Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Design & Cake!

Well, as you can see we have a new look here on Surreal Confections. More than that, we have a new web address!!! Yay for domains! Yes, you can still find us on Blogger and yes, you can still follow us through that. We just added the domain as a quicker way for everyone to get here. ^_~

And what better way to celebrate a new look than with cake? Yes, you can have your cake and you can eat it to! What is the point of having cake you cannot eat? I mean seriously! And honestly, what better cake this time of year than Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing? Easter is quickly approaching! That bunny needs carrot...cake!

If you have seen this recipe before don't be surprised. I ripped it, and the picture, from my other blog. I made this for Fairchild Airforce Base, those stationed at Larson, last year for Baking For Our Soldiers and it was such a big hit I had to post the recipe for them. So here you are, the perfect cake for Spring!

Carrot Cake
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 Cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Regular Table Salt
  • 2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour - For once I am saying AP instead of Cake Flour.
  • 3 Cups Freshly Grated Carrots
To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and heavily grease 3 - 8inch cake pans. I swear by Pam Baking Spray! This stuff is the best for making sure nothing sticks to your pan and anyone that has ever made a carrot cakes know they like to stick more than most any other out there.

 Now, in your mixing bowl combine your eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla and almond. Mix well on medium while in a different bowl you are sifting together your flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.

 Once those are sifted together, add them to your sugar "slush" and beat until well mixed and smooth.

 Now, fold in your grated carrots. (Little tip, I prefer buying baby carrots and grating them myself with my cheese grater. It does take a bit of time and cramps the hand a bit but I find it gives a much better texture and flavor than using large carrots or pre-grated ones.)

 Now simply divide your batter into the 3 cakes pans and toss into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and it come out clean.

 Once cooked, take out of the oven, wait roughly 1 minute, give your pan a little shake and then turn out to cool fully on a wire rack. It is best to turn these cakes out onto their racks soon out of the oven. The longer you wait, the more likely they are to stick to the pan. Carrot cake likes to cling!

 Now, what is Carrot Cake without Cream Cheese Icing and Pecans?!?! Nothing! It is nothing! LOL Anyhow, a little bonus for you, my Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Icing. (This is different from the icing I use for Red Velvet.)

Cream Cheese Icing
  • 1 Cup Margarine Softened
  • 16 Ounces Cream Cheese Softened
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Lbs Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 Cup Crushed Pecan Pieces
A few quick notes.... Yes, margarine, not butter. This recipe is a tad more liquidy, if that is even a word, than my usual cream cheese icing. It works well for spreading a bit easier and is a tad runny. If you prefer a stiffer opt for Salted Butter instead. And yes, that is 2 pounds of Sugar.

 Now, just cream together your margarine, cream cheese and vanilla. Once that is well mixed, add in half of your sugar and mix until well blended and smooth.

Now comes the testing part. Here you go on your own taste and more than that... local humidity and temp. The more humid area you live in, the hotter it gets the more sugar you are going to want to add to make sure this icing doesn't "melt" off your cake. Right now I am in Washington State during Spring. I used 3/4's of a 2 pound bag for this. Now in Ga during summer I might use 2 1/2 pounds. You will have to judge this part for yourself.

Once it is done and your cake is cool, just frost it, top with pecans and serve!!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Anam Cara Shortbread Anniversary

Happy Duck
Years ago on this day I decided to do something that most people would frown upon, went to meet someone I had met online. This was before all the dating sites really took off and I had NOT met this person via one of those sites. I met them by chance on a 3d chat site because I had mistaken them for someone else. I drove across the state to meet this person in a parking lot. O.o Yeah, probably not one of the smartest things I have ever done but sometimes in life you go with your gut and usually your gut is right.

Who was this person? Well you know that Chefman I am constantly bragging about being the "Worlds Best Chef"? Yeah, it was him, my husband Chef Jason Gibson. Driving out there to meet him in person was the best "Oh god you aren't doing that?!?!" moment of my life. I didn't meet my Anam Cara (Soul Mate in Gaelic), I found him again that day.

You see, sometimes in life when you find that one, you don't meet them. You feel as you are picking back up with them after being separated for a life time.  Just getting a chance to start another life time together. March 25th was that day for us.  For most couples the wedding anniversary is the most important, for us this is. Without it, there would be no us, no Anam Cara found again. None of that whimsical kooky romance, no stereotypical Irish Love.  No true life fairy tale.

So today is "Our" anniversary. One of a couple we do celebrate each year but for us the biggest one. Sadly, we were not looking to celebrate it in any big way this year due to financial reasons. Not exactly wise to shell out for a huge anniversary party, dinner or night out when you are between jobs.  Harder still when you are prepping for your son to have surgery the next morning. Yet, that is where we are.

But as they say, things just have a way of working out. Just as a proposal of marriage came about so did me finding a gift for the hubby. You see, he proposed in the middle of a fight. (Yeah, romantic isn't it? But not as bad as one may think. Come on, if in the middle of a couple being at their worst they can still stop and know they want, they should, they need to be together for the rest of their life: Then yeah, they will be. You see these big romantic proposals all the time and then reality sets in and things change, end. Many times because the couple did not know just how they would feel when they were at their worst. We got that out of the way early, LOL) But yeah, fighting for us sometimes brings out the best in us.

Duck, Duck, Duck
A simple fight lead me to storming out the door and start wandering the Square. Stepping into a little consignment shop and finding the perfect anniversary present for the hubby - A Duck. LOL Yeah, sounds silly but Ducks do play a big part in our relationship. (To sum up, dinner one night, the creation of Angry Duck, a dinner at the restaurant he was working at featuring the dish and so much more.) A romantic part of our relationship. LOL But anywho, I found some inexpensive hand carved antique wooden ducks and got them for him. (Given to him a bit early but hey!)

So yeah, things have a way of working out. In the middle of no where, with almost nothing, in the middle of a fight, knowing our son is going in for surgery the next week - I was still able to get my hubby a wonderful, even if silly and corny, anniversary present.

All his ducks in a row

What did he get me? I'll tell you what! He freaking topped me in the gift giving category for the first time in our relationship! And you know what? (Even though everything is a competition with me) I'm okay with that! He got me Vintage Noritake China!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!! Apparently he found it, by chance, in the same consignment shop I got the ducks in, before everything with his job went to hell, got it and hid it away until now!!! OMFG!!!!!
My Noritake Ravel

Noritake China!!!! I cannot believe it!!!!! I have the full 5 piece place setting, enough for 12 people!!!! Not to mention the gravy boat, salt & pepper shakers, serving platters, creamer & sugar bowl w/lid, vegetable serving bowls and  more!!! All in perfect condition! And to make it even more amazing, it is in the Ravel Pattern - Which is a Glacier Blue(my favorite color) Floral Pattern than includes the 3 flowers tied to our relationship - Amaranths, Buttercups and Roses.  I about died!!!!

Isn't it pretty!!!!
So, call it what you will - Things working out, God working in mysterious ways, Karma paying it forward. I don't care. My Celtic Barbarian showed he was also my Knight In Shinning Armor and against all odds pulled out the best gift to me. ^_^  (And honey, now I need a China Cabinet to show these off in. They are getting locked up and not even being taken out for the Pope!) LOL

They are now safely tucked away, wrapped up nice and tight in several crates. I did manage to "allow" myself to use them to display our morning "Anniversary Tea." Should have seen me setting this up and taking the pictures. I was shaking so bad many of the pictures were just too blurry to even know what was on them. -_- I can't help it, first China set just for me and it's vintage at that. Every time a child drew a breath my heart skipped a beat.
Irish Breakfast Tea & Shortbreads

So what did we have in this house of foodies/chef/baker with picky children? Shortbread jam cookies! Even after everything with Cookie Mario World yesterday I broke out the Irish Butter and whipped up some Irish Shortbread. A little chillin', some cookie cutters, a dollop of jam and a sprinkle of powder sugar later we had a delicate morning treat that was just perfect to show off on my Noritake Ravel. ^_~ We have Peach Ducks, Blackberry Amaranth Flowers, Strawberry Buttercups and more.
Shortbread Jam Sandwiches

And there you have it, in the midst off fighting, job hunting, running around like a chicken with your head cut off, worrying about how your child will do in surgery the next day and so much more you can still stop in wonderment of the good life brings and look forward to all the trials and tribulations of the coming years as long as you have your Anam Cara by your side.

Happy Anniversary My Black Diamond, I cannot wait to see what the years hold for us. (I still think you are the biggest ass to walk the face of the earth but I still love ya. :P)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Super Mario Cookie World

~Insert Super Mario World Music~

Oh yeah, that is much better. Welcome to Super Mario World, well the cookie edition. Forget the paper. lol. My newest geeky creations for lovers of Mario, Luigi and even that pesky Princess Peach. Yes, I know I have done Super Mario Brothers Themed Cookies before but I felt it was time for an upgrade. 

So here you have it! Super Mario Brothers taken to the next cookie level! The 4 center piece "flowers" are made from cookies that are growing from a combination of graham cracker dirt and chocolate ice cream soil. All detail work is done either in royal icing or edible food color marker ink. The little figures were something I found at Hastings a bit ago and grabbed "for the kids." The background pieces are cookie as well that are suspended with string. Thought of it at the last moment and was honestly too lazy after 3 days of work to go back out and grab some fishing line. LOL

Now, grab some dough, color it and get to making your very own - Flower Power!!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

Chocolate Mint Irish Coffee
I had planned on a huge post for today but after a weeks worth of cooking I am about beat. LOL And sadly I haven't had a drink yet and it is already past dark! Yeah, major St. Patties day foul there. Okay, well I hadn't had a drink at all until the hubby broke out the Whiskey and the Baileys and started making Irish Coffee. Different versions actually. And after all was said and done and all pictures taken I threw together a new little twist on the Baileys version and am on my 2nd cup right now with plans of many more. LOL

Irish Breakfast Essentials
But anywho, little sum up of this week. As you have seen I have been making a lot of food. In fact I am having to flip back through everything to see what I have posted about and what I have not. In looking at all this I find I have finished up a few things I did have planned...So you will probably see cookies decorated in Irish Themes over the next week that I should have posted by today but didn't...Oh well. And I just have to do them because I had some of the coolest ideas for cookies I have had yet so I am doing these comma damn it exclamation point. I'm Irish so I can post Irish stuff any day of the year. :P (Yes, I played the Irish Card. I don't use it for fights or drinking so I can throw it down now.)

A Full Irish Breakfast
Anywho, all over the place with this post. Can you follow this? I hope so. Let me see if I can stay focused enough to finish this..... Today started out the perfect way for an Irish Family on St. Patrick's Day, probably a perfect way for everyone out drinking tonight to start tomorrow. The Full Irish Breakfast, or at least as close as I could get out here in the States and trust me I tried! Oh my god this is a lot of food and really sticks with you. In fact most of the family didn't eat anything else for the day except to pick at things here and there. I can understand now why Irishmen were able to build the skyscrapers and railroads decades back. Starting out with this breakfast will enable anyone to take on the world. That or put you in a food coma. Either way it is all good.
Irish Scones & Shortbread

What all is in a Full Irish Breakfast? Well that differs from area to area in Ireland and here in the States, as well as just home to home. So, I will just go with what is in the Gibsons Full Irish Breakfast.

Yeah, like I said, it is A LOT of food. Really wish our friends from back in Ga had been here this morning. Every time I cook like this it just isn't the same without them. Okay, traveling down memory lane and need to hop back onto the blog post turnpike. lol
Big breakfast and well it was pick at that all day and dive into the numerous left overs we have right now since there has been so much cooking here this week. One of those left over is, of course, Corned Beef and Cabbage. 

Granted there was not a lot of that left over since it is my youngest sons all time favorite meat. (As you can probably tell from the picture. Soon as he saw the platter he tried to take it and run off with it. LOL Poor thing it weighed about as much as he did so we had to set it down and let him pose with it. It was that or he was going to hold it hostage.) 

And THAT brings us to tonight, well doesn't actually but covers enough ground to where I can get on with it. Tonight in the Gibson home was Irish Coffee, 3 different versions, and Irish Whiskey Coffee Cake. (<-- Recipe) The Hubby, over at Cynical Cuisine, took cake of 2 of the coffees and I took care of the 3rd and the cake. All were nummy nummy. If you want to try the cake, the recipe link is provided above and the hubby will be posting about the coffees shortly, so here, Cynical Cuisine, there is the link. You can shot on over there and check it out. 

So, quickly - Cake - Yummy! Hubbies two versions of Irish Coffee and then mine, yummy! (Want to make mine? Simple, standard Baileys Irish Coffee and stir in Mint Chocolate Ganache. OMG! So, having said that, time to get another glass. See you tomorrow! (And yeah, seriously, the Full Gibson Irish Breakfast to battle your hang over tomorrow!)

Irish Coffee and Whiskey Cake

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Yummy Of The Irish

St. Patties Cupcakes
Top of the mornin' to you! Or evening, as the case is for me currently. It is about 10:30P.M. out here on the west coast and I am just not finishing up another long day of cooking Irish Style. That's right my paddies! Okay, just gonna stop now. I sound like an Irish "Brutha" (thanks Turk) and I should really stop. I make a snow flake look tan. Anywho.....

Potato Champ
So yeah, here it is late at night and my kitchen is in shreds and I doubt it is getting clean anytime soon. Granted the poor hubby has been trying to keep up but it just isn't working. He spent all day cooking some wonderful Irish dishes and well me? I was making cupcakes!

Irish Beef Stew
Yes, nummy, nummy cupcake. Chocolate Boiled cupcakes with mint ganache injected into them. They didn't take long to make, it just took all freaking evening to decorate them. Would have taken longer if the hubby hadn't come to the rescue and started assembling them with me. Dozens of cup cakes with Clouds and grass and rainbows and even a pot of gold at the end for my sons 1st grade class. ^_^

Braised Irish Lamb
Why? Well duh, St. Patrick's Day. For many it is a day of drinking, Boondock Saints and crappy impersonated Irish accents but hey! That's okay! On St. Patrick's Day everyone is Irish!!!!! But things are different in the Gibson Home. Don't get me wrong, there is drinking. This is an Irish home, Catholic Lite. I think if there wasn't someone might run a cat scan on us.

But you see, even though we are an Irish home, we are also a foodie home. I have all my nummies you see constantly and then there is the hubby, a chef. So, what does an Irish Foodie home do for St. Patties Day? We turn it into a Christmasesque Irish Cooking Extravaganza week! Started earlier and will continue to St. Patrick's Day. ^_^

Irish Soda Bread
Yeah, yeah. I know what you are thinking. Irish cuisine? Laughing your balls off right now aren't ya? Well trust me there is more to it than Corned Beef and Cabbage and Whiskey and Beer, granted we don't need more but there is more. ^_~ It started with the Irish Lace Cookies, went onto Irish Soda Bread on Surreal Fare and has kept going!

Irish Lace Cookies
From Irish Beef Stew to Potato Champs to Braised Irish Lamb and Colcannon! And we have not finished yet! So many yummy delights to share with not only our family but yours!

And that beings me to something new! Well not new for me but new for the hubby! He is kicking off his food blog tonight! And sharing a recipe from our kitchen to use in your own. Go see it at his page - Cynical Cuisine!

So to celebrate that I am sharing one more Irish Sweet Treat recipe for you all! Traditional Irish Shortbread! This rich shortbread is beyond amazing. Salty and sweet, it melts in your mouth like butter and it better considering just how much butter is in it.

Now this recipe is NOT mine. It is an adapted recipe from Kerrygold that I found on the net and fell in love with. Yes, I am so for changing up recipes but some recipes are so wonderfully perfect you dare not change a thing and just keep cooking. This is one of those rare moments.

Now, before I begin with the recipe, please take note....USE IRISH BUTTER!!!!! Seriously, it is a whole different animal compared to American Butter. It is a darker yellow butter than is so deviously rich you may have a yummygasm just by tasting it by itself. I recommend Kerrygold and it can usually be found in most grocery stores. I found mine in Safeway. It is very pricey but it well worth it. (Double the price + of American butter.) If you use any other butter I will not be held responsible if the Saints decide you have crossed a line.

Now, onto the recipe!

  • 1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Cornstarch
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt, fine grain
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Pound Salted Irish Butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  2. Spray down a 9 inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
  3. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar.
  4. In a large mixer add the salt and with a paddle attachment mix on low until the dough becomes "grainy." Kind of like pie dough does.
  5. Add in the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  6. Place into the cake pan and take press it out flat. I use another cake pan and press down to flatten it out evenly.
  7. Take a fork and poke the dough all over.
  8. Bake 1 hour in the oven.
  9. Remove from oven and quickly cut into desired number of slices. I do 12.
  10. Let cool fully!
  11. Carefully flip out, it breaks super easy. Might be easier to take 1 piece out, let that crumble, taste to make sure it is good. >.> lol And then take out the rest a slice at a time.
  12. Serve as is or with jam and enjoy!
This is said to keep up to 2 weeks in an air tight container and up to 2 months of frozen....I have no idea. We can't keep the stuff in the house for 24 hours so I honestly cannot comment on the shelf life. 

Traditional Irish Shortbread

Anywho! I will be posting more Irish themed pictures over the next couple of days but I hope you enjoy this! Now, hop on over to the hubbys blog and see what he is up to! Watch him, fav him, like him, pass him around like a cheap woman if you will. Once again - Cynical Cuisine

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all and to all a good drink! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Irish Lace Cookies

 Saint Patrick's Day is right around the corner and you know what that means? Every drunken stereotype is going to be out in droves, mostly found in bars all over the world. It is a day of friends, frivolousness and frankly drinking. lol Oh how I love the Irish. More so lately since I am married to an Irishman and he is very keen on his families history and heritage. Which in turn made me want to learn more about mine and yeah,...I found out I am Irish. Mostly! Funny how that works out. LOL

That made me want to do a little something more than the usual St. Patties day themed goodies this year. Don't worry, there will be plenty of the typical as well but I do want to start out on a good note. What better way than what is probably the most delicate cookies around - Irish Lace! Yes, you can see right through them!

They are everything Ireland is sans the whiskey and Guinness, yes there is more to Ireland than that! Made from butter, brown sugar and steel cut oats, these cookies take a very basic base and turn it into something delicate, beautiful and packed with such candy like goodness you would think Willy Wonka had made them. I wonder if he was Irish, lol.

Now, this was the first time I had ever made these cookies. I simply found a recipe online and went with it. Granted I did change a couple of things. >.> It's what I do. These came out wonderful and my husband just kept tearing through them!

What I love most about these is that even though you cannot really shape them into much before or while they are cooking you can after. Let them cool for about a minute and you can roll them up, bend them and shape them! I did everything from rolling them up on the end of a wooden spoon to curving them into bowls, pushing them around to make a heart, covering them in chocolate and even bending one into a butterfly!

So let us get started!

Irish Lace Cookies:

  • 1/2 Cup Salted Butter, room temp
  • 3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • 2 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoon Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 3/4 Cup Irish Steel Cut Oats - NO INSTANT!
  1. Preheat your oven to 350
  2. Place your cookiesheets in the oven now! 
  3. In a mixing bowl cream your butter and sugar.
  4. Add in everything else minus the oats and mix until well combined.
  5. Fold in the oats.
  6. Grab a teaspoon measuring spoon, fill and level off.
  7. Drop onto a parchment lined HOT cookie sheet. 
  8. Keep doing this until the sheet is full - keep them at least 3 inches apart. They spread a lot. I usually only get 8 on my largest cookie sheets!
  9. Bake 8-11 Minutes. 
  10. Remove from oven but keep on cookie sheet for 1 minute.
  11. Then remove to cooling rack to cool fully. If shaping do this now and quickly!
  12. Be careful! They break easy!
  13. Serve and enjoy! Or wait till they are all the way cool and brush with melted chocolate.