Friday, September 28, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

Ben's birthday was last month (his last SINGLE birthday at that!).  I love to make people's favorite dessert for their birthday whether it's ice cream, cake, cookies, mousse, whatever!  One of Ben's all time favorite desserts is peanut butter cookies.  Not to brag, but I have a pretty darn good, fail-proof recipe for them!  They are light and crispy with a nice peanut flavor!  Yummy!!!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup natural-style peanut butter, room temperature ( Smucker's works best)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Cream sugars and butter together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter to the creamed mixture. Blend until well mixed.
  5. Add dry ingredients into the creamed mixture until just mixed together.
  6. Dropped onto a greased cookie sheet. To make the criss-cross pattern, dip fork into water and press into cookie in a perpendicular pattern.
  7. Bake until edges turn golden brown about 12 minutes.
What is YOUR favorite cookie?Pin It

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sourdough Bread

I am so happy to report that I have been successful in creating a sourdough starter and making homemade sourdough bread!  Not that I doubted myself, but whenever we start something new in life, we get apprehensive (like getting married or redecorating the apartment or learning about the new service culture at work).  Change is good though--you learn who you are through change.

Anyway--Although I never killed the sourdough starter, it did get pretty big!  I made so much starter that I had to make a double loaf!  The bread was great--a little sour--but an excellent start!  Mom suggested that I put the starter in the fridge, and so far the sourness seems to be under control so it will probably stay there.

{My first homemade sourdough loaf!}

{This is the second loaf I made--much better!}

To make the bread, I based it off of the no-knead bread recipe

{See the line at the top?  That's how much starter was made in the first 10 days!}

{Sourdough starter and flour}


Makes 1 medium loaf

3 cups bread flour
2 cups sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
  1. Mix flour, starter, and water together.
  2. Let sit for 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place.
  3. Preheat oven to 450; place a Dutch oven in the oven to heat up.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; fold dough over 6-10 times.
  5. Cover with flour and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Uncover Dutch oven; place dough in the hot dish and cover with lid.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes covered; then 15-20 minutes uncovered.
  8. Cool completely before slicing.
Slightly sour yet deliciously sweet! I am definitely looking forward to making more!!!

Ben loved the bread, and so did my mom.  I am excited to start making homemade bread once or twice a month.  Next step is to add ingredients like garlic cloves (Ben's suggestion) and making it a wheat sourdough.  I am soooo excited!

Have you tried the no-knead bread recipe?  If you haven't you should because it is VERY easy!

Pin It

Monday, September 24, 2012

Adventure into Sourdough

Growing up, my family made their own bread in a bread machine.  I loved to help my dad put the ingredients just so in the pan, and then when I came home from school to have a snack of fresh baked bread with butter.  Yummy!!!

One of the breads we loved to make was sourdough bread.  Since I am on a bread-making kick, I decided to adventure into making sourdough starter.  I was worried because sourdough is a living culture; what if I couldn't make bread that week(s)? 

After picking my mom's brain and doing some research here, I was ready to dive in.  Thankfully, I was old enough to vaguely remember some sourdough essentials, but between my mom and the research, I am much more confident.

{Day 1--Just mixed the sourdough starter}

I looked and saw articles about 'wild yeast' compared to 'commerical yeast'--it might have some validity to it, but I'm all about easy.  It's much easier to use commerical yeast than to try and 'capture' the wild yeasts.  If this fails, then I might try to capture those wild yeasts by saddling up Ziffi and riding her to the wild unknown of Yeast Country!  (Ziffi is my wild kitty  LOL)

{Flour, yeast, and milk--that's it!}

Sourdough Starter


2 cups bread flour
2 cups warmed milk
1 package of active dry yeast
  1. Warm the milk to about 100 degrees (should be slightly warm to the touch) and add yeast to bloom.  Dry yeast should be rehydrated because it will work better.
  2. Place flour in a large container (the starter will need room to grow!).
  3. Mix yeast, milk and flour together until combined.
  4. Cover the top of the container with a breathable material like a cotton towel so the starter can 'breathe'.
  5. Place starter in a warm, draft free environment.
  6. Feed daily with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup milk or water for 1 week.
  7. Ready to use after 10-14 days of growing.
  8. If you need to slow it down or are unable to bake, place it in the fridge until ready to use.

{Day 2}

Bubbles and brownish liquid (which is normal--just stir it back in!) means that it's working!  It's smelling sour too which is also a good sign.  Since this is a living culture, you have to 'feed' it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm milk or warm water (I am alternating because that's what my family did).  I found that keeping it in the fridge is working for me because it gets too sour if left out.

{Day 3--Side view (this is a gallon jar by the way).  It's still bubbling and working which is fantastic!}

The first few days are the hardest.  After about 5 days, the liquid should be stable enough not to kill.  Sourdough starter is ready to use after 10-14 days (which I could barely wait!).  

Pin It

Friday, September 21, 2012

Berry Ricotta Ice Cream

I'm trying to hold on to summer for a bit before fall sets in.  I had a fun little summer to-do list, and although I didn't get all of it done (like ride a tandem bike), I did go on a cross-country road trip, visit some festivals, explore a new park, and have a blue raspberry snow cone.  I also had a goal to make three different ice creams with three different bases (cream, non-cream, and unusal).  The cream-based ice cream was the Red Velvet Cake Batter while the non-cream based was the Coconut Ice Cream with Roasted Almonds and Chocolate.  This last ice cream fits the bill of 'unusal'; it's base is ricotta cheese! 

{Sweet but tangy!}

However, this ice cream has one of my favorite flavor combinations: berry and lemon!  The original recipe called for raspberries, but I did a mix of blackberries and raspberries.

{Stirring in frozen berries from the Farmer's Market!}

Berry Ricotta Ice Cream

Makes 2 quarts


2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 lemon, zested
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups berries
  1. In a food processor, mix ricotta, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add heavy cream until just combined.
  3. Chill overnight.
  4. Freeze according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's directions.
  5. When ice cream had reached soft-serve consistency, stir in berries.
  6. Freeze overnight.
Are you holding onto summer or are you ready for fall?Pin It

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beautiful Flutterbys

Our caterpillars have finally transformed!  We found caterpillars on my herbs and decided to raise them!  The experience has been wonderful, and I would do it again.  In fact, Ben and I saw tadpoles (which I have never seen in person) on a hike at a new park for my birthday.  Don't worry--they stayed at the park!  They were are the stage where they had to breathe air and were growing legs.  Nature is so incredile!

{The first butterfly to hatch!}

{The cocoon turns black about 18-24 horus before the butterfly comes out!  This is the second butterfly}

{The second butterfly}

Both butterflies were released into the world as soon as they were flitting around in the cage.  Their wings had to dry out; plus, I wanted to get pictures of their wings because it will tell us what the gender of the butterfly is.

According to this site we raised-- TWO FEMALES!!!  Awwwww!!!  (No--we didn't name them mainly because we didn't know what they were LOL)

Now when Ben and I go for a walk and see a butterfly, I can identify these (along with Monarchs--that's all I'm good for LOL)!  So awesome! 

PS--I had to clean out the cage with caterpillar vomit since 'I wanted to watch them grow'.  Ben enjoyed seeing it too because he was the first to spot that they both had hatched.  I would do it again in half a heartbeat ;o) 
Pin It

Thursday, September 13, 2012


So it was my boss's birthday not too long ago.  I am going to gush a moment (a rarity for me) so feel free to continue on to the next paragraph!  My boss is one of the best I've had, and I'm pretty sure one of the best in the world.  He supports his staff and stands up for them.  He takes the time to teach us and train us in all aspects of work (special shout-out to his tutorial in business emails!), and he listens to our life stories--good, bad, and ugly.  We can joke and laugh with him too.  He does more than I can say not only for his staff but for our entire workforce.  Many people don't realize it, but I do!  I appreciate him, and I try to show that to him. 

{Homemade original CHEESECAKE!} 

So his birthday was a bit ago.  I love to make someone's favorite treat for their birthday (it's my thing!).  So although he LOVES my black bean brownie recipe, I decided to make his other favorite: cheesecake.  It's been a minute since I made cheesecake, but I have a wonderful recipe.  It's not too sweet or rich; it's really perfect.  It's also very easy and bakes up in less than an hour!  This is a German-style cheesecake with a butter cookie crust which is my favorite!  We can still be friends if you prefer a graham cracker crust (I suppose.......).  If you would like a graham cracker crust go for it! 

{Butter cookie crust!}

{Baked crust}

{Filling beaten to a smooth consistency and ready to bake!}


Serves 8-16 depending on who does the cutting


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups sour cream, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Make the crust:  Combine butter and sugar until ight and fluffy; add vanilla and blend.  Add flour until just combined.  Press into the bottom of a springform pan and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust becomes golden brown. 
  3. Turn the oven down to 375.
  4. Make the filling:  Combine the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed.  Add salt, vanilla, and almond extract and mix until combined.  Stir sour cream in gently until incorporated.
  5. Pour filling on top of crust.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until just set when shaken.
  7. Cool overnight in the firdge.
My cake was ALMOST done so I gave it another 5-6 minutes, and that's why my top is a bit 'done'.  The cake was still delicious though!  Items will continue to cook/bake even if you take them off the heat source.  In hindsight, I should have taken it out.  I was told that the cake was completely eaten the day I gave it to him which means that it was definitely FABULOUS!
Pin It

Monday, September 10, 2012

No Knead Bread

Growing up, my family made their own bread in our bread machine.  I love the smell of baking bread!  When it was done, we would cut the top of the bread off, slather it in butter, and eat it in pure happiness!!!

{Yummy fresh bread!}

I am all about fresh, homemade food.  I know bread is daunting especially yeast breads (sometimes I am intimidated!), but leave it to smitten kitchen to make bread super easy!  Seriously-- three ingredients and no kneading!  I could not ask for more!

I grew up on German bread, and this recipe makes a hardy, heavy bread which is what I love.  This is the second time I made this recipe; this particular bread is a white wheat bread (I substituted some of the bread flour for whole wheat flour).  Side note--I am playing with sourdough starter so my next bread will be sourdough!  Actually, now that I am thinking about it--this bread recipe is almost like a sourdough starter (just flour, water and yeast).  That's pretty cool!

{Blooming yeast}

{Dough will be extremely sticky!  Don't worry--it'll work out}

{After 18 hours of just sitting on the counter}

{Put in a hot ceraminc pot}

No-Knead Bread

Makes 1 medium loaf


3 cups bread flour (can substitute up to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
1 5/8 cups warm water
1 envelope of active dry yeast

  1. Place yeast in warm (NOT hot!) water; this is called blooming the yeast.  Since the yeast is in a dry form, it works best to rehydrate it before using it.  Just let it sit for 3-5 minutes or until the yeast looks like super soggy cereal.
  2. Add yeast and water to flour.
  3. Mix to create a sticky dough.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (or lid) and let sit for at least 12 hours, preferably 18 hours, at a warm room temperature.  Dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  6. Heavily flour the work surface with flour; form dough into a ball shape. 
  7. Heavily flour the top of the dough and cover with a cotton towel.  Let it rise for two hours or until double in size.
  8. About 30 minutes before the dough is done doubling, preheat an oven to 450.  Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.
  9. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the dough, and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but don't worry.
  10. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  11. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.
  12. Cool on a rack.
How easy is that?  Mix it up; leave it.  Play with it a bit; leave it.  Bake it; DONE!  Fresh, homemade bread with no stress or worries!

Pin It

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Raising of Caterpillars

So last week I get a text with a picture of the cutest caterpillar from Ben; he said they were on our balcony (which is 3 stories up!) eating all of my herbs.  I told him to get them off my herbs immediately!  They had already eaten all of my parsley and were working on the chives....  Oh well.  Ben decided to use them as fish bait which was fine by me, but then I got to thinking--if those are monarch caterpillars (which is an endangered/threatened species) then we need to ID them before we kill them!

{Original picture}

We looked all over the internet, and finally, we identified them as black swallowtail caterpillars (without any doubts).  We got all of our information on the black swallowtail caterpillar/butterfly was from this source

{Black Swallowtail Female Butterfly source}

Then Ben and I started talking about the caterpillars; I had never seen one grow into a butterfly, and he admitted that he hadn't either.  Then he said that I could have one (of the three caterpillars we found) and grow it into a butterfly.  I told him he couldn't just pick and choose which one lived, and he finally gave in and let me grow all three!  He is enjoying watching them too!  (although he might not admit it)

{Unfortunately, we lost one caterpillar to natural causes after day one}

{When you touch them, horns pop out of their heads--pretty funny!  (No animals were harmed)}

{See that green pile in the bottom center?  No--it's not caterpillar poop--apparently when caterpillars are ready to morph, they empty their stomachs.  So yes--it's caterpillar vomit}

{The first caterpillar to start coccooning.  See the silks that attach the caterpillar to the lid?  It was pretty awasome to see!}

{The second caterpillar started coccooning about one day after the first!}

{Can you spot the completed coccoon?}

{Completed coccoon!}

The website says that it will be 1-2 weeks before they are done changing depending on the weather and such.  Right now it's just a waiting game!  See you in a bit with the butterflies!  We also get to find out the sex of our caterpillars!

PS--It's really the little things in life!
Pin It

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coconut Ice Cream with Chocolate and Roasted Almonds

One of my favorite flavor combinations: chocolate, roasted almonds, and coconut (Almond Joy!!!).  The other wonderful women in my life love it too.  My mother requested that I make this after a fiasco with a real Almond Joy ice cream bar (she is lactose-intolerant), and so I was happy to do it. 

Since she is lactose-intolerant, making ice cream from cream or milk was out of the question.  So I substituted coconut milk instead!  This ice cream was delicious!  It's also easier to make than the last ice cream recipe that I made.

Coconut Ice Cream with Chocolate and Roasted Almonds

Makes 2 quarts


6 egg yolks
cups sugar
2 cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup sliced almonds, roasted
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz butter

  1. Heat coconut milk until it begins to steam.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar until light lemon in color (I used farm eggs so the color was closer to lemon).
  3. Prepare an ice bath (ice in a bowl with water).
  4. When coconut milk is heated, pour slowly into the egg mixture whisking the whole time.
  5. Put bowl with coconut ice cream base in the water bath.  Coconut will separate if you don't cool it quickly!
  6. When base is cool, place in fridge overnight.
  7. Freeze base according to your ice cream maker's directions.
  8. When coconut ice cream has achieved a soft serve stage, mix in chocolate and almonds.
  9. Freeze overnight.
  10. Serve!
I've been tasked with a Banana Bread Ice Cream by my brother who is coming in about a month for my wedding!  I'll be so happy and excited to see him!  Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out how to make this ice cream so my mother can eat it....Pin It