Archive for December, 2010

Eggnog Cake with Almond Crust

Friday, December 24th, 2010

At long last, Christmas is upon us! At our house we look forward to the Christmas season every year: the tree, the lights, the decorations, the baking, the hustle and bustle…we LOVE Christmas. There’s a joyful energy in the air for the whole month. It’s magical.

But Christmas can be a little bit like planning a wedding. (An analogy that is top of mind for me this year.) You get caught up in the details – the parties, the shopping, getting your house ready – and you forget to pause and remember what the day is really all about. In the wedding analogy, this means focusing on the marriage rather than the accompanying party. On Christmas this means remembering what we’re really celebrating – the first half of that word: Christ. He’s the sole reason for the hope and joy that Christmas encompasses. He was the perfect gift. In fact, He’s the only gift that really matters.

So this Christmas, amid the unwrapping and eggnog and cookies, we hope you have a minute to  stop and reflect on the real reason for the day. We’ll be doing the same. And…we’ll be munching on this…

This eggnog cake is the perfect last-minute dessert. (Perfect for a last-minute post! Did this week get away from anyone else?!) It is super easy, super moist and the almond crust negates the need for glazing. We make this cake every year…usually at the last minute!

Although we have baked lots of eggnog goodies this cake is one we keep coming back to. It uses lots of eggnog, and the rum-infused batter is to-die-for good! Seasonal, homemade, fast. Perfect.

P.S. It uses a yellow cake mix. Please don’t judge, (or better yet, please don’t tell!)

You can think of this post as our little Christmas card and know that we’re sending prayers and love and best wishes from our family to yours for a blessed, happy, joyful Christmas! Merry Christmas!!

Gather Up:
3 tablespoons softened butter
½ cup sliced almonds
1 package yellow cake mix
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 ½ cup eggnog
¼ cup melted butter
2 tablespoons dark rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously grease a bundt pan with 3 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the almonds against the sides and bottom of the pan. Do not skimp on the butter – it will form the almond crust around the cake.

In an electric mixer combine the cake mix, nutmeg, eggs, eggnog, melted butter and rum. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 45 – 50 minutes.

Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely.

Love…Nancy, Ellen and Robin

Pecan Sandies

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

If you met me you might never guess that I own a light-up Christmas village. It’s the one chink in my very practical and matter-of-fact armor. My sister, who is the queen of holiday whimsy, started me collecting back when we both lived in Chicago (our houses were only 10 minutes apart…). Those were the days!

In deference to my sensible side I made a vow that I would only collect buildings and pieces that struck a chord – shops reminiscent of places I go (a greenhouse, a toy store), houses resembling neighborhoods where I live (a tiny farmhouse, a stucco hacienda) and figures and props to make me think of family members and friends (doughnut eaters, hot chocolate drinkers, snowball fighters).  I’ve pretty much remained true to that vision.

At one point UrDad built me a large wooden multi-level platform and painted it white… It was our first real attempt at an organized display. (Not my cup of tea… It looked like a store display…) Next I tried arranging it throughout the house – a few in each room – you know, spreading the holiday cheer. Then I moved to several thematic groupings strategically placed – the city scene, the country scene, the pond scene, the forest scene, the neighborhood.

And the collection of houses grew and the family of figurines multiplied, ‘cuz that’s what collections do. In my house in Austin there is not nearly enough room to display it all. Several years back we had the genius idea to rotate pieces every year in the space above the kitchen cabinets! So UrDad wired it up, laid out lights and built platforms – the city is on the left and the country is on the right! I think it is my favorite way yet.

These sugar-dusted pecan cookies fit right in with the Snow Village ridiculousness. They are decadent and unnecessary. They are nutty and delightful to behold. They keep well and ship beautifully. And they are topped with a generous amount of “snow”. Hey, we live in Texas – we do what we can!

Gather Up:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
4 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, oil and the sugars until combined.

Beat in the extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each.

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually add to the creamed mixture until combined.

Stir in pecans.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. If they are in a ball, flatten slightly with two fingers. Bake approximately 10 minutes. Watch carefully. (Do not brown on the top; only let them brown just the slightest bit around the bottom edge, because once they brown the taste will change.)

Remove to cooling rack and immediately sift confectioners’ sugar over the hot cookies. Let cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

Gingered Carrot Bread

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

At our house we just had two birthdays… two cakes… two dinners… two-times the fun you might say! But, unfortunately, almost NO time for anything else! Capping off the whole annual weekend party scene was a Sunday brunch that featured this loaf!

It also featured a mad dash to the brightest part of the house where I quickly dissolved into tears after I could not get a quick photo taken between the bacon crisping up and the folding of the cream cheese into the eggs… Not my finest moment…

All of which prompted UrDad to say, “Well, if this is so stressful, then why are you doing it?” That stopped me dead in my tracks…and then I laughed (um…it was definitely hysterical laughter, but I did laugh!)

I laughed because I have BECOME one of those people. I photograph everything I cook and try to capture its most photogenic angle (whatever that means)! My family eats cold food because I am outside in the front yard trying to catch the last rays of light over a plate of their dinner!

I am constantly asking everyone around me to look at my pictures and tell me, “Does that look appetizing?” The last time we had a guest for a meal, he waited for 30 minutes while the three of us took pictures of cookies on the back porch. Seriously. And it didn’t seem crazy at all at the time…

If you cannot relate to this perhaps you are the lucky one… If so, please tell me that I am not going down a path that will end in one of those interventions organized for those with whom the family is unable to reason… And so I ask myself, how did I go from happily taking dimly-lit and out-of-focus photos to someone fretting over shadows and foregrounds and props and lighting?

I have no answer for that question… (But UrDad is giving me a digital photography class at the community college for Christmas…probably not a moment too soon for me or for him…)

What I CAN say is that I love to make really delicious food and I find it to be absolute magic when I am able to randomly take a really mouthwatering picture of it! And what’s even better is when someone makes something I have posted and then takes the time to tell me they liked it!

So I don’t see the insanity stopping anytime soon. That being said, I offer you this scrumptious holiday bread filled with cinnamon, carrots, pineapple, pecans and a generous helping of homemade crystallized ginger!

Gather Up:
3 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped into powder
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and crystallized ginger.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs until they are light and foamy. Add the oil, sugar and vanilla and whisk vigorously until the sugar is well incorporated.

Whisk in carrots, pineapple and nuts.

Add the dry ingredients all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until just blended. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Eating Local by Janet Fletcher.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Monday, December 6th, 2010

First and foremost, THANK YOU. Seriously. Thank you so much to all of you who voted for us in the Austin Blogger Awards. It meant so much to us that you all were willing to take the time to cast a vote on our behalf. Really. You made our whole week! We didn’t win, but that’s not really what this is all about anyways. I work in social media, so I know that “community” is what’s really important. Sometimes that seems like flip consulting speak, but last week I saw that it’s actually very real. It has been so fun to get to know all of you over the course of the last 8 months or so, and we’re so very thankful to be a part of such a great community of people. So really, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now for one of the magical recipes we promised as tangible thanks…

It was a very Martha Stewart kind of weekend at our house, and if Martha has taught me one thing, it’s that there are not enough hours in the day. I mean really. How does the woman manage to sugar pears, string popcorn, create tissue-paper poinsettias and cook a holiday feast in less than 24 hours?! SHE’S the Christmas miracle! (I’m kidding. I know that she’s not the REAL Christmas miracle, but her stamina is amazing nonetheless.)

All this to say…we had grandiose plans this weekend. Those plans involved decorating our gorgeous Frasier Fir, putting up the Snow Village and unloading the other 18 boxes of Christmas décor, but what you’re looking at on this blog post is about the extent of what we actually accomplished. But, we promised you magical recipes, and we were going to deliver.

Oh – and what’s that in the background of our picture? Just some fun dessert-inspired Christmas décor. That candy cake is probably one of the best craft projects I’ve ever embarked on – I LOVE that thing. It’s so cute and so festive. And the bonus is…you have to buy LOTS of candy. LOTS of leftovers. (To clarify – this is not a Martha craft. This is pure Ellen Reynolds…with a little inspiration from the former Candylicious in Houston.)

But don’t let the candy cake distract you. The real star of this post is Martha’s Chocolate Ginger Cookies. Like all things Martha, they’re a tad time consuming, but they are SO worth it in the end. The ginger flavor isn’t overwhelming at all – it adds just a bit of spice, which is offset perfectly by the addition of cocoa and chocolate chips. The baking sugar adds sweetness and crunch. These are by far our favorite Christmas cookies, and they’re also the best. If you’re going to make one “blow you away, never forget about it for the rest of your life” cookie recipe, this is it. Seriously, these cookies will change your holiday season.

Gather Up:
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, pulverized or 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons boiling water
¼ cup white sparkling sugar

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and crystallized ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar, and beat until combined. Add molasses, and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat in the baking soda mixture, then the remaining half of the flour mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Turn dough out onto a piece of wax paper. Pat the dough out to about 1-inch thick, seal with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in sparkling sugar.

Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 9-11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe makes 2 dozen cookies and is from an old Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

Texas Pecan Cake with Butter Pecan Glaze

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Updated (again): We’ve been nominated in the Austin Blogger Awards in two categories – Best New Blog and Best Food Blog for Recipes! We’re very excited and we would love to ask for your votes! Voting runs through 5pm CST on Friday, 12/3…soooo…if you like what you see here, please go here to vote. We’ll come up with some magical recipes to say thank you! :)

When I stop to think about what I was doing at this time last year, it’s kind of crazy. Lots of things have changed. For starters, I wasn’t engaged: I wasn’t planning a wedding, dress shopping or signing up for premarital counseling. Needless to say, the past few months have been very exciting!

But, my personal life isn’t the only thing that has changed. Last year at this time, my work life was completely different, too. Our organization was smaller at the time, and I was in a corporate support role rather than the client-facing consulting role I’m in today. At about this exact time, I was probably addressing hundreds of holiday cards. A task that I in no way loathed. I’ll say it now, and I’ll probably say it again…I LOVE Christmas. It is my favorite holiday, and I am always beside myself for the whole month of December. I could hand-address holiday cards all day without complaining. (And I did.)

So although I love the position I’m in now, I’ve been secretly wishing I could contribute *something* to my company’s holiday planning. And then my boss emailed me. As it turns out, our holiday card this year will be an electronic cookbook featuring a seasonal recipe from each of the cities where we have an office, and he asked if I would like to submit one of my personal faves. Ummmm, YES. Yes I would.

I wanted to pick a recipe that is true to Austin and the Texas Hill Country. This cake is perfect because it just so happens that Texas’ state tree is the Pecan Tree. We’re usually right on Georgia’s heels for the top-producing pecan state. An average crop in Texas yields 60 million pounds!

The cake batter is made with local, homegrown butternut squash and seasonal spices, but Texas pecans are the real star of this dessert. Both the cake batter and the glaze are chock-full of them. They’re part of the 2lb. bag of “fresh crop” I picked up in Fredericksburg a couple weeks ago, and when they’re toasted, the flavor is unrivaled.

Gather Up:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cups roasted and pureed butternut squash
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup freshly grated coconut
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped

For the Butter Pecan Glaze:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup cream + 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In an electric mixer beat the butter at medium high speed until light and creamy, scraping down the bowl often.

Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, again scraping down the bowl often.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in the butternut squash and the vanilla until combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until just blended.

Remove from mixer and fold in coconut and pecans.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides of the cake have just started to pull away from the pan.

Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto cooling rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan until bubbling. Add the pecans and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Mix in the brown sugar and the cream. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Cook and stir constantly for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool until thickened. Drizzle over the cake.

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Welcome to Like Mother Like Daughters...career gal, stay at home mom, college student. Just 3 girls who love to eat and are dedicated to doing it the old-fashioned way! Plan, shop, cook, bake, clean, sleep, repeat. Hope you enjoy - we are so glad you are here!
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