Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Here We Go!


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Happy Birthday, Scooter!

Four years ago, right about now, I was waking up and realizing that the 14th would be the day that Scoot would be joining us in the world. So, it seems appropriate that I'm still up getting things ready for his party day... and, that it's a very stormy night — in honor of the little stormbringer.

He wanted a "helicopter-drawing cake," and so here it is, in frozen buttercream transfer. He chose the many colors, and (with the help of his Papa) wants "pineapple cake with pineapple filling." The baking, etc. will have to be done later this morning, or in the afternoon... we'll see. Luckily, he and big sis will be a school for a few hours later today.

Happy Birthday, litttle E! You are my very favorite little fellow in the whole, wide world!
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa in Ski Goggles & Nutcracker Mice

Baked all weekend, and am just ready for some R&R now. Will post recipes (including one for the perfect Madeline cookies) when I have time (which might not be this week, judging from the calendar).
Italian Cucidatti (filled fig-orange-cocoa) cookies, Rugelach, Chocolate Cherry cookies, Play Dough cookie cutouts, Light Chai Shortbread Slices, Nutcracker Mice and Santa, Coconut Macaroons, Snickers-filled Peanut Butter cookies, Play Dough shaped-trees cookies, Madeline cookies, and Oatmeal Coconut cookies. That's all for now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hooray for Snow Cream!!

Last year we never got the chance to make this, so today we got busy on making a batch right after lunch!

Vanilla Snow Cream
Freshly scooped snow from the backyard...
Snow Cream
  1. Scoop up a big bowl of clean snow from your backyard, and bring it inside.
  2. Take a cup of cream, half-and-half or whole milk, a couple Tbs. of sugar, 1 tsp (or so) of real vanilla (and 1/2 tsp of real peppermint extract if you have it). Mix it all up until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Scoop snow into dessert bowls and pour "cream" on top!
  4. Enjoy!! Delish! (Can also top with whipped cream and sprinkles or crushed candy canes for an over-the-top snow cream sundae!)
  5. **I'm also tempted to try eggnog snow cream... doesn't that sound fabulous?!
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

A new look for an "old" tradition...

I didn't have the supplies on hand to make our regular rafter of turkeys, so I improvised. I mixed up a white cake mix, and added about 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and baked them in brown cupcake liners. Then, I whipped up a batch of buttercream, reserved some white and added cocoa powder to the rest (and some extra-fine ground cardamom).
Then, I dug around in the cupboards. I had some Anna's ginger cookies — perfect for the tails, and these great "ghost shaped" Halloween Jet Puff marshmallows (orange, white and brown in the bag), so I used two brown ghosts for the turkeys wings and cut an orange triangle of marshmallow for the beak. The wattle was a dried cranberry, and I piped white on for the eyes, and green star sprinkles (sideways) for the pupils of the eyes. They were a hit with the kiddos and the grandparents! And, delicious too!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cupcake Love!

Birthdays are coming up, and while I'll still be making Joel a cake (with lots of help from the kiddos), I decided to try some of Amanda's cupcakes. She's started up Sweet Charley B's Cupcakery in Olympia and is taking orders while trying to get a storefront opened. And, her husband works in Redmond, so was able to meet me for a convenient delivery.

We stopped at Jen's today for an early birthday celebration too, and I split the two dozen I bought so that she'd have a box. The Cherry Limeade's were delicious and as sweet as a super-tall Sonic Cherry Limeade. The frosting complements the cake perfectly. The kids adored these cute cakes and I thought the lime cake-base was spot-on—not too sweet, with an excellent flavor and texture.

The other dozen was Caramel Apple, and have a perfect vanilla cake-base filled with homemade apple-pie filling (Yum!) and topped with exquisite caramel frosting, then drizzled with caramel sauce. They were absolutely fabulous, and while I can never do as much frosting as is popular now on cupcakes... this frosting is hard to pass up.
Cupcake Flavors (and they're open to suggestions too)
  • Apple Pie
  • Candy Cane
  • Candy Corn (Yellow Cake with Honey Buttercream)
  • Caramel Apple
  • Carrot Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Cherry Limeade
  • Chocolate on Chocolate
  • Chocolate on Vanilla
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Chocolate Malt
  • Chocolate w/ Peanut Butter Frosting
  • Coconut
  • Fauxtess Chocolate Cupcakes (like everyone's classic childhood favorite)
  • Fudge Brownie
  • Hot Fudge Sundae
  • Lemon Blueberry
  • Maple Bar (Butter Cake with Maple Frosting)
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Mocha Chip
  • Pecan Pie with brown sugar butter cream
  • Orangsicle
  • Oreo Oreo’s
  • PB & J
  • Pumpkin Spice w/ Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Raspberry Cream
  • Red Velvet w/ Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Root Beer Float
  • Samoa (like the Girl Scout cookie... yellow cake, carmel frosting, toasted coconut and chocolate ganache)
  • S’Mores
  • Vanilla on Chocolate
  • Vanilla on Vanilla

All other frostings are made with a rich butter cream base to start.

**Note** Amanda is very allergic to strawberries. If you need a strawberry recipe please let them know in advance so they can find an alternate baker.

Call @ (360) 888-0416 or email zachandamanda@comcast.net to get some!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Very Merry Year: November

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month with something lovely from my kitchen.

And, this month, I just happened upon a new recipe that involved wrapping peanut butter cookie dough around a chunk of frozen Snickers candy and baking until golden-brown. I immediately knew who I must make these cookies for—John. He loves peanut butter as much as I do, and loves candy as much as Joel, so these cookies are absolutely perfect for him.

Oh, and he loves cookies too; and we all love him. It even says so in the birthday card that Madeline made for John (complete with rainbow, sunshine, tent, and people). He's a great friend, a fellow cook, hunting partner, fabulous (and very organized) traveling companion (who drives very well on the wrong side of the road -and car- through crazy round-abouts in the UK and Ireland), my best friend's husband... oh, and Madeline and Erik adore him. So, what better for a gift than these over-the-top cookies...

Happy Birthday, John!

Snickers Peanut Butter Cookies
(adapted from
here)
Makes about 26 cookies

Mini-size Snickers bars or large Snickers bar cut into bit-sized pieces
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1.5 c. flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Either unwrap the mini Snickers, or unwrap and cut up larger Snickers. Freeze until the cookie dough is ready.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment (or lightly spray with baking spray w/flour and wipe sheet with paper towel). Cream the butter and sugars in Kitchenaid until light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and combine, next add egg and vanilla, mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and blend to finish dough.
Scoop dough out of bowl with a large soup spoon, and flatten the dough in your hand. Place one frozen Snickers pieces in the center and wrap evenly, sealing around candy. Do about 6-9 cookies at a time. As many as nine will fit on a cookie sheet at a time as they do spread a bit. Keep additional candy in the freezer when you're not shaping cookies to go on a pan to pop in the oven. Bake for about 12-13 minutes. Cool on wire rack, and beware. These are delicious!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Slow Food

I recently needed to have dinner cooking while I was at the school volunteering in the late afternoon, and so I cooked up this keeper in the crock pot. It was originally from Allrecipes.com, but I've altered it so heavily, that it is now my own creation. And, there are no photos, because we scarfed it all down before evidence of the dish could be created.

Enjoy!!

Arroz Con Polo Limón


3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves or thighs
2/3 c. lime juice
4 c. chicken broth
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 Tbs. butter, melted
4 c. uncooked instant brown rice (= one box of Minute Rice - brown)

Put the chicken in the slow cooker; pour in the lime juice and chicken broth, add the garlic, cumin, pepper, and butter. Cover, and cook until the chicken is tender. Stir in the rice during the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

Cooks on Low 8-10 hours, on High 4-6 hours, or on High 2 hours if you pre-cook chicken in the microwave on 1/2 power for about 15 minutes, before adding to the slow cooker.

Serve with cubed avocado, diced onions, salsa, green chile sauce or sour cream on the side, fresh fruit, tortillas and a simple salad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Very Merry Year: October

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month with something lovely from my kitchen.

This month has been very busy with PTA, Girl Scouts, and other volunteering in both M and E's schools, which is why the October cookies are just being baked today. And, appropriately, the recipients of this month's cookies are both Madeline and Erik's classes for their Harvest and Halloween parties, respectively.I found the idea for the skeletons in Family Fun magazine, originally "Gingerbread Skeletons," but I went with a cut-out chocolate cookie recipe off Smitten Kitchen for the cookie instead. The second cookie recipe is a classic favorite of ours: Playdough Cookies, which I chose for their great taste and their sturdiness. Multi-colored leaves for M's class, and plain pumpkins for E's (with orange icing). Preschoolers will be frosting the pumpkins, so delicate sugar cookies are not the order of the day!Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peloton Cupcakes

Happy Birthday to Solomon!! This birthday dinner was the perfect opportunity to try out two healthier treats, side-by-side (literally) as Solomon's bike-race cupcakes.

First were Chocolate Beet Cupcakes as the road/race track. Yes, you read that right. Beet. And, yes, I really do love Solomon, he's one of the sweetest 4-year-olds I know (see, he needs no extra sugar!) These cupcakes have no white sugar in them, and they are delicious. I didn't trust the not-very-brown, and quite pink-ish batter of the original recipe, so I added one heaping Tablespoon of Scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa in with the flour in this recipe, and they were very chocolaty and delicious. I left the maple out of the cream cheese frosting too, going with vanilla instead, and these were great. The recipe is right here on Simple Bites.
I frosted lightly with the cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with black sprinkles (leaving a white "bike lane" stripe down the side), and topped with a racer (from The Cupcake Social on Etsy). They have the best supplies, and good prices. The liners are from TCS too. Love 'em!

Anyway, the second cupcake was the Chocolate Date Cupcake, which was the shoulder or dirt in this race, they they were amazing. They have no frosting, and they don't need it. They're sweet and chocolaty enough, and topped with chocolate chips and sugar (and nuts, it you want - we didn't), which forms a fabulous, bumpy topping of their own. Yum!

I of course, did not advertise the fact that the treats were filled with veggies and such, and all the kids gobbled up their cupcakes. Even Erik. My nearly-4-year-old. Haha Erik, you ate beets tonight. I'm totally going to sneak more veggies into your cupcakes now. Works like a charm.

The best part is that Solomon loved his cake! Happy Birthday, Somblin!! We love you!
Chocolate Date Cupcakes
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)
1 1/4 c. boiling water
1 (8 ounce) package chopped dates
2 c. flour
1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter (that's 1 and 1/2 sticks)
3/4 c. sugar (or 3/4 c. raw cane sugar)
2 eggs

Topping
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. white sugar (or raw cane sugar)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional - I did not use these)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the boiling water over the chopped dates in a Pyrex measuring cup. Set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the dry stuff. Add in the dates with all the soaking liquid, and stir until combined. Scoop batter into approximately 21 prepared paper-lined muffin cups.

In an another bowl, combine the chocolate chips and remaining 1/2 cup sugar (and nuts, if you wish). Sprinkle mixture over top of each cupcake and bake for 21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, October 22, 2010

TGIF: Monstertini

Ooooohhh.... OK, so this drink isn't really blue, but inverting the colors on the image gave it a fun, spooky look. If you want a frightfully delicious martini for your Halloween party, try a "Monstertini" (or maybe "Sour Pear Monster" is a more accurate name). I think I made this up, although I haven't searched for recipes yet... I was inspired by an orange rock-candy swizzle I picked up recently, and a sale on Odwalla Monster C, so mixed in a martini glass:

Monstertini (AKA Sour Pear Monster)

1 part Sour mix

1 part Absolut Pears
1 part Odwalla C Monster - Citrus C

In this case, the sour and Citrus C were cold from the fridge, so I skipped the shaker. I used one shot of each, but you could mix in larger quantities, and the rock candy swizzle was orange flavored, so that added to the drink. Tasty. Happy Friday, and you're welcome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hi Hats for Jamie and Conor's Birthdays!

When I saw Hi Hat Cupcakes on Bakerella's blog, I thought of Jamie. She loves chocolate-dipped soft-serve ice cream cones, which these cupcakes resemble. And, even though Jamie is in Japan for her birthday this year, I still felt the need to make these cupcakes, because I'm crazy like that. The only problem is that I have a lot of cupcakes now to get rid of... but, I think that will be easy enough to remedy.

Anyway, on to the Hi Hats! When I first read this recipe, I wondered about the physics of dipping the tall piped-on marshmallow "frosting" into the melted chocolate coating—really, how could that work?? And, it turns out that (for me at least) it was a comedy of errors...

Dip...

Really? Is this working??!
Wow...

Umm... no. Dang it!
Then, I put the pre-dipped cupcakes in the freezer for about five minutes while I let the melted chocolate coating cool completely (it was a little warm, but not hot before). And, then, it worked like a charm!
See? Beauty!
Oh, and since the chocolate cake here is gluten-free, and one of the recipients of these is a gluten-free and egg-free gal (unless the egg is baked into something), I made a handful of cupcakes with a chocolate ganache topping too (and some Halloween-y sprinkles for fun)!
Recipes are from Gluten-Free Girl, right here, and Bakerella (and Martha Stewart, really) right here and here.

And, best of all, they made for some happy kiddos this afternoon at Conor's 2nd birthday party!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pumpkin Spice

I made my mother-in-law's pumpkin bread, in mini-muffin form, for Madeline's class last week. They were a huge hit, and her friend Sgian said, "Madeline, these are the best muffins I've ever tasted! Thank you for bringing them!" He's such a little sweetheart.

He has good taste too, because they really do make amazing Pumpkin Spice muffins — moist and flavorful, with an excellent texture. And low fat too. Plus, to me, they taste like home. I imagine that's to be expected after enjoying this recipe during the holidays over the past seventeen years.

So, pick up some pumpkin and get these in the oven!

Amazing Pumpkin Spice Muffins (or Gramma/Lora's Pumpkin Bread)
makes 32 mini muffins, plus 8 regular-sized muffins

1 and 2/3 c. flour

1 and 1/3 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice


Mix the dry ingredients and then add:


1 c. pumpkin

1/3 c. oil (I used canola)

1/3 c. water

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs


Beat until combined, then bake in lined (or sprayed) muffin tins at 350-degrees F for about 17-22 minutes, depending on the size of your muffins (mini or standard). Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Miso Blocks" Bento

Erik's lunch on Thursday. He calls tofu "miso blocks" because it's the yummy little blocks in miso soup. This bento took about 3 minutes: Organic baked tofu (teriyaki flavor) from Trader Joe's, hoisin sauce, sliced pear and carrot (from the Farmers Market). Mmm...
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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Very Merry Year: September

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month with something lovely from my kitchen.

September is all about Back-to-School, and the snap of Autumn in the air, so I adapted my favorite Pumpkin Cookie recipe to Pumpkin Madelines! Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, fresh out of the oven, they are delish. And, we gifted all but one of the nearly seven dozen to: Madeline's bus driver (she said, "Wow! Pumpkin Madelines now? Boy, did I choose the right route to drive. Thanks!"), Grammy, Ruifen (Grammy's friend, who gave us some great hand-me-downs for Erik, from her son Yuyu, as well as a dress for M, and cool shirt for E from her recent trip to China), Jen and family (who reciprocated with some delicious apple bread), plus Ms. Terri's family. Phew!
And, we also made Cake Pops yesterday, and gifted those to all of our buddies who roasted hot dogs over the campfire with us last night. Ruifen, Yuyu and Grammy also got some clowns and pumpkins to go with their cookies. To learn all about making Cake Pops, check out the book Cake Pops by Angie Dudley, or go to her blog at www.bakerella.com.
For their part, the kids had a blast making the pops, and nearly all of them loved eating 'em too!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Healthier Fall Baking...

The recipes that I adapted are posted. Others can be found at WeightWatchers.com...

Mixed Berry Muffins with Broiled Marshmallow Fluff "frosting"
(inspired by Weight Watchers Blueberry Streusel Muffins)
(3 POINTS)

1 large egg
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. 1% milk, divided
1 c. flour
1 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 c. mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, etc.)
1 small jar of Marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 375ºF, and line 16-24 muffin pans. Beat sugar and egg until light and fluffy, then add sour cream and vanilla. When combined, add the dry ingredients, and half the milk to the mixer bowl, then blend. Add the remaining milk, mix, then fold in berries and scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.

Pipe Marshmallow Fluff on top of muffins, then broil until golden brown.

Gramma's Pumpkin Muffins
(2 POINTS)
Crackle Spice Drops and Chocolate Cupcake Brownies
(both recipes are 1 POINT/treat)

Crackle Spice Drop Cookies
(adapted from WW)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 stick butter
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a mixing bowl, on medium speed, beat butter with brown sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and spice.
Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into powdered sugar to coat, and bake until golden, about 8-9 minutes. Make 3-dozen cookies (1 cookie/serving).
Blueberry Streusel Muffins
(3 POINTS)
(adapted from WW)

2 1/4 c. flour, divided (1/4 c. for topping)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 large egg
1 c. sugar, divided (1/4 c. for topping)
3/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. 1% or skim milk, divided
2 c. blueberries
2 Tbsp butter, melted (for topping)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Place 16 muffin liners in muffin tins.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat egg with 3/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and beat until thoroughly combined; blend in vanilla extract.
Add half of flour mixture and half of milk to sugar mixture; beat until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and milk; beat until smooth.

Fold in blueberries and fill each muffin liner using large scoop; set aside.
To make streusel topping, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup each of sugar and flour. Pour in melted butter and combine with fingertips. Divide crumb mixture over muffins; gently press into top of muffin batter with fingertips.

Bake until slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool in pans for about 10 to 15 minutes and then transfer muffins onto racks to cool completely.
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