Blueberry mint & honey jam muffins.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Blueberry honey & mint jam muffins, using the best muffin base EVER.

It’s always a mouthful, these titles of mine.

These muffins are also known as boredom muffins. Or “3 am craving muffins.” Or “muffins you make when you wanna eat a muffin and you need to use up that jar of jam.” Like blueberry mint honey jam that I made last spring.

Blueberry honey & mint jam muffins, using the best muffin base EVER.

Jam made with honey doesn’t last as long as jam made with sugar, so I like to use it up before the year mark. This jam was perfectly fine and delicious and probably would’ve stayed that way until June or July, maybe even longer… but I didn’t want to chance it. Homemade jam is best eaten fresh or within the year if canned

The main thing here isn’t so much the jam- I’ve talked about that before. It’s the muffin recipe. This is my go-to tried & true muffin base.

Blueberry honey & mint jam muffins, using the best muffin base EVER.

As gorgeous as these look, you don’t have to use jam in them. You don’t even have to use fruit. This muffin base makes an amazing basic recipe that you can switch up any way you want. Add coconut flakes, dried cherries and sliced almonds. Add sliced banana. Add chocolate chips. Add fresh berries. Swirl Nutella in the top before baking. Use up the remnants of a jar of jam like I did.  I bet it’s great plain with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in. ANYTHING you can imagine, you can do. The base lends itself perfectly to any additions at all.

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Chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh treats.

Getting bored of eating unleavened bread? Are you certain that you’re going to wind up with leftover Matzoh? Lemme upgrade ya.

Chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh.

You most definitely read that correctly; this is chocolate toffee sea salt matzoh. It’s like matzoh candy. Matzoh bark. I know I’ve left you guys hanging without any posts since April 1st. I hope this makes up for it, ’cause it’s pretty awesome.

Chocolate toffee matzoh with sea salt.

Matzoh, for those of you who don’t know (where do you live, under a rock?!) is an unleavened bread usually-not but not always- made for and eaten at Passover.

There are numerous explanations behind the symbolism of matzo. One is historical: Passover is a commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. The biblical narrative relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the bread, when baked, was matzo. (Exodus 12:39). The other reason for eating matzo is symbolic: On the one hand, matzo symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also lechem oni, “poor man’s bread”. Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven “puffs up”. Eating the “bread of affliction” is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances the appreciation of freedom.

Another explanation is that matzo has been used to replace the pesach, or the traditional Passover offering that was made before the destruction of the Temple. During the Seder the third time the matzo is eaten it is preceded with the Sephardic rite, “zekher l’korban pesach hane’ekhal al hasova”. This means “remembrance of the Passover offering, eaten while full”. This last piece of the matzo eaten is called afikoman and many explain it as a symbol of salvation in the future.

The Passover Seder meal is full of symbols of salvation, including the opening of the door for Elijah and the closing line, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but the use of matzo is the oldest symbol of salvation in the Seder.

Passover this year started on April 22 and is ending on May 1. There’s still a few days to enjoy this during the holiday, but you can even enjoy it long after. Who says you can’t have chocolate covered matzoh after Passover ends? No one. And if someone says that, don’t talk to them anymore. You don’t need that negativity.

Chocolate toffee matzoh with sea salt.

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Joyeux anniversaire!

Kiss me! (celebrating our 1-year wedding anniversary)

A year ago this coming Sunday, April 3rd, I got all dressed up in a black dress, went to Manhattan City Hall and married one of my favorite guys. Then we ate a fantastic dinner with our families & close friends and partied it up to the wee hours of the morning.

I actually can’t believe it’s been a year– time flew by. Of course, it feels like we’ve been together forever because we have… it’ll be 13 years together (total) this July. It’s a crazy ride we’ve been on, from meeting as 19 year old “kids” to getting married & buying our first home. From my mother’s cancer diagnosis, to adopting our Indy boy, to my nana Agnes’s passing away, and then his grandma Dotty’s passing away, from my hyperthyroid illness to my hypothyroid state and it’s current bullshit, all the drama in-between, and all the good things like our engagement, anniversaries, birthdays, trips, concerts, European world tours, promotions, job successes, and of course, our marriage. And the day-to-day life isn’t so bad with this guy, either.

I love you, Jay. And its been a privilege and an honor to share my life with you the past (almost) 13 years. And this one year of marriage, even more so. I look forward to many more.

Rings on our invite.

And since I’ve shared so much of our lives with you, my readers, in the past couple (okay, not really a couple… more like over NINE YEARS!), I feel like we’re all family. So thank you all for being the best, and for always being so cool. I love you guys, too.

If you’re a new reader or if you just want to take a trip down memory lane with us, click the picture below to read the original wedding post from last year. Now that we’re a year out from it, I’m happier now than I was then about how we did it our way. I vehemently believe weddings are personal; no one should tell you how yours should be. Each one should be unique and true to who and what you are as a couple.

Click here to read all about our wedding | April 3, 2015

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Milano cookie Easter bunnies!

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Hey guys and gals. I’m sorry for the lack of blog posts. I went almost an entire month without posting ANYTHING. I really am sorry. I know I’m lame- life is busy and it’s getting warmer. No excuse, I know, but today’s post is a super duper adorable one that I think you’re really going to LOVE.

BUNNIES!

Easter bunny Milano cookies!

I’m insane, I know. You’re thinking, “Really?!” But yes. You’re probably also thinking “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

I had this idea a while ago, and I never actually implemented it. But I wanted to for so long that this year I finally had to. I really didn’t know what to use, how to do it, etc. But it all came together and I had everything I needed in my house.

Easter bunny cookies!

What you need:

  • Milano cookies
  • White chocolate or white Candy Melts (I used Baker’s white chocolate)
  • sprinkles for eyes/nose
  • black food coloring (optional)
  • paper for ears

Originally, I planned on using Oreos covered in white chocolate, and just make bunny faces. But I bought a package of Milano cookies for the first time in forever and I realized… they’re BUNNY SHAPED. Well, not really. But kinda.

Easter bunny cookies.

I also used the new banana Milanos, which I think are really good. You can use any kind you want, obviously. Mint. Raspberry. Plain. Whatever.

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Authentic Irish soda bread with not-so-authentic whiskey butter.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

I LOVE Irish soda bread. Love it. Actually, let me rephrase that: I love homemade Irish soda bread. The kind my mother and I make. I hate to break it to you: the raisins and caraway seeds in “Irish soda bread” are an American addition. I don’t find them too offensive; corned beef and cabbage is an American-Irish tradition as well, and my family has eaten it every St. Patricks Day since we’ve been in this country. However, that said, when I make my own bread I do not include them. I have occasionally, for fun, but on the regular I skip them. Probably because I don’t like raisins.

Most people make their soda bread on a baking sheet or sometimes in a cake pan. Traditionally, Irish soda bread was baked in a bastible, which is essentially a cast iron Dutch oven. It was made over hot coals or a fire, hanging in this bastible. So today, the recipe I’m sharing with you is made in just that: a Dutch oven. My Dutch oven is quite large- 7.25 qt. If you have a smaller one it will do just fine. I probably wouldn’t recommend going under 3.5/4 quarts, however.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

Dutch oven irish soda bread.

And yes- if you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can use a cake pan, a pie plate or a baking dish and skip alla dis.

Irish soda bread is the EASIEST bread to make. It usually has super minimal ingredients, can be “kneaded” without much more than just a wooden spoon, it has no “rise” and it really is supposed to be rustic and rough looking. So it makes a perfect bread for beginners. If you’ve never made bread, this might be a really easy intro for you.

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Depression era hipster cake.

I’m all about old timey things. I always say I was born in the wrong era- I should’ve been born around 1900 so I could have been a “flapper.” I love everything about the 1920’s/1930’s and I am obsessed with vintage everything. I collect vintage Pyrex/Depression glass/jadeite and vintage cookbooks. And vintage canning jars.

I’m just an old soul.

Anyway, I saw this cake over at gbakes.com and I knew I had to make it. Women during the Great Depression (and during WWII) were the original hipster vegans. Just not by choice. They had Victory Gardens, used butter & eggs rarely. And meat? It was a treat. I myself haven’t made a “cake” in quite some time. So when it involved such little effort and no eggs/butter? Hey. I’m there.

Depression era hipster vegan cake.

The best thing about this, though, is that it’s relatively cheap. And you don’t have to go run out and make sure you have the ingredients. I mean, most people have all the ingredients on hand- whether you’re vegan or not. Vinegar? Everyone has it. Canola or vegetable oil? Same. And most folks have cocoa powder. Which, by the way, is definitely vegan, whether you choose to use Dutched or regular. I like Hershey’s Special Dark myself.

The finished product kind of looks like a composition book, doesn’t it? Haha. Also: darkest cake I’ve ever made. Yes, I used dark chocolate but still. This cake is so dark it’s black.

Depression era hipster vegan cake.

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Dark chocolate raspberry zombie brainy cakes.

(“Okay first things first, I’ll eat ya brains. Then imma start rockin’ gold teeth and fangs… cause that’s what a mothafuckin’ monstah do…”)

..

Walking Dead Valentine's Day cupcakes with brains!

When our friend Matt (of Best Wings LI fame!) approached me via Facebook message and asked if I’d be willing to make some Walking Dead inspired Valentine’s Day cupcakes (on about 3 days notice), at first I was like “Uhhh…” I didn’t know what to do. My first reaction was no. I mean, I had ideas, but then I was thinking how I could probably NOT pull them off because where do I get ANYTHING zombie-themed in FEBRUARY!?

However, I calmed down and came to the realization that I’m an artist. Seriously. Like Jack Nicholson said in (one of my favorite movies) The Departed; “Yanno John Lennon? He said: I’m an artist. Ya give me a fuckin’ tuba, I’ll get you somethin’ out of it.” Why would I worry about buying anything when I have 4+ years of art school, 1 semester of sculpture class, a childhood of Play-Doh and Sculpey experience and over 10+ years of baking experience? Plus, there’s this newfangled concoction called fondant- it seems to be a hit on The Food Network! I could use that to make whatever I needed.

Thing is? I never really used it before. *dum dum dummmmm*

How hard could it be?

First things first: what kind of cupcakes was I going to make? Next: what was I going to do for this “Walking Dead” theme? I decided on dark chocolate cupcakes with fresh whole raspberries mixed in. Topped with chocolate frosting, then some crumbled Oreo cookies – which is basically the cake world’s universal symbol of “dirt.” Not only is that appropriate  but it adds texture to the otherwise smooth & sweet frosting. I used these big, over exaggerated black cupcake liners to up the ante on the drama. And then…? What else??

Walking Dead Valentine's Day cupcakes with brains!

Brains.

Zombies, brains… it’s a no-brainer, right? Har, har. Plus, when you Google “Walking Dead cake” or cupcakes, there’s quite a few bloody brains included in the search. Good enough for me! Plus brains are way cooler than Sheriff’s badges or whatever. Confession time: I never saw the Walking Dead. Ugh. I know I know! I want to- but I have to start from the beginning, and like what happened with Dexter… basically, I need the series to be OVER so I can watch it all in one weekend, k. I can’t watch everything up to a certain point and then wait for a new season! IT’S CRUELTY!

But I knew enough about it to know what it involves. Duh. And Jay’s friend from work’s brother was a writer on the show back when it first started, so I definitely knew enough about it. Plus I have Facebook, and friends. I hear things. And see things. I know all about Glen. #spoilers

Walking Dead Valentine's Day cupcakes with brains!

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