Tag Archives: Vanilla extract

Strawberry Shortcakes

Want to know how we celebrate the arrival of Spring?

Ta Daaaaa!

This is how we welcomed the beautiful season of rebirth and renewal. The season that’s going to take away the winter blues and lead us on that path toward the long awaited sunshine of gorgeous summer days.

I am so excited to know that spring has finally arrived. Even if the weather outside is barely 40 degrees… I don’t care. It will get better. Soon.

The strawberries I picked up from the Farmers Market had to be used up somehow before they went bad, and the vote was between a strawberry trifle or a strawberry shortcake.

As you can see, the shortcakes won. The trifle can wait.

Besides, the strawberry trifle does not translate well on photos. I tried it once before and it was a disaster.

These shortcakes are pretty to look at and even better to eat. I wanted to keep this recipe simple and traditional thus, for the cakes, I made biscuits with a bit of flour, some neufchatel cheese and orange zest. Beautiful.

The strawberries sat in their juices with some sugar for about an hour, and the whipped cream came out perfect. I chilled it for about 30 minutes before I whipped it with my mixer. That’s the secret – chill it before you whip it.

Strawberry Shortcakes

You will need:

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 ounces (1/2 of a 8 oz. package) neufchatel cheese, cut in cubes
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon milk for brushing the tops

For the Strawberries:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For the Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


For the Biscuits:

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and orange zest in a large bowl.
  • Pour in the neufchatel cheese and mash it with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  • Stir in 1/3 cup of milk and form a dough.
  • Flour hands and divide the dough into 8 balls.
  • Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet or silpat.

  • With a glass flatten the dough balls to 1/2 inch thickness and brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar on top.
  • Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

  • Take out the biscuits and allow them to cool down to room temperature.
  • In the meantime prepare the strawberries.

For the Strawberries:

  • Once you have cleaned and sliced them, take 1/3 of the strawberries and mash them with a potato masher.

  • Add in the rest of the strawberries and pour in the sugar.
  • Set aside for at least 20 minutes.

For the Whipped Cream:

  • Meanwhile prepare the whipped cream by combining together the whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form.

For the Shortcakes:

  • Assemble the shortcakes by cutting the biscuits in half.
  • Place a tablespoon of the strawberry mixture on the bottom half of the biscuit and top with whipped cream.
  • Cover with the top half of the biscuit, and top it with whipped cream and a few more strawberries.
  • Serve immediately or put the cakes in the refrigerator until ready to use.



Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.

Orange Raisin Coffee Cake

I have a pretty cool Dad. He is the one person that will give support whenever it is needed. Moral support, that is. I always admit to him that it is because of his support that I have often succeeded in most things that I attempted to do. All I need is his “OK”, and I’m almost at the finish line holding a trophy.

But, my Dad is also a very funny guy. He tries. Last night he called me and asked to talk to Ana, who is 20 months old. During their conversation (I wish I had taped her trying to tell him that we had cake), he asked her if mommy had prepared dinner.

She responded with, “kay! kay! kay!”. “Do you mean, cake?”. “Your Mama made cake?”. “DA!”. (Macedonian for YES!).

My dad was at the front door in 20 minutes? My mom right behind him. Anything for cake!

My mom though, the not-so-supportive one, as always, found a problem with the cake before she even tasted it. Before she even saw it!

“Tell me is this egg-free or something?!”. “Yes mom, it is…it’s Lent.”.  “Oh yeah… then it’s taste-free right?”.  “Woman, give it a chance!’.

So she did. Verdict? She loved it. That means a lot coming from someone like her: She is 110 pounds, and always has been, and will not put anything in her mouth that is labeled fat-free, dairy-free, etc… She’s just naturally thin. Lucky her!

If you love coffee, and if you love a cake to accompany that coffee, give this a try. It’s a very sweet and moist cake, with a delicious combination of orange and raisin flavors.

P.S. I made this after the sun went down so I wasn’t able to take pictures while I was making it. I apologize.

Orange Raisin Coffee Cake

You will need:

  • 4 cups Flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Orange, zested
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup walnuts, ground
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Light Brown Sugar for the top


  • Preheat oven at 375.
  • In a large, deep mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, sugar, raisins, walnuts, poppy seeds, and zest.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the orange juice and the baking soda, then add it to the flour mixture; mix well.
  • Mix in the apple juice and vanilla extract.
  • Dust the bottom of 9×13 cake pan with flour, then pour in the batter.
  • Sprinkle the top with a handful of light brown sugar.
  • Put it in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let it cool for 20 minutes before cutting.
  • Serve with a cup of Joe.


Filed under Home, Macedonian Cuisine, Sweets. Now. Please.

Pear Crumble Muffins

I have one more photo I would like to share with you from this past weekend:

I can’t believe she spent the entire day with the pacifier in her mouth! A flower girl with a paci…

But, this is not about her pacifier (and my aversion toward it – yuck!); this post is about the pint-sized member of this family and her love for pears.

I mentioned here that from the time that we introduced solids to her, she was hooked on pears. By the time she turned a year old, she was picking them from the tree in our backyard (the branches were crawling on the ground and so was she) and eating them with the skin on.

This particular recipe came about as she and I were picking the last of the pears this past fall. I wanted to make a pear crumble because that is my favorite dessert with pears, but I also wanted something different. And since I had made an apple pie muffin the week before, it dawned on me that I could just make a pear crumble into a muffin!

I know… Not like it’s never been done before, but I had never seen it, so for an instant there I thought I was a genius! Then Google told me that it’s been done at least 80,000 times…whatever! I still went ahead and made it all on my own without looking at any of those other recipes… take that allrecipes people!

These are amazing! No really, they are delicious. Sweet, moist, and real fluffy!

I have been playing around with this recipe for a few months now and I think I finally got it. It was the yogurt…the plain, and not the flavored yogurt, really did it this time. I had used flavored yogurt in the past and that was just too much; you couldn’t taste the pears. This worked much better.

Pear Crumble Muffins

You will need:

For the Fruit:

  • 2 large pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

For the Batter:

  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter


  • Preheat oven at 375.

The Pears:

  • Combine the flour and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  • Pour in the chopped pears and toss to combine. Set aside.

The Batter:

  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, oil, milk and vanilla.
  • Stir into the dry ingredients until just moistened.

  • Stir in the pears.
  • Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.

The Topping:

  • In a small bowl prepare the topping by combining the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Chop in the butter and mash it all together with a fork until crumbly.

  • Sprinkle the crumble over the muffin batter.
  • Bake for 25 minutes.
  • Cool for a few minutes before removing the muffins from the pan to a wire rack.


Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.

Fruit and Nut Bars

While the rest of you are all cookie’d out and working on a healthier menu, I haven’t even started on my sweets binge. I woke up bright and early (6 a.m.) this morning with a massive craving for something sweet. This Fast is really getting to me now (just 3 more days to go!) – I’m dreaming about cookies, steaks, cheese, etc… I bow to you, vegans!

Because I almost always have to satisfy a craving, I flipped through some of my ‘sweets for Fast’ recipes and came across these fruit and nut bars. The original bars are not Fast-compatible, but I used a banana instead of an egg and made them so. However, I did make another batch for the rest of this household by following the original recipe. If you are interested in trying them without the egg, just replace it with one whole mashed banana.

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 1/2 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg OR substitute with 1 (one) mashed banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line an entire 8 x 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Stir in the brown sugar, walnuts, and dried fruit. Use your fingers to make sure that all the fruit and nuts have been coated with the flour mixture.

  • In a separate bowl, with a wire whisk beat the egg and vanilla until light colored and thick.
  • Add the egg mixture to the fruit and nut mixture and mix until all the fruit and nut pieces are coated with the batter.
  • If you are using the banana substitute, mash the banana with a fork real well then add in the vanilla extract. Blend it all together and mix it into the fruit and nut mixture.

  • Spread into the prepared pan, pressing to even it out.

  • Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the batter has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
  • Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  • When cooled, lift the bars from the pan by the edges of the aluminum foil.

  • Makes 16, 2-inch squares.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!


Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.

Mini Peanut Butter Cups

I have been craving these little gems for over a month now. I kept putting it off because I had other food orders to fulfill, but I couldn’t put it off any longer – today was the day – and they need to be delivered by 3 pm. Did I mention that I had an order for 250 cookies for this weekend? Yeah, you can say that I’m sort of busy these days, but I don’t mind – it’s all for a good cause.

Do you remember how badly you wanted these when you were a kid? Well I want them just as bad even now – I find it hard to share them. I’ve already had 4 – I feel kind of sick, but I know that in about an hour I will go for more. I have to deliver 40 of them, but I made 60 because I know how I am. 🙂 And, I made them in a mini muffin pan because, 1) the order was for bite-sized sweets, and 2) I ate 4, but in reality I only ate 2! That’s how I play tricks with my mind. Whatever works!

Lets get to these beauties! (Makes 12 mini peanut butter cups)

You will need:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Set a pot with an inch of water on the stove over high heat. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Set another pot on top of it.
  • Add in the chocolate chips and shortening.

  • Stir occasionally until melted.

  • Line a 12-cup mini muffin pan with liners. I didn’t have any mini muffin liners so I made my own with a thin aluminum foil.

  • Put a spoonful of the melted chocolate in each cup.
  • When done, put the muffin pan in the fridge for about a half an hour.

  • In the meantime prepare the peanut butter mixture.
  • Again, set a pot with an inch of water on the stove over high heat. Bring the water up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Set another pot on top of it and pour in the peanut butter, margarine, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 5 minutes.
  • Take  the muffin pan out of the fridge and begin by putting a small lump of peanut butter filling in the chocolate cup, but don’t spread it. You want to leave the sides empty so that the chocolate which goes on top will cover up the entire cookie.

  • But, before you cover them with the rest of the melted chocolate, put them back in the fridge for another 15 minutes so that the peanut butter can set just a bit.
  • Pour the rest of the melted chocolate on top of each cup and put them back in the fridge for another half an hour.



Filed under Home, Sweets. Now. Please.