Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Purple Haze

I hope you aren't tired of flower pictures, Dear Reader (singular, I think I have one?)! Every day I go for a little stroll around the neighborhood and am so blown away by all the beautiful blooms. It gives me a little thrill to see that the lilacs are blooming so early. Purple and green are the predominant colors around the lake right now.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cookie Bars

In school this past week, we've been making a variety of cookies, tarts, and bars. I thought I'd show you these two and give you the basic recipes. The one pictured below is the Pecan Diamond and the bottom is a plate of Cherry Almond bars drizzled with chocolate. Each is basically a sweet dough base (somewhere between a sugar cookie and a shortbread) that is prebaked, topped with a nut and caramel mixture and baked again until it sets. You could easily switch up the type of nut used, the type of dried fruit in the Almond Cherry bars, use maple syrup instead of honey, or, if you're like me, add some salt.

Here is a good recipe for the crust: http://www.joyofbaking.com/SweetPastryCrust.html

Note that since you will be baking this twice (once without filling and once after it is filled), prebake the crust at 375 just until it starts turning golden brown. Also, if you're dough cracks or isn't quite a rectangle when you put it on your cookie sheet (important - use a cookie tray with sides), just patch it up and press it in. It's going to be covered in filling and you'll probably want to trim the edges, anyway. Do not skip the refrigeration step; it's important to prevent your crust from shrinking!

Pecan Diamond filling:

8 oz melted butter

6 oz honey

8 oz brown sugar

2 oz white sugar

12 oz pecan pieces

8 oz cream

Heat butter, honey, and both sugars in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Bring to a hard boil (it will become a little more golden brown in color). Add pecans and bring to hard boil again (rapid bubbling all over the pan, including the middle). Take off heat and add cream. Pour mixture evenly over cooled crust. Pop in oven at 375 until mixture bubbles all over, especially in middle. Let cool before cutting.

Almond Cherry filling:

7 oz melted butter

7 oz white sugar

2 oz honey

4 oz cream

8 oz sliced almonds

4 oz dried cherries, chopped into smaller pieces

1 oz flour

Combine first four ingredients in saucepan and bring to hard boil (as in previous recipe). Let boil for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Add dry ingredients and bring to a hard boil again, still stirring constantly. Pour onto cooled crust and bake at 375 until almonds have browned a little and mixture bubbles all over (again, especially in the middle or the center will be gooey). Cool before cutting.

Paper Constructions by Matthew Sporzynski

Check out these awesome paper constructions! I've noticed them in the pages of Real Simple magazine over the years and now they've put them all in one place on their website. I love things like this because, as a person who just likes to make things, I get a lot of, "well, it's cool, but what does it do/what is it for?" type of responses. That's what's so great about baking - no "but, what do you DO with it?" questions!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Early Spring

True spring has come incredibly early here in Minnesota. Typically it comes in little bursts here and there, with two steps forward and one step back. This year, it got nice in March and just kept on getting nicer. Everything is blooming down by the lake!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Our egg creations this year - using crayons, masking tape, and colored pencil in addition to the regular dye. And check out our new vintage lamby dude!
I doctored up some white cake mix to make a clementine cake (zest and juice added to the mix) with lemon frosting (lemon pudding and cool whip) and toasted coconut. It was pretty low brow, obviously, but sometimes that hits the spot. It was nice and moist but, like most box mixes, too sweet for me.

I also made some chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs, using my PB ball/buckeye recipe that I usually do around Christmas time. I also tried one with Nutella and that was pretty good, too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Macy's Flower Show

As promised, I'm reporting back about Macys Flower Show at the downtown Minneapolis Macys. They have gone back to setting it up in the 8th floor auditorium again so the lighting is funky - pretty dark with fairly obvious spotlighting. Despite that (and the crowds! note to self: don't go during spring break next year), there were many charming little scenes and views. It also smelled heavenly, thanks in large part to the bountiful lilacs!

Above is a very cute elf house, complete with a little elf door. No elf to be seen, though; he must've been on vacay.

Above is a pic of the flock of butterflies hanging from the ceiling. Below are the somewhat strange mushrooms located in the elf's front yard. Don't the roses look a little weird?

Spring Show at the Conservatory

The conservatory at Como Park is displaying their spring show in the sunken garden. We also visited the zoo, which was CRAZY because it's spring break. These orchids aren't part of the spring show but are permanently displayed. Aren't they gorgeous?

The color scheme for the show (the rest of the pics) was orange, purple, and white. I'm pretty sure the spring display goes through May. Meanwhile, the outside world is greening up - thanks to unseasonably nice weather here in Minnesota (no snow at all for the whole month of March is unheard of!)