Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

I want CAKE!

Jim hollered from the basement… make me something sweet please!!!!  YIKES, I just had a big breakfast a few hours ago and didn’t bother with lunch as I was still full.  But there was a little spark of hunger that cake would fill.  I really should have chosen a cake I didn’t LOVE.  That is  my secret to trying to eat healthy.  Make things I like or that my family likes better and I can do with just one small piece and not the whole thing! 

Alas, I went for everyone’s favorite here a pineapple cake with coconut, almonds and brown sugar.  As I type this I am picking out crumbs from my keyboard.  I can’t get enough of it… there goes the 10 pounds I have lost!

Pineapple Coconut Cake

  • 1 package vanilla cake mix (I only use Trader Joes mix, it is AMAZING)
  • 3/4 of a 16 oz bag of frozen pineapple
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 a stick of softened butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 handfuls of coconut
  • 2 handfuls of unsalted almonds chopped
  • Pam to coat your 8x8x2 pan

Mix your cake as directed on your box.  Defrost your pineapple and chop it rough so it is in small pieces.  Drain as much of the juice as you can, you can squeeze it in a paper towel to really get the juice out.  This is an important step as this step adds more moisture to your cake and too much and it won’t bake well.  Add pineapple to your cake batter.

Next, make a crumble with the brown sugar, butter and flour.  Incorporate this well and add coconut and almonds and sprinkle over the cake batter.  Bake your cake according to the directions on your box mix.  You will have to add a good 10-15 minutes depending to accommodate for the pineapple and crumble.  Check your cake with a toothpick in the middle.  When it comes out clean you are good to go!

Couldn’t wait for a final shot; had to cut in.  This is a dense very moist cake.  You can see that my cooling rack embedded itself into my cake when I turned it out!  No worries, chop a little coconut and sprinkle on the top and add whipped cream when you serve.  I guarantee you no one will mind (or even notice) the little divots!


Candis aka West


Twiced Baked Goodness

I know somewhere along the line I mentioned my love of bread and POTATOES!  OH, potato… potato… why do I want to put an “e” on the end of your name???

I had a bunch of leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge and needed to do something with them today… HATE to have things go to waste!  My Connie and I were talking the other day about twice baked potatoes, she freezes hers in little scoops to take out later and bake for dinner.  So I went with that and added a few extra goodies!

Twice Baked Leftovers

  • Mashed  Potatoes
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Bacon Pieces

Mix everything together and form patties; I do a hockey puck size.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and put in freezer till hard.  Transfer to a Ziploc bag and keep in freezer.

When you are ready to use, put in a baking dish in a 350 oven and bake for 30 minutes.

You could do add whatever you like to these potato lovelies… onion and bacon, broccoli and cheddar, you name it!  Give it a try with your next batch of leftover mashed potatoes!


Candis aka West

Homemade Muffins = Happy Client

I goofed… a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a client in California trying to pick a date for a visit to my office in Chicago. We tossed out a few days and settled on the 21st through the 22nd. I circulated the days in my office and everyone thought it worked for their schedules. After my client booked their flights, I looked my calendar again and guess what, the 21st is Presidents Day and my office is closed!  I am now working on my holiday!

So what to do to make it better?  Make muffins… yep, muffins for our breakfast meeting on the 22nd. I am planning to make sure that I am their favorite vendor by working on a holiday AND bring yummy muffins.

I went with two choices… pumpkin with pecan crumble and banana mango with coconut crumble. My pumpkin muffin is actually a box mix. Don’t stop reading here… I am telling you that I have not been able to top Trader Joes box mixes. They are amazing and quick.  During the holiday’s I always buy extra of the pumpkin as it is a seasonal mix. I used my last box for this client!  My banana mango are from scratch using the banana bread recipe in this blog. I used half banana and half mango instead of all banana.

The crux of this post is not really the muffin, but how you can dress up any muffin mix or homemade recipe with an awesome crumble to no call it “your own” and send them over the top!

Crumble Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans (or coconut, peanuts, walnuts, anything you can think of) (hold the cinnamon if you use coconut)

Make muffin mix as you would from your own recipe or use mine above.

Put all but your nuts into a bowl and cut it with a pastry cutter to blent till crumbly. If you don’t have a pastry cutter use a fork so it stays crumbly. Add nuts (or other goodies) and blend.

Sprinkle generously on the top of each muffin and bake according to your recipe.

You can top your breads or muffins and even top cookies with it too.  The possibilities are endless and so yummy!

So now I am actually looking forward to  my meetings and offering a little love to my clients in the form of a muffin!  On top of yummy goodness for my meeting it is going to snow again today.  I am super stoked for one of my contacts as he has never seen snow.  He’s a California boy who has not ventured out of the Orange County to play in the white stuff.  Chicago is going to deliver 2-3 inches today just in time for him!  Can’t get much better than that!


Candis aka West

Bagels that say “I Love You”

It’s another beautiful day here in St. Louis.  Yesterday my sister-in-law and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went to Soulard Farmers Market.  That was my first visit and I can’t wait to go back!  We plan on taking a trip back this spring/summer and planning an entire meal around everything we can buy at the Farmers Market.  I am so excited.  Alas, I am sure Old Man Winter will rear his ugly head a few more times before the end.  Oh well, until then, a girl can dream, right?

Guess what I was supposed to be doing while I was gallivanting around at the Farmers Market.  Yep, making bagels.  You see, Radhika was stopping by my house later that afternoon to drop off some yummy lunch and I was going to give her some yummy bagels.   Radhika kept up her end of the bargain (which is currently in my belly…yum!) but I failed.  So, this morning, I jumped out of bed and started right away on bagel making with a little helper.  I got this recipe from my book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day”.  See, I told you, you totally need to get your own copy!  Until then, here is a link to their blog for the bagel  recipe.


Quickly form the dough into peach size balls and let them rest for 20 minutes
Punch your thumb through the middle and continue to stretch the dough to make the hole bigger
Let simmer for two minutes, flip with a slotted spoon and let simmer for one minute longer
When they are done simmering, remove them and place them on a towel sprinkled with flour. This will help soak up the moisture.
Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds
Bake in the oven with steam at 450 for 20 minutes until golden brown

For a special Valentines treat, I bought my hubby some Strawberry Cream Cheese 1/3 less fat.  Why did I mention the 1/3 less fat?  Because he booked a trip to the Bahama’s for my Valentine Day gift!  I need that man in good shape for the beach!  Yummy eye candy never did a girl any harm.

Now, go make yourself some bagels!



Easy Sweets for the Sweet

I LOVED my Easy Bake Oven as a kid.  I remember my sister and I concocting thing in it all the time.  Mine was a turquoise color and looked a bit industrial.  It was a fond memory of my childhood and one that I certainly wanted to share with my daughter.

So for Christmas Aunt Steen bought Maddy her very own Easy Bake… 100watt bulb and all!  Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy and today was our day to finally rock this thing!

We started with an easy cookie recipe that I have been dying to try; Cake Mix Cookies.  I found this recipe through a Facebook friend who found it on  With Valentines Day coming I thought I could  mix it up and make a strawberry cookies with white chips.  Then I thought maybe a chocolate with white chips too.  Kind of a dipped strawberry if you ate two at a time!  (Which I am sure I would never do…)  And no, the image right below is from my big-girl oven!  Easy Bake to follow!

Cake Mix Cookies

  • 1 (18.25 oz) package of cake mix (you pick your flavor)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chips (pick a complimentary flavor to your mix)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil (only added that for the chocolate mix for more intense flavor)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir everything except the chips till well blended. Mix in the chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.  I used a two table spoons to shape my cookies for consistency.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  It is important to leave them on the sheet as they will be pretty limp when you remove from the oven.

Just as we started the chocolate batch Maddy had cleaned her pans and was ready to load up the Easy Bake.  Here is my girl proud of her first cooking adventure by light bulb.

She carefully put the pan in and watched it disappear into a secret compartment that is WAY bright!  100watts really throws a lot of light!  You could go blind if you watch too long!!

Why don’t they make the window a real see-threw window?  Totally a rip off!  I don’t remember mine as a kid having a window you could see through either!  OH wait… maybe it is the 100watt bulb that they are trying to shield your eyes from!  Seriously, just realized that as I was typing this!!

We waited 10  minutes, the cookies took 10  minutes in my gas oven… who knows how long this thing should take!  So after 10  minutes we popped the tin out and it was starting to set-up but needed more time.  So in it went again, for another 10.

After nearly the full extra 10, we had our first cake.  It smelled a bit burnt as it started puffing over the sides of the pan; I am sure it is all over the light bulb!  I will figure that out later!

We are quite proud of our first cooking project with our 100watt bulb!  As Maddy dunked her cake/cookie in her milk she had a simle on her face and I knew what she was thinking… what are we going to try next!


Candis aka West

Speaking of Grandmas…

This weekend I got a great text from my neighbor Connie… “I have 4 dead bananas you can have.”.  That can mean only one thing, banana bread time!  I  had 5 of my own WAY over ripe bananas, so a big batch was in order.

I titled this post speaking of Grandma’s, as the smell of ripe bananas remind me of my mom’s mom I called Grandy.  Her house smelled of ripe bananas and Comet.  I love smell triggered memories… 2 good things all rolled together!  Grandy is on my mind roughly every 2 weeks when I end up with a few bananas in the dish that have gone past their eating prime. 

The recipe I use for banana bread is exactly the same as my Grandy’s… it also happens to be my friend Rob’s recipe.  The only real difference is that Grandy always had buttermilk in the fridge and I usually don’t!  So Rob’s way to sour milk takes that place.  But for that, there really is no difference in recipes. 

Oh and no nuts allowed or other objects in my bread… just bananas!!  Never been a fan!  If you are just add it, but please don’t tell me! 

Spray Pam (for greasing pans)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
4-5 bananas, very ripe (they can be totally black on the outside, it will just be sweeter)
1 cup milk (with 1 Tablespoon plain vinegar added, stir & set aside for 10 min.)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 and grease two loaf pans with spray Pam.

Mix sugar & butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs and add bananas, curdled milk, and vanilla.
Mix until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Combine and pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 55 minutes and check for doneness. Insert a knife into the center and when it comes out clean (batter-free) it’s done.  Do not over bake, as it will make your bread dry tasting.

The fruits of my Sunday labor… in all their glory.  I love making different size loaves and muffins.  Mixes it up a bit and keeps it interesting.

So I gave Connie her share.  I sent some to a sick neighbor, another to my other neighbor who was having a bad day, a muffin to each of the second grade teachers in Maddy’s school and just a couple left for us.  It’s fine that we had just a little bit left because in 2 more weeks we will start all over again!  I love and miss you Grandy!


Candy aka West


Tonight’s dinner was an experiment and when I told my family those words, it was followed by a great big “UGH!”.  I made a back-up dinner for just in case.  However, the back-up wasn’t needed!  I had one last batch of bread dough that was spiced with rosemary and thyme in the refrigerator, left over Tomato soup (see earlier post on Comfort Food), pepperoni, a small can of black olives and a blend of mozzarella and provolone cheese.  Sounds like a pizza to me!  I have never made my own pizza crust but I had an idea as to how it was done (my flirting with the cooks at Pizza Hut when I was a waitress there forever ago has finally paid off!).  So, I took my bread dough out of the fridge and floured my board and spread my dough out into a rectangular pizza like shape.  I lightly spread my tomato soup on the dough and began to sprinkle it with the blended cheeses.  I lovingly placed each pepperoni and black olive over the top and placed it on a hot cast iron slab at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  I watched as it grew (forgot to poke holes in the crust) and melted and I smelled and smelled all of the delightful smells!  I pulled it out and sprinkled a little bit of red pepper flakes and garlic salt over the top.  Eager to please the “ughers” I cut an itty bitty corner off and took a bite.  Delightful, yeasty, crunchy, yumminess!  I even enjoyed tolerated the black olives and I’m a huge hater of those evil little things,  I only put them on there for the hubby.

Let me share with you my bread dough recipe.  For Christmas my mom got me the recipe book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I always have dough in the refrigerator.

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough


1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

I encourage you to buy the book as it’s full of ideas!

In case you were wondering what the just in case dinner was, it was a frozen pizza.

Thanks for stopping by!