Savory Sunday: Guacamole Burgers

I love a great burger, and I have to say - I'm pretty picky about my meat. Quality matters a lot to me, and whenever possible, I like to know that the meat I'm eating is sourced locally, and that the animals were treated well. I had planned on making these burgers earlier in the week, but the avocados were rock hard at the grocery store, so alas, I had to wait. And, I'm sure glad I was forced to wait, because it gave me the opportunity to stop by the butcher shop that I had just learned about, that's only half a mile away from my house. The place is immaculate, and features local, pastured raised meat. I think I've found my butcher!

If you love guacamole, you'll adore these burgers. I like to season my burgers simply - either using Montreal Steak Seasoning, or just kosher salt and freshly ground pepper - and then add lots of toppings. Guacamole can be customized to your tastes; the ingredients listed below will show you what I was in the mood for, but avocado, lime juice, and salt & pepper alone is delicious. And depending on how much guacamole you like on your burgers, you just might end up with some leftover to enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips.

Chocolate Babka with Cinnamon Streusel

If you're looking for that special something to impress your friends or family (perhaps for Easter brunch?), this, my friends, is it. Decadent brioche-like dough is loaded to the brim with chocolate and cinnamon, twisted, and then topped with a delicious cinnamon streusel.

I'll admit - this recipe is a bit over the top, with over four sticks of butter, a whopping 36 ounces of chocolate, and you'll need to commit to fairly intensive process to pull these gorgeous loaves out of the oven. But I assure, you, it's well worth it. I'll also note that I like a lot of streusel topping; feel free to halve if you prefer less.

Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crunch

Passover began last night, and thus begins a week of abstaining from many foods, included leavened foods, for many. This is one of my absolute favorite ways to dress up matzo, and let me warn you - it's very easy to prepare, and seriously addictive.

I believe that the only potentially problematic ingredient here for Passover is the vanilla extract; feel free to omit, or find a brand that is acceptable for use during Passover.

Savory Sunday: Spicy Thai Chicken Pizza

Do you like CPK's Thai Chicken Pizza? If so, hold onto your baking stones people, have I got the make-at-home-version for you (that I personally think is better than the original). This pizza is loaded with flavor and lots of texture and crunch!

My bread making habit has also encouraged many batches of homemade pizza dough...which means many pizzas! This is one of my personal favorites. You start with pizza dough of your choice. Top the stretched dough with spicy peanut sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, scallions, sliced red bell pepper, and peanutty chicken. Bake it up. And then, add some crunch and color - bean sprouts, shredded carrots, chopped roasted peanuts, and cilantro. Mouth-wateringly good. Keep in mind here that the topping amounts that I list are just guidelines - want more cheese? Go for it. Fewer scallions? Reduce away.

Though it's impossible to get your home oven up to the normal working temperature of the wood fired pizza ovens at your favorite pizza joint, it is possible to bake up wonderfully crisp, amazing pizzas at home with just a few tools. A large baking stone is a must, and a pizza peel is a really nice addition to your toolbox if you have the space for it (it makes it MUCH easier to load a pizza, or bread, etc into a very hot oven).

Marshmallow Bunnies & Eggs

This is my version of Peeps, customized for Easter! Making homemade marshmallows is easier than you may think - it's as simple as dissolving gelatin, boiling sugar, and whipping the two together until you end up with fluffy, white marshmallow!

These can be easily customized by using cookie cutters of your choice - I chose small egg and bunny cookie cutters - and can be made in any color you heart desires. Yield will vary, depending on the size of your cutters; with the cutters I chose (bunny is ~3" long; egg is ~2" tall), I ended up with 8 bunnies and 8 eggs. I'd love to see these in my Easter basket this year; how about you?

Cupcake Topper Tutorial

These One Fish, Two Fish cupcake toppers were really fun and easy to make, and today I'm going to show you how! These toppers are two sided; meaning that there are scallop punches on both sides of the stick. I think the toppers look more finished this way (guests at your party won't be able to see the glue that holds them together), and if you want to get really fancy, you could put your printed images on both sides. I made 2.25" toppers, but you can adjust the size as you like. Miniature toppers on mini cupcakes would be awfully cute!

If you are designing the images yourself for your circles, make sure you make the circles slightly smaller than your circle punch. You may want to do a few test prints to ensure the images look the way you want them to, before you print up the whole batch.

Baking Essentials: Tools of the Trade

Along with the right ingredients, having the right kitchen tools on hand is essential to your success in the kitchen. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of tools that I use on a regular basis; please keep in mind that you certainly do not need to have all of these things in order to make beautiful baked things. I also tend to not buy highly specialized items that only have one use in my kitchen - my ramekins double as bakeware and small bowls; a saucepan + metal mixing bowl makes an excellent double boiler, etc.

Savory Sunday: Beef Potpies with Cheddar-Stout Crust

My love for the kitchen extends far past the sugar and chocolate, to the savory side of things, and I'm delighted to welcome you to the first of many Savory Sundays, here at Decorate This! As you may have noticed over the past few weeks, Decorate This! has received quite the facelift, and with a new look comes a new direction. I will certainly still be sharing my latest cake creations, but I will also be sharing more of my favorite recipes - sweet and savory- and tutorials to help you on your own kitchen adventure. And as always, I'd love to hear from you! Let me know if there's something that you like to see here, or things you'd like to see more of.

Today's savory recipe is perfect for early spring, particularly St. Patrick's Day! These pot pies are cozy and comforting, filled with tender beef, stout beer, and flavorful veggies. We paired our pies with a crisp arugula salad - delicious!

Maple Granola with Walnuts and Cranberries

During the week, it's usually somewhat of a race for my husband and I to wake up, take the dog out, get dressed, and get out of the house to make it to work.  If you're like me, I wake up HUNGRY, and we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so - breakfast is something we never, ever skip, even on our most rushed mornings.

One of our absolute favorite quick breakfasts is homemade granola with fruit (usually berries - we can't wait for them to come back in season!) and either soy milk or yogurt. It's super fast to put together, healthy, and filling enough to get us mid-morning snack time (yep, I'm one of those eat six times a day people).

Making granola at home is really easy, and extremely versatile. Once you have a base recipe that you like, you can swap out the "add-ins" - nuts, dried fruit, and spices - as you please. Don't have walnuts hanging around? Use almonds instead! Don't like dried cranberries? Chopped dried apricots make a perfect substitution!

Here is one of my favorite base recipes, from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It's just right, when it comes to sweetness, and makes big clusters, thanks to the egg whites - and let's be honest, who doesn't enjoy a huge cluster of granola? I've made a few modifications to the original recipe to bump up the flavor a bit, and added another egg white to ensure that I always end up with clusters.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

One last note - don't chop your nuts too small. Yes, you want nuts in most bites, but if you chop them too small, you may end up with burnt nuts before the granola is completely done.  And no one wants that!

Baking Essentials: A Well Stocked Pantry

The last thing you want is to start on a baking project, only to discover part of the way in that you're missing a key ingredient or two!  Developing excellent organizational skills will help you immensely in the kitchen, and part of this is ensuring that you have all of the required ingredients available, in the necessary quantity.

Here's a list of ingredients that I generally always have on hand, which allows me to bake on a whim without having to make a trip to the grocery store - at least most of the time!

Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been baking a lot of bread recently - sourdough, brioche, babka, challah, and many more. Cinnamon raisin bread is high up on my list of favorite breads, and is even better when drenched in milk, eggs, and spices, and baked up golden brown.

This baked french toast couldn't be easier to prepare, and is the perfect option for busy breakfasts when standing over your oven, frying up individual orders of French toast isn't practical.  It is sure to be a hit at your next brunch!

One Fish, Two Fish Cupcakes

A few weeks ago, I created these adorable One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish themed cupcakes for Bekki's baby shower.  Seems like just yesterday that I was making Bekki & Matt's wedding cake!  Guests enjoyed chocolate or vanilla cupcakes, both topped with vanilla buttercream.  And how cute are the paper toppers! Check out my Cupcake Topper Tutorial to learn how to make your own.

I'm also happy to announce that Bekki & Matt welcomed their daughter Mia into the world, just last week!  Congratulations!!!

Monkey Baby Shower Cake

My friend Amy's sister is having a baby in April, and I was delighted to be able to make her baby shower cake!  The design was based off of the invitation that Amy created for the shower - how cute are those monkeys??  Both tiers were chocolate - top tier was filled with cappuccino cream, and the bottom tier was filled with vanilla buttercream and fresh strawberries.

Congratulations, Sandy and Brian!  The happiest wishes for the new bundle of joy that will soon enter your lives.