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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Norwegian Gold Cupcakes

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I don’t think it would come as a great shock to anyone that I adore cupcakes. Cake of any sort gets my attention and little personal-sized ones are just so convenient! With a family as small as ours we rarely go through a whole cake anyway; making cupcakes allows me to send what’s left to work with my husband. I stress-BAKE, not stress-EAT.

I’m always trying new cupcake recipes (thank you Pinterest) and this one caught my attention because it breaks the cardinal rule of baking: NEVER over-beat anything once the flour is added. It releases the gluten and makes your cakes tough and rubbery, incase you were wondering. But this recipe does just that. And I’m always curious when rules get broken. So, I made a date with my mixer and this recipe. Plus, I needed a bribe for my amazing worker bees who were cleaning the church on Saturday. God Bless the Worker Bee!

Note: the frosting recipe makes a whole lot more than you will need. I threw a tablespoon of Chambord into the mix, chilled, and rolled some truffles. Two for one deal!

Norwegian Gold Cake

Makes one cake or about 20 cupcakes-

Preheat the oven to 325° F for cake or 375° F for cupcakes. Grease the bottom of a 10-inch tube or bundt pan, or line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Beat together for five minutes:

  • 1 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter

Then add:

  • 5 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition

Then add:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract

Beat for two minutes.

For a cake, bake for about one hour, checking after fifty minutes. For cupcakes, bake for 20-25 minutes.

Sour Cream Ganache Frosting


  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Then stir in:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • A pinch of salt

Spread onto completely cooled cake. I just dipped the cupcakes into the frosting.


Pasta al Pomodoro

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You know it is Lent when fast-food restaurants start advertising fish sandwiches. Somehow Lent showed-up even though I am completely unprepared. What are my Lenten disciplines for this year? Giving up cursing, preaching without a script and no meat on Fridays. They may not seem hard to you but trust me, they are to me.

Trying not to curse and preaching without a script are new this year but I follow the Lenten discipline of meatless Fridays every year. We have a pretty carnivorous household so it can get creative. Even if you aren’t practicing this discipline I recommend this recipe. My husband LOVES pasta and I’ll devour anything with garlic. It was featured in Bon Apetit back in May of last year. I’ve altered the recipe a little to make it easier for weeknight dinners or just lazy cooks like myself.

Pasta al Pomodoro


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large fresh basil sprigs (it’s the middle of winter and my basil went south a long time ago so I used dried, just put it in when you salt the sauce)
  • 12 oz. spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp. cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Heat olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add tomatoes and season lightly with kosher salt (if you are using dried basil throw it in now); cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in basil sprigs, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil. Season with salt; add spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.

Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat. Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add butter and cheese; toss until cheese melts.

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Key Lime Pie

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The weather has been pretty drab up here in the Great White North (i.e. Iowa). I really don’t mind the cold but I hate the grey. My sister called me to tell me about this recipe because she knows I adore key lime pie. And with all the grey weather what could possibly make me feel better than a summer dessert like this one?

One look at the recipe should tell you how simple and quick it is. You can whip this together on a weeknight or at the last minute. I know the name says “Key lime” but I’m cheap and I just keep whatever off-brand lime juice I can find in my fridge so that’s what I used. But if you are feeling fancy buy some key limes (you’ll probably need around 20 or so limes because key limes are so small) and juice them yourself.

Key Lime Pie


  •             1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  •             3 cups (2 cans) sweetened condensed milk
  •             1/2 cup sour cream
  •             3/4 cup key lime juice
  •             1 tablespoon grated lime zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust. Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Don’t wait for the pie to brown. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.

Balsamic Glazed Filet Mignon

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I’m a pretty serious carnivore. So much so that my dad sends rib eye bundles to me for special occasions like Valentine’s Day. That’s right folks, forget the flowers, I’ll take meat any day. I’m just that kinda girl. He sends them to me from this amazing meat locker in Palmyra, Missouri called The Country Butcher Shop. Yup, you can ship steaks. It’s a thing.

So, are you ready for me to turn your world upside down? I made these steaks over the weekend and they were incredible! Of course, you can’t do much to mess up filet mignons, I mean come on, it is beef tenderloin! I used 8 ounce filets and I like my meat rare. Like, still mooing rare. If you aren’t into cows that still have bells on them you will need to cook your steaks a little longer. Also, after my steaks were done, I threw another ¼ cup of vinegar and ¼ cup wine in and deglazed the pan to make a pan sauce. I’d recommend doing that if you want a little extra sauce for your steak. I served my steak with oven-roasted potatoes but mashed potatoes would be amazing, too.

Balsamic Glazed Filet Mignon


  •             2  filet mignon steaks
  •             black pepper to taste
  •             salt to taste
  •             1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  •             1/4 cup dry red wine

Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over both sides of each steak, and sprinkle with salt to taste. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place steaks in hot pan, and cook for 1 minute on each side, or until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add balsamic vinegar and red wine. Cook for 6 minutes on each side, basting with sauce when you turn the meat over. Remove steaks from pan and let rest before serving. Spoon glaze over steaks.

Blueberry Muffins

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I’m usually so busy during the week that I barely have time to grab breakfast at all let alone make something that actually tastes good. That’s one of the reasons I love lazy Saturday mornings, I get to pitter around the kitchen and bake. This Saturday I broke out my tried and true blueberry muffin recipe. We had a friend from our college days in town for the weekend and I figured I’d better feed her something before dragging her off for a day at the mall… with a baby…and a man. She deserved something, wouldn’t you agree?

You can’t go wrong with this recipe, I promise. Adding sour cream makes just about everything better, kinda like bacon or chocolate. If you really want to make these about as amazing as humanly possible put a crumb topping on the muffins. An easy crumb topping would be: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 6 tablespoons cold butter cut into pieces, two teaspoons cinnamon.

Blueberry Muffins


  •             4 eggs
  •             2 cups white sugar
  •             1 cup vegetable oil
  •             1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •             4 cups all-purpose flour
  •             1 teaspoon salt
  •             1 teaspoon baking soda
  •             2 cups sour cream
  •             2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare 24 muffin cups.

In large bowl beat eggs, gradually add sugar while beating. Continue beating while slowly pouring in oil. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking soda.

Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with sour cream. Gently fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

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For Valentine’s Day I asked my husband what dessert he would like for me to make for him. Cause I’m sweet like that. He immediately said chocolate chip cookies. It is by far his favorite recipe and he likes to slip some of the dough before I bake them. His only request? Use only part of the bag. Usually, I fight this request but it was his Valentine’s Day cookies so I gave in this time. Oftentimes I’ll use half the chips, make half the cookies, and then use the rest of the chips in the leftover dough. I don’t believe there could possibly be such a thing as “too many chocolate chips.” You can’t agree on everything.

I don’t deviate too far from the original recipe that is on the back of the bag. I learned a long time ago that whatever recipe companies use to sell their product is usually pretty darn good and hey, I ain’t fancy. However, I’ve made a few tweaks. Firstly, I use half butter and half shortening. This gives you the flavor of butter but the look of shortening. The state of the butter when you make your cookies really does matter. Melted butter will give you chewy cookies that will be thin. Chilled/solid butter will make your cookies crispier. I usaully just pull my butter from the fridge.

If you have the time, chill the dough. This gives the dough time for all the flavors to come together. Also, chilling allows the dough to get to a consistency to easily roll it into balls before baking and this makes your cookies a little more attractive. I know, that doesn’t really matter, but it’s nice.

Rather than sticking with the time directed in the recipe, I use my nose. I’m half bloodhound; I ALWAYS know if you’ve been smoking or drinking (a skill I look forward to possessing when my daughter turns 16). When the cookies start to really smell keep an eye on them and take them out as soon as they start to get any color at all. Remember, they will continue to bake after they are removed from the oven so you don’t want them entirely done when you pull them out of the oven.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½  cup (1 stick) butter
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips (1 cup if you are making them for my husband)

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy, a few minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Chill dough.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets (I line mine with parchment paper). Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.


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When we lived in Chicago, my husband and I would walk to Chili’s all the time. In fact, a whole group of us in seminary would go there to get their endless chips and salsa and their margaritas. A whole lot of life’s problems were solved (or at least explored) over those chips and margaritas. Not to mention some of the more complicated theological theories. I miss those trips like crazy!

Chili’s has very distinct salsa to which no jar could possibly compare. This salsa recipe is the closest I have found. It has a very fresh flavor. A couple things: rinse your onions in cold water before using them in this salsa so they won’t be so overpowering. Also, you could use more or fewer jalapenos based on your preference. Mix up a batch, a pitcher of margaritas, gather a few friends and explore/solve the world’s issues!


1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained
3 jalapenos (remove the seeds)
1/4 c. onion, cut into quarters
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lime juice

Place all of the ingredients together into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Serve with tortilla chips.