Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Strawberry Cupcakes

Yesterday was my birthday. Happy Birthday to Me! Probably my all-time #1 favorite birthday cake is strawberry cake. It is pink, yummy, and fabulous. And like lots of other flavors of cake, it is hard to replicate from scratch. I've tried a few different homemade strawberry cake recipes, and most of them are a little dry, a little dense, or a little heavy. But I think I've finally found a winner with this yummy recipe from Smitten Kitchen via Recipe Girl! The strawberry puree mixed into the batter gives it a sweet and tangy strawberry flavor, and just a few drops of red food coloring make it a lovely shade of pink. Best of all, these cupcakes bake up light, springy, and moist, just like good cupcakes should.

You can find the recipe for the original 3-layer Smitten Kitchen Pink Lady Cake HERE, and the cupcake version on Recipe Girl HERE.

Tune in Wednesday for something fun involving *prizes*!!
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Pop's Pancakes

I'm about to tell you something that will firmly cement my reputation as a picky eater (which I deny, by the way): I don't like pancakes that much. In my defense, I have nothing against pancakes. I just wouldn't ever choose them for breakfast. Ever. I would choose scrambled eggs or french toast or pretty much anything else before I'd choose pancakes. Once, at the Original Pancake House, I actually ordered a big bowl of yogurt and granola instead of pancakes. Did you notice the subtle irony there?

That being said, my father in law makes really delicious pancakes. I mentioned last week that my husband's family almost always has biscuits and gravy at family gatherings, but what we have even more often is Pop's Pancakes. They are a true family favorite, whole-heartedly loved by both young and old.

Pop's Pancakes
from my sweet father-in-law

2 cups flour
1 rounded Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 quart buttermilk

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Place eggs and oil in a blender, and add enough buttermilk to equal 1 quart. Blend together, then whisk mixture into dry ingredients. Cook on a hot griddle and serve with butter and maple syrup.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Orange You Glad...

Earlier this month, I took a little New Year's treat to a few friends. It was a simple gift to throw together--just a bag of clementines--and was well-appreciated after all the sugary, heavy holiday baking.  And you can use the same idea for absolutely any occasion. Orange you glad it's Monday? Orange you glad we're friends? Orange you glad you passed that big test yesterday?

For the tags, I cut rectangles out of kraft cardstock and trimmed the corners to make them tag-shaped, punched a hole, and added those so-handy hole reinforcers. Then I stamped an "Orange You Glad" message with one of my little alphabet stamp sets. The messages looked a little lonely, so I added some black and white polkadot deco tape for flair. I added some white kitchen twine, put about 8 clementines in a clear bag, and tied them shut. Voila!

**Any resemblance to a Halloween treat is purely coincidental and should be ignored immediately!
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake

Sometimes you come across a recipe that, with the first bite, becomes an instant classic. A few years ago, I discovered a recipe for yogurt cake on Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, and it has become one of our family's favorite desserts. The crazy thing about yogurt cake is that, unlike most favorite desserts, it is completely unassuming. I can count the number of ingredients on two hands, it takes less than 10 minutes to put together, it doesn't dirty a ton of dishes, and it doesn't have a zillion components (or even three, for that matter). It is simple in every way, and tastes good and wholesome and satisfying.

I've tried a few variations with the flavor of the cake, always keeping the base recipe the same, and have been thrilled every time. Lemon, grapefruit, orange--all delicious. This morning I finally tried a variation I've been thinking about for months:  blood orange. This was actually my first time using blood oranges (although I do have a lot of experience drinking blood orange soda, which is crazy-good in its own right), and I was really gobsmacked by how lovely they are. Their deep, rusty zest gave a beautiful speckle to the cake batter, and the dark coral-colored juice made the most lovely pink glaze. I was planning on putting the piece I photographed back so it could be saved for dessert tonight, but I had to eat it. I just had to!

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake
based on a recipe for French-Style Yogurt Cake posted on Orangette

for the cake:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I don't use fat free, but you can if you want to)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
the zest of 2 blood oranges
1/2 cup oil (I use extra light olive oil)

for the glaze:
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" round cake pan or a springform bundt pan. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, and eggs. Add flour, baking powder, and zest, and whisk until just combined. Add oil and whisk until batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. While cake is cooling, combine blood orange juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. When cake is completely cool, place it on a serving platter and drizzle with glaze. You might not use all of the glaze, but that's up to you! Serves 6-8

**Featured on Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Homestyle Biscuits and Gravy

A) This may surprise you, but up until a few weeks ago I had never eaten biscuits and gravy! See, I used to think that I didn't like breakfast sausage, and even though it has been many years since I discovered that I do like breakfast sausage, I think the idea that I don't like it has been lingering in my subconcious. Anyway, biscuits and sausage gravy just never sounded good to me.  In fact, it sounded gross! But my husband loves biscuits and gravy. He grew up eating it every Christmas morning, and whenever we get together with his family, it is invariably on the breakfast menu. I honestly don't know how I dodged it for so long!

B) Despite the fact that we live in the suburbs and have a tiny backyard, we manage to raise a lot of our own meat. Again, this is thanks to my in-laws. They have almost 16 acres about 30 minutes from us and graciously let us store our farm animals on their property since our HOA won't let us keep a cow in our backyard. In December we said good-bye to Pork Chop and hello to pork chops, so now we have a freezer full of frozen pork products begging to be used.

A+B=A few weekends ago, I came downstairs to find my husband busily making breakfast, and what was on the menu? Biscuits and gravy, of course. Since I don't do like sausage (I'm seriously always forgetting), I took a teeny, tiny bite. And guess what? It was delicious! All those people who have been eating biscuits and gravy all this time were actually on to something! We've had it three more times since and it has been just as good every time, and in fact, I actually crave it. There, I said it!

Homestyle Biscuits
from Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking
We pretty much always use Pillsbury frozen biscuits BUT I'm including a recipe for really good homemade biscuits just cuz.

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoon unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the milk and pulse until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured counter, and knead until dough sticks together. Pat into a 3/4"-thick rectangle. Use a knife or pizza wheel to cut the rectangle into 10 equal portions (I would do two rows of 5, but that's just me). You can alternately cut out circles or whatever other shape you want, but this way you don't have leftover chunks of dough that have to be re-rolled. Place biscuits on prepared pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden. Serve split, smothered with sausage gravy.

Sausage Gravy
adapted from The Cook's Country Cookbook

1 lb bulk pork sausage
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, depending on how much you like black pepper!
3 cups milk (anything but skim)

Cook sausage in a large skillet, breaking it up with a spatula or spoon, until no longer pink inside and nicely browned outside. Sprinkle flour, sage, and pepper on the meat and stir until flour is absorbed. Add milk and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Salt to taste. Serve over warm biscuits.
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Breakfast Cake

I would say that breakfast cake is the perfect thing to eat on a cold, snowy morning with a steaming mug of hot cocoa, but it is just as delicious on a bright, summer morning with a tall glass of milk. And I had a big piece for my post-dessert midnight snack last night, and it was pretty darn good then too!

Breakfast Cake
You can actually double the amount of sauce to swirl into the cake without negatively affecting anything but your waistline.

for cake:
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar

for sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add vinegar to milk and let stand 5 minutes. Combine soured milk, butter, eggs, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix well. Add baking powder, salt, flour, and sugar, and stir until combined. Pour batter into a greased 9x13" pan and set aside. In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and mix well.  Pour sauce evenly over the surface of the cake. Using a butter knife, swirl the sauce into the cake. Bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Sugar Doughnuts

I'm pretty much a fan of any kind of doughnut (except baked doughnuts, which are really just muffins baked into doughnut shapes people!), but my absolute favorite kind is a sugar doughnut. Give me a big, yeasty doughnut fried and dredged in granulated sugar and I'm a happy girl.

They probably seem like they'd be really complicated, but they're not actually that hard to make at home, especially if you follow this recipe from expert-at-everything Alton Brown. We've made several batches, and have had stellar results every time. Do yourself a huge favor and try them this weekend! And sorry they're aren't any pictures of a huge pile of sugary doughnuts; they never seem to stick around long enough to be photographed!

Click HERE for the recipe, which we always follow exactly except for the part about cutting out the doughnuts; we never have the right sizes of round cutters, so we just wing it!
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Give-Away and a Party

As you might expect, our house is awash in aprons. I have lots of aprons, my husband has an apron or two (manly aprons, of course), and the kids have aprons. It took a few months for me to find the perfect pattern for an apron for little ones, but we hit gold a few years ago with a sweet and simple pattern from Sew Liberated. I've used it to make dozens of aprons since, and am still 100% in love with these tiny, adorable accessories for little chefs. We have a few available for purchase in our Etsy shop, but you can win one this month on the blog Ev Reaches! Lucky you! Click HERE to enter.

Elsewhere on the internet, we had our Body Birthday Party from November spotlighted on Ohdeedoh (now Apartment Therapy Family) earlier this week. It was a fun party; the kids loved it and parents found it amusing. Check it out HERE.

Tune in Friday for another yummy recipe. I want to say chocolate cake, but I haven't made it yet, and you never know when something's going to bomb!
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Dr. B's Bean Soup

When I was in college, I had the extreme good fortune to spend part of a summer studying marine biology in Monterey, CA.  It was one of the best things I ever did.  My teacher, Dr. Braithwaite, made us pancakes in the morning after pre-dawn field trips to tide pools, and this easy, comforting soup at the end of long days in the lab.

Dr. B's Bean Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
12 oz canadian bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz petite diced tomatoes
2 15-oz cans black beans
2 15-oz cans kidney beans
2 15-oz cans pinto beans
2 cups salsa
16 oz tomato sauce
1 small can sliced olives
1 cup finely diced green bell pepper
2 teaspoons beef bullion granules
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
shredded cheddar and chopped cilantro for topping

Saute canadian bacon and garlic in olive oil until golden.  Add all remaining ingredients except cheddar and cilantro.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until completely heated through.  Serve topped with cheddar and cilantro.  Serves 4-6.
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Recipe Redux: Caramel Brownies


We're still trying to recover from the holidays in our household. We've done tons of cooking, but not a lot of blogging. So here's a classic recipe from a few years ago with a brand new--and much improved--photo:  Caramel Brownies.  A gooey layer of buttery caramel sandwiched between two delicious layers of chocolate brownie.  These are just about as good--not to mention as easy--as it gets!
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January Favorites

As promised (er, threatened)...a non-recipe post!  I know January is still in its infancy, but here are a few of my favorite things this month:

1.  favorite nail polish:  Poppyfield by CND, available from Amazon
My sister Holly and I got each other this for Christmas. Totally unplanned. I love when that happens! The color is lovely, and it falls right in step with Pantone's color of the year, Tangerine Tango! {photo from}

2.  favorite daily blog read:  Reading (and Chickens)
I laugh out loud every time I read Shalini's hilarious blog. If you have chickens or children or a sense of humor, you'll enjoy it too. {graphic from Reading (and Chickens)}

3.  favorite book:  The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Ok, so technically this is the only book I've read so far this month, but I'm pretty sure it would be my favorite even if I'd read a dozen. It's about a girl, and a boy, and a horse, and some other horses that come out of the ocean and eat people, and a tiny island somewhere near Ireland (maybe), and lots of life and death situations.  Really good! {photo from}

4.  favorite recipe I discovered on Pinterest:  Lemon Garlic Spaghetti from i nom things
My whole family loved this--husband, small child, smaller child.  It was absolutely amazing and super easy to boot! It is on The List of things to have for dinner now. {photo used with permission from}

5.  favorite goal for 2012:  Handling the laundry situation better
Up until now, I've always tried to do all of the laundry in one giant laundry-fest each week. Basically the entire day is spent doing laundry, and it blows! I just cannot do it anymore! I'm trying to do a load each night now, and I've ordered two of these rather attractive laundry sorters to help me out. Underwear, towels, lights, and darks. Baby gets his own laundry night. We'll see how it goes.  I'm actually ridiculously excited about it; isn't that sad?! {photo from}

6.  favorite perfume: I Want Candy by Tokyo Milk
For a really long time now, my mom has given all of us girls the perfume of our choice for Christmas each year.  I have a ridiculously hard time with this gift.  I end up taking most years' perfumes back and exchanging them, even though I chose the fragrance. It's not that I'm picky, it's that most perfumes don't smell good on me after 5 minutes! One notable exception:  I Want Candy. I would never actually drink it, but sometimes I feel like I want to. It smells like raspberries and deliciousness. {photo from}
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Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Changes

Happy New Year everybody! I love the start of a brand new year. It reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, where Miss Stacy says, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it." And here on Lulu the Baker, we're going to have a fresh, new start as well!

For the past three years, I've been blogging here (recipes) and on Max and Ellie (crafts, projects, etc). Trying to maintain two blogs has been pretty overwhelming, and most of the time I'm so torn trying to think of what to post where that I post nothing anywhere. So, from now on, I'm just going to be posting here, on Lulu the Baker, where my heart is. What that means is that you'll get more posts (hopefully) and more than just recipes. I hope that's OK. Wish me luck!!
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