Monday, November 26, 2012

Commenting Made Easier (I hope)

I've heard from a number of people that they'd like to leave a comment on a blog post, but can't.  It's not as easy as it should be, and they give up.  Well, I'm here to try to make it easier, because nothing makes my day more than your comments on my blog!  And I want  you to be able to win a monthly comment contest, I really do!

So, here's what you do:  Click on the comment tab at the bottom of the post.  Then...

  1. Type your comment in the comment box.
  2. Select your identity.  If you have a google account, check that and enter your user name and password.
  3. If you do not have a google account, click on Name/URL and just type your name.  If you happen to have a Web site, you can enter that.  Just make sure you leave some sort of identifying info in the body of your comment so that if you win, I can let you know.
  4. If you want to comment as "Anonymous" choose that, but I might not be able to find you if you win, unless you choose anonymous but leave a little identifying info in the comment.

I am working on making the process smoother and adopting a more user-friendly format, but for now, give this a try, and let me know what you think.  For those of  you who have been able to comment successfully, a few pointers would be very helpful in the comment section to this post (which, by the way, could earn you that prize on December 1st!).

Thanks so much for following along all this time.

aka, The Adirondack Baker

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Babies' Baptism

Very early this morning I got in my car and drove about 45 minutes north to deliver a Baptism cake (and scones) to the cutest little almost-8-month-old twins, Penelope and Carter.  I work with their mom, Cassie, and we've become very good friends in the two and a half years we've worked together.  When Cassie asked me if I'd bake this special cake for the babies, I was so honored.  This cake has been a long time coming, and Cassie and her husband Jeremy, along with their families, have so much to celebrate with the arrival of little P and C.

The cake was a 2-layer, 14" inch diameter marble cake (black and white), filled and frosted with my standard buttercream, and decorated fairly subtly with the palest shades of pink, blue, and green. (It was BIG and acutally the size of the bottom tier of a wedding cake!)  Along with the simple decorating, I like to write "white on white" on such cakes, to show respect for the occasion.

It was pretty late last night when I made the quadruple batch of buttercream frosting and started to put this cake together.  The cake has a bit of a rustic finish -- I was going for a somewhat "lovingly made for you" appearance, and I'm glad I went with that, because Cassie so loved it when she saw it.

I left as they were getting ready to head to church, and  I trust that all went very well, and that they came home to enjoy a luscious buffet and a slice of cake!

God Bless little Penelope and Carter.  You are indeed little angels.


"Fairy Godmother"  Jeannie

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Morning After -- Stuffing Cakes

What a wonderful Thanksgiving Day we had yesterday.  It started with Henry and Peter watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, so excited to see the big balloons and a really great Santa at the end.  It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky, and Russ and I really enjoyed the beautiful and scenic ride to Fort Edward for dinner with my ex-husband Gene, his wife Kathryn, and our assorted kids and in-laws, including newlyweds Tricia and Jeff and his parents, Norman and Carol.  (This year, I am especially grateful to have Meghan back in our midst - she's been so missed for the last three years.)  Gene and Kathryn have hosted Thanksgiving the last few years, and we always look forward to it.  They make it seem easy, but I know it's a lot of work to host 17 people!

In addition to the amazing turkey and side-dishes (Katie made her mashed potato casserole!), Kathryn made her delicious pumpkin cake, which I've now come to expect (!).  There were pies, cookies (gluten-free chocolate chip, my son Jeff's contribution), Carol's decadent Snickers brownies, and as much good cheer as there was food.  Couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving.

early in the day...

A hostess gift of assorted scones, the dining room, the newlyweds,
beautiful setting, and my little buddies.  A lovely Thanksgiving.
(Click to enlarge)

And now, on the morning after, like many people I'm caught between the Thanksgiving food hangover and inspiration as to "what to do?" with all those left-overs.  My leftovers are actually intentional - eventhough I didn't have to host and we were guests yesterday, I bought a turkey to cook after Thanksgiving to extend those flavors well into the weekend.  I brought home a bowl-full of stuffing from our dinner.  This morning I was thinking that it would be a really good idea to shape some of that stuffing into patties to fry up like crab cakes.  How versatile could this be?  It could be served for breakfast along side an egg, or take its place next to a big dinner salad with shredded left-over turkey, maybe with a cranberry vinaigrette.  Mmmmm.  So, I took a cup of stuffing, shaped it into two patties, fried it up in a little canola oil, and served it with an egg alongside.  I like mine over easy.  My eggs always have a little bit of ketchup on the side, but cranberry sauce could kick the ketchup to the curb for this one!  I brought a test-plate down to my son-in-law Bill and he really liked it.  I had my own, with my egg over-easy, and it was DELISH!  If you have left-over stuffing and are wondering what to do with it, try making stuffing cakes.  Make sure you get them nice and hot, especially if your stuffing was cooked in the bird.  

Try these.  You'll be very happy you did!

click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Campbell's Green Bean Casserole
This is one of those iconic American recipes that many, many families enjoy during the holidays.  It's so easy to make, and so delicious, it's no wonder it has found an honored place on dinner tables for Thanksgiving. There are ways to gourmet-it-up, and you can do that, using fresh green beans, your own roux, freshly sliced mushrooms, and just-breaded onion slices, but really, why?  It's not necessary if what you are going for is the memory of this favorite from holidays past.  In honor of my mother's generation, when convenience foods first made their presence known, I defer to this recipe from Campbell's.  For all its manufactured sentimentality, I will always love it.

straight from Campbell's kitchens


1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions


1.  Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
2.  Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling.  Stir the bean mixture.     Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
3.  Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

This single recipe would never be enough for me my family, so doubling is always a good idea.

Original recipe: 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monkey Boy Cake

Today I delivered a 3-tiered cake for baby Aiden's first birthday.  His mom Jen works at Skidmore, in another office, and we met a few weeks ago for lunch to talk about the cake.  She envisioned three tiers and gave me one of his party invitations for inspiration.  I would be using it as a reference for color and design.

Aiden is a beautiful little boy, and it was a pleasure to make this cake for his special day.  Jen requested almond cake for the bottom tier, chocolate cake for the middle, and white cake for the top tier.  I have good recipes for chocolate and white cakes, but hadn't made an almond cake in years, if ever (can't remember one!).  I searched the internet for good recipes and found a highly-rated one on  It uses a cake mix as a base, but there's much more added, so I consider it more scratch than not.  I didn't adapt it at all, since I trusted the reviews.  The cake baked high and firm, and when I trimmed the tops to level, realized that it was an incredibly moist cake, probably because of the addition of sour cream.  The almond flavor was obvious but subtle and not at all overpowering.  It had the classic flavor of a white wedding cake, when wedding cakes were all white and flavored with almond (the '60s?)...  Anyway, with the addition of my buttercream frosting and some artsy fondant work, Monkey Boy came together nicely, I think!

Henry was my assistant today, and he had his own ball of fondant to play with as I made my creations.  He came along as we took the 1/2 hour drive to deliver the cake to Aiden.  I was driving as if I had a 3-tiered cake in the back of my car (which I did), slow and steady, which lulled Henry.  He was sound asleep as I pulled into the driveway.  Still, it was nice having him come along.  He's an excellent assistant, even if it means clean-up time, upon returning home, takes twice as long!

Oven 325 degrees Farenheit


1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour an 11x13 inch cake pan.
2. Stir together the white cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Pour in the water, sour cream, vegetable oil, almond and vanilla extracts, and egg whites, and beat with an electric mix on low until all the ingredients are mixed and moistened but some lumps still remain, 4 minutes.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake in the preheated oven until the top is a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jody Shepson's Make-Ahead Gravy, just in time!

You can't go wrong with this make-ahead gravy recipe, in fact you will go all right according to Jody Shepson.  It's from Woman's Day, and she found the recipe in a magazine at her dentist's office many years ago.

The story and recipe are linked here:

So, get the gravy out of the way and relax just a bit this Thanksgiving!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New York Style Marble Crumb Cake

This past weekend I joined a group from Skidmore College on a bus trip to New York City, about 3 hours south of Saratoga Springs.  The Honors Forum, headed by my friend, Professor Catherine Golden, along with Skidmore Staff member Idalia Sepulveda, coordinated a trip to the city that not only provided students with a day of museums, shopping, and a Broadway play, but also the charitable component of donating relief items to the Staten Island and Far Rockaway areas of New York City.  These areas were particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy just two weeks ago, and our contribution is a mere drop in the bucket toward assisting victims in their newly uprooted lives.  Still, it was meaningful.

The Bounty

Arriving in New York, just outside Bryant Park, our bus was met by Idalia's relatives who were coordinating donation efforts with the Legacy Foundation.  Our bus's cargo hold was packed to capacity with bottled water, paper goods, disposable diapers, towels, baby formula, flashlights, and other truly basic necessities.  A New York City policeman, who was patrolling the area where our bus stopped to let us off, assisted us in the unloading, and even directed us into forming two "conveyor" lines to facilitate the transfer of materials.  He was amazing, and so very helpful.  I got a picture of him with our crew, and his smile was as broad as anyone's. He was heard to say, more than once,  "This is great!" with such sincerity.  It was a privilege to witness this whole process, and it made our trip to the city, as Catherine said, more than a day of indulgence.  It really made the whole day much more significant for the students and the rest of us who joined the trip.

Idalia Sepulveda and Catherine Golden, center
(and that amazing NYC policeman!)

After the Legacy truck was on its way, we all went our separate ways and agreed to meet at the Snapple Theater at 2:45 pm, for the 3:00 show of The Fantasticks starring Aaron Carter (former teen heart-throb).  It was a great musical play, one of the oldest running on Broadway, and a real joy to see.  Before the show, Catherine and I trekked over to the Pierpont Morgan Museum for the Beatrix Potter exhibit, which was lovely, followed by a quick lunch in the museum's cafe.  Catherine's cousin Karen, who lives in the city, joined us for lunch, as did her former student Phoebe, also a resident, so it was a very social time at the Pierpont Morgan!

As we walked to and from the museum, we were able follow the sidewalk along the Veteran's Day Parade up 5th Avenue.  The parade went from 10 am to 3 pm, five hours long!  It was a beautiful day, and humbling as young and old military men and women marched in uniform down the avenue.  There were bands, flags, and balloons, and you could feel the patriotic spirit of not only those marching but the crowd as well.  I'm so glad I got to be there for that.

When the day was almost done and we were about to meet our bus for the ride home, Catherine and I had a little time to relax so we walked around Bryant Park, checking out the merchandise of many of the kiosks that line the walks of that beautiful park.  I always check out the baking shops, because it provides inspiration and I get to see what other people are baking.  What caught my eye, at more than one, were cellophane-wrapped bricks of New York Style chocolate marble crumb cake.  I really stopped to study it, because it's not anything I would ever have thought to do.  Crumb cake on its own is almost sacred.  Why fool with it?  Well, it was a beautiful thing, and I was inspired to make it for myself.  That's what I did last night.  Here's the recipe I used, based on America's Test Kitchen's highly-rated version with just slight adaptations, and a few photos of the finished product:

based on America's Test Kitchen's recipe

Oven 326 degrees Farenheit

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablepsoon milk

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
more water

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4. Transfer 3/4 of the batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. To the remaining batter, mix in 1 tbsp. cocoa powder and 1 tbsp. milk.  Drop over plain batter in pan.  To combine batters, gently lift and drop batter in pan with a circular motion with a spoon.  Then pull a knife through in both directions to marble.  Smooth top very gently with a spatula.  Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar after it's cooled a while.  Drizzle with glazes.

Make glaze:

Mix enough water (just a bit at a time) with the confectioners sugar to create a smooth flowing glaze, the consistency of Elmer's glue.  Use half the glaze to drizzle over dusted crumb cake.  To the rest of the glaze, add 1 tbsp. cocoa powder and enough water to get it back to drizzling consistency.  Drizzle that over the cake.  Let glazes firm up before cutting the cake.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Whipped Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

In my oven today are cupcakes.  Pumpkin pie cupcakes with whipped cinnamon cream cheese frosting because I'm still longing for a piece of my daughter Tricia's wedding cake!  I'm using the same recipe I used for the wedding cake -- the pumpkin layer, at least (which, on her wedding cake, was alternated with dark chocolate cake).  Rather than a cinnamon buttercream, though, these are topped with a whipped cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  The cupcakes were barely cool enough to frost, but I was so anxious to see how it would all come together so they are frosted now, just 20 minutes out of the oven.  That's the good thing about cupcakes.  You don't have to wait around all day to frost them (or try one!).  Happy Saturday, my friends!

And, here's the recipe!

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit
Line standard size muffin tins (12-wells each) with cupcake liners, or spray well with cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl, mix the following:

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To the egg mixture, add the following ingredients, sifted together and added all at once, and mix thoroughly:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg to equal 2.5 teaspoons)

Then add in and mix well:  2 cups mashed pumpkin (canned is great). 

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full (I use a standard levered ice cream scoop, level) and bake for 20-22 minutes or until cupcakes test done with toothpick, or are completely dry on top and bounce back when lightly pressed with your finger. 

Cool in tins on wire racks for 20 minutes. 

Whipped Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes more than enough for 24 cupcakes)

4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or combination of similar spices to equal 1/2 tsp.)
1 1/2 lbs. confectioners sugar
tablespoons of milk (to desired consistency)

In large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add vanilla and spice.  Beat well.  Add sugar, all at once, and beat slowly, adding a tablespoon of milk at a time, until it all comes together and continue adding a little bit of milk very sparingly, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency (firm peaks, but soft enough to spread).

Frost cupcakes.  I like to use a pastry bag.  After frosting, sprinkle with a little more of the pumpkin pie spice.  

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkin Ravioli with Wonton Wrappers!

My friend Katie Kane is part of an early-morning "boot camp" exercise program.  Even on work-day mornings, when the rest of us are just thinking about getting up and going, she's out there doing military-style calisthentics and putting the rest of us me to shame!  When she arrives at work at 8:30 in the morning, she's already put in half a day!

Katie's exercise instructor, Jodi, often shares healthy, interesting, and delicious recipes with her students.  Katie then shares them with us, her co-workers.  This latest recipe from Katie, which I've adapted just a bit from, particularly intrigues me because, a) I love pumpkin, b) I love ravioli, and c) it seems so simple! 

Often times, ravioli is a menu item listed either as an appetizer or an entree.  I never order it because I think it's too substantial as an appetizer yet not quite enough for dinner (does that make sense?).  Personally, I like a bowl-full of ravioli, and seeing a scant few artfully placed upon a small plate with a drizzle of sauce is just a tease, in my opinion.  Now I have a chance to make my own, and a lot of them, knowing that these little pockets of pasta are filled with the goodness of pumpkin.  This rendition is a pretty healthy alternative to the meat-or-cheese stuffed version I typically buy in the frozen food section of my grocery store (and which sit, for many months, in my freezer, never seeming to be the right option whenever I'm deciding what to make for dinner).  The thought of freshly-made ravioli, though, created just minutes before eating, seems very elegant as opposed to the stuff in my freezer!  I'm making them tonight, and will add photos to this post as I go along.  Meanwhile, here's how:

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI with wonton wrappers

Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil

Make ravioli:

1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff, if you can)
1egg yolk (my addition)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (again, me)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour (yep, again)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (ditto)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
24 wonton wrappers (found mine in the produce section - very inexpensive)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth (I'm using vegetable broth)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chopped parsley

Combine 1 cup pumpkin, 1/3 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (and my additions of egg yolk, brown sugar, flour, and pumpkin pie spice).  *Spoon about 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into the center of each wonton wrapper.  Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle, pinching edges together to seal.  (I'm going to crimp edges with fork to make sure the filling stays in place.)  Place half the ravioli inot a large pot of gently boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; cook 5 minutes or until they bob to the top; remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl while you cook the rest of the ravioli and make the sauce.

*If you want to make larger ravioli, use entire squares of wonton wrappers for top and bottom; brush one side of each with water, fill wet side of one with 1 tablespoon pumpkin mixture, top with wet side down of other wonton wrapper.  Crimp edges with fork.

Place 1/2 cup broth and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in pan.  Bring to a boil.  (Here - I made a change - I let it boil for a few mintues to reduce into a thicker, more intense sauce.)  Add ravioli, toss to coat.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and more Parmesan cheese.  (Good idea -- double the sauce recipe for lots of ravioli and to drizzle on the steamed veggies you can serve on the side.)