SIFT With Us! – A Giveaway

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It’s time to start thinking about holiday baking.  To provide a bit of inspiration, we are giving away a copy of the 2017 Holiday Edition of Sift Magazine, published by King Arthur Flour.  Leave a comment on this post and let us know what you hope to bake for the coming holidays.

We will choose a random winner at 11pm Central Time on Thursday November 30th.

The good news is that you can enter every day between now and then.  Just stop by and leave us a comment each day.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday In Texas – Giving Thanks

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I am going to address the elephant in the room immediately…Thanksgiving IS NOT my favorite holiday.  In fact, I loathe the “traditional” Thanksgiving celebration.  There.  I said it.  Think what you will about me.  That’s OK.

The only thing I remember about Thanksgivings as a child is that my mom always pulled out the china and polished the silver and I had to be dressed up when I sat down at the table.  I hated that!  It all seemed about show and not the meaning of the day.  As an adult, I now totally understand my visceral dislike of the way things were way back then.  I don’t like anything that lacks substance, that is purely for show.  That’s the way I now remember the Thanksgivings of my youth.  I don’t remember any people.  No year stands out.  It is somewhat disconcerting to me that I have zero positive memories of traditional family Thanksgiving celebrations.

And a second confession…I don’t really care for roasted turkey.

The memories that I do have around Thanksgiving begin when I was a young adult.

I was a newlywed and a graduate student as was my best friend at the time.  We decided that we were going to be grown up and prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal together for our husbands.  Let me say up front that neither one of us had any idea what we were doing.  We yanked out the cookbooks (we each had gotten the obligatory red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook as a wedding present) and began planning our menu.  We went the traditional route of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  We did that because that was what you were supposed to do as an adult.  I am happy to report that we did OK for two music theorists who had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

Then came the gravy.  We made it and then realized neither of us had a gray boat.  The horror!  Did you know that you can serve gravy out of a soup bowl and it tastes just as good, or as bad, as it does from a gray boat?

The four of us continued to celebrate Thanksgivings together throughout our several years in graduate school.  The gravy boat, or lack thereof, continued to be a running joke.  And, our cooking got better.  By the time we each graduated and went our separate ways, we had nearly perfected the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

As an aside, this friend and I lost contact with each other for about twenty years.  During that time, we both divorced.  Last year we reconnected when she was back in Dallas for a conference.  Despite all that had gone on in our lives since our first Thanksgiving together, we still remembered and laughed about the whole gravy boat issue.

Once I had children of my own, I thought that I had to do the Thanksgiving thing “right.”  I wanted my kids to have better (any?) memories of family Thanksgivings than I did.  This was great until at age 3 my oldest proclaimed that she was a vegetarian.  She is about to be twenty-eight and is still a vegetarian.

As my girls got older, they began to cook.  In our family, everyone had their favorite   My oldest always made the pies, the youngest was in it for the green bean casserole.  My ex-husband made the turkey, dressing, and sweet potatoes.   My job was mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and homemade bread.  It worked out.  And it was all OK.  But, I still never really developed a liking for turkey.

To this day, the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal always feels like way too much time and effort both in the preparation and the clean up.  And, once you include everyone’s favorite dishes, There is always way too much food.  As my daughter says, you miss the rest of the long weekend because you are in a food coma.

Add to all of that, Thanksgiving comes at the end of the semester for me.  I’m tired.  I have lots of grading to do.  I have final exams to write.  All I really want to do is sleep late and stay in my pajamas for three days.  I know.  This is not the right attitude, but it’s the one I have. 🙂

And then there are those who are ready to put up the Christmas decorations as soon as the last plates from their Thanksgiving feast are in the dishwasher.  I can’t even…

I want to celebrate Thanksgiving by being thankful for time spent with my family.  I don’t want to be too tired to enjoy their company because I obsessed about preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal.  so this year, we are trying something new, a more casual meal.

I am making a vegetarian soup, either potato or broccoli and cheese.  My ex-husband’s partner is making chili for the meat eaters among us.  My youngest daughter is making cinnamon apples.  I am making salad and some kind of dessert other than pumpkin pie because my oldest daughter and her dad are having pumpkin pie wars.  They are both making one because each is convinced that theirs is the best.

We’ll eat and play games together.  We’ll enjoy spending some quality time together now that all of us are busy with work…except my husband who is retired.  And notice who is not cooking!  Lol!  In his defense, the past few years when we have had turkey, he has smoked it, which, if I have to eat turkey, is how I prefer it. We’ll see how this year goes.  Hopefully we can focus on truly giving thanks for each other, for our time together, and for all of our many blessings.

The only one who has not bought in to this plan is my youngest daughter.  She still wants turkey.  But, she is a newlywed and her husband has agreed to make a turkey for her.  Do you think I should buy her a gravy boat?  Thirty five years later, I still don’t have one. 🙂

However you and your family choose to celebrate this holiday, remember to treasure each other and your time together.  Giving thanks is more important than someone else’s definition of Thanksgiving.

Blessings to you and those you love,

Kris

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Monday In Michigan – Happy Friendsgiving, It’s A Thing!!

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Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of those Holidays we always spent with friends. My immediate family was small, so long-time family friends WERE my family. And we always celebrated with them. Usually a pretty good-sized group, and always fun. Best part was that even though it would be at one person’s home, because they had the space for the gang, everyone pitched in – it was a group effort. Everyone was in charge of a dish, and then we kids were in charge of the washing dishes, lol. Which, I think we played around in the water more than we washed anything and we got booted out of that job usually – smart kids, lol!!

But this is where my thoughts on Thanksgiving came into play – it was a holiday to be celebrated with friends, family too – but mostly it was friends. As I got older, it was just mom and I, and we’d spend it generally going in two different directions, I was headed out to make and have dinner with my group of friends, and she was headed out to her group for much of the same. I imagine I go against a lot of the norm (I always do!), but it’s how myself, and of course a lot of my friends, celebrated the holiday – to me it made so much sense when I recently saw the term, “Friendsgiving”, my first thought was “Yes! Someone gets it!”

So, with that said, that’s why for me, Thanksgiving has always been about a potluck dinner. One person made the meat of choice, and the rest of us either brought a dish, or even more fun, we made it there as part of the festivities. I feel awkward when I go to a dinner where I didn’t participate somehow. It makes me feel like a child, and that’s the only way I can think of to describe it. I’m an adult, and I can cook, and more importantly, I like to cook! Therefore, I like to contribute! Plus, I have so many good and fun memories of either helping or just being involved somehow. I need to help! I need to be a part of it because that’s what my best memories of Thanksgiving involve – the most fun was had by all of us creating the meal! The poor mashed potatoes we laughed about for years because it was decided to use the electric hand-held mixer to make them and they turned into paste, or the year my mom put too much sage into the dressing – things like that are what I remember, plus the laughing and the fun we all had because of these things.

So, please, if you ever invite me to Thanksgiving, don’t let me just sit there waiting to be served! I want to help, I want to cook and I want to create some fun memories of all of us having a great time creating the meal that I know I won’t remember anyway – it’s the journey to that meal I remember!!!!

Happy Friendsgiving to you all, and Happy Thanksgiving too!!

Tracey

xoxo

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Food Friday – November 2017 King Arthur Bakealong Challenge: Cinnamon Star Bread

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The Final Product – TG

Shoot for the stars and end up with a lot of cinnamon pastry!”

– Sifted Together

It’s Bakealong Week!

In the words of King Arthur, “The holidays are coming, and it’s time to bake something that’s as striking as it is delicious — like this Cinnamon Star Bread. While it may look difficult, this pretty star is actually quite easy: some simple cuts and twists, a short rise, into the oven, and 20 minutes later you’ve got a spectacular centerpiece.”

Well, yes and no.  LOL!

The dough for the Cinnamon Start bread is both simple to make and simple to work with, which is a good thing since the building of the bread requires a great deal of rolling.  And the process for creating the beautiful star shape is easy enough.  It’s the in and out of the oven that makes all the difference.  How does the dough rise and reshape itself during the baking process?  For two perfectionist, losing control during these fifteen minutes in the oven proved frustrating, annoying, and, yes, hilarious at times.

We probably had more back and forth communication about this recipe than any other that we have worked on for the blog.  So this week we share with you:

“A Tale of 2, 3, 4…Stars”

The saga begins on Saturday November 11, 2017.

Tracey: Star bread dough is on the rise…

(An hour later)  First star bread being built now.

First Star Bread in shaping process – TG

(About an hour so later….)

Not thrilled with the outcome.  Will make one more either today or tomorrow.  My dough was weird – not sure if it was due to doubling or not.  I don’t like the way mine look at all.  Good thing they are easy.

Kris: Sorry about your bread.  That is not encouraging for me.

Tracey: I’m building Apple Braids now, saving my ego a bit, lol!  But, I will make another one and see how that goes – and I’ll report.

(Report…)

Edges dark, can’t see the cinnamon lines, etc…just weird.

Oh well, at least fails in the looks department will taste good…I hope.  LOL

OK, as for taste testing – wow!  Major yum!

Batch 3 of dough mixing now.

Kris: I guess I should try mine this afternoon in case I need multiple attempts.

Tracey: Looks aside, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

I got the dough mixed and it still had that weird texture.  It could be potato flakes rather than potato flour.  I used the lower end of the water the first go around, so I added the extra this time.  We’ll see how it turns out when ready to roll, build, etc.  A positive thought is that it is fairly quick and easy.

Kris: I’ll give it a go today, then.

Tracey:  It’s not a “chore-type” feeling.  Usually by this point I’d be bored and want to quit, but I’m still fairly gung-ho!  The filling is only sugar and cinnamon.  Each layer is brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with the cinnamon and sugar. After it’s stacked, you cut and twist.  That’s it.

Kris: What happened with your first one?

 Tracey:  The dough was just weird.  I have no idea how to describe it.  It just didn’t feel right.  It was tearing a bit, too.  It looked OK when first twisted, but the shape blobbed out more than did the one they show in the recipe.  Then it blobbed more as it baked  – lost the star shape and stripes of cinnamon sugar.  I’m hoping that the next one is more “structured” looking.

First Baked Cinnamon Star Bread – TG

Kris: It doesn’t look that bad.

Ingredients collected and I’m ready to start.

My dough is now rising.

Tracey: My dough is just about done rising…

Kris: I need some of your energy and enthusiasm right now!

Tracey:  #3 twisted and rising.  Dough looks better this time.

#3 Twisted and Rising – TG

Kris: That one looks beautiful!

Tracey:  Let’s see how it holds up to baking.  I didn’t let it rise as long.  I just popped it into the oven…lowered the temp to 375 instead of 400…and I can’t stop eating this stuff!!!

Just peeked and its spreading again, just like the others.  And, I forgot to brush with the egg before baking.

I may make one more tomorrow…I have one more idea to try – backing down the potato flakes.  Good thing this stuff freezes.  I’ll have bread for days!

I’m definitely doing one more tomorrow.  Just pulled it out of the oven and it looks the same, maybe a smidge better, but not what I want…

Kris: Yikes!  You are seriously making me doubt my abilities here!

Tracey: Don’t let me worry you.  I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with my dough.  It never gets fully smooth.  Let me know how your potato flour version goes.  You have actually potato flour, right?

Kris: Nope.  I’m using flakes, too.

FAIL #1!!!  I set the biscuit cutter in the center to mark my circle and darn if it didn’t cut through two layers.  So, I’ll definitely be doing it again!

Attempt #1 Fail – KB

Tracey: ROTFLMAO!  What a pair we are!  Maybe it won’t affect the final outcome.  Honestly, I’m interested to see how it bakes up with the “extra” circle lines.

Kris: I think the ends closest to the center are going to puff up and come apart.  If I had any extra dough I would just make a “cover” for my messy middle. 🙂

Tracey:  I do want to see how it turns out.  It looks cool raw.

I just keep looking at my “cut” ends and how they puff out.  Theirs don’t do that.  I do use the gold yeast for sweet dough.  I wonder if that could affect the puffiness?

Maybe my twists aren’t tight enough.  I have no idea why this is making me crazy, LOL!  It’s becoming a freaking obsession!

Kris: I don’t know if I can be friends with someone who has saggy twists.

Tracey: LMFAO! Oh my!  I’m so glad I’d not just taken a drink of tea or it would have ended up all over my laptop!!!

Kris: I did my first point one piece at a time.  On the others, I twisted them at the same time.

Tracey: Yep.  That’s what I did too.

Kris: It is about to go in the oven.  The truth will soon reveal itself.

Tracey: I can’t wait. 🙂

Kris:  I suspect that I will have you beat on the blob factor.  The tips are getting super puffy.

Tracey: This is becoming like the Focaccia Challenge…if at first you don’t succeed…

Kris: For me, it’s more like WHEN at first you don’t succeed.  Lol!

Mine looks more like a daisy at the moment, with two more minutes in the oven.

Tracey:  Lol! but it still has petals, I bet.

Kris: I will definitely be making another tomorrow.

Tracey: I’m like a dog and bone with this one.  Jeremy ended up taking Harry out for dinner because there is no cooking of dinner happening here tonight.

Kris: Flower Power!

Attempt #1 Flower Power – KB

Tracey: Oh my gosh though, that looks lovely.  I can see the individual petals!

Kris: I must have done my ends wrong.  They look too rounded.

Tracey:  They look good to me and I’ve been studying these things all day!

Kris: OMG!  This stuff is delicious!

Tracey: Good stuff, isn’t it!?  Yours look so pretty, lol.  I’m green with envy.  I have star envy.

Kris: That would be daisy envy. 🙂

Tracey: Ha.  Flour envy.

Kris: You win! 🙂

There seem to be no issues around here with me having to make another batch of bread. Glad it at least tastes good!

SUNDAY November 12

Kris: Are you up and baking again?

Tracey: I was lazy and dumped all of my baking tools in the dishwasher last night with the intention of running it on delay start and forgot…I was going to jump right in, but now I’m drinking coffee and waiting for it to do its thing.  And, reading reviews on the Bakealong page to see if there are any hints.  Plus, I changed the batteries in my scale since it started acting up yesterday as well…maybe that’s part of the issue, inaccuracy from the start.  That, and bad twists. 🙂

Batch #3 is mixing.  I messed with it and let it knead in the mixer for quite awhile.  I didn’t adjust potato flakes.  It still has that slightly gritty, not elastic, feel when I stretched it a bit.  In my hand it would break.  I’m hoping it will be a better dough.

There was nothing in the KA reviews or blog post to help me.

Kris: Our first one is gone!  I gave away a quarter of it, but the three of us have eaten the rest. 🙁

Tracey: Jeremy, Harry, and I have finished one and are working on another.

I bumped my Vietnamese cinnamon up in this one, to a full TBS.

12:56pm

Tracey:  Attempt 944.2 is in the oven.

Attempt #944.2 – TG

Kris: Pretty!

Tracey: And I remembered to brush with the egg!

Still not what I’m trying to achieve  Even though I totally lost the star in the middle, it looks better…not so blobby.

Not So Blobby #944.2 -TG

And crazy as this sounds, I’m in a mental debate with myself over trying one…more…time.  I just told Jeremy  that now I feel like I’m playing the slots.  Just one more pull…just one more!

I’m trying one more.  I must be insane!

Kris: Your perfectionism has gotten the best of you.  Or, it’s a good excuse to eat more! 🙂

Tracey: I never get this crazed!  I mean, yeah, the perfectionism is always there, but this is almost out of control.  Lol!  Maybe in the midst of busy December I might appreciate a “coffee cake” or ten in the freezer. 🙂

The VERY LAST batch is mixing and kneading now.  This is it!  I have a few shaping thoughts, and that’s it.  And of course, Jeremy is teasing me about some of the ends not being perfect – just to get my goat.

Kris: VERY LAST?! I’m holding you to that.

Tracey: I just don’t think I have another attempt in me.

Kris: Just so you know, we are not friends anymore because you have led me astray.  Attempt #2 is rising.  I succumbed to peer pressure.

Tracey: Oh no!  I guess you’ll have to pay your therapy bill now so you’ll stay my friend!  Lol!

Kris: And buy me new pants.  Lol!

Tracey: This explains it…

Yep, it’s not me, it’s Evil Dough – TG

Kris: Just say “no” to grams.

Tracey: Considering all of the hassles I’ve been through, that confirms it.  This is an evil recipe!

Shaping done.

Shaping Complete! – TG

Kris: They always look fantastic at this point.

Tracey: It’s after this point that it has all the issues.

Final attempt in the oven.

I just checked and my ends are coming apart again.

I’m giving up.  How many times can I do the same thing and get the same or close to the same results no matter what I do.  It’s kind of a big puffy flower this time.

Kris: In the words of Einstein, ““The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”

Assembling now.

Tracey: Fresh out of the oven.

Last One Out – TG

Kris: This one feels sloppier than the last.

Attempt #2 Looking Sloppy – KB

At least I learn from my mistakes.  I did not cut through the center this time. 🙂

Tracey: Why do the simplest recipes cause us the most trouble?

Kris: I think it is our perfectionist nature, not the recipes.  I suspect that most people would have been content with our first attempts.  Well…yours.  My “flour power” attempt was a definite fail!

In the oven.

Are you happy with your last one?

I’m not happy with this one. 🙁  I’m going to have to photograph it somehow though because I don’t think I have another attempt in me.

Attempt #2 Out of the Oven -KB

MONDAY November 13

Kris: I’m going to try to photograph mine from yesterday, but I may end up trying again.

Tracey: Oh no!  Don’t go down that road.  You saw what happened to me.  It’s a slippery slope for sure!

Kris: I got home from school and took pictures of last night’s bread.  I’m going to hope that something works just in case I don’t get another batch made.  I wish I was good with PS and could put the points from my first attempt on the center of my second. But, that is so far beyond my editing skills thus it would take way less time to just make another.  Lol!

TUESDAY November 14

Kris: Third time is a charm, right?  It’s rising.

Tracey: It should be, but I made the dough four times.  🙂

Kris: It’s in the oven…deja vous???  Lol!  I got distracted and it rose a little too long.

Tracey:  That may be the key.

Kris: Not sure it’s any different.  My middle doesn’t have the star shape. 🙁

Attempt #3 – KB

Tracey:  LOL!  It’s pretty though.  It looks really nice.  I’ve come to the conclusion this is the only way they are ever going to look.  Mine doesn’t have a star middle either.  None of them did!  They are all skewed.

The Final Product Dusted With Powdered Sugar – KB

***

And this is how the newest constellation, Cinnamon Star Bread, came into being.  Exactly how many starts it may grow to be is still yet to be determined.

Have fun with this recipe.  And, if your stars come out perfectly on the first try, please don’t tell us about it! Our egos are fragile at the moment.

Just kidding!  Feel free to add all of your wacky and beautiful stars to our constellation of Cinnamon Star Bread  Tag your photos with #siftedtogether on Instagram.

King Arthur Flour November 2017 Bakealong – Cinnamon Star Bread

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Tuesday In Texas – A Trip Through Slumpsville

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I’ve known for weeks that this was my week to write our early week post.  I often wait until the eleventh hour to physically write, but most of the time, my rough draft has been written and rewritten in my mind for days or weeks before I actually sit down with pen and paper.  I compare my process to that of making soup.  All of the ingredients are there in the making, but the soup itself is much better after a day or two.  All of my thoughts are in my head; they too are much better if they mull around there together for awhile before they are served up on paper.  Unfortunately, that it is not the case this week.  The ingredients were not there for the making.  My head was more like clear broth.

Right now, I am in the midst of a full-fledged creative slump.  Not just with my writing, but with everything that requires even the slightest bit of creativity – writing, photography, cooking, even choosing my clothes in the morning.  Everything I do feels mediocre and uninspired.  I haven’t written much at all in the last couple of weeks; my recent photos all seem to be of coffee and yarn; and, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or nachos are as far as my culinary creativity extends.  I’m not even creative with the types of bread or flavors of jam on my PB&Js.  It’s oatmeal bread and red plum jam.  As I write this, I realize just how deep down my slump goes.

I do know that no one lives perpetually on a creative high, that the peaks and valleys are a natural part of the process.  I also know that for me personally, the final lap towards the end of the semester always zaps my energy, both creative and physical, so I really shouldn’t be surprised to find myself in the midst of a creative void at that moment.  That said, I still don’t like the way it feels.

In the words of Ichiro Suzuki

If I’m in a slump, I ask myself for advice.

I’ve done some thinking and searching about this predicament and how I might face it, endure it, and ultimately get through it.  Perhaps some of these thoughts might speak to you should you ever find yourself in a similar place.  If not, at least the process of writing has been cathartic for me.

I am a creature of habit.  In terms of getting things done, like work responsibilities and daily chores, that’s a good thing.  In terms of eating only peanut butter and red plum jelly sandwiches on oatmeal bread…and for my creative spirit…it probably is not such a good thing.  For the creative spirit, with routine often comes monotony and boredom, the very things I am feeling about my creative process at the moment.  Maybe making changes, small changes, will help my slump.  Perhaps getting up fifteen minutes earlier and noticing the slightly different morning light, or the early birdsong, or the fresh dew on the grass will make a difference.  What if I didn’t eat lunch at my desk while I catch up emails, but instead ate outside?  And to really break my routine, what if I have creamy peanut butter and apple butter on whole wheat bread!

In all seriousness, it seems to me that routine is a good thing for productivity, but not so much for creativity.  Productivity, to me, is a measure of quantity.  I got all the things done.  Creativity is a measure of quality.  What I did is imaginative, is original, is inspired.  Yes, I realize that there can be an intersection of productivity and creativity, but there isn’t for me at that moment.  I am being productive.  I am not being creative.

As I said, this is a tough time of the semester and I know that I am not doing a good job of taking care of myself, particularly with regard to getting enough sleep.  A tired body and an equally tired mind don’t create very well.  A body that is not well fed and exercised can not create very well.  I could probably stop right here with these three strikes against me.  Not enough sleep, not enough exercise, and not enough healthy food…no wonder I can’t create anything!

Now, at the risk of sounding contradictory, I also believe that being still may be another key to moving beyond a creative slump.  With stillness comes peace, calm, quiet, and freedom.  In such moments of stillness, we make time and room for the muse to speak and, more importantly, time for the muse to be heard.

My final realization about living through a creative slump is that I need to try to stay positive and gracefully embrace where I am in the moment.  My intellectual self knows that there is something to be taught by every experience, especially when the experience is a tough one.   My artistic self, however, still finds this hard to accept and even harder about which to remain positive.  When it comes right down to it though, do I really have a choice?  There is no doubt that slipping into the realm of negativity is a sure road to disaster.

So for now, I’ll endure my position in the slump, try to keep my chin up, take care of my body and spirit as best I can, and attempt to move beyond peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

And I’ll believe wholeheartedly that this too shall pass.

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Food Friday – You Say Potato, We Say Bread

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I love it when bread recipes roll around in the Food Friday rotation.  When it comes to my own weekly bread baking, I tend to stick with my tried and true recipes, the ones that I know won’t disappoint me and that I’ve made so many times that I don’t have to think too much when I make them.  Week’s like this, however, force me out of my comfort zone and demand that I try something new.  With this week’s recipe for King Arthur Flour’s Amish Dinner Rolls, I am most grateful for the nudge to make something new.  These are by far the best dinner rolls that I have ever made!

What’s their secret?  Mashed potatoes.  Yep.  The recipe calls for a cup of unseasoned mashed potatoes.  A good-sized russet potato yields about a cup of mashed potatoes.  I used a bit of whipping cream and hand mashed the potatoes.  The potato starch makes for a tender bread with a light crumb.  Using potato also extends the “shelf life” of your bread, keeping it soft for several days.

The process of making the Amish Dinner Rolls takes several hours; that is due to two longish rise times, ninety minutes to two hours, rather than many and/or difficult steps.  In fact, these rolls couldn’t be any easier to make.  All of the ingredients – flour, mashed potatoes, salt, sugar, yeast, eggs, butter, and water – are all mixed together and left for their first rise.  The dough is then gently punched down and the individual rolls are formed, 16 large or 24 small.  I made fifteen because they fit in my pan better. 🙂  Once shaped and placed in the pan, the rolls rise again.  They then bake for 20-25 minutes.

If baked in a 9×13 pan, the rolls rise together and touch, making them almost like a pull-a-part bread.  They can also be placed on a larger pan so that they bake as individual rolls.  When baked such that they are touching, the sides of the rolls remain soft and unbronwned.  My preference is to bake them this way, but to each her/his own. 🙂

Despite having made hundreds of loaves of bread in my lifetime, I did learn something new today.  The recipe calls for these rolls to be baked in a 9×13 pan.  I don’t have a metal 9×13 pan; I only have glass.  I always bake my loaves in metal pans.  I had to stop and look up to see what impact baking in glass would have on my rolls.  As it turns out, glass pans cook hotter than do metal pans.  I read several discussion on this issue.  Most agree that when baking bread in a glass pan, the cooking temperature should be adjusted downward, some say 25 degrees and others say ten percent.  This left me in a quandary because I know that my oven is cooler than the temperature reads.  The recipe calls for the Amish Dinner Rolls to bake at 350 degrees.  Because of the “character” of my oven, I went ahead and used that setting.  I ended up baking the rolls for the full 25 minutes.  The good thing about baking in glass is that you can monitor the browning of your bread on both the tops and the sides.  I am always grateful for a day when I learn something new!

When all was said and done, the Amish Dinner Rolls received two thumbs-up from everyone at my house and a request that we have them with our Thanksgiving meal followed.  Easy enough!

If you are looking for a nice roll to offer with your Thanksgiving meal, I strongly recommend these!  Just remember to save a cup of mashed potatoes before you add all the delicious seasonings!

Who knew that the secret ingredient in fantastic homemade bread would be potatoes! We promise not to give away your secret! 🙂

King Arthur Flour Amish Dinner Rolls

from Tracey G.

This recipe intrigued me right from the get-go, there was just something that sounded seriously fun about making flat bread, especially SOFT wrap flat bread! I’d never attempted it, and it sounded pretty darn easy to do. So, I took on the task of making King Arthur Flour’sSoft Wrap Bread.

It’s a little different, in the way it’s done – part of the flour is “cooked” with boiling water, then allowed to cool a bit before you add the rest of the flour and ingredients. This does take a little extra time, so I had to plan ahead a wee bit. Not a lot of extra time, but there’s this cool-down, then a rise, then a rest to factor in.

Basically, what you do is add boiling water to the majority of the flour and mix it up until it’s smooth. I stopped the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides, just to make sure it was mixing as it should. Once you’ve done that, and it’s combined well, it gets covered and allowed to cool for about 30 minutes or so. While that’s doing it’s thing, you combine the rest of the ingredients, which includes: the remaining flour, potato flour or potato flakes (I still haven’t purchased any potato flour, so I used my instant mashed potato flakes), salt, yeast and vegetable oil.

Add this to your flour/boiling water mixture and it gets kneaded now into a soft dough. I used my stand mixer for this and it’s stated that you can use your hands, bread machine’s knead setting/cycle or a stand mixer. It took a little bit of time, but it all came together just as it was stated it would. Now comes the rising time. I just covered my mixer bowl and set it in my oven for the hour it called for.

Once it’s risen, you divide it into 8 pieces, approximately 3 ounces each, and let them rest for 15-30 minutes. I allowed them to rest for the full 30 minutes. After they’ve had their little break, you roll each piece out into a 7 or 8 inch circle. I had no troubles rolling them out at all, the dough was so nice to work with! I did use my KAF silicone rolling mat, and only had to use the lightest dusting of flour while rolling. I found they rolled better with very little extra “rolling” flour. But regardless, the dough was smooth and easy to shape and roll, it was actually quite a bit of fun! And the key is the potato flour/potato flakes and the “cooking” of the flour with the boiling water – that really helps the dough be one that’s easy to work with and roll out.

Once you get a few rolled out, you start dry-frying them in a skillet. It’s mentioned that you may have to adjust the heat to get the right balance for cooking them – not too hot to burn outside, but leave a raw center or alternatively, too cool to where you have to cook them for too long and they dry out. I was lucky, for some reason I hit the right temperature from the start and they cooked up easily into the wonderful little soft wrap flat breads they’re meant to be! You cook them until they puffed and flecked with brown spots. The Flourish blog article on them and the recipe they use them for, states that if they develop large bubbles, you can just flatten them out or allow the steam to escape via a small puncture, as they are supposed to be flat breads and not pitas.

Dry Frying the Soft Wrap Bread

When all was said and done, I had some that stayed liked a pita, and some that were solid, but it didn’t matter, they were still deliciou, soft and “wrappable” around any filling! They are good plain on their own or filled/wrapped around something. I am once again of the opinion that I can’t believe I made these in my own home – they  are easy, and freezable so I can have them ready and waiting in my freezer! I did make a double batch and it was really easy to pull off, it made 16, and they’ve been so good with anything, that I have a feeling none of them will actually make it to the freezer this go around!! I know I will be making them as often as I need them and will keep a supply in the freezer – there is no reason to buy this sort of thing ever again, with just a bit of my time, I created something I like much better than any of the store-bought versions!!

This recipe for  Soft Wrap Bread falls under the “you’ve gotta try this!” category for me!! They’re crazy easy and yummy. Seriously, you’ve got to try this!

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Monday in Michigan: Remembering Mom

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There’s really not too much to say other than this time of year Mom is even more so on my mind than usual. It was on November 1st, 2012 that she passed away, due to complications from a stroke on October 30th. It could’ve been the 29th, sometimes I can’t remember clearly, that whole time is a blur – so, instead of trying to remember those things, I wish to remember THESE things:


Here are a few faves of mine of my Mom’s late teens/early 20’s. My how things have changed since record players!


There’s something about this photo I love – newly married to my dad, I believe their first Christmas, as I see the Barbie in his stocking she put in a joke. I love that you can tell she was taking a cleaning break – the mop is a giveaway, lol.


Few more favorites: I love her with the Brandy Alexander in her hand; she and I after she gave me a sink bath I’m sure; Mom, myself and my doll Mrs. Beasley in Atlantic City (me looking quite a bit like Harry!); and one from our snowy beach after we’d move north to the area I’m still in, from the Detroit area.


This was one from one of those “glamour photo shoot” things. I remember she was so upset because her sinuses were acting up and it had a tendency to give her these horrible puffy eyes, but I’m  still glad we had this done!

  Favorites of Mom and Harry

 


Visiting Mom in the skilled nursing/rehab center after she’d broken her ankle. Harry and I took her plenty of Valentine’s Day treats! And on another visit Harry just had to bring his newest cars!


A few more random shots I love. Some while visiting her, and the one while at home. Harry convinced BooBoo (his nickname for her instead of grandma) she too needed a special Easter “Bonnet”, lol.


And finally, a photo that always makes me laugh when I see it – even as a child I was working on my photography with our Polaroid camera and driving everyone crazy!!

Those are the memories that I love and that I love to remember!

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Food Friday – Say Cheese!

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from Tracey G.

Presenting the King Arthur Flour Everything-Cheddar Pastry Twist – easy to make and easy to eat. I was a bit intimidated by it when I read it, but once I actually started the doing, it was really painless to make something that looks pretty fancy and labor-intensive.

I will admit it, I’d bought a couple of the special ingredients needed for this few months ago for other purposes. The Vermont Cheese Powder I’d bought for making my own homemade cheese popcorn with my air popper to dress up my healthy snack a little and the Everything Bagel Topping, I’d bought to well, make bagels with. But after reading and making the recipe, if you wanted to use other flavors etc, the technique would still be suitable. It also called for the Pastry Flour Blend, which I happened to have, but it also gives you the option to use regular all-purpose flour as well.

The recipe is executed in a few steps, but easy ones they are. First you make your pastry dough, which consists of: flour (either the Pastry Flour Blend or AP flour), salt, baking powder, Vermont Cheese Powder, butter and ice water. Once you get it made, divide it into two equal portions, and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While that’s doing it’s thing chilling in the refrigerator, you make up the filling. This involves: Vermont Cheese Powder, Everything Bagel Topping, water, a bit of butter and grated sharp Cheddar cheese. I only had shredded Cheddar, so I went over it quickly with a knife to make the pieces smaller and closer to a grated-style. The cheese powder, bagel topping, butter and water get mixed together. The grated cheese stays separate.

To start the assembly, you roll out one of the disks of dough, to approximately 11-inches. It then gets trimmed down to a 10-inch circle via using a pie plate or a dinner plate that’s 10-inches as a template. Once you’ve done that, you pop it onto a piece parchment paper. Spread the dough with the filling mixture within about a 1/2-inch from the edge, then sprinkle on the grated cheese. At this point, you beat an egg with a tablespoon of water and brush the edge of the disk with it.

Next is to roll-out the other disk of dough, in the same manner: roll to an 11-inch circle, then trim to a 10-inch one using pie plate or dinner plate as guide for a perfect circle. This now gets placed on top of the other, and over the filling.

Now here’s where it gets interesting and rather fun! At this point you use a 2 1/2 to 3-inch round cutter (or anything you happen to have that could substitute for that, maybe a glass?) and set it in the center of the circle, it’s a guide so don’t cut with it. Working from the center out, you now cut the pastry circle into 32 wedges. I marked it off in quarters, then divided those up into 8 to make sure I stayed fairly even. You cut through both layers from the edge of the circle cutter all the way to each edge. Once you’ve done that, you take each little wedge and twist it in the same direction 3 times. That’s it. Proceed all the way around doing that with each little wedge.

This is before it’s baked, brushed and sprinkled with the remaining seasoning. You can see where the cutter was in the center – how it leaves a hub.

Lastly, once you’ve twisted them all, brush the whole with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle it with the remaining Everything Bagel Topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes, let cool for 15 and serve!! I should note here that in the actual recipe, it doesn’t mention sliding the parchment onto a baking sheet for baking – but after I did the cutting, I put it on a baking sheet, then did the twisting – and then the baking while on the sheet.

This recipe has a lot going for it – especially if you need an appetizer/snack. It’s simple and very stand-alone, meaning it doesn’t need a dip or anything of that nature to go with it. It would be easy to transport and plate for serving and look pretty as well! They mention it would go well with beer, cocktail or any beverage – with or without alcohol – that you choose or are serving, and I agree. Once I started taste-testing this, I couldn’t stop! I am so excited to find something this easy that looks like you know what you’re doing as far as pretty presentation!! Don’t be intimidated like I was at first, do try it, and now that I’ve gone through it once, it will be even easier/faster the next time! And on that note, you could vary the fillings anyway you like, just keep it fairly dry so it doesn’t ooze out while baking. I imagine you could leave out the cheese powder in the dough, that’s something I’d like to experiment with. You could use your own mixture of seasonings instead of the Everything Bagel Topping for example – I see lots of possibilities for this recipe technique.

But, this is one yummy snack/appetizer just as it is and I can highly recommend it!

Everything-Cheddar Pastry Twist

 

from Kris B.

This week’s offerings are from King Arthur Flour’s broad category, “Entrees, Sides, and Appetizers.”  To me, that translates to “real” food, something beyond sweet treats.  I think it says something about the way that Tracey and I think in that we both chose recipes that rely heavily on cheese.  This was not a planned theme for the week, but it sure is nice when it happens this way!

I often feel like a child when it comes to my food choices.  I still love simple foods, finger foods, comfort foods.  And, despite having eaten many a box of ten for a dollar “fake” macaroni and cheese when I was in college, I still love Mac and Cheese.  I am happy to say though that my palate and my wallet have “upgraded” from the poor college student version of this deliciousness!

I have been in several nicer restaurants lately where “gourmet” mac and cheese has been offered on the menu.  What makes it “gourmet?”  Usually it is the type of cheese or cheeses used and the specialty “add-ins.”  Gruyere, asiago, Roquefort, Fontina, and even smoked Gouda, my personal favorite, add a bit of grown-up flavor to this traditional comfort food dish.  Add-ins such as crab meat or bacon to any number of different kinds of vegetables also help to “adult” your mac and cheese.  The truth is that any macaroni and cheese made from scratch rather than from a box takes a huge leap in its gourmet factor.

I tried King Arthur Flour’s Garlic-Herb Mac and Cheese this week.  Made from scratch macaroni and cheese is definitely more time consuming than that from the box.  It took me more time to make this recipe than it took my husband to cook two rotisserie chickens on the grill, but, it was well worth the time.  Some of my extra prep time was because I always grate my own cheese; and the recipe calls for garlic oil, which I did not have so I had to make that too.  To do that, I used this simple recipe for garlic oil from Ina Garten.  It makes much more than you need for this mac and cheese, but since I know you will be making King Arthur’s Garlic-Herb Mac and Cheese again, having extra will save you a step next time!

Any type of smallish shaped pasta can be used in making this Garlic-herb Mac and Cheese.  It’s funny to me how the shape of the pasta can elevate the dish from looking like child’s food to a grown-up side.  Small shells are a favorite at my house because the cheesy goodness works its way into the center of the pasta, but this time I used a 12 oz. bag of orecchiette, ear-shaped pasta.  They acted like little cheese scoops  I should note that the recipe calls for 8 ounces of pasta.  The ratio of cheese to pasta was just fine despite having used four ounces more pasta than called for.

The pasta is cooked to al dente, drained, rinsed with cold water and set aside.

The cheese sauce begins as a basic béchamel, but it has no additional fat (butter).  The base is 2 3/4 cups of milk and 1/4 cup of flour.  I have to confess here that I used two cups of whole milk and 3/4 cups of heavy cream because I only had a pint of milk on hand.  Thus, I had a little extra fat in mine. 🙂  The recipe calls for you to add 1/2 cup of King Arthur Flour’s Vermont Country Cheese Powder to the white sauce as it thickens.  I did not have any so I used an equal amount of grated Parmesan, but waited to add it at the same time as the grated cheddar, salt, pepper, and ground mustard powder, which are stirred in after the white sauce has thickened and been removed from the heat.

Once all of the cheese has melted into the sauce, the pasta is stirred in.  The Mac and Cheese is then poured into baking dishes.  It can be baked in a small casserole dish or individual ramekins.  By using the 12 ounce bag of pasta, I made eight 3/4 cup ramekin servings.

It is the topping that kicks this mac and cheese recipe up a notch! The topping consists of panko, butter, the garlic oil, and King Arthur Flour Pizza Seasoning (or rosemary and thyme).  The butter and oil are melted together.  The panko and seasoning is then stirred in.  A generous layer of this crispy topping is then spread on top of the macaroni and cheese and the dishes a placed in the oven to bake for 25-35 minutes.

When they come out of the oven you have piping hot creamy cheesy goodness.  This recipe is most certainly worth the time.  It will also serve as a great base for trying your hand at some of your own sideside dishgourmet mac and cheese combinations.  I often add spinach to mine, tossing the fresh spinach in with the pasta in its last two minutes of cooking.  Kielbasa is a favorite meat add-in here.  Be creative!  Make it your own!  Experiment with different cheeses.

If you create a combination that you’d like to share, we’d love to post it here!

Garlic-Herb Mac and Cheese

Say cheese!  And, enjoy your weekend.

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Tuesday In Texas – Nothing But the Kitchen Sink

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I teach seven different classes.  Six of them are in an “old school” classroom, meaning it has no technology.  It has a green chalkboard with the music staff painted on it and good old-fashioned chalk and erasers. The other room is high-tech all the way – document camera, video monitoring of the instructor keyboard, projectors, speakers, individual communication with students through headphones and microphones, and so on.  It is supposed to make teaching more efficient and thus “better.”  This is so not true!  All it does is stress me out because half the time, when I prepare a lecture that relies on said technology, it does not work.  Someone has flipped a switch they shouldn’t have; or pulled a cable they shouldn’t have; or the district server is down; and the list goes on and on.  Chalk never fails me!  The only possible glitch in my no-tech classroom is a lack of chalk. But, since I have friends in high places who give me my own secret two-box stash of good old white chalk at the beginning of every semester, this is not an issue for me.  I am always good to go!

Don’t get me wrong; I do like my personal technology.   I rely on my phone and iPad as much as anyone else, but even they stress me out sometimes.  If I’m honest, I have to admit that, in many ways, life without technology was so much simpler.  Lately, the real “why” behind this thinking has been on my mind.

Yes, I spend too much time on Facebook.  That is definitely time taken away from other things, though it is also time when I sit down in one place and come as close to slowing down as seems possible these days.  In my head, that redeems my Facebook time a little.  Slowing down, however, is more than sitting in one place, slowing down physically.  We also need to slow down our minds.

The other night I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes.  I have a perfectly good dishwasher, but I was washing dishes by hand just because.  Because why?  I wasn’t exactly sure until I realized, mid way through my dishwashing that I was experiencing a Zen moment.  A moment of being fully in the present.  I was completely in tune with the feeling of the warm water running over my hands, the fresh smell of the soap.  I was able to fully appreciate the satisfaction of making the dishes clean. I was able to live into the pure sense of peace and calm in those moments because I was totally focused on what I was doing…just washing the dishes. Nothing more.  Nothing less.

As a result of my dishwashing experience, I had an epiphany.  The reason that so many of us are totally stressed out these days is because we no longer do these  “menial” daily tasks and therefore no longer experience moments of being totally in the now, free from the burdens of always looking to what’s next.  It takes longer to wash and dry dishes by hand than it does to place them in the dishwasher.  We think that we need that “saved” time, but all we do is fill it up with more busy-ness.  Think about laundry. It takes less than a minute to move a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer. What would our lives be like if we all returned to hanging clothes outside on a clothesline.  Quiet time and fresh air.  Stress-free moments.  Time to de-clutter our own interior.  Who doesn’t want these things?  For some of us, unfortunately, this is not even an option.  My city has an ordinance banning outdoor clotheslines.

Baking, sewing, farming, cooking…all things that have “down time” built into them are seen as time-consuming chores by many these days.  I long for the day where all that is on my to-do list is to bake bread or knit a hat.  Right now, such and existence sounds like pure bliss.  Even vacuuming and dusting have the potential of offering that Zen-like experience I had while doing dishes.  I crave that.

I know that I need more time spent in the now, time spent not worrying about all of the things I have to do in the future.  Most days, I feel like a toddler who bounces from one activity to another never fully appreciating any of them.  I get things done and then move on.  On the surface, this looks great.  I give the appearance of being productive and responsible.  On the inside though, I feel like a robot.  Do robots have feelings?  I guess what I mean is that most of the time  I am just cruising through life on auto-pilot.  I know this is not a good plan for me.  It’s not a good plan for anyone.

I wonder what life would be like if we all slowed down.  If we all lived in the now.  If we all appreciated the little things in life, which really are the big things.

I know one thing, if this were the case, I would have a much cleaner house and a much clearer mind.  Perhaps it is worth the effort to make some changes in my life. Bring on those dirty dishes!  I need that time at the kitchen sink to free my mind from its normal daily clutter long enough to create space for stillness, for calm, for peace,  for enlightenment.

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Mix It Up Friday – Just Treats and No Tricks!

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Before I get going on this week’s mix, Apple Cinnamon Doughnut Mix from King Arthur Flour, I have to get something off of my chest.  As delicious as these things are, by definition, they are not doughnuts.  “Real” doughnuts are deep-fried.  These are baked, not deep-fried, which is a good thing because I don’t deep fry anything at home.  I don’t each much fried food, but when I do, I want it to be worth the fat and calories and cooked properly.  I save the occasional order of sweet potato fries or chicken tenders for a meal out.

Since King Arthur Flour’s Apple Doughnut Mix does not really make doughnuts, the nerd in me tried to figure out a better name for them.  The best that I could come up with is  torus muffins.  The word torus comes from geometry.  It is a “surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three-dimensional space about an axis coplanar with the circle.  If the axis does not touch the circle, the surface has a ring shape and is called a torus of revolution.  A bagel is also an example of a baked torus.

Now that we have that clear, there is not too much to this week’s mix. To the mix, eggs, milk, and butter or vegetable oil are added.  The ingredients are mixed, poured into a doughnut pan, and baked for 8-10 minutes.  I found that baking for eight minutes yielded a more moist “doughnut,” which is my preference.

Each boxed mix comes with two individual pouches that each makes a half-dozen doughnuts or twenty-four mini doughnuts.  The one potential stumbling block with this mix is that you do need a doughnut pan.

Once baked you can add your own toppings to your doughnuts torus muffins.  The recipes for various options are included on the box as well as on the King Arthur Flour website.  I made the Easy Vanilla Glaze to which I added some cinnamon.  My glaze did not run and make a pretty topping, but it tasted good! 🙂  Other options include a cider glaze or just topping sugar or cinnamon sugar.

For those of you whose nerdiness tends toward etymology rather than geometry, I have something for you too.  Torus is the Latin word for cushion.  Now this all makes sense!  All of these torus baked goods – bagels, torus muffins, and real doughnuts – provide a torus for my clunis!!!

 

from Tracey G.

First, I’d like to say that this was the perfect week for our Mix Food Friday to land – it’s been hectic! I had Harry’s class Halloween party to make treats for by this Friday, and help out at the party too. So, trying to make sure that everything was accomplished in a timely manner was important all the way around – especially to my sanity! And a mix always (well, most always!) fits the bill for get-it-done-quick.

I chose the Coconut Cupcakes + Frosting Mix from the King Arthur Flour Essential Goodness line. That’s the line where they donate a bit of the proceeds from the sale of the mix, to donate a meal to Feeding America.

Since I was making cupcakes this week for the mix offering and I was in the Halloween spirit  – I transformed them into fun treats for home or for a party! These cupcakes with their yummy white vanilla and coconut milk frosting are wonderful blank canvases for any way you want to go! Change up sprinkles and cupcake wrappers and you could do any holiday or celebration you wanted, quickly and easily. Sky is the limit with these lovelies!

The mixes are super simple to prepare, and involved ingredients I always have on hand anyway – butter, milk and an egg. Butter, milk and the egg for the batter, and butter and a couple teaspoons of milk for the frosting mix. That’s it. The cupcakes are easy to prepare and bake, and the frosting mix is a snap to put together. Let me say here too about the frosting mix – not only is it yummy, but it makes a generous amount as well. I didn’t even use all of it in the frosting of mine, and I wasn’t shy about piping it on!

If you want to try something a little different – these coconut cupcakes are wonderful. I could’ve eaten the cake plain, it was nice and moist, and, I could’ve eaten  the frosting out of the bowl with a spoon and been happy. But combine the two together and it’s fabulously scrumptious happiness!

P.S. If you visit the Coconut Cupcakes + Frosting Mix product page, they have some fun twists on other things you cam make using it!

 

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