Winter Wonderland Snowman Cake ~ Bolo Boneco de Neve

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Wilton

The New Year is upon us.  Reflecting on the past year, I am thankful for so much.  At the top of the list are friends of all kinds.  There are work friends, yogi friends, cat lady friends, animal friends, cooking friends, classmate friends, teacher friends, far-away friends, and forever friends.  I am thankful for family, good health, legs to run with, eyes to see and admire through, hands to caress and care for animals with, to draw, paint and cook with and a heart to love all sentient beings.

The mind is a gift, too.  It is where the compassion resides and grows.  It is a work in progress. If we train the mind, more compassion will flow through and the New Year will become beautiful, pure and white, like a snow-filled wonderland.

My wish for all humansk is that you be curious, explore and discover what makes your heart glow.  When you find the way, be assured the path will lead to light and love.  Happy New Year!

This Winter Wonderland Snowman Cake takes two days to prepare because the decorations (snowmen and trees) have to be made one day in advance of baking and icing the cake.

Meringue Cookies (Snowmen)

1/4 cup Meringue Powder
2 teaspoons Imitation Clear Vanilla Extract – 8 oz.
1/2 cup water
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 250°F. Prepare cookie pans with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whip Meringue Powder and water with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add sugar. Whip until stiff peaks. Add vanilla and icing color and whip until well combined, scraping down bottom and sides of bowl as necessary.

Prepare 16 in. decorating bag with tip 2A and meringue batter.

Prepare cookie pan with parchment paper. Use straight side of “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” cut-outs (see Wilton online) to trace circles on back of parchment paper (trace two to three of each size). Additionally, draw two to three circles measuring 1½ in. in size (slightly smaller than “D” cut-out).

Pipe balls following outlines on parchment paper. Bake and cool following recipe instructions.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until outsides of meringues feel firm and crisp. Cool completely on pan. Peel cooled meringues off the parchment paper.

Prepare parchment bag with reserved royal icing.

Using royal icing, assemble snowmen pieces. For large snowman, combine “B” circle for body with “D” circle for head. For medium snowman, combine “C” circle for body with 1½ in. circle for head. For small snowman, combine “D” circle for body with “E” circle for head. You’ll have extra meringues to chose from, so select the best ones!

Using Black icing color, tint ¼ cup royal icing black.

Prepare parchment bag with tip 2 and black icing. Pipe eyes and buttons on snowmen. Using reserved white royal icing, attach jumbo orange nonpareils for noses.

Using decorating brush and Deep Pink Color Dust, brush on cheeks.

Royal Icing (Trees)

3 tablespoons 4 oz. Meringue Powder
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons warm water

Beat all ingredients together until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).

Helpful Hints:

  • Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
  • For stiff icing: Use 1 tablespoon less water.
  • When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
  • For thin icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
  • Meringue Powder is a must for this recipe. Do not substitute with raw egg whites (which can be a food safety issue) or dried egg whites; neither will produce the same results as Meringue Powder.
  • To store: Store royal icing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Before reusing, re-whip using a paddle attachment on low speed until it’s back to the correct consistency.Using serrated knife, cut four sugar cones ranging in height from 2½ in. to 4 in. high (leave remaining cone untrimmed).

Helpful Hint: Using a food-safe marker, mark cone at cut line. Dip bottom of cone to mark in hot water. Using a serrated knife, cut off bottom of cone.

Using tapered spatula, ice cones with royal icing. Use spatula to pull out icing from cone, making branches. Immediately sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar (use a sifter or tea strainer to dust trees); set aside to dry overnight. Reserve remaining royal icing.

Cake

Prepare cake batter following recipe instructions. I used a Dulce de Leche Layer Cake recipe for this cake, as it is white, fluffy and yummy.  You can use a chocolate cake recipe, too.  Bake and cool two cake layers. Level, fill and stack cake layers. Using spatula, ice cake, leaving spatula marks on top and on sides of cake.  Top cake with trees and snowmen. Sprinkle with remaining confectioners’ sugar.

Dulce de Leche Layer Cake

Filling

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons nut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico or biscotti liqueur.  I used Disaronno.  Italian, of course.

Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Frosting

4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Frangelico or biscotti liqueur
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Submerge the unopened can of condensed milk in a large, deep pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 hours, adding water as needed to keep the can completely submerged. Carefully remove the can and let cool slightly. Carefully open the can with tongs and transfer the dulce de leche to a bowl: It should resemble creamy caramel. Whisk until smooth, then gradually whisk in the nut liqueur. Let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter two 9-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper and butter and flour the pans. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the 1 1/2 cups of sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 alternating batches, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally.

In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and beat until glossy. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick in the centers comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool slightly. Run the tip of a knife around the edges and invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split each layer horizontally in half.

In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and a candy thermometer in the syrup registers 235° for soft-ball stage. Remove from the heat and add the liqueur. With the mixer at medium speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Beat in the lime juice, then beat at high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy and slightly warm to the touch.

Place a cake layer on a large cake plate and top with one-third of the dulce de leche filling. Repeat with the remaining layers and filling, ending with a layer of cake. Spread the frosting all over the cake, swirling decoratively. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

 

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Garlic Soup ~ Sopa de Alho

Photo by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Food Wishes

Mom has been sick with a bad cold.  Time for a soup marathon.  I’ll share a few of the recipes with you-only the good ones…which is basically all of them.  The one featured today is a traditional Spanish soup, “sopa de ajo” or garlic soup.  It will lift the spirits and help fight bad infections, not to mention scare away any lurking vampires.

About 6 cups of cubed day-old French or Italian bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on bread cubes
6-10 thinly sliced garlic cloves (I suggest using more)
2 oz ham diced (optional)
1-2 tsp paprika or to taste
6 cups chicken broth
4 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the cubed bread on the baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  (as much as you’d like) Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the bread is crunchy.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and garlic on medium low heat until the garlic just begins to look golden.  Add the diced ham and stir for about a minute.  Next add the paprika and stir.  Add the bread and stir to coat.  Add the chicken broth as well as the salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to medium or low and add the chopped parsley.  When you are ready to serve the soup, add the eggs, cover and poach.  If you plan to serve more people later, you can re-heat the soup and poach more eggs in the soup.

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A mãe está gripada.  Aí vem uma maratona de sopas.  Vou compartilhar as melhores receitas…todas são boas.  A sopa de hoje é de origem espanhola e se chama, “sopa de ajo” ou sopa de alho.  Essa levanta qualquer doente, ajuda a combater infecção e também serve para espantar os vampiros.

6 copos de pão frances ou italiano, cortado em cubos
1/4 copo de azeite extra virgem e mais para torrar o pão
6-10 dentes de alho cortados em rodelas finas (eu sugiro usar mais)
100 g de presunto cortado em cubos pequenos
1-2 colheres de chá de páprica
6 copos de caldo de galinha
4 ovos grandes
1/4 copo de salsinha italiana picada
sal e pimenta à gosto

Aqueça o forno 350F (160C).  Forre uma assadeira raza com papél alumínio e coloca o pão.  Jogue azeite de oliva por cima e misture para incorporar no pão.

Asse no forno durante 15 minutos ou até o pão ficar crocante.  Retire do forno e reserve.

Numa panela de fundo pesado, esquente o azeite com o alho no fogo médio até o alho começar a dourar.  Adicione o presunto (opcional) e misture por um minuto.  Acrescente a páprica e misture.  Adicione o pão torrado e misture para o pão pegar a cor do azeite com a páprica.  Adicione o caldo de frango, o sal e a pimenta.  Deixe ferver.  Abaixe o fogo e acrescente a salsinha picada.  Pouco antes de servir a sopa, cuidadosamente coloque os ovos na sopa, por cima do pão.  Tampe e deixe cozinhar por 3 ou 4 minutos, sem mexer.  Quando o ovo estiver no ponto, sirva a sopa em tigelas.  Depois coloque um ovo em cada tigela.  Jogue mais salsinha por cima.

Aqui em casa sempre aparece um com fome.  Se for servir outras pessoas mais tarde, basta requentar a sopa e colocar mais ovos para cozinhar.

 

 

Christmas Cookies ~ Cookies de Natal

Photo by Priscillakittycat

Feeling a little blue tonight.  Long story.  Don’t worry.  It’s just a story. One good way to calm the heart and clear the mind is to bake.  The plan was to bake Christmas cookies next weekend.  The plan has changed, as most plans do.  Instead of having Christmas music in the background, Otis Redding is singing “These Arms of Mine”.  Yeah, it’s pretty bad.  I’ve already overcooked burned a batch of cookies while deep in thought.  Did you ever see the YouTube video for the song from Top Gun, “Take My Breath Away”?  I can’t decide which I like better- Tom Cruise or that bomber jacket he wears over a white t-shirt.  Remember the song, “If You Leave” from the band OMD? “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson?  Madonna’s “Crazy for You”. “Sometimes when we touch” courtesy of Dan Hill.  Cheaptrick’s, “The Flame”.  Journey’s “Faithfully”.  Bon Jovi’s, “Never say Good bye”.  Cyndi Lauper with “All Through the Night”.  “I don’t want to talk about it”.  Thank you, Rod Stewart.

The mind can be quite creative when it comes to story-telling.  Have you ever stopped thinking to think about what you were thinking about?  The mind will take you in circles, if you allow it.  Good thing my made up stories usually have happy endings…when they don’t end in goodbye.  Goodbyes are my weakness.

Let’s make up more stories.  Eric Clapton helped me concoct this one.  You’ve surely heard the song…”Wonderful Tonight”.  He says, “I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed”.  Yes, gals.  This great revelation is for you.  He gives you his car keys and lets you drive.  That’s how a guy tells you he loves you.

Then the mind alerts me to a little problem with Eric Clapton’s song.  (You have to listen a few times to notice.) “I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed”.  This means she didn’t actually drive.  He gave her the keys after they were home.  Pay attention to your mind because the same way it got you to believe a story, it can also clarify misunderstandings and get you out of some serious binds.

How about we try to come up with a better story…while Kenny Loggins sings, “Meet me Halfway”.  Here goes:  An airplane high up in the sky…one person traveling to meet the other – halfway.  Oh, wait, that one has a crappy ending, too.

Alright, you’ve heard enough.  Let’s call it quits with Kenny Chesney’s, “You and Tequila”.  Too bad there’s no tequila tonight.  The only real things here are the cookies.

*Note-I wrote the English version of this post more than a week ago.  Sometimes it takes a while to translate, choose a photo and post.  Feelings come and go.  All is good now.  I’m cozy on the couch, the mind is calm…and helps me draft the Portuguese version.


Estou meio triste.  Tudo começou com um adeus.  Nesta época do ano a gente se despede do ano que passou e as vezes das pessoas que fizeram parte de nossas vidas por uma temporada.  Gosto da época das festas mas penso que esqueçemos o propósito do Natal.  Aqui nos Estados Unidos é uma correria.  Você vai no shopping e as pessoas estão estressadas, brigando por vaga no estacionamento, pela ultima camisa tamanho “medium”.  Compra aquilo. Quero aquele. Quero mais. Ta faltando.  Você fez errado.  Estou cansado.

Não seria melhor ficar em casa com a familia e os amigos, conversando, rindo, bebendo todas…ao inves de se acabar para fazer tudo parecer perfeitinho? (Igual nos filmes Americanos)

Resolvi escutar musica de Natal…mas lembrei de uma outra musica e coloquei para tocar.  Virou sessão de musicas antigas. Bem antigas.  Começou com o Otis Redding cantando, “These Arms of Mine”, seguido por “Almost Paradise” de Mike Reno e Ann Wilson.  Você conhece, “Crazy for You” da Madonna?  “All Through the Night” da Cyndi Lauper?  Pois é…a situação não ésta boa.  Já assistiu o clip da musica “Take My Breath Away” do filme “Top Gun”?  Se não, devia assistir no Youtube.  Uma das minhas favoritas…“Wonderful Tonight” do cantor Eric Clapton.

Dificil descrever a sequencia de pensamentos que vem depois de ouvir todas essas musicas.  Geralmente as historias que invento tem finais felizes.  Desta vez complicou.  Melhor a gente fazer uns cookies de Natal.

Brigadeiro

Recipe by Betty Crocker, Photo by Priscillakittycat

On weekends and holiday mornings, you can find me running the perimeter of the campus where I work.  “Why run?” you ask.  The answer is in the photo.  These morsels have “no sugar added”…except for the indirect sugar content in 2 cans of condensed milk-166 grams of sugar per can.

You could look at the positives.  Chug 1 can of condensed milk and you will have satisfied 86% of the daily requirement for calcium, 16% for Vitamin A, 13% Vitamin C…and 48% of Protein.

Brigadeiros are the staple at every Brazilian birthday party.  The ones pictured were produced for Thanksgiving.  To get the recipe, find the June 13, 2013 entry or use the search bar and enter: “Brigadeiro”.

In summary:  It is wise to exercise to get your cardio…but this girl runs to indulge in sugar.


Nos finais de semana e feriados eu corro ao redor do campus onde trabalho.  Me pergunte por que corro.  A resposta está na foto.  A receita de brigadeiro não inclue açucar como ingrediente…só o açucar das duas latas de leite condensado (166 gramas cada lata)…Aí é outra história.  Corro para poder comer Brigadeiro sem limites!

Olhando pelo lado positivo, uma lata de leite condensado contém 85% do valor diário recomendado de cálcio, 16% Vitamina A, 13% Vitamina C e 48% proteina.

Você encontrará a receita se inserir “brigadeiro” na barra de pesquisa do blog.