Social Media and Ginger Cake

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Let me open this by saying were it not for social media, you would not be reading my food and life blog on WNYPapers.com. Here’s why:

When I decided to spin my blog away from an online news source in 2012 the first follower I had on my WordPress.com site was WNYPapers. It was not immediate but it got me thinking about the folks who were interested in reading my work. Who are they?

It’s relatively easy to figure out with social media.

Primarily I use Facebook and Twitter. My foodie persona on Facebook is JudeTheFoodie and can be found here. Here people can chat with me directly and I find this to be the easiest way to have direct interaction with other foodie friends. By “liking” this page you can also become part of the conversation.

Twitter is still a mysterious social media to many with lots and lots of rules attached that to someone with little experience would view as mishmash. @JudeTheFoodie is the “handle” I use on Twitter to Tweet my foodie experiences including travel.

Here are just a few things to know about Twitter to help you understand the puzzling world of Tweeting.

When you “follow” someone you can read their Tweets (messages 140 characters or less). Unless they follow you, they cannot read your Tweets. The idea is that we follow folks with whom we are interested without regard to their wanting to know anything about us.

For example, I follow Martha Stewart. I can see all of her Tweets. She, however, (sadly) does not follow me. If I want a Tweet to get to her, even though she does not follow me, I can begin my Tweet with @MarthaStewart and it will show up on her feed. The feed is the list of Tweets from all of the people you follow.

Once you follow a large number of people the feed is very congested. You could spend the entire day reading your feed. I say that a Tweet is a lot like standing on the 50 yard of a stadium and speaking to a packed house without a microphone. In order for your Tweets to have any impact (and for most people to see them) you need to mention someone (using the “@” symbol and their Twitter handle like @MarthaStewart) or use a “#” called a hashtag.

The hashtag is a way to group Tweets. If you Tweet “I love watching #Chopped. The ingredients in the basket are crazy!” anyone else who enters #Chopped in the search area can see your Tweet. It’s pretty cool and you can chat with folks from around the world.

I also post my columns on Pinterest. It is a cool way to group my recipes and travel articles in one place for people who do not follow me on WordPress.com. WordPress is the blogging platform I use and what runs my website. I am slowly gaining followers on my website. If you follow my blog at JudeTheFoodie.com you can click on follow. Whenever I post anything on my website you can read it on your WordPress.com reader.

Now, what does a ginger cake have to do with social media? The recipe I used the other day to make a very moist ginger cake can be found here: http://theworldinourkitchen.com/2011/03/08/ginger-cake/

I have never met Chef and Jen but due to social media I can say they are friends. We started following each other on Twitter which led to Facebook which led to Words With Friends which led to the realization we are only 50 miles apart. We hope to meet this summer.

Every day I post a “JudeTheFoodie.com Question of the Day.” Late last week it was Cake or Pie? Over 600 people viewed that post (and I only have 159 followers on this Facebook page). Chef waxed poetic about his wife Jen’s ginger cake. I asked for the recipe and through the power of social media I baked this cake a few days later.20130422-082849.jpgThis cake is moist and dense. I little piece has a big impact. The recipe calls for ¾ or a cup of ginger and I used the whole piece which turned out to be a little over a cup. I think I will use the recommended amount next time because the ginger was very powerful (not unpleasant but strong).

Also, I recommend using a medium saucepan to heat the one cup of water. When you add the soda you have a bit of a chemistry experiment as it will bubble up. Add the chopped ginger to the pan, stir then add to the batter. Caution: this batter is much thinner than you would expect so don’t worry, its fine.

The recipe does not call for any topping and while it does not need anything to taste wonderful I am going to make a sweet whipped cream to serve on the side the next time I make this great cake.

Please “Like” JudetheFoodie on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @JudeTheFoodie. Begin a Tweet with @JudeTheFoodie to let me know you read this column.

Have a yummy day!

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Easter Cookies…Hop to it!

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20130326-131402.jpgEaster Cookies? Why not?

Simply make your favorite drop sugar cookie (I made a ricotta lemon cookie) with yellow food coloring, frost with sugar glaze and sprinkle with pastel sugar.

The secret to any cookie is consistent shape and size. I use my smallest cookie scoop for this task.

The glaze is two cups of confectioners sugar, the zest and the juice of one lemon plus water to get to 4 tablespoons.

To glaze the cookies, line a few cookie sheets with parchment (easy clean-up) and invert the cookie quickly in the glaze and roll around to coat. Set glazed cookies onto the lined sheet. Much of it runs off onto the parchment (you’ll be glad you lined the sheet) so don’t over do it. Only do 5-6 cookies at a time or the glaze will dry and you won’t be able to sprinkle. Sprinkle with colored sugar and let dry. They package easily and you can stack them.

Have a yummy day!

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Chocolate Spice Cookies

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Chocolate Spice Cookies

Categories: Christmas
Source: JudeTheFoodie.com

Ingredients

• 1 Chocolate Cake Mix
• ⅓ c Oil
• 2 Eggs
• 1c Chopped Walnuts
• 1c Chocolate Chips
• 1tsp Cinnamon
• ½ tsp Ginger
• ½ tsp Nutmeg
• ¼ tsp Cloves

Directions

In large bowl, with a wooden spoon, mix all ingredients except the spices.

Add spices and stir until blended. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°

Using a small cookie scoop, place small teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 9 minutes. Cool on racks.

Roll in powdered sugar or frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.

from http://therecipeboxapp.com

Christmas Cookie Blitz

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20121215-132803.jpgIt always feels like I have more time than I do on December 1st.

Today I will:

Decide what I am baking.

1. Cut Out Cookies – I use the “Deluxe Sugar Cookie” recipe from the book shown above. It is Betty Crocker‘s Christmas Cookbook Copyright 1982 by General Mills. It is a great recipe, delicate and buttery… Recipe to follow later.

2. Magic Cookie Bars – I always say I’m going to make these during the year but usually save the treat for Christmas.

3. Oatmeal Crackles – these are one of my son’s favorites.

4. Shortbread – I use a recipe from my friend Lauren. Years ago I attended a cookie exchange. It was fun and I loved the sisterhood of sharing.

Lauren’s Shortbread

1 pound butter
1 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Add flour one cup at a time. Press into 13″ x 9″ glass baking dish. Score with fork. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Couldn’t be easier.

5. Chocolate Spice Cookies – I got this one from my mother. It is made with a cake mix. Boom!

Chocolate Spice Cookies…to be continued…

Sweet Breakfast Biscuits

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20121215-095637.jpgSweet Breakfast Biscuits

Servings: 9-10
Prep time: 0:10
Total time: 0:30
Categories: Breakfast
Source: JudeTheFoodie.com

Ingredients

• 2¼ c Biscuit Mix
• ⅔ Milk
• 1Tbsp Butter, melted
• 1Tbsp Turbinado Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°

Butter a heavy cast iron skillet.

Mix biscuit mix according to directions (mix until it forms a ball, turn onto board with more biscuit mix, kneed 10 times).

With hands press to about ½ an inch.

Melt butter. Brush onto dough. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut into random geometric shapes.

Place on skillet, with some edges touching. Bake about 11 minutes, until golden grown.

Cool 10 minutes. Enjoy!

from http://therecipeboxapp.com

Christmas Cookies: My Top Tips

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Originally posted 12/19/2010

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Of all the things that I do at Christmas, my favorite is baking cookies. I love the joy it brings my family and friends and use them as a personal gift to my colleagues. I have tried many things over 32 years and have developed these secrets. That it saves me time is the icing on the cookie!

Plan with the end in mind. Why are you baking? Is it to have cookies to share at home with your family and friends? Do you need to package them and travel? Do you want to do this as a family project? Do you want to bake and share (this is what I do)? Whatever your reasons, determine them now because it will determine the kinds of cookies you should make.

Picture your cookie tray. When you decide what kind of cookies you want to bake think about color and shape. While I love chocolate, try to bake cookies that have a variety of color.

Less really is more! Decide what to bake. There were years when I would bake 15-20 different kinds of cookies. Was I nuts? Perhaps, but I was also not employed outside the home at that time. I have a Christmas cookbook from the year I was married. I continue to use recipes from there along with those I have clipped or downloaded throughout the years. Since I went back to work fulltime, I ask my family to identify their top three cookies from my repertoire. I do not include cut-out cookies in their list because that is a family favorite and is the only cookie I do not share. This year I am making 8 kinds.

Plan twice, shop once. I get laughed at all of the time when I go to the store with my list but not having to go back to the store to buy a key ingredient allows me to have the last laugh. I make a spreadsheet which has all of the ingredients on each row. The columns are for each cookie and the totals determine how many pounds of flour, bags of chocolate chips or containers of colored sugar I need. When I say I list everything, I mean everything including the storage container. I take an inventory of containers prior to shopping and fill in as needed. I love the new plastic containers which won’t break my heart if not returned. When else do you even think about Cream of Tartar except at Christmas?

Mix all cookie dough and refrigerate before baking. If you are making any bar cookies, mix and bake those while you are mixing all other cookie dough. I cover each bowl with Press and Seal Wrap so that I can write the kind of cookie on each bowl. I do not use my mixer again until I make frosting. This saves a tremendous amount of time. Even if you do not have the entire day to bake, bake one type of cookie before you go to work.

Choose a size and stick with it. Early in my cookie baking career I decided to make all my cookies the same size. This makes packing easier and presentation prettier. I used a melon ball gadget until it snapped on the rock solid chilled dough. Plan B! I bought a small sized heavy duty cookie scoop at a gourmet store. It is a great investment and I highly recommend making that purchase. Making your cookies small gives you more bang for your buck, especially if you give many away.

Invest in 4 heavy cooking sheets. I purchased half sheet pans from a restaurant supply store. They were “marked” meaning they had a few scratches. I figured that I would scratch them as soon as I used them so saving about 50% seemed like a good plan.

Use parchment paper. Before my cookie baking marathon, I measure a whole roll of paper, cutting and folding it so it fits the sheets. I put them between several pans to keep them flat. I change the sheets as needed but you can bake more than one batch on them. This assures your cookies will not stick to the pan as well as allows you to reuse pans without washing them during the baking process.

Buy about 6 inexpensive cooling racks. I cover my table with foil then line the racks on top. I cool sheets on top of my stove for a few minutes before moving the cookies to the table racks.

I bake two sheets at a time. Have one rack on the low setting and one just above. Set one timer for the entire baking time and the other for half way. At the half way mark, switch racks and bake for the remaining time.

Bake cookies that need to be frosted last. This way, as you bake you can store the cookies and get them out of your kitchen. Living up north gives us an advantage because we call our garage our outdoor fridge!

Over the next few weeks I will post my favorite recipes.

Have a yummy day!

S’mores Brownies

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‘S’mores Brownies
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Servings: 24
Categories: Dessert
Source: JudeTheFoodie.com

Ingredients

• 1 Chocolate Cake Mix
• 2 Eggs
• 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
• 1 12 Oz Bag Chocolate Chips (Semi Sweet or Milk)
• 1-1 ½ Cups Mini Marshmallows
• ½ Package Graham Crackers

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray a 13″ x 9″ pan lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl add cake mix, eggs and vegetable oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. You will use your muscles for this. Add chips and marshmallows and stir evenly.

Over bowl break each graham cracker into bite sized pieces. Stir to blend evenly.

Put dough into prepared pan and spread evenly with clean hands. Bake about 25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on rack for 30 minutes. Run a spatula along the side of the pan to gently separate brownie from pan. Cool completely, cut and enjoy!

Have a yummy day! JudeTheFoodie.com

Made with The Recipe Box. http://www.therecipeboxapp.com/

Birthday Cake: The Real Breakfast of Champions!

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36 years ago (exactly 2/3 of my life ago – naturally I just did the math) I met my husband. One of the first things we discussed was our birthdays which are one day (and 3 years) apart.

Do you do the cake cutting ceremony in your family where the birthday girl or boy cuts the cake and the person with the next birthday pulls it out? Two wishes, one cake! I love that! And, in our case more often than not, one cake, two birthdays.

So, with my husband’s birthday one day before mine I usually end up baking my own birthday cake. When I got married a million years ago I got this cookbook as a shower gift.

20120618-072229.jpgOn page 101 there is a recipe for a golden cake (looks more white than golden when baked) that is SO good I have made it countless times since.

If you sign my guest book and tell me your birthday (month and day) I will send you the complete birthday cake recipe to enjoy with your family.

This year I made homemade lemon curd (not a difficult recipe but takes twice as long as they say) and it was really good.

Funny thing, though…golden cake with homemade frosting (from an antique recipe of my grandmother) is my husband’s favorite. Me? I’m a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting girl myself. That’s not to say I don’t love the golden birthday cake, just that every once in a while I long for my own cake, not baked by my own hands.

So, this year at a birthday/Father’s Day BBQ at our cousins home I baked my husband the golden birthday cake and my mom baked me my favorite chocolate cake!

20120618-073647.jpgthen, to the disgust of many, I did something in honor of my father.

20120618-073917.jpgI made “mush.” Stuff a piece of chocolate cake in a glass and fill with milk only until the spoon can still stand up.

Eat and enjoy!!!

Have a yummy week!

Jude
JudeTheFoodie.com
Twitter: JudeTheFoodie
Facebook: “Like” me “Jude The Foodie”

Antique Recipe: Easter Bread

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I’ve always associated life’s highlights by sound and smell. Earth Wind and Fire’s song “September” (the coincidental current song on my iPhone) blasting out of someone’s dorm room signaled the completion of their last final. Whenever I smell rose water I think of my grandmother’s bathroom. When I smell anise I think of Easter bread.

Every Easter my Gramma Massaro would bake it from a recipe I assume was passed down to her by her own mother.

The recipe was in the recipe box also called her memory. Nothing was written down.

Imagine that!

My Gramma Russo would ask her every year for the recipe and all she would say was “you know, Mary, I put in flour, butter and anise oil…some eggs and yeast.” When asked how much of each she would shrug. “A hand full of this…a little of that.”

So one day in our kitchen, two power house Italian grandmothers coexisted in the single mission of preserving a family tradition. While one woman went about making the bread the other used conventional measuring tools and accurately recorded the ingredient list and the directions.

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I have been making this bread since I’ve been married the Saturday before Easter. When it is done I pack up baskets and cover them with pretty linen and lug them to church to be blessed.

Back then, I did everything by hand, including working in all the eggs and kneading until the glossy elastic feel a good bread has before its first rising. Since getting my stand mixer (one of my most beloved kitchen appliances) I modified the recipe to allow me to make six small loaves and still have some day left to do other Easter preparations.

Original Easter Bread Recipe (Makes 6 large loaves)

9 Cups Flour
½ Tsp Salt
3 Pkgs Yeast (dissolved in ½ cup warm water)
1.5 Cups Warm Milk
1 ½ Sticks Butter
8 Eggs (keep some for egg wash)
1 Tsp Anise Seeds
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Anise Extract (1/2 tsp anise oil)
Make a well in the flour. Combine milk, melted butter (warm, not still hot), beaten eggs, salt, seeds, extracts and beat well. Add to the flour well.
Add yeast and warm water to flour in the well. Mix with hands until smooth. Put a little flour on hands if dough is sticky.

Once everything is mixed into the dough, put a little oil on your hands and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is mushy. Put a little oil in a bowl at least twice the size of the dough and put in warm place for about 1 ½ hours until doubled in bulk. Punch down. Rise again 15 minutes.

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Arrange racks in oven so there is room for dough to rise. Insert picture of oven racks and sheet pans. Have one rack on the bottom, skip a slot then set the other. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly grease two metal sheet pans. NOTE: do not have sheet pan touch the oven wall or the other pan. The loaves will burn. Have only one sheet per rack.

Cut dough in half. Cut each half into thirds. Try to make them even so the loaves. You can use a scale to even them out.

Each dough ball becomes one loaf. One at a time, divide dough into three even pieces. Roll them into even length strings and gently pinch the three strings and tuck end under.

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Braid each loaf and set on sheet pan. For large recipe, bake no more than two loaves per sheet. You can put three loaves per sheet for the smaller recipe Brush with beaten egg to cover.

Bake large loaves 40 to 50 minutes and small loaves 35 to 45 minutes. They are done when the bottom is a light brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Converted Easter Bread Recipe for Stand Mixer (Makes 6 small loaves)

6 Cups Flour
1/3 Tsp Salt
2 Pkgs Yeast (dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water)
1 Cup Warm Milk
1 Stick Butter
5 Eggs
2/3 Tsp Anise Seeds
2/3 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2/3 Tsp Anise Extract (1/3 tsp anise oil)
The original recipe is done by hand and the converted recipe works well with a stand mixer but could be done by hand to be more manageable. Follow your mixer’s method for adding flour. When I make mine I prepare the wet ingredients and work in 4 ½ cups flour then add in ½ cup flour until the dough is silky. I kneaded it another 4 minutes on the “stir” setting.

Rise, prepare loaves and bake according to original directions starting at oven arrangement.

There was much discussion this weekend about Easter bread traditions. My grandmother braided the dough and covered them with an egg wash to make them shiny and crisp. My husband’s grandmother baked hers with a hardboiled egg tucked in. Some make it more like a dessert bread covering them with candies and a sugar glaze. I am not saying they are wrong…just a different tradition than I grew up with. And, that’s OK with me – keeping up the family tradition is the key. And, it’s never too late to start!

May the blessings of Passover and Easter fill you with love and life.

Have a yummy holiday

Food TV’s influence reaches St. Peter’s RC School

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In 1998, I had surgery and was home all of August. The Food Network was just then launching in Buffalo and my dear neighbor Michelle told me about it. I remember thinking, “Really? What’s the big deal? Who is going to watch that all day long?”

I am here to tell you I had no clue how that network was going to change my life. No longer was I bound by cookbooks and magazines but could see the technique right in front of my eyes. Would a cookbook be able to explain how to chiffonade basil? Maybe not but I could see those two fat ladies riding around in their cycles along the English countryside buying pears and making bread pudding.

It’s a whole new world and St. Peter’s RC School principal Denis Coakley readily admits he is a foodie. Apparently, while watching a riveting episode of “Cupcake Wars” he started to cook up an idea and by the time he watched an episode of “Chopped” the final garnish was in place. The middle school was going to participate in their own version of “Cupcake Wars.”

He wanted to have a hybrid competition in the middle school (6 through 8th grade) where they would bake and decorate cupcakes using secret ingredients and assigned themes representing faith, academics and service. (The wars had to have a cease fire yesterday while they went off campus to volunteer in the community.)

The faith cupcake was to depict Jesus, a pretty straight forward assignment. The academics confection was to represent an historical event or figure. For service they were to bake and decorate a cake which represented the disabled or injured. While they could plan at home, research online and consult their family the baking and decorating happened in the cafeteria at school. This way teamwork could be observed and the students could have the joy of doing it themselves.

Yours truly was invited to judge one round of the competition. I must say, I was thrilled. I vowed not to be as “underwhelmed” as Candace, or like Florian, mumbling in his sweet French accent. There were four three-person teams competing, each completing three cupcakes so there were twelve cakes in all. It is a lot of sugar, even for me but I took one for the team. I joined Colleen Larkin and Sister Malou in our team adjudication.

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First up were Spencer, Christopher and Michael representing the 7th grade boys.

We learned the secret ingredients were butterscotch chips, mandarin oranges and bacon bits. They had a delicious buttercream on several cakes that was a perfect accent.

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Hannah, Gabrielle and all treated us to a coconut covered cupcake representing Jesus as the good shepherd.

They put the butterscotch in the cake for a nice twist.

They made a heart shaped cake using the heavy foil cake liner;

I am going to use that idea great job!

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The 8th grade girls, Leah, Christina and Matteson (Andrea was unable to make the judging) made a beautiful fondant cross on their faith cupcake which was sprinkled with edible glitter.

Their academics cakes had the words “The Civil War” piped across four cupcakes representing the four years of bloody battle.

They sprinkled bacon bits on the plates reminding us of the battlefield.

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The 6th grade girls prevailed in our installment of Cupcake Wars with three clever cakes.

Jaclyn and Teresa made a lemon cupcake filled with a lemon cream that was so good I would have finished every crumb if I did not have to taste 12 cakes.

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It was not only delicious, it was spot on task. This faith cupcake had a cross made of white chocolate covered pretzel sticks with an edible wafer head of Jesus. The cross was on the green frosting and at the base were butterscotch chips looking like rugged rocks.

The historical cake depicted Betsy Ross complete with a crafted fondant head and a fruit rollout skirt. These are great kids guided by a great administrator.

Congratulations St. Peter’s RC School and thanks again for inviting me to your Catholic Schools Week celebration. Have a yummy week!