Blizzard of ’09

It was a snow day here in Amarillo yesterday.  Ben went to work at 6:30 am only to be called by one of the partners at 6:50 am to let him know that the office would not be open.  It snowed almost all day and was pretty windy, so the snow on the ground was (and still is at the moment) quite a bit deeper than the estimated 6-7 inches of actual snow fall.  Ben, Tim, Ginger and I spent the day in front of the fire, playing video games and watching televison.  Lazy, I know.  I baked some cookies, but they were not the best ever so I am not going to post about those.  Instead, here is a video of our dog, Ginger, in the snow.

click here!

And here are a few pictures taken during the day.


Cranberry Pecan Biscotti

Biscotti!!  Finally!  It’s about time I posted a biscotti recipe.  I figured it wasn’t quite right to have a blog called “Hottie Biscotti” without at least one biscotti recipe.  


Last week, I found myself rummaging in my pantry and cabinets for something to bake.  I found some cranberries and a bag of pecans.  So, the search began for a biscotti recipe.  I found this on, a site I had never been to.  This recipe is from Todd English, and the ingredient list sounded delicious, cardamom and nutmeg, so I gave them a try.

I made half the batch with just pecans and half with cranberries and pecans.  I preferred the plain pecan, but the tartness of the cranberry with the pecans is a really nice combination.  The original recipe calls for orange zest, which I left out.  If you’re into that, then just add 1 tablespoon of zest when you add the flour.  

I will definitely make these again, but will bake the uncut loaves for the full 35 minutes.  I made the mistake of baking them for only 25 minutes, and the middle was a little underbaked and hard to slice.  I had to bake them for a bit longer after slicing them to make a good crunchy biscotti.  

Cranberry Pecan Biscotti


1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom 
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl and blend until light. Add the eggs and vanilla and blend until thoroughly combined.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Add the cranberries and pecans and stir.

4. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead until the dough just comes together. If necessary, add more flour to the work surface. Divide the dough into 2 halves and shape each into a 12-inch loaf.


5. Place 1 loaf on the prepared baking sheet and bake until it starts to crack and is a uniform light brown, about 35 minutes. Set aside to cool. Repeat with the remaining loaf.


6. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees.

7. Place the loaves on a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut each on the diagonal, into 20 to 24 slices, 1/2-inch thick, or, for a more delicate biscotti, 1/4-inch thick. Place on the baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn over and bake until dry and crisp, about 5 minutes.

8. When cooled, store in an airtight container up to 10 to 12 days.

1st Birthday

My nephew turns ONE YEAR OLD today!  Happy Birthday!  


My sister had his birthday party this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to fly down for the big event.  It was nice to see so much of my family that I hadn’t seen in a while.  My nephew is too adorable for words.  I couldn’t get enough of him!


The cake was from Tart Bakery in Dallas.  It was a white cake layered with fresh strawberries frosted with white buttercream.  I can’t say it was the best tasting cake I’ve ever had, but it was tasty and definitely cute and fit with the party theme.  


My cousin, a 4 1/2 year old boy, is allergic to peanuts.  Since most bakeries are not peanut free, he can’t eat cake at parties.  Total bummer for a kid!  So, we made a dozen peanut-free chocolate cupcakes for Dalton.  I was skeptical of this cake mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen as it not only is peanut free, but also egg and dairy free.  


How can something like this be edible?  I figured it would taste like chalk and have  a texture akin to cardboard.  I was wrong.  The cupcakes were really good!  Not as moist maybe, but definitely edible and definitely yummy.  We frosted the cupcakes with a white buttercream and decorated them with colored fondant.  My sister, Sarah, and I free handed some pigs, giraffes and goldfish to match the party napkins.  They turned out pretty cute.


Tortilla Pie

This is a quick, easy and yummy meal with ingredients you probably have on hand.  I originally found this recipe in an issue of Everyday Food.  I’ve made this in a lot of different ways and there are a few variations on the Martha Stewart website.  There is a version with ground beef, for which I usually use ground turkey, and a vegetarian version.  I have substituted frozen chopped spinach for the fresh with good results…less work and less $$.  There is no need for a side dish with this hearty meal, but rice would be a good choice.  I usually just serve this with a green salad.


 The last time I made this pie I was at the store without the recipe.  A dilema that I’m sure at least one person reading this had experienced.  So, I had to improvise.  I used ground turkey, a can of corn, a can of black beans, left out the spinach and added a can of diced tomatoes and green chlies.  You can’t go wrong with flavors you like, so try any combination of things that sound good.  The only problem could be if you get a little overzealous with the filling and end up with more than will fit in the pie!  I use leftover filling rolled up in flour tortillas.


Tortilla Pie 


  • 4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil , plus more for pan
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
  • 3 packed cups loose baby spinach (about 5 ounces) , torn into pieces
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan (use the removable bottom of the pan as a guide). Assemble pan with the bottom upside down; lightly oil bottom and sides. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, cumin, and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Raise heat to medium-high; add beef and garlic. Cook, breaking up meat with a spoon until no longer pink, 4 to 6 minutes. Add corn and spinach; stir until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Place one tortilla in the prepared pan. Spreading evenly, top with 1 1/2 packed cups beef mixture, then 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat with two more layers. Top with last tortilla, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Bake pie until top is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan; remove sides. Using two wide metal spatulas, lift pie from bottom of pan, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into wedges. If desired, serve with cilantro and sour cream.


Here is the veggie version.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie


  • 4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges.

Coconut Cream Pie

Most people get a birthday cake, but my Dad and my Grandpa Marvin would rather have birthday pie.  My dad is a lemon meringue pie fan, and my grandpa loves coconut cream.  

Grandpa Marvin turned 89 on March 7th, so I made him a birthday pie!  

This pie is a bit laborious, but worth it.  The crust is something special, using ground animal crackers and coconut as the base.  


So, it ends up being a cross between a pie and cheesecake in texture.  The filling is rich and not overly sweet.  You can use sweetened coconut if that’s all you can find, but I’ve made this with sweetened and unsweenetend coconut…and the unsweetened is better, in my humble opinion.

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated, a magazine that I used to get a few years ago.  I really liked the magazine and the website.  There are some recipes that you can get access to without an online subscription, but not all of them.  Of the 12 that I clicked on this morning, 2 of those were accessible.  The others require you to join.  I like the detail in the recipes and the tips and trouble shooting that Americas Test Kitchen provides.  You won’t get those tips without paying the price!  It is worth it for those people who like to know the reasons behind why something cooks or bakes the way it does.

Coconut Cream Pie (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)




5 ounces animal crackers

2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

5  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3/8 teaspoon table salt

5 large egg yolks

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 2 pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Cream and Garnish:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (cold)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut toasted


Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. 

In food processor, pulse animal crackers, coconut, and sugar to fine crumbs, eighteen to twenty 1-second pulses; then process until powdery, about 5 seconds.pie4

Transfer crumbs to medium bowl and add butter; stir to combine until crumbs are evenly moistened. Empty crumbs into 9-inch glass pie plate; using bottom of ramekin or 1/2 cup dry measuring cup, press crumbs evenly into bottom and up sides of pie plate.pie5

Bake until fragrant and medium brown, about 15 minutes, rotating pie shell halfway through baking time. Set on wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Bring coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until thoroughly combined. Whisking constantly, gradually ladle about 1 cup hot milk mixture over yolk mixture; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add remaining milk mixture to yolk mixture in 3 or 4 additions; whisk well to combine. Return mixture to saucepan and cook until thickened and mixture reaches boil, whisking constantly, about 1 minute; filling must boil in order to fully thicken. (To determine whether filling has reached boil, stop whisking; large bubbles should quickly burst on surface.) Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is fully incorporated. Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell and smooth surface with rubber spatula.  pie7

Press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.  


Just before serving, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer until soft peaks form, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.


Top pie with whipped cream and then sprinkle with coconut.


Cut pie into wedges and serve.

Recipe reprinted by permission of America’s Test Kitchen. All rights reserved

Banana Nut Crumb Muffins

Sometimes cereal for breakfast gets old…in my opinion anyway.  My husband eats cereal every morning without fail and without complaints of boredom.  However, when bananas gets all black and mushy, the only option you have is to bake with them.  I have a tried and true recipe for banana bread with pecans and coconut that is incredible, but it doesn’t bake very well as muffins for some reason.  I found this recipe on allrecipes and just changed it by adding half a cup of chopped pecans.  The recipe yeilds a perfect dozen muffins.  My house smelled so wonderful yesterday even after they were packed away.  These muffins are easy and pretty good.  I recommend halving them, spreading some butter on each half and toasting them in the toaster oven or regular oven.  I love the crisp edges you get by warming them this way.  The cinnamon crumb topping is a nice addition to these muffins.  Enjoy!

muffinsPhoto and Recipe courtesy of


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour  

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 bananas, mashed

3/4 cup white sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten  

1/3 cup butter, melted

½ cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-2 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Stir in pecans.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Dijon Chicken Breasts and Braised Leeks

I hadn’t made an out of the ordinary dinner in a while, so I began my search for something special on Wednesday morning for a special Friday night dinner.  I really enjoy Smitten Kitchen, and that is where I found this recipe.  She calls them Devil’s Chicken Thighs, and they looked so incredibly wonderful on her post that I could not resist.  Not including marinating time on the chicken, this recipe took me about 4 hours to complete.  It is a time commitment, but well worth it.  I made the leeks in the afternoon and chilled them until that night when I made the chicken.  I started cooking again at 6:30 that night…we didn’t eat until 8:45!  So, make sure you have time.  

Another time consuming aspect of this dish is the prep.  It takes a while to pluck those little thyme leaves from the stems to have a total of 4 tablespoons.  Peeling a dozen shallots, slicing and chopping them…put on some good cooking music and get to work.


I made scallopped potatoes and steamed asparagus to go with the chicken.  The scallopped potatoes recipe is at the bottom of the post.



Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Dijon Mustard
Adapted from 
Sunday Suppers at Lucques

4-6 chicken breasts, trimmed of excess skin and fat ( 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the diagonal (I used serranos and removed the seeds from one of them)
3/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 extra-large egg
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
Braised leeks (recipe below)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl with the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons thyme, chiles, and 1/4 cup vermouth. Using your hands, toss to coat the chicken well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.


Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Heat large saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and cook until it’s brown and smells nutty. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the brown butter over the breadcrumbs. Wait 1 minute, and then toss well with the parsley and 1 tablespoon thyme.


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Return the saute pan to medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Saute about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.


Add the remaining 1/2 cup vermouth and reduce by half. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, egg, chopped tarragon, and a pinch of black pepper.


Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature. Discard the seasonings, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. After 15 minutes, season the thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Return the same saute pan to high heat for about 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden brown.


Turn the breasts over and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Place the chicken on the braised leeks. Turn off the heat and discard the fat. Add the chicken stock to the pan, and scrape with a wooden spoon to release the crispy bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the chicken stock over the braised leeks.

Toss the chicken thighs in the bowl with the mustard mixture, slathering them completely, and then rearrange them over the braised leeks. Spoon any remaining mustard mixture over the chicken thighs.


Top each thigh with breadcrumbs, patting with your hands to make sure they get nicely coated. (You want lots of mustard mixture and lots of breadcrumbs.) Bake about 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. To check for doneness, piece the meat near the bone with a paring knife; when ready, the juices from the chicken will run clear.

Turn the oven up to 475°F and cook the chicken thighs another 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.


Serve in the baking dish, or transfer to a large warm platter.

Braised Leeks
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

I made these 5 hours in advance.  I halved the recipe since it was just the 2 of us.  Use the same amount of wine and about 1 cup of chicken broth.

6 large leeks
About 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (though I always skimp and use less)
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove any bruised outer layers from the leeks. Trim off to the roots, leaving the root end intact. Trim the tops of the leeks on the diagonal, leaving 2 inches of the green part attached. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise.  Submerge in a large bowl of cold water to clean them. Shake the leeks well to dislodge the dirt stuck inside. Let them sit a few minutes, to allow any grit inside the layers to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clean. Place the leeks, cut side down, on a towel and pat dry completely.


Turn the leeks over so their cut sides are facing up, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, being careful not to crowd them.  You will probably need to saute them in batches or in two pans.


Add more olive oil to the pan as needed, for each batch.) Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Season the backs of the leeks with salt and pepper, and turn them over to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a large gratin dish, lining them up, cut sides facing up. (Choose a baking dish or gratin dish that can go from oven to table and that will accommodate all the leeks and chick thighs, or use two smaller dishes.)


Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to color. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Pour the liquid over the leeks. The stock should not quite cover them; add more stock if necessary.


Braise in the oven 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender when pierced. 

Simple Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots


  •          1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
  •          2 shallots, sliced thin
  •          Salt
  •          Pepper
  •          All purpose flour
  •          1 ½ cups 2% milk, heated until just warm
  •          2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  •          ½ to 1 cup shredded cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)

1.       Preheat oven to 375.

2.       Layer potatoes in bottom of 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, flour and shallots.  Continue layering in this order until all the potatoes have been used. 

3.       Top final layer with salt, pepper and dots of butter, then pour warm milk over potatoes.

4.       Sprinkle with cheese.

5.       At this point you can bake the potatoes for 1 hour, or refrigerate them to bake later. 

6.       If you choose to bake the potatoes at a later time, bake at the same temperature.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for the remaining time.

Homemade Ding Dongs

Cupcakes are still “in” and trendy I suppose, but I haven’t really gotten in to them.  I’ve made cupcakes more than a few times, but I would prefer to bake a cake or cookies.  And I would rather eat a cookie or brownie than a cupcake.  Call me crazy!

However, when I found this recipe on Baking Bites, I had to give them a try.


 The recipe for the cupcakes is actually three recipes; chocolate cupcakes, vanilla cream filling and chocolate buttercream frosting.  You could use a boxed cake mix and reduce the time you spend in the kitchen.  You have to make the filling, and the frosting.  They are both truly delicious.  These cupcakes are a little more tedious than the bake, cool and frost cupcakes, but they are special.

If you’d asked me yesterday while I was making the batter and baking the first batch, “Carrie, should I make these cupcakes?” I would have said “No!  Do not make these cupcakes.  The recipe is poorly written and now I’m going to have to throw away all these cupcakes and use a friggin’ cake mix!  Oh, the time I have wasted today!”  Here are the first dozen.


An attenpt at releasing these from the pan was, well, not a success.cupcake3

I was not a happy camper.  I baked the second pan with better results.  I was actually able to use all of these cupcakes.  I had to trim the overflow from the ones on the left to make them the right size, but that was much less painful than having to bake another batch.  Whew!  I did not have to resort to the cake mix.  cupcake4

I must complain about this, just to vent a little.  Here is an excerpt from the recipe:

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by sour cream and vanilla extract.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla extract, followed by the addition of the rest of the flour mix. Stir well between each addition and mix until no streaks of flour remain.

Do you see the problem here?  Well, I made the mistake of reading the recipe as I mixed, so I mixed in the sour cream and vanilla the first time I was told to.  So, the second time around I had no sour cream to mix in!  Yes, I know that I should have read through the recipe before I started.  Then I would have noticed the discrepancy and used my extensive baking knowledge to know to add the sour cream and flour alternately.  I have fixed the recipe below.  You’re welcome!

When all was said and done, these cupcakes were very, very good.  The cake was moist and chocolatey.  The filling has a great consistency and just the right amount of sweetness.  The buttercream was easy and paired well with the other components.  Enjoy!


Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream (low fat or full)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-oz dark chocolate
1 cup water, boiling

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease two 12-cup muffin tins.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla extract, followed by the addition of the rest of the flour mix. Stir well between each addition and mix until no streaks of flour remain.
Stir the cocoa powder and the dark chocolate into the boiling water (easiest in a large measuring cup). Pour chocolate water into the rest of the batter and stir until uniform.

Evenly distribute batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. (It’s fine if you can’t fit both trays into the oven at the same time, just wait until one batch finishes before putting in the second pan)
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and filling.

Vanilla Cream Filling
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup butter (or trans fat-free shortening)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 scraped vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a few minutes. Sir continuously to prevent the mixture from clumping and do not bring all the way to a boil. When thickened (consistency will be that of a thin pudding or custard), strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely to room temperature.
When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter (or shortening) and sugar together in a medium bowl until light. Add in the milk/flour mixture and the scraped vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 7 minutes, until light and fluffy.


Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, or a large ziploc bag with the corner cut off, and set aside until ready to fill your cupcakes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat, with an electric mixer, until frosting is creamy, 3-5 minutes. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to achieve a thick, but not stiff, frosting that is easy to spread. Add additional milk, if necessary, to thin the frosting if it gets too thick.


Take a cooled cupcake and, using a small pairing knife, cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.

Take the cream filling and squeeze a tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity, filling the hole up to the top with filling.


Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.
Using a butter knife or a small offset spatula, frost each cupcake with a layer of chocolate buttercream frosting. Place a dollop of icing in the center of the cupcake (on top of the cut out circle of cake) and spread from the center to the sides of the cupcake.

If you have leftover filling, transfer it to a fresh ziploc bag and cut a very small opening in one corner. Pipe a swirly line down the center of each cupcake.
Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Makes 2-dozen.

Oatmeal Chunky Chip Cookies

I found this yummy recipe on one of my new favorite blogs…Bakers Banter.


The King Arthur flour test kitchen shares recipes, techniques and tips.  Most of the posts also feature step by step picture instructions.  A look at the ingredient list might make you say, “Those sound allright…but a little typical, nothing special”.  That is what I said!  But then I read through the recipe and decided I had to try these.  The difference is the ground white chocolate and oats.  A lot of oatmeal cookie recipes grind the oats, but not many grind the chocolate.  The use of three kinds of chips is also appealing.  I like a simple cookie like pure buttery shortbread, but I REALLY like a cookie with tons of ingredients, flavors and textures.  

These cookies are delicious.  Crunchier than I normally prefer, but I really liked the texture and flavor combination.  I shortened the baking time by a few minutes after the first batch.  The baking time in the original recipe is 12 minutes, but I only baked them for about 8 minutes.  If you like yours crunchy through and through, then stick with the longer time.  Here is a side by side comparison of the baking times.  cookie8

I used my mini food processor to grind the oats and chocolate.  I had to grind them in two batches, so I would recommend using a full sized processor or blender.  Some of my white chocolate chunks were huge, and some were small.  You may choose to grind the chocolate more, but I found it to be a real treat to get a bite with a big chunk of smooth white chocolate. 

 I used a block of Callebaut white chocolate (a bit of a splurge, but worth it!), Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips and Reese’s Peanut Butter chips.cookie6

The original recipe uses walnuts, but I used pecans.  I like to toast the pecans before adding them to the dough.  It really does make a difference in the final product.  Just 7-9 minutes in a 350º oven is all it takes.  Take the time to toast your nuts…you’ll thank me.

Chunk Wild Cookies (courtesy of King Arthur Flour)

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) butter
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (8 3/4 ounces) traditional rolled oats
2/3 cup (4 ounces) white chocolate
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (6 ounces) peanut butter chips
1 cup (6 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (6 1/2 ounces) chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) four baking sheets, or as many as you have.

Beat together the butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Using a blender or food processor, process the oats with the white chocolate until the oats are finely ground, and the chocolate is mostly ground; a few small chunks are OK.cookie7

Add the oats and flour to the butter mixture, then stir in the peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and chopped pecans.cookie5

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls, 2″ apart, onto the prepared baking sheets.cookie3

Bake the cookies for about 8-9 minutes, until they’re set. They may be barely starting to brown around the edges, but the tops won’t be brown at all. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool.cookie4

Yield: 5 dozen cookies.

Bacon and Cheddar Scones

scone1Ben’s parents came to visit us in Amarillo last weekend.  I wanted to make something for breakfast Saturday morning, but not something sweet like muffins, but not a casserole either.  The solution?  A savory scone.

This recipe is from Rebecca Rather’s Pastry Queen cookbook.  I have tried a lot of recipes from this cookbook with great success, so I trust it.  

I made the scones the night before and reheated them in a 300° oven for about 15 minutes.  They can be served with butter, but are wonderful on their own.  One change I would make in the future is to use just a little less pepper.  Ben said he liked the pepper flavor, so it was probably just me.  Also, I used regular bacon.  The original recipe calls for apple smoked bacon, which I will try next time.

Bacon and Cheddar Scones

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 400°.  Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl on low speed.  With mixer running, gradually add cubes of butter until the mixture is crumbly and studded with flour – butter bits about the size of small peas.  Add grated cheese and mix just until blended.  scone4(This can also be done by hand: In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper.  Gradually cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles small peas.  Stir in cheese.)

Add green onions, bacon and 3/4 cup of the buttermilk to flour and cheese mixture.  


Mix by hand just until all ingredients are incorporated.  If dough is too dry to hold together, use remaining buttermilk, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball.  Stir as lightly and as little as possible to ensure a lighter-textured scone.  Remove dough from bowl and place it on a lightly floured flat surface.  Pat dough into a ball.  Using a well-floured rolling pin, flatten dough into a circle about 8 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick.  Cut dough into 8 to 10 equal wedges, depending on size scone you prefer.

Whisk egg and water in a small mixing bowl to combine.  Brush each wedge with egg wash.  scone3Place scones on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer sticky in the middle.  Serve warm.