Category: reviews

Pink velvet hot cocoa for you & your Valentine.

Yep, it’s February. That means time for Valentine’s Day- get over it. It’s  freakin’ cute. Stop being so goddamn cynical and enjoy the loooooove.

Loooooove. Not love. Loooooove.

Pink velvet hot cocoa! Insanely easy and insanely pretty.

So yeah, you can hate on Valentine’s Day. But nobody can hate on hot cocoa. And this here just happens to be some PINK velvet hot cocoa. Thanks to A Beautiful Mess for the recipe idea!

Plus, how BEAUTIFUL does it look? Wouldn’t this be a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert beverage? I think so.

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Sprinkles! A “rainbowlicious” book review & giveaway!

Back in 2011, Quirk Books sent me a delicious cookbook (this one) to review & do a giveaway for. I loved the book & every recipe in it! The frosted maple pecan cookies are some of Jay’s favorite cookies ever. So when they asked me to do a review for a new book, Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts, I totally had to say yes!

And I had to ask if I could give one of YOU a copy as well!

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts! Makes a great Christmas gift.

I love cookbooks. I love books in general, really- especially cookbooks, how-to books or DIY/craft books. I’m in the middle of redoing things around the ol’ homestead, so I don’t have easy access to them right now. Which is another reason why I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a new one.

But the main reason? It’s December! It’s time to start thinking about Christmas baking & Christmas presents. Cookbooks like this make not only amazing gifts, but provide some inspiration when we get a little stuck for holiday treats.

A review of: Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts.

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts: Here’s a guide to baking and decorating delicious desserts with a colorful twist: sprinkles! Of course you can scatter them over cakes and pies–but you can also swirl them into waffles, “embroider” them on cookies, and freeze them in pretty popsicles. Jackie Alpers shares dozens of creative, colorful, super-fun recipes, plus quick-and-easy projects (ideal for little kids), holiday treats, party-perfect sprinkles crafts (great for gifting!). She also offers simple tutorials for tinting sparkling sugars, concocting homemade pop rocks, and even crafting your own sprinkles from scratch. Sprinkles! is an awesome rainbow explosion of a cookbook you won’t want to miss.”

The first thing that you need to know is that the photography in the book (& on the front & back covers) is beautiful. Beautiful colors & beautiful layouts. It’s enough to make a food blogger a little jealous.

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A deliciously NON-GMO giveaway from Milton’s Baking.

A giveaway for Milton's organic crackers!

I come from a cracker family. I know, I know, that sounds weird. But it’s true. When it comes to snacking, some families are potato chip/pretzel families, some families are cookie families (we might be a little of that too), and some are cracker families. When I was a kid, my grandmother was always eating soda crackers or other more buttery snack crackers. Sometimes plain, sometimes with a little butter, sometimes with cheese. My mother favored ‘fancier’ crackers like the baked whole wheat kind, with some goat cheese or brie, or maybe some fig jam. My dad on the other hand loves crackers, chips and cookies. Jay is a pretzel guy, but he does like the occasional cracker, maybe even with some aged cheddar.

So when I got an e-mail asking me to review & host a giveaway for Milton’s Craft Bakers brand new line of crackers, I was psyched. To find out they’re naturally sweetened, non-GMO & organic was a bonus! I love to buy things that aren’t genetically modified, and I try to do the best I can. I don’t go nuts about it, but I do try. It can be really hard sometimes- companies are very, very sneaky about this stuff. Not only that, but some of our old favorites that we just buy because we always did have come to be known as not so great choices nowadays. Between high-fructose corn syrup, GMO ingredients & trans fats, finding new, delicious alternatives isn’t always easy. Some “all-natural” options taste like cardboard. Others break the bank- lots of money for minimal product.

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A day at the Queens County Farm Museum.

Queens County Farm Museum!

Many people, when they think of New York (especially an “urban” area like Queens), don’t realize that New York used to be full of farms. The entire state, particularly Long Island, was/is fertile farmland. The soil in many areas, particularly the area in Queens I’ll be discussing here, is perfect for farming being that it’s loamy (a balanced mix of sand, silt, clay & soil). That & the fact that the original settlers were Dutch farmers means that NY has a rich agricultural history. During the 1840′s in particular New York, along with Pennsylvania, was a chief wheat-growing state. Betcha didn’t know that!

Large manors emerged during the 18th century, including LivingstonCortlandtPhilipsburg, and Rensselaerswyck.[Note 3] The manors represented more than half of the colony’s undeveloped land. The Province of New York thrived during this time, its economy strengthened by Long Island and Hudson Valley agriculture, in conjunction with trade and artisanal activity at the Port of New York; the colony was a breadbasket and lumberyard for the British sugar colonies in the Caribbean.

-Wikipedia

New York still has a lot of farms, although now it seems most of them are the smaller scale ones that offer pumpkin or apple picking & hayrides in the fall. There are still tons of apple orchards not to mention full-scale farms upstate. However, you can find some downstate as well, and I’m lucky to have a couple within reasonable driving distance: Crossroads Farm at Grossman’s & the Queens County Farm Museum to name a few.

Queens County Farm Museum.

The Queens County Farm Museum dates back to 1697, & it occupies NY’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. According to the website:

 The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard, and an herb garden.

The farm is owned by the New York City Department of Parks, operated by the Colonial Farmhouse Restoration Society of Bellerose, Inc. and is a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City.

Our farm animals and tranquil agrarian environment provide the opportunity to leave the hectic daily pace behind for an enjoyable visit to a farm without leaving the city.

I had been to the museum quite a few times as a child, mostly for the Christmas events- which are beautiful. But a few weeks back I remembered it, and came by to pick up some farm fresh eggs, but sadly they didn’t have any left by the time I got there (which was about 10:30 a.m.!). Wahhhh. The cashier told me that they sell out super quick. So I decided to come back, and this time take some photos to share with you (however I still wasn’t early enough to get any eggs)! The farm is so beautiful. You may or may not know my obsession with farms & farmland; I know I’m probably not cut out for that life myself… but it’s amazing & intriguing to me. Especially a farm that has a 300+ year history.

The Adriance Farmhouse.

Adriance Farmhouse, Queens County Farm Museum.

The front of the beautiful Adriance Farmhouse, the oldest part of which dates back to 1772. Queens County Farm Museum.

The photos above (and the one just below) are of the Adriance Farmhouse. The farmhouse’s original 3-room structure was built in 1772 by Jacob & Catherine Adriance, with an extension added in around 1855.

In 1772 Jacob and his wife Catherine built the earliest portion of the Adriance farmhouse, which consisted of three modest rooms. Catherine and Jacob had no children and were farming primarily as sustenance farmers to provide food for themselves in conjunction with neighboring farms, some of which were owned by other Adriance family members. When Jacob died in 1797, Hendrick Brinkerhoff, his adopted nephew, bought the farm from Jacob’s executors. Hendrick died in 1806 leaving the farm to his son, Albert Brinkerhoff. Albert’s ownership marked the end of the “Adriance Era” when he sold the farm to its next significant owner, John Bennum, Sr. The Adriance family history on the farm provides us with a profound narrative of the site’s early Dutch beginnings and of farming as a way of life from as early as the seventeenth century.

- source, QCFM

Adriance Farmhouse, Queens County Farm Museum.

The farm changed hands relatively few times in the many years since. John Bennum ended up owning the farm during a rough period; the weather during his ownership was not conducive to a plentiful farm. Two severe droughts, one in 1819 & one in 1822, caused him to eventually sell to Daniel Lent in 1822. However, during his 9-year ownership Mr. Lent also experienced two severe droughts, and not only that but the flood of 1826. He could never quite catch up because of that & the new technology in farm equipment, which proved difficult to afford. Peter Cox was the next owner, and he was lucky to own the farm during a boon of agricultural growth (1833-1892).

The last private owner of the farm was Daniel Stattel (1892-1926). The Stattel family invested a lot in the farm, both financially & agriculturally. They installed the windmill (seen in the top farmhouse photo) as well. The Stattel family descendants are still involved with the farm today, providing rich oral history & background for the museum.

In the 1920′s Pauline Reisman, a real estate investor, bought it and promptly sold it to New York State for use by Creedmoor State Hospital. New York State purchased the farm in 1926 for Creedmoor State Hospital to use for rehabilitation of patients, growing fruits and vegetables for the kitchen at the hospital, and for growing ornamental plants and shrubs for the Creedmoor campus.

The Greenhouse at the Queens County Farm Museum.

As the website says:

With the exception of the farmhouse, Creedmoor demolished all the buildings on the farm, replacing them with buildings that met their needs. Though historic structures were lost, other types of historic structures were created that have in fact presented a beneficial opportunity to the Farm Museum. Buildings constructed immediately prior to the Second World War are rarely preserved in favor of colonial or Victorian era structures, but we have been given a unique opportunity to present institutional farm buildings from the 1930s that are truly unique. As the museum continues to meet its interpretive objectives, these buildings will provide the backdrop for our unique story: farming, horticulture, and the lives of the patients and staff of Creedmoor at the farm in the 1930s.

Thankfully, in the decades after, the farm was saved from what most likely would’ve been certain demolition.

Today the Queens County Farm Museum is a New York City Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Museum founder and president, James A. Trent, and New York State senator Frank Padavan spared the farm from development. Senator Padavan wrote the legislation that transferred ownership from the state to the New York City Department of Parks and protected the site from development for future generations. With all the present buildings restored, the master plan for the museum is being steadily pursued. The museum provides a broad spectrum of educational programs, public events, services, and general visiting more than 500,000 people each year. The Farm Museum is the highest attended cultural attraction in Queens County. We look forward to completing our interpretation and providing valuable services to our audience.

Herb garden at the Adriance Farmhouse, Queens County Farm Museum.

The Children's Garden at the Queens County Farm Museum.

The farm has beautiful grounds. I mean, it’s massive. Much larger than it appears when you walk in. The gardens include greenhouses, crops, planting fields, animals & a petting zoo for children, not to mention the above “Children’s Garden,” where kids can use their senses to see the differences between different plants. For example, in the ‘taste’ section, there’s mint & in the ‘smell’ section, there’s lemon balm & dill. It’s awesome that you can let the kids eat & smell & touch things there, knowing it’s all safe & that they’re learning something. Specifically, where the food they eat comes from & how it grows.

The scenery is so beautiful & serene, you totally forget that you’re in a fairly urban area.

Beautiful scenery at the Queens County Farm Museum.

They sell their fresh produce & eggs at the Union Square Greenmarket as well as on premises, which I didn’t know! So if you frequent the Greenmarket, be sure to look for them. The eggs sell out CRAZY quick at the farm, though, so if you want them you have to get there a half hour before the market starts, at about 11:30 a.m., any day from Wed. – Sun. I’ve been three times & missed out on the eggs ALL THREE TIMES. So trust me, I know.

They sell flowers as well as herbs. As a matter of fact, they grow all varieties of plants & herbs & sell them in the greenhouse. I know I saw Ground Cherries for sale, as well as seeing all the usual herbs; basil, rosemary, dill, etc. You can buy them as plants or you can buy fresh cut herbs at the farm stand.

Inside the greenhouse at the Queens County Farm Museum.

Plants for sale at the Queens County Farm Museum.

Seasonal plants for sale at the greenhouse of the Queens County Farm Museum.

Sometimes, as you’re walking around you forget it’s not just a farm museum, but a working farm. Meaning there are tons of animals on the farm. Horses, goats, sheep… including these guys who rather liked me.

Hi there!

Bock bock!

Which way?

It’s important for us to protect our farmland, and respect it. Farms used to be a common sight in the U.S., now the numbers of farms have dwindled. According to the US EPA, “there are around 2.2 million farms in America, and of the over 313,000,000 people living in the United States, less than 1% of them claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms).” [source] Thanks to a recent boon in organic foods, the amount of farms is slightly increasing & perhaps beginning an upward path, but we have a long way to go. If we expect to fight companies like Monsanto, we need to invest more money in our local farmers. Buying real food. Preserving the heritage & history of our farms.

On that note, if you’d like to donate to the Museum, you don’t have to visit in person. You can do so online! You can “Fund a Farm animal“; they have everything from honeybees & chickens to Cotswold sheep & cows, each one a different donation level. If you’re in the area, you can become a member as well. Membership entitles you to a variety of benefits such as a gift shop discount & free admission to public events. If you live in NYC or the Long Island area, or you’re coming here for a trip, I highly suggest you make a trek out to the farm!

You can see these awesome vintage tractors.

Vintage tractors at the Queens County Farm Museum.

It doesn’t matter when you plan your visit, because there’s always something going on. During the holiday season, they offer beautiful holiday events & crafts for both adults & children. They have hayrides in the fall, and of course the spring & summer is when everything really springs to life. Of course, you can also rent out the farm (or rather, areas of the farm) for weddings, birthdays, etc.

As a matter of fact, the day I went there were not only three children’s birthday parties, complete with cow print tablecloths & farm animal balloons, but there was a wedding! It looked lovely… there was a big outside tent right in the middle of the orchard all done up with tables & rustic centerpieces, and the barn was the scene of the ceremony. I didn’t want to be too intrusive taking photos while the bride & groom were taking theirs, so you can only sort of see the chairs lined up inside the barn.

A wedding at the barn! Queens County Farm Museum.

The museum’s information is as follows:

Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway
Floral Park, New York 11004-1129
(718) 347-3276

The Farm Museum is open year-round, Monday—Friday 10:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. for outdoor visiting only.

Farmhouse tours are Sat.-Sun. 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (April – November)

Farm stand opened June 12th | Egg sales Wed. – Sun. 12 – 5 p.m.

A lemon cranberry crumble worthy of a Prince.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from the folks at Duchy Originals, asking me to use a some of their shortbreads & biscuits in recipes for the holidays. I was really excited about this, for a few reasons: one, I love shortbread. Two, I love a challenge, especially one that involves creating recipes. Three, I’m a bit of an Anglophile (which ties into the next point…) and finally, the company’s history really intrigued me. Turns out, while I had heard of Duchy Originals, and I’d seen blurbs on the internet, I had no idea of the amazing background of the company! It was started in 1992 by HRH Prince Charles in order to promote organic food and farming and to help protect and sustain the local countryside and wildlife. Who knew!?

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Today, in partnership with Waitrose, it is one of the U.K.’s leading organic and sustainable food companies, producing a range of over 250 products from biscuits to preserves and gifts to garden seeds. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. More than $1 million is raised annually in this way for distribution to charitable causes all over the world. Duchy Originals from Waitrose shortbreads and cookies are baked by the world famous Walkers Shortbread in the Scottish Highlands. Walkers is also a proud sponsor of the ASPCA, which makes me really happy, as an animal lover.

Here’s a little more about Duchy Originals’ shortbreads & where the money goes:

The shortbread and biscuits are made using wheat and stone-ground oats from U.K. organic farms, including from The Duchy Home Farm, The Prince’s estate in the beautiful Cotswolds region of southwestern England. The Duchy Home Farm became fully organic in 1986, and is now an internationally-recognized model of best practices in organic farming.

Duchy Originals from Waitrose are all-natural, OU Kosher and suitable for vegetarians. The brand does not support the use of GMOs in its products. No bovine growth hormones are given to the cows that yield the milk that is used to produce the butter. The Duchy Originals from Waitrose items have a suggested retail price of $5.99 and each reflects the quality of the ingredients and the bakery expertise of Walker Shortbread. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals from Waitrose products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The foundation funds worthwhile causes throughout the world and in the U.S. it has helped fund education rebuilding initiatives in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, urban regeneration projects in Atlanta, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, the Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and the Harvard AIDS Institute.

The Duchy Originals Good Food Charter assures that every Duchy product “Is Good” by using a smaller environmental footprint as a result of more locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and less packaging; “Does Good” by providing a fair deal for the people who grow and make the food and generating funds for good causes; and “Tastes Good,” being made from the finest natural ingredients. The cookies are produced in partnership with Waitrose, the foremost purveyor of premium food in Great Britain and a division of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership.

-via Duchy Originals

That’s pretty great, isn’t it? Especially the fact that a portion of the profits goes to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Being the daughter of a survivor, that’s important to me. As a matter of fact, every cause listed there made me all the more happy to get involved with spreading the word about Duchy Originals cookies. So of course, I took one for the team and took on the burden of creating some recipes using them. *siiiigh* It’s a rough job, you know. But someone has to do it! Alright… so, you get the idea. Enough about all that. Let’s get to the goods.

I received a couple of different boxes of cookies from Duchy Originals: Two boxes of all-butter Highland shortbread, one box of Sicilian lemon all-butter shortbread, one box of Stem Ginger shortbread and a box of Oaten biscuits (the first Duchy product ever made).

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All just for me to play around with and come up with recipes for! How fun. After an initial taste-test of each, the first recipe that came to mind is super easy, and great for holidays. Lemon shortbread cranberry crumble.

Simple, quick, and it contains two flavors that are not only seasonally appropriate but work spectacularly together: Lemon & cranberry. Plus it uses the delicious Duchy Originals all-butter Sicilian lemon shortbread in both the crust & the topping. Oh.. and in case you’re wondering… the Sicilian lemon shortbread are most definitely my absolute favorites.

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DUCHY LEMON SHORTBREAD CRANBERRY CRUMBLE

Ingredients:

  • 3 5.3 ounce boxes Duchy all-butter lemon shortbread cookies
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Once it’s fully preheated (around 20-30 minutes depending on your oven), melt 7 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in an 8″ x 8″ brownie pan. Carefully remove the pan from the oven when the butter is completely melted.
  2. Finely crumble 1 1/2 boxes of Duchy all-butter lemon shortbread cookies, either in a food processor or with a plastic bag & mallet, and then combine it thoroughly with the flour. Then mix that combo into the melted butter, patting down, using your (clean) fingers or a fork. Make sure that all of the cookie crumbles get buttered. Set pan aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, lemon juice & sugar. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries have popped and it begins to thicken just slightly & resemble cranberry sauce. Remove from the heat & spoon the mixture over the cookie crust. Once again, set it aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter (2 tablespoons) in a small saucepan. Once melted, add to a bowl and crumble the remaining half box of Duchy lemon shortbread into it, mixing well. This mixture shouldn’t be as finely crumbled as the crust, a chunky mix is okay. Spoon this on top of the cranberry mixture and bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through & slightly bubbling on the edges.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough that it’s just warm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream & enjoy!

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It’s a very easy dessert, but a very pretty one. I guarantee that it’ll be a big hit with your family for Christmas. It’s like a shortcut version of a cobbler, made seasonal with cranberries instead of cherries or blueberries (which, in warmer weather, you could totally substitute for the cranberries!). Or, it’s like the fruity, more pie-like version of the infamous Christmas 7-layer magic bars. Another idea: add some flour & sliced almonds to the topping. It would make it more “streusel-y” in texture.

I was really looking forward to creating more fun things with my remaining boxes of Duchy Originals products. But the cookies didn’t last that long! They were gobbled up too quickly. *sad face*

Previously, Duchy Originals were only available in the U.K. But as of this past summer, they’re now available in the U.S.! So you can find them in select gourmet & natural food stores. But if you can’t, and you’re in the U.S. (like me) or you’re otherwise outside of the U.K., you can buy Duchy’s shortbread & biscuit line from the Walkers Shortbread website, and also through Amazon by clicking here. If you’re in the U.K., you probably already know where to buy them, namely Booths & Waitrose, but you can also buy them online at Waitrose.com & the Walkers website. And if you’re really interested, there’s even a cookbook! It looks pretty awesome too. Thank you to Walker’s and Duchy Originals for asking me to do this. Speaking of awesome & the Royal family: congratulations to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge on the news of their impending arrival! That’s a lovely Christmas present, isn’t it?

And on that note, Christmas is a week away. Insane. I hope this inspires you to make merry in the kitchen! It doesn’t always have to be difficult to be delicious, and your family doesn’t have to know that! Let them think you’re as magic as Santa Claus.

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* Disclaimer: while all the Duchy Originals products featured in this post were sent at no cost to me, all thoughts, recipes & reviews of those products are my own. I was not financially compensated for this post or told what to say.

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American Woman, listen what I say.

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If you knew my grandmother Agnes, you knew she was many things. She had many talents. And you could call her many things: funny, smart, feisty, kind, the life of the party, bossy, stubborn… a redhead. But two words that would not be among those above would be ‘cook’ or ‘baker.’ When I was growing up, my grandma was into fashion, not baking cookies. My grandfather, her husband Clarence (a.k.a. Butch), was the chef in the house, but he passed away when I was very small & had been sick for a few years. So sadly, I never got to know him at his best, or see him in action in the kitchen. My mother remembers times when my grandmother was at work & my grandfather was home, and he would make them dinner, and how she loved it. That’s not to say Nana never cooked anything- she did. She had her little tricks & signature dishes: namely a delicious stuffing, macaroni salad with shrimp, roast chicken, and meatloaf. And she loved to entertain.

But my Gramps was the one who came from a family of eaters and cooks. You know that saying “People either eat to live or live to eat”? Well, Nana’s family, when she was growing up, more or less “ate to live” whereas my Gramps’ family “lived to eat.” Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother loved to eat too. But she wasn’t much into the actual making of it. In restaurants or when someone else cooked, sure. But not so much when it was up to her to cook it. She’d just as soon have a sandwich or egg salad, and she’d be just as happy. On the other hand, my grandpa loved him some good food! His family liked to eat, and there were cooks & bakers aplenty. So therefore he learned from his mother to cook and he enjoyed it, and I think I got that “foodie” (horrible word- pardon me) part of me from his side of the family. I mentioned his mother; well Midge (her nickname) was a half German/half Irish woman with a big heart, a kind soul, and a talent for the domestic arts. She crocheted beautiful things, too, and was an expert at tatting, so it wasn’t just a kitchen-related talent. But that’s where she shined.

When my grandmother first went to their house for dinner, she was amazed. Her Irish mother, mother of seven and herself the daughter of an immigrant Irish housekeeper (who was really a single mother before that term was even a term), never cooked like that. She did the best she could to feed her seven children during the Depression, and she wasn’t exactly interested in that stuff anyway. Julia Child she was not. But my grandpa’s mother Midge was in a better financial situation, really did love to cook, and made all kinds of things from scratch. Cornstarch pudding, Sauerbraten, potato dumplings… you name it, it was on the table at one point or another. My mother says she can still close her eyes and remember the smell that wafted into the hallway of her grandparent’s apartment building when she used to go there for dinner as a child. She said she could smell her grandmother’s cooking right away, as soon as they walked in. In some ways, perhaps, my grandfather’s overabundant love of food, namely sweets, was a contributing factor to him being a diabetic as well.

And let me just say before I go on… I definitely inherited the clothes-horse/fashionista gene from my Nana’s side as well as that food-lover gene.

Anyway, the last Christmas Eve before my Nana passed away, Christmas 2010, in the middle of eating some appetizers she took me aside and said, “OH! I found something, and I want to give it to you.” She motioned for me to follow her into the dining room. She opened up the right-hand drawer of her buffet and took out a book, and handed it to me. It was a 1947 copy of The American Woman’s Cook Book by Ruth Berolzheimer, in almost perfect condition (in a clear plastic red-trimmed book cover- true to form for my Nana, but I took it off for the photos).

I’d vaguely heard of the author, mainly from just searching recipes on the internet, but I wasn’t fully familiar with the book. I was really excited, though, because of a few reasons. One, it was vintage, and I love any and all things vintage… especially the fact that it was a COOKBOOK, which is the second reason why I loved it. She was happy that I liked it, and that I’d use it. I don’t know how often she’d cracked it open in the last 60-something years, but it looked pretty new. She told me to look through it and make her something delicious, and winked.

It saddens me I’ll never have a moment like that again.

It saddens me that I’ll never get a surprise gift from her again, that if I do find a vintage something-or-other of hers, it won’t be her that hands it to me. But as melancholy as those thoughts are, that’s another reason why I love things like this. Not only was it my grandma’s, but it’s a piece of history. And not just her history… but American history.

Ruth Berolzheimer died in 1965 after a long and illustrious career as a “cooking and child welfare expert” (according to her obituary). She was for years the director of the Culinary Arts Institute, and the editor/author of a number of books.

The The American Woman’s Cookbook was originally published in 1939 (or perhaps 1938?) by the directors of the College of Home Economics of Cornell University, under the auspices of the Delineator Institute – and it seems that it was descended from an earlier Delineator Cookbook. The Delineator Cookbook in turn was derived from a fashion magazine called The Delineator, which was originally produced in the 1870’s by the Butterick sewing pattern company.

The book contains over 10,000 recipes, and went to many printings of many editions. From the outset was considered a trustworthy and comprehensive resource, and I was delighted to find that for those of us not lucky enough to own a real copy, there is an online version available via the Internet Archive.

- The Old Foodie

I hadn’t actually thought much about it after that until Jay was browsing One Kings Lane a few weeks back and there was a copy from the 1940′s that had been sold for $50.00. I said, “Holy crap I have that book!” and then I realized mine, too, must have been from the 1940′s as well. This week though, fueled by a Mad Men marathon & a yen for all things nostalgic, I finally sat down and looked through the book in detail. It’s amazing, really. First of all, the meals that were eaten back then are so incredibly different than the ones we eat now. When was the last time someone you knew made a cold chicken salad in a mold? Yes, that’s right, chicken plus gelatin. Chilled. In a mold. Like a creamy chicken Jello. Yum. Or when was the last time you went to a luncheon and the hostess served peanut butter, bacon and lettuce sandwiches and coffee jelly? Probably never. Although that coffee jelly does sound good.

Most of the photographs are black and white, save for a few every 50-100 pages or so that are in color.

Check out that stand mixer! And as you can also see above, my copy clearly has the same photographs from the original late 1930′s books; the women’s hair is basically marcelled! Which, on top of making me very excited (I love Marcel waves), also leaves me wondering: were the same photographs kept the same for every copy of this book? Or did they change at any point? I can’t see the 1950′s versions having photos of women with marcelled hair in them… that would be very outdated by then. Not to mention I’m sure cooking techniques & equipment would have drastically changed by then as well. If anyone out there has a later copy, I’d love to know the answers to these questions!

I don’t know the origins of her getting the book. The printing date is 7 years after she was married, but before she moved out of the apartment in the Bronx to her home on Long Island. So it wasn’t a wedding gift or housewarming gift. Perhaps she went and bought it for herself?  I don’t know. I wish I had asked her. I wish I had asked her that night where she got it, but I didn’t. I was more interested in flipping through it and eating, and I was distracted by the excitement of Christmas. It went onto my book shelf and I didn’t take it down again until after she passed away, and then it was only briefly.

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The canning & preserving recipes have changed, too. Not a lot, but mainly the methods (they discuss the paraffin wax technique) and timing (and sugar amounts), and the USDA would probably say to be on the safe side they shouldn’t be used. Even the way food was served back then is totally different. Lots of decorations, ruffly lettuce underneath, turnips/tomatoes/cucumbers cut into flowers, etc. Not to mention the food photography! It’s funny that food blogs now have livelier photos and better photographed food. But can you imagine what a big deal cameras were then? Hey food bloggers: think of your Nikon or Canon with the macro lens that you love so dearly. Women back then didn’t have one of those, and if they did, I guarantee you it was nowhere near the kitchen or the food.

Also in this book there are some killer drawings & diagrams, including floor plans for how a kitchen ought to be laid out- taking into consideration the “service entrance.” ‘Cause really, who doesn’t have a service entrance? Oh, and of course how to set up your dinner service, from appetizer to dessert.

;However some things are timeless. All the baked goods: cakes, cookies, desserts, etc. Those are all the same now as they were back then. Maybe there’s more shortening used in the actual cakes than there is butter, but other than that they’re the same. Meringues are the same. Boiled icing is the same. And the cuts of meat; shoulder, rump roast, etc. The butchering process is the same, as are the standards of good quality meat (“Good beef has a fresh red color, a smooth covering of brittle creamy fat and small streaks of fat distributed through the lean”).

I think, actually, this book will be my go-to guide for choosing meats and cutting them since it goes into so much detail. And of course, vegetables are still vegetables. The food pyramid may have changed 100x since this book was printed, but the stress on eating more vegetables and less fats is still the same. The general idea of entertaining is still the same, too, albeit the methods are different (no longer would you read a cookbook that said something along the lines of “Lead your guests out of the dining space into a lounge area… by the time the guests have lit up a cigarette and begun to drink their after- dinner drinks, the dining table should long be forgotten”).

Why are we so quick to assume that the people in the past have nothing in common with us today? Do iPads and smartphones make so much of a difference that people aren’t fundamentally after the same things in life? I don’t think so. We just think our ways are better. I happen to not always agree with that statement. I lean towards being nostalgic for (and often romanticize) times I never even lived in. Which is dangerous, admittedly, because it means that I’m overlooking the reality to only see the “fun things” or the novelty of it. But let’s face it: we all do that. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived through Prohibition, and if they were alive today they’d tell you it wasn’t exactly like Boardwalk Empire.

I can, of course, see the benefits in technology & modernization. A hand mixer is a gift from Zeus & Athena bestowed upon us for convenience & expedience. And these advancements aren’t just in cooking & baking, but everything. My great grandmother’s had their babies at home, no epidurals. Ask most women who have children about that. And laptops? Wow. I couldn’t live without mine, personally. I can’t even remember life with a desktop PC anymore- and that was just a few years ago! I could go on and on… but like I said, I see the benefits of that. And I can understand how much harder life was, even if only because things we take for granted today either took longer or had to be done manually. Isn’t it easier to Google than to find an encyclopedia & look something up? Don’t cell phones make emergencies easier? Isn’t satellite radio way cooler than AM/FM? Yes.

But on the other hand, these things have complicated life and dumbed people down substantially. I said it once before: smart phones are making people stupid. Basically, people are the same they always have been. Deep down. I think a lot of the priorities have changed, and not for the better. But all the way down in the very core of people… they’re the same they always have been. I just think we ALL need to get back to what’s important, and it certainly isn’t who has the latest trend in technology. And it definitely isn’t who has the biggest car, the nicest house, the most offshore accounts or the most popular blog. Build relationships with your kids and your families. Go outside. Get fresh air. Have a picnic. Or read a vintage cook book. It’ll give you a fresh perspective on things, I promise.

I’m reminded once again of how food can tie together memories & feelings, and how a simple cookbook I forgot I had can make me smile on a day when I needed to.

Snackle Mouth part 2: frozen yogurt parfaits.


Remember my Snackle Mouth post from a few days ago?

I was so excited to use it to bake something, and I did (coffee cake), and it was glorious. But if I’m being 100% honest- that wasn’t my first idea.


See my first idea was to make some homemade frozen yogurt and top it with some Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters and some homemade conserves I made. You might remember them, one is cherry, cranberry, dark chocolate & almond and one is fig, plum and walnut. Kind of like “build your own ice cream sundae” time except more like “build your own healthier version of an ice cream sundae by using frozen yogurt” time. It’s also reminiscent of those famous fast food fruit/nut yogurt parfaits, except much healthier & homemade, obviously.


I wanted to do that because the Snackle Mouth arrived on a really hot day, and it was way too hot for me to face an oven. So I figured I’d use it to make yogurt parfaits. But then the weather changed, it got very cool and rainy, perfect baking weather. And so I decided to make the coffee cake first. However, it soon got pretty damn warm again, and frozen yogurt parfaits were back on the menu.

First things first… the fro-yo. I used a tried and true David Lebovitz recipe I’ve made before in my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. It’s easy, delicious, and quick. Then, once that was made & ready, I put it in some Ball jars, alternating with some Snackle Mouth granola, and topped it off with some conserves. It was pretty awesome. We loved it. The most popular combination? The yogurt topped with the double C dark chocolate almond conserves and the peanut cranberry Snackle Mouth. Needless to say it was a success.


FROZEN YOGURT

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (24 ounces) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt *
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla (if using). Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for mine, it’s just 20-30 minutes in the bowl being mixed by the “dasher”). For a firmer set, freeze for 20-30 minutes before serving.
  3. If you aren’t using Greek yogurt, you have to strain regular plain yogurt. To make 1 cup of strained yogurt, line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. then scrape 16 ounces or 2 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends and fold them over the yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. For the above recipe you’ll need to start with and strain 6 cups of yogurt.

I used Greek-style yogurt, I didn’t feel like going through the pain of straining regular yogurt. I also opted to use the vanilla, but that’s 100% optional. You can also add fresh fruits to the yogurt itself, if you wish, or add some jam or preserves or even lemon curd to it as it’s being mixed. I’m sure you could experiment by making all kinds of different flavored fro-yo if you want. And you can also use the granola with fresh fruit instead of conserves or preserved fruit.

...

The coolest thing about making yogurt parfaits in a jar is that if you don’t finish it, you can put the lid on and pop it in the freezer, and it’ll keep it’s fresh taste. Is there no end to how cool Mason jars are? Methinks not. I even used them to store the granola once I opened the packages so it would stay fresh.

Again, I tell you: go get yourself some Snackle Mouth. It isn’t available in stores (yet!) but you can get it at Abe’s Market.


OH! And Cupcake Rehab now is now print friendly! You asked for it, you got it. Directly below this, you’ll see a little printer icon and the words “Print Friendly.” Click on those and you’ll be brought to a printer friendly version of this post. Perfect for printing the recipes! There are plenty of options, i.e. print with photos or without, and it’s very easy to use, so get on it. Print out your favorite recipes from Cupcake Rehab with a few clicks! Now you can share this on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Pinterest and you can print it, too. Do I give you options or what?

My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

Tea for two.

Donsuemor & Davidson’s Tea asked me a few months ago to take part in their blogger tea party, so of course I accepted! I love tea. And I love Donsuemor. And that means that this post is all about my little tea party featuring Davidson’s delicious teas and Donsuemor’s delicious madeleines.

I might have mentioned a few times on this blog how big of a role tea has played in my life. My grandmother was a big tea drinker. If you mention the word “tea” to anyone who knew her, they’d say “Aggie!” Ever since she passed away last July, I’ve especially missed that. Her world renowned crazy tea & cookie obsession! If my nana didn’t have her tea & cookies… someone was going to pay. As long as she had a warm cup of tea & some kind of cookie, all was right with the world. Like that image says above- a cup of tea solves everything. And so on that note, for the tea party I decided to use my grandmother’s vintage fine china tea set (& musical teapot). It’s Yamaka China, made in occupied Japan. It’s trimmed in 14K gold & it is beautiful. It must be a rare pattern too, because after looking up Yamaka tea/snack/luncheon sets, I haven’t found it anywhere. The teapot isn’t Yamaka, I’m actually not sure what it is, but it plays ‘Tea For Two’ when you pick it up to pour it. They were both bought sometime after she got married in 1940. My grandma was scrupulous about keeping things perfect, so the set is in mint condition. Looks like it just came out of the box.

And yes, the teapot still plays.

I also used her vintage lace tablecloth, which I never even knew she had. I also hadn’t really ever looked at her china before, but when I decided to use it I really noticed how stunning it is. And I love the fact that the plates have a special little sunken-in area off to the side of the plate for the tea cups to sit in! Brilliant! Plenty of room on the plates for those madeleines. I went & bought some pretty flowers (that matched the tea set) and put them in another flowered tea pot for decoration. I’m not 100% sure what kind of flowers they are, but they’re gorgeous. I put out my jadeite bunny sugar bowl and I put out my grandma’s crystal salt & pepper shakers, just ’cause they’re pretty to look at. Then I got out some good silver teaspoons. All that …and I was ready for a party! A tea party, of course.

Thanks to Anna who pointed out the heart shape in the tea bag!

Donsuemor sent four types of their madeleines: chocolate, chocolate dipped, lemon zest and original. Perfect for a tea party. And of course Davidson’s Tea sent three amazing teas: Bing Cherry with Almond, Tulsi Hibiscus Flower and Vanilla Cream Spice. All of the teas are organic & these happen to all be caffeine free. And did I mention delicious?

I love the Vanilla Cream Spice tea. It’s very, very delicious. It was my favorite, although honestly I haven’t tried the Bing Cherry yet. The Hibiscus tea would be amazing iced! I think this weekend, since the weather will be warm again, I’ll make a big pitcher of hibiscus iced tea with some German rock sugar. And while I don’t think I could pick a favorite madeleine; if I did it’d be a tie between the chocolate-dipped and lemon zest. I can honestly say they’re all amazing, there’s not a bad one in the bunch. But I’m a tea lover, and I’m a French cookie (& pastry) lover too, so I guess I’m not the best judge. Or maybe I am a good judge for that reason!

And coincidentally, it may seem as though I color-coordinated everything to match the tea packets, but I didn’t! Haha. I swear. I was planning on using the jadeite bowl and her pink-patterned tea set before I even realized the tea packets matched everything perfectly. But yeah, that’s just the way I do things, you know. I like to be 100% coordinated. *wink*

All in all, it was a sweet little tea party on a beautiful end-of-April afternoon. Even Arwyn requested some tea. I think she liked the Hibiscus flower one.

Aren’t the flowers lovely, too? Thank you so very much to Donsuemor & Davidson’s Tea for helping me host such a beautiful tea party. Not only that, thank you for helping me rediscover something beautiful of my grandmother’s that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to. I had a wonderful time. I’m just sorry my tea-loving nana wasn’t here to enjoy it with us. But I guess she kind of was.

You can find Donsuemor on the web, on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can also find Davidson’s Tea on Twitter & Facebook, too! So go become a fan, become a follower & buy some of their treats.

Ballerina babycakes.

This year I had a few Valentine’s Day ideas, and all of them, or almost all of them, reminded me of fairy tales. Or stories. All by coincidence. Months ago, maybe around Halloween, I ordered these ballerina toppers with absolutely no idea what I was going to use them for. And then, Pola (my wonderful reader, #1 commenter & all-around awesome friend!) sent me a lovely pink gift:

It’s a pink babycakes mini-cupcake maker, and I love it. What an amazing surprise gift to get! It matches Lola and it basically the cutest thing ever. Not to mention it came before Valentine’s Day… so together with those ballerinas, it inspired me. I decided I’d make bright red cupcakes, top ‘em with some thick white frosting, some sprinkles, and then those ballerinas; if that doesn’t say Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what does. Well there are probably other things that say it, but these do too. They also reminded me of that old fairy tale about the twelve dancing princesses.

When I was a kid, I had these little mini-books, European import type things. They were all fairy tales, and one of them was Kate Crackernuts; yes- admittedly a very amusing name but a good story:

A king had a daughter named Anne, and his queen had a daughter named Kate, who was less beautiful. (Jacobs’ notes reveal that in the original story both girls were called Kate and that he had changed one’s name to Anne.) The queen was jealous of Anne, but Kate loved her. The queen consulted with a henwife to ruin Anne’s beauty, and after three tries, they enchanted Anne’s head into a sheep’s head. Kate wrapped Anne’s head in a cloth, and they went out to seek their fortunes.

They found a castle where the king had two sons, one of whom was sickening, and whoever watched him by night vanished. Kate asked for shelter for herself and her “sick” sister, and offered to watch. At midnight, the sick prince rose and rode off. Kate sneaked onto his horse and collected nuts as they rode through the woods. A green hill where the fairies were dancing opened to receive the prince, and Kate rode in with him unnoticed. The second night is passed as the first but Kate found a fairy baby in the hill. It played with a wand, and she heard fairies say that three strokes of the wand would cure Anne. So she rolled nuts to distract the baby and get the wand, then cured her sister.

The third night, Kate said she would stay only if she could marry the prince, and that night, the baby played with a bird, three bites of which would cure the sick prince. She distracted the baby with the nuts again to get it. As soon as they returned to the castle, she cooked it, and the prince was cured by eating it. Meanwhile his brother had seen Anne and fell in love with her, so they all married — the sick brother to the well sister, and the well brother to the sick sister.

Cinderella-ish, in terms of the “ugly” sister & the “pretty” sister, but it also contains pieces of the Twelve Dancing Princesses story, which is a Brother’s Grimm tale. It’s German in origin (there I go again with the German..) and has been used in various adaptations, some of which reducing the number of sisters to 6 or even 3. It’s considerably longer to sum up than the Kate Crackernuts story, but it’s available online if you’re curious. It’s an interesting, magical story & as a child in ballet class, I was a fan of any & every story that mentioned dancing, or ballet.

I’m a sucker for teh cute, & all things retro, and these ballerina toppers fall into both those categories. They also remind me of when I was a kid & I’d get those bakery cupcakes with the thick frosting & the plastic ballerina’s painted gold or silver on top, and that feeling of nostalgia kinda fit in with the fairy tale thing too. These are my version of the twelve dancing princesses.

However, I admit- I made these just to try the cupcake maker, so my decorating job isn’t the best kinda sucks. But I’ll do better next time, I promise. That’s what happens when you decide to make cupcakes just to use your new cupcake maker & your pretty ballerina toppers.

But just wait until you see what else is going on for Valentine’s Day around here.

RED VELVET MINI-CUPCAKES (from the babycakes cupcake maker recipe book)

Supposedly akes about 16, I got 24

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • a dash of salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until well blended. Beat in sour cream. Blend in dry ingredients. Blend in food coloring & vanilla.
  3. Fill each cup with about 2 tablespoons batter. Bake in cupcake maker for 6-7 minutes (or in oven, for 15-20 minutes) or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

It was really easy to use, although I found one heaping tablespoon was enough to fill each liner. However my liners were a bit smaller than the indentations, so maybe if you don’t use a liner you’ll end up using around 2 tablespoons. The cupcakes baked evenly, rose really nicely (as you can see) and didn’t overflow. They cooked evenly as well. The booklet says to check each cupcake because one part might heat quicker than another, but all of mine cooked evenly. I have to say, I enjoyed using it immensely. It was fun!

There are people online reviewing this saying it’s a terrible appliance; it doesn’t work, it doesn’t bake evenly, it’s hard to clean if you don’t use liners. They’re all nuts. One, it does work. Unless the person writing the review got a lemon or a broken one, they’re crazy. These photos were all taken from the first time I used it. I’m not a genius, I’m not a pastry chef, I’m not a mechanical whiz and yet WOW. Magically, it actually baked my cupcakes! How shocking. I plugged it in and it worked, imagine that. Two, my mini-liners fit just fine, yes they were a bit smaller but what difference does it make? Just adjust the amount you put in like I said above.. it’s not rocket science people. Three, I haven’t used it without liners yet so I can’t say either way, but judging from the removal of the small amount of excess batter I had to clean off mine, it shouldn’t be as hard as they say. It’s non-stick, so basically as soon as it cools, whatever batter is on it, you can just scrape it off gently. Duh. It actually seemed as though the cleanup was far easier than when I make traditional cupcakes.

If you know someone who likes to bake, or who likes cupcakes, this might make a really cute Valentine’s Day gift for them.

Pardon my boring white liners, the only mini-ones I had were white, black with ghosts or yellow with Easter eggs.
..

And the recipe was pretty good too. What is it about mini-cupcakes that makes you want to eat them all? I must have eaten 5-6 of them, unfrosted, during my little photo shoot here. Anyway, my poor self-control aside, like I said, the recipe was good. I used a regular vanilla confectioner’s sugar buttercream on top because I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting.

Basically, now I kinda want the donut maker, pie maker & cake pop maker too. Is that bad? Do I really need all these appliances? Will it make me lazy? I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is, it’s the time of year when people express their love, so here I am to say: I love my babycakes mini cupcake maker. Thank you Pola!