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  • Vanilla Java Porter

    Vanilla Java Porter

    The craft beer movement has been gaining popularity over the last decade. My husband has been an avid home brewer for the past 15 years. It began for us in Seattle, continued on to Iowa, three years in beautiful So. California and, most recently, back home to Michigan. Each region has many independent craft brewing companies; Stone in So. Cali., Pyramid in Seattle, Cedar Brewing in Cedar Rapids and, of course, Founders in Grand Rapids are some of the small craft brewing companies that have gained popularity over the past few years.

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  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Brownies

    peanut  butter cup brownie

    These brownies are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, with an intense dark chocolate flavor. Fudgy and dense, then coated in rich chocolate ganache, and sprinkled with peanut butter cups. Who could resist? Chocolate peanut butter ganache brownies are the perfect three bite sweet -- so rich and delicious, that one is all you need. These brownies are sure to impress even the pickiest of brownie connoisseur.

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  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares with Pepita Brittle

    It’s that time of year once again; the pumpkins are popping up in every grocer and on neighbors' porches. Giant ones, orange ones, white ones, warty ones, multi-colored ones and, of course, the very versatile pie pumpkin ones. The pie pumpkin can be cleaned, roasted and pureed, then made into delicious pumpkin desserts. Alas, I don’t have the time to roast my own beautiful pumpkin puree, so I use the next best thing -- canned.

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  • Lavender Lemon Bars

    lavender lemon bars

    Imagine yourself driving down a curving mountain highway. The scenery is breathtaking, and the road treacherous. As you approach the base of the mountainous highway you look to your right and spy acres and acres of citrus groves. If you are lucky, it is early spring and the trees are blossoming. There is no more heavenly smell than citrus blossoms. You roll down your window, and breathe in the sweet and citrusy aroma of the blossoms. A farm stand approaches in the horizon, which prompts you to stop and procure a bag full of farm grown lemons and oranges.

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  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

    chocolate peanut butter cup cupcake

    I had the honor of co-hosting the rehearsal dinner for my brother and his beautiful wife-to-be this past weekend. While I enjoy the savory part of dinner, ultimately my passion lies with pastry. So, of course, I had to include a few desserts in the dinner.

    My brother and his fiancée love chocolate, particularly chocolate and peanut butter. I created a chocolate peanut butter cup cupcake in their honor; rich, delicious, and not too sweet when you use bittersweet chocolate cocoa.

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  • Pumpkin Bread with Maple Syrup Glaze

    pumpkin bread

    The leaves begin to fall, the weather starts to turn, and there is a crispness in the air. Fall has begun to show its colors, and my mind turns to baking. This time of year I bake with rich savory spices; spices that fill the house with their aroma. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are a few that come to mind.

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  • The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

    When I was little my grandmother always had a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies sitting on her kitchen counter. They weren’t the large cookies you see now days in bakeries. They were relatively small, perfectly round, two bite cookies. The cookies always had a soft interior, and were slightly crisp on the edges.

    My grandmother would sit us down at the kitchen table, pour us a cold glass of milk (put into commemorative Snoopy glasses from a popular fast food chain), and hand us a plate of her delicious cookies. When my grandparents sold their home I remember thinking, “All I really want to have is the Snoopy glasses and my grandmother's chocolate chip cookie recipe.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get either one, but it started my search for the chocolate chip recipe of my childhood.

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  • Gluten-Free Rice Crispy Treats

    rice crispy

    Food allergies are on the rise in the general public, and peanuts, dairy and gluten are the top offenders. In order to stay competitive and offer consumers a product they can consume without worry, many chefs are offering dishes that are free of peanuts, dairy and gluten.

    As a working pastry chef, I have tested and offered these products in many of the businesses I have worked in.  A few of my favorites include red velvet cupcakes, chocolate flourless cake (to die for) and my go-to 10 minute recipe of gluten-free rice crispy treats with callebaut chocolate.

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  • Sweet and Savory French Toast

    french toast

    I try to shop at local small businesses whenever I can. I enjoy the fact that I can support local while stimulating my hometown economy.  As a former small business owner, and a current employee of a local small business, I know how hard it is to survive and make a profit without loyal consumers.

    I have found that most small businesses provide unique products and goods that cannot be found in the big box stores. On a recent Sunday venture, I discovered a quaint bakery that provides unique handcrafted breads and pastries. Being a pastry chef I was thrilled to see beautiful bouclé, many varieties of foccacia, scratch-made chocolate croissants and beautiful black and white cookies. I felt like a kid in a candy store with so many choices. The baker asked what I needed..."Hmmmm, I can’t decide." She picked up a golden brown loaf of brioche bread. "I think you will like this," she declared. She handed me a lovely pancetta, jalapeño, Gouda brioche. Perfect for sweet-savory recipes or simply eaten toasted with butter.

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  • Chocolate Coconut Cake

    chocolate cake

    I like unique flavor combinations. Any combination of flavors that remind me of being at the beach are even better. I have always dreamed of living near the ocean and was blessed to have had that opportunity recently. I am now near water again, Lake Michigan to be exact. The lake is beautiful, the sand is a pure white color and it is very calm and peaceful out there. But, there is nothing quite like the sounds, smells and tastes of the ocean! The fish tacos, the tropical drinks, the smell of the ocean air and of course coconut suntan lotion.

    You know that I am a huge fan of Beanilla's baking extracts and flavors, I love the fresh unprocessed smell and flavor. But I must admit I was a little skeptical of the coconut extract. Most grocery store brands smell like, well.... coconut suntan lotion. I love the smell, but hesitate to put it into my desserts. Beanilla coconut extract does not smell like coconut suntan lotion, quite the opposite actually. I opened the bottle and was greeted by a pleasant waft of pure coconut, the kind you experience when you crack open a fresh coconut.

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  • Baked Apples with Cider Caramel

    apple cider caramel

    Sunday is family day in our family -- a time to relax and enjoy one another's company. While living in San Diego, Sundays meant we ventured out to explore places or attractions we had not enjoyed before; a new farmers market, Legoland, Disneyland, various dog parks and beaches. Living in So. California was one big adventure, however I love being back in the Midwest! The pace is slower, the people friendlier, I actually know my neighbor (and have spoken to them) and the cider is real!! I know you are probably thinking, "Has she lost it? The cider is real?!"

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  • Orange Ginger Rolls

    orange ginger rolls

    It’s Saturday morning, and you are awoken to the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting down the hallway. You happily jump up out of your warm bed, and head to the kitchen in search of the comforting aroma. As you approach the kitchen, your significant other greets you with a kiss and a cup of piping hot coffee.

    What a pretty picture I have painted; a picture that can be yours tomorrow morning. My orange ginger rolls are a twist on the traditional, and the flavors are familiar but unique. They are gooey, soft, fragrant, and delicious on a lazy weekend morning!

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  • Cream Soda (For Grown Ups)

    vanilla cream vodka soda

    Sweet, creamy, vanilla-based soda is often used to describe cream soda (even though true cream soda contains cream or half and half). Cream soda is said to be created in the early 1900’s to recreate the ice cream floats in soda shops at the time.

    Approximately 6 days ago I posted a recipe for Vanilla Lime Infused Vodka. My vodka infusion has rested and the vanilla has infused into the vodka for about 10 days now. The result is smooth, vanilla flavored vodka with undertones of fresh lime. It is, by far, one of my favorite infusions I have created.

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  • Candied Pecans with Dried Cranberries

    candied cranberry pecans

    Candied nuts are a wonderful sweet treat any time of the year! I enjoy eating them straight off the baking sheet but they are equally delicious on baked goods or even fresh mixed green salads. A simple salad of mixed greens, blue cheese and French vinaigrette begs for the sweet crunchy candied pecan. When baking, candied pecans can be added to fudge, used as a topping for scones, or even folded into homemade ice cream. The uses for the candied pecan is unlimited!

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  • Vanilla Acorn Squash

    acorn squash

    Fall is upon us, and the squash crop is showing up in the grocery stores and farmers markets. I know you were expecting a dessert recipe, but I can’t survive on desserts alone, contrary to popular belief!  As fall approaches, my family and I start to crave those comfort foods that make you feel warm and cozy when the temperatures start to drop.

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