September 13, 2013

Fresh Raspberry Sherbet

Picking fresh raspberries is one of my favorite things to do. It is calming, a good stress reliever and a great way to start the day. Especially when the leaves are still wet with dew and the berries glisten in the morning sunshine.

Conveniently my 91 year old neighbor has an enormous organic raspberry patch that she lets me pick all of her raspberries out of. She is moving soon and I will be sad to see her go. Somehow I'm going to have to convince the new neighbors to let me pick raspberries next year! I have collected over six pounds so far and after my entire family gorges themselves on fresh raspberries I freeze what's left.

So far I have made raspberry scones, fresh puree for pancakes and waffles, a vinaigrette and raspberry applesauce. Since sherbet is my absolute favorite kind of ice cream raspberry sherbet was the next obvious choice for using up the raspberries. And a good one I might add!!


Before you start on the sherbet you will want to make the puree. You can use fresh or frozen berries. I used frozen berries that weren't prime to eat fresh. Picked, of course, out of the raspberry patch!
There are several ways to make puree:
If you are using fresh berries just blend them and strain them through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
If you are using frozen berries use the following steps:
1. In a medium saucepan cook 12 ounces of frozen berries and 1/4 cup water over medium heat until berries start to release their juices.
2. Using a spatula, wooden spoon or veggie masher - mash the berries.
3. Remove berries from heat and blend mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.
4. Line a bowl with a fine mesh strainer and pour mixture into strainer.
5. Gently shake the strainer until all you have left are seeds. Discard seeds. You should have approximately 1 1/2 cups of puree. If you have a bit extra drink it up or pour
over pancakes in the morning!

Making homemade raspberry sherbet is actually very simple compared to proper ice cream. You don't need to cook anything which is a bonus in saving time!

Fresh Raspberry Sherbet
1 1/2 c. raspberry puree
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. fresh lemon juice (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.
Cover bowl and refrigerate mixture for 3-4 hours before freezing in an ice cream machine.

Once mixture has been cooled freeze according to machine instructions. Basically, you just need to make sure your freezer bowl is completely frozen and you don't overfill the bowl with the sherbet mixture!
In my machine it took about 15 minutes to get a soft serve consistency. It is very good this way and irresistible to try! Place in a airtight container and freeze longer for a harder consistency - more like traditional sherbet. Eat and enjoy with more fresh raspberries!

June 22, 2013

Homemade Sweet Tarts Candy

Sweet and sour all wrapped up in one tiny magnificent bite!

That would be my definition of homemade sweet tarts and making them was so much easier than I ever imagined. They don't have that semi-shiny coating on the outside (because I didn't want to put food in a rock tumbler!!!) but the flavor and texture are the same!!

homemade sweet tarts candy

Homemade Sweet Tarts
1/4 c. clear soda (Blue Sky, Cream Soda, Sierra Mist, 7-UP)
3/4 t. gelatin
3-4 c. powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
2 t. citric acid
Flavored extracts
Food coloring
1/2 t. each of lemon and orange zest - optional

In a small non-reactive bowl combine gelatin and soda. After about 5 minutes, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water to dissolve the gelatin completely - until you can't see any granules. Remove from heat.

Using a hand or stand mixer - mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar and the citric acid into the gelatin mixture. Keep adding the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you have stiff fondant-like dough. It will be somewhat sticky. Turn dough out onto a work surface covered with powdered sugar. Knead until dough is less sticky and can be easily rolled with a rolling pin. In this particular recipe more powdered sugar is better than less so you don't end up with a chewy sweet tart, unless you like them chewy!

This is the basic recipe. Now you can add what ever flavorings and colors you wish.

Once the basic dough recipe is finished divide dough into as many equal pieces as flavorings you have to use. I divided mine into four equal pieces so I chose four extracts (and matching food colorings) - Lemon, Orange, Strawberry and Blueberry.

Starting with one piece of dough make a well in the middle and add:
1/4 t. of flavoring/extract
food coloring - to desired color
1/2 t. zest - optional - I used this only in the orange and lemon varieties.

Knead until cohesive. Set aside while you mix the other colors and flavors.

Starting with one color/flavor of dough roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. I used 1/4 inch square dowels as guides. It makes the drying more consistent this way.

Using a small round cookie cutter (about 1/2 inch in diameter), cut out as many circles as you can and transfer cut-outs to a baking sheet to dry. Collect scraps and re-roll and cut continuing until dough is gone.

Drying may take a few days so be patient. If you have a food dehydrator you can speed the drying process significantly! Don't try to put them in the oven, however, even on warm. They will not dry smooth and will have bumps and indents. Trust me I tried it once!!!

Roll sweet tarts in candy wrappers if desired or store in an airtight container for up to three months. Don't worry they will be gone before that! They also make great party snacks or a good addition to a goodie bag. They are mess free!

June 20, 2013

Pepperoni Pizza Twists

For those of us who are pizza-dough-tossing challenged this is a fun and easy way to dress up pizza and make it taste as great as the real thing without getting covered in flour and ending up with pizza dough in our hair!!! How do they make it look so easy?!

The bottom is crispy and charred from the melted cheese and the top is nice and crunchy while the middle is still hot and chewy. The perfect combination for great pizza!

Pizza Dough
1 - 1/4-ounce envelope dry active yeast
1 c. water
2 1/2-3 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 t. salt
Olive oil, for bowl

Dissolve yeast in warm water (105-115 degrees F) in a glass measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with hook attachment add yeast mixture and stir in 1 1/2 cups flour and the salt, mixing until smooth. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and continue kneading until dough is no longer sticky and is smooth.

Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles or place in a proofer and let rise 30-45 minutes.

Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree F. oven for one hour.

Divide dough into six equal pieces. Shred desired cheese and cut desired toppings into small pieces. This will make it easier once it's time to slice the dough. I just used pepperoni and cheeses for mine. Classic and easy!

On a lightly floured work surface stretch dough into a 10-12 inch long oval or rectangle (about 3-4 inches wide). You can use a rolling pin but I found it easy to just stretch the dough with my hands. If you get a hole just pinch in closed.

Spread pizza sauce on the dough and sprinkle with cheese and toppings.

Using a table knife make diagonal slices in the dough. Diagonal is very important. If you make them straight the toppings will fall out when you roll up the dough.

Starting at one end of the dough start rolling it up until you have a long thin roll.
It's okay if pizza toppings are falling out.

Now, starting at one end of the roll start twisting it up like a snail mounding it as you roll. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Transfer all to pizza stone.

Reduce heat to 400 degrees F and bake 10-15 minutes or until top is golden brown and you can hear the cheese sizzling. Serve piping hot!

June 13, 2013

Chewy Granola Bars

I have always loved chewy granola bars and have made them at home for several years now. I have attempted many different versions and have finally perfected (for me) a chewy granola bar without using refined sugar. That's my favorite part!

Dried fruits are extremely sweet and require very little added sweetness. You can omit it entirely if desired but I find that by adding some maple syrup I get the chewy consistency that I have been searching for. It also acts as a great binder to keep the bars soft, chewy and delicious!

chewy granola bars

Organic Chewy Granola Bars
1/3 c. raisins
1/3 c. prunes
4 large pitted dates
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 T. molasses
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. rolled oats, divided
1/2 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side. Lightly butter the parchment paper.

In a large food processor fitted with a steel blade add raisins, prunes, dates, syrup, molasses and vanilla. Process until mixture resembles a thick paste scraping down sides as necessary.

Add 1/2 cup of oats and process until oats are finely chopped.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add remaining oats, almonds, walnuts and cranberries. Stir until well combined.

Press mixture evenly into prepared pan using damp or lightly buttered hands to prevent sticking.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let pan cool on a wire rack.

Gently lift parchment out of pan (with granola bars) and transfer to a cutting board. Cut to desired size. I usually like to cut into 12 equal bars and wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Alternatively you can store bars in an airtight container layered with parchment so bars don't stick together.

Save the Bees!

I think most of us have been aware that bees are dying at alarming rates and as researchers have found much of it has to do with toxic chemicals or pesticides being heavily sprayed on crops all over the Unites States.


My husband and I like to keep our children informed of environmental issues when appropriate. The boys are 4 and 6 but still care about the world, especially plants and animals AND bugs of any sort!

After I told my oldest son that the bees are dying in part because of pesticides he asked, "Why don't farmers stop spraying pesticides so the bees can stay alive?" I had to explain that not everyone thinks the same way we do. You can read this article, and many others, regarding the problems/pesticides at PAN (Pesticide Action Network).

This bee conversation happened to be right around his 6th birthday and he wanted to take fun snacks to school for a special treat and decided he wanted bees and responsibly told his classmates why he wanted bee themed snacks and told them why the bees are dying off!!

These very simple bees are made from yellow paper glued on clothespins. I drew stripes on the paper with a sharpie marker before I cut out the strips so I didn't have to do it 25 times! Then I glued on googly eyes and bent a black pipe cleaner for the antennae.

Then using resealable snack sized bags fill each side (twisted in the center) with snacks and secure with a bee! The kids in my son's class were thrilled about the bees flying them all over the room! It was adorable!


Save the bees!

June 9, 2013

Marvel Superheroes Cake

I can't believe how fast my boys are growing up. My youngest just turned FOUR years old and wanted a Marvel superheroes cake for his birthday. I was up for the challenge and making Marvel characters out of fondant turned out to be so much fun. He requested four Marvel superheroes since he was turning four years old - Spiderman, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man!

I always make cakes at night when my kids have gone to sleep so they have a huge surprise in the morning when they wake up. I love to see their expressions when they see their cake for the first time.

Marvel Superheroes Cake

Each Marvel superhero was created completely out of fondant. I like working with fondant to sculpt characters. It is forgiving (if I screw up!) and will last a long time if you let it dry out completely. However, I never cover my cakes in fondant just because I don't like how it tastes - and yes I have made my very own marshmallow fondant before and think it tastes bad too. Buttercream is the way to go in my house!

Marvel Superheroes Cake

Marvel Superheroes CakeMarvel Superheroes Cake 

Marvel Superheroes CakeMarvel Superheroes Cake

Spiderman was my favorite to make. I rolled out very thin snakes of black fondant to make all of the webbing on his suit and created a small black spider for the center. I based these Marvel superheroes from toys that I saw online. I searched Google images for 'Marvel plush toys' and it worked out great!

Marvel Superheroes Cake
Happy Birthday Liam!

May 19, 2013

Homemade Lemon Drops

I couldn't stop smiling after I made these! In fact, I am smiling right now while I am eating one! It took me right back to my childhood. My dad always had a bag of lemon drops in his car and I loved going on random and pointless car rides just so I could savor the tart and sour little drops of sunshine!

Don't be intimidated by this recipe just because it calls for a candy thermometer. If you have a bit of patience lemon drops are easy!

Since I had never made lemon drop candy before I wanted to use an existing recipe instead of trying to come up with my own. I found this one that looked easy enough to follow. I used a half recipe from what the blog did and I formed them differently. So here is the recipe with my take on shaping them.

Lemon Drop Candy - (From - Adapted from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/4 c. water
1 t. citric acid
1/4 t. lemon extract
yellow food coloring
powdered sugar for rolling - 1-2 T.

Coat a plastic scraper with butter and have a silpat ready. If you don't have a silpat a marble slab was recommended in the original recipe.

Preheat oven to warm.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat combine sugar, cream of tartar and water. Stir just until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and attach a Sur La Table Candy & Deep Fry Thermometer (Google Affiliate Ad) to the side of the pan. Continue boiling mixture until it reaches 300 degrees F (or hard ball stage).

Pour hot mixture immediately onto silpat. Silpats come in different sizes. Pick on that fits in one of your sheet pans. I like the silpat brand - Sur La Table® Silpat® Baking Mats 8.25" x 11.75" (Google Affiliate Ad). Sprinkle citric acid, lemon extract and coloring onto the sugar mixture.

Using a buttered scraper (of some kind) mix ingredients until combined. The mixture will initially stick all over the scraper but will eventually come together into one cohesive glob of sugar!

While the mixture is still hot pull or cut pieces off and roll them in your hands to form a sphere or egg shape. Be careful not to burn your hands. The mixture should feel hot but not hot enough to burn your skin. If it is, wait for it to cool some.

Since the mixture is hot the lemon drops will ultimately be flattened on one side. Or at least mine were!

Roll the formed lemon drops in powdered sugar (or cornstarch) to coat. This way they will not all stick to each other!

Tip - If you find that the sugar is hardening too quickly to shape the pieces put them in the warm oven to reheat the sugar. You will be able to shape them again once they soften a bit.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

April 8, 2013

Despicable Me - Minion Cake

I can't believe my son is SIX years old. He is in love with the minions from Despicable Me! I think they are adorable and thought it was a great idea to make him the cake of cakes! We are anxiously awaiting Despicable Me 2!!!

cake of cakes

My son was very clear that he needed six minions on his cake of cakes since he was turning six! They were so fun to make and the end product was fun too! It was a dark chocolate fudge layer cake so it was delicious too!

If you have ever read about my cakes before you will know that I refuse (unless someone requests) to cover a cake in fondant. I think it tastes horrible (yes, even marshmallow fondant) and when you go to peel it off so the cake can actually be eaten all the frosting comes too. Very disappointing, especially for kids, so I use buttercream and smooth it the best I can. It makes the cake even more delicious. With that said, I do, however, love to make characters and decorations with fondant!

cake of cakescake of cakescake of cakes
cake of cakescake of cakescake of cakes

Minions are so basic they are really easy to create with fondant. They are just an egg shape with some britches and some eyes! There are so many fondant tools and gadgets that are supposed to make creating fondant decorations easier. You certainly don't need them for making minions. I used only my hands and a toothpick!

February 21, 2013

Roasted Garlic Soup

Ahhhh, the time of year when everyone around seems to be sniffling and sneezing. Unfortunately, my husband is currently one of these people. In an attempt to take care of him without getting too close to catch his sickness I decided to use my garlic soup recipe to help him feel better. Since garlic is oh so tasty and a natural antibiotic it was a match made in heaven.

He was thankful for the steaming bowl of soup that cleared his sinuses and loved the soup as much as I did. This roasted garlic soup recipe is somewhat time consuming but is worth it in the end!

Every great soup starts with a great base. In this case homemade chicken stock. You can substitute store bought stock if you prefer but if you have the time and resources you should really make your own. You won't regret the extra effort. Especially when you warm the whole house with the savory aroma of roasted chicken and vegetables and taste the difference in the end product.

Homemade Chicken Stock
4 chicken thighs - bone in (very important)
6 cloves garlic
1 onion, sliced
4 large carrots, quartered
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all ingredients to an appropriately sized roasting pan making sure fat side of chicken is up. Salt and pepper generously.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until chicken reaches 165 degrees F tested with a Safe Serve Meat Thermometer (Google Affiliate Ad).

Remove pan from oven and let chicken cool until you can pull all of the meat off the bone. Reserve for a later meal.

Add all chicken bones, fat and veggies to a large stock pot and fill with one quart of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer about 45 minutes.

Using a large fine mesh colander strain liquid into a large bowl and set aside.

Eat the carrots because you can't resist and discard the rest.

Keep oven preheated to 350 degrees F.

This is a really easy recipe for roasted garlic. Cut the top off of one head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a Stoneware Garlic Roaster, White - White (Google Affiliate Ad). Roast 45-60 minutes or until garlic is tender. Let cool then squeeze out the garlic into a small bowl. Set aside.

Roasted Garlic Soup
1 head garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 T. olive oil
1 head roasted garlic
1 quart chicken stock
1/3 c. milk
1 small potato, peeled and diced
2 oz. cream cheese
2 T. butter
salt and pepper

Garnish - optional
scallions, thinly sliced
parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large soup pot sauté garlic and onion with olive oil until translucent over medium-high heat. Add in roasted garlic, chicken stock, milk, cream cheese and potato.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Continue simmering 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Using an immersion blender Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender, Metallic Red (Google Affiliate Ad) blend the soup until smooth. Return to low heat. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot and garnish with scallions, cheese and croutons if desired.

***If you love garlic and cook with it a lot you may want to consider a garlic press of some sort. It is very convenient and makes quick work of all that garlic! I don't roast garlic all that often but when I do I love to use my garlic roaster! It comes out perfect every time. Mine is ceramic but cast-iron works perfectly also! Both times are a great addition to a home kitchen!