What’s the obsession with pumpkin flavored everything?

pumpkin_flavored_everything

Pumpkin. It’s as bad as the national obsession with bacon and cupcakes, only worse. I can tolerate bacon and I’ll always eat a cupcake (unless it’s a bacon flavored cupcake), but I never liked pumpkin anything. In fact, as a flavor, it sucks. I hate it.

Most Americans can’t live without their pumpkin pie every fall. I sure can. I’ll gladly substitute an Apple Crumb or even a Shoo-fly pie in place of a nasty, mushy, flavorless, gag-inducing pumpkin pie.

But lately things have gotten really weird. It’s not enough to have your pie taste like an overgrown squash, now it’s de rigeur for cappuccino, ice cream, cookies, potato chips, breakfast cereal, and fudge to taste like it too.

Yes, I said fudge. I just received my Vermont Country Store catalog, and Pumpkin flavored fudge is featured this month. Here’s what the nasty stuff looks like:

pumpkin_fudge

Blech. Why anyone would eat fudge that tastes like a vegetable is beyond my comprehension–or my taste buds. In my opinion, pumpkin is a terrible flavor–it doesn’t really taste like anything, but I guess it has a slight squash-like flavor, and to be honest, I was never a fan of squash. It certainly doesn’t belong in any dessert, but Americans can’t seem to get enough of the nastiest-tasting squash of them all.

I like pumpkins just fine, but as seasonal decor, not as food. They look nice on a doorstep or as a centerpiece, not as a baby-poop colored main ingredient of the food sitting on my plate.

So that’s one more reason I’ll be glad when we’re past the annual string of fall holidays (including Christmas, which I always thought of as part of that even though technically it’s a few days after the winter solstice).

For even more pumpkin-flavored insanity, read this article from Salon.com. Yes, we’re talking Pumpkin Spice Lay’s, Pumpkin Spice Hummus, and Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts.

I have to stop writing about this now. I’m feeling a little sick.

#reesesplease @ReesesPBCups and The Hershey Company: stale pbcups are not delicious

No original ideas today, but I stumbled on this article that expresses my sentiments about Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to a tee. I adore them, but refuse to purchase one anymore, because more often than not, the dang thing is stale, and there’s nothing more disappointing than ripping open the orange wrapper to find a stale, tasteless dried out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

leo brown weekly response (2011-2013)

reesesplease

Whenever the JCC swim team went to Friendly’s after a meet, I ordered the decadent, oozy Monster Mash Sundae. I horde Reese’s. I mash peanut butter cups into ice cream whenever possible. I could go on.

But I’m not here to write about my love, because I know it is hardly unique.

Reese’s cups are almost universally idolized and beloved. Americans abroad have it tough, as Reese’s are virtually impossible to find in most countries, though citizens of the world clamor for a nibble. Here in America, we stow Reese’s in cubicle drawers, pantries, and coat pockets, rewards at the end of a tough day, or just because.

I’ll cut to the chase: Reese’s has a serious problem with quality control. As blissful, as divine as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can be, too often, the chocolate is coated in a sickly, white film and sticks to the wrapper

View original post 876 more words

I could not resist.

At the store today I found this homemade salted caramel vanilla fudge and I just HAD to have it. It’s as delicious as it looks.
Sometimes you just HAVE to indulge.

salted_caramel_fudge

Lucky Otter’s flourless mac ‘n’ cheese

mac_and_cheese
Tonight’s dinner.

I’ve been making this for years. My kids adored it when they were young and still do. It’s a very simple recipe and tastes great! And unlike other macaroni and cheese recipes, it uses no flour.

I decided to make it tonight because I wanted some “comfort food” but didn’t want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen!

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
1 stick of butter (you can substitute margarine but I prefer butter), softened
16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. container of whole milk (4% milkfat) cottage cheese (you can use lowfat too)
1 16 oz box of elbow macaroni, penne, farfalle (bow ties) or other small pasta of your choice (I like DaVinci Twists best for this recipe)
Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
Green onions chopped into small pieces (optional)
Sea salt (any salt will do, really)

Directions

1. In a large pot, boil water with about a half teaspoon of salt added.
2. When water boils, add pasta of your choice
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix 3/4 of the shredded cheese, cottage cheese, butter, eggs and parmesan cheese into a paste; set aside.
4. When pasta is cooked, drain and run cold water over it to rinse off the starch
5. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture, and mix thoroughly
6. If you wish, add the green onions.
7. Spoon the mixture into a lasagna-sized glass or foil baking pan
8. Add the remaining 1/4 of shredded cheddar cheese to the top and add a few more green onion slices if you wish
9. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and a little more parmesan cheese on top.
10. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is melted.
11. Serve and enjoy!

The best cake I ever ate.

princess_cake

When I was about 14, my mother and I spent a weekend in Connecticut with some Swedish friends of hers. I never forgot the cake they served. I think it was probably the best cake I ever had. I couldn’t get enough of it. I was told it was called a Princess cake and is a traditional dessert in Sweden.

Wikipedia has a good article about this delectable cake. It has an interesting history too.

A princess cake (prinsesstårta in Swedish) is a traditional Swedish layer cake consisting of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, pastry cream, and a thick-domed layer of whipped cream. This is topped by marzipan, giving the cake a smooth rounded top. The marzipan overlay is usually green, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and often decorated with a pink marzipan rose.

The original recipe first appeared in the 1930s Prinsessornas Kokbok cookbook, which was published by Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of the three daughters of H.R.H. Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The cake was originally called grön tårta (green cake), but was given the name prinsesstårta or “princess cake” because the princesses were said to have been especially fond of the cake. The princesses were H.R.H. Princess Margaretha (1899–1977; later Princess of Denmark), H.R.H. Princess Märtha (1901–1954; later Crown Princess of Norway), and H.R.H. Princess Astrid (1905–1935; later Queen of the Belgians).[3] The cake is widely featured in Tom McNeal’s book Far Far Away.

princess_cake2

I attempted to make a Princess cake once, but didn’t have much luck with the whipped cream, which turned to a gooey liquid and created a mess of the beautiful smooth marzipan coating. It’s not an easy recipe, but if you want to try making one yourself, here is a recipe that looks good: http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/prinsesstarta-princess-cake/

For the marzipan, some grocery stores sell it in ready made tubes in the baking section, which could save you time instead of having to crush the almonds yourself. You can also use a good storebought jam instead of making your own, which may simplify things. The chocolate piping in this recipe is optional. I don’t think it’s necessary. The fondant rose is a nice touch, but also is optional. A dusting of powdered sugar on top of the marzipan with no further embellishments still looks great.

Ingredients

For the vanilla custard:
600ml (20 fl oz) milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeded scraped out
6 free-range egg yolks
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
50g (1¾ oz) cornflour
50g (1¾ oz) unsalted butter

For the jam:
200g (7 oz) raspberries
175g (6 oz) jam sugar

For the sponge:
4 large free-range eggs
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
75g (2½ oz) cornflour
75g (2½ oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g (1¾ oz) butter, melted

For the fondant rose:
25g (1oz) pink ready-to-roll icing
icing sugar, for dusting
To decorate:
750ml (1⅓ pints) double cream
50g (1¾ oz) dark chocolate (36% cocoa solids), melted

For the marzipan:
400g (14 oz) ground almonds
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
250g (9 oz) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
green food coloring paste (do not use liquid food coloring)

princess-cake640x360-288x162
The finished result of this recipe.

Directions
For the vanilla custard, pour the milk into a pan with the vanilla seeds and vanilla pod and place over a low heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together until pale and creamy.
Remove the vanilla pod from the warm milk. (You can rinse this off to use in making vanilla sugar.)

Stir the warm milk slowly into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, whisking, until the mixture thickens. (It should be very thick.)
Remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted and incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool. Set aside to chill in the fridge.

For the jam, tip the raspberries into a deep saucepan with the sugar and two tablespoons of water. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil vigorously for about four minutes, or until the temperature reaches 104C/219F on a sugar thermometer. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and leave to cool completely.

For the sponge, preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan)/Gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 23cm (9 in) springform tin with baking parchment.

Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and using an electric mixer, whisk together until the mixture is very pale and thick and the whisk leaves a trail on the surface when lifted. This will take about five minutes.

Sift the cornflour, flour and baking powder over the egg mixture and carefully fold in using a large metal spoon. Fold in the melted butter, taking care not to over mix.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until the sponge is golden-brown and has just started to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the fondant rose, roll 10 little pieces of fondant into small balls about the size of a cherry stone.

Dust two small pieces of greaseproof paper with icing sugar and one by one, place the balls of fondant between the sheets of greaseproof and flatten each ball out with your fingers, to a thin circle, approximately 2cm/1in in diameter. These form the petals. Roll the first petal up like a sausage to form a bud and wrap the remaining petals around the bud to make a rose. Bend and curl the edges of the petals, to make them look more realistic. Leave to dry for at least an hour.

To assemble the cake, using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into three even layers. Place one of the sponges onto a serving plate. Spread a very thin layer of custard over the base of the first sponge.

Spoon a quarter of the custard into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a border around the edge of the sponge – this is to contain the jam.

Spoon the jam over the sponge, and spread evenly within the border.

In a bowl, whip 600ml/20fl oz of the double cream to firm peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the remaining custard.

Spread one-third of the custard cream over the jam.

Place the second sponge on top and spread over the remaining custard cream.

Place the third sponge on top. Spoon over the remaining whipped cream covering the sides and smoothing into a small dome shape on the top. Set aside in the fridge for an hour.

For the marzipan, mix the ground almonds and sugars in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, before adding the eggs and almond extract.

Knead in the bowl until it forms a stiff dough. Turn out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar. Using a cocktail stick add a tiny amount of green food coloring and knead to an even pastel green color.

Roll out the marzipan on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, to a 40cm/16in diameter circle, large enough to cover the cake. Lift the marzipan up over the cake and using your hands, shape the marzipan around the sides of the cake to get a smooth finish. Trim any excess.

Whip the remaining 150ml/5½fl oz of cream to medium peaks and spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle. Pipe around the base of the cake.

Spoon the melted chocolate into a small paper piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe a swirl over the top of the cake. Top with the fondant rose.

pink_princess_cake
A pink princess cake.

You can also order a Princess cake from several online sources. They aren’t cheap, but the expense may be worth it if you’re not a pretty advanced baker. I couldn’t find any simple recipes for this cake.

Here are a few online outlets where you may order one.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe: http://www.copenhagenbakery.com/product/Princess-Cake/
Schubert’s Bakery: https://www.schuberts-bakery.com/whipped-creme-cakes/swedish-princess-cake.html
IKEA used to sell these cakes too, but all I could find on their site was a miniature version that looked like a cupcake. Here it is, if you’re interested: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30206306/

I can’t stop eating these.

These are like crack. I can and have eaten an entire box in one sitting.

cheezit_grooves

Cadbury…GRAPES?

cadbury_grapes

Isn’t it just the most horrible feeling when you bite into something and expect to taste one thing, and it turns out to be something different than you expected? The other day I took a bite of a “chocolate chip” cookie and found out too late it was a raisin cookie. It made me want to spit it out. If I KNOW it’s a raisin cookie, it’s not so bad.

If I got a Cadbury chocolate and bit into a grape instead, I think I would gag. Even though I think grapes are delicious. But I’d like to KNOW I’m biting into a grape.

Incredible news for my “Merrimints” fans!

Several months ago, I posted an article about “Merrimints,” a delicious mint candy that was made until the 1970s and then disappeared. But due to the overwhelming demand for these delicious mints, several companies have recreated them. The article I posted also contained a recipe to make them yourself (not my own!)

So I have two pieces of good news for my followers who found this blog because of my Merrimints article.

The first thing is that out of close to 500 articles that exist on this blog (which has only existed for 6 months, and I’m going to write an anniversary post after this one), the Merrimints article is my third most popular post of all time! Here are the stats that show its placement among my 7 most popular articles (a few of the articles shown in the list are not articles but static pages from my header that get lots of views)

merrimints_stats
Screenshot showing 3rd place placement of Merrimints article (the “1st placer” is just my homepage). Click to make larger.

The Merrimints article is also almost always among the list of Most Popular Posts that appears in the sidebar.

I had no idea these candies were so popular, and am astounded by the continued popularity of my little article I wrote on a whim. I feel humbled by that, and appreciate all of you who reposted or shared this article on food sites, Pinterest and elsewhere. Thank you guys so much. ❤

Now, the second piece of good news.
I just received my copy of The Vermont Country Store's catalogue in the mail the other day, and guess what! They are now offering the ORANGE mint "Merrimints" (called Pastel Mints). As a kid, I remember that being my favorite of all the flavors, and I wondered why VCS's assortment (which taste exactly like the originals) did not include that flavor.

merrimints_2
This is from page 4 of the new Vermont Country Store catalog showing the ad with the orange mints.

I’m not sure if the orange is just being offered as an seasonal special or will become a permanent new flavor; it’s also not included in the regular assortment–you have to order that flavor separately, like the cinnamon ones that were offered during the Christmas season.
But it’s still awesome that the orange mints are now available!

merrimints_1
Closeup of the above ad.

Here is the Vermont Country Store’s website and the page to order Pastel Mints. I do not see the orange flavor listed here. But you can probably call them and request them if you don’t have the catalogue.

Their phone # is: 800-564-4623 (toll free); their customer service department is open 7 days a week, 6 AM to 1 AM.

The most disgusting dinner I ever ate

ewww

Last night my roommate decided to make dinner. She made tuna salad. I like tuna salad when made correctly, but I noticed it tasted sweet and had a strange lard-like texture. I asked her what she put in it. She said she made it with margarine (because she hates mayo, same as me, but I like it in tuna salad) and SUGAR. Sugar, WTF, really? I almost spit it out right then and there. My appetite was completely lost and I couldn’t eat another bite so I when she wasn’t looking I gave the rest of it to my dog, Dexter.

broccoli
I know this doesn’t have anything to do with this post, but this cartoon cracks me up.

I hate cream cheese icing!

The holidays are coming and the cold weather is here, and baking is on my mind. I adore red velvet cake, especially around the holidays, but every recipe I’ve seen for it says you must use cream cheese icing. But I can’t stand it–even though sweetened, it still tastes like cheese. It doesn’t go with cake.

Now I love me some cheese, but not with dessert. Fine, I’ll make an exception for cheesecake, even though I don’t love cheesecake as much as most people do. Cheese is tart and salty and belongs with meat, potatoes and pasta, not with cake! Yeah, I know cream cheese is mild and spreads easily, but it’s for toasted rye and bagels, not cake.

I can’t even purchase a red velvet cake because I know it will probably be covered with cream cheese icing. It looks just like buttercream and that’s such a mindfuck. The only way to tell the difference is after the cake is a few days old, the cream cheese forms little cracks where the icing hardens, like the crust that forms inside the foil wrapper of a block of Philadelphia brand cream cheese. Ewwww!

creamcheesebuttercream
Cream cheese or buttercream? You can’t tell by looking at it.

Everyone seems to love cream cheese icing, and there aren’t even too many complaints about it on the web. I don’t get it. What’s so great about it? It’s disgusting. It’s not healthier than buttercream. It’s still loaded with fat and cholesterol.

Give me good old buttercream any day, which tastes awesome on red velvet cake and any other kind of frosted cake. But not just any old buttercream will do. I can’t stand storebought buttercreams (the kind in the can) which are way too sweet, and even worse is the fake “buttercream” used in supermarket bakeries and on Wal-Mart’s cakes and cupcakes. That stuff tastes just like Crisco and leaves a greasy, unpleasant feel in your mouth.

No, a good buttercream must be made from scratch. When made properly, it’s sweet without being too sweet, and has a fabulous buttery taste that doesn’t coat your mouth with grease the way commercial buttercreams do. It spreads easily on the cake, and it looks fantastic. Here’s the buttercream I’ll be using on the red velvet cake I plan to bake tomorrow:

Lucky Otter’s Perfect Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter (softened for 1 minute in microwave–do not melt!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract *
Milk to achieve desired consistency (usually 2-3 tablespoons)

Mix the first 3 ingredients in a bowl until a stiff paste forms. Add tablespoons of milk while stirring until frosting is of a spreadable consistency.
Do not ice the cake until it is completely cooled.

* You can substitute vanilla extract with lemon extract, almond extract, or any other type of extract depending on what type of cake you are making.