Friday, February 28, 2014

Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

In less than thirty minutes, you can make and bake these delicious and satisfying Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Muffins.

They are made with old-fashioned rolled oats and walnuts which makes them perfect for a quick and nutritious breakfast on a busy morning.

There's also a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top which besides tasting great makes your house smell so good during baking. Believe me, the aroma alone will rouse the troops.

Here's the recipe:

Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
(makes one dozen)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk

Topping: 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
The cinnamon sugar topping.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease or line with papers 12 muffin cups.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, oatmeal, walnuts and raisins.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix together the oil, egg and milk.

Mix together the egg, oil and milk before adding to the dry ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full.
Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. The recipe makes one dozen.

Top each muffin with a sprinkling of the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Sprinkle a bit of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Ready to eat!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Meal On The Fly

We had a constant long line to get into the meal today. In the end, we served 442.

A table ready for guests.
I had been stressing for a few days about today's Wednesday Community Meal because I knew we were low on food due to it being a slow week for gleaned food and the fact that our canned food pantry is in dire need of a replenishing.

When I entered the kitchen this morning at 8 a.m., I really didn't have a clue what we were going to make but I knew we had to come up with something fast since it was the last Wednesday of the month and we were expecting a larger than usual crowd.

All of the early volunteers were so helpful, staying positive and working with me to devise a plan.

Looking at what gleaned food we had from Good Samaritan Hospital, we guessed that we had enough food for 60 to 80 guests and knew that there was no way about it, a quick shopping trip was in order.

So we made a shopping list (lean protein, a starch, a vegetable side and salad ingredients) and volunteer Dave ran over to Cash 'n' Carry and literally saved the day.

Today's meal was planned on the fly but hopefully our guests couldn't tell. We served oven-roasted pork loin, baked tomatoes topped with a cheesy topping and tater tots along with soup, salad and dessert. The latter was homemade apple crisp made by volunteer Cheryl.
Juicy oven-roasted pork that we seasoned with a rub made of brown sugar and spices.

Cheesy topped baked tomatoes.

Beautiful green salads.

Servings of homemade apple crisp.

In the end, everything worked out and we served 442 meals during our two hour service. Whew! That was a close one.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cookie Decorating 101 Part 2

Sample cookies for my cookie decorating class. The favorite design of most of the students was the hot pink cookie with brushed embroidery on the bottom left.
Last night was the last session of my cookie decorating class at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and the focus was on royal icing consistencies and simple decorating techniques like wet on wet, double-decker and brushed embroidery. The latter is so striking and simple to do.
Once your base cookie is completely dry, outline a flower shape using piping consistency royal icing and a #2 tip. Then use the side of a damp square tip brush to pull the icing down and inward, cleaning the brush off periodically and being sure not to break through the outer edge of your piping.

Add another outline of petals and again, pull the icing down and inward. To finish the flower off, add some tiny dots for the center. You may need to use a skewer or scribe tool to push peaks down and flatten the dots.

The finished cookie.
Double-decker heart cookies — The base cookies are decorated with flat dots using the wet on wet technique of dropping dots of medium consistency icing onto a still wet flooded cookie. Once the base cookie is dry you can adhere a small heart on top using stiff royal icing as glue.

To add flat dots onto cookies, outline your cookies and get the icing for your dots all ready. Then, fill just one to three cookies at a time. You need to add the dots while the base icing is still wet.

Immediately drop dots of icing onto the cookies. Give each cookie a gentle shake to help settle the dots into the flood icing. Let the cookies dry completely before topping with another cookie for a double-decker treat. Or, leave the dotted cookies as is for something sweetly simple.

Me, demonstrating to the class last night how to thin royal icing to the proper consistency.
Here's some information about royal icing consistencies that I shared with the class and I hope you too find helpful. The best way to learn though is to bake a batch of cookies and just get decorating.

The Three Consistencies of Royal Icing

Having the right consistency of icing when you are decorating makes all the difference. Really, it is the most important part of cookie decorating. Always test your icing first by piping onto a plate before adding it to your cookies.


This is royal icing that is used to fill cookies after outlining. It is also called 10 to 15 second icing because that’s how long it should take for the icing to settle back into place after drawing a line through it with the side of a spoon. If you are filling small areas you want the consistency to be 15 second icing. If you are filling large areas you want the consistency to be closer to 10 second icing. Think honey or shampoo.

If you don’t want a defined border on your cookie, you can outline and immediately fill with flood icing. It’s also convenient to only have to use one icing and one pastry bag.


This is royal icing that is used for outlining, lettering, dots and flooding very small spaces. It’s icing that holds its shape but isn’t so thick that it holds a peak. You don’t want to see your stop and start points when you are adding lettering to cookies. Think yogurt or sour cream.


This is stiff royal icing used for outlining, fine details and brushed embroidery. I use piping consistency for scalloped borders or anywhere I want a definite shape and don’t want to see any settling. Think toothpaste.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Volunteer Linda getting salad plates ready. She and volunteer Joe worked together to assemble all of the individual salads that we served today. We served 354 meals so that was a lot of salad!

We are so lucky to have a united team of volunteers at the Wednesday Community Meal who are all hardworking and caring. And, because everyone is so nice, the work is actually fun and something I look forward to each week.

Our team works so well together that there are times when we get really busy like today (we served 354 meals in two hours) that it's almost like the volunteers are dancing together, going this way and that, knowing exactly what needs to be done.

I believe our teamwork enhances the dining experience of our guests because when people enjoy working together it's obvious and just makes everything better.

One of the meals we served today — Baked ham (from Phil's Uptown Meat Market), mashed potatoes and gravy, squash and roasted apples.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Painted Cookies

Painted cookies.

If painting is your passion then you might want to try using cookies as your canvas.

Painting onto a cookie is really no different than putting watercolors onto paper. The only supplies you need are gel food colorings, paintbrushes and some dry base-coated cookies.

To thin the coloring I used plain old water but you could also use vodka or alcohol based extracts. The only difference is that when you use alcohol it takes less time for the colors to dry.

I used a plate for mixing my colors.
With my minimal painting ability I think these floral designs turned out just fine. Imagine what an experienced painter could create? I'm going to have to recruit some of my artistic friends to find out. Linda, Christine and Michael — I'm talking about you.

This would also be a great project for kids who want to decorate cookies but aren't quite ready to handle a pastry bag.

Here's how I painted the rose cookie:

I first got my painting supplies together — Gel food coloring, water and a paintbrush.

Start with a dry base-coated cookie. It's very important that the icing be completely dry.

I added some blobs of pink to get started.

Next, I added some leaves around each pink blob.

With a darker pink I added a touch of more color to blobs and now they are starting to look like roses.

Using a darker green, I painted a single stroke on one side of each of the leaves to add definition.

Using a bit of white coloring and a very small brush, I added more detail to the roses and leaves. And that's all there is to it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cookie Decorating 101

I'm in the midst of teaching a two-session cookie decorating class at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and am having a lot of fun — Mainly because there are 15 students in the class who are all super nice and enthusiastic about learning how to decorate cookies.

In the first class session that was held last week, we covered just the basics of cookie decorating and did some hands on outlining and filling of cookies. In preparation for teaching the class, I put together a handout that covers the supplies needed, recipes and tips.

I'm including a copy of the handout here (see below) because I think it is helpful for anyone who is interested in giving cookie decorating a try.

At first, it does take some effort to get your supplies together and get started.  But once you get going, I think you'll find that cookie decorating really isn't that hard and is so much fun.

For me, it's my creative outlet and something I enjoy sharing with others.

Cookie Decorating 101

Five Decorating Tips

Take Your Time:

The best time to take on a cookie decorating project is when you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the creative process. Also, decorated cookies need 8 to 12 hours of drying time so they are not something you can whip up last minute. It’s wise to take your time and think about what you want to create before heating up the oven.

The only way to improve your decorating skills is to experiment and practice. Be patient with yourself and just keep working at it. And remember, a messed up cookie still tastes delicious.

Test the Consistency of Your Icing
When trying to get the right consistency of icing for your cookies it’s always a good idea to test your icing by first piping onto a plate. The right icing consistency is paramount when it comes to cookie decorating. Also, be judicial when adding water to thin your icing. Add just a touch a time because if you get your icing too thin, there’s not much you can do to salvage it.

Have a Visual When Mixing Colors:

Choosing and creating colors is a huge part of cookie decorating and it can be frustrating when you have the perfect color in mind but you just can't seem to mix it up. Having a visual of the color you want makes all the difference. It can be anything — an object, a clipping from a magazine or a color chip from the paint store.  When you actually see the color you want, it is so much easier to mix. Also, add your coloring just a touch at a time. A little gel coloring goes a very long way.

Start Simple:

Your cookie decorating skills will continually improve with practice.  To avoid frustration, I think It’s best to start simple with a single color outlined and filled cookie. Next, try a two color cookie and just keep building on that. Before you know it you’ll be tackling decorative bead borders, brushed embroidery and lettering.

Basic Supplies:
Meringue Powder
Electric Mixer
Pastry Bags (I prefer disposable)
Couplers and Pastry Tips (#2 and #1 are the tips most often used)
Gel Food Colors (I recommend AmeriColor brand)
Wooden skewers or a scribe tool

Additional Supplies:
Lazy Susan
Food Writing Pens (AmeriColor brand is best)
Small Square Tip Paint Brush (for Brushed Embroidery)
Small Paint Brush set (for Painting and Adding Luster and Disco Dust)
Sanding Sugars
Disco Dust
Luster Dust
Decorative Sprinkles
Food Safe Cellophane Bags for Packaging Cookies

Sugar Cookie Recipe
Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

 In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until creamy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract and beat until well blended. Add flour and salt; beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until well blended. Divide dough into two equal portions. Place dough between sheets of plastic wrap. Press evenly into a disk and chill until dough is firm, at least 20 minutes. Working with one portion of dough at a time, peel off plastic wrap and roll on a floured board until 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured cutters and transfer onto ungreased or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees (325 for convection) for 7 to 9 minutes or until firm to the touch and slightly darker brown around edges. Cool on wire rack.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. With cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 10 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Royal Icing
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Food coloring

In a large bowl combine meringue powder, water and lemon juice and stir until meringue powder is dissolved. Add powdered sugar and with an electric mixer on low speed, beat until evenly moistened. Then beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Divide and tint as desired and add water a teaspoon at a time to get desired consistency.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Last Minute Valentine Treat

It's still not too late to whip up a sweet treat for your Valentine because this delicious Chocolate Guinness Cake topped with Easy Fluffy Frosting comes together lickety split.

Add some pretty stemmed Maraschino Cherries to the top and you'll have a Valentine treat that looks like something you've been planning for weeks.

How big you make the cake is your choice. You can make two of the cakes for a layered look like in the photo above or just one - both look beautiful.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Guinness Cake
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and line a 9-inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add the butter in slices and heat until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and pour into the beer mixture and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

Easy Fluffy Frosting
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup boiling water

Mix all the ingredients except the water in a deep mixing bowl. Add the boiling water and beat until stiff.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Extra Meals To Go

Today's meal of oven baked chicken.

Just some of the extra food we distributed today. We weren't as busy as expected so we offered guests meals to go.

Today we were able to offer guests at the Wednesday Community Meal extra food since we weren't as busy as expected.

It's always tough trying to guess how many people we are going to serve each week, but usually we are pretty close. Today we were way off but luckily on the side of having too much instead of not enough. And those who did come to the meal were very happy to leave with extra food.

One of our regular guests said to me as he was leaving, "Hey Heidi, thanks for lunch, dinner and lunch tomorrow."

Another guest who is from South America said, "I will never forget this place even if I move away. This church is awesome!"

I'm just glad that we were able to distribute everything we made and not let any food go to waste.

We served 233 meals in the dining room and distributed 107 meals to go.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pink And Gold Valentine Cookies

I used pink and gold royal icing for my latest batch of Valentine Cookies.

I think the color combination is very elegant and especially like the way the large quilted sugar cookie turned out. Making it took some time but it's not hard at all.

Here's how:

Using a food safe marker, draw a grid on the cookie.

Begin filling in sections that touch only at the corner.

Keep filling in sections.

Once it looks like this, let it dry for 30 minutes.

Now fill in the remaining sections. You may need to use a skewer or scribe tool to ease the icing to the edges.

Keep working.

That's all there is to it. Let the cookie before adding additional embellishments.

I added drops of gold icing at the corners.

I then added a delicate bead border around the cookie by piping a row of small dots.

This cookie isn't difficult to make, it just takes some time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Boysenberry Macarons

Pretty Boysenberry Macarons that are perfect for Valentine's Day.

There was an ice storm last night in Portland and this morning residents were asked to stay indoors - a perfect excuse for me to just hole up in the kitchen and get creative.

So that's how I came up with these cute Boysenberry Macarons. I think they are perfect for Valentine's Day.

For the filling I made a Swiss Meringue buttercream and added 1/2 cup of low-sugar boysenberry preserves. Whenever I make a macaron filling I try to keep it on the not too sweet side since the shells are plenty sweet.

The boysenberry preserves I used for the filling.
To get the pretty color of the macaron shells I used a combination of electric pink and purple gel colors. I also added a bit of the electric purple to the filling.

Here's the recipe:

Boysenberry Macarons
180g ground almonds, sifted
270g powdered sugar, sifted
150g egg whites, aged 2 to 4 days in the fridge and then brought to room temperature
100g granulated sugar
electric purple and electric pink food coloring

Line four heavy baking sheets with good quality parchment paper and set aside. Also, set aside two pastry bags for the piping of the macarons.

Sift together your ground almonds with the powdered sugar and set aside.

Whisk the egg whites (at room temperature) to glossy firm peaks adding the granulated sugar gradually in four parts.  Towards the end of mixing, add the food coloring.

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the beaten egg whites using a large rubber scraper.  Mix well. 
Fold the mixture with the rubber scraper by pulling down the sides and flipping the mixture over. Do this until you have a smooth mixture that falls like a “ribbon” off the scraper.

Transfer the mixture into the two piping bags. Use rubber bands to close the piping bags. Clip the tip of the bags, one at a time, and pipe small quarter sized rounds, leaving 1-inch of space between each because they spread as they set.

It's important to let the piped macarons rest for 30 minutes before baking.
Leave to set for about 30 minutes or until the top has formed a crust and is not sticky to the touch.

While they are setting, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. A convection oven is preferable. 

Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes or until the cookie is firm, matte and doesn't wobble when touched.
Leave on the baking tray until cool then lift them all off the parchment carefully. You may need to use a thin knife to help lift them off.

Sort into pairs and fill with Boysenberry Buttercream. 

Filling the macarons. I always first sort the macarons into pairs and then use a pastry bag to pipe on a dollop of filling.
Boysenberry Buttercream
3 egg whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup low-sugar boysenberry preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of fine sea salt
electric purple food coloring

Place the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and cream of tartar.

Place bowl over a double boiler on medium heat, stir frequently until the mixture is very hot (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move to mixer and whip whites on high for 2 to 3 minutes; turn down to medium low until cool (use the bowl as your guide).

In a separate bowl with a wooden spoon, stir butter to soften.

With mixer on medium/high speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, adding the next tablespoon just as the previous one is blended in. Once all the butter incorporated, add in vanilla and salt and whip on high speed until fluffy. Be patient with this step, it sometimes takes quite a while for the buttercream to come together. If it looks curdled, don't stress, just keep whipping.

Add the boysenberry preserves and a drop of purple coloring and whip again until smooth and thoroughly combined.