Tag Archives: birthday

Can’t Believe They’re Whole Grain Cookies

Our friend Shawn just had a birthday.  Unfortunately, it coincided with a major breakdown in his bracket, his NCAA basketball tournament bracket, that is.  This breakdown also meant that he owed several people steak dinners.  I thought it was a shame to lose a bet on your birthday, so I wanted to cheer him up.

Hmmm…what to do.  Cookies!  That always works for me, especially if they have chocolate.  Wait, I know he and his girlfriend try to watch what they eat…I’ll use whole wheat flour!  That should relieve some the guilt.  Don’t worry…I didn’t skimp on the butter.  Or the chocolate chips.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

Modified from Good to the Grain

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips

Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  You can add any bits of grain that remain in the sifter.

Add the butters and sugars into the bowl of your mixer and on low speed, mix just until blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until just combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, if necessary.

Add the chocolate chips and mix on low speed until combined.  The dough will be very thick.  You may need to use your hands to finish incorporating all the ingredients.

I used my hands to scoop out the dough, 3 to 4 Tbsp worth, placing them 6 to a baking sheet.

Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets for each shelf halfway, until the cookies are evenly browned.  Cool the cookies on a cooling rack and repeat with the remaining dough.


Filed under Dessert

Birthday Scones

Yesterday was my friend Virginia’s birthday.  I learned her favorite flavor combination is chocolate and lavender so my plan was to make her a special birthday treat.   Unfortunately, I could not find the lavender in my spice cabinet.  Struggling with a cold, I didn’t feel up to a major lavender hunt so I decided to just be creative with what I had on hand and give her a raincheck on the chocolate lavender dessert.

With the combination of a foggy Benedryl brain and refrigerator scavenging, I came up with these scones for my friend to enjoy for breakfast.  I hope you like them, too.

Goat Cheese Scones with Strawberry Jam
Makes 6 to 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp white granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 to 1 cup milk (low-fat is okay)
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup strawberry jam (I used homemade strawberry-orange jam)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Add butter and blend with fingers, pastry blender, two knives, or food processor until mixture resembles small peas.

Add milk and crumble in goat cheese.  Stir until mixture comes together into a slightly sticky dough ball.  Add a bit more milk, if it doesn’t stick together.

Turn dough out onto floured surface, and roll out into rectangular shape about 1/2-inch thick.  Spread strawberry jam onto one half of the dough rectangle.

Fold dough over onto itself to cover the jam and lightly pinch together ends.  With a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 6 or 8 triangles.

Transfer to prepared baking sheet, leaving space in between.  Brush tops of triangles with beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden on top.

Cool for a few minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack or serving.

Best eaten quickly…


Filed under Breakfast

Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday

My husband’s favorite flavor combination is chocolate and peanut butter so it was pretty easy to figure out what cake to make for his birthday.  He appeared to have enjoyed it as he helped himself to three slices that evening and ate it again for breakfast the next morning.  Just as well – it doesn’t keep well past about three days.

This is a really easy cake to make, and it transports well, so you can take it to a party or into the office.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
¼ cup cocoa
1 cup water
½ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter (I prefer natural)
Cocoa Frosting
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup cocoa
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine first 3 ingredients; set aside.  Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat; whisk in cocoa and next 3 ingredients.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture until smooth.  
Pour batter into a greased and floured 13×9-inch pan.  Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.  
While the cake is cooling, start on the cocoa frosting.  Bring first 3 frosting ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in powdered sugar until smooth.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  
Once the cake is cool, spread the top with peanut butter.  (I softened the peanut butter in the microwave so that spread more easily.)  Cool completely.  
Spread cocoa frosting over peanut butter.

Slice and enjoy.  You will feel like it is your birthday no matter when you eat it.

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Late Night Snack Bars

I didn’t feel comfortable giving new parents Dave and Wendy only a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese.  I mean, they also need dessert, right?  Yeah, I gave them a fruit salad, but they need a treat, too.  How about something hearty to give Wendy some energy after late-night feedings?  Okay, so maybe some oats…add some nuts…chocolate is expected, of course…

Chocolate Oat Snack Bars
Makes about 30 bars

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped pecans (or other nut)

Set aside 2 Tbsp of butter for use later in the recipe.  Beat remaining butter with sugars until well mixed. Beat in eggs and 2 tsp of vanilla.  In a separate bowl, stir together oats, flour, and baking soda.  Gradually stir this dry mix into butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Press about 2/3rds of this dough into the bottom of a 15x10x1 inch baking pan, and set aside for a minute.

In a medium saucepan, combine the reserved 2 Tbsp of butter, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate chips.

Cook over low heat until the chocolate melts and stir gently until all the ingredients are blended.  Remove from the heat and stir in nuts and 2 tsp vanilla.

Spread the chocolate over the dough.  Then, using your fingers, dot the remaining oat mixture/dough over the chocolate.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cut into bars.

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Welcome Home Macaroni

Dear Jamie,
What a lucky little girl you are!  You have been given two of the coolest parents.  They have intelligence, wit, great taste, and are overwhelming kind and generous.  With them supporting you, I can’t wait to see how smart, funny, and charming you will become.
You are a week old today.  I’m grateful to have seen you every day for the first five days of your life.  It was great to see your folks and see the changes in you.  I’m away for a while, but I hope you know that no matter where I live I will always be there for you, just as I am for your amazing parents.
Hugs and kisses….Auntie Katie
Our friends Dave and Wendy just had a beautiful baby girl.  I am thrilled for them and wanted to show my affection for them by bringing them food.  But what to make?  I wanted something that would be fine to leave in the refrigerator for a few days, if needed and would taste good re-heated.  I wanted something comforting and filling.  I wanted something that they could share with other guests.  My go-to dish includes meat and cheese with pasta in a spicy, garlicky sauce, but that didn’t seem to be good for a nursing mother.  Oh yeah, how about macaroni and cheese?  I modified a recipe that comes from James Beard via my mother.

Macaroni and Cheese
Serves plenty

3/4 lb dried macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
10 oz shredded cheese

Cook the macaroni in boiling water according to package directions.  Drain well and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, begin to prepare a white sauce.  Melt butter in a heavy skillet, stir in flour.  Cook over medium heat, stirring smooth.

Before you add milk to the flour-butter mixture, heat it separately until it is almost boiling.  Then, gradually stir it in and continue stirring until it thickens.  The sauce stays smoother by adding warm milk to the other warm ingredients.  Add the salt, mustard, and hot sauce, and simmer for no more than 5 minutes.

Butter a 3 quart baking dish or casserole.  Put a layer of cooked macaroni on bottom, cover with some of the white sauce and cheese.

Repeat layers until dish is full, ending with a slightly heavier layer of cheese on top.

I used sharp Cheddar and a little grated Parmesan, but it can be good with whatever cheese you like or have on hand.  I don’t recommend too much soft cheese, though.  Also, depending on how much cheese you like, you can use between 8 and 12 ounces.

Bake in 350 oven for 20 to 25 minutes until you can see the sauce bubbling on the sides.  Then pop it under the broiler for about 3 minutes to give it a nice color on top.

NOTE:  I gave this casserole to the new parents before cooking it, so they could have it fresh, but it also reheats well in the oven or microwave.


Filed under Pasta

Chocolate Caramel Slice of Yummy

So, I used to work in an office with co-workers who didn’t have four legs and a tail.  They could also use their opposable thumbs for composing e-mail and online shopping.  Now, I work at home and hang out with my pets and loud neighbors all day and I don’t have to participate in conference call meetings.

In my office days, I made it a tradition to bake something special for each colleague’s birthday.  I’d listen to them describe their favorite dishes or I’d just out right ask them to tell me about their favorite flavor.  Then I’d try to create something that I thought they’d enjoy.

One of the birthday treats I count among my successes is the chocolate caramel slice bar cookie I made for Perrin’s birthday.  Perrin said her favorite flavor was caramel.  My favorite flavor is chocolate.  What a match we make!  I got to see Perrin last night and it just so happens her birthday is this week.  I decided to surprise her with a reminder of our fun office days together and make another batch of bar cookies.

Chocolate Caramel Slice (modified from Bon Appetit)
Makes at least 24 bar cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, diced
1 Tbsp ice water
1 large egg yolk

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, diced
2 Tbsp golden syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup) or dark corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp whipping cream
Flaked sea salt (Maldon)

For crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan.  You can also use a jellyroll pan.

I used a food processor, but you could use a pastry cutter.  Blend flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Add butter and pulse until coarse meal forms.

Add the tablespoon of water and the egg yolk.

Blend again until moist clumps form.

Turn out into prepared baking pan and press down dough to form crust along bottom of entire pan.  Pierce all over with a fork, this will help keep it flat.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.  If the crust bubbles up, you can pierce that section with a fork.  Cool completely.

For toppings:  Whisk condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, syrup, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium  heat until sugar dissolves, butter melts, and mixture comes to a boil.

Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan.  Continue to boil gently until caramel is thick and temperature registers 225 degrees F, whisking constantly.  It will probably take around 5 minutes.

Pour caramel evenly over crust; allow to set and cool for about 15 minutes.

Melt chocolate and cream in microwave or double boiler, stirring ocassionally.  Take care not to scorch the chocolate by getting it to hot.  Spread chocolate over caramel; sprinkle with sea salt.

Refrigerate until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour, but likely longer.  Keep it covered in the refrigerator.  It can be made 2 to 3 days ahead.  Cut the dessert into bars or squares to serve.


Filed under Dessert

Best Ever White Frosting

Our good friend Virginia turned thirty this weekend, and I wanted to make her a special birthday cake so she knows how much she means to us. I chose a red velvet layer cake topped with fluffy white frosting and my husband added fresh strawberries. I wasn’t too pleased with the cake, but the frosting turned out better than expected.

I’ve tried for several years to recreate the white frosting my Aunt Ruthie made, and finally feel I was successful. I’ll keep working on the red velvet cake recipe and post it sometime in the future. This white frosting would work with just about any kind of cake. I had some left over and I used it to frost some chocolate cupcakes the next day. Enjoy!
3 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup Karo white syrup
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla (you could use another flavoring like almond or lemon extract or even coffee)
Put ingredients in double boiler over cold water. Start beating with electric beater and turn on the burner at same time. Beat until it stands in stiff, glossy peaks. This varies in time, as some eggs whip faster than others.
The frosting will come out glossy and fluffy almost like marshmallow. You could also add a few drops of food coloring and fold it in gently, if you wanted a color other than white.
The birthday girl seemed to enjoy it. And, I think Aunt Ruthie would be proud….

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