Thursday, July 9, 2015


In honor of National Sugar Cookie Day, I am sharing the recipe for some of my favorite sugar cookies, LEMON SUGAR COOKIES!
To me, anything that has sugar, butter and lemon is a hit so I took a basic sugar cookie recipe and made them extra yummy by adding lemon juice, lemon zest and increasing the baking powder.   
The reason I love these cookies so much is that even though they are a "sugar" cookie, they do not taste overly sweet. They have a nice buttery, lemon favor and are perfect for any occasion, with or with out frosting.
In honor of National Sugar Cookie Day, you  must give these YUMMY cookies a try!  

Happy Cooking Everyone!
Lemon Sugar Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup softened butter (sweet cream)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Icing Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons milk
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the lemon zest to the bowl and press/squeeze the zest between your fingers to release the oils from the zest into the flour.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice and mix at low speed until combined, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 

Gradually add the flour mixture at low speed until combined, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 

Remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour. 
Place dough on a well floured surface and roll out into 1/4" thickness.  Do not be skimpy with the flour, you will need plenty in order to be able to remove the cookies once they are cut.

Cut into shapes using your favorite cookie cutters.

Place approx. 3" apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.


Remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. While cookies are cooling, make the icing.

Mix all of the icing ingredients together in a bowl adding milk one teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. The icing should be thick, but spreadable.

Frost and decorate cookies as desired. Allow frosting to harden before serving/storing.

Store at room temperature in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th of July Blueberry and Raspberry Pop Tarts for The Leftover's Club

Who doesn't want to eat pie for breakfast, right? And these homemade pop tarts (aka hand pies) are a good excuse!
This month's Leftovers Club swap was a 4th of July theme so I knew I wanted to make something with berries since we're at the height of berry season. For the "blue" in my Red, White & Blue treat, Blueberries was pretty much a no brainer, but for the "red" I decided to go with raspberries for a more tart option.
The dough is a little unique in that it is made using sour cream which gives the flavor a slight tang.
To further embrace the patriotic theme, I tried to cut cute little stars into the top by hand, but I will be the first to admit that I am not the most artistic person in the world, so my stars came out a bit distorted and I quit after 3 tries. Sorry for the deformed stars, Hetal!
I opted to leave the glaze off of the tarts since I was shipping them in the mail and didn't want them to get soggy. I highly recommend that you make a simple powdered sugar glaze and drizzle it over the top for a little added sweetness. After all, what's a pop tart without the glaze?
So let me tell you a little bit about my partner for this month's swap. Her name is Hetal, and her blog Pretty Polymath, has a lot of amazing recipes (including these cute little meringue cookies she sent to me). Plus she is a contestant on this season of Master Chef! How exciting is that? Go Hetal! I'm rooting for you, girl! I have always wanted to compete on Master Chef so you're my inspiration...
I hope Hetal enjoys my 4th of July inspired Pop Tarts as much as I enjoyed making them for her!
If you'd like to join in the of the fun of The Leftovers Club, sign up here! New members are always welcome!!

Blueberry and Raspberry Hand Pies
Makes 8 pies

If you decide to make both fillings, you will have some leftover. Either make more crust or just make one of the fillings.

Plan ahead, the dough should be refrigerated overnight if possible or at least for a few hours so it is well chilled.


Crust Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of very cold unsalted butter cut into tablespoon size pieces
1/2 cup very cold sour cream

Filling Ingredients

Blueberry Filling
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Raspberry Filling
6 oz fresh raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Make the pie crust

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until most of the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the sour cream with a rubber spatula just until combined. There may be some residual flour left at the bottom but that will get mixed in when you form the ball of dough.

Using your hands, quickly form the dough into a ball then turn out onto a lightly floured surface, then roll into an 8"x10" rectangle. Fold the long ends over like a letter, then repeat the rolling and folding process one more time. During this process you make need to use a bench scraper to scrape the dough from the surface and add more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Once you have done the folding and rolling process twice. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Overnight preferred.

Make the fillings

Place all of the Blueberry Filling ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan and cook over medium low heat until thickened. This happens pretty quickly, but be sure to allow some time for some of the blueberries to break down. Your filling should be pretty thick (like the consistency of thick jam). If it seems too thick before the berries start to break down, add a little more water and cook just a little longer. Place the mixture in a bowl and allow to cool.

Clean out the sauce pan and make the raspberry filling. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place the raspberries and sugar in the saucepan, then add the cornstarch water mixture and cook over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil, stir a few times then remove from heat and place the mixture in a bowl to cool.

After the dough has chilled several hours (or overnight) and your fillings have cooled, assemble the hand pies.

Preheat oven to 425F

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 14"x14" square. Cut into 16 squares. Place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will allow the dough to relax and get chilled again.

After 20 minutes, remove from fridge and brush the edges of 8 of the squares with egg wash, then place a tablespoon or more of filling in the center of 8 of the squares. Top with the remaining 8 squares of dough then crimp the edges with a fork. Brush with egg wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar and cut a few small slits into the top. If you are using a small cookie cutter to cut a design in the tops, do this before you place the dough on top and do not cut any vent holes.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheet for about a minute then remove to a cooling rack.

Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze before serving if desired.


Adapted from King Arthur Flour and My San Francisco Kitchen

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LiveBakeLove Wine Tasting in Napa... "It's Not About the Wine"

LiveBakeLove hit the road this weekend for a wine tasting trip in the beautiful Napa valley to celebrate a milestone birthday for my sister, Freda. I won't say which milestone it was, but she looks fabulous so who cares, right?

Knowing we would be out for several hours consuming copious amounts of wine, Freda had the great idea to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy under the trees at Rutherford Hill and boy did we bring her vision to life!

This wasn't your "throw some food in a basket and call it a picnic" type of lunch. Oh no, we had individual kraft paper lunch boxes with wooden utensils and doilies. Not to mention cute min kraft bags with dessert!

While the setting was gorgeous, the picnic table was equally as impressive...

On the menu: Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Rustic Potato Salad, Charred Corn & Avocado Salad, Brie, Manchego & Crackers, 3 different types of wine along with the most delicious fresh mint Iced Tea I have ever tasted courtesy of Freda's friend, Diva. Seriously, it blows mine out of the water. I'm still dreaming about that tea and wondering what Diva's secret is...

The chilled Chardonnay and Rose were the perfect compliment to the fried chicken and the bite of the Devil's Peak topped it all off. 
The entire lunch was amazing, the setting was simply beautiful and the company was even better. What more can you ask for?
After a peaceful and relaxing lunch under the trees at Rutherfold Hill, it was time for a little "effervescence" in the form of sparking wine so we headed to Mumm Napa!

We were all looking forward to tasting Santana DVX Sparking Wine, however the favorite of the day turned out to be to be the DVX.

Last stop was Chimney Rock, where the power of persuasion (aka Freda's friend, Veronica) got us this cozy little spot on the back patio and a free tasting for everyone in our group...score!!

The Elevage Blanc 2012 was the hand's down favorite here. Probably the most buttery white wine I have ever tasted, it was aptly described as "liquid cream" (inside joke, you had to be there)....

Later in the afternoon, on the ride home, we enjoyed Italian Salami Sandwiches on the most delicious baguettes and German Chocolate Whoopie Pies.

 You can find the recipe for Freda's Italian Salami Baguette Sandwiches below. So simple, but perfect for a picnic lunch, especially with wine!
So, with all of the incredible food and wine we consumed, why is the title of this blog post called "It's Not About the Wine"? Well...because it's not. While the food and wine may have been phenomenal, the day was more about spending time with someone in my life who is more amazing than anything man-made, she was made by God and she's my sister, Freda.
I really can't describe how truly wonderful my sister is. She has been there for me in countless ways throughout my life, especially in adulthood. She gives genuinely without expecting anything in return and loves freely and unconditionally. If you're in need of help, she's the first one there. She really would do anything for the people she loves and I'm happy that she has surrounded herself by people who love and appreciate her in return. Life is too short not to.
I am so thankful my sister is at such a happy place in her life.
Cheers to birthdays, memorable times spent with family & friends and to life well lived!

 ** Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way, however if Rutherford Hill, Mumm Napa or Chimney Rock want to send me some wine, I would glady accept! **
Freda's Italian Baguette Picnic Sandwiches
Good quality mini baguettes, preferably from a bakery
Good quality Italian Salami
Your Choice of Hard Cheese, sliced thinly
Butter Lettuce
Slice each baguette in half
Spread pesto on top and bottom
Layer Salami (approx. 6-7 slices per sandwich),Cheese and Butter Lettuce
Wrap in parchment or wax paper and tie with twine


Thursday, June 4, 2015

PB&J Blondies

"It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Peanut Butter Jelly Time"! Ha, I've always wanted to say that on the internet and now I can!
These Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies, made with creamy peanut butter and triple berry jam are not your average, run-of-the-mill PB&J dessert, they're more grown up, just like we are, right? Made with creamy peanut butter and delicious triple berry jam, these blondies are in your face delicious, and by "in your face" I mean you'll want one of these in your face STAT!  Trust me on this one...

This recipe gets major bonus points because it's so easy to make and comes together so quickly. Plus you probably already have all of the ingredients to make them in your pantry right now! So walk, no run, to your kitchen right now and whip up a batch. They'll be the star of any kids lunch box or even your own!

I made these beauties for my Leftovers Club partner for this month, Joanne, from Joanne Eats Well With Others. I was inspired by her PB&J Macarons. I mean, come on now...
I hope Joanne enjoys the blondie version as much as I (uh, I mean we) did. After all I did share a few, ok I shared like one. Don't be a dessert hoarder like me.

PB&J Blondies
Makes one 8" Pan (12 large size bars)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup golden brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup of your favorite jelly or jam (I used Smucker's Triple Berry Preserves)


Preheat oven to 350f

Line an 8" baking pan with non stick foil or spray regular foil with non-stick spray.

Combine flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter in a large microwave safe bowl and heat until melted (usually takes less than one minute).

Remove from microwave and whisk well to combine.

Add the brown sugar and whisk well to combine.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk well to combine.

Add the flour mixture and whisk until combined.

Pour into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

Dollop the peanut butter in large tablespoon size scoops on top of the batter, then dollop the jam next to the puddles of peanut butter.

Use a butter knife to lightly swirl the peanut butter and jelly. You don't want to swirl too much, you still want to retain some big puddles of peanut butter and jelly. Like this...

Bake approx. 25-30 minutes or until set and a toothpick inserted near center (not in a pool of the peanut butter or jelly) comes out mostly clean.

Remove from oven and place the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing (or enjoy while still slightly warm and gooey, I won't tell).

Store leftovers tightly covered in a container at room temperature for up to 3 days. May be reheated in microwave for a few secords to restore ooey-gooeyness.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Strawberry "Mojito" Lemonade! The Perfect Drink to Kick Off the Memorial Day Holiday!

 Last week was a great and not so great test run in the Live Bake Love kitchen. Once in a while, Faye and I get together to test out a few recipes we have had in our heads. The day started with me going to Faye's house where she served Mike,  her husband, and myself an amazing french toast breakfast. Trust me, it was amazing!!! Just look at this picture!

 After breakfast was done we started on our first test recipe, Circus Animal fudge... Well as you can see from the picture..

not so successful (yet) but I guarantee success in a few weeks. 

Then we proceeded to our amazing creation and success of the day...Strawberry "Mojito" Lemonade!  This drink was amazing.  I had been contemplating coming up with another drink recipe since the success of the Blackberry lemonade posted here. 

My mother is known for her fresh juices so I have been getting some great ideas from her lately. This one comes just in time for the Memorial day weekend. It is so refreshing and easy to make.  You and your guests will love it!  

The strawberry and mint compliment the lemon so it not too tart. Perfect amount of sugar from the infused syrup.   Then top it off with a little rum (or not) and start your weekend. 

 I hope you give this recipe a try and lets get this weekend started!!!

Happy Cooking everyone!

Strawberry "Mojito" Lemonade
Makes 1 pitcher
Approx 4-5 servings

Ingredients and Directions:

Infused Simple Syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
6 mint leaves
1 strip of lemon peel
1 strawberry, halved

Place all of the ingredients in a medium size saucepan and cook over med-low heat until simmering (approx. 3-4 minutes).

Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp.

Why syrup is cooling, make the fruit puree...

Fruit Puree
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of chopped strawberries  (reserve 1 cup)
1/2 cup of loosely packed mint
1 cup water

Pulse all the above (only the one cup of berries) in a blender until strawberries and mint are combined (about 1 minute)

Combine the cooled simple syrup. strawberry - lemon juice puree and the and the remaining 1 cup of chopped strawberries in a large pitcher with 7 cups of cold water.

Strain into glass with lots of ice.

Add 1 shot of white rum  (or more if you like!)



Thursday, May 7, 2015

Vegan Peanut Butter and Roasted Banana Cake for The Leftovers Club

I have to admit that being a member of The Leftovers Club has definitely challenged me as a baker and taken me out of my "comfort zone". I've done some gluten free baking in the past and catered desserts for a completely gluten free wedding, but recently I have been paired with other members whose dietary restrictions or eating preferences have had me up for a challenge.
This month I was paired with Jenny from The Lazy Vegan Baker, who is obviously vegan. Not only is Jenny vegan, but she is a very experienced vegan baker and has even published an e-book with some amazing cookie recipes. Pretty impressive, huh?

 While everyone in the group is always so gracious and insists they'll accept anything, it's no fun receiving baked goods in the mail that you can't eat so I wanted to bake a vegan dessert to send to Jenny. Normally I will start with a base recipe and do a lot of experimenting and tweeking to give it my own twist, but this time I didn't want to play around and risk sending Jenny something that she wouldn't enjoy because baking without dairy can be tricky.

I came across this recipe for a Vegan Cake that looked amazing. Marly describes the recipe as being "tried and true" which is always a good thing in my book so I was sold. Of course I still did a little minor tweeking, because that's just in my nature - I roasted the bananas to intensify their flavor.  I'm a big fan of roasted fruit (this recipe for Vanilla Roasted Strawberries is one of my favorites). I also increased the amount of vanilla extract, used vanilla almond milk and a different chocolate ganache.
I hope Jenny and her family enjoys it!

If you are interested in being a member of a fun group of women (men are welcome too!) who exchange baked goods each month, please sign up to join The Leftovers Club! I guarantee it's a lot of fun!!

Vegan Peanut Butter & Roasted Banana Bundt Cake
Makes 1 reg size bundt cake or 3 smaller bundt cakes baked in disposable paper pans
Serves 10-15

3 bananas
3 cups of all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups dairy free chocolate chips

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons coconut oil (softened)

1 cup dairy free chocolate chips
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil

1. Place the bananas on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350f for approximates 15 minutes or until blackened. Cool for a few minutes then remove the skins and mash. Set aside.

2. Prepare the crumble by placing all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Set aside.

3. In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk until thoroughly combined.

4. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, sugar, oil, almond milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, flax seed and cornstarch. Whisk well to combine.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

6. Divide half of the batter into your well greased bundt pan, then sprinkle half of the crumble on top. Top with the remaining half of the batter and then the remaining crumble. Sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on top if desired.

7. Place bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake approximately 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Start checking your cake for doneness around 50 minutes. If the top of your cake starts to brown too quickly, tent with a piece of foil and continue baking.

8. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool in pan for approx. 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate or cooling rack to cool completely.

9. Top with the ganache and serve!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lemon Basil Pound Cake with Vanilla bean Ice Cream and Fresh Strawberries

I know I have posted quite a few recipes in the past using lemons, but honestly when your father has two beautiful lemon trees that produce an abundance of fruit, I am constantly inspired.

  So this recipe came together after my mother invited us over for dinner. Since they were supplying the dinner , I told her I would supply dessert. Of course, those beautiful, fresh lemons came to mind...
Since my guy loves ice cream and my parents love cake and they both love lemon, this Lemon Basil Pound Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and fresh Strawberry topping was born! The basil was my new twist... let's just say I received a few skeptical stares from the mother :-) I love when I can pull one over on her.

Anyways, the final product was soooo good, I kid you not!   The skeptics turned into believers.  There was actually an argument as to whether the left overs stayed at mom's or came home with us. In the end, we compromised and split it.

The addition of basil into the batter added a nice, refreshing  flavor, actually toned down the lemon a bit . The cake was moist and flavorful.  I will definitely be making this again!

Happy cooking everyone!

Lemon Basil Pound Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Fresh Strawberry Topping

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
zest of one lemon
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice  (from 3-4 large lemons)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Pint Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ( I used Haagen Dazs)

Prep work
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Chop basil

3. Zest one of the lemons than juice all of the lemons to make 1/4 + 1/3 cup juice
4. Chop the strawberries. Add the sugar then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

5. Spray a 9" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

1. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
2. Stir in basil. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of your Kithen-aid stand mixer or using your hand mixer, cream together the butter and 1 cup granulated sugar until creamy.

4. Add eggs, one egg at the time, mixing until combined.

5. Mix in vanilla extract.

6. Slowly add in 1/2 of the flour into egg/sugar mixture, then 1/2 the lemon juice. Repeat

7. Pour finished batter into prepared pan

8. Bake for 50-60 minute, until center is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.
9. Cool in pan for 10 minutes
10. While cake is cooling... Mix together 1/3 lemon juice and 1/3 sugar and zest of one lemon

11. Pour over warm cake and let sit for 30 minutes


12. Once cake is cooled, cut into 1 inch slices.  To serve, top with ice cream and the fresh strawberries.