Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

You're probably not counting down the days like I am, but it is 12 days before the wedding!  I've been up to my eyelashes in preparations these past few months and weeks.

I did take the time to bake and photograph a batch of cookies after Jamie had been away at Sturgis for a week.  After a hot days' ride home on his motorcycle, what could be better than the scent of peanut butter and chocolate to welcome him home?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and beat in the peanut butter, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients by spoonfuls, then the milk.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.  Shape the chilled dough into balls, place two inches apart on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.  Bake for 8 minutes, until pale golden brown.  Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Chocolate and Pink

I've never had a request for chocolate frosting on a cake for a little girl's birthday party, and I have a theory about this.

People who order all chocolate are the ones who want a cake that tastes amazing, and aren't so concerned about feminine touches or looking "pretty".  But many people's idea of a "pretty" cake is one frosted in soft, creamy pastels (and I'm not going to lie, I prefer decorating pretty cakes over cars and trucks in primary colors).

Come to think of it, vanilla frosting versus chocolate is the blond versus brunette debate of the cake world.  Even cake has its politics.

As a brunette, I've never believed that blondes have more fun, and as a cake decorator, I think that a chocolate frosted cake can be just as pretty as a beautiful white cake, so I decorated these little 6-inch cakes with sweet and simple pink fondant accents.

And I'll tell you something else - I'd much rather eat the chocolate frosting.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lavender Honey Shaved Chocolate Ice Cream

There's a scene in "It's Complicated" where Alec Baldwin shows up at Meryl Streep's house late one night to try to seduce her.  After finishing her leftover croque monsieur from dinner, he sees a bowl of ice cream on the counter.

"What kind of ice cream is that?"

"Lavender honey," she says, with an alluring tilt of her upswept hair.

Later, while she is soaking in the bathtub in her gorgeous house, Alec Baldwin sits on the floor by the tub, eating lavender ice cream.

"I love how quiet it is in your house.  I have no quiet in my life.  Ever."

And just like that, I knew I had to make lavender honey ice cream.

I have plenty of quiet in my life.  Since it's just the two of us, I can't complain about not getting any time to myself, because I do get time to myself in abundance.  We both do.  But I'm busy, too, because I choose to be busy, with this blog, with baking, with running a baking business, with working on my photography, with a full-time day job.  And currently, with so many DIY projects for our wedding.

All things I enjoy, although some days, I wouldn't mind being a little less busy.  I don't remember the last time I watched a movie without simultaneously editing photos or working on something for the wedding.

I brought home a small bag of dried lavender from Paonia, so for my ice cream, I started by steeping a few spoonfuls of lavender in cream and milk.  I cooked the custard, adding egg yolks and raw honey, and let the custard chill overnight to thoroughly infuse the lavender flavor into the custard.

Before churning, I strained out the lavender and whisked in a little vanilla and vodka (to promote creaminess when frozen).  I also added a few drops of purple food coloring, because I wanted my lavender ice cream to be lavender colored, but that's just personal preference.

Just when the ice cream was thick and creamy from churning, I added finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.

The lavender flavored the ice cream with a lovely floral earthiness that was a little unexpected, and completely unique from anything you can buy at the grocery store.

It was subtly sweet with raw honey, which complemented the lavender beautifully.

One Year AgoApricot Almond Tart
Two Years AgoProsciutto Egg Cups
Three Years AgoFruit for Dinner and a Quiet Week Ahead

Lavender Honey Shaved Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons dried lavender
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Combine the cream, milk and lavender in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let steep for about an hour.  Return to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the honey and egg yolks.  Gradually whisk a cup of the hot cream into the honey/eggs to temper the eggs, then scrape the egg mixture into the saucepan.  Cook the custard while whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the vodka and vanilla.

Cover with plastic wrap, resting right against the surface of the custard, and chill overnight.  Strain out the lavender, and churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    Salmon with Lavender Honey and a Spinach Berry Salad

    One of the treasures we brought home from our weekend in Paonia was a small jar of Lavender Honey, as well as some dried lavender for cooking and baking.

    There were so many lovely local ingredients I would have loved to buy, but with our wedding now less than four weeks away, our budget didn't allow for anything more than the honey, fruit for jam, and a few bottles of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

    Oh, and wine, of course.  What would a trip to Colorado wine country be without bringing back a case of wine for the wedding?

    I used most of this honey for one of my batches of jam, Peach Jalapeno with Lavender Honey, and the rest for a beautiful piece of salmon for dinner with a fresh spinach and berry salad.  I love when fresh food looks this pretty.

    One Year AgoChocolate Toffee Bourbon Cupcakes
    Two Years AgoOatmeal Raisin Cookies, and Baking Cookies in a Thunderstorm
    Three Years AgoGarden Tomatoes and Caprese Pasta with Sausage

    Salmon with Lavender Honey and a Spinach Berry Salad

    • 1 1/2 pounds salmon
    • 3 tablespoons lavender honey
    • salt and pepper
    • dried lavender
    • fresh baby spinach
    • fresh berries
    • toasted pecans
    Honey Mustard Dressing:
    • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
    • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons lavender honey
    • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
    • milk or buttermilk to thin to desired consistency
    • salt and pepper

    Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place the salmon on the foil, skin side down.  Drizzle the salmon with the honey and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 8-12 minutes, until cooked to your liking.

    Serve with the salad and dressing and garnish the salmon with a little dried lavender.

    Yields 4 servings

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Monday, August 4, 2014


    The rolling hills of orchards and vineyards in Paonia have been waiting for me.  Just for me.

    Three days in my favorite part of Colorado weren't nearly enough, but any longer and we would have spent all our money on fruit and wine.  As it was, we brought home a big box of Palisade peaches, as well as apricots, sweet cherries and small red plums, and a case of Paonia wine for the wedding (and more than a few bottles for ourselves).

    The jam for the wedding favors is finished (and I'm thoroughly exhausted after cooking, canning and labeling nine batches of jam), and the only fruit remaining is a bag peaches that I blanched, peeled and pitted, then froze for later.  This fall, maybe, when I have a craving for a taste of summer, I'll try to recreate the most amazing peach strudel that Jamie and I shared after lunch the day we left to come home.

    I took hundreds of photos there, but these are just a few of my favorites.

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    July Instagram

    July has come and gone in a hurry, and it is now just four short weeks until the wedding!  I haven't even shared photos yet of our trip to Paonia, CO a few weeks ago, but I will soon.  In the meantime, here's just a few snaps from this month...

    Wednesday, July 30, 2014

    Polkadot Umbrella

    The rain has been falling steadily since yesterday afternoon.  Our storms usually move in fast, a rush of thunder and hail that stampedes through, leaving a mess of leaves and ice in its path.  But just as quickly, the sun rays are streaming through the clouds before the sky has even stopped dripping.

    But these slow drip drops, this grey, drizzly day, the chill that had me reaching for a sweater this morning, is unexpected in the middle of summer.  I wish I was home, with a book, a blanket, and hot tea.  But I do love the rain, and if I must go outside, at least I have my polka dot umbrella.

    One Year AgoRainbow Cake
    Two Years AgoPink Champagne Cupcakes
    Three Years AgoStrawberry Breakfast Bread Pudding