Church Reception Alert!

Music to my ears!

There’s a concert at my church this Sunday, and everyone in town knows that these excellent concerts are followed by sumptuous receptions. Yes, Sumptuous Receptions. In fact, I think the receptions are why some people go. I always see several non-music-appreciating husbands there who look a bit glazed during the concert, but then race over to the reception with sudden energy. I imagine the conversation goes like this. Wife: “Honey, if you’ll go the church concert with me, there’ll be some good food afterwards!”  Husband: “Food? Okay.”

So anyway, I made 3 things to contribute to this particular reception:

Let’s start with my experimental recipe, Hazelnut Pound Cake with Frangelico Glaze


This was easy! And it turned out really well. Use your favorite pound cake recipe, but use ½ tsp vanilla extract, and ½ – ¾ tsp hazelnut extract for flavoring. You can add chopped, toasted hazelnuts to the batter if you want to. Or not. To make the glaze, you put the following in a small saucepan:  ¼ C sugar, 6 T butter, ¼ C Frangelico, 2 T water.  Heat on medium until boiling, stirring frequently, and then reduce heat and cook 3-4 more minutes. As soon as the cake comes out of the pan, spoon the warm glaze over the cake. Repeat until all glaze is gone.

I used 2 half-size bundt pans because they yield smaller slices that are perfect for “finger food” at a reception.


Now for the Nutella Cookies! (FABulous texture. Chewy inside, slight crunch outside.)


This recipe came from Cuisine At Home Magazine’s “Holiday Parties” issue from December 2016. I can’t find the recipe online, but if you want it, let me know. The only adjustments I made are as follows:

  • Used a medium cookie scoop (made 3 dozen cookies)
  • Rolled the chilled dough balls in sugar right before baking. That’s what creates the nice “crackle effect.”
  • Left off the crushed hazelnuts because I didn’t have any more.
  • Sprinkled the cookies with sanding sugar immediately after baking.

And finally, the Pecan Pie Mini-Cupcakes:

THESE. ARE. AWESOME.  Very rich and buttery. They’re like pecan pie without the corn syrup or pie crust. Generally, I loathe mini-cupcakes or mini-muffins. They’re skimpy. I mean, don’t most people want a full size one? But in this case, the flavor is so very rich that a small one is just perfect! Did I mention that these take very little time to make? And using a small cookie scoop to put the batter into the mini-muffin tins made it even faster.


The recipe comes from, but I made a few additions for Prettiness: Added a pecan half to the top of each one before baking. Then immediately after baking, I sprinkled them with demerara sugar (tastes kinda like toffee.) The recipe says it yields 24, but it makes 32.  I put them in little white paper candy cups so they would look nice on the tray.

Well that was some fun baking! Hope the concert-goers will enjoy, and that you will be inspired to bake something! Something Sumptuous.  🙂

Smashing Pumpkins (and baking them)

It’s not too late for pumpkin bread!

And here’s a great recipe that calls for a fresh pumpkin. And smashing it. My mother received this recipe from Second Baptist Church in Memphis during their annual pumpkin sale fundraiser. While preparing fresh pumpkin takes a little time and effort, the results are soooooo worth it. Excellent texture and flavor!



First, you need a pie pumpkin like this one. That’s a bottle of Mrs. Dash next to it for size comparison. (The pumpkin weighed 3.57 pounds, and yielded 2.25 C of cooked pumpkin.)


The recipe says to cut the pumpkin into cubes, but after 20 minutes of sawing on the darn thing, I had achieved nothing. So I figured out a better, quicker way:

After washing the outside of the pumpkin, I put it into three plastic bags and tied them at the top. Holding the bag by the handles, I swung it around and smashed the pumpkin against the pavement in my driveway.  Several times.  Et voilà . . . Smashed Pumpkin!










Then, you have to scrape out the pulp and seeds (save and toast the seeds for a tasty snack a later) and cut the sections into smaller pieces. It is still very hard to cut, so I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer to hammer the knife through the pumpkin.



Place the pieces in a large microwave-safe bowl. Do NOT add water.


Microwave on high for 10 minutes, and stir.  Microwave for another 5 minutes.  Stir again, and go another 5 minutes.  If the pumpkin is tender, drain off any liquid and let the pumpkin cool. If not, microwave again for 2-3 minutes.


Remove and discard peel, and mash the pumpkin pulp. You can freeze it for later use, which is what I did.


The rest of the recipe is quite easy (ingredients listed below):

  • Preheat the oven to 350°, and grease and flour your pans. (2 loaf pans or 7 mini-loaf pans)
  • Cream the eggs, veg oil, and sugar until fluffy.
  • And the pumpkin pulp.
  • Sift the remaining ingredients and add to mixture. If you don’t sift, the bread won’t have the great texture, so you must sift!
  • Bake at 350° in 2 loaf pans (50-60 min)  or  7 mini loaf pans for 35-40 min or until toothpick comes out clean.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C vegetable oil
  • 3 C granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 C cooked pumpkin
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. ground cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Be sure to make this bread one day before you serve it. After it sits overnight, the flavors come together and the texture sets up beautifully! It freezes well, too.

I made the mini-loaf size, and after they cooled, cut them each into 6 slices, put them back together, and wrapped them in Saran wrap.  After packing them into freezer bags, I put them in the freezer and will thaw them as needed for church receptions / coffee hours.





Thank you Second Baptist Church in Memphis for sharing this awesome recipe!  Some Episcopalians in South Florida are enjoying the results. 🙂

Maple Bacon Cookies

It was time to get out of my Baking Rut. It was time to bake something that was both different and delicious. It was time to figure out how to make



I wasn’t sure the folks at church coffee hour would like these, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I put a little place card on the tray that read “Maple Bacon Cookies” so people would know to expect a salty/sweet cookie instead of a regular cookie.  And despite my skepticism, the cookies were a hit! One guy even said we should make it The Official Cookie Of The Episcopal Church, because that way we could have them every Sunday. Ha!

So how did this recipe come together? I started by looking for a Maple Bacon Cookie recipe online, but the recipes all seemed too salty or just unbalanced.  And the cookies in the pics accompanying the recipes looked very unappetizing. Shouldn’t a cookie look good as well as taste good? Yes! So it was necessary to do some experimenting.  I looked at various maple cookie recipes (baconless), and finally found a Chewy Maple Cookie recipe that was an “almost but not quite”. But it had potential! I made several changes to it, and then added bacon, maple glaze, and maple sugar. Full recipe to follow.




Cookie Dough:

  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/4 C butter flavored Crisco
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C real maple syrup (grade B, for more robust flavor)
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. maple extract
  • 1 & 3/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 & 1/4 C cooked bacon, chopped into small pieces (I used 1 pound of bacon)


  • 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 T. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. real maple syrup (grade B)
  • 2 drops vanilla extract
  • 2 drop maple extract
  • Milk or water to create proper consistency for drizzling
  • Maple sugar (granulated) for sprinkling (available at Whole Foods)

Notes: This dough is soft (and very sticky!), so to prevent really flat cookies, freeze the dough balls for at least 2 hours before baking. I froze them for 3 hours. Also, I recommend frying all the bacon the day before you make the dough. It’s a lot of bacon to fry! I made quicker work of it by using a microwave bacon plate like this one, and covered the bacon with a paper towel to prevent grease splatter in the microwave.  This yielded crispy, evenly-cooked bacon in a lot less time than a skillet.


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening, and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, maple extract, and maple syrup.
  2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Stir in the bacon pieces by hand.
  4. Freeze the dough: Using a medium cookie scoop (1 5/8” diameter), drop dough balls  – close together but not touching –  onto a parchment lined tray, and place in freezer for 2 – 5 hours. Cover with foil to prevent dough from drying out.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.
  6. While oven is preheating (or while cookies are baking), you can prepare the Maple Glaze by stirring together in a small bowl all ingredients listed under “Glaze” except for the maple sugar. Save that for sprinkling on top of the glaze!
  7. Place frozen doughballs about 2″ apart on parchment lined cookie sheet (I use – and swear by! – Airbake cookie sheets) and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are slightly brown and centers still look a bit under-done.
  8. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack by sliding parchment paper off of cookie sheet and onto rack.
  10. When cookies have cooled, drizzle each cookie with glaze and immediately sprinkle wet glaze with maple sugar. Allow glaze to set.
  11. Enjoy! Makes 25 cookies. I recommend letting them sit overnight before serving. The texture improves and the disparate salty & sweet flavors really come together.



A Fortunate Cake Mistake

About 5 or 6 years ago, I tried to make an Orange Date Pound Cake that I’d found on the Taste of Home website, but I messed up. I accidentally poured the ½ cup of orange juice that was meant for the glaze into the cake batter instead . . . while the mixer was running. I couldn’t exactly remove the orange juice from the batter like that time I removed the entire jar of cinnamon that accidentally spilled on top of the Apple Cake batter because as I was sprinkling it over the cake batter, the top came off and all of the cinnamon fell out. No, there was no turning back from the Accidental Imposition Of Orange Juice. So I opted for denial: Orange Juice? What Orange Juice?  I baked the cake anyway. . . AND IT WAS AWESOME!

It was a little lighter than a pound cake, but SUPER moist, and had a really nice orange flavor. TASTEE! How can you go wrong with orange, dates, pecans . . . and buttermilk? Um, you can’t.  (For an explanation of “tastee”, check out Cousin Leah’s new blog!)


So last week when I signed up to bring a coffeecake to my church’s Summer Brunch this Sunday, this recipe came to mind. It’s not really a coffee cake, but with the orange and dates and pecans, I’m saying that it is!

If you want to make this awesome cake, here’s the recipe to which I made the following changes:

  1. Added ½ C orange juice to the cake batter
  2. Folded the zest into the batter as the last ingredient. Otherwise, it tends to clump on the beaters and you have to stop, scrape it off, and mix it in.
  3. Made it in a bundt pan instead of a tube pan
  4. Made only half of the glaze recipe. That’s all it needs because I . .
  5. Applied the glaze with a pastry brush instead of pouring it over the cake. Better coverage. And after it sits overnight, the glaze gets a little crunchy. Mmmm.


If you make this cake, make it one day before you’re going to  serve it. The glaze sets up perfectly, and the texture of the cake will be unbelievable!  You’ll need a sharp serrated knife to cut it because of all the dates and pecans, and  because it’s really moist.

The results:






Bar Cookie Nirvana

After trying many bar cookie recipes and not finding a truly superior one, I resorted to some experimenting. I tried to create PB&J bar cookie earlier in the year. Results: meh. Then there were the Toffee Blondies. Really Good, but not quite Spectacular. Oh, and how could I forget the Hazelnut Bar Cookie Debacle of March 2016? I tried to make up a White Chocolate and Roasted Hazelnut bar cookie recipe and in the process, 1) broke my fave 9×12 pyrex baking pan by accidentally dropping it on the tile floor, 2) burned the Hazelnuts instead of roasting them, so I had to go back to the store to get more hazelnuts, but I shouldn’t have bothered because 3) the Hazelnut bars were AWFUL. I mean AW! FUL!  They tasted like soft concrete . . . but worse.

I refused, however, to give in to Bar Cookie Defeat. I put the Hazelnut Debacle behind me, regained my Bar Cookie Mojo, and decided that instead of making up a recipe, I should go look for a really fabulous one. And you know what? I FOUND ONE!! At long last, I found the BEST BAR COOKIE RECIPE!! It will KNOCK your SOCKS off! So please remove your socks before you taste – or even look at  – these bars, to avoid the dangerous sock flingage that might ensue.


You owe it to yourself to make these. The recipe is easy and the outcome is WOW!

This fabulous recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour website. I really like this recipe because it has options that can be chosen to suit your personal taste. Here are the options I chose:

  1. Used the vanilla-butter-nut flavor i/o the butterscotch flavor. If you’ve never used vanilla-butter-nut flavor, for pete’s sake put your socks back on and go get some now! It’s AWESOME. It gives a much richer flavor. I used more than the recipe calls for:  ½ t. instead of ¼ t.
  2. Used 2 C milk chocolate chunks and 1 C walnuts. It would be even better with pecans, but I was out of pecans because, um, I ate them all – so I had to use walnuts. (Is there a group for pecan addicts? I really need help.)

Also, I followed the recipe’s advice to take them out of the oven when they still look underbaked, and then to let them cool overnight. That was good advice! I left them in the pan and covered them with foil while they were still a bit warm. They set up really well and have an amazing, chewy texture and a perfect, crusty top.


So I’m taking them  to Coffee Hour after church, but will be on guard in case socks start flying around the fellowship hall.  🙂

Thank you King Arthur Flour for a fabulous recipe and for bringing to a conclusion my Bar Cookie Recipe Search. Now I can direct my baking energy towards next weekend’s church event: Sunday Summer Brunch. Should I make Orange/Date/Pecan pound cake . . . or. . . Maple-Bacon cookies?  I’m not sure my fellow church-goers are ready for a bacon-inclusive cookie. But perhaps I underestimate them . . .

Cookie Experiment with Swiss Miss

. . . and a Narrow Escape From Hell.


The Inspiration:  While foraging in my pantry for almonds, I found some packets of Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa mix that expire next month. OMIGOSH. I’m pretty sure that letting chocolate go to waste is The 8th Deadly Sin. Oooooo. 

The Question:  Could I work it into a  cookie recipe before it expires, and thereby avoid the requisite trip to Dante’s Inferno? 

The Answer: YES!  And just to make sure the cookies would have a true Swiss Miss vibe, I braided my hair beforehand like the Swiss Miss cartoon girl in the old commercials.

The Result:   Yodel Ay Hee Hoo! This one’s a keeper! The cookie has a medium chocolate intensity, then you get the chocolate POW! from the dark chocolate center that is hiding under the dreamy, sweet marshmallow. Even when cooled, these cookies are soft. Mmmmmm.


The Recipe is  adapted from parts of two recipes I found online. This one, which I cut in half and omitted/changed some ingredients, and this one, from which I got the topping idea. Yield: 22 medium-sized cookies. Recipe can be doubled. 

Want to make them? Here’s what you need:


Stand mixer

Medium cookie scoop (1 5/8″ diameter)

A tray that will fit into your freezer (you’re gonna freeze the dough)

Cookie sheets (Baking time & temp in recipe are based on use of Airbake cookie sheets.)

Parchment paper

Aluminum foil

Sifter or fine-mesh sieve


10 T butter (1 stick plus 2T)

1/2 C sugar

1/3 C brown sugar

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

1 T milk

1 1/2 C flour

2 pkgs (.96 oz ea) Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa, dark chocolate flavor

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda

1 T milk

1/3 C dark chocolate chips (I used Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate Morsels)

11 large marshmallows

powdered sugar

20160604_175755 (2)

1. Braid your hair and do a Swiss Miss yodel.

2. Beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk; beat on medium speed until combined. 

4. Combine flour, cocoa mix, salt and baking soda, and gradually add into butter mixture until well blended.

5. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookie dough balls onto parchment-lined baking sheet or any tray that will fit into your freezer. Place the balls close together but not touching. Cover with foil and place in freezer for at least 1 hour.  (I left mine in for 6 hours because I had other things to do. You can freeze them overnight as well.) 

6. To bake, preheat oven to 350F. Leave dough in freezer until oven is ready.

7.  While oven is heating, cut each marshmallow in half.

8.  Place frozen dough balls 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and place in preheated oven.

9. When tops of cookies have just start to set but are still underbaked, (approx. 9 min, depending on how long dough was in the freezer), remove cookies from the oven.  Place 3 dark chocolate morsels in the center of each cookie, and top with a half-marshmallow. Press down a bit so it all sinks into the middle of the cookie. 

10. Return tray to oven and bake for another 5 minutes, or until marshmallow is puffy but not brown. Cookies should look not-quite-done. Take them out of the oven anyway. 

11. Allow cookies to cool on tray for 5 minutes. They will finish “setting up”, and you’ll have a nice, chewy cookie, even after they’ve cooled completely.   

12. Move cookies to cooling rack.

13.  Just before serving, sift a little powdered sugar over the cookies. For prettiness. (Picture above was taken before I did this. Oops.)

Enjoy!   😀


Tired of the same old brownies?

Not that anyone would turn down a brownie, but if you’re up for some Brownie Innovation,  here are two ways that I recently tried to make something different with brownie mix. They both turned out great!

FIRST WAY: Walnut Brownie Bites with Ganache

Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, and get yo’sef a Brownie Bite Pan (or you can order it from Amazon.) It looks like this, and it’s made by USA Pan:

bb pan 002

Then, get a box of your favorite Ghiradelli brownie mix and mix according to pkg directions. (The above pan perfectly accommodates one box of mix.) Spoon into pan – fill each cavity about half full –  and bake at 350 for 21-24 mins. After they have cooled, remove from pan and cover with ganache.  You can make ganache by melting together in a double boiler: 4 oz of semi sweet or milk chocolate with 1 T butter, 1/4 C heavy cream, and 1/4 T vanilla. Remove from heat and stir until it’s not so thin. Pour over each brownie bite and top with half a walnut or whatever you like. Refridgerate until ganache is set (several hours) and then you can take them out of the fridge to let them return to room temp before serving.

brownie bites and cookies 003

They’re a little larger than a petit-four, and they are chewy like the edge of a brownie. I took these to coffee hour at church a few weeks ago, and they went fast!  Be careful not to bake them too long or they will get really hard. (I made that mistake the first time and had to start over.)

SECOND WAY: Chocolate Caramel Cookies

No special pan needed.  Just a small cookie scoop and a box of Ghiradelli Caramel brownie mix.  There’s a recipe on the back of the box for these cookies: Brownie mix, one egg, 4 T softened butter.  Mix (use a stand mixer – dough is very dense)  and scoop onto cookie sheets.  Make an indentation with your thumb in the middle of each cookie, and pour the caramel into each cavity.  (Caramel pouch provided in the box.) Bake for 12-13 min at 350. Remove from oven and top with whatever – I used brickle bits. The recipe says to use a pecan half, but because I used a small scoop, the cookies were a little too small for that.  But I got 3 dozen cookies out of it by using the small scoop. And they did spread a good bit during baking, so they are not dinky.

brownie bites and cookies 004

The brownie mix has little walnut bits in it, so you can see some of those on the sides of the cookies. But that’s the brickle in the middle.

I will be taking these to coffee hour at church tomorrow along with some Almond Macaroons and Apricot Almond Bars. Hope everyone enjoys them! I surely enjoyed making them.