Monday, June 29, 2009

Watermelon Cooler...Summertime Drink

It's summertime...watermelon season abounds... At Cocktail Hour...

What to make? How about a...


My friend and I were walking around the Princeton area. I love anything related to water...waterfalls, water fountains, sailing, marinas etc. Watermelon is my favorite fruit. Wondering what I could create using watermelon, a Watermelon Cooler came to mind.

So, I found a recipe where Matt, bartender of

People's Lounge in New York City

demonstrates in a video how to make a Watermelon Cooler.

2-3 pieces fresh watermelon (I add about 4 pieces)
2-3 wedges of lime (not too much- I suggest only 1 small wedge)
1-2 Tablespoons raw brown sugar
1.5 oz Sobieski Vodka (I’ll use whatever brand I have on hand)
Crushed ice

Add watermelon and lime in tall glass.
Add raw brown sugar.
Muddle ingredients.
Pour vodka into glass.
Add crushed ice.
Shake vigorously.
Strain into drinking glass.
Add watermelon wedge for garnish.

Here are other variations of WATERMELON COOLER recipes to try:







A refreshing drink for a hot summer day...WATERMELON COOLER.

Try one of the recipes...Let me know which one you liked best!



Saturday, June 27, 2009

NYC ~ MESA GRILL, Billy's Bakery, JUNIOR'S Restaurant

June 16, 2009...took a trip to New York City.
Stayed overnite at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

On the agenda...
  • lunch at Bobby Flay's restaurant, MESA GRILL
  • dessert at Billy's Bakery
  • after dinner dessert ~ Junior's Cheesecake

(If you look closely, my reflection is at the bottom left of this frame. I'm taking the picture.)

102 5th Avenue (between 15th & 16th Street)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 807-7400
(Owner: Bobby Flay)

Lunch hour at MESA GRILL. BUSY!

My lunch order...
Shrimp & Roasted Garlic Corn Tamale
with Fresh Corn and Cilantro Sauce.

It was fantastic. I'll definitely come back...

Now, I 'm off to enjoy dessert.

As if you didn't know by now, I LOVE my dessert.

184 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 647-9956

My friend Heba (below) had mentioned that Billy's Bakery was worth a visit.
Thanks Heba for the suggestion. You were right. It was fantastic!

I'm strolling along and took pictures of the flowers.

It's nice to see flowers in a bustling city in the midst of so much mortar.


Nice touch. I love the plants and the ivy.

Even in such small spaces, there is a focus on making the surroundings beautiful. I like that!

Ok, I've arrived at Billy's Bakery...
The look and feel is nostalgic.

It reminds me of my days baking when I was in my early teens.

I baked every single day. I loved it!

Baking for me was a peaceful, zenlike experience.

Thus, the name of my blog, BAKING is my ZeN.

I like how a clothesline is used to display merchandise.

The customers pour in...

A showcase of some of the bakery items.

By the way, this is NOT Billy.

I ordered a Chocolate Cupcake and a Red Velvet Cupcake.

Here I am indulging on the Chocolate Cupcake.
The frosting was phenomenal! I was a happy lady today!!

Red Velvet Cupcake and Chocolate Cupcake...try it! You'll like it.
Message from Heba & Carmen: TRY BILLY'S BAKERY!


So, after dinner (which was Ribs and Fries), I had the pleasure of enjoying not just any cheesecake. But a cheesecake that had a SPONGECAKE CRUST! Do you believe this?
I was smitten!! :)

What establishment sells this?

Times Square
West 45th Street between Broadway & 8th Avenue
Telephone: (212) 302-2000

JUNIOR'S is famous for its Cheesecake with a spongecake crust.

New York was fun. But, I'm glad to be back home. Home sweet home!
Peace in Baking, Carmen

Sunday, June 21, 2009

GOD's a R A I N B O W

It's June 21, 2009...Father's Day.
I visited my Dad and family to celebrate. We had a great time!

Driving home, I noticed that the sun was so strong and bright like I've never seen it before.
It even distracted me a bit from driving. (not good!).
I continued driving feeling a tad overwhelmed by the brightness of the sun.
I'm almost home...

I made a left turn down my street and looked up.
I was in awe of the beautiful RAINBOW that was literally forming before my eyes.
I pulled my car to the side of the road.
Grabbed my camera and starting taking pictures. (and a short video clip).

All I can say is...The beauty of God can be found in a RAINBOW.

It felt like LOVE pouring down on me.
It bought me to tears to see and feel such

I am forever grateful to have seen this rainbow form in its full grandure before my eyes.

This I know...GOD = LOVE = BEAUTY

Love & Peace, Carmen

I am bewildered by the beauty...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fudgey German Chocolate Sandwich Cookies ~ stacked

Stack em' up...

Fudgey German Chocolate Sandwich Cookies are one of my favorites.

The chewy centers, the coconut, the pecans, the chocolate... just make me hum...hmmm. Oh, and a cold glass of milk is a definite compliment to this cookie.

So, bake these cookies...pour yourself a tall glass of milk, grab a cookie, sit on your porch and enjoy!

You'll never forget this cookie's fudgeyness...promise!

It's June 16, to spend a day in New York City.
Lunch will be at > Mesa Grill ~ Bobby Flay's restaurant. I like his food style.
Dessert will be at > Billy's Bakery ~ Heard nothing but good things. Got to give it a try.

So, to you with love from my kitchen...

Makes about 16-18 large cookies for (8 – 9 sandwich cookies)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa or HERSHEY’S SPECIAL Dark Cocoa
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped pecans

Note: Have additional AP flour on hand when forming dough into cookies.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, sugar, butter, cocoa, baking soda, salt, eggs, milk and vanilla in large bowl.
3. Beat at medium speed of mixer until blended (batter will be stiff).
4. Stir in pecans.
5. Transfer dough to a bowl. Place plastic wrap on the dough. Then cover the bowl completely with more plastic wrap.
6. Chill for at least two hours.
7. Line your cookie pans with parchment paper.
8. Sprinkle flour lightly on your dough.
9. Use a Tablespoon or a small ice cream scooper to scoop dough.
10. Flour your hands lightly as you roll the dough in your hand to form a ball.
11. Place rolled dough on cake pan. Leave at least two inches space between.
12. Bake 9-11 minutes or until almost set.
13. Cool slightly.
14. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
15. Cool completely.
16. Spread about 1 heaping tablespoon COCONUT AND PECAN FILLILNG onto bottom of one cookie.
17. Top with second cookie to make sandwich.
18. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Cookies can be reheated in microwave for 10 seconds or until filling is warm.

About 2 cups filling

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add brown sugar.
3. Add corn syrup.
4. Stir constantly, until thick and bubbly.
5. Remove from heat.
6. Stir in coconut, pecans and vanilla.
7. Use warm.

Note: To toast coconut using oven:
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spread coconut in even layer on baking sheet.
3. Bake 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.

Note: To toast coconut using skillet:
1. Spread coconut in even layer in skillet.
2. Stir occasionally, until golden.

Other recipes can be found on

Peace in baking ~

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tres Leches Cake para mi familia

TRES LECHES CAKE (trays LEY-ches) – Also called Three-Milk Cake

What is it?

Tres Leches Cake is a dense sponge cake that is soaked in a milk mixture of

• evaporated milk
• sweetened condensed milk
• heavy cream

Hence the name Tres Leches (three milks).
The cake is then topped with whipped cream or meringue.
It is a delightful Latin-American treat.

I used a recipe found on
I served this cake to my family. They said it was “PERFECT”.
And... I didn’t pay them to say that! :)

Cocina Cubana Club / Pascual Perez and Chef Sonia Martinez

This dessert is actually Nicaraguan, but has been widely (or should I say, wildly!) adopted by all Cubans with a sweet tooth! Three different kinds of milk (thus the Tres Leches name) are used in the preparation. Fresh, evaporated and condensed. This version serves 8 to 10 portions.

1 cup sugar     (3/4 cup for egg yolks, 1/4 cup for egg whites)
5 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk    (I use 1 (14 oz) can)
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp light rum  (I use 4 Tablespoons White Bacardi Rum)

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

CAKE: Beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (use paddle attachment). Fold in the milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks (use wisk attachment), adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this batter into the buttered baking dish.

Bake the cake until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Unmold unto a large, deep platter (*). Pierce the cake all over with a fork, taking care to not tear it up.

MILK SYRUP: Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, vanilla and rum in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.

MERINGUE: Place 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Uncover pan and cook the sugar to the soft ball stage, 239oF on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile beat the egg whites to soft peaks with the cream of tartar. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Pour the boiling sugar syrup in a thin stream into the stiff egg whites and continue beating until the mixture is cool to the touch. The hot syrup "cooks" the egg whites.

Using a wet spatula, spread the top and sides of the cake with a thick layer of the meringue. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before serving.

Not low-cal by any means, but well worth the effort!

(*) I don't have a large, deep platter appropriate for this, so I use a jelly roll pan that I line with foil and try to be careful when I pour the milk syrup not to get it all over the place.


For the milk syrup, I use 4 Tablespoons of rum.
My cake bakes in my oven for 30 minutes.
Whipped Cream Topping is used instead of meringue topping.
See recipe below.

I serve this cake right from the pan it is baked it. It is not the prettiest cake. But, it sure makes up for it in taste!
I like to enjoy this cake with strawberries. It is a great complement to the cake.

From book CAKELOVE ~ Warren Brown

2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the mixing bowl and wire whip attachment from a standing mixer in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to chill.

2. Sift the confectioners’ sugar to remove any lumps.

3. Combine all of the ingredients in the chilled bowl and whip on medium to medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until medium peaks form.

4. Remove the bowl and lightly whip by hand with a wisk to the desired stiffness.

OK, where is a fork when you need one??

Peace in baking,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Danish Almond Coffee Cake

It's Friday night.
A friend and I decide to dine at BONEFISH GRILL Restaurant for dinner.
Before heading out, I'm chillin' out in my lounge chair and contemplating what to bake
Saturday morning.
Almond paste was a product I had not tried yet. So, guess what?

So, we head out to dinner.
My friend and I enjoy cocktails and appetizers instead of an entree.
We prefer appetizers to an entree any day!
And of course, I must order dessert!

Mojito Cocktail


Creme Brulee

Now it's to the kitchen to bake...


1 bundt cake

Baking time: 45-50 minutes
Temperature: 350 degrees


1 - 7oz box Odense Almond Paste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

1 10-12 cup bundt pan
Box grater


1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Grease and flour 10-12 cup bundt pan
3. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons almonds into bundt pan and set aside.
4. Grate Almond Paste.
5. Mix Almond Paste, 1/2 cup of almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon together.
6. Set aside.
7. In mixing bowl combine sugar and butter.
8. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
9. Add eggs and extract.
10. Beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
11. Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt.
12. Add flour mixture and sour cream to egg mixture.
13. Beat until combined.
14. Spoon 1/3 of batter into bundt pan.
15. Sprinkle 1/2 of filling on top.
16. Spoon 1/3 of batter on filling.
17. Top with remaining filling.
18. Cover filling with remaining batter.
19. Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted near middle of cake is clean.
20. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.
21. Unmold carefully onto wire rack and cool completely.
22. Garnish with confectioners sugar. (optional)

Almond paste is made of ground almonds, sugar and some almond extract. It is used in pastries, candies and cakes.

For more recipes using almond paste, check out website

Peace in Baking,




Thank You.

~ Carmen Ortiz - blogger (Baking is my Zen)