peanuts for payday

Sweet and nutty, YES. I must have copied this recipe out of an old church potluck cookbook, because I cannot find the source, and my penmanship is dated. I can’t be the only one with personal font phases. In any case, the PayDay bar seems to be the beginning in the progression of “energy” candy bars (followed by Baby Ruth, then maybe Snickers?). But it’s definitely dessert, and this bar recipe is all kinds of sweet, salty and easy.

Mix 1 box yellow cake mix, 1/3 c softened butter, 1 egg.
Press into an ungreased 9×13 pan.
Bake @ 350-degrees for about 12 minutes.

Toss 3 c mini mallows over the top and return to oven for 2 minutes.

Heat on low stovetop 2/3 c light corn syrup, 1/4 c butter, 2 c peanut butter chips till melty.
Mix in 2 c salted peanuts & 2 c Rice Krispies.

Spread over cake & mallow layers.
Cool & cut into squares.

desserts & installations


Just a few of my favorite things! I met up with my old college roommates and summer camp counselor friends in Grand Rapids Friday. It was the last weekend of ArtPrize 2011 filled with treats visually & gastronomically in good company. These desserts are from San Chez in downtown Grand Rapids, including Empanada de Chocolate (chocolate fudge filled pastry, dolce de leche ice cream, brandy caramel, raspberry sauce), Pastel de Queso de Cabra (vanilla goat cheese cheesecake with shortbread crust, lemon curd, blackberry caviar & pecan tuile), and Tarta de Chocolate al Whisky (whisky soaked cake, caramel pecan ice cream, brownie & white chocolate mousse), respectively. The dishroom didn’t have much work to do once we were finished.

bourbon spice pumpkin whoopie pies


Every year pumpkin season starts for me on September 27 when, to commemorate her birthday, my mom gets out the Libby’s and puts together two pumpkin pies to share. My sister’s family came to celebrate this weekend, so I hunted down my pumpkin whoopie pie recipe to make for our get together. I changed up the original recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking a bit with some bourbon, olive oil, allspice and extra cinnamon. The result was a less vanillan, more splendorous barrel spice pumpkin cake, sandwiching the lustrous cinnamon cream cheese sweetness. Looking forward to pie with Mom on Tuesday. Happy Fall!

Bourbon Spice Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Recipe (12 big ones or 24 lil’ ones)

Tops and Bottoms: 3 c all purpose flour / 1 t kosher salt / 1 t baking powder / 1 t baking soda / 2 T cinnamon / 1 T allspice / 1 T cloves / 2 c dark brown sugar / 1 c olive oil / 3 c chilled pumpkin purée / 2 large eggs / 1 t bourbon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper – important!

1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices together and set aside.  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined.  3. Add the pumpkin and combine thoroughly.  4. Add the eggs and bourbon until combined.  5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, about one inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you whip up the middle.

Middle: 3 c confectioners sugar / 2 t cinnamon / 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened / 8 oz cream cheese, softened / 1 t bourbon

1. Sift the confectioners sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  2. In separate bowl, beat the butter until it’s completely smooth.  3. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.  4. Add the confectioners sugar/cinnamon and bourbon and beat until smooth.

Assemble & Devour. Suggested beverage pairings: milk, Booker’s or Basil Hayden’s.

three is magical

My sister does such a good job at making occasions magical and so do her relatives.  She sewed my niece a new dress, Great Grandma made a special princess blanket and “Aunt Bef” sent her the sweetest fairy outfit that she had to change into right away.  Also ethereal was the surprise Oreo in the middle of that chocolate cupcake topped with raspberry marshmallow fluff buttercream frosting (another genius recipe from Everyday Food that was well executed).  What’s all the fuss?  This little girl inspires us all with her giant heart and zest for life.  She makes our lives magical by just being her.

how about some toffee cake to go along with that coffee

Hey, busy week, it’s almost the weekend. How about some cake to go with all that coffee you’ve been drinking? SKOR. I made a coffee cake (used dark brown sugar, less vanilla, all purpose white flour–once used whole wheat and not nearly the same) and topped it with chunks of SKOR (3 bars). Baking and hammering candy bars are therapeutic over here. For nostalgia, I dug up this photo that documents my first taste of coffee. We made homemade doughnuts on Sundays every now and then, and my dad let me drink out of his mug that time. Which reminds me – it’s almost jacket season! Now, where can I find an awesome purple windbreaker in my grownup size?

interaction of cupcakes

Sprinkles in Chicago this weekend: both the kind that come from the sky and the kind that come from the cupcake gods!  When I realized that we were going to stay two blocks from the latest Sprinkles location, I flipped out.  I have been following Candace Nelson since she first appeared on TV six years ago, and now her original gourmet cupcakes are baked fresh in the Midwest.  So before we left I requested to make a cupcake stop during one of our days in the city, and my brother-in-law said, “why not both days!”  And even though there was rain, we totally did stop both days (yes, one of the million examples of why I have the best bro-in-law ever).  Of course I like the looks of the colored flavor-indicating sugar dots, but these cupcakes are about the ingredients.  They are not too fussy and have proven to be a trendy classic.  My top two were the carrot and the chocolate marshmallow.  The ganache covering that cupcake will be on my mind for quite some time.  I love the rain and fresh chocolate marshmallow cake.

lemon raspberry chocolate birthday

I was flattered when asked to bake a cake for my dear friend Mary’s 30th birthday back porch celebration.  I asked for her top 5 ingredients, and she said, “lemon and raspberry would be on the list, possibly strawberry or coconut. Usually chocolate, but it’s so-oo hot that fruit is on the brain.”  I found a hot pink raspberry cake recipe, then I was told about this lovely lemon yogurt cake recipe.  Why not both?  I added frozen raspberries to one of the layers of the undoubtedly light and fresh lemon cakes, and topped it with raspberry cream cheese frosting.  The hot pink cake turned into mini-cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream.  The evening was filled with deliciousness (her husband makes homemade breads! and they made those nuts I can’t stop eating).  The birthday girl was aglow.

tirecakes

This weekend I helped celebrate my nephew’s 6th birthday Cars style.  For the kids’ cakes, my sister poured chocolate cake batter into donut pans, popped them in the oven, and out came cake tires!  We each got one of our own and customized the sidewalls with frosting and candy; the kids were genius decorators!  We all kept calling them donuts, but they were lighter than that.  What a simple to handle and festive alternative to cupcakes.  I couldn’t get enough of the toppings (surprise!) and have to say that the cake to frosting ratio here was perfect (which is hit or miss with regular cupcakes).  Tirecakes taste nothing like burnt rubber.

my grandma’s birthday

My mom’s mom was born on July 3rd the same year as Shirley Temple and Mickey Mouse.  Because of her birthday, the 4th of July holiday is among my favorite family holidays, too.  As long as I can remember, she invites relatives over to her house on Elizabeth Street for a cookout to celebrate.  Some aunts and uncles just walk up the street to her front yard, while the rest of us drive in from different corners of the state or country.  The configuration of people varies from year to year, but you can usually count on breakfast at Wimbledon, Lay’s potato chips, Uncle George at the charcoal grill and a coconut cake (Grandma’s favorite).  I am thankful for both the verbal and silent support that comes from my family and for the sustained comfort that my grandma has instilled in all of us.  These are the days when the familiar beats the new and fancy.

big easy little fat bites

I am in New Orleans for the first time in my life for my first ALA Conference!  I didn’t eat one full meal today, but in between registrations and check-ins, I was able to have a few tasty bites around the Conference Center.  Baby Arugula Flatbread with Shaved Manchego and Marjoram, House Sourdough from Feast, Warm Pork Fat on Toast with Thyme and Piccalilli (my stomach churned for a bit afterward, but it was so rich and cozy).  Finally, my indulgent version of bedtime tea and milk: Creole Cream Cheesecake with Chamomile to drink.  What makes a cheesecake Creole?  Oh my, a tangy combination of whole milk, skim milk, and cream with spiced Steen’s cane syrup and dehydrated berries.  Sweet dreams.