What's YOUR indispensable baking tool?...Works For Me Wednesday

Today's Works For Me Wednesday is a backwards edition. This means I get to ask you a question!

What is your indispensable, essential, can't-do-without baking tool?

I thought about this question for quite some time. First, I thought this:Photobucket

Then, my silicone spatulas...


But when it comes down to it, I would never make cookies without this:Photobucket
Parchment Paper! I have gone to the grocery store at 10pm sent my husband to the grocery store at 10pm on a parchment run in a cookie making emergency.

So, go ahead and tell me...what's your can't-live-without baking tool?

Be sure to click over to We Are THAT Family for more WFMW (backwards) tips and come back later this week for a yummy giveaway!!! :) YAY!

Santa Fe Huevos on Polenta aka Eggs Ranchero

Santa Fe Huevos on Polenta Recipe aka Eggs Ranchero

Huevos rancheros- a traditional Tex-Mex recipe featuring fried eggs, refried beans and salsa on top of warm corn tortillas- is a delicious brunch recipe, no doubt. But I decided to change up tradition. Just because.

Using a roll of pre-made polenta makes this a perfect weeknight supper or a quick and easy Sunday brunch. For the more ambitious cooks out there, stirring polenta from scratch isn't hard, it just requires a little patience. Kinda like motherhood. And meditation. And selling a house. For how to make make polenta from scratch see below.

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Basket Case

Here is another cookie cutter that I bought ages ago and am just getting around to using....an Easter basket!


I wasn't sure about the "grass" when I was decorating them, but now that they are finished, I'm glad I added it.

easter baskets resized


I like them mixed in with the Easter chicks. :)

To make the basket cookies:

easter basket sketch

{isn't this cookie "sketch" cool?!?}

  • Using a #2 tip, outline the bow in pale yellow (Spectrum Lemon Yellow).
  • With a #3 tip, outline the basket in purple (AmeriColor Violet).
  • Still using the #3 tip, make the basket handles, pulsing the icing bag as you run it along the cookie to make bumps.
  • With a #2 tip, outline the eggs...one each in pink (AmeriColor Soft Pink), blue (Spectrum Sky Blue), and yellow.
  • Thin all of the icing with water until it is the consistency of syrup. Cover with a damp dishtowel.
  • Before using each color, run a rubber spatula through the icing to break any large bubbles. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.
  • Fill in the basket in purple; use a toothpick to guide the icing to the edges.
  • Fill in the bow and one egg in yellow.
  • Fill in the blue and pink eggs.
  • Let dry at least one hour.
  • With a #2 tip, add the detailing to the basket.
  • With a #2 tip, add the detailing to the bow.
  • Using a #1 tip, pipe Easter grass along the edge of the basket in light green (AmeriColor Leaf Green).


Looking for more Easter cookie ideas? Check out these posts:

Easter Chick Flicks . . .

Easter chick cookie flicks, that is!

I bought this little chick cookie cutter last year and have been waiting months to try it!


They are really simple to make, just outline, fill and coat with sanding sugar the next day. I added a little eye after sanding.


I made up several of these and some Easter baskets for the winner of the We Are THAT Family cookie giveaway....New Momma. I think any "new momma" needs a little hit of sugar, don't you?!?


I'll have more on the Easter basket cookies in a day or two. In the meantime, enjoy the chick flicks...and maybe one of these other Easter-inspired posts:

My Main Squeeze . . .Works For Me Wednesday

Flooding* cookies with icing can be a messy affair. That's why I love squeeze bottles!

*{Flooding is just a fancy term for filling in a cookie with thinned icing.}
For piping outlines and details in royal icing, I use pastry bags. When I'm ready to fill in the cookie outline, I thin the icing and transfer the (flood) icing into squeeze bottles.
Why not use a pastry bag? Using a pastry bag for flood icing can lead to this:
Not pretty! Plus, those drips out of the top of the bag can plop down right on an already decorated cookie!!!
{I know, I used to do it this way!}
Now, I use these...(they come in a larger size, too)
...and I'm left with this....I like that. Much less messy!
Squeeze bottles can be found in the candy making section of most craft stores and sometimes in the craft section of WalMart.
Spend a few minutes (or an hour or two) checking out all of the great Works For Me Wednesday tips at We Are THAT Family.
My previous WFMW posts:

Big Banana Muffins (Gluten-Free)

Gluten free banana muffins
Gluten-free banana muffins. Oh yeah.

Sometimes you crave banana bread but not the slice. You have a hankering for the whole, not the part. A thing intact. Weighty and complete and an entity all on its own. All yours. Maybe it's the simplicity you want. The curve and weight of it snug in your hand. Hefty but compact. Portable.

You want a muffin.

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Turtle Ice Cream Pie, revisited

Remember this ice cream pie that I made a few weeks ago? My husband ranked it in his "top 5" desserts of all time, but I was a little underwhelmed by the vanilla ice cream layers?

Well...when the neighbors were coming over for dinner, I thought it would be the perfect time to try it again with different ice cream. (I hope they didn't mind being guinea pigs!)
For the 4 layers of ice cream, I alternated Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche & Coffee ice creams.

OH MY!!!!! This is now in my TOP 5 desserts! The caramel ice cream makes the pie a little messier because it has swirls of caramel in it, but oh, the mess is worth it!!! Looking for the recipe? It's here...from Bon Appetit magazine.

And, check out the original post: He Said, She Said Ice Cream Pie

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

A combination of gluten-free grains makes this my favorite 
new gluten-free bread recipe. Hands down.

As promised I've been experimenting again with my favorite gluten-free bread recipe. This latest incarnation is my husband's new favorite. Why? It features cornmeal. I learned a long time ago that cornmeal (and polenta) warmed the cockles of his heart. So I bake with it every chance I get. This bread was tender and soft enough for sandwiches. Delicious flavor. The cornmeal gives it a mild and almost grainy texture without overpowering it. It's not heavy. And it toasts up like a crunchy golden dream.

This part- the crunchy toast part- is why I perseverate in gluten-free baking. Because no matter how old I get (and I hate to tell you, I've got a milestone number waiting for me in June that is scaring the juniper pollen infested daylights outa me!) I crave the simplest of foods.

Like toast.

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Happy Spring! A Vernal Equinox View

Vernal Equinox View from our casita in New Mexico

I just took this photograph as the sun was setting over the western mesas. A Vernal Equinox sunset. Happy Spring everyone!

And here are my Favorite Spring Recipes for living gluten-free- to celebrate new beginnings.

Still celebrating...with Mint Chocolate Chip Cake Truffles!

Yes, St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, but we're still celebrating. I can't seem to find the energy to take down my decorations, but I did manage to make some Cake Truffles! :) Plus, we like to bring some goodies to the volunteers at the Food Pantry when we work...showing up empty-handed during a holiday week was not going to happen!

The trouble started when I accidentally bought these....

...MINT chocolate candy melts when I planned to make Gingerbread Cake Truffles. I'm an adventurous eater and all, but mint & gingerbread doesn't do it for me.

I saved them for St. Patrick's WEEK, and made Mint Chocolate Chip Cake Truffles.
I'm embarrassed to say I have no shamrock sprinkles in my arsenal, thus the green stars! :)
The cake balls are made the same old way...this time using a white cake mix, tinting the batter green. I added mini chocolate chips when rolling the balls. They look and taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream.

These got hubby's vote as "favorite cake truffle."

Like these? Check out....

Oh, and a little friend of a Bake at 350 reader is up for Nick Jr.'s Super Fan award. She is the cutest little thing...Grace. You can vote for her here. (She's holding and kissing her ragdoll...that she made...she's 4!) Grace also just donated her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. What a sweetie! :)

How to Live Gluten-Free on a Budget: 10 Tips + 2 Recipes

Potatoes are gluten free
Farmers' market potatoes. Gluten-free and budget friendly.

How to live gluten-free on a budget? It's a legitimate concern. I feel your pain. $6.95 for a gluten-free baking mix? Ouch.

There's a lot of chit chat lately about food budgets, food prices, and stretching a dollar on Twitter and Food Blogs. Budget talk is in the air. Eating in and cooking from scratch is a trend now. And for those of us living gluten-free, a  trend unlikely to burn out soon. 

So if- like me- you are struggling to balance your cranky budget, here are ten tips and tricks to stretch the green and keep it tasty.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, McReaders! Every year about this time, I try to convince my husband to officially add a "Mc" to the beginning of our last name. No disrespect to my in-laws, our name is wonderful...but a "Mc"...that would add a little something. When I was going through my Gone with the Wind stage in high school, I was sure I would marry someone named O'Hara...Bridget O'Hara. Then, I fantasized about being Bridget McBride or even Bridget St. John....well, he's not going for it. Let's drown our sorrows in St. Paddy's cookies.

Let me say up front...I'm not thrilled with these cookies. Why I thought a BLACK POT cookie would be cute, I'll never know. Today, hours after they were finished, mind you, it hit me...DOTS! I should have made dotty pots. Next year?

It doesn't show in the picture, but the "gold" is actually shiny and metallic looking and made with luster dust,* which you can find at bakery supply stores and online.
Here's how to use it:

  • Decorate cookies with royal icing and let dry overnight.
  • Mix a little vodka (the guy at the cake supply store swears by Everclear, but that's not something I keep on-hand, vodka however...) with small amount of luster dust. I use a baby spoon for this; a little goes a long way.
  • Using a child's paintbrush, paint the mixture onto the cookies.
  • The alcohol will evaporate, leaving the metallic sheen.

*Lustre or Luster Dust is a dry powder that can be applied to add a metallic sheen to icing. The product is interesting...my bakery supply store sells lustre dust that is labeled "non-toxic" and edible, some is labeled "for decorative purposes only." Remember those silver dragees (balls) that you ate as a kid on cookies and cupcakes? Those are labeled "decorative" now, too. In my opinion, a little won't kill me. From what I understand through the "baking grapevine", Europe considers all lustre dust "edible"; the US doesn't. Weird! Anyway...check your bakery supply for the "non-toxic" version.

More cookies decorated with luster dust:

Don't forget to enter the COOKIE GIVEAWAY!!!