Birthday cake icing

For years I have owned a checkerboard cake pan and finally decided to attempt to make this layer cake.  First and foremost, I want to emphasize–this takes time.  I planned two days to prepare the cake, chill the cake, and make and decorate the cake.

And by no means, am I any sort of expert.  I call myself a cooking and baking enthusiast.  But, over the years, I have developed confidence in trying many new recipes and experimenting with my own recipes and modifications.

This icing recipe is not an experiment.  It came directly from the pages of Martha’s American Food cookbook.  It was made exactly as she recommended.  And, it is an amazing recipe.  Although she does not say to chill the cake after icing, I highly recommend that step.

The icing is perfect consistency for spreading on a layer cake, but needs to firm up for serving.  I also feel that by chilling the cake prior to icing, allows the cake to firm up as well.  There is nothing worse than a layer cake that is sagging, tilting, or falling over.

If ever thinking of making a layer cake, consider this recipe, it is delicious. This recipe made 7 1/2 cups of icing.  I had about 1/2 cup left over after frosting three layers.  Certainly, the quantity could be changed based on your cake size.


1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 cup boiling water, 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter SOFTENED, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt

Heat and melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Combine the cocoa with the boiling water in a bowl. Dissolve.  Beat softened room temperature butter in a stand mixer, with the sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate slowly and then add in the cocoa mixture.

Use immediately.  The icing will be soft and free-flowing and covers the cake very well.  To firm up the icing, chill in the refrigerator.

And about the cake itself, the pan is the key to the checkerboard cake.  You can use any two types of cake mixes, or any of your favorite cake recipes.  The pan does the work.  I baked the cakes for 25 minutes, chilled, and leveled the tops prior to assembling the layer cake.  These pans provide an easy release and there were no worries with the results. I used a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake pan, but many others are also available online, including one from Wilton.

I always have a nice feeling when I bake a cake for the one I love.


Martha’s chicken with sauteed mushrooms

Here is another recipe that can be made in under 1/2 hour straight from Martha’s One Pot Cookbook. It has a pan saute made from white wine and chicken broth, which is very flavorful and helps the chicken to stay moist.

I served this dish with rice, but it could also be served with noodles or as a stand alone with vegetables.

I also used my electric skillet, but preparing on the stove top would equally be easy and quick in a large non-stick skillet. I changed up a couple of the quantities, and it was perfect.

Gather these ingredients first:  1/4 cup flour, 1 pound of chicken, sliced very thin, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons thyme, cleaned and sliced white button mushrooms, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth, parsley flakes.


Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Next, dredge in flour to cover lightly.  Shake off excess.  Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Brown the chicken.  Next, add thyme, mushrooms and 2 tablespoons butters.  Cook about 8 minutes to brown.  Then add, wine and broth.  Bring the mixture up to a boil and make certain the chicken is cooked throughout.

Top with chopped parsley to finish off the entrée. This is a great meal for a weeknight or to serve guests.





Homemade ice cream without a machine !

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIs your freezer jammed with items ready to cook for the holiday season?  Are you looking for a place to chill your ice cream bowl before making a holiday dessert?

Well..I found a delicious recipe from Martha Stewart’s One Pot cookbook.  It was recently released and I have already made many recipes which are nothing short of fantastic.  I will be posting many of them on the blog, so stay tuned for some great time-saving recipes.

This coffee chocolate chip ice cream is made in a large bowl, and mixed with a hand mixer.  Then it is frozen for at least 12 hours and then is ready to serve to guests.  It is creamy, smooth, and oh so tasty.  Here is a recipe for when you don’t have access to your ice cream machine or when you just did not think far enough ahead to have the bowl frozen for use.

To make the recipe, find these ingredients first:  1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, coarse salt, 2 cups heavy cream and 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate–chopped.

In a large bowl, combine the vanilla and coffee powder.  Stir until dissolved.  Then stir in the condensed milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.


With an electric mixer on high, beat the cream until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Next, fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture.  Fold in the chocolate.  Transfer to an ice cream freezer container.  Cover.  Freeze for at least 12 hours. I froze mine overnight.  Let stand a few minutes prior to scooping.


Yum. Yum. Yum.

ghost cookies

While looking forward to Halloween this year, I brought out my favorite sugar cookie recipe.  From Martha Stewart’s collected recipes for every day, published in 1995, the recipe for Sugar Cookies II is nothing short of perfect.  The dough is perfect for rolling and decorating.  I chill the dough for a minimum of one hour, and even re-chill after rolling.

I used half of the recipe this year to make 18 large ghost cookies.  I also used her simple icing recipe which coats the ghosts just perfectly.

Here is the half recipe for the cookies:

2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer.  Add egg and beat.  Add the SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESdry ingredients, with milk and vanilla.  Wrap and chill.


Remove from refrigerator, roll out cookies.  Return to the refrigerator for 8-10 minutes before baking at 375 SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESfor 10 minutes per tray.  I roll out using a floured silpat mat.  Icing recipe:  1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1 egg white and 4 drops of lemon juice.  Stir and decorate.



mushroom and spinach tortilla cups



here is a quick and easy recipe for weeknight dinners. this one comes from Martha Stewart, and is very tasty.  i think this one could be varied with any of your favorite ingredients.  i adapted Martha’s a bit and only made four of the cups, and found that i liked my additions and changes. serve these with a nice side salad or even fruit in the summertime.

begin the recipe by slicing about one medium sized container of white mushrooms.  dice about 1/2 medium white onion.  saute the onion in a skillet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  season with salt and pepper to taste.  next, add the mushrooms and brown them with the onion for about 7 minutes.  remove from the heat and mix with one box of thawed frozen spinach, which has been drained. fresh spinach can be used as well.

meanwhile, warm the six tortilla shells, eight inch size, in a microwave or in the oven. the warming process helps with the next step.  prepare a jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray, and place the tortilla shells in the six muffin cups.  with your spinach mixture, add one cup of monterey jack cheese or a combination of white and sharp cheddar cheese.  stir well and add the mixture evenly to the six muffin cups.

add about 1/2 cup more cheese to the top of the cups before baking. bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the contents to heat evenly.  easy, quick, tasty and a different way to enjoy tortillas.


new orleans style shrimp and rice


still inspired from my trip to New Orleans, i decided to make a classic shrimp and rice dish.  i found this recipe from Martha, which she published spring 2004.  it was easy and equally excellent.  it comes together in less than one hour and depending on the seasonings chosen could be as hot and spicy as desired.

i altered some of the ingredients, so check her recipe if you want the Cajun spices and tabasco amounts that she recommends.  here is how i made my dish:

melt 3/4 of stick of margarine in a large skillet.  add 1 tablespoon flour over medium heat to form a roux. stir until just lightly brown and then add 1 sliced green and red pepper, 1 white onion, and 3 stalks of celery chopped into bite sizes pieces.  cook for about 7 minutes.  add one large 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken broth, parsley to taste, paprika to taste, and salt to taste. i also used some sweet bell pepper seasoning that i happened to have in my spice cabinet.

bring to a boil on the stovetop, and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.  next, i cleaned about 12 large shrimp (16-20) count.  when ready, add the shrimp and cook until pink and done, about 5 more minutes.

serve with fluffy white rice.Image this dish will take you back to New Orleans in your own home.

this next photo shows the chopped sizes of the peppers and onions for the dish.


roasted carrot fries


OK, so it is the beginning of the new year 2014, and once again we are being really conscious of our eating patterns.  however, this recipe from MAD HUNGRY CRAVINGS is one that fits into my usual healthy cooking style.  these carrots are not fried in any way, shape or manner.  they are simply sliced thin, and by using very hot oven temperatures become sweet and delicious.

i used about three average sized carrots for this recipe.  i sliced them as thin as possible by hand, and placed them on a baking sheet with about two tablespoons olive oil at most.  i also sprayed the tops of the carrots with cooking spray.  next, i seasoned the carrots with sea salt and a bit of red pepper flakes.  the carrots were in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roasted at 400 degrees in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.  i did check on them part way through the cooking process, and i recommend doing that based on your own oven performance.

Lucinda Scala Quinn recommends also trying parsnips for this recipe, which i did not have available this past week.  if you are not familiar with Quinn, she has been a chef and is the executive food editor of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.  i have come to like her style of cooking and will share more of her recipes in the coming weeks.