Saturday, February 19, 2011

Making Whoopie... Pies, that is!

Makin Whoopie… pies, that is…

Sometime before Valentine’s I was increasingly feeling the urge to bake. As was my wont, I headed to watch TV, and on the History Channel, they were talking about the Amish people of Pennsylvania and their favourite snack, the Whoopie pie. It’s really a "cookie sandwich" with a nice sweet filling such as marshmallow fluff (or crème), buttercream, or cream cheese frosting. I had never seen anything like it before and the entire process had me fascinated as I watched them being put together, first by Amish women and then by a couple of bakeries, and wondered if I could do the same.

So, I began researching these beautiful looking treats online. I soon realised that there are as many recipe flavours for whoopie pies (like pumpkin, ginger, coffee, etc) as there are bakers, so it took me a while to find one that would really ‘work’ for my style of baking, which follows two simple rules:

  1. Make whatever it is from ingredients that you always HAVE in the house (like all purpose flour, butter, vanilla essence, etc.) I hate searching for overly expensive specialty ingredients, lol!
  2. If it contains some weird ingredient you can’t afford (or find) in T&T, forget it.
And as luck would have it, I found a recipe for red velvet whoopie pies and did a road test, hoping to blog about them. Unfortunately, though they tasted great, they came out looking like saucers instead of the beautiful domes I was looking for, simply because I had over beaten the batter in the food processor. (Note to self: mix it the old fashioned way next time.)

So, I decided to try again, this time with a different flavour - vanilla. Unfortunately, disaster struck again, not with the look, but this time in the taste department. …
(Second note to self: re-read recipe and double check the words “baking powder” and “baking soda”… too much of the latter makes baked goods bitter.)

Never one to give up, another recipe was discovered online, this time for dark chocolate whoopies. A simple list of ingredients and the easy prep encouraged me, so much so that I even went as far as to make an orange frosting to go with them… check out the bacchanal that followed! 

Okay… in here are a mix of sifted all purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa (I love Cadbury’s Cocoa for my baking purposes), salt and baking soda – don’t worry, I double checked!

Using a wooden spoon, I worked some Blue Band butter and some Cookeen shortening together with a cup of brown sugar…

Then I broke out the hand mixer to beat the mix until it almost doubled, after which I added one large egg and some vanilla essence.

Next, I added the milk and flour by halves and started mixing like a madwoman… this is the result. The batter is pretty solid and you can stand your spoon in it easily.

I dropped the mix by heaping tablespoonfuls onto wax papered jumbo baking sheets. These things will spread out, so leave at least 2 inches of space between them. I was able to get 12 of these to fit easily. This bowl gives you 24 total to make 12 whoopies.

All done! See? Told you they spread out. You can use a flat spatula to get them off the paper and on to a cooling rack, but be careful or else they’ll break apart on you.

While they cooled, I worked on the orange frosting.

Butter, orange zest, icing sugar… you beat the orange zest and butter first, though… I just thought I’d pose these things together for you all, lol.

Second stage: adding the icing sugar by spoonfuls and beating them in.

Third stage: incorporating a couple tablespoonfuls of fresh squeezed orange juice into the mix.

The finished product. The colour came about by adding in some yellow and red food colouring. I was aiming for orange, but it came out like this instead, but it worked for me.

Now for the fun part… makin’ whoopie! Just size them up and look for twos that have similar shapes and dimensions.

Slather on some frosting on one half…

Then cover with the other and repeat! You just made whoopie! Here’s the full online recipe, taken from, which in turn was adapted from the Whoopie Pies cookbook (the link below takes you to the book for sale at

Chocolate Cake for Whoopie Pie, adapted from Whoopie Pies
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
2. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Beat in half the flour mixture, and then half of the milk. Repeat with the rest of the flour and milk.
4. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Using a 1 tablespoon scoop (or a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon) drop mix on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Rap cookie sheet against counter so that the mixture spreads out a little bit.
5. Bake the cakes in the middle rack of the oven, one cookie sheet at a time for *10 minutes. Let cakes cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.

*Halcie’s note: When I baked mine at the temperature and time suggested in the recipe, they were not done. I’d suggest baking for about 15 to 18 minutes maximum, because at 10 minutes they are still somewhat gooey. Test with a skewer or toothpick after 15 minutes; when it comes out clean and the tops spring back when touched, they’re done.

Orange Frosting (made with real orange juice)
¾ cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
2 to 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
Orange food colouring (optional)

  • Beat butter and orange rind at medium speed with an electric hand mixer until creamy.
  • Gradually add in the icing sugar, beating until well blended.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons orange juice, adding additional orange juice if necessary to reach the desired consistency.
  • Stir in a little orange food colouring for desired colour. 

Thus ends my whoopie adventure... for now, at least!
As a side note, I ended up baking some and took them to work on Valentine’s day, and they were happily gobbled up. These are sure to become a regular staple at my house, but I have made a mental promise to myself to attempt the vanilla whoopies once more. I mean, take a look at what could have been…

I know, right? Great colour and texture, but not the taste. I still think of them as the whoopies that went "WHOOPS!"

Anyways, time for me to go. Don’t forget to leave a comment or two to let me know you passed by. Thanks again for visiting, and like I always say, don’t forget to mind the pot!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feeling for Beef Soup

It’s funny how some things tend to inspire, and you’d be surprised to know that a bunch of green figs from my garden were the real crux of my Saturday soup today.

The original plan was to make a small dessert, just a little banana bread to nibble on later. But after looking to see if any of the Lacatan figs our friends had harvested were ripe – and not finding any – we wondered what we could do with the still green ‘hands’…
Him: “So when last yuh make a soup, gyul?”
Me: “Don’t know… Hmm… what you feeling for?”
He (optimistic) “Ah feeling for a Beef Soup… it still have beef?”

The remaining seasoned beef from a fortnight ago was already being thawed to make a little stew, with its still green (and now ice tipped) bits of chive and ginger scattered across its length, filled with promise. Down below in the vegetable bin the carrots, onions, plantains and sweet potatoes seemed to look at me and say, “Hey, we ready yuh know…”

Returning from the fridge with the produce, my boy was already pulling out the pressure cooker.
I said, “Yeah man, plenty beef.” 

A little olive oil and "SHWAAAAAH!" Into the pot the beef went to brown.

2 leaves of Chadon beni (in the measuring cup), 4 pimento peppers, 2 stalks of chive (which I kept back) and a medium onion were chopped up.

In they went with the beef.

A cup of washed and soaked split peas joins the party….

Plus two cloves of garlic, chopped. Everything cooked for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Poured and stirred in about 8 cups of water.

Covered, locked and pressured it for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime, I prepared the other vegetables.

Green bananas were peeled and put to soak in a little water with lime juice; it stops discoloration.

Chopped up 4 yellow & white sweet potatoes, 5 regular potatoes and 2 carrots. The 2 plantains would be peeled last.

It’s 25 minutes later and the beef is soft and the split peas have burst. Already it’s smelling like good home cooked soup, but it’s not done yet.

In go the green bananas and the two sets of potatoes.

Next, the plantains and carrots. A good stir and…

Then my next ingredient, a packet of Grace beef and pumpkin soup. Really, the soup can stand on its own without it. But like my Granny before me, sometimes you just feel for the extra bits and bobs. Before it went in, I added an extra 2 cups of water since some was lost during the pressure cooking.

Lastly, a little chopped celery and the reserved chives, then back on a low flame to cook for 20 more minutes until all the vegetables have softened.

Ten minutes in… you’ll notice it hasn’t quite thickened up as yet, but it’s getting there.

All done! Poured myself a bowl and had a taste.

Want some? Here’s the full recipe:

Halcian’s Beef Soup

About 1 pound of beef, cut into cubes and seasoned
1 potspoonful olive oil (or soya oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 pimento peppers, chopped
1 cup of yellow split peas (washed and soaked for at least an hour or two)
2 cloves garlic
3 Maggi beef cubes
8 cups water
5 or 6 green bananas, peeled and rubbed with a cut lime & left whole
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 or 6 pieces
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 or 6 pieces
2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 packet of Grace Pumpkin and Beef soup
1 small stalk celery, chopped finely
2 stalks chive, sliced

  1. Brown the beef in the potspoonful of olive oil in your pressure cooker.
  2. Add the onions and pimentoes to the beef and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Strain the soaked split peas and add them to the pot, followed by the chopped garlic. Stir together and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Crumble in 3 Maggi beef cubes and pour in 8 cups water and stir. Cook under pressure for about 20 to 25 minutes until the beef softens.
  5. After this, add in the green bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, ripe plantains and carrots.
  6. Sprinkle in the packet of pumpkin and beef soup. Add another cup or two of water and stir, then add in the celery and chive and cook for 20 more minutes until the soup thickens. Serve piping hot, or just warm.
I don’t think I have to tell you that the soup was a huge hit. Everything just melded together in that pot and the smell that permeated the kitchen immediately brought me back to my childhood with Granny. My boy ate his with gusto, even though he wished that some eddoes, dasheen and yam could have gone into the pot as well. If it were month’s end, maybe… but those green figs held their own and cooked just perfectly, melting like butter with each spoonful. All in all, a filling, tasty and a comforting meal.
So, try it out and let me know how it went. Don’t forget to leave a comment or two so I’ll know you dropped by.
Till next I cook, take care of yourselves and like I always say… doh forget to mind the pot!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Leftover Love!

Greetings to you all!

I’m glad to report that healthwise, we are coming along slowly and are now in the process of going through the paperwork that comes with car accident – no fun. But the good news is that I am back to work, my hubbs is still recovering, and happily for me his appetite is back!
It was only last week that my good friend Hazel and her hubby took us to the supermarket (you two are a true blessing!) so I could re-stock the old food shelf & cupboard. However, it was a good thing that I didn’t decide to cook an elaborate meal, cuz grocery shopping is taxing on the brain and body. So instead, I chose something very simple; a little stewed beef, elbow (macaroni) pie, boiled rice and boiled plantains. I had also thawed out some frozen stewed lentils I had done in the pressure cooker some time ago and it tasted as good as the day they were made – don’t ask me which day I made them though… I honestly cannot remember, lol!

So, the weekend has begun, and the brain is ticking on what to make for breakfast.  Then, I remembered that a ‘vaps’ had kicked me and I had baked off a small tray of drumsticks some time ago, two of which were happily relaxing in the back of the fridge… and they were still good! (Woo-hoo!) So this would be the anchor of my Saturday breakfast… a scaled down version of my One Rotisserie Chicken Salad. Back when my Granny made it, though, she never called it chicken salad; for her it was ‘chicken spread’. No matter, it makes for an easy and tasty sandwich.

 So, let's get this party started! YEAH!!!

Simply take the meat off the bone using a knife... or you could do the Caveman thing and use your fingers... AAAAARRRRRRG!!!
Put the shredded chicken into a bowl with 1/2 a diced 'smedium' onion, 2 diced stalks of chive, 1 diced stalk of celery, a little chopped fresh parsley and a couple sprigs of thyme - just pull the leaves off and sprinkle them in. 
Now for the binder. My three main components are honey mustard (a squeeze), mayo (1/4 cup) and sweet relish (1 level tablespoon).

Into my mixing cup they went with a teaspoon each of lime juice and brown sugar.

Mixed it up and then reached for the Angostura bitters… yuh done know!

In it goes...

Mix it all together, then taste.

Needs some black pepper... though sometimes I would use a nice pepper sauce.

Voila! Yeah... I just couldn't help doing a little 'decorating' there, hahahaa!  Next, comes the making of my sandwich! :-)

I sliced a small tomato really thin...

Put them on one slice of warmed (not toasted) whole wheat bread...

I covered every inch of tomato...


Sorry guys… I couldn’t wait any longer, it's SOOOO GOOD!!!

The remaining 3 halves, with my portugal for dessert! 
Okay, truth. The plan was to make two sandwiches, cut them in four and arrange them nicely on the plate with a little garnish of chive and a couple sprigs of parsley. However, the smell - make that... AROMA - that these sandwiches were giving off was just too much for the ol’ Halcie… I gave in and ate one of the halves as you can plainly see, LOL!   

As I mentioned before, this recipe can be done using an entire rotisserie chicken and doubling or tripling the other ingredients accordingly, but back in the day, my Granny used a whole baked chicken for her chicken spread. This scaled down version will give you about 4 sandwiches, depending on how heavy your hand is with the filling. Here’s the full recipe:

2 chicken drumsticks or one very large chicken breast (baked or rotisserie)
2 or 3 small stalks chive (chopped)
½ a “smedium” onion (fine dice)
1 small stalk of local celery (chopped)
Fresh Parsley (minced)
Fresh thyme (just pick the leaves off)
¼ cup regular mayonnaise
A squeeze of honey mustard
1 level tablespoon sweet relish
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon lime juice
Angostura Bitters
Black pepper

How to put it together…
Strip the chicken from the bone and shred using a knife or your fingers. Place it into a bowl along with the chive, onion, celery, parsley and thyme. Set aside.
In a cup, mix up the mayonnaise, mustard, relish, sugar and lime juice with a dash of Angostura bitters. Pour the mayo mix into the chicken and fresh seasonings and mix well. Taste again, and add a dash of black pepper.
Serve it on hops or whole wheat bread, Crix or in a lettuce leaf if you’re feeling fancy, garnished with some parsley and chives.

So, here’s to another simple and fun meal in my kitchen. And as you're passing through, leave a little comment for me nah? Ask me questions or tell me what foods you'd like to see in future as well; I'll be sure to reply and give your suggestions a try on the blog for future postings.

Bye for now, my friends and like I always say… doh forget to mind the pot!