Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

Here is a great gift idea for the holiday gingerbread houses. These cute houses, made of graham crackers, are held together by royal icing and decorated with peppermints, Kit-Kats, colored sprinkles and cinnamon red hots. Inside the houses lies another surprise, actually several surprises: mini chocolate candies like Crunch Bells and Hersey's candies. Each house is about 5 1/2 inches high, 3 inches wide and 4 inches long. They are $15 each. Call or email if you would like these beautiful houses as gifts this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rum banana pudding

As a second dessert for my husband's office Thanksgiving party, I chose another recipe from my "Southern Living: 1001 Ways to Cook Southern" cookbook: rum banana pudding. Adding a little alcohol to a southern favorite, what could be better?

This recipe starts with a classic homemade vanilla pudding that is enhanced by a little rum. Toasted chopped pecans add some crunch and it is topped with a meringue that is baked until a perfect golden brown.

Courtesy of the Southern Living website, here is the recipe:

Rum Banana Pudding


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons light rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 medium bananas, sliced
  • 30 vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; cook, whisking constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir bananas into pudding mixture.
  • Arrange 15 vanilla wafers in a single layer on bottom of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish; sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans evenly on vanilla wafers. Pour half of pudding mixture on top of pecans in dish. Repeat layers with remaining vanilla wafers, pudding, and ending with pecans.
  • Beat egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until soft peaks form and sugar dissolves (about 1 to 2 minutes). Spread meringue evenly over top of banana mixture, sealing edges.
  • Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Red Velvet Cheesecake

My husband's office Thanksgiving party is this Thursday and I wanted to contribute. Mostly because my work isn't doing a Thanksgiving party this year and I really want to cook!!!

I came across a recipe for a red velvet cheesecake in my "Southern Living: 1001 Ways to Cook Southern" Cookbook and was intrigued. I know that a lot of my husband's coworkers really like red velvet cake so this twist seemed like a natural choice.

This cheesecake starts with a chocolate graham cracker crust, then the red velvet cheesecake and is topped with a fluffy white sweetened cream cheese topping. I made the crust and cheesecake last night and it chilled overnight. Tonight I will add the topping and take pictures.

This cheesecake is easy enough. The only snag I ran into was with the graham cracker crust. I went to my trusty volume to weight conversion sheet and weighed out the graham cracker crumbs rather than trying to stuff them into measuring cups. Either I looked at the wrong conversion or their conversion was WAAAAAY off. Like three times the amount of crumbs than I needed. I poured them into the springform pan and it practically took up the bottom 1/3 of the entire pan. I immediately knew something was wrong. So I went back and measured out the proper amount and needed to add a little more butter to hold the crumbs together. But the problem was fixed easy enough.

The cheesecake batter is very much a deep red. That is what two 1 ounce bottles of red food color will do. I can't wait to add the topping tonight and take pictures, the dark crust with the red filling and white top should have a beautifully dramatic look to it. I just hope it tastes as good as it looks!

UPDATE: Evidently the cheesecake was a big hit, my husband didn't even get a chance to try it. He said it was gone before lunch even started because some people grabbed their desserts first, hid them in their offices and then went for lunch. Not a bad strategy in my opinion!

Courtesy of Southern Living, here is the recipe:

Red Velvet Cheesecake


  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring
  • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprigs


  • Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
  • Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.
  • Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.
  • Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cafe Contest

I recently stumbled across an opportunity like no other: the chance to win a fully equipped cafe space plus $10,000 start up money. I was in shock reading about this contest. The company is giving two people the chance to start up their own businesses, one a sandwich shop/cafe and the other a mini spa. In addition to the space and the start up money, they are offering advertising, a well traveled location and affordable rent.

What could be better than that? To have the location and the resources to get my own business going. Starting up is the hardest part of any business, you need the capital to get the products you need and the money to advertise your business.There are great business ideas that never get off the ground because of undercapitialization. This contest will catapult two people from dream to reality before they know it.

Of course I submitted my entry and am now praying that my concept is just what they are looking for. I know I will work harder than anyone and will put 110% of myself into the business. I am fully aware of the potential positive outcomes of this situation and all I can do now is to keep on hoping and praying. Whatever is meant to happen will happen...I just hope this is the great opportunity that I have been waiting for!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup

I mentioned recently about the Canadian cheddar cheese soup I had at the Epcot Wine and Dine festival last month. I made sure to buy a cookbook with various recipes from the festival, double checking that this recipe was among those listed.

Since my husband was such a fan of the soup, this was the first recipe I tried out from the cookbook. I also made sure to make a double batch so there would be plenty to keep in the freezer to last us for a while. I think it really turned out just like the one from the festival. I was a little bit worried since sometimes recipes do not exactly replicate the flavors you remember. But this recipe was spot on!

If I was making this soup for just me, I would decrease the amount of beer added. That is just because I am not a fan of beer in the first place. For those of you that enjoy beer, it is a great complement to the cheese. Everyone that likes beer, evenly mildly, enjoys this soup just the way it is.

In case you wanted the recipe, here it is again, copied from the Disney Wine and Dine Festival Recipes page:

Cheddar Cheese Soup

Makes 6 cups

1/2 pound of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk
1 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pale ale, room temperature
Chopped scallions or chives, for garnish

1. Cook bacon in a 4- or 5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery and butter; sauté until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and stir constantly for about 4 minutes.
4. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add milk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Do not boil after adding milk.
6. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper until cheese is melted and soup is smooth. Stir in ale. If soup is too thick, thin to desired consistency with warm milk.
7. Serve hot, garnished with scallions or chives.

Chocolate and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies...Come and Gone before I got a picture!!

This weekend for the GHA Farmers Market, I decided to go with a fall theme, in addition to some classics. I brought all 12 varieties of my cake truffles and some chocolate chip and brown sugar cookies. Those are always a hit!

To get into the fall/Halloween spirit, I made some chocolate whoopie pies with a pumpkin cream cheese filling. The pumpkin gave the filling a beautiful orange color against the springy chocolate cookies. A little cinnamon and cloves gave a nice earthly addition to round out the flavor. They tasted amazing and were a great start to the fall. A few people suggested I make a peanut butter filling in the future, which is a great idea. What could go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?!?!

I also made some layered mint fudge. The top and bottom fudge layers were separated by a white chocolate mint fudge that was dyed green. Another great color combination for Halloween! In the end, all the treats looked great!