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Tuesday
Sep302014

What is Allspice?

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, allspice is? Well, I found myself wondering recently, and I thought I would pass on my newfound wisdom on the ways of allspice. Enjoy!

What is Allspice?

Photo: Pixabay

Botanically speaking, this spice is known as Pimenta officinalis, and it comes from the Jamaican Pepper Tree. While it is said to be native to south and central America, it was most famously shared with the world after its discovery in Jamaica in the West Indies: this is where Columbus discovered the stuff. Per the Farmers Almanac, a physician on the ship declared the tree had the "finest smell of cloves" he had ever encountered.

Allspice comes from the dried berry of the pimento tree, a tropical tree which can range in size from 20-40 feet, which is related to the myrtle and features thick, elliptical-shaped leaves. In the spring and summer, the tree produces white blooms, which are followed by the pea-sized berries in the fall. These berries are dried and ground to produce the allspice we know. 

What about the name? 

As I discovered on About Food,

Allspice comes by its name for a very good reason. The berries have a combined flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with a hint of juniper and peppercorn. Some enterprising spice companies sell a mixture of spices as allspice, so be sure and check the ingredients on the label to be sure you are getting the real thing. Allspice is often called pimento, not to be confused with the capsicum pepper pimiento, which is a vegetable, not a spice.

How to use it

  • Since it tastes like a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, it is a frequent component of baked goods, especially in the fall. It is notably part of pumpkin pie spice. 
  • It can be used in Jamaican (savory) cookery. Known as Jamaican pepper, it is part of jerk spice mixes. 
  • In Polish cooking, it is called kubaba and adds a certain je ne sais quoi to pot roasts and stuffings. 

8 tasty recipes featuring allspice

I think these ones sound like winners, don't you?

Substituting allspice in recipes

If you don't have allspice on hand, this spice substitution guide suggests cinnamon; cassia; dash of nutmeg or mace; or dash of cloves. Or, follow the example of The Humbled Homemaker and mix equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Interesting facts

  • Once upon a time, flowers were given as symbolic gestures. Bright yellow allspice buds were seen as a symbol of compassion. (find more flower symbolism here)
  • Allspice is a curative, and is considered a remedy for health issues as wide ranging as muscle aches, indigestion, and fever. 
  • Allspice was named due to its scent, which is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Pimento was given its name by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who thought the dried berries looked like peppercorns, and called them “pimenta”, or pepper. (source)

How do you use allspice in your baking or cooking?

Tuesday
Sep302014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Chewy Chocolate Chip-Almond Bars


CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I wouldn't be surprised if your response to these bars is like mine: absolute delight. There's no part of the recipe that doesn't completely please me, from the sweetened condensed milk gooeyness to the decadent chocolate chip base and the almonds all over the batter and flecked on top which give it a distinct Almond Joy tone.
This clever recipe is courtesy of Rachel Ruiz of Hurlburt Field, Florida. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Chewy Chocolate Chip-Almond Bars

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Total Time: 2 Hr 25 Min
  • Makes: 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 package Pillsbury Ready to Bake! refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 oz marzipan, diced (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 9-inch square pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add marzipan and almond extract. Beat with electric mixer on high speed about 2 minutes or until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.
  3. In small bowl, mix condensed milk and almond butter until smooth; pour over dough in pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and almonds evenly over condensed milk mixture.
  4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center still jiggles slightly. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into 4 rows by 3 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
Monday
Sep292014

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Worry about the Calories in Dessert

How do you determine your self worth? Is it by how much money you make, where you live, who you live with? Is it your accomplishments, your family, your level of fame? Or is it tied to your weight?

Do you determine your self worth by a number on a scale, or the tally of calories you've eaten that day? 

Listen, I feel you. I spent 15 years in a self-created hole that didn't let much light in, otherwise known as the world of disordered eating. At different times, my behavior included but was not limited to obsessive calorie counting, bingeing, purging, and extreme restriction.

So, with that in mind, I have put together a post of "10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Worry about the Calories in Dessert". Check out the full post here. 

Monday
Sep292014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Polynesian Pull-Apart

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

 I'll level with you. I'm hungry right now, and I want to eat this thing. This thing, of course, being "Polynesian Pull-Apart", a sweet bread dreamed up by Jane McMillen of Winter Garden, Florida.

Made with refrigerated biscuits, it's the cream cheese, pineapple juice, macadamia nuts, and coconut extract that make it a tropical treat that is mighty fine to eat. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Polynesian Pull-Apart

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr
  • Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 can Pillsbury Grands Homestyle refrigerated southern style biscuits (8 biscuits)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted 3oz cream cheese, softened (from 8-oz package)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 10-inch fluted tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. In 9-inch pie plate, mix 1 cup of the sugar and the macadamia nuts; set aside.
  2. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut each biscuit in half. Dip both sides of biscuit halves into melted butter; roll in sugar mixture to coat all sides. Place cut sides up in bottom of fluted tube pan. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over biscuit halves.
  3. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; turn ring upside down onto serving plate; cool an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with electric mixer on medium speed 30 to 45 seconds or until smooth. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the pineapple juice and the coconut extract; add additional pineapple juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over hot pull-apart ring. Serve warm.
Monday
Sep292014

Homemade Coffee Marshmallow, Anyone? 

I don't consider myself a marshmallow-seeker. I don't avoid them, but I don't actively seek them out. 

However, marshmallows are one of those foods that when homemade, can be truly exquisite. I've tried making regular and funfetti ones, and let me tell you, my hot chocolate didn't complain once.

When Lavazza sent me a potential guest post recipe pitch (un-sponsored other than the fact that they donated the recipe and I think they make good coffee) that involved coffee marshmallows, I said "sign me up!". Bold yet sweetly sophisticated, these marshmallows practically beg you to come up with a fancy coffee liqueur cocktail recipe to pair them with. Or, if alcohol isn't your speed, combine them with hot cocoa for a little extra zip. Use a strong, good quality coffee if you don't have the brand mentioned.

Oh, and make them today for best results: September 29th is National Coffee Day!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brewed Lavazza Perfetto, room temperature, divided
  • 3 packets gelatin
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Procedure

  1. Combine 1/2 cup of the brewed coffee with the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk to combine.   Attach the bowl to the base of the mixer and install the whisk attachment.  Allow the gelatin to set.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of brewed coffee with the sugar and corn syrup; stir to incorporate all ingredients.  Without stirring, bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, add a candy thermometer to the pot and cook until the sugar mixture reaches 238 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, spray a 9”x13” baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Combine the confectioners sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl, mix well.  Sprinkle the greased pan with the cocoa/confectioners mix and tilt the pan in all directions, ensuring the entire surface of the pan is coated.
  4. When the sugar syrup has reached temperature, carefully drizzle it into the bowl of the stand mixer as it whips on medium-high.  When all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high.  Add a pinch of salt and the seeds of a vanilla bean.  Continue to whip on high until the mixture begins to lighten in color and cool. 
  5. Spray a spatula with non-stick spray and dump the marshmallow mixture into the prepared baking pan.  Working quickly, spread the marshmallow as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle with some cocoa/confectioners blend and, gently, with your hands, pat the marshmallow to help flatten it.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to set at least eight hours, preferably overnight.
  6. Carefully remove the set marshmallow from the pan onto a cutting surface.  With a sharp chef’s knife, cut the marshmallow into strips one inch in width.  Cut the strip into one inch pieces to achieve a one inch square.   Toss each marshmallow square in the remaining cocoa/confectioners mix and shake off the excess.  Store in a cool, dry area in an airtight container.

Have you ever made homemade marshmallows?

Monday
Sep292014

How to Use Reference Images to Create Awesome Art

What do Monet’s water lilies, Andy Warhol’s soup cans, and the below unicorn illustration all have in common? The answer is reference images. Do you know how to use them to create awesome art? If not, you can learn here. I know a lot about this subject, I promise. Read the full article here.

Sunday
Sep282014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Very Vanilla Lemon Tarts

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I will go ahead and tell you a secret right here and right now. Here goes:

I prefer vanilla to chocolate.

It's true. And Antoinette Leal of Ridgefield, Connecticut, hears me. She must: she created this recipe for Very Vanilla Lemon Tarts which will be featured at the Bake-Off! Starting with ready-made pie crust, these pastries are sweet and tart bliss. Good luck at the Bake-Off, Antoinette!

Very Vanilla Lemon Tarts

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Total Time: 55 Min
  • Makes: 8 tarts

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (from 10-oz jar)
  • 6 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
  • 1 egg, well beaten 2
  • lemons (2 teaspoons grated peel, 2 teaspoons juice and 8 lemon peel curls)

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In small bowl, mix lemon curd and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla; set aside. In another small bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 4 teaspoons of the powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla; set aside.
  2. Unroll pie crusts on work surface; roll each crust to 12-inch circle. With pizza cutter or knife, cut each crust into 8 wedges. Place 4 wedges on each cookie sheet.
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon lemon curd mixture in center of each wedge on cookie sheets; top with 1 tablespoon ricotta mixture. Spread to within 1/2 inch of edges. Brush edges of crust with egg. Top with remaining pie crust wedges. Press edges with fork to seal. Prick tops of tarts 4 to 5 times with fork. Brush tops of tarts lightly with egg.
  4. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla, the lemon peel and lemon juice until smooth. Spread glaze over warm tarts; garnish with lemon peel curls. Serve warm. Store covered.
Sunday
Sep282014

Using Color to Convey Emotion in Art

Did you know that color can be a powerful way to show emotion in art? Beyond the obvious, here's an exploration of some of the ways color can bring your message clearly across, messy emotions and all. Read the entire post on Craftsy!

Sunday
Sep282014

How to Draw and Paint Mixed Media Flowers

This is a fun and vibrant thing to discover as an artist: how to draw/paint a mixed media masterpiece featuring flowers. This is a tutorial I made for Craftsy, but it's tons of fun for all sorts of creative types. It doesn't include cake, it's true, but I can strongly suggest a slice of this rich cake topped with spiced pecans and pears to accompany it if you want something sweet to eat while you work. Here's the complete post about how to draw mixed media flowers.

Saturday
Sep272014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Cinnamon-Pumpkin Muffins

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

I famously consider muffins a waste of my time. My primary issue: they are just not cake.

However, every now and again a muffin comes along that I feel as if I could fit into my diet and life without much issue. Well, it certainly helps that Anna Zovko of Tampa, Florida includes sugar cookie dough in the batter! Plus, there is glaze. Now that's my kind of muffin.

Good luck at the Bake-Off!

Cinnamon-Pumpkin Muffins

  • Prep Time: 20 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 5 Min
  • Makes: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese creamy ready-to-spread frosting

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Place baking cups in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups.
  2. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add eggs and pumpkin. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until well blended. Add flour and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon; beat on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  3. In small bowl, mix sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon until blended. Sprinkle rounded 1/4 teaspoon sugar mixture over batter in each muffin cup.
  4. Bake 18 to 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 3 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool at least 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place frosting in medium resealable food-storage plastic bag. Cut off small corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle frosting over each muffin. Store covered.

 

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