Monday, June 15, 2015

Sweet Envy is Available for Pre-Order!

I've got some really exciting news, you guys. I'll give you a hint…It's a project I've dreamt about forever and it's finally coming to fruition. (No, it's not a comprehensive biography of all the cast members of Saved By the Bell. Because, if asked, I could easily write that.) But, you're close. It is a book! I couldn't be more excited to share my book Sweet Envy with you! It hits the shelves on October 5th, but you can pre-order it today. I've spent the good part of this year taking this book from a small morsel of an idea, to a full-fledged shiny object. 

Here's the cover!
It's a coconut cake inspired by the ever-awesome Almond Joy candy bar. If you're intrigued, know that I've got an entire chapter devoted to desserts based on candy.There are also desserts inspired by nature, art and even a bunch of boozy sweets! 

Sweet Envy has something for everyone. If you’re ready to create a pastry presence, this book will equip you with the techniques to impress. (Read: here's how you can kick ass at the bake sale.) The recipes range from sweets so easy your kid could make them, to mini cheesecakes adorned with spun sugar nests and fondant bees. Whether it’s a quick go-to cookie recipe, or a hand painted cake, the recipes are a solid foundation to build upon. These recipes really are designed for any skill level and they'll always look just as amazing as they taste. The book will feature a few favorites from my blog (like a more detailed succulent cupcake how-to), but most of the recipes are brand spankin' new and super creative. 

Here's a sneak peek at some of the images in the book. 

I hate to play favorites, but these are my two favorite recipes from the book: Faux tacos (they're cookies, I swear) and a Mint Chocolate Trifle. Yum.

I shot them all in my kitchen/dining room (and occasionally on the front porch if the lighting was just right:) Aside from writing, testing, styling and photographing every recipe, I also designed the book! A true labor of love. It's been a year of endless hours in the kitchen, editing, cursing and ultimately sweet triumph. (Not to mention the good 15 pounds I gained while writing this sucker.) But I couldn't be happier with it. It's full of really approachable and fun recipes. 

So today I'm asking you to pre-order it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And when it comes out on October 5th, go to your local bookstore and buy another copy to show the local shops some love. This book is the answer to all the complexities in life. Ok, maybe it won't solve everything, but Sweet Envy will most certainly make you a more creative baker. Flex those creative baking muscles—being envied never tasted so sweet.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Banana Bourbon Milkshakes with Cardamom Whipped Cream

I'm feeling bourbon inspired as of late. Mostly because the Kentucky Derby takes place this week and mint juleps are all the rage (for me at least). In fact, when people mention any horse race (doesn't even have to be the Kentucky Derby), the mint julep is the first image that pops into my head. This year, however, I wanted to create a dessert that was more bourbon focused and less of a "julep-esque" creation. Don't get me wrong, I think a minty, bourbon-kissed cupcake is the bees knees. But for this Derby, I've got something better….a banana bourbon vanilla milkshake! The idea of a bourbon vanilla milkshake is nothing new. Pretty much every bar displays a boozy shake in some form or another. But the addition of bananas to said shake is so incredibly delicious, you may never make a shake without bananas again. 

In an effort to keep our kids from crazy sugar highs, my sister has been pushing the whole "Let's make ice cream with bananas" thing for a while now. From a health perspective, I get it. But as an ice cream purist I've been quite reluctant to swap that rich milk and cream for bananas. In this recipe, I've compromised and combined both bananas AND traditional ice cream. Together, they make for one heck of a milkshake. Top it with cardamom scented whipped cream and you've got a go-to dessert that will never lose its appeal. 

The most exciting thing about this recipe is its simplicity! The milkshake AND the whipped cream are both made in the blender. Just as I was about to make the whipped cream in the stand mixer I thought, "Well, this is annoying--needing two kitchen appliances to make such a simple dessert…Why can't I make the whipped cream in the blender!?" Turns out, you CAN make whipped cream in a blender! Just be sure to keep a close eye on it so you don't over-whip the cream. Am I a little bit nuts for getting so excited about making whipped cream in a blender? I should probably get out more. Or drink a few less boozy milkshakes…

Banana Bourbon Milkshakes
makes 2 large, or 4 small milkshakes
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 bananas, sliced
1 pint high-quality vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup bourbon

1. Combine the heavy cream, cardamom and confectioners' sugar in the blender. Cover and blend on high for about 10 seconds. Uncover, stir the whipped cream and continue to mix for another few seconds if needed. Make sure not to over-whip!

2. Carefully scoop whipped cream into a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator until time to serve shakes. Rinse out the blender. 

3. Combine the milk, banana's, ice cream and bourbon in the blender. Blend on high for about a minute, or until smooth. 

4. Pour into chilled tumblers, top with a large spoonful of whipped cream and enjoy!

Instant whipped cream in the blender! Make sure the cream is very cold. 
Let's shake things up a bit, shall we?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

White Chocolate Eggs

The age-old affiliation between eggs, bunnies and the religious holiday of Easter will always baffle me. Then again, Santa doesn't make much sense either, but I still love that jolly guy in red. I believe the eggs symbolize new life, but the bunny bit still has me confused. I really can't complain though, the Easter Bunny always delivers for me on the candy front. It does seem, however, that the older I get the less generous the bunny is with candy and the more insistent he is that I get travel-size toiletries, chap stick, and socks. Can never have too much dental floss, I guess... 

Easter is just a couple weeks away and spring has finally sprung. (Well, sorta.The arrival of sunny spring days beckon me outside and away from the kitchen. I absolutely love to bake, but after a winter like this–at least for the Northeast–the last thing I want is to be indoors. I created this dessert as the essential "I'd rather be outside" Easter dessert. It's easy to assemble and absolutely delicious. It's the perfect dessert to finish off a heavy meal, plus the fact that it looks like a giant egg is too darn cute! 

This dessert falls somewhere between a fool and lemon trifle, but since it's served in an edible white chocolate egg, it's so much more. Resting inside the white chocolate "egg" shell lies pound cake, perfectly topped with a sweet whipped cream and a spoonful of tart lemon curd. It's about the cutest thing since the Cadbury Creme Egg–but thankfully not as sweet–and about 5 times the size. Maybe calling them "Ostrich Easter eggs" would be more appropriate. Whatever you decide to call them, they're a huge crowd pleaser. Make all the elements in advance and this dessert really comes together in a pinch. That leaves you with all the time in the world for an outdoorsy egg hunt.

As you can see, there was one casualty. I got a little too excited and snipped the balloon before the chocolate had hardened completely. Patience isn't my finest quality.

White Chocolate "Eggs"
2 (11 oz) bags of white chocolate chips
8 balloons

1. In a microwavable bowl, melt the white chocolate in 30 second increments. Stir after each increment, until chocolate is smooth and melted. 

2. Inflate balloons to about 4-inch diameter, then knot. Wipe balloons with a damp paper towel to make sure they're nice and clean. Hold balloons by the knot and dip into chocolate, rotating to ensure plenty of chocolate coverage. Place balloon, knotted side up, on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining balloons to make 8 cups, then set aside to harden. 

3. Use scissors to snip a hole in each balloon. Once balloon is deflated, carefully peel away from chocolate. Set "eggs" aside until assembly. 

Lemon Curd "Yolks"
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed


1. In a saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until incorporated.

2. Add in the lemon zest and juice, stirring constantly until thickened, or about 8 minutes.

3. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl. Then stir in the cubes of butter until completely melted. (Don't skip this step! Straining the curd is essential.)

4. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

The Greek yogurt thickens the whipped cream, making it rich and creamy.

Whipped Cream "Egg Whites"
1 pint (16 oz.) cold heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Beat the cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on medium so the cream doesn’t splatter, then increase the speed to high once the mixture starts to thicken. 

2. Beat until stiff peaks form, then fold in the Greek yogurt until fully incorporated. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until assembly.

Normally, I'm not one to cut corners, but store bought pound cake is just about one of the greatest inventions of all time. It saves so much time and-assuming you buy a good brand-is actually really tasty. Or, you can always bake it in advance and freeze it for later. 

To Assemble:
1. Cut a pound cake loaf into 1-inch cubes. Place 4-5 cubes in each white chocolate "egg", then top with a few generous spoonfuls of whipped cream. 

2. Place a spoonful of lemon curd on top so it resembles an egg yolk. 

Keep any leftovers refrigerated. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Irish Cream Sandwich Cookies

When it comes to celebrating St. Patricks day, we Irish keep things pretty simple: Corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, Guinness, whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream. Baileys is smooth, creamy, goes great with coffee and aside from enjoying it on ice, I try to incorporate it into dessert whenever possible. (See: Baileys Marshmallows) Celebrate the luck of the Irish this year by making these delicious chocolate sandwich cookies, filled with Baileys spiked buttercream. They're festive, boozy and travel well. So whether you're stuck at the office, or lucky enough to be at the pub, bring them wherever your travels may take you this March 17th. 

Irish Cream Sandwich Cookies
Makes 2 dozen sandwiches
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons Baileys


1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. 

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and Baileys and continue to mix until incorporated.

3. Add the flour mixture, mixing until dough just comes together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with liners or parchment paper.

5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Use a circle cookie cutter to cut out 2 to 3" rounds. (I used a 2 1/4" circle cutter.) Gather and re-roll scraps to make more cookies.

6. Place the cookies 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, then cool completely.

Irish Buttercream Filling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons Baileys
Pinch of salt
Green decorating sugar


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter for about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer on low, then add the confectioners’ sugar.

2. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the Baileys and continue to mix until creamy. Beat at medium speed for about a minute, adding more Baileys if needed to achieve desired consistency.

3. Scoop out filling into a zip top bag and snip off about 1/2 inch of the corner.

Assemble the Cookies

Place the green sugar in a shallow dish. Pipe about a tablespoon of filling around the bottom side of a cookie. Top with another cookie, then roll the edge in the green sugar. Cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about a week.

Friday, February 20, 2015

D.I.Y. Painted Porcelain Dishes

My obsessive collecting of serveware is becoming a small problem. I've run out of space in my kitchen cabinets and closets. All these plates are gathering dust as the stacks teeter on top of the refrigerator. This "hoarding" behavior has left me with dozens of porcelain plates and platters, many of which I never use. Most of them were hasty purchases made at thrift stores, with a D.I.Y. project in mind. But, you know, life happens. And projects get swept aside for another day, another month, another year. Well, I finally got around to giving these plates the makeover I always intended with some acrylic craft paint and a few stencils and tape. The concept couldn't be easier. Just paint a new design on an old dish.

The idea of painting over existing patterned porcelain isn't a new one, but it's a really great concept. I am in awe of how easy it is to transform an old porcelain pattern into something contemporary and fresh. My favorite example has to be these hand painted ant dishes by German artist Evelyn Bracklow. They are so realistic looking and creative, I want all of them! But I've got my own stack of plates that need attention, so I'll just paint those instead. 

Here's what you'll need:
1. Porcelain Dishes, wiped clean
2. Colorful Acrylic Craft Paint
3. Assorted paint brushes
4. Stencils and tape
5. Food Safe Shellac

I experimented with a few different stencils, but your success really depends on how flat the dish surface is. Most craft stores have a bunch of stencil options. I liked the Martha Stewart ones, especially this peacock feather silkscreen. Now, trying to paint clean lines on a dish with a curved surface isn't easy, so you'll have to practice a bit. But I had no problems with the taped designs. In fact, I prefer the simplicity and clean lines the tape provides. Just create a simple pattern with the tape and make sure the edges are sealed tight. Once the paint dries, carefully pull up the tape to reveal your pattern. Here, I tried simple stripes. I love the way the original blue floral pattern peeks through the vibrant yellow neon, but you could add more coats for an opaque finish. 

This triangle pattern was painted free-hand with gold paint and a fine paintbrush.
To seal the paint, spray an even coat of food safe shellac on the dish.
Let the shellac dry completely before using, and only wash them by hand.
Mix & Match your dishes, gift them, or even arrange them on the wall as art. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Strawberry Sweetheart Cookies

With Valentines Day right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about how you'll say "I love you." I prefer to keep things simple, always opting for a sweet treat in lieu of the traditional paper valentine. There's no need for frosting with these cookies, they get their light pink hue and strawberry flavor from strawberry flavored Jello. Here's a simple trick to keep your message short and sweet with some decorating sugar and a few letter stickers. Once you get the "knock-out" technique down, the possibilities are endless. Don't stop at letters, you could create hearts, stripes or even a giant monogram letter by cutting the shape out of parchment paper. And if Valentine's Day really isn't your thing, keep this cookie recipe in your arsenal for a rainy day, because these cookies are sweet & tasty. 

Brush a thin layer of milk on the dough so the sugar will stick.

A clean pair of tweezers make removing the letters much easier. 
Use parchment paper strips to create an easy stripe patten. 

Strawberry Cut-Out Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strawberry flavored Jello 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
Red decorating sugar

1. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and strawberry Jello in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and milk and continue to mix until incorporated. Add in the flour mixture mixing until dough just comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with a baking liner or parchment paper and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Use a large heart cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as possible. 

3. Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of milk on the cookie, then arrange the letter stickers on the dough. Lightly sprinkle the colored sugar over the letters, making sure to cover the edges of the letters. Carefully remove the letter stickers (this is where the tweezers come in handy!) to reveal the word. Move all the cookies to the cookie sheet , then bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.