Thursday, July 28

Eggs Benedict Mini-Series--Week 1

I am super excited to announce the introduction of mini-series on HomeBaked Goodness!

Each week there will be a new "installment" of the series.

For my first adventure--Eggs Benedict.

Picture from Wizard Recipes.

Friday, July 22

A Different Kind of Movie Night

Let's pick up where I left off--waiting for Kyleigh at the bus stop. Remember how I said it was oppressively hot? I totally have proof now! 

Yep, that's right. The thermometer in my car on the dashboard reads 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Like I said, oppressively hot.

And I decided to take a picture of my solar-powered dancing flower on my dashboard. :)

Anyhow, after Kyleigh got off the bus we headed out to Target. Note to self: Never EVER go to the store after Kyleigh gets home from school again. Both girls are just too tired and cranky after their days and they need snacks before I start making dinner.Okay, note over.

We had a change of plans due to the fact that time got away from us when we got home. Kyleigh and I put the finishing touches on her chart. (Not so much a chore chart as it is a reminder of what she needs to do each day--she has a little trouble focusing.) 

And then Nate walked in the door! At 6 o'clock on a Friday. That is unheard of!!! 

We decided to do something quick for dinner and then we wanted to go to the liquor store for ingredients to make butterbeer. :)

Yep, still here...

Is it Friday already? Really? Are you sure?

Well, I guess ALL of you guys can't be wrong. So it must be me.

This week has been quite the adjustment for our family. Kyleigh started Kindergarten full time on Monday. On Tuesday, she started taking the bus to and from school. On Wednesday, she came home asking to buy lunch just like "all of [her] friends are doing". (Surely I thought I had a little more time before we hit the "But Mom ALL my friends have (insert object here), why can't I have one????". Nope.) Thursday she came home to a Gramma waiting for her. Who knows what today's arrival will bring with it.

Sunday, July 17

Baby Abby's 2nd Birthday: Part 2--The Party

Saturday has arrived! Party Day! 

You've seen what I was doing Friday night and Saturday morning.

So what was going on in the rest of the house?

Since you asked, I'll show you.

Baby Abby's 2nd Birthday: Part 1--The Cake

 Somehow, my baby turned 2 at the end of June. It is amazing how fast the girls are growing and how much they are learning. These girls are so smart, they amaze me everyday.

    Anyway, we had to keep postponing Abigail's birthday party due to colds--yes, in the middle of summer. Weird. Now that most of us were healthy, it was time to party! 

    The party was set for Saturday. Friday's To-Do list was packed. Near the top of the list was getting started on Abby's cake. My sketches were a bit detailed and....ambitious, to say the least. So I dialed it back a bit. 

Friday, July 15

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

    Man I love the State Farmer's Market!

    Fresh fruits and veggies abound. Plenty of flowers to stop and smell. You know just where your produce is coming from. 'Rustic' is the word that comes to mind. In a time where everyone is trying to do more, faster, better, and so on, it is refreshing to take a trip to the farmer's market. Honest farmers doing what they do best -- feeding people; giving everyone from the home cook to the restaurant chef the freshest possible produce to create wonderful and healthy dishes.

    Maybe I'm being a little too romantic about the whole notion, but c'mon. The pull of slower life, doing a hard day's work and having something to show for it while surrounded by family, has got to pull ya just a little bit.

    Anyway, on this particular trip, the girls and I were just interested to see what all is in season. 

    We were not disappointed. We found plenty of produce that made our tummys rumble with hunger. :)

    The only reason I didn't get more was because I ran out of room in my bag--it sure did get heavy. That and I was having trouble keeping track of the little ones amidst all of the people wandering between vendors.

    We managed to pick up some seriously delicious-looking tomatoes for $.99/lb! I was excited by the low price as I've been eagerly awaiting the drop in price. They have been going for $1.49/lb. I know, that may not seem like much, but it is to us.

    Also in the bag were some peaches. Now, I'll admit. I was a little hesitant to buy from this particular vendor. While they have THE most delicious apples in the fall, their peaches are a little hit-or-miss. Despite the rotting at the bottom of the bunch I bought, I decided to try 'em again. I'll let ya know...

    Have you ever made your own pickles? My maternal grandmother does. I didn't appreciate them as a kid--if it wasn't a dill pickle in the Mt Olive jar, it wasn't a pickle. Now that my palate is ever evolving, I'd give anything to have a jar of her pickles. What's more, I'd like to spend a summer with her again (she lives in Canada) and have her teach me all she knows. Anyway, I digress. Also up for sale are pickling cucumbers. Figuring I can look up how to do it online, I bought a few. I'll definitely post about how that goes.

    Peppers. Who would've thought I'd buy peppers from the market. Until I started having "fun" in the kitchen, ground pepper, bell peppers, any kind of hot peppers, anything green, tomatoes, squash,...well, you get the point....were avoided like the plague. But if I'm going to push my kids to try new things, I gotta walk that walk. Besides, with time one comes to appreciate the flavor behind the heat. I'm thinking salsas, guacamole, mmmmm. ::goes to grab a snack::

     While checking out the squash--have I mentioned I've become a huge fan of squash? I love adding them to spaghetti sauces for a little crunch. Anyway, I saw ones that were sunflower yellow and mint green. I know I'm new at this, but a ghostly green zucchini squash? Whaaaat? The lady manning the stall didn't know either. haha She had to ask. Turns out, these are Mediterranean Squash. Instantly my mind starts flashing to pasta dishes with feta, olives, olive oil, and these little babies. Did I mention my stomach was rumbling with hunger while looking at all this great produce??

    I still have yet to master the best way of cooking eggplant. I do not let this stopping me from purchasing it. And this guy caught my eye--a light purple eggplant. And I couldn't help but be swayed by how well it contrasted with the sunflower yellow squash. :*:*Insert shout out to the East Carolina University Pirates here*:*:

    As we wind down this visit to the farmer's market, I am suddenly grabbed by the fresh aroma of basil in the air. I located the stall, manned by a rude lady who needs a lesson in customer service, selling fresh herbs. For $2, I got a huge bunch of fresh basil. Seriously, what can't you add basil to??

    It has become a sort of 'tradition' with my girls. We cannot, absolutely canNOT, leave the Farmer's Market without each getting a sunflower. :) Remember how I said plenty of flowers to stop and smell? While most of them are still in plant form, there are vendors who sell bouquets. There is one in particular that sells individual sunflowers to me and my girls for only $1 each. How can I say no? I mean, really. That certainly isn't asking much. And believe you me, these girls are masters at asking for more than they know they can have. ;)
Kyleigh's still-in-tact sunflower in a vase on the counter.
Abby's not still-in-tact flower adorning the fruits and veggies bought.

    Doesn't that make you want to go find your local farmer's market? At the very least, go in the fall. The sea of pumpkins is awesome. It'll make you feel giddy like a little kid again. :)

Sunday, July 10

Happy Birthday to my Mommy!

    July 10th. My Mommy's birthday. Sadly though, my Mom had to work--she works weekend nights at the nearby major hospital. Since we couldn't celebrate her birthday, I decided to make a surprise trip up to the hospital. (Surprising my Mom at work over the years has become quite fun. :) ) Of course I couldn't show up empty-handed. 

    My Mom loved the White Cake Cupcakes that I made at the beginning of the month. So that gave me a starting point. For once, I followed my own recipe to the letter....except when it came time for the extracts. :) I still used vanilla extract, but just a little bit. Instead of the brandy extract, I used black walnut extract and increased the amount. As before, they turned out wonderfully moist and light. 

Fluffy egg whites used in White Cake Cupcakes.
     To mix it up a bit, I needed a new icing. I didn't have any more vanilla beans and I needed to make sure it was purple. (Purple is my Mom's favorite color.) I came up with:

Purple Espresso Frosting

        6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
        1 c. butter, softened
        2 egg yolks
        2 oz hot water with
            1 tsp, rounded, instant espresso powder
        7 c. powdered sugar
        1/4 tsp cream of tartar
        Wilton purple coloring
        Wilton Halloween sprinkles

    Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Beat on medium speed until creamy, smooth and shiny.

    Turn off mixer and scrape down the sides. Add in the egg yolks. Continue beating on medium-low speed until it all comes together.

    Scrape the sides of the bowl down again. Pour in the espresso water and add 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Beat on low. With the next addition of powdered sugar, add in the cream of tartar. Go ahead and add in the coloring at this point so that it will have plenty of time to get mixed throughout all the icing without needing to over-beat. Continue beating in the powdered sugar on low. Or else you will have a plume of sugar rising up from where you stand. :)
Perhaps instead of purple, we should say lavender. :)
    Once all sugar has been added, increase speed to high for about 5 minutes. Using a piping bag fitted with the tip of choice, frost the cooled cupcakes. 
Chopped hazelnuts.

    I sprinkled some crushed hazelnuts over some of the cupcakes (because not everyone can eat nuts) and then sprinkled purple sugar over the top of all the cupcakes. I do recommend using nuts. The cupcakes and frosting are so light and airy that the nuts provide a very nice texture contrast. You could toast the hazelnuts or even use macadamia nuts.

    So I've got the cupcakes in hand, a singing balloon, and purple calla lilies--I'm ready to go.

    My Mom was thrilled with her surprise goodies at work. Turns out my sister had also stopped by earlier. :) And my Mom had 2 carrot cakes (her favorite cake), and both homemade, to her name as well. Despite being at work, it was a good birthday. :)

Here is my beautiful Mommy! Happy Birthday!!! 
And wishing you many more to come!! xoxoxox
<3 I hope to one day be at least half a good a mom and person as she is. <3
This one goes out to one of the kindest, most caring, thoughtful and STRONGEST people I know ~*~*~*~*~ Thank you for all you do for us.

Friday, July 8

Pizza & a Movie Night--and Dessert, too!

    Friday night is 'Pizza & a Movie Night' in our house. Believe me, this is a highly anticipated night--and not just because of the pizza. This is the ONLY night in which the girls get to eat in the living room AND get to watch a movie while doing it. Any reason to break one of Mommy's rules is reason enough to celebrate. ;)

    This week, I admit, we had leftover pizza. However, the girls didn't care. The movie for this week was not one that we have in our movie library. It was a completely brand new movie! The choice was actually pretty easy. Kyleigh recently spent a week at a day camp where the theme was 'Fairytales'. One of the stories they did was Chicken Little. 

    Hey, wasn't there a movie recently about that?? 

    Why, yes, I believe there was.

    So I searched on one of the 'On Demand' stations offered by our cable provider. Voila! 

    To heighten the anticipation, I didn't tell Kyleigh which movie I was searching for. Instead, I let her find out by waiting and watching. Boy, was she excited! She really enjoyed the movie, and it also held Abby's attention.

    Taking after me though, Abby was more interested in what came after the pizza--brownies!

As per my usual, I went into the kitchen and here's what I came out with. Enjoy!

        1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
        1 tsp salt
        1/2 tsp baking powder
        1/4 tsp ground ancho chile pepper
        1/4 tsp chili powder
        1 tsp ground cinnamon
        1 large whole egg
        1 egg yolk
        1/4 c. vegetable oil
        1 c. butter, softened
        1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
        1/2 c. Hershey's cocoa powder
        2 Tbsp half & half
        1/2 c. milk
        1 bag dark chocolate chunks
        1 c. Hershey's cinnamon chips

    First, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a cooking spray, grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
    Now, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, ancho chile pepper, chili powder, and cinnamon; set aside.

    Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the whole egg and egg yolk on high until they start getting frothy; about 2 minutes. Turn speed down to medium and add in the oil. Continue whisking until thick; about 2 minutes more.

    Take the whisk attachment off and replace it with the paddle attachment. Beat in the butter. Start on low speed and increase as the butter continues to break down. Within a couple minutes, the mixture will come together nicely.

    Beat in the dark brown sugar.

    Now add in the cocoa powder and 
the half & half; beat on low. 
Don't forget to scrape the sides down as you go!

    Alternately add in the flour mixture and milk. The milk will combine easier if you begin and end with the flour mixture. 

    Fold in the bag of dark chocolate chunks.

     We are getting closer to being done! Patience...

    Now we grab our pre-greased pan and pour in the brownie batter. Spread it around so that it is in there evenly. 

    Bake in the preheated oven for 16 minutes. When you pull the pan out, sprinkle the cinnamon chips evenly overtop the piping hot pan of brownies. Being very careful not to touch the hot pan, fold a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan--this is helping the cinnamon chips to melt.

    While we wait for the chips to melt, it's time for the icing.

        1/3 c. vegetable shortening
        2 oz cream cheese
        splash of evaporated milk
        1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
        2 Tbsp cherry juice (using the concentrated juice from a jar of cherries)
        roughly 2 Tbsp whole cherries

    Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the shortening and cream cheese.
    On low speed, beat in the powdered sugar and evaporated milk.
    Once combined, beat in the cherry juice. Be sure to taste at this point; adding more cherry juice is always an option. :)
    Add in the whole cherries and beat on medium-high speed for a couple minutes.

     Again being very careful not to burn yourself, remove the aluminum foil from the pan of brownies. The cinnamon chips should still have their shape, but will be beginning to melt. Now we drizzle the icing over the top of everything. Using your spatula, spread the icing around so that it covers the top. 
    Cut and enjoy!!

Thursday, July 7

Back with a vengeance...and news!

    I trust everyone is enjoying their summer so far. Don't know about where you are, but here in the Carolinas it's been a hot one already! Despite the heat, I've been trying to keep the girls and busy to make the most of our time--my Kyleigh starts Kindergarten in a couple weeks. Wow! Yep, she is year-round. We've definitely stayed busy and I think the girls have been enjoying it.
    While keeping the girlies busy, I've been on a little break from the kitchen. As Kyleigh's "summer" starts winding down, so are our activities. Meaning I've had a little more time to be in the kitchen...and this comes at a great time. You recall the news I mentioned in the title? Well....::drumroll:: I'm now a Featured Publisher on! I am so excited! Hopefully this means I'll get to share my adventures in the kitchen with more people. Woohoo!!

    In celebration, let's eat!

Pizza'd Barley 

    Going back in time a little, it was Friday evening. Our anticipated Pizza & a Movie Night. As luck would have it, making pizzas were out of the question this week. I had to get a little creative. Looking in my pantry, I found a bag of pearled barley. I really love this stuff--it's so versatile. I rinsed it and tossed it in the pot and cooked according to the directions on the bag. This was to be the pizza base, so to speak.

    Now for the sauce. In a small pot over medium-low heat, I stirred together a can of tomato sauce and tomato paste. I added in the usual pizza suspects-garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano. Knowing a lot was riding on this particular sauce, I added a generous amount of paprika, pinch of pepper, and a pinch of cardamom. I stirred it all together, covered it and let it go.

    Let's fast-forward now to when the barley was finished. Since this took about 45 minutes, the sauce had plenty of time to simmer and bring home the flavors of the added spices. On each plate, I made a base for the "pizza". 

    Next came the sauce. A generous amount spread around creating a thick layer--depending on how saucy you want that "pizza". I didn't go all the way to the edge of the barley patty so as to have a "crust". 

    Next it was time for my favorite part...the cheeeeeeese! Personally, I prefer buying the block cheeses and grating them up as needed. It stretches the buck as well as leaving some cheese for snacking. :) This time I had monterey and colby cheeses. I shredded those overtop. I then sliced up some black and green olives for the toppings. After my pizza'd barley was assembled, I sprinkled some parsley on top for good measure. 
This may not have been the pizza everyone was expecting, but they sure did gobble it up! It's nice to shake things up every so often anyway. :)

    Time for dessert! When I went into the kitchen, I knew I wanted to make a White Cake Cupcake

        2 c. all-purpose flour
        3 tsp baking powder
        1/4 tsp baking soda
        1/2 tsp salt
        4 large egg whites, room temperature
        1 1/4 c. granulated sugar, divided
        1/3 c. vegetable shortening
        1/4 c. butter, softened
        1/3 c. half & half
        2/3 c. whole milk
        1/4 tsp brandy extract
        1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Go ahead and line the muffin pans and set aside.

    In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

    Put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the whisk attachment. Start whisking on low speed until the whites start getting frothy. At this point, increase speed to medium. After an additional couple minutes (when the whites start looking like the right picture), increase speed another notch or two. 

Continue whisking until soft peaks form. At this point, it is time to add in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Ideally, you want to add in a little at a time while the mixer is on low. 

My "helping hands".

However, if you have little hands helping you and they decide to add in the entire 1/4 cup at once, it is NOT the end of the world -- as I feared. :) Just keep going. After all the sugar had been added, increase speed to medium/ medium-high.


The eggs are done was they form stiff peaks. I had to place my finished clouds of fluffiness into another bowl so that I could continue using the bowl for the stand mixer. Don't those look great?? I love it when the egg whites turn out like they are supposed to. 

     So we've set the egg whites aside. Now it is time to cream together the shortening and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, this time fitted with the paddle attachment. 

    Once the shortening and butter have become combined to form a creamy mixture, turn the mixer speed to low. Add in the remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar. Turn speed back up to medium and beat until creamy again.

    Now it is time to add the flour mixture from earlier and the milk and half & half. Keep the mixer on low and add the flour and milk/half & half alternately. Make sure to begin and end with the flour mixture.

     After all of the flour mixture and milk/half & half have been combined, add in the two extracts. (For the purer white color, I used clear vanilla extract.)

    Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full.

    Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.

    Let the pan stand for 2 minutes after coming out of the oven. Turn the cupcakes out and let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

    Now that I have these wonderfully moist and fluffy cupcakes--cakes that I think totally hit the nail on the head--it's time to decide on an icing. The first one I made was a vanilla bean cream cheese. While that one was a huge hit all around, I didn't take pictures. :( Oh well, all that means is I should make another icing and be sure to take pictures. :)

    In the spirit of 4th of July, I decided to take a different approach and use Red Velvet crumbs to make a red frosting. Let's call these....

Red Fireworks Cupcakes

        approx. 3 1/2 c. red velvet cake crumbs
        3/4 c. vegetable shortening
        6 oz cream cheese
        1 tsp clear vanilla extract
        3 c. powdered sugar

    I used Red Velvet cupcakes that I had from an earlier baking attempt. Here is my little helper using the food processor to make the crumbs.
Our vibrantly red Red Velvet crumbs.
    Once you get your crumbs, set them aside. Next, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and cream cheese together. When those are combined, add in the vanilla extract. Turning the speed down to low, very slowly, beat in the powdered sugar. I recommend by about 1/2-cup at a time to avoid having a sugar cloud erupt in your face. Beat until smooth and creamy.

     Turn up the speed and let it whip up until it forms stiff peaks when you lift the beater.

    Add in the cake crumbs and beat just until combined.

    It is now time to introduce the cupcake to its newest icing buddy. Using a piping bag and a really large star tip, pipe the icing onto the cakes. It is not going to come out nice and neat due to the cake crumbs in it. As I mentioned earlier, however, it keeps in spirit with the 4th of July because they remind me of fireworks going every which way. :)

    'Course I just happened to have some Hershey's chocolate bars on hand (when do I NOT have them around haha), so I figured they would make nice toppers to the cakes. As usual, I was right. ;)

    Hope you guys enjoy the Pizza'd Barley and Red Fireworks Cupcakes!

Make sure you come back for seconds.

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