Heart Day Baking and Homemade Vanilla Sugar


I LOVE BAKED GOODS!  I love to bake and eat them, but I have a problem.  My husband doesn’t care for sweets.  I know, I know, what is wrong with him?  Anywhoo, because I love to eat sweets but have no help, I don’t bake very often for fear of eating the whole pan of brownies or an entire dozen cookie bars.  However, I decided to do a little baking in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  I have a “morale pal” at work.  It’s like Secret Santa, but all year long.  We give each other little treats and notes every once in a while, just to brighten their day.  My morale pal is a male, math teacher, and he has been very hard to give to because he didn’t fill out his questionnaire very thoroughly.  I guess I approach these things differently because I was VERY thorough with my answers.  Needless to say, he has gotten dark chocolate of every form and flavor this year.  So, I thought I’d mix it up and make some goodies.  Who doesn’t like brownies and bar cookies?  Especially if they like chocolate!  So I whipped up these delicious Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies from Bake or Break (I added some Maldon Sea Salt flakes on top).  These brownies are the BEST BROWNIES I have ever had, and I made them!  They are dense and rich and not too sweet and they are topped off with a thick layer of chocolate ganache!  Oh my gosh.  So…good.  If you haven’t seen this lovely baking blog you need to head on over there, because seriously it has some good eats!

I also made Four Fruits Coconut Oat Bars (the original recipe called for raspberry, but I love Four Fruits Jam so I used it instead).  The crust is so buttery (It should be with 12 Tbsp of butter – but don’t let that deter you!) and the fruit jam (I used a cup instead of 1/2 cup because I LOVE jam) adds just the right sweetness.  I also loved the addition of toasted coconut in these.  I didn’t have shredded so I toasted up some coconut flakes and then crumpled them up a bit after I toasted them to make the pieces a bit smaller.  DELICIOUS I tell you!!  Then I packaged up a few of each for my morale pal and put them in clear bags and sealed them with some Washi tape.  I also included labels but forgot to take a picture of them.  Bummer.  Oh well.  I hope he enjoys them.  Then I packaged up almost all of the rest of both pans and sent them to work with my loving husband.  Lucky engineers!


I also decided to buy some vanilla beans to make some yummy homemade vanilla sugar.  I have never made my own, but I love vanilla, so I was struck with inspiration while I was in the baking aisle picking up some Dutch processed cocoa powder.  I saw the vanilla beans and thought…YUM!  I also got some pretty, fluffy cane sugar.  Doesn’t it look heavenly?  It is so easy, two steps…ok three.  Take sugar, put half of vanilla bean in sugar, shake!  Done.  Now you have vanilla sugar.  I shake my jar every once in a while and it will continue to become more vanillay the longer it stays in the jar.  It is delicious in my coffee and tea in the morning!  Finally, I will leave you with a collage of my current tea and coffee favorites.  So delicious and warm (I’m always cold!).  Don’t you love the specks of vanilla bean floating in my coffee?


Here’s hoping you are staying warm and cozy this week.



Yummy Summer Peaches!

Well I ended up coming back from Albuquerque with a load of peaches from my Grandmother’s peach tree.  They are so delicious.  I had so many I didn’t know what to do with all of them.  I froze some, ate some, chopped some up for a fruit salad, and I also made this delicious cake.  It is a Peach Cherry Upside Down Cake.  I’ve never made an upside down cake, but I love Pineapple Upside Down cake, so I thought I’d give this a whirl.  First you cream butter and sugar and spread it on the bottom of the pan.  Then you put the peach halves cut side down.

Then you add the cherries in between the peaches. 

Then you pour the cake batter in, which was very simple, except that apparently I didn’t have enough eggs and had to make a run to the store mid batter mixing.  The end result is a beautiful and delicious cake.  Yummy!  Thanks for the peaches Grandma!