Tag Archives: test kitchen

Coming Full Circle – Cinnamon Roll Edition

28 Apr

Ever have one of those weeks? You know, when there just aren’t enough hours in the day? And tensions start to run high? And, much like a reality TV program, things between you and your co workers stop being polite and start getting REAL?

I pulled nearly 12 hour days all week in preparation for my  work’s annual conference, which starts on Monday. My near future is bound to be exhausting.

But I have a secret weapon to boost staff morale. On Monday morning I will be rolling into work with a couple of pans of these bad boys.

Behold. The ultimate cinnamon roll, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman. (I figured it would be appropriate to pay homage one last time to my favorite ranch wife-turned food blogger since my first post celebrated her delish potato skins.)

But honestly, what better way is there to start off a long week than with a little doughy sweet goodness?

The thing about these cinnamon rolls is that they require a significant a time investment. You have to set aside enough time to let the dough rise (at least an hour). But the other thing about these cinnamon rolls is that you can easily make them ahead of time, freeze them in the pan and bake them immediately before you would like to enjoy them. (As I just did!)

The full recipe is available here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/. Beware – it makes 40 to 50 cinnamon rolls. Honestly. If you don’t need that many cinnamon rolls in your life, please halve the recipe. (That is what I normally do.)

One last note – PW’s (really delicious) icing recipe calls for maple flavoring and coffee. If you don’t happen to have maple flavoring on hand (and who does?), I suggest using my little trick: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk (more if needed), a few tablespoons of melted butter, and a few tablespoons of coffee. It works wonders.

Enjoy! This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. If you would like to learn a bit more about PW and her amazing, beautiful, gorgeous ranch, check out this post: http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2012/04/the-cow-calf-operation/

Another guaranteed antidote to a rough week?

Meet Porkchop (sharing my Snuggie):

Have a great weekend!


Avocados Anonymous

22 Apr

When I was in college, one of the first silly Facebook groups that I remember joining was “I could eat cereal for any meal“.

Because, honestly. That pretty much summed up my life. I was a cereal addict. And for good reason: cereal is tasty, economical, and convenient.

However, as I have gotten older, my tastes have become somewhat more refined. Cereal has been replaced by homemade guacamole as my go-to meal. Because, while guac is somewhat more labor intensive to make, much like cereal, is it perfect for any situation.

(Proof that you can really find anything on Etsy – and to clarify, I do not own these. 🙂 )

Home alone late after work and don’t know what to eat for dinner? Guacamole!
Friends coming over to watch the game? Guacamole!
Forgot to eat breakfast and need something to eat RIGHT NOW? Guacamole!

Ordering guacamole at a restaurant can be dangerous. You never know what you are going to get – sometimes it is too mushy and you might even end up (gasp) with pre-packaged guac, which shouldn’t even count as guac at all! So in my mind, it is always better to just make it for yourself.

Below is my favorite guacamole recipe of all time. Guacamole + bacon = perfect.

Bacon Guacamole

(Image and recipe adapted from ClosetCooking.com)

(Serves 2-3, depending on how much they love guacamole)

4 strips of bacon, crumbled
2 large avocados, mashed
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the bacon until crispy and set it aside on paper towels to drain. Crumble it up.
Mix everything.

Sadly, I have realized (but don’t understand how it can be possible) that not everyone in this world is an avocado lover. Are you a guacamole fan? Do you have your own favorite recipe?

Peeps Take The Cake

7 Apr

Happy spring!

I will be spending Easter with my cousins and their kids (ages 15, 13, 7, 6, and 1) in Baltimore. Being the good holiday guest that I am, my first inclination was to whip up a fun, family-friendly dessert for the occasion.

Now, back home in California, the tradition is to make a quote-on-quote “bunny cake” to bring to the family Easter celebration. I have made such a cake for as long as I can remember.

To help you visualize:

However, this year, I was feeling adventurous. This year, my horizons would be broadened. This year, a new cake would be on the menu.

I give you, the Peeps (TM) Sunflower Cake.

But first, a fun fact about Peeps, the sugary little treat that some people love and others love to hate. In 1954, the “Just Born” company launched the candy line. Back them, it took 27 minutes to make a Peep. Today it takes just 6 minutes, thanks to the modern miracle of science. And faster ovens. For more Easter food trivia, check out Yum Sugar.

Recipe adapted from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Peeps-Sunflower-Cake.


1 package (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
(You could always make your cake from scratch – I love this recipe, but I have to say that there is just *something* that tastes so right about a Duncan Hines Butter Yellow cake mix.)
2 tubs chocolate frosting2 packages yellow chick Peeps
1/2 bag dark chocolate chocolate chips


Bake cake according to package directions (about 25 minutes at 325 degrees), using two  9-inch round baking pans. Cool completely. (Please disregard the Stella in the photo below; they are a necessary part of the baking process…)

Level tops of cakes. Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. (I added some chocolate chips to the middle layer, too!) Smooth the sides with a knife.

Without separating Peeps and curving slightly to fit, arrange chicks around edge of cake for sunflower petals.

For sunflower seeds, arrange chocolate chips in center of cake. Voila!

Happy baking! This is one of those recipes that is so simple to make but brings a definite “WOW” factor. If you do happen to suffer a baking mishap, never fear. Please make yourself acquainted with one of my favorite time-wasters er websites: cake wrecks. Honestly. It will warm your heart.

Thanks for reading!

And Then There Was Red Velvet Cake…

25 Feb

So, there is something that you should know about me.

Throughout my baking career, I have made dozens of biscuits, cookies of all kinds, and just about every dessert under the sun. I make a mean cinnamon roll. One time I made a particularly delicious pumpkin + caramel apple pie (!!!) for a cook off that didn’t quite make it to the judging table because a few slices went missing while it was still on the cooling rack.

But up until last week, I had never made a red velvet cake of my very own.

I’m not sure why not. Maybe I was a little intimidated. I am here to tell you today that not only is red velvet cake delicious, it is something that anyone with an oven and a sense of culinary adventure can accomplish. All it takes is an oven and a sense of culinary adventure.

I mean, if I can do it, so can you.

I was baking for two, so I modified a few recipes that I found online so that my boyfriend and I wouldn’t face the temptation of  leftover cake for breakfast.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Since February means Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day means heart-shaped everything, I decided to use two miniature heart spring form  pans (as seen here).

Red Velvet Cake for Two


1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour (most recipes call for cake flour but I just had regular ol’ flour on hand)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon vinegar
About half of one of those little bottles of red food coloring
1 teaspoon cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your baking pan(s).
Blend together shortening and sugar with electric mixers – set bowl aside.
In bowl #2, mix together flour and salt – set aside.
In bowl #3, mix egg, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar. – set aside.
Alternate adding the contents of bowl #2 (flour mixture) and bowl #3 (egg mixture) to the shortening mixture. Mix well.
In a small bowl, mix the red food coloring and cocoa powder. If it is too thick, add a few drops of water. Add this to the other mixture – mix until just combined. (Don’t over beat.)
Pour the batter into the cake pan(s) and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the pan. To check doneness, insert a toothpick. It should come out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Allow to cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing.

A lot of red velvet cake recipes call for cream cheese frosting, but this particular recipe had me at hello.

The Self-Proclaimed Best Frosting I Ever Had (that’s what it is really called)


4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup regular sugar (not powdered sugar!)


In a saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.  You want this to be very thick – think brownie batter.
Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. This is important. Stir in vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Add on the cooled flour mixture.
Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. Top with these fun sprinkles. Enjoy!

Voila. I have a feeling that red velvet cake will be making an appearance in my home again sometime soon. Do you have a favorite recipe that you were originally a bit hesitant to try?

Super Bowl ‘Skins

6 Feb

So, yesterday was kind of a big deal for football fans. Maybe you heard about it? Or maybe you only made it though the game to catch the first episode of The Voice, season two?

I admit it, guilty as charged…

But even if you don’t really care which team wins big, the Super Bowl is always a good excuse to enjoy some good old-fashioned party food of the greasy, potato-ey, cheese-y variety.


(Photo courtesy YourHomeBasedMom)

PW’s Potato Skins, as found in the Holy Grail of country cooking The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, definitely bring the “wow” factor.

Adapted Recipe:

4 slices of bacon
8 (smallish) russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
olive oil
kosher salt
A couple of generous handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
Dollops of sour cream to taste
4 green onions, chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Rub the outside of the scrubbed potatoes with olive oil and salt.  Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure they are fork tender!

Slice potatoes in half, lengthwise. With a spoon or small scoop, scrape out the inner flesh of the potatoes, leaving a small margin of potato in the skins.*

Brush both sides of the potato skins with olive oil and salt liberally.  Place potatoes cut side down on the pan and return to the oven.  Bake for 7 minutes; flip skins over and bake for 7 minutes more.

Cook bacon and chop into small bits.  Set aside.  Grate the cheese if you haven’t already. Chop green onions, too.

When the skins are crisp, remove from the oven and sprinkle each with cheese and bacon pieces.  Stick them back in the oven until the cheese melts.  Just before serving, add a dollop of sour cream onto each skin and sprinkle with sliced green onion.

* Warning – this is tricky, and your fingers will probably get burned. But it is worth it, so never fear!

I whipped up some of these bad boys yesterday and they did not disappoint. So simple, yet so delicious. Make them for your next get-together and you will not have to worry about what to do with the leftovers. (Get it? Because there won’t be any!)

Now for the good part:

  • If you ever wondered where exactly that sour cream (or cheese or milk or ice cream) came from, l would like to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers, Barbara Martin, otherwise known as The Dairy Goddess, a third generation California dairy farmer who loves to blog about cheese, cows, and a little country fashion thrown in for good measure. Check out her blog at: http://dairygoddess.wordpress.com. Visit Barbara’s blog. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might even learn something!

  • Have you seen these new commercials from McDonald’s that feature real farmers? Regardless of how you feel about Mickey D’s, I think it is pretty refreshing to have honest-to-goodness farmers being showcased in this manner. Check out the below ad featuring potato farmer Frank Martinez.

Like the ad? Loathe the ad? Make something particularly delicious for your Super Bowl get-together? Leave a comment below!