Sunday, September 30, 2012

End of Super September

 Well, this is it - the end of Super September. I have to say I'm more than a little relieved. It's really tough to post so much with trying to find time to work on projects AND working full time (have I whined about mentioned how much I hate my work schedule, lately? Blargh.)

Having said that, I'm glad I decided to challenge myself to get my blog mojo revved up again. October starts tomorrow and, to me, October is all about HALLOWEEN. Yes! I love fall - the food, the weather, the holidays...pretty much everything except that leads into the long Minnesota winter. So, we'll forget about winter for now (la la la, I'm in denial) and enjoy the cool but sunny days, the changing leaves, and the return of the salted caramel mocha at Starbucks.

I'll be taking a few days off from blogging but am going to be posting probably three times a week or so. Like I've mentioned, I have TONS of projects in the works and lots and lots of ideas for new ones.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


It's hard to tell in this photo, but this gnome is about six feet tall and lives in a front yard down the street.

View of the Cathedral from across the Missippi. The leaves they are at 50% peak according to the news.

I drove by this little valley every day on the way to pastry school and never had time to take a photo. Beautiful, isn't it?

Another place I have driven by a million times and never had a chance to stop. My sister and I decided to go there today. This market and deli is located in Lilydale - right off Hwy 13.

We got a piece of chocolate cake and this banana cake with cream cheese frosting. The frosting was amazing - light and airy, tangy and just sweet enough. Maybe they use a special kind of cream cheese?

A shot of the interior - the deli case and lunch counter is at the far left. They serve different salads, pasta, lasagne and pizza! It all looked and smelled delicious.

These flags just looked really cool. I'm not sure what they signify - different regions of Italy? The refrigerated case holds gelato, lots of take-home meals that you can reheat such as pasta and lasagne, and pizza dough.

The market and deli also carries imported pasta, candy, drinks, wine, olive oil, vinegar and other Italian goods. We bought some anchovy paste.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brainerd Trip - Some Sights

There are many "Babe the Blue Ox" statues around town. This one is at the golf course near Cragun's.
A really weird "honor system" outdoor second-hand store. There was nothing worth stealing.
I never got around to sharing some of my other photos from our Brainerd trip. I'ts been a very long week so please excuse the picture-heavy post. I have lots of projects that are in progress but haven't had any time to work on them lately. Hopefully, I'll be posting some of them soon!

There IS good shopping in Nisswa but the cute little shopping area is right off the highway and looks like a strip mall at first. Trust me - it sort of branches off into a little "main street" with cute shops and some cafe-type places.

The ubiquitous Babe right by the Paul Bunyun Trail in Nisswa

Paul and Babe outside a shop in Nisswa. Babe has a murderous rage in his eyes - perhaps it discourages shoplifters?

Pirate mini-golf on Hwy 371. There are two courses. I didn't try the other one, but Blackbeard's Challenge was cool. They even had factoids about Blackbeard at each hole.
This guy is serious about guarding his booty- and his stuff, too.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Carrot Cake with Maple Caramel Frosting

Carrot Cake (modified from Sybil Kitchel's Carrot Cake from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook)

  • I think that you could cut the oil to 1 1/4 cups, easily, as the cake does have a slightly oily quality. I might experiment with replacing half the oil with applesauce. It would fit with the "harvest" theme of this cake, too.
  • This cake lends itself well to additions such as nuts, raisins or other dried fruit, or coconut. 
  • For the caramel, I basically used the recipe for salted caramel that I posted before( but left out the vanilla bean and added about 1/4 cup of maple syrup to the batch of caramel at the very end. Basically, it's just until it tastes maple-y enough to you. It won't be as delicious but you can use store-bought caramel. Just add at least a teaspoon of salt and then the syrup.
  • I have found that it is very difficult to get a strong maple flavor using just syrup so I use extract, too. I got mine at Target. Maple sugar might work well here, too.
  • If the frosting is too thick, add more syrup.

Cake Ingredients

1 1/2 cups oil
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup sweet potato, finely grated

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Whisk dry ingredients (except sugar) together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat eggs and oil together in mixing bowl until light in color with bubbles. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time. Add vanilla and maple syrup.
  4. Add dry to wet and stir until combined.
  5. Fold carrots and sweet potato mixture into the batter.
  6. Pour batter into 10"x14" pan that has been lightly greased or sprayed with cooking spray. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, approximately 35 minutes.
Maple Caramel Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup salted caramel
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup (Grade B is the best for baking)
1 Tablespoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Beat butter until very fluffy and light.
  2. Add half of sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add 2nd half of sugar and stir on low speed. Turn mixer or beaters to high speed to thoroughly mix in the sugar.
  3. Add caramel, maple syrup and extracts. Beat on high until combined and nice and fluffy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Parliament of Owls

I drew this crazy little group of owls at work today (using my old buddy, Microsoft Paint), between projects and phone calls.

Did you know a group of owls is called a parliament of owls? A group of hummingbirds is a called a charm, a group of crows is called a murder (I had heard that one before, didn't even need to look it up!) and a group of storks is a mustering.  Amaze your friends with your mastery of random animal trivia by checking here:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I don't know what kind of fall leaf color we'll get this year in Minnesota. Sadly, due to the dry weather, I think the leaves might mostly just turn brown and die. No matter what, my favorite thing is the sound the leaves make when you walk through a pile of them on the sidewalk (you know, when lazy people like me don't rake).

I took these pictures last year, after most of the leaves were way past their "peak". The gaudy technicolor display was over but the piles of leaves had their own aesthetic appeal. All of the different textures are beautiful, aren't they?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Signs of Halloween

 Nothing says Halloween like a coffin sale! Gets me to wonderin' I secretly live in a neighborhood full of vamps?

This sign is in the store window near me. There is actually a custom coffin shop by my house! I think the sign is pretty funny but I was sincerely pretty impressed with and touched by the store's mission statement:

"... provide a sturdy, dignified, and reasonably priced coffin..."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thrift Score - Vintage Books

 I stopped by the Goodwill today and picked up these cute little vintage books. They were a dollar each so I scooped them up! These are little - slightly bigger than the size of a wallet. They're from the early 40's and have great "patina" (aka wear and tear).

The illustrations inside are pretty, too, but I have to admit I got these books for their covers. I'm thinking of making wallets or maybe little notebooks/journals. I also got a Wilton cake-decorating book from the '70's. It's hilariously dated but has some great tutorials for making buttercream flowers and lots of other techniques.

I have a weakness for vintage books. I went to the Goodwill to look for clothes for my Halloween costume but somehow managed to walk out with books instead. It happens all too often :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pineapple Rice (a.k.a. Glorified Rice)

 Here's a dessert my mom used to make for us when we were kids. It sounds kind of weird, I guess, but I've seen a similar recipe in some old (60's and 50's) cookbooks under the name "Glorified Rice". Those recipes usually have marshmallows (they were OBSESSED with marshmallows in those old desserts) and sometimes bananas or maraschino cherries (another retro obsession). We didn't add all that extra stuff.

If you like mango sticky rice then you might like this dessert. The rice gives this a nice chew, the pineapple is nice and tangy, and whipped cream is always good. I added sweetened coconut flakes, which is not strictly part of my family recipe, but was delicious!

Pineapple Rice

Combine the following:

1 can crushed pineapple (or tidbits, which is what I used here)
2/3 cup cooked white rice (cooled completely)
1 cup sweetened whipped cream (I added vanilla bean to mine but vanilla extract is good, too)
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

If you keep covered in the fridge, this is good for 2-3 days. If it gets a little dry (sometimes the rice sort of absorbs some of the liquid) just add more whipped cream.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Target Highlights!

Do you get excited when there is new stuff in the "One Spot" at Target? I love it! Sometimes it is all just a bunch of plastic junk but I always keep my eye out. I was super impressed with the stuff I found on my last trip. Sometimes Target is so on trend! I got some of the woodgrain print wrapping paper above. I really want the newspaper print but had to hold myself back. Even dollars add up :(
 I did buy this awesome gift bag and some of the paper bowls shown below (the ones with the overlapping dots). There were a ton of other things I wanted. Now is a good time in the One Spot.

 Also, in case you haven't noticed, Halloween has arrived! Bwah-ha-ha! Love Target's expanded mask selection this year. I'm wondering what color the inside of a Cadbury "scream egg" is - green? purple? both? I wasn't curious enough to buy one. Cadbury eggs are super gross.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Creamsicle Pie

I made this pie as an excuse to make fruit curd. I used Martha's recipe (adapted slightly below), and it is delicious! Clementines (you could use another tangerine or even an orange) are sweeter than lemons so reduce the sugar accordingly.

I made the crust out of crushed Cookie Crisp cereal (finally, I've used the last of it!) but Nilla Wafers or graham crackers would work well. Just add melted butter until the crumbs stick together and then press them into the pie pan. Fill with orange curd and top with sweetened whipped cream (I added vanilla bean to mine, just because).

 Clementine Curd (adapted from Lemon Curd recipe in Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts)


6 large egg yolks
1 T clementine zest
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed clementine juice
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)

  1. Whisk egg yolks, zest, juice, sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cook over low to medium heat, whisking constantly. DO NOT LET IT COME TO A BOIL!
  3. When sauce has thickened (should coat the back of a spoon, probably 10 minutes or so). Take off heat.
  4. Strain through a fine sieve to remove zest (or you could leave it in, if you don't care so much about a smooth texture)
  5. While sauce is still warm, whisk in butter a bit at a time (no more than a tablespoon at a time) until well combined. Stir in Grand Marnier.
  6. Pour into storage container and cover with plastic wrap so that plastic touches the surface of the curd. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week but there's no way it's going to last that long!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Got a bunch of projects in the works. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this picture of Simon the Cat. Feel free to make up your own caption!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spice Cake with Cookie Butter (Biscoff) Cream Cheese Frosting

 People at work raved about this spice cake! And guess what? There is a secret ingredient - tomato soup! That's right; this is the tomato soup spice cake I mentioned in an earlier post. You can't taste the tomatoes, as promised. It's a nice moist spice cake that's perfect for autumn.

The frosting really makes this cake spectacular, though. I was hankering to use the "Cookie Butter" I had just purchased from Trader Joe's. The non-Trader Joe version is called Biscoff Spread. You can find out all about it here,

but all you need to know is that it is made from spice cookies called Speculoos and is super delicious. I added the cream cheese because I didn't want the frosting to be overwhelmingly sweet. It needs some tang.

Here is the slightly modified recipe for the cake and my frosting recipe. Some notes:
  • I replaced some of the white sugar with brown sugar. This helps develop a deeper flavor and adds moisture. You could use all white, of course.
  • I messed around with the spices. I find that clove tends to overwhelm all other flavors. Maybe I am just sensitive to clove so feel free to change it up.
  • I decided to use vegetable oil because I knew that the cake would be refrigerated (due to the cream cheese frosting) and cakes with oil in them tend to stay softer when they are cold. Again, I'm sure butter would work fine.
  • I used powdered buttermilk instead of milk or water. This product rocks!
  • Another reminder to use room temp eggs. I can't stress enough how much this helps! Just stick your eggs in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes before adding them.
  • I frosted the cake with a rustic swirl. Truthfully, with cream cheese frosting you don't have much choice. It is difficult to get smooth. It is import to do a little bit of a crumb coat first - just a thin layer of frosting all around - to "trap" all the crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and then dollop on the rest of the frosting. I added some little mushroom-shaped cookies for fun (Chocorooms!)

Tomato Soup Spice Cake

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chinese five spice powder

1 10 ounce can tomato soup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk or water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare cake pans by spraying with cooking spray and dusting with flour. I used one 8"wide by 3" deep pan. You could use two eight inch cake pans.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together into mixing bowl.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Pour wet into dry. Mix on low to medium until all ingredients are combined. Don't overmix.
  6. Pour batter into pan or divide evenly into two cake pans. Place cake pans on a baking sheet on the middle rack.
  7. Bake until toothpick comes out clean. For my extra-deep cake, I had to bake for about 40 minutes. Using two cake pans should cut the time to 25-30 minutes. Start checking at 20 minutes if you have a crappy rental oven like mine.
Cookie Butter Cream Cheese Frosting


1 box cream cheese, softened
6 oz or 3/4 cup cookie butter
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (I used Trader Joe's Grade B)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Beat cream cheese on high speed to make sure that there are no lumps! Any cold lumps will not smooth out once you start adding liquid or other ingredients.
  2. Add cookie butter and one cup powdered sugar to start. Beat until thoroughly combined, starting on low speed.
  3. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and mix.
  4. Continue to add sugar, bit by bit, until you have a consistency and sweetness that works for you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2012


 Here are some photos from my trip to the RenFest (what the cool kids call it) this past weekend. I'm keeping my comments brief but a picture is worth a thousand words so here's about 15,000 or so. FYI, quite a few of these photos were taken by my sister, Melanie.

There are still two weekends left: