Merida's Punch

This cocktail is actually named after Merida from Disney's Brave, random as that sounds. Every year my synchronized swimming team has a theme for our routine (last year, we proudly swam to music from Harry Potter). To get pumped for hearing the songs over and over and over again, we all throw a party and watch the movie or TV show the music is from. So this year, we're swimming to Disney's Brave. Many people hadn't seen it before, so it was really fun to watch it together. And it was a party after all, so my teammates and I researched some Brave themed drinks, and this one was my favorite. Super bright and cheery, this drink always makes me think of summer. You get the herbiness of the rosemary and sweetness of the grenadine. Delightful!


2 ounces Scotch whiskey
6 ounces Ginger Ale
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 ounce grenadine
Sprig of rosemary

To make:

Place ice, whiskey, ginger ale, and lemon juice in a large glass.
Stir with a long spoon or straw.
Add grenadine on top, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Happy sipping!


Teatime Scones

I was lucky enough to spend a good portion of my last summer in Cambridgeshire and London, England. While there I must have had a gazillion cups of tea. Not really so different from my consumption rate at home, except in England, tea wasn't just a hot drink in a mug, it was a lovely afternoon affair. So with my many English Breakfasts and Earl Greys, I also enjoyed quite a few scones, sandwiches, and slices of cake. Then this morning I woke up yearning for scones. And not the normal triangular ones, but the crumbly British pastries loaded with cream and jam.
And bam! They were super easy to make!
 But I have to say once and for all; they're biscuits. They just are. The recipes for each are almost identical, except that the scones get raisins, pretty plates, and a pinch more sugar. The recipe I used was from Jamie Oliver, who weighed and measured in the metric system, but I thought that I would switch to the imperial (but remind me to talk about weighing ingredients one of these days). 
The key to scones is to be dainty, to not handle the dough too much, and to give it time to rest and breathe before baking. Now all I need to some clotted cream...


1 cup raisins
1/2 cup orange juice, optional
6 ounces cold, unsalted butter, diced
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of sea salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons milk, plus extra


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.  (Optional: soak the raisins in orange juice for a few minutes, drain before adding.)
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt together. Then cut the cold butter into the mixture until it has pea-sized clumps or smaller. For this, you can use your fingers or a pastry cutter, or if you want to pull out all the stops, you can pulse the mixture in a food processor for a few seconds.
3. Make a well in the center, then pour in the milk and eggs, and mix until just combined. Add a little extra milk if the dough is having trouble coming together.
4. Stir the raisins into the dough, then cover, set aside, and let rest for about 10 minutes. 
5. Roll the dough onto a floured surface, to about a 1/2 inch thick. Use a 3-inch, round cookie or biscuit cutter to pop out the scones. Fold up and reroll the left over dough, and cut again.
6. Place each on a baking sheet and brush with milk or butter (optional), and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove when scones are golden brown. 


Stuff with butter and jam and enjoy!

Happy baking!


Homemade Decadence

"Irresistibly sweet, salty, gooey, sticky, fluffy, creamy, crunchy treats"
True, true, true, true, true!

It warms my heart and boosts my spirit whenever I see another home baker be so awesome and successful! Joy the Baker is a blogger/ writer/ cook-booker/ podcaster extraordinaire, and I was so happy to receive her second book, Homemade Decadence, this Christmas.
This book is an ooey gooey delight for any baker, from morning to late-night. It's full of frothy cocktails, cloud-like cream pies, and yummy ice cream recipes (See Orange Chocolate Ice Cream). Joy's book covers all bases. It's also a feast for the eyes, with lots of creative and beautiful pictures; one for each recipe! Which is definitely something I can appreciate. Another thing I really like is that all of the cakes or donuts or bars are unique, being just slightly different from the norm, and the sweet/salty flavor combinations are on point. And it's not gimickey or odd for oddities sake, it just has just really great flavor combinations that you'd wish you had thought of before, like "Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pudding Pie", or "Peach, Brie, and Dark Chocolate S'mores." Have mercy.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Layer Cake
Baked Grilled Cheese w/ Ham and Cherry Jam
Peanut Butter Cream Pie


Fudge Buttercream Frosting

This cake is chocolate on chocolate! I made the cake for some mint buttercream cupcakes (which I'll post later) but I whipped up a chocolate fudge buttercream for the little cake I made with the leftover batter, and it was a chocolate extravaganza. I love a good slice of plain old chocolate cake! And this frosting goes really well with all types of cake bases. It's actually a pretty simple recipe, very similar to many other kinds of buttercream frostings (check out basics to see the theory behind American). But I like having the proportions at hand. You can soften the butter in the microwave, it's actually alright if it's a little melty. 


2 sticks of butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cups cocoa
1 cups milk


1. Beat the softened butter with a stand or hand mixer until light and fluffy.
2. Turn the beater to low, and slowly add the cocoa powder, gradually. 
3. After the cocoa powder is completely incorporated, start slowly adding the powdered sugar.
4. To lighten the frosting, add just enough milk to make it the right consistency. You may not need all of it. It should be fluffy and just thick enough to stick to a spoon when lifted.  

Pipe or spread on a cake, and garnish with candied petals or cocoa nibs, or dust with powdered sugar.

Happy baking!


Muffin Tin Croque Madames

A very literal take on the egg-in-a-basket, these "muffins" are pretty little bites of gooey, crunchy goodness. They're modeled after the classic egg sandwich the croque madame, but I tend to use what's in my fridge, and I usually nix the ham or bacon. You can substitute the mozzarella for other soft cheeses or for a bechamel sauce if you're feeling fancy. As a vegetarian, I'm a huge supporter of bringing the egg to the dinner table, and this is one of my favorite baked meals for a weekday night (they go really well with a light salad). They can also be an easier alternative to quiche for breakfast or brunch.


2 tablespoons butter, melted
6 slices of white bread, thinly sliced
6 two-inch cubes ham or bacon, (optional)
6 two-inch cubes mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon parmesan cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush each cup of a muffin tin liberally with butter.
2. Flatten out with bread with a rolling pin, and then press each piece into the corners of the muffin cups, so the bread reaches over the sides.
3. Place a two-inch cube of (ham and) mozzarella into each basket. Then sprinkle paprika, cayenne pepper and nutmeg onto the cheese.
4. Carefully place an egg in each basket. (Sometimes larger eggs have trouble fitting, but letting out a little of the white first will help.)
5. Sprinkle parmesan cheese onto each, then bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the whites and yolks are set. Pop them out carefully and enjoy!

Happy baking!


Espresso Old Fashioned Cocktail or Mocktail

This is a recipe straight from Bon Appetit. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it. 
There are many coffee cocktails out there, but so many of them add a splash (or more) of cream or cream-based liqueurs to smooth out the bitterness of the coffee. But I prefer my coffee black, and this unique drink actually punches up the rich flavor of the espresso. And if you think about it, coffee and bitters are made for each other, with the simple syrup and bourbon adding just the right amount of sweetness. Plus, this one is great for breakfast, brunch, or to sip in the late afternoon.
BA also recommends this drink sans alcohol, because the subtle flavor combinations make it delightful enough to enjoy as is.


2 ounces espresso, or double shot
1 ounce bourbon or rye whiskey
1/4 ounce simple syrup, or 1 sugar cube
Peychaud's bitters, dash
A 2-inch lemon peel


Place all ingredients, except the peel, in a cocktail shaker with ice. 

Stir for 30 seconds, until the shaker is frosty.

Pour over ice and twist the lemon, rub around the rim, and discard. Then enjoy! 

Happy sipping!


Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Say it with me, "Nes-lay Tool-hoose." Just like Mama Buffet's secret recipe, the best way to make chocolate chip cookies is on the back of the Nestle morsels' bag. And who doesn't love chocolate chip cookies? Gooey, chocolatey, and they're really straight forward to make. I love how these are soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside! The dough is also great to freeze, so you can make fresh cookies whenever you please (pardon the rhyme).


2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted pecans, optional


1. Preheat oven to 375 F*.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. With a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Then add the eggs and vanilla until well blended.
4. Slowly beat in the flour mixture, until thoroughly combined.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips and/or nuts.
6. Drop on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown.

*I actually realized I did mine wrong (or maybe I should say different). I baked them for 18-20 minutes on 350 F. A happy accident indeed! I highly recommend doing this, as it gave the cookies the perfect level of crunch.

Happy Baking!


Orange Chocolate Ice Cream

The other day, I had a hankering for some homemade ice cream. Which seemed crazy, because that was the day the temperatures dropped into the low teens here. Brrrr, what is up with these arctic blasts? But I wasn't going to let winter keep me away!
It's a tradition in my family to receive a Terry's Chocolate Orange in your stocking at Christmas. The kind that you whack and unwrap, and it falls open into several chocolate-orange slices. I'd always love getting one, they were always so cute and fun to eat! So in honor of those stocking stuffers I recently enjoyed, and because Joy the Baker has a fantastic recipe in her new book (also a Christmas gift) and because I finally have room for my ice cream maker in my freezer, I made some orange chocolate ice cream!
Ice cream, on the whole, is unchartered territory for me. I love making it, but I haven't been able to more than once or twice due to my Kitchenaid attachment, which is essentially a huge bowl you freeze 24 hours before churning. The first time I made ice cream, I used a great Williams Sonoma starter (just add cream!) and the second time I used a yummy vegan coconut ice cream recipe, that was really only two ingredients. So starting off on this one, which is custard based, I was a little nervous. It seemed like a lot of eggs to crack...
But it turned out great, the ice cream was very creamy and the tangy orange and rich chocolate complimented each other perfectly.


1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 eggs yolks
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
7 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoons salt


1. Combine the sugar and orange zest. Mix until the sugar is well incorporated and fragrant, then stir in the cocoa powder.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and half the sugar mix. Continue to beat a few minutes until thick.
3. In a saucepan heat the milk and cream until steaming, just before boiling. Then slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously and quickly to avoid curdling.
4. Put the mixture back on the stove, and add the rest of the sugar-cocoa mixture. Cook on a low heat for another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly. It's ready when the consistency thickens slightly and it coats the back of a spoon.*
5. Take it off the heat, and add in the chopped chocolate and salt. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
6. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, patting the plastic onto the surface of the custard (to avoid a film forming). Chill for 2-4 hours, until completely cool.
7. Stir the custard to break it up a little. Then churn in an ice cream maker. This step really depends on the type of machine you have. For my Kitchenaid bowl, I poured the mixture in while it was stirring, and let it churn for 45 minutes.
8. Pour the ice cream into a freezer-safe container, and let freeze for a couple hours.**

*Now here, I did something silly. I waited waaay to long before taking the mixture off the heat. My only experience with custard is making pudding, which is much thicker custard than this should be. So when it finally chilled, my mixture was more like yogurt than soup. To compensate, I had another 1/2 cup of cream to loosen it up (which miraculously worked) but it left the icecream a little softer than I'd like. "Coating the back of the spoon" doesn't mean it needs to stick and stay,  just enough to cover the spoon when lifted.

**It's best after a freezing a while, but if you really can't wait, of course you don't have to! No rules with ice cream.

Happy Baking!


Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I am very excited about this post because it is my first collaboration recipe! This month my humble coffee cake is printed in the January issue of The Health Journal, a health and wellness magazine in the Hampton Roads area. I'd been interning there all last semester and brought in this little cake rather bashfully, as a recipe for the magazine's food section, and the awesome folks there agreed to feature it. Alexis Kikoen even made it look gorgeous in these terrific photos! You can check out more about the magazine here.

With winter well on the way, I find the best thing to do is stay inside with a big sweater, a cup of coffee, and slice of cake. This is a good recipe to have on hand, especially for a weekend where you just wanted something sweet. I wanted a swirl of cinnamon in every bite, so there's two layers (you could even go crazy and try three). Now it does take a while to bake, but patience is always rewarded in baking, and this baby can last you all week long. The Greek yogurt in the recipe adds moisture and reduces the calories from the traditional sour cream.


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups light brought sugar, divided
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons cinnamon


1. Preheat oven 350 F.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and 1 cup of brown sugar until smooth and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.
4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating with the yogurt, stirring just enough until the batter is smooth.
6. In a separate bowl, combine the cinnamon with the remaining brown sugar until well combined.
7. Pour 1/3 of the batter into a buttered ten-inch tube pan or spring form pan. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture. Repeat again with another 1/3 of the batter, and the last of the cinnamon. End with batter on top.
8. Bake for 60-65 minutes until browned and gently pulling away from the sides. Leave in pan for 10 minutes before allowing to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, and enjoy!

Happy Baking!


New Year's Morning Grapefruit Cocktail

Happy New Year!
After all of last night's festivities, it's time to brighten up for the new year. This grapefruit and rose water combo is super simple and extra special. Gotta start the year healthy right?


Halve one grapefruit, strain the juice of one half into a 6 ounce cup.

Fill the rest with champagne or sparkling rose.

Add a few drops of rose water. 

Garnish with peel or enjoy as is!
After 2014, which was full of so many highs and lows, I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store. I hope your year is full of wonderful times and plenty of delicious food. 
Happy baking!

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