Sweet Sandy B. Bakes

If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time. Not tomorrow or next year... Today should always be our most wonderful day...

So, let's eat cake!

Notes on my adventure as a mom and baker and life as Sweet Sandy B...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reliving my (fat) childhood

Do you remember this?

OK, I don't particularly either, but I remember something CLOSE to this.. More on that in a minute (it's a cheese danish for those that need a hook)

I haven't been baking much for 'sport' lately. I started working at a 'second' job (which would make it my FOURTH* job)
So I haven't been baking anything new or doing much experimenting.

In a truly fat kid moment, I was on the phone with Exactlywatt fantasizing about these delightful cheese danishes that they used to have at McDonalds when I was a kid. Not sure if I've mentioned before but I was such an unfortunate looking child. If it wasn't the frizzy hair it definitely had to be the fact that I was CHUBBY. And chubby with bad hair and two beautiful older sisters.. Forget it.
OK, back on track.
So. 4th grade. McDonalds. Cheese Danishes on Saturday a.m.'s with my dad. De-light-ful.
I wondered aloud if they still had these danishes with all the scrutiny they are under about how awful they are for you- McDonalds, not the Danishes I mean... (which I also believe. McDonalds is bad for you. Bad for your kids. I still go to McDonalds. My kids are known to eat McNuggets in Happy Meals every once in a while. I HAVE FOUR JOBS. give me a break)

Needless to say, they have stuck in my mind since. And this a.m. while Exactlywatt and I were doing our regular a.m. routine he asked when the last time was that I baked for myself. Not at work or not for an order. Um... I made a gluten/dairy free baby shower cake yesterday for one of my jobs? Does that count? Nope... hm.... yeah. can't recall.

So, after the Mooch and I had a Mama and Me morning date which included hot chocolate, hair cuts, manicures (ALL for the Mooch. No manicures for this girl. Kitchen folk are NOT allowed to have 'pretty' nails), I set about re-creating my McDonalds Danish from my fat kid years. It's not a healthier version. It's not even prettier. But it tastes pretty DAMN good.

To follow me down my glutinous road you will need:

crescent dough, jam, sugar, cinnamon, toasted almonds, butter, cream cheese, vanilla, an egg and a 9x13 baking dish. Oven at 350
In a bowl (or your KitchenAid bowl), whip up 12 oz of softened cream cheese, one egg and about 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I used vanilla PASTE because I love the vanilla bean specks.

When its all fluffy, pop open one of the crescent roll SHEETS and spread it on the bottom of the baking dish and get the jam and almonds ready too

Heres what I did, BUT, let me tell you what you probably should do

I spread the cream cheese mix then swirled in the jam and then sprinkled the nuts on top.
The 'swirling' was an afterthought after I was like- DUH, I can't 'spread' the jam on top of the softened cream cheese. Dingbat.
Sigh... YOU should spread the jam on FIRST. Then spread the cream cheese, THEN sprinkle the toasted almonds. Much prettier.
Now you can melt some butter and get another crescent sheet opened. Spread the sheet on top of your mix. And brush on the melted butter and then sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on top of that

As I was about to sprinkle on the cinnamon then sugar, I remembered that I made cinnamon toast for the kids a couple of weeks ago when we built a GIANT tent in the living room and we camped for a whole day- literally. ate every meal in the tent, built a fire, took a NAP together (glorious) and watched Up. My favorite. I digress. CINNAMON TOAST- another fat kid recipe!! Well, to make the toast more interesting, I used rainbow sprinkles instead of plain sugar. I had some LEFT! see:

And now you can pop this in the 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. It will get nice and golden brown and look like this

well, minus the 5 year old child lurking in the background wanting a taste...
About this 5 year old... his desire was so strong to have a taste of this mysterious cinnamon toast looking concoction that I caved and cut into the danish before it had cooled all the way. Which resulted in this...

While still delightful and gooey, creamy and melt in your mouth good... it hadn't cooled enough to really set up. You should allow this to cool to room temp before even attempting to cut into it.

Still with me? Here is the recipe
2 cans of Crescent Roll Sheets
12 oz of whipped or softened cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg
1 cup of jam/jelly/preserves (optional)
1/2 cup of sliced almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
cinnamon and sugar to coat the top- eyeball it.

Oven at 350.
1) Spread 1 crescent sheet on bottom of 9x13 baking dish
2) Mix cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and egg
3) Spread jam on top of crescent sheet, followed by cream cheese mix, then nuts
4) top with second crescent sheet, brush on melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar
5) bake for 30-35 minutes
6) cool to room temp before cutting and serving

NOTES: to adjust some fat/calorie content you could use Neufchatel cheese, omit the egg and the almonds and use splenda or some such nonsense.
If you are trying to be a little dairy conscience, you could use the Earth Balance cream cheese substitute, and instead of brushing on melted butter, you could use an egg wash. But- there is still butter in the crescent...
If you want a plain jane cheese danish- leave out the jam and the nuts. Do whatever makes your little heart sing!

*FOUR jobs. About my four jobs. My first job is being a mom to my kids. 2nd is my restaurant job. 3rd is the business of ME and my dreams, aka Sweet Sandy B and my 4th is my latest. so yeah, I have four jobs. Yes, I'm exhausted.

in case you were wondering, McDonalds definitely doesn't have the cheese danish of my childhood. Apparently phased out circa 2002. BUT, never fear, starting this month McDonalds is starting to sell baked goods. Without preservatives. If that makes you feel any better. lol..
Damn. cheap pastries produced en masse under the golden arches. adios local bake shops.....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sweet Sandy B can cook?

As a mother, and a single mom at that- I'm constantly thinking of what to make for dinner. I'm lucky though- my kids are easy.

By easy I mean they will ALWAYS eat ANY of the following things. Get ready, this list is gonna change your life.. ahem..:

-Mac n cheese (as long as it comes from the 'favorite' blue box. they aren't fooled by Annie's Organic Blue Box mac n cheese)
-Hot dogs (NOT soy dogs or Turkey dogs. They want the real deal encased meat)
-Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (don't even think about natural peanut butter. it's gotta be Jiff)
-Go-gurts (or any yogurt in a tube really. even stoneyfield. but they appreciate the pandering to their artistic side. as in graphics make it more palatable)
-Cereal. most any kind of cereal. this is where they do me proud. Moochie loves Rice Chex and Owen likes Life. Over Cinnamon Toast Crunch! crazies.
-Chicken nuggets- obviously they prefer those from the golden arches, but they do get down on those I bake in the oven

I'm sure you are thinking- wait wait wait. What about fruit and veggies?
My kids will promptly laugh in your face if you offer them a raw carrot. They aren't swayed by the addition of a dipping sauce or some cute description of calling broccoli "trees" or some such nonsense.

They will however eat watermelon, pineapple and apples (#1) and strawberries, apples and bell peppers- preferably red (Moochie) and both will on occasion, eat a banana

Needless to say they aren't fooled by any of that "Sneaky Chef" nonsense and I can't puree food into other foods to get them to eat it. They can taste the difference.
I've thus been reduced to plain old "Eat it because it's good for you and, hey, look at me, I'M eating it. And you know who else eats ________ (fill in the blank)? Spiderman. Spiderman LOVES _______!"

this works. Trust me! sometimes.

Perhaps you are in the same boat. I try to get in healthy and new things when possible and I do the best I can. They are healthy and not underweight or undersized. Even though Moochie is a tiny little thing, her heft is surprising. Trust me, the girl gets enough to eat.
Maybe there are other moms out there that want some inspiration. So I recorded a couple of how-to quick dinner videos and put them on YouTube.

To wet your whistle:

The other day, #1 shocked everyone and requested TUNA. after I picked up my jaw off the floor I quickly made him a tuna sandwich. And, they did drink those Kefir smoothies the other day... So, MAYBE I'm on the right path here

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Unplanned fun in the kitchen. its called impromptu, right?

Over the past couple of months, I've been playing a bit more in the kitchen at home. I think it's because I'm not getting to play as much as I would like at work but I also blame my new favorite past time.


If you are a member of the Pinterest community, you surely must know how quickly it sucks you and and literally a 5 minute 'peruse' turns into an hour. or more. maybe 2. just two. OK THREE, but THATS IT!
(I don't know if I've ever spent three on there, but I do know I mean to go to bed 'early' and next thing you know....)

There are so many wonderfully creative people in the world. I don't need a website to tell me that, but whenever I check in, I am amazed. Primarily I think, HOW DO THESE PEOPLE LIVE WITH THEIR CREATIVE MINDS?! second, where do they find the time and third, "damn... I wish I was that good...sigh" I especially love the DIY crafty type things because in my own little mind I think I am crafty. Just a tiny bit compared to some of these Martha Stewarts. People also find and 'pin' up these inspirational quotes and motivational pictures. I get down on those too.

But what really gets me are the recipes. Good LORD shut the FRONT door sometimes with these ideas. I drool and think of how I can create some of these things and make them 'my own'. From savory to sweet, quick to 25 step processes, home made from scratch to jazzed up 'box and can' recipes- they all get my attention and I LOVE it. like a love song.

Some ideas are so all consuming I must do them immediately- that's where the 'impromptu' fun comes. Others just sit in the back of my mind and as I'm making lunch for the kids, I'll recall something I saw somewhere.. once... I think... oh yeah, MAYBE PINTEREST? and then I just tweak it a little and there you go.

SO, without further ado, here are some that I would like to contribute and thank Pinterest for....drum roll please!

A "Peanut Butter and Jelly Sammich" in the form of a cookie. Yes I did. And YES, I do sell these on my etsy shop

"Elf Donuts" for Santa's elves on Christmas Eve.

These actually did not come from any sort of Pinterest anything. These are from Exactlywatt. How well does this man KNOW me? He gave me this amazing cookie cutter for Christmas, and all I kept thinking when I opened the package was- gingerbread skeletons?! the options are endless... Halloween! Friday the 13th... and, my favorite idea- wedding favors. For that couple that would rock my socks and would so 'get' the whole "til death do us part". super rad. I'm going to put these up on Etsy too.

Last, my kicked up lunch for the kids. We take our encased meats here very seriously. Hot dogs are a staple menu item and I was looking to bring an unexpected smile to their faces during lunch one day this week. I loved watching them play with their octupi (?) as they bit off one 'tentacle' at a time. It was great!

Anyhow, I can't agree w/ people when they say Pinterest is a waste of time. Because clearly it's inspired me.
I have even done around the house crafty type things- especially w/ Christmas- and it made me happy.

And frankly, that's all a girl can ask for. To be happy, every day.


I'll be adding more cookies in the very near future. My mind races daily!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kefir Anyone?

do you see this happy child- my PICKY Moochie drinking this smoothie?! It's a Kefir smoothie. More on this in a minute..

Over the past year and a half, I noticed that my stomach had developed its own personality. Quite literally, it would speak. I didn't really notice at first what triggered the 'talking' especially because it didn't hurt. At first it was amusing. Then embarrassing. Especially when people would accuse me of not eating to cause my stomach to growl that loudly.

Case in point. My YouTube video:

Around my birthday I finally brought it up to my dr. It was more because I wanted to get my insurance dollars worth of my visit so I had a list of possible questions/topics we could tackle in the situation that my Dr. wanted to skip out of our check up after 3 minutes.

my list:
-my hair...
-my toes, specifically my big toe
-his son (went to culinary school)
-his wife (how does she put up with living w/ a chef?)
-my loud stomach

I have priorities, ok?

Anyhow. After I gave him a plate of chocolate chip cookies and the shadowing intern kept asking me questions about my eyebrows (not kidding), I said in an offhand way- "So, my stomach is really loud. It is sometimes embarrassing. I'm not sure what the trigger is, except to say it's after I eat. Not before."

In his authoritative dr. way says "it's the dairy. Stop eating cheese, yogurt and drinking milk for two weeks. See what that does for you." He ate a cookie and we spent another 10 minutes talking about them. I tell you these cookies could bring peace to the modern world! BUY SOME from my Etsy shop! (www.etsy.com/shop/sweetsandyb)

I was heartbroken. Or heart bruised at least. I LOVE milk. I'm a pastry person- I put butter in EVERYTHING. and cheese. sweet cheese- brie, blue, munster, aged cheddar, monterrey jack, colby... feta and goat, gruyere and absolutely anything in between. I LOVE cheese. I lamented my break up with dairy and was given a life raft in the form of Natalie Slater.... She suggested I try out some Lifeway products.

New Year, new ideas. Why not, right? I'm taking baby steps into this so I decided to try out a fruit smoothie first. And have my kids go along for the adventure. Plus we were having a playdate and you know how kids are like pack animals. One tries it, they all try it.
Here is what we did:

Helios Organic Gluten Free Kefir in Raspberry (Helios and Lifeway = same), raspberry sorbet (no dairy), Lifeway frozen strawberry Kefir, and frozen strawberries

into the smoothie blender it goes and...

Bottoms UP!

The kids KILLED the smoothies.

Confession. I kept taste testing the smoothie as it was blending and by nature, Kefir is a bit tart and tangy. I really enjoy that. I know my little monsters do not have the tart/tangy thing going on in their little monster palates, yet. So, I added some honey to get some sweetness, without adding pure sugar.

It was the perfect introduction to Kefir- so search some out in your local grocery store. I would say that was my largest issue- hunting down different Lifeway products. Four grocery stores later and who would have THOUGHT, my local smallville grocery store had a few options. Maybe it's not so bad here, after all (try telling that to my boyfriend though....)
Check out their website- www.kefir.com or better yet- like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lifewaykefir

while you are at it- you can like MY fan page- www.facebook.com/Sweet-Sandy-B

Friday, December 2, 2011

hands down, best Pancakes (cake cakes) EVER

I don't want to get all Pioneer Woman on anyone here- but seriously, these are the BEST.CAKECAKES.EVER

When #1 was old enough to decide that something sweet for breakfast was much superior to baby mush oatmeal, he made it known that cake-cakes were his favorite thing. We began shoveling them down like a fat kid at an all you can eat pancake breakfast... because we are fat kids at an all you can eat pancake breakfast that takes place at my house about 4 mornings a week....
I used to think that pancakes came from a box that required you add water before pouring them on the griddle. Then one day my mother came to visit me here in Smallville and shockingly made pancakes FROM SCRATCH.. from a RECIPE. that I had in a (get this!) COOKBOOK. what?! people actually make pancakes from SCRATCH? who has the time? why bother?!
they were amazing...
This obviously was before I went to FPS and when I still had a godly fear in me about following a recipe. But, it inspired me to start making pancakes from scratch. Over the years I have tweaked the recipe and THIS my friends is the best pancake recipe you will find. Perfectly light and fluffy, slightly caramelized but yet still melt in your mouth..
You will need:

Pastry flour, vegetable oil, milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, brown sugar, regular sugar and salt (of course)

First, whip your eggs up as light and airy as you can. The kids love this part, so wrangle them over to crack the eggs and get to whipping with a fork.

Mix all your dry ingredients into one bowl (or one measuring cup)
Then add the milk, oil, and vanilla to the egg you whipped up. Add the dry to the wet and mix. Per usual, DON'T OVERMIX!!
it is ok to have some tiny lumps though. We aren't perfect and its better to have some lumps than tough pancakes

Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into your HOT pan. Please please heat your non-stick pan to the right temp. And butter away!! If you don't heat up your pan in advance, the pancakes will get soggy and will take forever to cook.
You will flip when you get bubbles like this:

Check out this perfect caramelization!

Listen, the second side NEVER looks as pretty as the first. It just doesn't. Because it won't cook the same way due to the bubbles. It's a fact of life. Deal with it.
After you flip them out of the pan, put them on a cooling rack- if you are making a TON and are going to eat them that morning, turn the oven on to 200 degrees and just put the pancakes in there as you remove them from the pan. This stops them from getting soggy and also keeps them warm. Duh. But if you are only making one batch or don't intend on eating all of them, just put them on the cooling rack like this:

Or you can stack them up tall, and dig in

Better yet, do what we do. Get out your favorite peanut butter (OR NUTELLA!!!) spread it on the pancake, dust with some powdered sugar, add some syrup (or honey)...

roll it up and take the best bite of your life....

life changing

Here is the recipe:
1 large egg
1 tblsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk
2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 cup Pastry Flour plus 2 tbsp (or cake flour, or all purpose if all else fails)
1 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
butter for the pan (or pan spray)

You want buttermilk pancakes? Use 1 cup buttermilk instead of 3/4 cup regular milk. Skim milk= thinner pancakes.
You can also use wheat flour instead. Same amount
**If you use room temperature eggs, or eggs not right out of the fridge- they will whip up better. i.e. fluffier pancakes

I usually whip these up in large batches so I can freeze them and pull them out as needed. Its cheap, its easy and better than frozen store bought ones.
BUT, if you want to be fancy- just put together all the dry ingredients in a plastic container or jar and keep it in your pantry. Just add the liquids to make them up fresh. Add dried fruit, chocolate chips, sliced bananas and nuts...
peanut butter and syrup will rock your world... as will a sprinkle of chopped up bacon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday is fine for pie baking.. or fighting, whatever

(this is your teaser, fyi)

This past weekend I spoke to two of my friends from pastry school that within ten months of graduation have both kicked ass at life and completely surpassed me in ANY of my career steps thus far. Yes, of course I am happy for them. But damn it if I'm not super jealous.
When I was speaking to Jess, she was telling me about one of her plated desserts that she put on her menu as the new pastry chef at "super hip and trendy downtown Chicago restaurant" and used a term that I knew we had learned in school but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. I was dumbfounded. It's only been ten months.. How do I NOT remember what this is?! and even as I type this I can't even remember the term. That's how bad I suck.
And I was thinking while she was speaking (bless her heart) that I can't even recall the last time I made pate a choux. Or meringue. Or my own pie dough period. I kept telling her how happy I was for her and as I pulled into my driveway I felt like complete crap. Awesome.
So, this morning I decided I would make my own pie crust and make some sort of pie or tart or something. I pulled out my FPS text books and started to flip through my handwritten notes as well. I'm NOT kidding when I say that I couldn't remember the definitions of some of the terms I had written so knowledgeably about just a year ago.
This lead to my WTF moment and opened my fridge and pantry to see what I actually had and what I could possibly make. Every kind of flour possible, apples... bananas... dried cherries (i'm obsessed), butter... cream cheese... and almond flour? I still have almond flour? hm... Ok, maybe I can make something decent.

I ended up making this:
Honecrisp Apple and Frangipan Pie/Tart.
Here is what you will need for the pie crust:

And here is what you will need for the Frangipan (aka almond cream)

and for the apple filling

First thing to remember with the pie dough is that everything needs to be cold. The butter/shortening (my school instructors would shoot me if they knew I was doing this), the flour and the water. All ice cold. I even put the glass pie plate in the fridge. Perhaps going too far...
Well, you want to sift the flour, salt and sugar into the mixing bowl, per usual.

Then, add the COLD and cubed butter/shortening (I put these in the freezer while I was setting up). The shortening is by nature always softer. So, this doesn't need to be cubed as small as the butter. Also, you can do this part by hand or with a pastry cutter. But I'm lazy and my mixer works just fine. You want to make small pebbles. DO NOT OVERMIX!!!

Now we add the ice cold water, slowly. again, DO NOT OVERMIX.

Then remove the dough that is still somewhat crumbly and put it on a piece of plastic wrap, smoosh it all together into a round and then cover it completely with the plastic wrap. Get your handy dandy rolling pin out and roll it flat. This is the most fantastic trick ever because it requires little flour and you don't overwork the dough. overworking = tough dough = bad.

Throw this in the fridge and don't think about it.

Now, work on the frangipan. It really just is an almond filling and I realize that most people won't have almond flour in their fridge. What to do.. You can buy some slivered almonds and use about 1 cup of them with 1/2 cup of sugar and pulse it in a food processor until it turns into a fine "meal"... Some stores *MIGHT have almond cream too. maybe like Whole Foods? hm..

ANYHOW- ok, you need to sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar together. Then add the butter that is room temp and cubed, and finally add the egg and extract.

It will look like cream cheese frosting. I put it in the fridge while I set to work on the apples.

Apples or pears seem to be the fruit of choice for these frangipan tarts. I had apples so I went with that.
Peel/core and slice the apples. Toss them in lemon juice to prevent oxidation (browning) and then add some sugar and flour. At this point I should have added some cinnamon and brown sugar. dingbat. As this is a French type recipe and the French dislike cinnamon and brown sugar is totally an American thing- it wasn't in my recipe. But I love both cinnamon and brown sugar. Next time!

Let the apple slices hang out in the little slurry you made while you set the oven to 425 degrees and then go run an errand or pick up your child at pre-school like I did. Throw all of your mise-en-place in the fridge and get out of the house for about a half hour while your oven heats up, your apples marinate and your dough gets firmer.
..... maybe you could go to the gym? because later after you eat a 1/4 of the pie while standing up pretending to make your children a snack, you will wish you had worked out today....
just sayin'

Ok, the fun stuff

Rolling pin, flour your work surface, pull the dough out. Unwrap it and form it into a ball again. Roll it out into a semi- round shape as quickly as possible. You do NOT want this to warm up, the butter will begin to melt and then you won't be able to pick it up. Once you have it as stretched out as it will go, roll it up onto your rolling pin. This will help you roll it back out on top of your pie pan. I know, I'm tricky.

Then you will push it down making sure the dough is hugging every part of the pan and now you will fill it with the almond cream. You could probably take this out while you are rolling the dough so it tempers a tiny bit. Mine was still pretty hard so I had to use the offset spatula to spread it about. Meh....

And now you can set about to making any pretty design your heart desires. I made a fan like shape and quickly realized I had not cut my apples thin enough and I had too MANY pieces. hm... Oh well. I went with it.

Then pick up the sides of the dough that are hanging off the edge and pleat them over the apples. This is a rustic tart- if I hadn't said this before- so it doesn't have to be perfect. I like the edges to look a bit 'frayed', but thats just me. You can make them round or you can even just cut off the overhang all together. But trust me- it looks so much better this way.

Home stretch! get your egg wash ready, some sugar for dusting and of course more butter because butter makes everything better.
Egg wash the dough, sprinkle with sugar and put pieces of the cubed butter all over the top.

Throw this in the oven and turn down to 400 degrees. In all reality, not sure WHY we start at 425 to warm and then turn down once it is inside. Who knows? Just do it.

Set your timer for 25 minutes so you can turn the pie 1/2 way. Set it for another 25 minutes and watch as the crust begins to turn to a nice golden brown.

Heaven... But you CAN'T EAT IT yet. Let it cool for about an hour. Yes, ONE HOUR. Maybe now is a good time to work out..

make sure you have some vanilla bean ice cream... and maybe some caramel sauce. sweet baby jesus i may have gained 10 lbs today...

Here is the recipe:

Foolproof Piecrust:
1 1/2 c pastry flour (you can use AP flour if thats all you have)
1 tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tblsp cold veg shortening (regular or butter flavor, you pick), cubed
2 tblsp cold butter, cubed
1/4 c ice cold water

Frangipan (almond cream)
1 c almond flour (or 1 c slivered almonds)
1/2 c powdered sugar (or 1/2 c regular sugar)
5 tblsp unsalted butter, room temp
2 tblsp flour
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract and/or brandy!)
pinch of salt

Fruit Filling:
2 - 3 apples or pears (about 1 1/2 lbs total weight) peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 c sugar
2 tblsp flour
1 1/2 tblsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

to Finish the tart/pie:
egg wash (1 egg beaten, 1 tblsp water, pinch of salt)
1 tblsp of unsalted butter, cubed