We have a wonderful bakery here in Juneau: Wild Oven.  Their breads are perfect for all sorts of sandwiches and dishes.  I particularly like making French Toast with their Country French and Many Raisins breads.  This weekend, as a treat for my favorite munchkin, I made French toast with a lovely maple cinnamon toast sprinkle from Summit Spice and Tea (an Anchorage specialty store).

IngredientsIMG_2185 (2)

4 medium thick slices of French bread
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon toast sprinkle (cinnamon, maple sugar, brown sugar, cardamom)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
sliced strawberries, maple syrup, etc. to garnish

How I Made It

Lay the slices of bread in a shallow baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Then pour the egg mixture over the bread. Let the slices soak for 5 minutes. Turn them over, spoon the egg mixture over the top, and let soak another 5 minutes.

(This is a great time to wash and slice your berries.)

Heat the butter over medium-high heat.  Brown the bread in the butter, cooking about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Note that if your bread has lots of nooks and crannies, you’ll need to be sure that all of the egg mixture has cooked through on each side.

Serve hot, with berries and syrup. Serves 2.

How It Turned Out

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YUMMY!!

It’s nearly a month late, but I finally had my birthday party today. To celebrate getting older and actually settling into my own skin, I invited a dozen of my groovy girlfriends to a BELLYDANCING PARTY! And what else would you serve to get your wiggle on than fabulous gourmet gell-o shots!

These easy recipes all use Knox gelatin and fruit juice, with a complementary liquor.

Limoncello Shots

Prepare your mold or containers by putting a curl of lemon zest in each receptacle. Heat 3/4 cup of water in the microwave to boiling. Whisk in 3 packets of gelatin until dissolved. Add 1 cup of cold lemonade, the juice of the lemon you zested, 1/2 cup of club soda (for fizz,) and a 1/2 cup of limoncello. Whisk gently to combine the ingredients. Poor the mixture into the mold and then put them in the fridge to set.

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These were the best of the three. I used a silicon mold, which worked really well. The lemon taste was bright and not too tart. The lemon zest was startling after the cool jelly on the tongue. 

Cherry Vanilla Sweetheart Shots

Heat 1/2 cup of black cherry juice in the microwave until very hot. Whisk in one packet of gelatin until dissolved.  Add 1/2 cup of vanilla vodka and whisk gently to combine.  Pour the mixture into a heart shaped mold and then put in the fridge to set.

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I thought these were . . . unsettling . . . in appearance.  Too dark and glisteny.  They tasted wonderful, and the girls ate them all up first.  I’d make them again, but maybe dilute the juice or make a layered version so that they are less intense looking.

Peach Fizz Shots

Heat 1 cup of peach nectar in the microwave until very hot. Whisk in 2 packets of gelatin until dissolved. Add 1/2 cup of plain vodka and whisk to combine.  Add 1/2 cup of club soda (don’t whisk).  Pour into the mold and put in the fridge to set.

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These turned out super peachy, with a kick.

One note — candy molds sound like a good idea for making these.  They’re not.  Stick to silicon or a basic ice tray, if you want free standing shapes.  Or use little candy cups that people can slurp from.

These are the easiest, tastiest pork chops — thanks to this Apricot Mango Chipotle Sauce from Kozlowski Farms.

All you do is heat a half tablespoon of butter and a half tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a non-stick skillet. Put the lovely lean pork chops in the skillet and raise the heat a bit. Cook the pork chops, turning a few times so they brown nicely but don’t burn or sear too severely.

While the pork chops cook, line a baking sheet with foil.  When the pork chops are cooked through, transfer them to the baking sheet.  Brush the tops with the Apricot Mango Chipotle Sauce (a nice but not too thick layer).  Put the pork chops in the oven under the broiler (on high) and let the glaze caramelize. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Voila!

Pork Chops

Note: This sauce is also great on salmon and shrimp — especially on the grill!

I made a loaf of my banana blueberry bread and decided that it needed a little fanciness.

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There’s a sprinkle of ginger in the batter, so I decided to carry that through into the frosting. All you need is a mixer, 8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1-2 teaspoons of ground ginger, and a cup of confectioner’s sugar. Let your standing mixer do the work, and then spread a lovely thick layer of frosting on top of the loaf.

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I can’t wait for breakfast!

Baking is love. Especially for introverts who want to show that they care, but don’t necessarily want to have a long conversation about it. These healthy treats are perfect for sharing: whole wheat muffins that get their moist texture from the bananas and their sweetness from the blueberries.

Ingredients

3 organic bananas, mashed
2 cups organic blueberries
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar (I recommend Zulka Morena Sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
10 ounces plain greek yogurt (2 containers)
3 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your muffin tin with paper liners, or use those groovy paper baking pans like I did.

Combine the bananas, sugars, eggs, and oil together in a bowl. Do not add the blueberries — those come at the end.

In a very large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle the ground ginger over the top, adding as much or as little as you like.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Combine with a rubber spatula as best you can.  Then add the yogurt and continue to stir until thoroughly mixed.  You will have a dense, sticky batter. This is why you don’t stir the blueberries in — they would just mash up and turn everything purple.

Fill the muffin tins/baking pans 3/4 full, adding blueberries as you spoon the batter into the tin/pans.  Bake on the center rack of the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs.

How They Turned Out

These are dense but not dry. Not super sweet, so the banana and blueberry flavors come through nicely. The ginger is very subtle, nicely complementing the berries. Best served warm, with cold milk.

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These easy peasy mixed fruit pies are perfect for picnics and parties. The filling isn’t too sweet and the pastry is soft and flaky.

Ingredients:

3 cups of frozen organic mixed berries (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry), thawed
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons of water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches of sea salt
2 sheets of Pillsbury Puff Pastry dough, thawed
1/4 cup flour for dusting
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with nonstick foil. (These will stick because of the oozy filling, and I’m not sure parchment is good enough.)

Heat the fruit in a saucepan over medium heat until warm through. While that’s cooking, whisk the cornstarch and water together until combined. After about 5 minutes, stir the cornstarch and then the sugar, vanilla, and salt into the fruit. Raise the temperature to bring the fruit mixture to a boil. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick or scorch.  When it’s bubbly, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough.  You want it to be thin but not too thin.  Then, cut the dough into 6 squares or rectangles.

To assemble the pies, brush a little egg wash along the edges.  Put a spoonful of fruit not quite in the center but far enough the edge to minimize leakage.

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Fold the pastry over, and crimp the edges with a fork. Cut three little slits in the top and then brush the top with egg wash.

Transfer the pies to the lined baking sheets.  Give them a good margin, because they will leak as you bake them. Bake them for 30 minutes or until a lovely golden brown on top.

Let them cool before transferring them to a serving plate.

How They Turned Out:

Lovely!  You can serve them with whipped cream, ice cream, or just plain.

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One note — I have a friend who is allergic to corn. So, I pulled a half cup of fruit aside before adding the other ingredients. His pies were just as good.

My favorite munchkin is going through a Space Phase. Rockets, Planets, Robots — we are enjoying discovering them all. For his sixth birthday, I attempted a rocket ship themed cake (not my best creation):

Rocket Fail

So when I found a cool space ship cake pan, I had to get it and try again. This time, I used a moist dark chocolate cake and decorated it with whipped cream and berries instead of frosting.

One note: This is my first time baking with Zulka Morena Sugar, a not-to-sweet unrefined sugar from sugar cane grown with no GMOs on small farms that use sustainable farming practices. I was very pleased with the result.

Ingredients:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large brown cage-free eggs
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 ounces (1 container) of plain 2% greek yogurt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup very hot water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups very cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
assorted berries, washed and sliced

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare two cake pans with baking spray. (This recipe filled the rocket pan and a small loaf pan.)

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and 2 cups of sugar together on medium speed until combined. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, and then the vanilla, beating to combine.  Add the cocoa powder one tablespoon at a time, mixing at a medium-low speed (otherwise it will POOF and make a mess).

Mix in the yogurt at medium-low speed.  Slow the mixer and then add the dry ingredients in three batches (be careful of the dreaded POOF). You’ll have a thick batter.

Turn the mixer off before slowly pouring the hot water into the batter. Turn it on the lowest speed so the hot water doesn’t slosh out. You can speed it up a bit as it combines. Now you’ll have a thin, watery batter.  Add the chocolate chips as the last step.

Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake them in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool completely before decorating.

Don’t make the whipped cream until right before you want to decorate and serve the cake. Chill the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the whipped cream.  Assemble the bowl and whisk on the mixer, and then pour the whipping cream into the mixing bowl. Whip the cream on high speed until it starts to peak. Sprinkle the cream with the two tablespoons of sugar and continue to whip it until it reaches a thick consistency.  Be careful not go too far or you’ll end up with butter.

Top the cake with whipped cream and decorate with the berries.

How It Turned Out:

Out of this world!

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Okay — really it’s just a yummy chocolate cake with sweet fruit and cream. Getting to share it with such a bright star is what made it special.

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