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Lemon Cream Whoopie Pies

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It’s been a year since I left the Secret Recipe Club but I’m finally back, baby! So excited! If you haven’t been around here long enough to know what the heck the Secret Recipe Club is, lemme break it down for ya. Once you’re in the club (click the link to sign up), each month that you participate, you’re assigned to another participating blog. Nobody knows who has whose blog, and everyone in the group picks a recipe from their assigned blog and makes it, then everyone posts on the same day and it’s all fun and exciting looking through the posts to figure out who had your blog and to see which recipe they picked. It’s a really fun way to visit new blogs and make recipes you might not usually try.

This month I was assigned to Chris and Amy’s blog, A Couple In The Kitchen. Aww! So sweet – a couple that cooks and blogs together! Their motto is, “The couple that sautes together, stays together.” I just love it.  The coolest thing is that they had my blog back in October of 2011 and made my Apple Cider Doughnuts, so it’s neat to finally get assigned to them in return.

I went crazy perusing their blog and pinning the recipes I wanted to try to one of my secret boards.  I’ve never made a risotto and really want to try it, so I was very close to picking their Springtime Risotto.  Their Corn and Black Bean Salsa Nachos were also calling my name, along with their Seared Scallops with Blood Orange Gastrique and Chicken Piccata.  However, my sweet tooth and curiosity drew me to their Flour Frosting and I thought I could use it as a filling in some springtime-y whoopie pies.

I’ve heard of flour frosting before and have wanted to try it for a long time, much longer than I’ve wanted to make a risotto, and I was glad to have the extra motivation to finally make it.  But let me tell you, I nearly had as much trouble with this frosting as I did with another SRC post on the whole wheat bread that would never turn out for me, even after 9 loaves. I don’t know what my problem is, but I just could not get the flour mixture right – it was always lumpy and made my frosting lumpy no matter how much I beat it (we’re talking 20 minutes people!).  Through trial and error, I devised a fool-proof way to create the smooth and fluffy frosting it’s meant to be, and while it’s a little more tedious because it involves an extra step, it’s worth the effort if you have lumpy thickened milk issues like me.  This lightly sweet frosting is incredibly light and fluffy, perfect for sandwiching between sweet, lemony cake-cookies.  Get your whoopie on!

Lemon Cream Whoopie Pies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cookies:
1 (15.25 oz) lemon cake mix
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup water
3 eggs

Filling:
¼ cup (1 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (3 ¼ oz) vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside.

Before starting the cookies, do the first step for the filling: whisk the flour and milk together in a small saucepan and continue to whisk constantly while cooking it over medium heat until it forms a thick paste, about five minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Combine cookie ingredients in large bowl and beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl to incorporate. Increase speed to medium and beat for an additional minute. Drop 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of dough (preferably from a cookie scoop to make them nicely round) onto prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart, and bake for about ten minutes or until lightly golden brown on edges and set in the center. Remove onto a wire rack to cool and repeat with remaining batter.

To make the filling, add the cooled milk and flour mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the vanilla and process until completely smooth and no lumps remain, a minute or two. (You can also beat it with a mixer but if there are any lumps, it will ruin your frosting. I couldn’t get the lumps out of mine without using the food processor.) In a large mixing bowl, add remaining filling ingredients and beat on medium-high for four minutes, then add in the flour mixture and beat together until nice and fluffy and no grit from the sugar remains, 3-4 minutes.

To make the pies, turn half the cookies over and spread about 2 tablespoons of filling over the flat side. Top with another cookie, flat side down and press lightly together.

Recipe source: a Veronica’s Cornucopia original, with the filling recipe adapted from A Couple in the Kitchen

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A Brony Birthday Party

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My little sister (that’s her with the black ponytail) threw a My Little Pony birthday party for her boyfriend last week.  That’s right, he’s a Brony.  A brother who likes My Little Pony.  I love that he’s secure enough in his masculinity not to have any shame about it!  He was so excited about the party and while she was taking millions of pictures of him posing with ponies, he declared it to be the best birthday party of his life.

Although I’ve sworn off decorated cakes (multiple times), she talked me into making the cake for his party.  (What convinced me was her offering a really strange amount of money – not like $20 or $30, but $32.73.  It was so weird and funny I had to say yes! lol)  It was a super-simple cake and I thought I’d share how to make one if you ever have need of a rainbow or MLP cake.

You only need a round single layer of cake.  If you make it in a 10″ pan, a cake mix will fit in it and the finished cake will serve up to 16 people, although it will be pretty difficult to serve.  I made mine in an 8″ pan and baked the rest of the batter into cupcakes, so this cake only served 8 but with the cupcakes it would have served 20.  You will also need red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and sky blue frosting for the rainbow.  Pack the frosting into disposable pastry bags, preferably fitted with couplers, though you can just slice the tip off the bag to pipe the frosting directly onto the cake out of the bag if you don’t own a lot of couplers or don’t want to buy them. If you are going to make this into a My Little Pony cake, you will also need extra green for the grass (I used a lighter green than in the rainbow). You’ll need some flower sprinkles (I used these) and a grass tip (Wilton #233, and ignore all the other tips – I didn’t end up using them).  If you want to make a pond, you’ll need some clear piping gel and sky blue gel coloring (available at Walmart by the cake decorating supplies in the arts & crafts section).

Slice your cake in half and squeeze/spread frosting onto one side. I made too much red so that’s the color I chose to use.

Sandwich the halves together.

Place the cake cut-side down to your platter or cake board.

Squeeze frosting onto the cake, starting at the middle with the red (I had to build it up a little to make it higher since it dipped down), making stripes in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  I just squeezed it out from my coupler without a tip and I thought this made the perfect width of frosting for each stripe.

Repeat down the other side and fill in the bottom of both sides with sky blue frosting to make it look like you’re looking through to the sky underneath the rainbow.

If you’re going to make a MLP cake, figure out where you’re going to put the ponies, then pipe a blue border to outline where your pond(s) will be.  Using your (clean) finger, spread a thin layer of blue frosting over the platter or cake board so that the silver (or other color of the board) doesn’t show through the piping gel.  Tint enough piping gel to fill the pond(s) with sky blue gel color and spread into the pond, creating some ripple effects with your spoon.

Pipe grass onto the rest of the platter and when you run out of light green, use up the rest of your darker green, then panic and use up your yellow.  Then realize there is no other color left that is suitable for grass so be really strange and spread some orange over the rest of the platter, hoping it won’t look too weird if you write a birthday message across it.  Sprinkle your flower sprinkles all over the grass.

Realize the orange is just wrong, and scrape it all off, rejoicing that you found some extra blue you had set aside in a bowl.  Use it to pipe a border for another lake and repeat the steps to create a second lake.  Rejoice that you saved a little bit of white frosting and tint it green to go around the lake, then steal some of the flower sprinkles to put on the new grass.  Much better.

To serve, cut it in half down the middle, then cut each half in half, angling toward the center.  Essentially, you are cutting it the way you would if it was right-side up, but from the side instead of the top.  Cut each thick slice in half and use a spatula or cake server to draw out one of the bottom pieces (most likely two pieces will come out and you’ll have to pull the top piece off onto another plate.  Once the first piece is out, serving the others is pretty easy as they just start falling onto your spatula.

TASTE THE RAINBOW!

Whoa. It’s like a rainbow…IN MAH MOUTH.

 

Dear Joshua

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Dear Joshua,

Today you are 18 weeks, 3 days old. You have changed so much in your short life already, I can’t believe it.  You’ve more than doubled your birth weight and grown over 6 inches. You’ve gone from crying through diaper changes, to grunting and snorting through them (oh I miss those snorts!), to smiling through them (which is a pretty good trade-off, even if you don’t do the snorts any more).  My still baby has turned into a wriggling delight, making diaper changes challenging, and bedtime hilarious.  You push up and back with your heels while I change your diaper, then curl your knees upward toward your chest and bite your hands, making a little “ach” sound. As soon as I get the diaper back in place under your bottom, you push backward again and repeat the process.  When I put you to bed for the night, you do the same curling inward thing, pulling your hands up inside the swaddle toward your mouth, even though your swaddle prevents you reaching it.  Then you give me your biggest smile and start wriggling and kicking inside your swaddle.  I have to leave you to kick yourself to sleep, because as long as I stand over you, you are kicking and wriggling and smiling.  I always want to laugh, but I resist to avoid rousing you any more than you already are, so that you can fall asleep as quickly as you always do.

“What’s with all the flashing lights?” With Grandpa Miller

Though for naps, you aren’t nearly as cheerful or obliging.  You almost always cry when it’s time for a nap, and while I’ve become pretty good at soothing you, it’s still nerve-frazzling and heartbreaking to hear that cry for any length of time.  I sometimes have to give up on getting you to take your naps, especially the afternoon naps, and let you skip them, but always pay for it later.  On those days, you are so tired by bedtime that you have a complete meltdown and soothing you takes a long time and I have to pull out all the tricks I’ve learned that help to calm you down. What works better than anything else is holding you sideways, your chest to my chest, and bouncing you up and down while rocking side to side or front to back, and then popping a pacifier in your mouth as soon as you settle enough to take it. The pacifier isn’t always needed, but can help if you’re extra inconsolable.  You do this cute thing with your mouth every time when you finally settle down. Your eyes drift closed, slowly open, close again, and you pucker your lips and stick your tongue behind them, stick it out a little bit, and then boom.  You’re out.

In the last couple weeks you’ve changed more quickly & dramatically than at any other time.  You are suddenly so much more interested in the world around you, and in the toys I present you with, reaching for them, hitting them, shaking them, biting and sucking on them.  I accidentally deleted the video of you first showing interest in a toy, but thankfully uploaded it to Facebook first, so you can watch yourself playing with the giraffe toy from Grandma Miller that hangs over your changing table here (click “HD” at the bottom of the video to show a more clear version).

Your talking Tow Mater toy from Grandma Miller kept you happy with tummy time a lot longer than Mama ever could:

And here you are enjoying your ball rattle from Great Aunt Dorothy for the first time:

Even better, you’ve finally started to roll over, and I got my first giggles out of you this week!  We visited your Daddy’s family and Grandma Miller got the best giggles out of you by far!  She made you giggle, which  made us giggle, which made you giggle, and it just went on and on.  I was too caught up in the joy of it to think about taking a video, but hopefully I’ll catch that soon.  I want to capture the sound of your giggle before your voice changes again.  Already your cry is so much deeper than a couple months ago, when everyone used to think you were a cat meowing when you cried.

Carson holds his baby cousin while Auntie Joan eagerly awaits her turn (again). :)

Great Aunt Lois gets a turn. You’re still not used to Mom’s new camera! (My old one finally bit the dust after taking many videos of you :) )

Thanks to you, I haven’t written a Thankful Thursday in months.  Because they would all be about you and since I talk about you more than anything else now, I’m afraid my blog would be just way too redundant to gush about our little blessing every Thursday.  Maybe some day I will move beyond my gratitude for you and remember there are other things to be thankful for, but for now I don’t need or want to.  I’m sure you know by now how much we wanted you and how much we love you, and you’re probably sick of hearing it, but it will always be true.  Last week you were dazzling us with your usual morning cheer (you are crazy happy in the mornings, and it makes us a little less grumpy to be faced with such such huge smiles when we’re just wanting a little more sleep), and I told your Dad that we’re so lucky.  He said, “I know.  I knew that when we found out he had a brain on the sonogram.”  You know Dad. :)  Hopefully by the time you read this our standards for what impresses us will have grown a little, and you have been inspired by our expectations to do more than just exist.  Which is all we really require of you right now.  Your mere existence is heaven.

Love, Mom

Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

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Chicken & Dumpling Casserole | veronicascornucopia.com

Although the first day of spring has come and gone, it’s been chilly and blustery here in Kansas, so I thought I’d share this warm and delicious casserole for everyone that’s still eagerly awaiting spring before it’s hot and sweltering and nobody wants to bake a casserole. This is pure comfort food and perfect to warm the soul on a chilly day.  It’s very quick and simple to make, which is good if you have a baby that has decided that if you aren’t holding him or playing with him or taking him on a stroller ride, he isn’t happy, because you won’t have to listen to him scream for very long  before dinner is in the oven. ;)

Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

3 – 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (use rotisserie chicken if desired)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 400F. Place butter in 9″ X 13″ baking dish and place in oven while it’s preheating. Once butter is melted, you can remove the pan to continue with the recipe, or let it cook a little to brown it and add an extra dimension of flavor. Be sure to watch it if you decide to let it brown because it can go from nutty to burnt pretty quickly.

Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle prepared chicken over the top of the butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour over the chicken, but do not stir. In same bowl, after scraping out as much flour mixture as possible, whisk together chicken broth and cream of chicken soup. Pour that over top of casserole; do not stir.

Bake uncovered for 35 – 45 minutes. When done, the top will be beautifully browned and bubbly around the edges.

Yield: about 6 servings

Veronica’s notes: I boiled a whole chicken for this recipe. It was about 5 lbs and I covered it with water in a stock pot and added a teaspoon of salt, boiling for an hour or two. I forgot to set the timer so I really don’t know how long I boiled it because I was so busy with the baby- lol. If you make it this way, it’s very economical, and you automatically make your own broth to use in the recipe.

Recipe source: The Better Baker

A budding musician?

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Joshua may not be able to play the guitar or form words well enough to sing yet (not that he doesn’t try though, and it’s too cute!), but I think he’s doing pretty good with his musician impressions. I think he waits until he’s in the right outfit to break them out, too.

Here are the videos from the past month. I’ve been trying to keep them shorter so they’re easier to watch.

If you don’t like hearing babies cry, you might want to skip the first 45 seconds of this one, but the ending is so cute you have to see it. :)

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

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We celebrated Father’s Day early this year!  OK, truth be told, I made this cake for Father’s Day five years ago.  This is probably the longest it’s ever taken me to blog a recipe, but with the Black Walnut Banana Bread recipe I shared earlier this week, I figured it was about time.

You know a cake is good when you can still remember the flavor five years after you ate it.  This cake is what turned me onto using black walnuts in banana bread – the pairing is ever so perfect.  And the caramel frosting just puts it over the top!  Enjoy it for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or just because you really need this cake in your life. Because you do.

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cake:
1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz) solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 large overripe bananas
1/4 cup (2 oz) buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (4 oz) chopped black walnuts

Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup (7 1/2 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more as necessary
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16 oz) box confectioner’s sugar
2 cups (8 oz) finely chopped black walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

For the cake: In a medium bowl, stir together flour and baking soda; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together shortening and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, mix until just combined. Stir in black walnuts.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting. Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar and cream. Cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream at a time until consistency is right. Sandwich 2 layers of cake with icing. Ice the outside of the cake. Surround sides of cake with crushed black walnuts.

*Cook’s note: DO NOT substitute English walnuts for black walnuts.

Black Walnut Banana Bread

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Well look at that, I wrapped a slice just for you! ;)

If you’ve never tasted the magic that happens when you combine banana and black walnuts, you need to try it, starting with this bread! Black walnuts used to be the only nut I used in my banana bread and I have no idea what happened but for some reason, I just stopped and totally forgot about them.  Maybe because they are harder to find, I moved on to using pecans, my overall favorite nut for baking, and didn’t remember the superior black walnut until my Mom gave me a bag from the Nifty Nuthouse recently.  I seriously wasted about three years on black walnut-less banana bread before she reminded me of the wondermosity that is the black walnut.

There is something really special about black walnuts in combination with banana. I also like to use them in banana cake- both in it and on top of the icing.  Just so good.  I can’t describe the flavor but there’s a little something extra to them that the regular walnuts don’t have.  I want to say they have a sulfuric  quality but I’m not sure that’s exactly right.  You’ll have to tell me how you would describe them because I’m at a loss.

I made this particular recipe very simple in order to showcase the banana and black walnut flavors without muddying the waters with butter or vanilla or cinnamon or  bourbon, et al.  I’m really partial to using oil in quick breads and cake because, in my opinion, it makes a superior crumb that butter just can not compete with, except in flavor, of course.  When the butter flavor isn’t necessary, I happily use oil.  I’ve made this bread both ways, and we both prefer the oil version – much more moist, tender, and almost silky.  The butter version is good, but not as good.  It’s also heavier and more dense.  I really recommend trying it this way before you scoff at the lack of butter.  You won’t believe how good it is!

Black Walnut Banana Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (14 oz) mashed overripe banana
½ cup (3 1/2 oz) vegetable oil
½ cup (2 ¼ oz) black walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large 9×5 loaf pan with oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the banana and oil and whisk until completely incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the wet mixture into the dry, then use the spatula to stir until somewhat blended. Add the black walnuts and stir until everything is just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto your hot pad-covered hand and then invert again onto a cooling rack to cool as long as you can stand it. Wrap up to seal in moisture if it doesn’t get eaten in one sitting. :)

Just had to share this cautionary photo of my thumbs after I’d tried to harvest my own black walnuts since they grow abundantly in the neighborhoods around here. It took me two hours to fill maybe a single teaspoon with tiny little nut shards (it’s so hard to get through the shell!) and my thumb nails broke through the latex gloves I was wearing while I was working on them and my thumbs were stained like this for weeks. I highly recommend paying for them – the free nuts are just not worth the effort!

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