Easter Baking to Celebrate Spring

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Though the Christmas season is my favorite time of year, Easter takes a close second place in the holiday hierarchy because it’s filled with so much joy, from uplifting songs at church to green buds on the trees. As Christ arose from death, the world is waking up: I can hear birds chirping in the morning while I get ready for work. The weather no longer requires a coat and scarf and gloves and hat and double socks. All of that makes me want to celebrate—and how better to express my delight than with some Easter baking?

This year mom made all the dinner dishes while I tackled the desserts: brownies, a fruit & yogurt tart, a lemony cheesecake, and a banana cream pie. I spent all day in the kitchen on the Saturday before Easter, and it was wonderful! Todd helped with the baking, and together we listened to several Disney soundtracks, including my top two favorites, Moana and Pocahontas. I probably annoyed Todd with my…let’s just say overly enthusiastic…singing (to the same song three times in a row), but he barely complained. And he even decorated a super cute Easter egg for me later that night. He’s too good for me!!

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Cute egg Todd made for me: the two of us holding hands in a hot air balloon with a rabbit on it.

I considered providing all of the dessert recipes here, but then thought that might be information overload, so instead I’ll just share my thoughts on each; if anyone is interested in the recipes, let me know and I can write up a separate post for that particular one.

The brownies were the first of my four projects. I followed the “signature” recipe from Butter & Chocolate by Sheila G. Mains, the creator of the popular Brownie Brittle snack. You know that debate between cocoa powder or chocolate chips? This recipe solves it by using both—resulting in decadent, fudgy, delicious brownies. I stacked my two heart-shaped brownie cakes and slathered store-bought dark chocolate frosting over them.

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Next up was the fruit tart: the puff pastry exterior only required thawing and baking, and I topped the cooked dough with a mixture of Siggi’s plain and Chobani vanilla yogurt. Then I layered on some fruit and drizzled honey over it, and voila! Done! So easy it only took two sentences to explain. Plus it was relatively healthy, and the tart flavors of the yogurt helped balance out the sweetness of the other three desserts.

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The cheesecake required a bit more effort: I had to first make the lemon curd glaze and leave it to cool in the fridge for four hours. While it cooled, I made the cheesecake itself, using a copycat recipe of the Cheesecake Factory’s vanilla bean cheesecake. I refuse to go through the effort of a water bath (plus I don’t like how soft it can leave the cheesecake), so mine cracked a bit, but since I planned to cover it anyway, I didn’t worry too much. Once it cooled, I topped it with the lemon glaze and fresh blueberries. Oh, and a carrot cake Hershey’s kiss to represent Jesus on the cross haha.

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The banana cream pie took the most work, but it was also most worth it. I’d never made this particular dessert before, and it was a bit of a learning curve when it came to whisking the custard to just the right consistency. I layered the banana-vanilla custard with fresh bananas in a crust made of crushed pretzels, peanuts, and peanut butter, with a bittersweet chocolate bottom. Then I made a super easy whipped topping and finished it off with a garnish of chocolate shavings. I was really proud of the finished pie, and I was glad to hear on Easter that everyone liked it!

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What did you make for Easter? What’s your favorite part of the holiday?

 

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Recipe: Peach Pie Crumble Bars

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I keep meaning to post a garden update, but then I continually forget to take photos of the plants when I get home from work in the evenings. I’m going to try hard to remember tonight! In the meantime, I wanted to share this really good recipe (based on one I saw in Martha Stewart Living) for peach pie crumble bars. They’re great as a mid-afternoon snack when you need a pick-me-up or as a refreshing after-dinner treat. Mine came out a bit more like a crumble than a bar because I ran out of flour, but if you follow the recipe below, it should firm up perfectly. Continue reading

Recipe: Four-Berry Wheat Muffins

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Though I posted a recipe for cherry oat bread only a week or so ago, I decided to post my four-berry wheat muffin recipe today in case you wanted to do some healthy baking during the blizzard that’s coming our way!

Featuring strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, it’s based on a recipe that I found on Yummly. For the most part, my modifications were done out of necessity; I didn’t have enough strawberries to mix into the batter, so I used all four types of blueberries instead. It tasted delicious, so I highly recommend the method outlined below. And, as a bonus, your muffins will come out a stormy shade of blue—the perfect color for a blustery winter day.

Four-berry muffin

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A Perfect Summer Recipe: Berry Pie

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Now that the temperature has reached its seasonal peak, I crave my favorite summer foods: lemonade, pineapple-and-shrimp skewers, burgers slathered with ketchup, fresh corn, sand-dusted sandwiches on the beach, and fruit-filled pies. The best summer pies have a flavor that bursts in your mouth, sticky and sweet yet refreshingly tangy.

So when my coworker (the same one I attended BookCon with) invited me to her new apartment for dinner, what else could I bring for dessert but a warm, homemade, blueberry-raspberry pie? This easy, simple recipe requires minimal preparation and offers great results. (Full disclosure: I adapted this from a Good Housekeeping blueberry pie recipe.)

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Blueberry-raspberry pie cooling on the stovetop.

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Restaurant Review: Smorgas Chef

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Today I took my friend Megan (who is also my brother’s girlfriend) to one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan’s Financial District: Smorgas Chef.

Iconic yellow windows and flag

Iconic yellow windows and flag

Located on Stone Street, a lively cobblestone road lined with bars and hot spots, this Scandinavian eatery boasts a menu full of “new Nordic cuisine,” which is “deeply committed to using local, sustainable, and all-natural ingredients,” largely from its 160-acre farm in the Catskills.

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