Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interesting Facts About You

Over the 2-plus years that I've been writing Adirondack Baker and sharing my life and recipes, you may have learned a little bit about me, but I've also learned a little bit about you, my readers.  Here are some interesting facts:

Of the 441 posts so far, and a total of 36,579 page views, the number one  page visited is  "Make Your Own Payday Candybar" (one year ago today, June 30, 2010)  with 1,211 page views.

You are a wide and varied audience and come from diverse locations including (but not limited to):

  • US with 30,328 visits
  • Canada with 11,410 visits
  • UK with 1,635 visits
  • Germany with 331 visits
  • Australia with 279 visits
  • Italy with 130 visits
  • India with 111 visits
  • Belgium with 107 visits
  • Iran with 105 visits
  • Russia with 102 visits

There have been 293 comments left for 441 posts (special thanks to Diane Loviza, Carolyn Bradford, and Colleen Barber!). 

Thanks to my 48 followers, in appreciation for the 12 we started and stayed with for a long time before there were 13, and then 14!  I hope to continue to bring you delicious things to read!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie!

Evidence of my taste "test"
OK, I could get arrested for this one.  I mean, with my WW mentality and exercising more days than I'm not, this flies in the face of good nutrition, or even just mediocre nutrition.  But it's an Oreo stuffed inside a home-made chocolate chip cookie.  Either one on its own is good, but together, well, it's a marriage made in chocolate-lovers heaven.  The odd thing is, I could take either or leave it, depending on the day.  On Saturday, at Teresa Loviza's bridal shower, this cookie was beautifully displayed along with my shower cupcakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I couldn't help it.  I took it.  Tina made them and it would have been RUDE, I tell you, to pass it by (right?).  Have to admit, I was intrigued more than anything.  Really, why stuff a cookie within a cookie?  Just not necessary - like deep-frying a Ring Ding or pickles or even green beans for that matter.  Why ruin a good thing?  But then I tasted it, and I looked around at others who were just tasting it as well.  We shared a reaction, and it was "Oh my God!!!!"  The sum is more than its parts.  Just try it once.  You never have to go back there again, but an Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie is a confectionary experience not to be missed!

OK - just remember, you have a mind of your own.  Don't blame me!

(recipe courtesy of Picky Palate)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package Double Stuff Oreo cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer until well combined.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda.  Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined.
  4. Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie.  Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo cookie.  Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo cookie is enclosed with dough.  Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
Photo:  my own, while I had a chance

Monday, June 27, 2011

Talkin' about a Beach Wedding Cake

Today I met with a lovely mother-of-the-groom to discuss the beach-themed cupcake wedding cake I'm making for her son and his wife.  The party is in July, a local celebration for a wedding that already took place far away from home.  Cindy (the M.O.G.) was referred to me by our mutual friend Chris, for whom I've baked a number of important family cakes in the past, including individual pineapple upside down cakes for her son's rehearsal dinner a few years ago.  Those were really pretty cakes!

Cindy and I met at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga, over my lunch hour.  We hadn't met previously, but she recognized me from having seen my blog profile picture, and I was probably the only person carrying a box of cupcakes!  For her sampling, I made Paula Deen's red velvet cupcakes (recipe posted a few weeks back).  Last night, when I thought my baking for the weekend was behind me, I remembered that I had promised my son-in-law Bill scones for his coworkers, as his way to greet them and a new week on a Monday morning.  So, I whipped together a dozen-and-a-half chocolate chip walnut scones (which were so well-received that Bill got requests for the recipe!), and later realized I needed to provide a sample for M.O.G. Cindy today.  I'd gone through two 10-lb. bags of King Arthur flour in a week (!) and there was barely two cups of flour left.  It could be done -- I took Paul Deen's recipe and halved it, coming up with almost a dozen red velvet cup cakes.  This morning, before work, I made about a quarter of Paula's corresponding recipe for cream cheese frosting, and took the iced cupcakes with me to work. 

Paula's recipe!

I really enjoyed meeting Cindy and talking about the way the cupcakes will be decorated -- with fondant sand dollars, sea shells, and little teddy graham sun bathers lolling on fruit-stripe gum towels.  She wants the cupcake display to be lively, colorful, and fun-loving.  It will be, I promise.  Can't wait to see how it comes out.  I'll keep you posted - there's about a month to go before this cake makes its debut!In the meantime, there's always time to enjoy my buddies!

Hank (l., with haircut) and Pete (r. with cuteness!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lovely Weekend

There's a lot to be said about taking time "to smell the roses."  Between work and baking, I've been so busy lately that it was necessary to consciously stop to enjoy life a little bit.  This past Friday night some of my highschool classmates and other friends met for a "mini-reunion" at the Seven Horse Pub in Saratoga Springs.  I hadn't been in that building since it was home to Mother Goldsmith's, a place where my parents used to enjoy a New York-style deli sandwich back in the 1970s.  With all the baking orders I had pending for this weekend, I thought that I didn't really have time to join my friends, but realized that it was important to make the time, to deliberately carve out part of the weekend to reconnect, to enjoy familiar company, and once again to remember why we are periodically drawn to spend time with each other at least once every year or so.  With social media as a catalyst, spurred by fellow classmate Cindy Kahn Kansky, the ball was rolling by word-of-mouth (or I should say "word-of-facebook") and there were more than twenty of us gathered in the upstairs dining room of the pub for a few hours Friday night.

SSHS '72ers at Seven Horse Pub

Terry Valentine McCue and
Nancy Hinckley Stevens, SSHS '72!

After enjoying that little break, I woke very early Saturday morning to begin baking again.  There was a graduation cake for Abby (I've been baking her birthday cakes since she was a little girl), and bridal shower cupcakes for my "honorary" neice Teresa Loviza.  While we're not blood-related, my family and the Lovizas have been friends for years and our children grew up together.  Teresa and my daughter Tricia were great friends as little girls, and it's lovely to see what beautiful women they've become.  Teresa is marrying Nick Rauscher in August, and Tricia will be married to Jeff Ayers in September of 2012.  It's an exciting time for all our families. 

Lovely bride-to-be Teresa Loviza

Carrot cupcake
with cream cheese frosting

Teresa's bridal shower was hosted by her family and friends at the home of her sister, Tina Rosato.  Tina has a future in either catering, food design, or interior decorating.  She is an artist in the way she creates a beautiful atmosphere for celebration.  Her home is a reflection of her talent, a joyful and visually beautiful place, and an intimate setting for hosting a shower for her only sister.  My contribution to the shower was carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, decorated with fondant flowers, displayed on my trusty custom-made cupcake stand (one of the best investments I've ever made!). 

I came home to a little more baking which I took care of while Russ was off playing nine holes of golf at Brookhaven.  I spent a little time with my boys, Hank and Pete, and later Russ and I enjoyed dinner at Winslow's in Wilton.  It was a lovely first-half of the weekend.  Today finds me with no baking to do at all, and time to reflect on the weekend still left to smell the roses!

Pete, now 8 months cute!
Henry the builder

Monday, June 20, 2011

Claira's Cake

It's busy baking season.  Ask anyone who bakes regularly, and they'll tell you that June is intense.  Since I am not a professional and bake mostly for requests from friends and family, the impact is not as intense for me as it is for the pros.  Still, for the past month or so, I've been baking an average of three cakes a weekend, and next weekend will be busy as well.  There are special cakes lined up for graduations and also for a bridal shower for a very special young woman I've known since the day she was born, Teresa Loviza.   I'm very excited about that one and will provide a step-by-step photo journal of its creation.

Sometimes, looking forward toward a busy baking weekend, I wonder  how I'll be able to get it all done.  Days before, the creative process kicks into gear and I begin to build a cake in my mind.  I spend days with inspired motivation, mentally revise the cake a few times, and ultimately sketch out the final design.  Even then, the cake can take on a different design as it is being created.  I really never know what the actual cake will look like until it's done.

This past weekend I made a birthday cake for Claira, my 5-year old great neice.  Claira is a beautiful little girl, with dark brown eyes, warm chestnut hair, and a shy smile.  Her mom, my neice Louise, called Saturday to ask if I was planning to make Claira's cake.  The week had gotten away from both of us, so a cake wasn't planned but I was very happy to make a cake to mark this first "big" birthday, even with one day's notice.  Five years old is a big deal.  I remember when I turned 5.  That morning I woke up thinking I was taller and that I could definitely run faster.  It's the first milestone birthday that a child will remember.  I wanted Claira's cake to be something she'd remember along with her special day, to join in her memories of her first big-girl bike (a 2-wheeler, pink and white, with all the bells and whistles).

Birthday girl Claira - with self-applied
make up (washable!)...

Henry checking out Claira's
new birthday bike!

Louise said Claira requested a chocolate cake with choclate frosting, and for the design..."just something pretty."  I went to my standard Hershey cake recipe, for both the cake and frosting (found on the back of the cocoa tin). I decided to make a cake with flowers, and a bumble bee, and a few lady bugs.  Louise is an outdoors-type mom who has always loved nature and growing things.  I figured Claira would appreciate the same.  So, I got out the fondant and food colorings, and went to work.  It took a couple of hours of creative energy, and I made a big mess in the process and was glad to be finished,  but when I saw the look on Claira's face as she first laid eyes on her cake, it was all worth it.  It's always worth it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

I've been leaving work and going to physical therapy lately (3x/week) so my days are longer than usual.  Fortunately, the treatment has provided incredible relief, and I leave feeling almost normal! I especially love the ultrasound with electricity that makes my back muscles all prickly and tingly, and then I spend time on the machines and doing stretching exercises.  It won't be long until I can rejoin my exercise group, but NO jump roping ever again, and no yoga for now.  I have to take it slow as I resume the exercises I've missed for the past two weeks.

After PT tonight, I was looking forward to having dinner with Katie and the boys. I called to see if they might like to go out somewhere for a change, since she makes dinner almost every night, but  her phone was on vibrate and she didn't get the message.  When I got home, Katie had planned another terrific dinner, and I was the lucky mom who got to enjoy it with her.  We have dinner together a lot since I live in the granny flat over her garage.  I usually call on my way home to ask Katie if she needs anything or what she'd like for dinner.  Usually she's already got something in the works, and tonight her plan was for Buffalo chicken wraps.  She grilled boneless chicken breast halves (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder), sliced it into small pieces, steamed some small whole wheat tortillas, and cut up lettuce and tomatoes.  I mixed a tablespoon or so of blue cheese crumbles with sour cream (light is fine) and hot sauce (!) to spread inside the tortilla.  We built our own wraps, which were incredibly delicious.  Our side dish was freshly sliced strawberries.  It wasn't a typical Wednesday night dinner, but it was fresh, delicious, and pretty healthy!  Plus, there's the entertainment:  Henry is repeating words like a parrot, and little Pete jumps to his heart's delight in his bouncy chair, so dinner at Katie's is a whole lot of fun!

Pete in his bouncy chair


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, grilled until cooked through
4-6 flour tortillas, warmed up
shredded lettuce
cut-up tomatoes
1 tbsp. blue cheese crumbles, plus more for garnish
hot sauce to taste
1/4 cup sour cream (light or non-fat is fine)

Slice grilled chicken into pieces small enough to assemble in a wrap.  In center of tortilla, spread a little sauce made of blue cheese crumbles, sour cream, and hot sauce to taste.  Pile lettuce, tomatoes, sliced chicken, and more blue cheese crumbles over sauce.  Sprinkle more hot sauce if you like.  Roll tortilla shell to close. 


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Showering Best Wishes!

Shower is the theme this weekend, both for the weather and for some of the baking projects coming out of my kitchen.  Yesterday morning I delivered cupcakes, muffins, scones, and cinnamon rolls to my friend Katie Kane who was hosting a bridal shower for her sister-in-law Jess.  Jess is marrying Dave, one of my co-workers at Skidmore College. 

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Last night, my daughter Katie and I baked and decorated sugar cookies for today's bridal shower.  This shower, hosted by my friends Sarah and Beth (of the 2-birthday cake Beth from last week's post!) is for Lauren, a former Skidmore student who is getting married in a few weeks.  I am so excited to have baked these cookies for Lauren's shower.  She is a beautiful, happy, lovely woman who found the just-right person to spend her life with.  It is a happily-ever-after love story if there ever was one, for two people who truly deserve joy in their lives.

Bridal Shower Cookies

There is more baking going on in my kitchen, of a non-shower nature.  Yesterday, my neice Lauren (another Lauren) came by with cupcakes she made for her daughter Scarlet's birthday party today.  Scarlet is her youngest child of three.  She has a big sister Lili and a brother, Will.  Lauren and I played with fondant and made bumble bees, flowers, and Minnie Mouse bows to top the cupcakes which will be served at the birthday party later today.  It took some time but was worth the effort.  Scarlet loves all things Minnie Mouse, and bumble bees, so she got both and I think they go together nicely.  Henry came up to "help" and he and Lauren worked on making the bumble bee bodies. 

Bumble Bee Cupcakes
Henry telling Lauren how it's done, apparently!
Minnie's Bow Cupcake

Flower Cupcake

When I dropped the cookies off at Sarah's house this morning, she commented on how nice it is to have something to serve at a shower that has so much love in it.  I told her that I do feel that; that it makes it all worth it when people trust me to provide a cake or cookies or whatever for their celebration.  I hope they know that what I am delivering is more than just the ingredients that make up a special dessert -- I am also delivering with it all my best wishes for a happy day, with hope that the little part I play in their day brings a measure of joy to the occasion.  That's why I do it.

Scarlet and her cupcakes!

And now, I must stop writing to decorate a graduation cake for my friend Joyce's nephew Devon who just graduated from SUNY Cortland and is going on to St. Thomas School of Law. What an exciting day for their family! 

And the grand finale - Devon's grad cake!

Hope you all have a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


It seems like life is bursting out all over in the plants around our house.  Katie and Bill planted fruit trees and berry bushes last year.  I had taken a half day off from work today, and spent some afternoon time outside with Henry.  I should mention that I looked away for just a second, and he decided to jump in his little pool with all his clothes on.  Didn't seem to bother him a bit! 

Yep, with his clothes on
(and that is green - washable - marker
on his arms)

Checking the wheels...

We walked all around the yard and I took photos of the fruit that is now appearing on the young trees that were planted just a year ago (and one, singular peony!). 

Baby peaches

Brand new apple
The one and only peony blossom
Hope you have a happy, fruitful weekend as well!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Eve, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and Friends

Thursday ranks among my favorite days of the week.  By the time Thursday arrives, the weekend seems close enough that I can relax and bit and begin to enjoy a more casual mindset.  Thursday, as Friday Eve (or "Thriday" as my sister Anne refers to it), becomes the day of happy anticipation for the expected freedom from the hectic pace of the work week.  Thursday may have wonderful merits all its own, but I see it as the big assist thrown to Friday, to help usher in a well-deserved break with unstructured time.  Of course, I never seem to find unstructured time, because I manage to structure the heck out of the 48-plus hours that commence as I walk out of my office on a Friday afternoon.  I'm working on that...

This Thursday was particularly nice.  My boss agreed to give me Friday afternoon off, thus getting my weekend off to a head start.  This afternoon, one of our lovely student assistants, Dara, shared red velvet cupcakes she baked for a little birthday celebration we had for her co-worker Logan.  I LOVE to enjoy other peoples' baking, and these cupcakes were outta sight!  Dara made Paula Deen's recipe for red velvet cake, and topped them with cream cheese frosting.  They were beautiful and equally delicious!  I had one and told myself it was standing in for the yogurt and protein bar that are usually my afternoon snack! 

Dara's Red Velvet Cupcake!

After work, I met six friends at Jacob and Anthony's in Saratoga Springs.  We ordered drinks and shared appetizers (pictured below), and wished our friend Mary Cogan a happy belated birthday.  Our young server Marcus was terrific and enjoyed overhearing (I think he enjoyed it) the banter, at times silly and at times serious, between a bunch of 50+-somethings making sense of our worlds.

And to top it all off...

Mary's complimentary dessert
at Jacob & Anthony's!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Work, Play, and Balance

As the weekend approaches I have to literally map out every upcoming moment to make sure I can get it all done.  It's a big cake weekend with two showers and one graduation.  Add to that a predicted 97-degree day with high humidity and thunder showers (and a full work day ahead) and the challenges mount.  And now, physical therapy three times a week has to be figured in.  It'll be fine.  I've been overly-busy before and I will be again.  And even though my to-do list is overflowing, there's no way I'm going to miss a get-together after work today with good friends.  That hour or so will go a long way toward creating the necessary balance of work and play. 

Just as I was returning from my first physical therapy session last night (thank goodness) my nephew-in-law Bob came by with Sarah and the girls to pick up a baby shower cake I made for one of his co-workers.  They stayed for a while while Hannah and their Katie played with Henry.  Henry was excited to have kid company.  He had helped me bake the cake, and apparently was very invested in the experience because when Bob picked up the cake box as they were leaving, Henry burst into tears and cried "my cake!!!"  He was inconsolable as they walked out the door and drove away.  Katie promised Henry there will be more cakes, and that is something I can guarantee.

Henry "reading" at Grandma's

Shower Cake for Baby Xander

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Random Tuesday Stuff

It was a good day.  I finally got the MRI I've been waiting for, so PT for my back starts tomorrow.  It's been a week of lying on the floor, alternating cold and hot, all around working full time and baking a lot.  Kinda crazy.  I'm grateful for my b'friend Russ's chiropractic advice and for the health insurance I'm fortunate to have with my job that allows me to take advantage of the medical services I need.  Combined, I'm on my way to feeling much better, I'm sure.  Like a lot of people, I work as much for the benefits as the paycheck.  The older I get, the more I realize that's true.  BUT, I want to stay as healthy as I can heading toward the big six-oh, and hopefully I'll be able to rejoin my exercise program very soon. 

After work I headed to the gas station to fill my tank - I'd been driving around on fumes and didn't want to risk running out of gas.  I went to the first gas station I came upon, on the corner of Church St. and Clinton Ave. in Saratoga Springs.  While I was filling up, I caught a glimpse of the building across the street.  Every year, this building adorns itself in baskets of beautiful flowers.  Thought I'd share the pretty image with you:

After that, I went to the grocery store to stock up on baking supplies for this coming week and weekend.  I'm looking forward to baking for a baby shower, a bridal shower, and a graduation.  I lugged 10-lb. bags of King Arthur flour and sugar up the stairs to my granny flat!  I can't expect Katie's chickens to keep up with my baking demands, so I bought an 18-pack of eggs.  Cake #1 is out of the oven, and it's for tomorrow.  My nephew-in-law Bob is stopping by with Sarah and the girls after work tomorrow night to pick up a baby shower cake for a co-worker in his office.  The cake just came out of the oven and I'll get up very early before work to frost and decorate it.  I have a lot of ideas about the design -- he left it up to me -- and while I sleep tonight I'm sure the final version will suddenly appear in my head!  That's what often happens, actually.  This is a marble sheet cake.  Henry came up and "helped" as he often does, which made my night. 

I have my windows wide open to let the heat of the oven out and the cool of the night in.  There's a lovely breeze coming through my windows.  I think it'll be a good night to sleep.  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baked Risotto

Martha Stewart's
Oven-Baked Risotto
 Last night I said "the heck with you" to my on-going aching back and looming baking deadlines and joined six friends at Max London's in Saratoga Springs for dinner to celebrate our friend Marla's milestone birthday.  It was a lovely evening of easy conversation and good food.  Three or four of us ordered the same thing -- risotto -- and it was delicious.  Studded with asparagus, peas, and spinach, it was a hearty and satisfying meal.  Before that, we shared appetizers including a cheese plate, a beet and feta salad, and a margharita pizza.  We topped it all off with chocolate cupcakes I made especially for the occasion. 

Cupcakes for Marla's Birthday

While we were all oohing and aahing over our risotto, Kim, who was seated to my right, said she had a good recipe for oven-baked risotto that she got from the Ocean Spray Web site.  That made me curious, so when I got home I looked it up and found it, linked here.  I continued investigating, and found one that I will also try.  It's Martha Stewart's recipe for oven-baked risotto, and I am posting it here:

from Martha Stewart

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine, (optional)
2 to 2 1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup homemade or low sodium canned chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, (optional)


1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In an ovenproof saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring to coat the grains with oil, about 1 minute.

2.Stir in the wine and cook until it has completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water, the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, transfer to the oven, and bake, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, 20 to 25 minutes.

3.Remove from oven. Stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup water (the consistency of the risotto should be creamy), the butter, cheese, and parsley. Serve immediately.

Link to Martha's recipe page: