When I’m mixing up a recipe in my kitchen, one of the tools that I use the most is a spatula. I use it to scrape the sides of bowls, fold together ingredients and scrape batters into waiting pans. Since I also use a whisk or a mixer, I often need to set my spatula down when I’m not using it. Most spatulas are flat, so anything on them – such as sticky batter or meringue - will end up on your counter if you need to set your spatula down unless you can find something to lean it against. This set of Elevate Spatulas are designed to avoid this problem and each has a small stand built into the handle that keeps the spatula head elevated and off the counter. It’s a small addition to the traditional design of a spatula, but it is one that makes so much sense! The spatulas otherwise work like traditional spatulas, with flexible silicone heads that are heat resistant up to 650F. They are sold as a set that includes three different sizes: small, large and spoon.
An icy, blended pina colada is a drink that reminds me of being on vacation in Hawaii, where I’ve had some of the best pina coladas (in the best atmosphere) that I can remember. It’s a combination of coconut, pineapple and rum blended up with lots of ice. Every time I have one, it takes me back to my last trip out there. And even if you haven’t been to Hawaii (yet), the tropical flavors in a pina colada can give you the feel of what it is like to sit on the beach with a tropical drink.
Of course, these Pina Colada Scones aren’t quite as cooling as an icy, blended drink – but they still do capture the flavors of the tropics. They include coconut milk, shredded coconut and dried pineapple. They’re buttery and tender, with a good coconut flavor to them and just enough pineapple to make the idea of the cocktail come through. These are “virgin” scones and don’t include any alcohol, but if you want to make them even more like the drink, you can add in a splash of rum extract to give it a hint of rum flavor.
Fresh pineapple has a lot of moisture in it that can make the scones soggy, so dried pineapple works better in this recipe because it keeps the scones light and tender. Freeze dried pineapple, finely chopped, could also be used and is another option for infusing these with pineapple flavor. You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut in these and both will give you good results. I prefer to use sweetened coconut because it helps boost the coconut flavor a little bit. The scones are best the day they are made, but they will keep well for a day or two when stored in an airtight container.
The Secret Lives of Baked Goods is another book from Jessie Oleson Moore, the author of both the book and blog Cakespy, and it features the histories of some of the most beloved baked goods that we make. The stories attached to all of the recipes on the book describe how the recipes and and their components evolved over time into the very recognizable treats that we all know and love – like the chocolate chip cookie.
The book is divided into chapters by category – Classic Cakes, Timeless Cookies & Bars, Traditional Pies, Lost & Found, Foreign Affairs, Commercial Favorites and Curious Confections – and each features several very well known recipes, as well as the somewhat surprising stories behind them. In the Cookies chapter you’ll learn the difference between blondies and brownies, and that blondies actually came first. In the Commercial Favorites section, you’ll discover how Oreos became one of the most iconic cookies in the world. And in the Curious Confections chapter, the urban legend behind Urban Legend Cookies (a.k.a. Neiman Marcus cookies) will be uncovered. Some of the stories might be familiar to you, and some might be complete new, but stories like these are fun to learn and will get you more excited about baking and giving the recipes a try in your own kitchen.
The stories are told in a very fun, conversational tone and that carries over into the recipes, which are very detailed but simple enough that you’ll feel like you’re making an old family recipe. There are photos for every recipe, if the stories alone aren’t quite enough to motivate you to start baking. Once you’ve baked, you’ll definitely start to share the stories and facts from the book with friends and family, making the baked goods even more exciting to everyone who eats them.
Beer and sodas are always staples at a barbecue because they’re easy to throw into a cooler and serve to everyone with minimal effort. I’ll usually throw a few bottles of wine into my ice chest, too. If I’m entertaining at home during the summer, however, I will also pull out my blender. Blended drinks are easy to serve to a crowd and, while they do take slightly more effort than opening a can of soda, they are always a huge hit when they come out – especially if the weather is hot.
These Fresh Strawberry Margaritas are a summertime favorite. They’re made with lots of fresh strawberries, freshly squeezed lime juice, tequila and a splash of triple sec, all blended up with ice. They’re sweet and are a very enjoyable way to cool down on a hot summer afternoon. Unless my strawberries are super sweet to start out, I like to add some additional sugar to my mix to highlight their sweetness – because if you’re having a blended drink, part of the fun is when it tastes like a treat to drink. I serve them in glasses rimmed with sugar, although a rim of salt makes for a nice contrast to the sweetness of the berries if you prefer your margaritas with salt.
These margaritas are not too strong because there are a lot of strawberries in them adding a good amount of fruit to balance out the booze. Depending on how big your glasses are, you might very well get more than servings out of this blender of margaritas. As a result, it is important to give your mix a taste while you’re making it up. If your strawberries aren’t sweet enough, you may need to add some extra sugar. If you like your drinks on the stronger side, or are planning for many small servings, you might need to add additional tequila (rule of thumb is 1.5 – 2 oz per drink).
Chocolate pound cake is not quite as common as vanilla pound cake. Vanilla pound cake has a delicate flavor, balancing the floral flavor of vanilla with the richness of butter. The taste is addicting, but it is subtle compared to other types of cake. Chocolate flavor, on the other hand, is not subtle and most of the time we want chocolate desserts to be very rich and dramatic. This Chocolate Pound Cake takes its cue from the classic vanilla cake. It has a very good chocolate flavor, but the texture of the cake is just as much the star of this dessert as the chocolate is.
The cake is very simple to make and gets its chocolate flavor from cocoa powder. I recommend using Dutch process cocoa powder in this recipe, which gives the cake a slightly deeper chocolate flavor. If you only have natural cocoa powder, there is no need to worry because the recipe will still work out, it will just have a very slightly different chocolate flavor to it. If you happen to have some chocolate extract in your pantry, this recipe is the perfect place to use it and you can add 1 tsp of chocolate extract in with the vanilla. My Vanilla Bean Pound Cake recipe is a classic pound cake recipe that doesn’t use any leavening agents, but since cocoa powder is much denser than flour is, the Chocolate Pound Cake needs a little bit of leavening to ensure that it is light and not too heavy feeling.
Once you’ve baked your cake, there is a lot you can do with it. It is good when sliced thick and served plain, with a cup of coffee on the side. You could top it with a scoop of whipped cream and some fresh fruit to dress it up a little bit. Strawberries and raspberries go very well with this cake. If you decide you want to boost the chocolate flavor up a few notches, make a quick ganache with dark chocolate and heavy cream and pour it over the top of the loaf before serving it.