Chocolate Comfort Cake

Similar to the Rum Cake I posted last month, this Chocolate Comfort Cake was made by doctoring a box cake mix. While some frown upon using a box cake mix there are some advantages to doing so, especially when you are doctoring them. They can save you time and by having all of the dry ingredients pre-measured and combined it can ensure a foolproof cake.

So, how can you doctor a cake mix? Add an extra egg for a cake that is richer. Swap out the water with milk or buttermilk, or with coffee for a chocolate cake. Add in cream of coconut or orange zest to a white cake, or a flavored extract. All of these will alter the flavor and texture of the cake to make it more homemade.

Using a dark chocolate cake mix I added in sour cream, freshly brewed coffee and a package of chocolate pudding mix to spruce it up.

Once the batter was prepped I poured it into a Bundt pan I sprayed with baking spray.

And after baking for about 55 minutes it was ready. I was concerned that the batter would overflow while baking but thankfully it didn’t.

After letting it cool in the pan for a few minutes I inverted it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled it was time to enjoy a slice and this is definitely a comfort cake. Thanks to the add-ins it didn’t taste like a box cake at all.

 

Chocolate Comfort Cake

Ingredients:

1 package Dark Chocolate cake mix

1 small package of chocolate pudding mix

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup sugar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or grease with butter and lightly coat with cocoa powder) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and beat with a hand mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack completely.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Hidden Heart Bundt Cake

Two years ago, I made my first Hidden Heart Cake in a loaf pan. This year, I decided to make another one, but, with a small twist. Instead of a loaf pan I decided to make it in a Bundt pan. I also made it more festive for Valentine’s Day by drizzling it with chocolate ganache and topping it with Valentine’s Day themed sprinkles.

To start I had to make a pink cake for the hearts. After prepping a mix of white cake per the box directions I tinted it pink. I then poured it into a Bundt pan that I sprayed with baking spray. Once it was done, I let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight. It’s easier and cleaner to cut up a cold cake. I will point out that I was a bit concerned after making this first cake. It didn’t bake up with a lot of height so I was worries that the chocolate cake wouldn’t be able to completely cover the hearts, but, after a little more thinking I realized it shouldn’t be a problem since the hearts would be taking up some of the pan so the chocolate cake would bake up higher.

The following morning, I cut the cake into slices (about 2-inches each) and then using a 2-inch heart cookie cutter I cut hearts from those slices. If you like making cake pops, you could use the leftover cake to make some.

I then prepped a box of chocolate cake mix per the box directions. I poured some of the batter into the bottom of my Bundt pan that I once again sprayed with baking spray. I did this to ensure that the top of the hearts would be covered by the cake.

Next, I arranged the hearts in the pan upside down. Remember, Bundt cakes are baked upside down and then you invert them once they are done.

And finally, I poured the remaining cake batter into the pan making sure to cover the hearts and getting the batter on the sides of the hearts closer to the outside of the pan.

I baked the cake in a 350 F preheated oven for about 30 minutes. And once the cake had cooled in the pan for 15 minutes, I inverted it onto a wire rack to cool completely. You can see in this close-up shot that a little bit of the pink did peek through, but I knew I would be able to cover that with the chocolate ganache I was planning on pouring over the cake.

To make the ganache, I combined chocolate chips, heavy cream and vanilla extract in a microwave safe bowl and microwaved it for 35-second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate chips had melted, and the mixture was smooth. I wanted the ganache to be a little thicker before I poured it over the cake, so I refrigerated it for about 15-20 minutes, stirring it every five minutes.

Before pouring the ganache on the cake, I lined a baking sheet with wax paper and then placed the wire rack the cake was cooling on on top of the wax paper.

Once the ganache was thick enough, I drizzled it over the cake and sprinkled the ganache with Valentine’s Day sprinkles. I then placed the cake in the refrigerator for a few minutes so the ganache could set.

And then it was time to slice it and I happy to say that the cake came out perfectly. It tasted good and the hearts were distinguishable when the cake was sliced.

Hidden Heart Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

1 box white cake mix, plus the ingredient to prepare the batter

1 box chocolate cake mix, plus ingredients to prepare the batter

Pink food coloring

 

For the Ganache:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Valentine’s Day themed sprinkles

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 10-cup Bundt pan with baking spray, or grease with butter and dust with flour.

In a large bowl prepare the white cake mix per the directions on the box. Once prepared add in pink food coloring and stir to incorporate the color. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Cool the cake for 15 minutes in the pan and then invert on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight*.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. And prep the Bundt pan once again.

Remove the pink Bundt cake from the refrigerator and slice the cake into 2-inch thick slices. Using a 2-inch heart cookie cutter cut hearts from the slices. Set aside.

In a large bowl prep the chocolate cake mix per the box directions. Pour enough batter into the pan so there is about a 1/2-inch layer of cake batter on the bottom. Arrange the cut hearts upside down in the pan. They should fit in perfectly and be snugged next to one another. Pour the remaining batter over the hearts, and make sure to get it into the sides of the pan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted towards the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has completely cooled make the ganache.

Combine all the ingredients for the ganache in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 35-second intervals, stirring between each internal. Once the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth let cool for a few minutes before placing in the refrigerator so the ganache can thicken up. Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Place a piece of wax paper on a large baking sheet and place the cake on the wire rack on top. Once the ganache is thick, drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle the cake with Valentine’s Day sprinkles and then place in the refrigerator for a few minutes so the ganache can set.

Slice and enjoy!

*It’s not necessary to refrigerate the cake overnight. You can slice the cake the same day you bake it once it’s cool. I just find it easier to work with the cake once it’s cold.

Crocheted Heart Table Runner & Garland

I normally don’t decorate for Valentine’s Day. The most I do is hang a tinsel heart wreath on my front door. This year though, possibly from spending so much time at home I decided to do a little more than just hang a wreath.

Initially I was just planning on making a crocheted heart garland. I started crocheting hearts in different colors reminiscent of the Conversation Hearts candy using Lily Sugar ‘n Cream yarn. Then I had the hearts I had completed on my coffee table in my living room and the idea came to me to make a table runner.

So, after measuring out another table runner I used on the table over the holidays I determined that I would need 60 crocheted hearts, 4 rows of 15 hearts (or 15 columns of 4 hearts.) Once I had them all crocheted it was time to settle on a pattern.

I ended up crocheting more of the lighter and darker pink hearts since I knew those colors were going to be the ones that would tie the table runner together. I went back and forth about what to do with the other colors but decided on placing them haphazardly. Doing my best to spread them out evenly. This is the pattern that I ultimately settled on.

And then the not-so-fun part… stitching the hearts together. I began by stitching the rows of 4 hearts together. Once I had finished stitching them, I laid the 15 4-heart columns out on my table and it became apparent immediately that I was going to need another row.

I crocheted 15 more hearts, thankfully they work up quickly, and placed them so I could stitch them onto the hearts I had previously stitched together. And instantly I could see that that additional row made my table runner the perfect width.

Next, I needed to stitch together all of the columns.

And finally, it was done. The finished size with the 75 hearts is 12.5” x 47”. This is the type of project though that you can completely customize to make it the size you need.

Also, this project is a great stash buster. While I used 7 different shades of Lily Sugar ‘n Cream yarn you could easily use any leftover yarn in your stash that has a similar weight (Medium/4) and use less or more colors depending on what you have on hand.

And I didn’t forget about that garland I wanted to make. To make the garland I crocheted 9 large hearts in Pretty in Pink and 8 smaller hearts in Rose Pink. Then using a long piece of yarn, I strung the hearts together. It ended up being just shy of 4 feet long. Just like the table runner though, you can adjust the length to fit your needs.

And there was one other thing I did to get my house into the Valentine’s Day spirit… I really didn’t feel like taking down my Christmas Tree, not because I was being lazy or anything, I just like how my tree looks, but, I didn’t want to leave the Christmas ornaments on it so I decided to make it into a Valentine’s Day Tree.

 

Crocheted Heart Table Runner & Garland

Lily Sugar ‘n Cream yarn in the following colors:

Sage Green – 2.5 oz ball

Tangerine – 2.5 oz. ball

Hot Purple – 2.5 oz. ball

Black Currant – 2.5 oz. ball

Teal – 2.5 oz. ball

Rose Pink – 4oz. ball (Super-Size Ball)

Pretty in Pink – 4oz. ball (Super-Size Ball)

 

Crochet Hook Size H-8 / 5mm

 

For the Table Runner I made 75 Larger sized hearts in the following breakdown:

24 Rose Pink, 14 Pretty in Pink, 8 Teal, 8 Tangerine, 7 Sage Green, 7 Hot Purple, 7 Black Currant

 

For the Garland I made 9 Larger hearts and 8 smaller hearts in the following breakdown:

9 Pretty in Pink, 8 Rose Pink

 

To make the smaller heart (1.5 inches long) only crochet Round 1, for the larger heart (2.5 inches long) crochet Round 1 & 2.

Magic Ring, Ch2

Round 1: Into the Magic Ring, 3 Treble Crochets, 4 Double Crochets, Treble Crochet, 4 Double Crochets, 3 Treble Crochet. Pull String, Ch2 and Slip Stitch into center. Pull string tight to close hole.

Round 2: Single Crochet in the side of starting Ch2. 2 half-double crochets in next stitch, 3 double crochets in next stitch, 2 double crochets in next stitch, Double Crochet in the next 4 stitches, 3 double crochets in next stitch, double crochets in next 4 stitches, 2 double crochets in next stitch, 3 double crochets in next stitch, 2 half-double crochets in next stitch. Single crochet and slip stitch in the side of last ch2 space.

 

To assemble the Table Runner:

Lay the hearts out in the pattern you wish and then stitch the hearts in the columns together first and then stitch all of the columns together

 

To assemble the Garland:

String the hearts, using a long piece of yarn, alternating between a large heart and a smaller heart, starting and ending with a larger heart. Tie a knot, or loop, on both ends of the yarn so the hearts will stay in place.

Spinach & Mushroom Stromboli

I’m not a fan of working with yeast. I think it’s because the first time I did so it was a bit of a disaster. It took three tries before the yeast proofed and the bread I was making never fully rose. Ultimately the bread did taste good, but I knew that it could have been better. After that experience I have avoided certain recipes that involve yeast. The key to working with yeast is to make sure the temperature of your water/milk is spot on, that you knead your dough enough without overworking it and that you have the right environment for your dough to rise. With those three points in mind I am hoping to curb my apprehension and delve into making more yeast-based recipes. Recently I make homemade Stromboli.

A fellow blogger, Sally’s Baking Addiction , posts a monthly baking challenge for her followers to try. Along with recipe she provides full step-by-step directions as well as pictures and videos to help you along. For this first month of the year her challenge was homemade Stromboli. While hers was filled with sliced deli meats I opted to fill mine with vegetables – specifically spinach, mushrooms and jarred roasted red peppers.

To make the dough I began by combining warm water, instant yeast and sugar in the bowl of my stand mixer and covered it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for a few minutes. I then added in olive oil, salt and flour and using the dough attachment on my mixer, I mixed the ingredients on low for 2 minutes. Next, I dusted my counter with flour and kneaded the dough for a few minutes. I knew it was ready when I poked it and it slowly bounced back.

Next, I sprayed an ovenproof bowl with cooking spray and placed the dough inside of it, turning to coat it. After covering the bowl with aluminum foil, I placed it in a warm spot so the dough could rise for an hour. To ensure a warm enough environment, while prepping the dough I preheated my oven to 200 F and once I was ready to let it rest I turned the oven off and placed the covered bowl inside leaving the oven door slightly ajar. I ended up having to prop it open with a measuring cup so it would be open just enough. After 30 minutes I closed the oven door completely.

And this is what my dough looked like after an hour. It may not look like it doubled in size, but, it did.

Now, this dough was enough to make 2 Stromboli’s, but I was only planning on making one. So, I divided the dough in half, coated one-half in olive oil and then wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer. The other half I formed into a 10×16 rectangle and brushed it with melted butter and minced garlic.

I then sprinkled some dried parsley on top.

Next, I arranged cooked spinach and mushrooms along with jarred roasted red peppers I sliced, leaving a 3-inch border on one long edge and a 1-inch border on the other side and on both short ends.

And finally, since everything is better with cheese, I sprinkled shredded mozzarella on top.

Next it was time to roll it up. Before rolling, I brushed the edges of the dough with an egg wash. I then carefully rolled the Stromboli starting with the long-edge with the 1-inch border, tucking the sides of the dough in as I rolled it. I then carefully transferred it to a baking sheet I lined with parchment paper.

Before placing it in a preheated 400 F oven I cut 4-slits into the top of the dough and brushed it with the remaining egg wash and sprinkled it with dried parsley.

After baking for about 25 minutes my Stromboli was done.

I let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and enjoying.

Spinach & Mushroom Stromboli

  • Servings: 2 Stromboli's
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the dough (for 2 Stromboli’s):

1 1/3 cups warm water (between 100 – 110 F)

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 7g / 1/4 oz. packet)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoons salt

3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

 

For the filling (for 2 Stromboli’s):

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dried parsley

5 oz. bag spinach

8oz. package sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced jarred roasted red peppers

3 cups shredded mozzarella

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

 

For rolling and topping:

Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Additional dried parsley for topping

 

Directions:

In the bowl of your stand mixer whisk together the water, yeast and sugar. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for five minutes.

Add the olive oil, salt and flour and using the dough attachment beat the ingredients on low speed for 2 minutes. Lightly dust your counter and hands with flour and knead the dough for 3 – 4 minutes by hand. The dough is ready when it is soft and when poked it slowly bounces back.

Lightly grease a bowl with cooking spray (or oil) and place the dough inside of the bowl coating it with the cooking spray (or oil). Cover with aluminum foil and place in a warm spot to rise, about 60 minutes with instant yeast. The dough should double in size.

While the dough is rising cook the spinach and mushrooms. In a large non-stick skillet warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften and release their juices. Add the spinach and season with additional salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are cooked and the spinach has wilted. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Once the dough is ready… Preheat the oven to 400 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Punch the dough down to release any trapped air. Divide the dough in half*. Dust your counter with flour and dust a rolling pin with flour and shape each half of the dough into a 10×16-inch rectangle.

Mix the melted butter and garlic together and brush on the dough and then sprinkle with parsley. Spread half of the spinach mushroom mixture and the sliced roasted peppers onto the dough leaving a three-inch border on one long edge and a one-inch border on the opposite long edge and on both short edges. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.

Brush the egg wash along all 4 borders. Now you are ready to roll the Stromboli. Begin with the long edge with the 1-inch border. Carefully roll towards the opposite long edge while also tucking in the edges of the short sides. Once completely rolled tuck in the ends and carefully transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets.

Brush the top of the Stromboli’s with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with dried parsley.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and enjoying.

*If you are only planning on making 1 Stromboli shape one-half of the dough into a ball and coat it with olive oil and the wrap in plastic wrap and then place in a resealable bag and freeze. When you are ready to use, place the dough in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

One Banana Three Muffins

Normally when I have overripe bananas my go-to is to make a Banana Nut Bread. But that requires 3 bananas and this time around I only had 1. And while I could have tossed it, I’m not keen on eating overripe bananas, I also don’t like to waste food. So, I decided to tweak a recipe to turn that 1 banana into muffins.

Truthfully before making and dividing the batter I wasn’t sure how many muffins I would get from it. Once I was done prepping it, I was able to divide it into 3 large muffins. I used a 6-cup muffin pan as opposed to a 12-cup cupcake pan.

After baking in a 375 F preheated oven I let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

And the following morning enjoy one for breakfast.

These muffins were delicious! From now on when I buy bananas I may leave one to overripe so I can bake up a batch of these muffins. They are quick, easy, delicious and the perfect amount!

 

Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients:

3 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cups flour

1 overripe banana, mashed

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line 3 cavities of a 6-cup muffin pan with liners.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside.

In another medium bowl cream together the butter and sugar using a handheld mixer. Add the egg and continue to beat until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the mashed banana and the walnuts.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin pan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the muffins and transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Rum Cake

I might be a little late to post this cake. Typically, Rum Cake is made around the holidays and I had every intention of making this around Christmas, but plans changed. Let’s be honest though, Rum Cake is good anytime of the year. Anything good is good anytime! I will let you know upfront that this is a semi-homemade Rum Cake and is truly simple and easy to make. I’ve seen recipes online that contain nuts, additional extracts and so forth, but, not with this one. Do not fear though, it does not skimp on flavor nor deliciousness.

To make the batter for the cake I combined a box of yellow cake mix along with a small box of vanilla pudding mix, rum, water, vegetable oil and eggs. I then poured it into a Bundt pan that I sprayed with baking spray.

After baking for about an hour in a 325 F preheated oven the cake was done. I placed it on a wire rack and immediately made the rum sauce to pour over it.

In a medium saucepan I combined a stick of unsalted butter along with sugar and rum and cooked it over medium heat until the butter had melted, the sugar dissolved, and it began to boil. The mixture was the consistency of a thin syrup.  Just a note, you don’t want to make the sauce before the cake is done. It may become too thick to pour onto the cake it and it won’t get absorbed as well.

While the syrup and cake were still hot, I poured the syrup over the cake. I use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan so that the syrup could go down the sides of the cake as well.

I let the cake cool in the pan for about 45 minutes and then inverted it onto a wire rack to cool for a few minutes more before transferring it to a cake board and then covering it with plastic wrap to refrigerate. In case you are wondering, yes, the cake did absorb all of the syrup. When I flipped it onto the wire rack there was none left in the pan and the cake did not feel sticky or anything.

After refrigerating overnight, it was ready to be served. And it was a hit with everyone who tried it!

Rum Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

1 Box yellow cake mix

1 small package of vanilla pudding mix*

1/4 cup light rum**

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, at room temperature

 

For the Rum Glaze:

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light rum

 

*I used Jell-O

**I used Bacardi Gold Rum

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or lightly grease and then coat with flour) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the cake and using a handheld mixer beat on medium speed until smooth. Transfer to the Bundt pan and bake the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack while making the rum glaze.

Wait until the cake is done to make the glaze. In a medium saucepan combine the ingredients for the glaze – butter, sugar & rum – and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. Once the mixture begins to boil it’s ready. Use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Pour the hot mixture over the cake and along the sides of the cake.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 40 – 45 minutes and then invert onto the wire rack to cool completely.

The cake is best served cold so once it has completely cooled wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe from Hallmark Channel

Ham & Potato Soup

For as long as I can remember I’ve eaten ham on New Year’s Day. My parents did so before I came along and continued to do so with me. And in case you didn’t know, eating pork on the first day of the New Year is supposed to bring good luck as pigs take their snout and root forward and are full of fattiness which when combined can symbolize progress, wealth & prosperity. There were some years where I wasn’t keen on the ham and other years when I look forward to it. The type of ham wasn’t the fancy spiral ones that come in a shiny red wrapper along with a brown sugar glaze, but, a canned ham that I find confusing in the sense that you can slice and eat cold, but, if you are going to “cook” it, it needs to cook in the oven for over an hour and come to an internal temperature of 140 F. My parents would always line the top of the ham with cloves, stick pineapple rings along the sides and on top and then drizzle it with light brown sugar. It’s the exact same way that I make it now. Inevitably though I always have leftovers and way too much of them. This year I decided to turn some of those leftovers into a delicious Ham & Potato Soup.

The soup starts with a mirepoix cooked in butter. And then the potatoes and ham are added and next minced garlic. To help thicken the soup flour is then stirred in and cooked for a few minutes before adding chicken stock and finally milk.

This soup is delicious… One of the best homemade soups I have made.

Ham & Potato Soup

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 cup diced celery

3 cups peeled and diced potatoes*

2 cups cooked ham, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup flour

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

3 cups whole milk

Salt and fresh cracked pepper, if needed

*I like to leave my potatoes on the larger side when cutting so they don’t break up too much while cooking

Directions:

In a large pot heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until beginning to soften (4 – 5 minutes)

Add the ham and potatoes, cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Mix in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock, mixing all the ingredients together. Increase the heat and cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil. Boil for 10-12 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the milk. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken.

Taste, if needed, season with salt and pepper.

Sunshine Blogger Award Nomination

I was recently nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award… Thanks Julie for the nomination. Julie is a fellow blogger, check out her blog at Another Day with Julie . She has a great blog covering all different types of topics: cooking, crafts, movie reviews, etc… Thanks again Julie!

Here are the answers to the 11 questions asked of me. I hope they offer a little more insight about who I am.

1) What is your favorite movie of all time? I don’t think I can say there is one move that is my all-time favorite. I do have a few though that when I catch on television while searching for something to watch I will stop and watch them regardless of how many times I have seen them and they are: Shawshank Redemption, Dirty Dancing, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Benny & Joon, Any Fast & Furious movie (well, except for 2 Fast 2 Furious & Tokyo Drift), & The Wedding Date.

2) What do you enjoy about blogging? There’s a lot of things I enjoy about it. I have always enjoyed writing and having a blog gives me the ability to write more than I normally would be able to and it pushes me to try different things to blog about. Be it a new craft, jewelry technique or the latest baking craze.

3) How many languages do you speak and what are they? I speak two languages, English & Spanish.

4) Where is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Keuka Lake. It’s in upstate New York. Almost ten years ago some good friends and I rented a house on the lake up there and we spent the week visiting wineries and exploring the small towns surrounding the lake. I was supposed to go to Europe this past year and take a cruise that included stops in a few different countries but unfortunately it has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic.

5) If you could invite 2 famous people to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be? I honestly don’t have an answer to this one.

6) Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? No, I do not make resolutions. All I hope for is that when the new year comes to an end and we are about to start another one that life is just as good or better than what it was when it started. Everyday is an opportunity to start something new or make a change, you don’t need January 1st to do that.

7) What is your favorite blog post? It’s actually one that had nothing to do with baking or crafting. It was about the new sofa I had purchased for my living room – The Sofa – and a close second is my blog post about the remodel I did in my living room last year – Living Room Remodel

8) What book are you currently reading? Unfortunately nothing right now. But, I do have one on my bookshelf waiting for me – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. It’s a few years old but I picked it up on one of my visits to Barnes & Noble and just haven’t gotten to it. I used to read a book a week and would visit Barnes & Noble weekly to keep my bookshelf stocked.

9) What is your favorite recipe? Anything that I can recall from memory that my parents used to make. And if it tastes just like their’s that’s even better.

10) Do you prefer cats or dogs? I am a dog person all the way!

11) Any words of wisdom for the New Year? With everything going on in the world find one thing every day to be grateful for and/or to make you smile/laugh. It goes a long way… trust me. Oh, and wear a mask!

 

Baked Challah French Toast

This year for Christmas and New Year’s Eve I decided to play it safe and stay home. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t treat myself to the same goodies I would have had had I followed my usual plans. I made cinnamon rolls from scratch for Christmas morning and I made myself a Molten Lava Cake and a mini charcuterie plate for New Year’s Eve. And for my first meal of the new year, since I always eat breakfast, I enjoyed Challah French Toast.

I prepped it the night before by cutting up a loaf of challah bread and arranging it in a 9×13 baking dish that I lightly greased. I then poured a mixture of eggs, milk, heavy cream, sugar and spices over it and covered and refrigerated it overnight. The following morning, I removed it from the refrigerator and while I preheated the oven drizzled it with melted butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture. I baked it for about 40 minutes, until it was puffy and golden brown.

Once done, I let it sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and enjoying a piece along with some fresh strawberries and a few slices of bacon. Not a bad first meal for the new year.

Baked Challah French Toast

Ingredients:

1 1-pound challah loaf, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

syrup, confectioners’ sugar and/or fresh berries, for serving

 

Directions:

Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish wish either softened butter or cooking spray and layer the challah pieces into the dish in a single layer.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, light brown sugar, vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, nutmeg & salt. Pour over the bread and cover the dish with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.

Once ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Remove dish from the refrigerator and uncover. In a small bowl combine the sugar and the remaining teaspoon of cinnamon. Drizzle the melted butter over the bread and then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffed and a deep golden brown.

Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe from Food52

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! While there are some years we would like to hold on to, 2020 is one year where we can all agree we are happy to see come to a close. Granted, it’s not like midnight will hit and all the problems that we have faced this year will fade away, but, turning the page and starting anew with a new year gives people greater hope as opposed to a new month rolling in.

What I think most of us have found this year is inner strength, renewed appreciation for family and friends, who the real heroes are and who we really should admire and look up to, and just how fragile life is. That last one is one that I learned quite some time ago and because of it I do my best to appreciate every day and to find humor in things even in the worst of times. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

And speaking of humor, there are some light-hearted things we have learned this year that are just as important… That your pets make great coworkers (I’m looking at you “Bob the Bird”), that you finally learned where mute is on Zoom, how to position a camera properly so you look amazing on video calls (and no one sees your pajama bottoms), and that you have hidden talents like making sourdough or is it sourdough starter. Sorry, I didn’t jump on that trend. The only trend I tried was Dalgona Coffee and I actually made a chocolate version instead.

I wonder what the trends of 2021 will be. Will we still be making Hot Cocoa Bombs? I hope so. I was late to that one, so I have yet to try it. I’m also hoping to learn Macrame. But we’ll see, that seems to be an expensive hobby.

I leave you with the lyrics to the song “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls. It was originally released in 2005 and once again this year on their Christmas Album. I think the message is perfect for this holiday season and as we go into 2021… Hopefully we all will find better days.

And you asked me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
‘Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I need some place simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there’s ten million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again