Category: berries

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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Red currant cupcakes.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll see red currants on this blog.

Red currants.

Enjoy it.

See… they don’t grow locally. And they’re usually imported, and they’re usually pricey. Like $5.99 for 6 ounces pricey. Mmm hmm. And they’re not for everybody. They’re not like apples or oranges that everyone loves. They’re kind of a niche product. Most Americans don’t even know what a red currant tastes like, let alone have they seen one.

I’m telling you. My whole life and I’ve seen fresh currants TWICE in a market. TWICE.

Red currant cupcakes.

But that’s why they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Because they’re hard to find, they cost a pretty penny, and they’re just pretty. They have these perfectly round, translucent little orbs on the cutest little vines. They’re very delicate, too, and you realize when working with them just how hard it must be to pick them without crushing them. Which I’m sure only adds to the price.

I stretched out 12 ounces of red currants to make two 8-oz. jars of red currant jelly and then I used a bit of that jelly to fill some cupcakes. And I had to top them with fresh red currants too. I mean… if we’re gonna be decadent and floss a little bit… *pops collar*

Red currant jelly.

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Cranberry “sangria”- alcohol optional.

Nana & gramps, Christmas.

Did you all have a wonderful holiday? We definitely did. I’m a lucky girl, I’ll say that. I have my family, my friends, my husband, my pets. I’m healthy, happy. I have a beautiful home. I’m lucky! I do miss my family who isn’t with us anymore. But life goes on, no? And I’m still here. And the holidays were beautiful.

Speaking of holidays, do you still have guests stopping by? Do you have guests who still haven’t left yet? Or maybe you’re just looking for something fun to drink on your Christmas vacation. I hear you. I have just the thing.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

Cranberry “sangria.” It’s really just cranberry juice- or apple cranberry, or cherry cranberry, or whatever you like. Then you just add sliced fruits like citrus (oranges, lemons and limes work) and apples, and cranberries. Add a cinnamon stick or two and you’re good to go!

You don’t have to add anything else, but if you want to you can add sparkling water or seltzer to make it a little bit bubbly.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

There’s no alcohol necessary, either… however…

Should you want to add some, you totally can. I suggest vodka, spiced rum, red wine, or bourbon/whiskey. Be sure to add it in small increments, maybe a shot at a time, and taste frequently- particularly when it comes to the hard liquors. The red wine is something you can basically add a pretty decent amount of without much guesswork.

This is “sangria” after all. But I’d still taste as I went to be sure.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

The best thing is that if you have kids, you don’t have to add any alcohol at all, and this way they’ll feel included in the “drinking.” I know when I was small, every time my parents or my nana had a cocktail or a fancy drink, I was a little jealous. That makes it especially great for New Year’s Eve!

Some ideas (you can mix and match any of these you want!):

  • cranberry juice
  • cran-apple juice
  • pomegranate juuce
  • cherry juice
  • sparkling water
  • seltzer
  • red wine
  • sliced oranges
  • sliced lemons
  • sliced limes
  • cranberries
  • cherries
  • spiced rum
  • vodka
  • bourbon/whiskey

The only limit is your imagination… or taste buds.

Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

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Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

It’s December already. Can you believe it? Time really flew by this year, it seems. Every year seems to go by faster and faster, actually, the older I get. It really seems just like yesterday I was gardeningcanning peaches. And now Thanksgiving is over and we’re sprinting toward a new year. I can’t believe my Christmas tree will be up by the end of next week!

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

The day I first made these was the day after the horrific Paris restaurant & nightclub attacks, back in November. I felt like I needed to bake something, as I usually do when bad things happen. As someone whose husband has been in Paris (and all over Europe), performing in nightclubs and bars similar to Bataclan many times… it’s even harder. I can put myself in that situation very easily. I know what it’s like to know someone you love is many miles away and you’re waiting for the call when the show is over. For some, that call didn’t come.  These bad things seemingly happen a lot in today’s world- and for me, when they do, it’s comforting to come into my little kitchen and make something warm and delicious.

And you know how it is- you have like, three random ingredients you need to use, and you want to moosh ’em all together and make something. So that’s how these were born. I found a recipe I liked, and added walnuts to it. These are basically a one-bowl wonder.

They’re also kind of a go-between of sweet and savory, tart and sweet. Great warm with butter and just as great as a side to a meal. They do make a wonderful breakfast, too, though.

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

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Apple-cranberry pie.

(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.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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