Moo-vin’ in a Different Direction: 30 Days without Dairy

Starting January, I have a challenge: 30 days without dairy.  I confess I’ve tried it before and lasted a whole 2 days.  It was hard!  I didn’t have enough recipes at my disposal and I also had a lot of things going on at the time that it made it difficult to focus.  Now that those challenges are gone and I’ve got a ton of helpful recipes, it’s time–time to say goodbye to dairy.

Cow

My research has concluded that some form of dairy exists in about 99% of the things I like to consume.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it can’t be too far off.  Even things you wouldn’t really think about contain dairy products.  Of course there’s cheese, ice cream, and the mochas I drink while I’m writing these posts.  Just typing that makes me sad.  But how many times do you actually think about dairy being in things like chocolate?  Maybe you milk chocolate lovers think of it since it’s in the name, but dark chocolate?!  C’mon!  The only chocolate that doesn’t contain dairy is baker’s chocolate and I sure as hell don’t plan on eating that anytime soon.  Thankfully, they’ve come out with dairy and gluten-free chocolate chips which I will be trying over the next month.

You might be asking yourself why someone would do something so crazy.  That’s a good question and I have two answers.  One–a personal one–is that a food allergy/intolerance test I took came back stating that I have an intolerance to whey.  How it effects me won’t be revealed until I eliminate it completely and then reintroduce it 30 days later.  So I’m interested to see how that turns out.  The other reason I’m doing this is that I’ve been slowly working my way toward the Paleo diet.  Now, I’m no expert in this, but I have a friend who’s quite knowledgable on the topic and writes about it for a well-known Paleo magazine.  Feel free to check out her blog, Paleo Periodical, for more info and links to other sources.

Blah, blah, blah…Anyway, how does this affect you?  For the month of January my posts will be following Paleo guidelines–no grains, no dairy, no refined sugar and no legumes (i.e. peanuts). If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “Riiiight!  Like you can actually bake without AP flour, sugar or butter.”  It’s actually not impossible!  I’ll be perfectly honest and say that the real deal tastes better to me, but maybe it’s one of those things that you just have to get used to.  However, some of the things I’ve baked so far have been pretty good.  Instead of using AP flour, Paleo bakers typically use almond flour and coconut flour.  Sugar is replaced with things like maple syrup, honey, bananas and dates.  Coconut oil is the usual substitute for butter and coconut milk can be a substitute for milk.

I should state that the recipes I’m going to post will be very experimental since I’m no pro at baking with these kinds of ingredients.  I’ll let you know what I think of these recipes and if I think there should be any alterations.  I figure if I’m going to be making these things, I might as well post them regardless of how they turn out.   That said, the first paleo post will be [drum roll, please]: Chocolate Chip and Bacon Cookies!  You read that correctly and no, I can’t take credit for the crazy, yet delicious, idea.

So join me in my suffering adventures in going primal and dairy-free!  Here’s to a healthy and happy new year!

Orange Shortbread Cookies

Merry Christmas!  This year we’re at my parents’ house for the holiday.  It’s a quiet one this year, which is OK with me.  My husband and I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas with some friends.  And from what I remember, it was a fantastic trip.  I’m just kidding.  Of course I remember it all…I have pictures, so how could I forget?!  Haha!

After recovering from that trip to Sin City, I wasn’t really up for doing a huge baking project, but my son needed to leave something out for Santa and his reindeer.  We all know Santa prefers homemade over store-bought cookies, so I had to think of something.  A while back I found this shortbread recipe that looked really cute, and I thought it was a great time to try them.

Orange Shortbread Cookies

Orange Shortbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1-2 Tablespoon orange juice (optional)
Candy holly leaves and berries (I used Wilton’s, which I found on Amazon.com)

In a medium bowl sift together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl and add vanilla. Mix until combined. Now add the flour mixture and mix in by hand. Fold in orange zest. If the dough looks too dry, add orange juice one tablespoon at a time.

Once all ingredients are combined, form a ball with the dough and roll into a disk about half an inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Unwrap dough and place on a lightly floured counter. Roll out dough to about 1/4″ thick. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out dough. Place candy holly leaves and berries on each cookie in a design of your choosing and press down firmly (almost the the point where the candy is flush with the dough). Try not to get them too close to the edge of the cookie because the heat from the cookie sheet will melt them. As always, try and get as many cookies as you can out of that initial roll-out. Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 mins.

Merry Christmas and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe

Separation Anxiety: When Buttercream Separates

It’s funny, when I’m making buttercream frosting for something that’s just going to be consumed by my family, the buttercream comes out just fine.  Yet, as soon as there’s even the mere thought that it might be enjoyed by others…perhaps a birthday cake…the buttercream likes to separate.  It tastes fine, but looks like colored cottage cheese.  Sounds tasty, right?  Ha!

Experience has taught me that there are several factors that can contribute to the separation, so I’ve learned to try and keep extra ingredients in case I have to ditch that batch.  I thought it might be a good idea to research what’s exactly going on when it happens and if there’s any way to save separated buttercream.  Below is a list of tricks you can try to get separated buttercream back together.

  1. Increase your mixer speed for 1-3 minutes.
  2. Adjust the temperature.  As a lot of recipes indicate, it’s ideal to have all the ingredients at room temperature.  If the bowl feels cold, try carefully submerging it into a warm water bath or putting a warm towel around the base.  If the bowl feels warm, try carefully submerging the bowl in an ice bath or adding cold butter.
  3. In a last ditch effort, strain the buttercream to separate the liquid from the solids.  Pour the liquid back into the bowl and put the mixer speed at medium.  Slowly add the solids back into the bowl, which will create a new emulsion.

Always make sure your cake or cupcakes are completely cooled and the temperature of the room you’re working in is not excessively hot (summer days may be tricky).  If anyone else has any tips, please feel free to share!

Tips courtesy of The Kitchn

Snowman Cupcakes

Anyone know how ugly sweater parties originated?  Yeah, neither do I.  And why, exactly, are these sweaters still sold as sweaters one would wear like they’re still in style?  I thought that once we decided to have parties recognizing the fact that they’re ugly, they’d stop making them….but no!  You can buy them brand-spankin’-new in many department stores starting around September.  Well, I know you, a beloved fan, wouldn’t even dream of buying one, but one could if they so desired…or were drunk and weren’t capable of making good decisions.

My friends have talked me into hosting an ugly sweater party this weekend.  I can only imagine what this will be like, my first ugly sweater party.  So to make up for the ugliness going on, I’m making these cute Snowman Cupcakes.

Snowman Cupcake

Snowman Cupcakes

2 c. sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
2 1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. whole milk
3 t. pure vanilla extract (I don’t normally use pure, but when vanilla is the star, I tend to use pure)
4 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer until mixture looks sandy/has course crumbles.  Combine the milk and vanilla and add to mixture, mixing at a low speed for 30 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.  With the mixer running at low speed, add one egg at a time making sure to incorporate each egg entirely before adding another.  Repeat until each egg is added.  Make sure to scrape the bowl as you go along.  Pour into prepared muffin tin (again, I use my large cookie scoop for this job) and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Natalie Sélavy

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract (I don’t normally use pure, but when vanilla is the star, I tend to use pure)
3 T. whole milk or whipping cream

Mix together powdered sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth.  Start out at a low speed or you’ll be covered in powdered sugar.  Increase speed to medium for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and milk (or whipping cream) and mix for 1 minute.  Add more milk (or whipping cream) if needed for desired consistency.

Recipe adapted from The Food Network

For Decoration

1 box Mike and Ikes
about 1/3 c. mini chocolate chips
about 1/2 c. large granulated sugar (Do not mistake this for raw sugar.  We’re not making brown snowmen here!)

While the cupcakes cool, prepare your decorations.  Pick out the orange Mike and Ikes and put into a bowl.  They’ll act as the carrots.  Get the mini chocolate chips (eyes and mouths) ready by putting them in a bowl and dump the sugar on a small plate.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them with the vanilla frosting.  Then dip the frosting in the sugar.  You should do this while the frosting hasn’t had a chance to harden or it won’t stick as well.  Place an orange Mike and Ike in the center for the nose and chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth as shown in picture.

Maple Bacon Scones

Looking over my Pinterest boards, I’ve noticed a pattern.  Most of my pins include one of the following things: bacon, Nutella or Ryan Gosling, who, for some reason has yet to return any of my phone calls.  Maybe we can find a way to combine the three……..<drool>……OK, snap out of it!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: bacon.  I don’t know what’s been going on with the bacon scene lately, but there’s bacon in everything.  It’s not like I’m complaining about this bacon fad–I’m quite fond of it myself (who isn’t?!) and I’ve been known to make some interesting things with bacon.  Some of my friends and family can attest to that, but we probably don’t need to get into how these concoctions came about. ;o)  I have yet to get any complaints, so I keep making them.

This recipe is one of my favorite bacon-infused treats and it’s perfect for mornings like this one when it’s snowing and cold out.  It would also be good for Christmas morning, which is why I’m sharing it now.

Maple Bacon Scones

Maple Bacon Scones

2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
8 T. butter, divided
6 T. maple syrup, divided
1/4 c. plus 1 T. buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)
4-5 thick slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a baking sheet with no-stick baking spray.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Cut in 6 tablespoons of butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until mixture is crumbly. In small bowl, whisk ¼ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup buttermilk and egg until blended. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in the majority of the bacon, reserving some for the top.  The dough will be sticky.

With floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle on baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining bacon (and pecans if you wanted), gently pressing into dough. Slice dough into 8 wedges, but don’t cut all the way through. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is lightly browned. Remove from heat. Whisk in powdered sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and enough of remaining buttermilk to make a drizzling icing. Spoon icing over top of warm scones. Slice into wedges and serve warm.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Better Recipes

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

The holiday season is here and you know what that means: family!  In large doses!  Yeah, I know, I’m right there with ya.   You love ‘em, but there’s a reason you no longer live with them.  Take solace in knowing that not only will it end, but I’m bringing a booze-filled cake to get us through the holidays.  Hang onto your hats ladies and gentleman, it’s a Harvey Wallbanger cake.

Now there are plenty of recipes out there that make it easy on you by using a boxed cake mix.  Well, you’re not gonna find that here.  If you’re spending the money on the alcohol, just add a few more steps and do it from scratch–you’ll be glad that you did.  The Harvey Wallbanger cake was created after the drink and as we all know, alcohol + baked goods= a good time for everyone.  The alcohol that goes into this one includes vodka and Galliano (an herbal/vanilla-anise liqueur).  If you don’t know what Galliano looks like, below is a picture to help you find it.  It’s a little pricey, which is why I say you make this cake from scratch.  Bottom’s up!

 

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

For the cake:

1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 t. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature
3 c. (12 3/4 oz) flour
3 T. cornstarch
4 t. baking powder
3/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/4 c. Galliano
1/4 c. vodka
1 T. orange zest

 

For the glaze:

1 c. (4 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
1 T. fresh orange juice
1 T. Galliano
1 t. vodka
2 t. orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the oil and mix well.  Next, add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the orange juice, Galliano, vodka and orange zest.  Make sure everything is room temperature or warm it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Using a whisk, add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and incorporate.  Now add half of the liquid mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix well.  Next, add the remaining liquid mixture and whisk until incorporated.  Finally, mix in the last of the dry ingredients.

Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan, smooth batter with the back of a spoon and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is cooling, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze.  Once the cake has cooled for 20 minutes, carefully remove from pan by placing a plate on the top and flipping it over.  Be patient.  Sometimes it doesn’t come out right away.  While the cake is still warm, pour glaze evenly over the cake.

In my opinion, the cake is best the next day.  The flavors have had a chance to get to know each other and I think the flavor is more pronounced.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

The Tipping Point: Piping Tips

How many times have you put your piping tip in your pastry bag, filled it with the perfect frosting and went to go frost your cupcake when you realize that you’re using the wrong tip?  Yeah, it’s pretty much 100% of the time for me.  Sooo…

I was doing my nightly perusing on Pinterest, when I came along this awesome website that I will now be referring to all the time.

Piping Tips from Twist ‘n’ Swirl