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Sunday, December 29, 2013


For those of us who love to bake, there are always, ALWAYS those confections that never turn out quite right for us, no matter how hard we try. I call those confoundings my Achilles Desserts. For me, my list of Achilles Desserts(A.D.) always seem to be the sweets that I enjoy the most. Shortbread cookies make my mouth sing, but the ones I make always turn out like bland sand. What should be a smooth, creamy chocolate frosting for my Texas Sheet Cake instead turns into what I describe as shards of greasy glass. These things happen to me regardless of the multiple recipes I've tried for each one. 

That brings us to what I thought was destined to be A.D. numero uno, Italian Cream Cake. 

There's a small, Italian eatery near my house, that we frequent often. That restaurant has a house-made Italian Cream Cake on the menu that is so good that it will make you beg the owners to adopt you so that you can spend more time in the presence of.....THE CAKE. After eating THE CAKE a few times I was determined to replicate it in my own kitchen. Cake, nuts, cream cheese frosting. How hard could it possibly be??!! Turns out it was very, very hard. The recipes I tried were either too dry, or the flavoring did not live up to that of THE CAKE.

I had pretty much given up, and had come to terms with only having THE CAKE when out and about. The A.D. list had welcomed another addition. 

And then, my boss' birthday rolled around. Knowing that the man loves pecans with a near-religious fervor, I searched my files for a cake that would scream "PECAN OVERLOAD!!!!!!" (I'm having a new love affair with exclamation points, it's a sickness really. Let's hope the symptoms soon pass....!!!!!). The only recipes that filled that need was the Italian Cream Cake. I stared bitterly at the pages, and they stared back, mocking me with their A.D.-ness (it's my blog and I can make up words(and faux drama) if I want to). A first-world problem, but still a problem, to be sure. 

I threw out the useless recipes and again scoured the internet for the Italian Cream Cake that would rule them all. I'm sure you figured out that I found my saving recipe, otherwise there would be no point to this post. The cake is light and moist, the frosting is nutty and sweet without being overly so. It was a hit with my boss!!! (I will be entering exclamation point group therapy after the new year begins). I can't really compare this to THE CAKE, because they're so different from each other, but I'm satisfied with how close this cake comes to the cake of all cakes.

The recipe comes from and I cannot begin to tell you how great that sight is. It's quickly becoming indispensable to me. I've included the full link to the cake recipe below.



I'm raising my own bad-ass Santa cookie army. One of them is so tough he cut off his own nose. Beware the KKLF (Kris Kringle Liberation Front). Motto: So cute, yet so angry.

Raspberry Oat Bars: Cake mix crust + raspberry jam + oat streusel = divine.

Lemon Crumb Bars: The balance of salty crust and lemon tang are smack-your-face delicious. My 2014 prediction....forget salted caramel because here comes salted lemon. 

The list of baked goods made this Christmas is too long to include here, so that wraps another Christmas baking season. Also known as the I-claim-I-love-this-time-of-year-but-I-secretly-want-to-put-a-gun-to-my-fa-la-la-la-head holiday. In a shoutout to one of my fave Twitter follows, @ASourAppleTree, cue the Layla outro.


No matter what name you know them by, Preacher Cookies, Chewy Charlies, Cow Patties, Candy Cookies, or Poodgies, most of you will know these cookies by site. Even if you've never made them I can bet you've eaten at least one in your life. In my house they've never been known by anything more than "no-bake cookies".

These cookies seem to have taken a toehold all across the country, but from where I'm sitting, nowhere more so than the state of West Virginia. If we were to declare an official state cookie, this would be the one, hands-down. No-bake Cookies are present at every potluck, Christmas party and baby shower from Welch to Wheeling. They are available for sale near the check-out area at most gas stations and convenience stores from one end of this state to the other. And even though there isn't any baking involved, it's rare to find a local bakery that doesn't display them proudly.In some quiet, unassuming way, these cookies have crept into the consciousness of these mountains like edible tribbles.

It's no accident that this cookie is so popular, after all, it has a lot going for it. The texture is soft,almost fudge-like. Then you have the nuttiness of the peanut butter, that pairs so well with the chewiness of the oats. They're so easy to prepare that you can literally have a dozen cooked and ready to eat within 30 minutes. And their versatility lends them to being customized to suit a variety of tastes. You don't like cocoa? No problem there are recipes out there that tell you how to make peanut butter their primary flavor. Not happy with the oats? Substitute coconut instead. Think they would benefit from nuts or raisins? Go for it. I've tried a wide variety of extracts in place of the original vanilla that the recipe calls for, all of them bringing something new to the party (almond extract has become my favorite, but orange extract runs a close second).

Just because they're easy to make, doesn't mean that things can't go wrong. Undercook them and they won't firm up enough to actually be called a cookie. But eating them with a spoon doesn't make them any less delicious. Overcook them, or add too much peanut butter and they will become miniature, tooth-chipping, boulders. Again, still edible, but the texture and coloring are unpleasant. They should be soft and pliable but still solid enough to hold in your hand without breaking. The coloring should be a deep, chocolate brown.

When I think about the cookies of my childhood, this one dominates those memories like no other. I think their praise is long overdue.

No-Bake Cookies

2 - cups granulated sugar
4 - tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 - cup butter
1/2 - cup evaporated or whole milk
1/4 - teaspoon salt
2 1/2 - cups quick or old fashioned oats
1/2 - cup creamy peanut butter
1 - teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat add butter. sugar, cocoa powder, milk and salt.

Stir until butter is melted and ingredients are incorporated. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until completely melted Add vanilla and oatmeal, mix well.

Working quickly before the mixture cools drip by tablespoon (I use my small cookie scoop) onto wax paper.

Let cool completely on waxed paper. Remove the cookies when they have set up.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


I know, it's feast or famine with me, right? I don't post anything for almost a year, and then boom, three posts in one day. And before we dive into this I have to say the sweet roll picture above? It looks a little anatomically gross. Sorry if I just scared you away from this recipe but I felt like it had to be said.

Not to get too bogged down with it but I've been gone a while and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to come back to this blog. This past year has been tough to handle. My grandmother died, and I don't know if I'm ever going to recover. I suffer from depression that I thought I finally had a handle on, and her death showed me that I was so very wrong about that assumption. Stress and other personal issues just reinforced my lack of desire to say anything out loud, much less in a blog. And that's why I've been gone. Now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to sweeter topics.

I culled this recipe from a blog called Lemon Sugar, and the full recipe can be found here..... If you make your way over to Lemon Sugar you should look around a bit, there's plenty to pique a sugar freak's interest.

I haven't had a sweet roll since I was a kid. My mom would often purchase the Hostess sweet rolls, and I liked those quite a bit. With that in mind, I thought that a homemade version would turn that sweet roll love up to 11. I was wrong.

Perhaps a different sweet roll recipe could capture my heart, but this one certainly did not. I think it all boils down to the yeast. Specifically the vast amount of it. It's a yeast dough, which was no surprise, and I usually enjoy a yeast dough in things like donuts, and cinnamon rolls. I am guessing that the unusually large amount of in this recipe is to make the dough rise much more quickly than it would with a normal amount of yeast and therefore makes the entire process less time consuming. But the yeast flavor is so intense in these rolls as to overpower everything else about them. Smell= yeast, taste= yeast. I prefer not to have my dessert smell like beer (and vice-versa).

If the yeast-fest appeals to you, this recipe will be your dessert Nirvana. For all other, don't bother.

Smash Burger- Fast Food Review

There is something that most of you don't know about me. I am.......a comic book geek. Yep, say it loud, say it proud. It's not that I necessarily keep it a secret, it's just something that rarely comes up in everyday conversation, and therefore, not common knowledge to most. The mythos of comic lovers would lead you to believe that we are all hermits, living in our parents' basements, hiding behind the anonymity of our computer screens, having myopic interests (those interests being comics, talking about comics, complaining about comic books that have been turned into movies and, of course, watching lots of porn), and that all of them are male. I assure you that most of those stereotypes are true, but they're slowly changing. I'm still often the only female browsing my local comic book shop, and still get stares from the male shoppers. Not sure if these stares come from....

  1. A woman being in their midst.
  2. I often browse after work, in office attire, so maybe their wariness stems from worry that I'm some kind of narc. 
  3. Seeing someone at the Batman rack that does not have severely inflamed acne.
  4. A strong distrust of anyone that actually has a paying job, and is therefore an interloper.

This is not a tutorial on geeks in their natural habitats. It really does involve food, it just takes me a while to get to the point, but just stay with me, and you will be rewarded.

My love of comics at times leads me to comic book conventions. I am fortunate to have a husband who indulges this sick love of superheroes and their multiple universes, and so he escorts me to these conventions. We made our way to Mid-Ohio Con a couple of weeks ago, and he only had one request and that was to eat a Smashburger location.

I may have mentioned at some other point in this blog that the hubs and I are always on the hunt for the perfect burger. Some consider pizza the perfect food, for others of us, it's hamburgers that take that honor. So, part of this red meat journey led us to Smashburger. The burgers there are good, far above your average fast food burger. The patty is thin, seared to a nice crust, and you can get a wide variety of fresh toppings. They are extremely juicy and greasy (in the best possible way). I went through five napkins in a blink. 

Though the burger was above average it could not compare to the greatness of their Smash Fries. 
 They differ from their regular fries in that they are fried in olive oil and then sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary. They are the height of decadence in a fast food basket. Yum.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake....Without the Cream Cheese

I had forgotten to take a picture until the last, very small, piece of it was left. Hence, the poor picture. The reason the pic was all but forgotten is because this cake is made to be eaten. That's not to say that you couldn't just leave it sit around so that you can drink in the beauty of its simplicity. But I'm more of an eater than a looker (take that second part of the sentence any way you choose to). This cake is moist, delicious perfection on a plate....or in your hand....or on your fork.

Ack! I can't say enough about how well this dish turned out, but I can say I cheated by straying from the original recipe, something I usually don't allow myself to do when making a dessert for the first time. This original recipe can be found on the Bake or Break site (one of the best baking sites out there), and here's the link.....
I'll be posting my slightly modified version at the end of the post.

The picture, and the recipe says "I'm just an unassuming coffee cake. Move along, nothing to see here". But one bite and you'll know that it's so much more. The cake is dense, but not dry. The streusel topping is sweet without being overly so, with a slight crunch and yet almost....creamy. If you take at the "true" recipe, it includes a cream cheese swirl layer between the cake and the streusel, but I didn't have any cream cheese, so I simply eliminated it from the recipe. It still made for great cake, but when I make it again, and there is no doubt that I will make it again, I'll include the cream cheese swirl. The batter was just too stiff to work with and I added a 1/2 c. of buttermilk that isn't originally called for, but it worked out perfectly.

This cake is so versatile. Great for birthdays, pot lucks, and dare I say it, even for breakfast.

    For the crumb:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • pinch salt

  • For the cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
To make the crumb:
Combine all crumb ingredients in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until mixture resembles crumbs.
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in sour cream, buttermilk and mix just until combined.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over top of cake.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.