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Have you heard of The Sneaky Chef? One word — amazing. Okay, two words — amazing and brilliant! I absolutely love the idea of adding more nutrients into every day foods by adding fruit and veggie purees. I started using recipes from the Sneaky Chef cookbook in an effort to get a few nutrients into my three year-old son who is an incredibly fussy eater. Yes, my poor son was the target of all these strange orange, white, purple and other purees. At times, I’ve felt like a mad scientist, but there’s no denying that we could *all* do with more fruits and vegetables in our diets. It’s become second nature for me to add pureed carrots and yams to all my marinaras (50/50 canned marinara and orange puree!).

I’ve even started making my own Sneaky recipes, based on the principles I’ve gleaned from The Sneaky Chef. And here it is 5:30 am, I’m wide awake and I’m making Sneaky Peach Nectarine muffins for my son’s preschool class. MUHAHAHAHAAA!! Those boys in his class won’t know what hit them! I’m sure I’ll be giggling about it all day!

I grabbed the base recipe from All Recipes. It’s a serviceable recipe that I can adapt with any fruits I’d like. But I couldn’t let this opportunity pass to add more goodies into the batter!

My modifications:

50/50 white/whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
Double the fruit, roughly chopped then pulsed in the food processor to a fine dice

Because my fruit wasn’t super ripe and naturally sweet, I let the fruit macerate in the sugar instead of blending the sugar in w/ the dry ingredients.

That’s it! That’s all I did differently. But the kids are getting extra fruit, follic acid and vitamin E that wouldn’t have been in the original recipe along with extra fiber. They’ll never taste a difference but their bodies will welcome the added nutrients.

Next time, I might even get adventurous enough to replace some or all of the sugar with honey!

So, add wheat germ to your grocery list along with some whole wheat flour. Pre-mix 50/50 on the flour and store it for whenever you bake. Don’t be afraid to toss a sprinkle of wheat germ on your grilled cheese sandwich, into your casserole, or your baking. Make some purees and freeze them so you always have some ready to add into your meals.

Bottom line – don’t be afraid of your food! Nutritious meals can be fun and very yummy … but let’s keep that secret to ourselves.

1 pound butter, softened
3½ cups sugar
10 eggs
1 teaspoon mace
2 tablespoons flavoring*
4 cups flour

Bring eggs to room temperature by placing in a bowl of hot water. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour a tube pan. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1½ hours or until it tests done – you may need to cover it with foil half way through baking to prevent the top from becoming too dark. Cool. Remove from pan. Serve, dusted with powdered sugar or topped with a fruit sauce and whipped cream.

I serve mine with a caramel icing and pecans.

*Vanilla, orange, lemon extract or fruit flavored liqueurs

Mother Nature isn’t always the most accomodating she can be when we have a cake to make. It almost always happens to be raining when I need to melt chocolate but hey, I love a challenge.

I was experimenting Saturday night and the rain set in, and then the lightening, and then my cake fell. In a panic I sliced it in half to see how the middle turned out. It was fine; it just did not rise. It was a compact cake. I decided to continue to slice it and place the cake in a bowl with alternating layers of cake and icing and sprinkles. Thank goodness it was for my 5 year old son and his friend — it was a big hit.

The moral of the story… don’t waste your cake. Experiment!

1 Cup sugar

3 TBS water

2 large egg whites (room temperature)

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

In small saucepan, combine sugar with water and bring to a boil stirring consistantly until sugar has dissolved.  Aprox 3 min.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

With mixer at medium speed pour the hot syrup into the egg whites.  Continue beating the icing until cool and billowy, aprox 5 min.   THE BEST PART…you can broil the icing if desired!!!!

courtesy of  Food and Wine – May 2008 page 120.

This icing recipe is very easy and fun to experiement with flavors.  In the article they mention many variations of flavors.  The first time I tried this was with chocolate fudge cupcakes and sprinkled graham crackers on top of the icing…the consistency was marvelous and I was very pleased.

Happy creating!

For a fun twist to old faithful cake recipies try this….

Smash 3 bananas and cut the sugar in 1/2

Be sure to add the bananas to the actual batter and not the butter.

This is super yummy and saves on the sugar too. Great with chocolate icing!

When trying to create uniformly sized cookies, muffins or cupcakes, try using your ice cream scooper to measure out your batter or dough.

Yes, there are fancy cookie scoopers out there but why add another gadget to your already overflowing drawer. Most people already have an ice cream scooper, so put it to use and get some double duty out of it!

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These cookies are fabulous. They are dense and really chewy, the texture is amazing. And worth the trouble, trust me. Mama’s been making these as long as I can remember. She said she got the recipe out of a Southern Living book at some point years ago.

3/4 c butter
1 c light brown sugar
1 c molasses
1 tsp Allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
3 2/3 c plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine butter, brown sugar, molasses and spices. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, let cool, and sit at room temperature for 8 hours.
Combine flour, soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into syrup mixture. Chill several hours.
Roll out and cut -or- press dough into a 10×15 pan cake pan for bar cookies. (this dough is difficult to work with… roll out small bits at a time and keep the rest chilled as you work if you don’t do the bar cookies). It’s going to be thin.
Bake at 350 degrees. This is the tricky part. For the 10×15 Mama goes about 10 minutes watching veryyy carefully. It puffs up and you want to pull them out when they seem a little undercooked. Because if you cook them too long they get hard as rocks. For individual cookies (which again is *really* difficult with this dough, but possible if you’re adventurous) it’s going to take less time. And depend on your oven.

Enjoy!!

1 box of your favorite cake mix
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg

Mix ingredients. Spoon onto a lightly greased pan and bake at 350 for 10-13 min.

Its fun to use these as a base and add unique flavors. My favorite variations include:

Chocolate w/ rose water and vanilla; yellow with orange flower water, orange extract and vanilla beans; pound cake box mix with vanilla extract and vanilla beans

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This, I must say, is a serious work in progress.

I used a basic recipe for 1-2-3-4 cake (you can find that almost anywhere). I substituted the milk with Bailey’s Irish Cream. While it had such wonderful flavor, they were kind of “fragrant, drunken cupcakes” and a tad on the dry side. The Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing certainly made up for the dryness. I will continue to work on this. In the meantime, any helpful tips for the dryness?

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick butter, softened
80z cream cheese
4oz chocolate, melted and cooled (I find the Nestle’s pre-melted semi sweet packets wonderful in a pinch.)
1 box confectioners sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Blend butter and cream cheese in a bowl on medium speed, two min. Add melted chocolate, mix 3 min. Add confectioners sugar. I find it very easy on time to sift the sugar right into the bowl. Add cream to desired consistency.

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In my longing for fall to get here, I decided to make a Warm Apple Crisp. I was so excited to taste a bite right out of the oven with vanilla bean whipped cream. I have had a long and exhausting day but I managed to cut my 5 green apples perfectly and squeeze the juices of one lime over them. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon…yummy. Well I am envisioning how wonderful it will taste and my mouth is just watering.

I jump up in sheer delight to the timer ding and run to the kitchen. Something smells kind of off… It does not bring me the wonderful fall smell I had remembered. HMMM… I take a bite and GASP! Oh no…this not good, this is not right… Have I lost my taste its out of sight! Has my sweet palet left me? My baking skills are gone. I look down at the counter and am surprised to see, cumin!!!! Shew… At least it was a sleepy mistake and not a lack of my sweet gift!

To make this wonderful treat that is warm and comforting correctly….

Preheat oven 345

In a casserole dish:

4-6 sliced green apples
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
1 1/4 cups flour (I prefer Swans cake flour)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats

Place apples in buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon. Squeeze the lime over the mix. In a seprate bowl combine the flour, brown sugar and oats. Cut in the butter until nice and chopped and blended will. Sprinkle the mixture over apples. Shake the dish a bit and add the loose portion remaining in the bowl on top of the apples. This is also nice w/ chopped pecans and raisins. Always remember to make sure to not mistake cumin for cinnamon!

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup super fine sugar
1 vanilla bean

Mix the cream on medium for 3 min. Add sugar and mix on medium for 3-4 min. Fold in vanilla beans.

The trick to perfect whip cream is to use a metal bowl that has been chilling with the beaters in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours – the colder the better in this case, but not frosty.