Mini pies.  Sliced pies.  Strawberry rhubarb.  Apple.  Pumpkin.  I heard they were good.  I didn’t exactly get around to trying a piece at the reception with the mobility impairment that was my dress and the trying-to-talk-to-two-hundred-guests factor; but Levi got a piece of the pumpkin, which was most important to me.  All he wanted was pumpkin. It’s the all-time favorite in our house.


strawberry rhubarb

The cake was 5 layers high.  Piled with 7 recipes of buttercream frosting.  Lots of butter and sugar.  What else could you ask for?


On the top 2 layers, we crushed lemon drops (my stress-reliever the day before the wedding) and hand placed them in a mosaic pattern around the cake.  I love mosaics.  I got the idea for this after seeing the crushed-candy wedding cake on Martha Stewart.  We candied lemons slices the week of the wedding and put them on the cake using wire attached to a button. On the upper edge of the bottom layers, we circled the cake with fondant buttons.

cake detail

The top layers were strawberry, with freshly pureed strawberries in the batter.

cut cake

Instead of a traditional cake topper, I found these cute love birds.  Birds really weren’t incorporated anywhere else in the wedding, but I loved that they were completely white and brought contrast to the dark wood in the ballroom.  We also had disposable cameras for the kiddos and one of the “items to find” on the scavenger hunt was birds.


In addition to the cake and pie, we had cupcakes.  Cream cheese pound cake.  Cinnamon chocolate.  Poppyseed.  So much to love about cupcakes.

cream cheese pound cake

cinnamon chocolate


Our desserts were amazing, but what was even more amazing was the love that went into making them.  Each of our vendors (+ my mom and aunt) put so much time and effort into giving us exactly what we had pictured.  I have so much love for these women … and not just because of these sweet gifts.

All photos taken by the BNB wonder : Bella Pop Photography


February 7, 2011

Mascarpone Strawberry Tart

It was my Mom’s birthday in mid-January.  Normally we would get together to celebrate, you know – around the actual day, but this year the celebration got delayed a little bit.  As she says, “It really doesn’t matter, I’ll still be the same age” … and she was right, it was a great night.  Regardless, around here birthday’s give me another reason to bake.  I love it!

A few years ago, my Mom started to lose her voice, which they finally determined it was due to straining her voice along with the added effect of eating certain greasy and fatty foods, processed tomatoes, chocolate, etc.  Did you catch that?  Yes, chocolate.  Anything with caffeine; Which means, no dark chocolate or coffee (I know, it’s terrible).  BUT, she can have all. the. white. chocolate. she. wants.  And she sometimes will sneak a small bite of something with dark chocolate at the risk of losing her voice, but only sometimes.  Don’t worry Mom, your secret’s safe with us.

So when I’m baking something for her (like her birthday) or when I know she’ll be at a gathering where I’m baking / cooking, I obviously try to make sure that the recipes I choose won’t make her vocal chords mad.  Although my Dad welcomes it sometimes … Ha, I kid.  This recipe is one that I found will scouring for a recipe that would let me use my new tart pan, that didn’t incorporate chocolate. I found it on a newly-found site I stumbled across, kiss my spatula.  Giao has some wonderful recipes that will keep you occupied for awhile.  Oh, did I mention her photography – beautiful.

This recipe combines two of the recipes I loved on Giao’s site.  The crust comes from one recipe and the filling comes from another.  I would like to try the chocolate crust at some point, but today is not the day.  If you don’t have a tart pan, you could use a pie plate – but you may want to do a recipe-and-a-half to fill up the plate a little more.  But there’s just something about tart pans, and they’re not very expensive.  Plus, then you can make quiches and other savory tarts.  The possibilities are endless.  Ok, enough.  Here we go…

:: You will need ::

for the crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, sliced into cubes

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup whole almonds, raw and unsalted

for the filling:

16 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup good honey

1 tsp. vanilla

2 large eggs

2 tbsp. all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

zest of 1 lemon

2 cups strawberries

:: Let’s get going ::

(1) With an electric mixer on low speed, beat the cubes of cold butter and 1/4 cup sugar until just combined, about 15 seconds.

(2) Add the flour and salt, and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. You can add one tsp. of water, if needed.

Almost there.

There we go.  You want the dough to look like this.

(3) Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely ground (if you don’t have one, you can buy ground almonds).  You can also use blanched (white) almonds, but I kind of like the texture that the brown covering adds.

Scatter half of the almond mixture onto a clean work surface.

(4) Take the dough out of the mixing bowl, form together and place the dough on top of the almonds. Scatter the remaining almond mixture on top, and roll out dough, re-incorporating the almond mixture as you roll.  Try to get the dough to be near the size of the tart pan.

(5) Here’s where it gets tricky. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and then unroll the dough into the tart pan.

Don’t get upset when it cracks or breaks (this is what I tell myself), because it probably will. It’s ok. Just try to spread out the pieces and then press them together to form a solid crust.

Try to keep the same thickness throughout the pan as you begin to press the dough up and past the edges of the pan.

(6) Take a knife flush to the top of the pan and cut off the excess dough. Use the excess to piece in where the dough doesn’t quite reach the edge or where it is thinner.  Now you’re ready to refrigerate!

(7) Put the covered tart pan in the refrigerator until firm, for at least 30 minutes (or up to 1 day).

(8) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake tart shell for 30 minutes, while occasionally pressing the center of the tart pan down with a glass, until light brown. Let it cool while you get going on the filling.

(9) With an electric mixer on medium, beat the mascarpone cheese, honey, and vanilla until smooth.

(10) Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Then, beat in the flour, salt, and lemon zest.

(11) Pour that lovely filling into the cooled tart pan.

(12) You can’t miss this : Place the tart pan in a rimmed baking pan. If you skip this, you will have a mess. The pan will catch any drippings and will also keep the crust from overbrowning.  Set the pan on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is lightly golden in color and barely set in the center when you gently giggle the pan.

(13) Remove the tart from oven and place it on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes.  Then place it in the oven to chill until cold, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).  Be sure to cover it once cold.

(14) Shortly before you are ready to serve the tart, remove the rim from the pan … p.s. If you happen to lose a bit of your crust after removing the rim, take a little drop of honey on your finger and rub it on the tart where the crust detached.  Then tap into your puzzle-skills and put the crust piece back on to the tart.  After holding it there for a good 20 seconds or so and adding a bit of honey on the outside of the crack – you should be good. to. go.  This bit of ingeniousness was all Levi.  Yep, he got a big kiss for that one.

Rinse and dry the strawberries and then thinly slice them. Arrange the strawberries in a circular or spiral pattern on top of the tart, slightly overlapping the slices. What a beauty!

Happy Birthday, Marmi.  You are very loved.

Printable version.

Printable version with picture.


January 31, 2011

Berry Strata

I thought it was about time to share something sweet.  For some reason bread pudding has been on my mind lately.  I don’t know if it’s the cold weather this past week or the fact that I secretly coveted the bread pudding that friends ordered at Ellerbe.  Regardless, I had never made bread pudding and I thought it was about time.

Berry Strata is very similar to bread pudding.  I can’t really tell you the difference between them, other than stratas are normally associated with Italian cooking and the name just sounds better, honestly.  This recipe is from Giada’s Kitchen.  This is the first recipe I have tried from this cookbook, and it definitely will not be the last.  I really loved the way this dessert turned out.  I think it would make an equally impressive brunch dish, alongside a little maple syrup.. mmmmm.  Plus with the time lapse between making the strata and baking it, it’s a perfect get-out-of-bed-and-put-it-in-the-oven type of recipe.  A way to wow your guests or significant other while still being able to get your beauty sleep.  On with it.

:: You will need ::

2 tbsp. unsalted butter (1/4 stick)

3 tbsp. honey

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

4 cups of bread, torn into 1-inch pieces

10 oz. bag of frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained

:: Let’s get going ::

(1) Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Turn off the heat, add the honey, and stir to combine.

(2) Combine the eggs, ricotta, and sugar in a large bowl.  Using a whisk, mix to combine and beat the eggs.

(3) Add the milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and bread.  Stir with a spoon to combine.  Make sure to drain the berries and then gently fold them into the mixture.

(4) Pour the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

(5) Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Bake the strata until golden brown on top and baked through, about 40 minutes.  Let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Printable version.

Printable version with picture.