Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year! And an Update

"And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been."
- Rainier Maria Rilke

Happy New Year everyone! I've missed you! That's my black eyed pea stew in the photo above. It's something I usually make on New Years day, since the legume is supposed to bring good luck. I've included the recipe below.

But first, a bit of an update. I've been crazy busy around here. Managing Christmas, and my shops, House of Lucien and Coco's Kitchen. We also had a big Christmas party here for my husband's sailing friends. I wish I had more photos to share, but I got a photo of the punch! (When it was half gone.)

I was too busy getting everything done, the food prep and such, to take proper photos. That about sums up how I've felt the last few months. Frazzled, in fact too much so to stop and take it all in. It was a lesson for me. It's something I vow to change this year, and heck, right now for goodness sake. To live more in the present, to do everything I can to relax and live in the moment, while getting the things done that I want to. This is life going by! And I want to make the most of it in 2015.

We had a great Christmas. My husband and I love decorating the house. He went crazy this year with the lights on the outside of the house! I wish I had photos of that!

My little snowman scene in the family room

The fireplace, I love my Mickey! 

The pantry door in the kitchen

The tree

My pot rack which of course we had to decorate too!

This is one of the smallest decorations in our home, but it's my favorite. I love the sentiment.

I also made some Christmas cupcakes for a friends party.

These are my Best Moist Chocolate Cupcake Recipe topped with my 7 Minute Frosting that I broiled to make a Hot Cocoa Cupcake! 

These are my Best Moist Chocolate Cupcakes topped with a cream cheese frosting that I added peppermint extract to, and topped with candy canes for a chocolate peppermint cupcake.

These are my Moist Banana Cupcakes topped with Christmas Sprinkles.

I hope you all had a great Christmas as well. And I wish you a fabulous New Year with lots of great adventures in the year ahead!

I'm off for a vacation to visit my family in Orange County California. I'll be back in the middle of January when I will be back in the kitchen baking. I have a few great recipe ideas to kick off the New Year!

Thanks so much for being a reader, I am so grateful for you!!

Now here's that Black Eyed Pea Stew Recipe!

Black Eyed Pea Stew


one bag (16 oz.) dried black eyed peas, or 3 cans
one ham bone with 3 cups diced ham
3 carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
3 ribs of celery chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion chopped
2, 15 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

if you like some heat, you can add some dried chipotle pepper, or even a tablespoon or so from a small can of chopped chipotle peppers, (the smokiness works well with the smokiness of the ham) if you are using the canned peppers, and aren't familiar with using them, start with a small amount first, (they can get spicy), and adjust to your taste.


Cook the black eyed peas if using dried. I used a crockpot. (I think this is the best way to cook them, because all of the ham flavor gets infused into the black eyed peas.) Add the peas, a tsp of salt, the bay leaves, the ham, the bone and the chopped onion to the crockpot and fill the crockpot almost to the top with water. (I used a 4 quart crockpot.) If using a larger crockpot, I'd start with 8 cups water, add more later if needed.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the peas are soft. If you are using a larger crockpot and have the time, you can add everything else and cook until the carrots and celery are soft. (an additional 3 hours or so.)

I poured it all into an 8 quart pot on the stove and added everything else and cooked for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables were tender.

If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain the peas and rinse, throw it all in a large pot on the stove, add 4-6 cups water or broth, cook on medium heat for an hour or so, until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended. If needed, add water or broth to get the consistency you like.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fresh Peach Cobbler with a Biscuit Crust

"The summer night is like a perfection of thought. "

- Wallace Stevens

This is the best cobbler I've ever made. Sometimes I make cobblers and don't blog about them because I'm not in love with them. As a matter of fact, I just threw out the remains of the last one as I put this one in the fridge, this one is already gone, (from being eaten) damn, it's good.

Fresh raspberries from my very own raspberry bushes

I have an affinity for fresh fruit baked with a crust. Crisps, pies, cobblers, I love it all. This cobbler combines the warm, jammy fruit, with a sweet, crumbly, buttery, biscuit like crust. It's the tastiest crust I've ever tried on a cobbler. I'm absolutely smitten with it.

peaches and a few nectarines

Tis the season for fruit desserts. Fresh Summer fruit just might be my favorite thing about the season. As I write this, we have ripe raspberries and blackberries on bushes, and peaches, pears and apples hanging from trees
My fruit after mixing it up with the sugar and flour - I baked this in a 2 1/2 quart Pyrex Cinderella bowl and it was the perfect size

Just before adding the butter to the flour mixture to make the topping - It only calls for a stick and a tablespoon of butter, I didn't use all of the butter in the photo.

After adding the butter cut into pieces

So, clearly, I need a cobbler recipe that I love in my back pocket.

After mixing that butter up into the flour mixture - I used the pastry blender in the photo and then switched to using my hands after I got it cut up good using the pastry blender.

After adding the boiling water - you just need to mix it a few times till it comes together, don't mix it up too much

When we first moved here 7 years ago, we planted a lot of fruit trees. I'm telling you, it feels like it's taken an eternity for them to bear fruit!

Ready for the oven
But I'm super happy they have!  


Right out of the oven - It smells like heaven

I added raspberries to this cobbler, that is why the color is pink. Just because I had them available. (And not to mention that the slightly tart raspberries are the perfect compliment to sweet peaches.) So I have a peach melba cobbler here.

My raspberry bushes

Our Peach Tree

More of my raspberry bushes, I just love them. Thanks Suzanne!

You can use any fruit you'd like. Peaches only, nectarines, plums, berries, cherries, or a combination of a few. Either way, I think you and your family with adore this simple mouthwatering Summer treat!

I hope you're having a fun and relaxing Summer!

Here are a few more summer fruit recipes I love -

Any Fruit Crisp

Double Crust Peach Pie made with Fresh Peaches - This one has a delicious, very flaky, all butter crust.

This vintage Pyrex Sandalwood Cinderella Bowl is available at my Etsy shop, Coco's Kitchen. Where I sell vintage kitchen items and vintage cookbooks. You'll find vintage pots and pans, vintage Pyrex, vintage cake carriers, and lots more!

Did you know? These vintage milk glass Pyrex bowls were made completely different than current day Pyrex. It's the current Pyrex bowls that have had problems with exploding. I've never heard of these vintage opal Pyrex having any problems when baking in the oven. So they not only look prettier, but they are much more solid and well made.

Check out this great collection of Pyrex!

Never miss a post! Follow The Alchemist on Facebook! Or Pinterest

Vintage Embroidered Tablecloth, Mid Century Knowles bowls, and the vintage silverplated spoons, are available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

Fresh Peach Cobbler with a Biscuit Crust

As I mentioned, you can use any stone fruit or berries, or a combination. One peach equals about 1 cup of fruit, or 167 g. so use 6 cups total of fruit.

Ingredients for Cobbler

About 5 large peaches, chopped in large bite size pieces

About 1 cup (167 g.) fresh raspberries

1/2 - 2/3 cup (100 - 165 g.) sugar - if you use raspberries the larger amount of sugar is better, due to the tartness
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice - If you use raspberries I think it's optional - If you use only peaches that are sweet, I think the lemon juice is a good idea

3 Tablespoons Flour

Ingredients for Topping

1 cup (150 g.) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 Tablespoons) cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup (59 ml.) boiling water

Coarse sugar for topping - optional but recommended


Preheat oven to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit, 200 Degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 6. Start a pot of boiling water.

In a large bowl, with your clean hands, toss together the fruit, sugar, lemon juice (if using) and the flour.

Make the topping. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar,  baking powder, and salt. Add the chopped cold butter and mix together using a pastry blender or 2 knives. I start using my hands after I get it started. Mix it until it's a coarse meal. Add the boiling water and stir until it just comes together. It will come together easily after you add the boiling water.

Drop the topping like biscuits on top of the fruit. Sprinkle the biscuits with coarse sugar.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Until the top is nice and golden brown. Check the center to make sure the biscuits are cooked through. If they aren't, bake until they are done. If needed, you can place a cookie sheet over the cobbler, so the top won't brown anymore but it will cook the center.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! Happy Baking!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

"The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends and family, in one's backyard."    

  - Abraham Maslow     


I love peanut butter. I just love it. Haagen Dazs Chocolate peanut butter ice cream is my go to binge food around a certain time of the month (and their Sea Salt Caramel Gelato, but I digress). So these cupcakes really do it for me. It's hard for me to have these in the house without wanting to eat them all in one sitting. I've been making these for a while now, and they're always a big hit. I can't believe I haven't shared these with you sooner!

Here is my peanut butter cream cheese filling 

I start with my Best Moist Chocolate Cupcake Recipe. These really are the best chocolate cupcakes ever, sorry, they just are. They're light and super moist at the same time. The flavor and the texture is spot on. Then I fill those delicious little morsels with a cream cheese peanut butter filling. A fluffy peanut butter buttercream tops these babies off.

Here are my Best Moist Chocolate Cupcakes, these are the most awesome chocolate cupcakes I've ever had.

So you don't just get a little hint of peanut butter flavor, you get a giant peanut butter blast in your mouth!

This is the tip I used for filling the cupcakes. I used a round tip large enough for the filling to come out of. You can also use a filling tip, you can see a photo of one of those in my Raspberry Filled and Frosted Cupcakes post.

The cream cheese in the filling adds a little tang like cream cheese does. Which pairs perfectly with the creamy and fluffy peanut butter buttercream. All paired up with the yummy chocolatey goodness of the cupcakes.

Here are my cupcakes after being filled

My peanut butter buttercream, nice and fluffy ready to frost my cupcakes

Here's a funny little story. I made these for a client, I had a large cake box filled with them. The lid was closed and I opened the box and, whoosh! A big hit of peanut butter smell took over the air around us. It was wonderful. Peanut butter has a distinct, intoxicating and delicious, very strong smell.

Here is the tip I used, a large star tip, Wilton's 1 M.

If you are in a hurry and don't have time to fill cupcakes, the peanut butter buttercream is really easy to throw together. You can just frost the cupcakes with the buttercream and you will still have something special.
To frost cupcakes start on the outside, going in a circle
The peanut butter buttercream isn't too sweet, like a lot of standard buttercreams. It gets body from not just the powdered sugar, the peanut butter gives it body as well, so you don't need as much powdered sugar to provide that stiffness. If this is important to you, make sure your peanut butter doesn't have sugar in it.

Then as you go around, sort of build up the frosting on top of the first layer, finishing by bringing the frosting into the middle. If you don't like the way it looks, just take a knife and scrape it off, or lift it off, (making sure not to get any crumbs in the frosting,) put it back into the bowl and try again until you like the way it looks.  Practice really does make perfect.

If you have a peanut butter lover in your life you'll need to make these for them. You will seriously blow their little minds!

Like peanut butter but want to use another cupcake? Both the filling and the frosting, or just one of them, would be great with:

The Best Moist and Fluffy White Cupcakes

If you like the banana and peanut butter combination, you could try the frosting with my

Moist Banana Cupcakes

Or the frosting would be great on these dark chocolate little gems

Mini Dark Chocolate Cupcake Bites

Here are my little darlings, Coco and Lucien. They have been enjoying the warm weather and playing outside a lot lately. They especially love chasing birds, squirrels and bunnies. They just chase them. If they actually get close to catching them they just bark at them. Maybe they just think they're playing a fun game with their fury little friends. However, I'm sure the birds, squirrels and bunnies don't feel the same way.

If you didn't already know, I have a second Etsy shop! Coco's Kitchen is where I sell vintage cookbooks and vintage kitchen items. You'll find vintage Le Creuset, vintage Pyrex, vintage Descoware, lots of vintage cookbooks and more!  I add new items all the time, and I would love it if you checked it out, and favorited my shop, and even spread the word, if that's your kind of thing. Thank you so much!

Of course, House of Lucien is my shop where I sell vintage china, vintage glass, collectibles and more, for setting a beautiful table or just adding beauty to your home.

Never miss a post! Follow The Alchemist on Facebook! Or Pinterest

The vintage pink and blue tablecloth, antique Bavaria small plates with pink roses, Hammersley China Cake Stand, vintage silverplated cake server, and the Wexford 2 Tiered Tidbit Stand are available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This recipe makes about 25 cupcakes


25 of my Best Moist Chocolate Cupcakes  - Cooled. (that recipe makes over 30 of them so you might have a few more cupcakes than filling or frosting depending on how much frosting you use, etc.)

OR 25 of your favorite chocolate cupcakes

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients

1/2 cup or 1 stick butter (114 grams), room temperature

1 1/2 cups (354 ml.) smooth peanut butter - I used Adams natural peanut butter that has no added sugar, if you use a peanut butter that has added sugar you might want to use a little less powdered sugar

1 - 8 oz. (226 grams) package cream cheese at cool room temperature

1 3/4 cups (225 g.) powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Buttercream Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) (339 g.) butter - room temperature

2 cups creamy peanut butter - I used Adams natural peanut butter that has no added sugar, if you use peanut butter that has sugar in it your frosting will be sweeter. Or use less powdered sugar, but you'll need to use enough to get the frosting to be a good spreading consistency.

3 Tablespoons milk or as needed

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

4 cups (500 g.) powdered sugar

Grated chocolate for topping, optional


Start by making the filling. Beat together the cream cheese and the butter until thoroughly mixed, in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer. Add the peanut butter and mix again until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and the vanilla.  Mix until well combined. Now check the consistency. If you want the filling a little thinner, add milk a tablespoon at a time to get the consistency that you want.

Set the filling aside, and start the frosting. If you only have one bowl for your stand mixer, then clean it now to make the frosting.

Make the frosting. In the bowl of the stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer add the room temperature butter and mix it together until it's broken down and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix again until completely mixed and incorporated. Add about half of the powdered sugar and the vanilla and mix again. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk and mix again until fluffy. Now check the consistency. If it's too tightly held together and not fluffy, add a little more milk and mix again. I probably added maybe 6 tablespoons of milk total to get it really light and fluffy.

Fill the cupcakes -

Spoon this mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a filling tip, (a large long tip used for filling cupcakes) or a round tip big enough to push the filling through . You can see photos of a filling tip in this post, Raspberry Filled and Frosted Cupcakes.
Fill the cupcakes with the filling by pushing the tip 3/4 of the way down the cupcake, squeeze, then slowly lift up to fill the entire inside of the cupcake. I recommend using a test cupcake. Fill one, then cut it open to see if you filled it entirely. If you don't fill it with enough filling, the cupcake could just absorb the filling and not come across as a filled cupcake. Once you do a few and get a hang of it, it will go easy from there. Fill them up good, but don't overfill them. If you overfill them, they burst, or crack open.

Frost the cupcakes. As shown above, I used a large star tip, Wilton's 1M tip. 

Top cupcakes with grated chocolate, if desired. To grate some chocolate, just take a piece of chocolate, (I used a little  Ghirardelli square, because that's what I had laying around.)  Use the small holes of a box grater, or use a Microplane and grate the chocolate onto it. Make sure your chocolate is cool or cold, it needs to be hard and solid, and not melty.

Serve them immediately or within a few hours. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. These are best eaten at room temperature, so if taking them from the fridge, let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so before serving.

I hope you love these as much as I do! Happy Baking!