Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Recipe Favorites...

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

We were quite busy, having my parents up from California and visiting relatives in Washington.

I haven't been able to post, like I've wanted, so I put together a list of 12 recipes from 2013 that I absolutely loved making for the blog.

2013 Recipe Favorites
(Listed from the top left and clockwise)

1.) Cake Box Donuts

2.) Champagne Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

3.) Simple Garlic Cheesy Bread

4.) Chocolate Granola Squares

5.) 4th of July Cookie Sandwiches

6.) Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza

7.) No Bake Tropical Cheesecake

8.) Ghost Pudding Cups

9.) White Bean Turkey Chili

10.) Lemon Vanilla Bean Mousse

11.) Valentine Cupcake Surprise

12.) Carrot Cookies with Vanilla Maple Drizzle


I know, I know... many of these recipes are sugary, sweet... not ideal if you have a New Year's resolution to slim down. That's why I chose #6 and #9...... wink,wink!

Anyway, here's to 2014......

...... I hope it's a fabulous one!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Sugar Cookies...


 

As I was finishing up all of my baking, I needed one more type of cookie to add to the mix.

I decided on my great-grandma Berry's sugar cookie recipe. Honestly, I didn't want to roll the dough out and cut-out shapes, so I adjusted the recipe a bit. I only had butter shortening in the pantry, as the recipe originally calls for vegetable shortening.

Also, I decided on using a mixer, instead of my food processor, to cut in the shortening and cold water. Doing this allowed for the cookie dough to be fluffier. The result...

... amazingly light sugar cookies!

I mean, the original recipe is fabulous as is, but I was tight on time. Aren't we all this time of year!?!

So, if you'd like an easy sugar cookie recipe, try this one!

P.S. They are the perfect cookie for Santa...


Christmas Sugar Cookies

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Butter Shortening
  • 2 Whole Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Tablespoons Cold Water
  • Christmas Nonpareils 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F).

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, for easy clean-up. Pour the nonpareils into a small prep bowl; set aside. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, powder, soda, and salt to combine; set aside. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the sugar and shortening until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix. Finally, alternate adding the flour mixture and the cold water (one tablespoon at a time). Mix until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. 

Roll about a tablespoon of the cookie dough into a 1-1/2 inch ball, then dip the top into the nonpareils. Place on the cookie sheet, nonpareil side up. Continue with this process, placing the cookies about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are done. Cool a few minutes  on the sheet, then move to cooling racks to cool completely. Makes about 40 cookies. Store in an airtight container. 

Enjoy!

I'm posting this over on I'm Lovin' It.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Chewies...



It's that time of year again!

You know......

...... when the baking extravaganza begins!

At least in my house anyway.

I told my husband that I was not going to bake as many goodies as I did last year. Just enough to hand out to co-workers, friends, and neighbors... with some left over for us.

Not too sure if that's going to happen, but it's worth a try! Got to ease up on that Christmas time weight gain...... ya hear me?

Anyway, these cookies are perfect for cookie swaps. I'll give you three reasons why:

1.) Chewy on the inside
2.) Chocolatey with a hint of hazelnut
3.) Addictive

What great reasons to make these a part of your baking regimen this Christmas!


Chocolate Hazelnut Chewies

  • 1-3/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Butter Shortening
  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
  • 1 Whole Egg, Room Temperature
  • 3/4 Cup Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, Like Nutella
  • 1-1/2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Tablespoons Brewed Coffee, Cooled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

In a small bowl combine the flour, soda, and cocoa powder; whisk to combine, then set aside. In a large bowl, cream the shortening, granulated and brown sugars for a few minutes. Add the egg and combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in the chocolate hazelnut spread. Lastly, add the vanilla and coffee and combine. 

Using a tablespoon or so, roll the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. Place onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 minutes or until the chewies are done. Allow to cool a few minutes, then remove the chewies to a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes around 28 chewies.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins...

 

I know how busy and chaotic it can get during the holiday season!

So I thought I'd whip up an easy muffin recipe, because we all know, that this time of year we have many errands to run and a lot of shopping to do!

These muffins are also great to make Christmas Eve. You can have breakfast ready to go, while opening presents.

Not to mention they have cranberries as a main ingredient, which makes them festive as all get-out. Also, I love making my own cranberry sauce, so it's an ingredient I will have on hand anyway. Double score, if I do say so myself!

I love to give baked goods to my neighbors this time of year and these are perfect on an assorted goodie platter.

So...... get to baking!


Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Salted Butter, Softened
  • 3 Whole Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1-1/4 Cups Fresh Cranberries, Rinsed and Dried
  • 1 Cup White Chocolate Morsels
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).

Line muffin pans with 18 paper liners; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and powder; set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the sugar and butter in a medium or large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add in the vanilla. Next, alternately add in the flour mixture and the milk. Gently fold in the fresh cranberries and morsels.

Divide evenly between the muffin liners. Bake 20-22 minutes or until the muffins are done. Makes 18 muffins.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Oat Bites...




As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving, I'm getting in all the pumpkin consumption I can.

I mean, when do we usually eat foods that incorporate pumpkin? Around the Thanksgiving season, of course!

That is why I'm a baking fool of all things pumpkin right now. Not to mention it is one of my favorite ingredients of all time. Yes... of all time.

These are a bit similar to my Pumpkin Cookie recipe, just a bit dressed up. They qualify as dressed up because I topped them with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache = Dressed Up

Well, it's not a traditional ganache, since there isn't any heavy cream, and I didn't use a double boiler to heat the chocolate. I totally mickey moused it, since I only added shortening to the chocolate and used a microwave to heat it. Even though I took a shortcut on the ganache, it still tastes great.

Plus, they have oats all up in there. So, they pretty much qualify as healthy, too.

Oats = Healthy

That is a total and unequivocal fact.

So, are you getting your pumpkin fix this season?



Pumpkin Oat Bites

For the Cookies:

  • 2 Cups Cake Four
  • 2-1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
  • 1 Whole Egg, Room Temperature
  • 1 Cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/4 Cups Quick Oats
For the Ganache and Garnish

  • 1 Cup Milk Chocolate Morsels 
  • 1 Tablespoon of Shortening
  • 1/3 Cup Pecans, Chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).


In a small bowl, combine the flour, powder, salt, and ground spices; set aside.

In a medium or large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix to combine, then the pumpkin and extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.

Add in the flour mixture, in intervals of three, mixing between each addition. Finally, fold in the quick oats. The cookie batter will be thick. Drop the batter by tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are set.

Allow the cookies to cool a few minutes after pulling them from the oven, then transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely. Once the cookies are cooled, heat the chocolate morsels and shortening in a heat proof bowl in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between. Heat until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Spoon about a teaspoon or so, of the chocolate ganache onto the tops of the cooled cookie bites. Sprinkle a bit of pecans to garnish them. Allow the ganache to dry and set, about 20 minutes. Makes around 30 cookies bites.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

White Bean Turkey Chili...


 
Chili has to be one of my favorite dishes. You can add so many different spices and ingredients to customize the dish to your liking.

That's what it's all about.... making a dish your own.

Unless I'm following a certain recipe, I almost never make a soup, stew, or chili dish the same every single time. I may add more of this or less of that. I may also incorporate a new ingredient from time to time.

Cooking means allowing yourself to get creative in the kitchen. Once you have down the basics and different methods of cooking, you are limitless!

I think that's why I love it so much... along with the gratitude of feeding my family.

Tell me, why do you love to cook? Ponder, as you make this hearty and dare I say, healthy dish...


White Bean Turkey Chili

  • 1-2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, Finely Diced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/2 Pound of Ground Turkey
  • 1 Teaspoon Finely Ground Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder (I like to use Carroll Shelby)
  • 2 (4 oz.) Cans of Fire Roasted Diced Green Chilies, Mild
  • 1/2 C. Green Salsa, Mild
  • 2 (15.5 oz.) Cans of White Beans, Rinsed and Drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) Cans of Chicken Broth, Low Sodium and Fat Free
Heat the olive oil on medium/low heat in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the turkey; break it up into very small pieces and brown. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder; mix to combine the flavorings. Add the diced chilies and salsa; mix to incorporate. 

Allow the ingredients to simmer for 5 minutes so the flavors meld. Gently fold in the white beans and taste to adjust all the seasonings. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer the chili for 30 minutes. Serve with warm flour tortillas. Makes 4-6 servings. 

Enjoy! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cream Cake Owl Treats...




Finally our household is settling down. For a little while at least.

Soccer is wrapping up and volleyball is over. We can relax. That allows me the time to make fun seasonal treats!

It's the perfect time of year for whimsical food, as Halloween is right smack dab around the corner. I've seen a lot of owl themed treats on the blogosphere, but have to say, these from One Charming Party are adorable!

Taking inspiration from Brittany, I wanted to make owl treats that were no bake, because sometimes, you just don't want to hassle with it. Am I right!?!

Anyway, if you don't want to bake, but would like to conjure up a sweet treat... this is perfect for you!

Now, whoooo would like to make these little lovelies?


Cream Cake Owl Treats

  • Chocolate Covered Cream Cakes
  • Oreo Cookies, Original and/or Peanut Butter Filled
  • Reece's Pieces Candies
  • Chocolate Candy Melts

Begin by removing the amount of cream cakes that you are using from the packaging. Place them on waxed paper.

Separate the cookies, keeping the cream in tact on one side. Save the other half of the cookie, if you'd like. You can crumble them up to make pie crust later, if you so choose!

Place the candies in a bowl, so they are easier to grab. Then, melt the candy melts according to the package directions, until smooth. 

Using a spoon or frosting spatula, spread a small amount of the melted chocolate onto the cookies, where it will attach to the cream cakes. Place the cookies onto the cream cakes, so they look like the outline of owl eyes.

Next, take two candies (any color) and using a toothpick, apply a dab of melted chocolate onto the each of them. Place in the middle of the cookie center, onto the cookie cream.

Finally, take a third candy (orange) and dip one edge, into the melted chocolate. Attach in between the owl eyes, to look like an owl beak.

Let the melted chocolate set, and serve.

Enjoy!

I'm linking this post up to I'm Lovin' It...  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes...

 


Who is watching Sleepy Hollow on Fox channel?

This lady right here is.

I love supernatural genres and British actors. So, this is pretty much a win/win for me. Is the program a little corny? Yeah, just a little, but that makes it all the more enjoyable in my opinion.

For example, the Headless Horseman wreaks havoc, not only with his terrifying ax, but with a machine gun.

I won't give anymore away, just in case you would like to check it out... which you should totally do.

The original tale of Sleepy Hollow has always captivated me. I especially love reading or watching adaptations of it during this time of year.

I also love stocking my pantry with canned pumpkin this time of year. I cannot go without it during the fall. This is a fact.

This fall, I made some mini cheesecakes. Pumpkin... mini cheesecakes. They were to die for and a huge hit with the family.

You really should make them... and eat them. While watching Sleepy Hollow. I highly suggest it.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

For the Crust:

  • 10 Whole Graham Crackers, Finely Crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
For the Pumpkin Filling:

  • 2- 8oz. Bars Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1 Cup Canned Pumpkin
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 2 Whole Eggs, Room Temperature
  • Whipped Cream for Garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (F).

Begin by lining muffin pans with 20 cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, use a fork to mix the graham cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add the melted butter and mix. Divide the graham cracker crust mixture evenly between the 20 cupcake liners. Press the crust down firmly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese, pumpkin, and 1 cup of sugar with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla, then all the spices. Next, add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix once more. 

Pour the batter over the pressed crusts, dividing evenly. I used a small ice cream scoop for this step. Bake the cheesecakes for 25 minutes, or until the centers of the cheesecakes are barely set. Remove the muffin pans from the oven and cool completely. Finally, remove the cheesecakes from the muffin pans and chill at least two hours in the refrigerator. Dollop with whipped cream and serve. Makes 20 servings.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Apple Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze...

 


This week is Homecoming Week at my oldest daughter's high school.

First of all, I can't even believe that my oldest is in high school, but second, that she has a date to Homecoming this weekend.

A date.

There, I said it.

I can still remember my own high school experiences......
...... I'm not that ancient!

I'm excited for her to have her own, but a little sad that she is growing up so fast.

While she is having a blast at the dance, I'll be having a blast eating a piece of this cake. When I think of spice cake, apples, and brown sugar... I think of comfort food.

And who doesn't love comfort food!?!


Apple Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

For the Glaze:

  • 1-1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream, Room Temperature
  • 1-1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1 Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
For the Cake:

  • 1 White Cake Boxed Mix (16.5 oz), Plus Ingredients Listed
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1 Can Apple Pie Filling (21 oz)


In a large heavy duty saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar and cream. Heat on medium high and add the butter and salt. Continue to heat until the mixture comes to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to boil for 3 minutes, while stirring. Take off the heat, and chill in the refrigerator.  


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).

Grease and flour a large bundt pan well, set aside. 

In a large bowl combine the cake mix, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the rest of the ingredients listed on the box and mix according to the directions. Gently fold in the apple pie filling. 

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan as evenly as possible. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. 

Using a spatula, spread the chilled brown sugar glaze over the cake, covering completely. Store any extra glaze in the refrigerator. It tastes great as a fruit dip!

Dollop whipped cream on top or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This cake makes 8-10 servings.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ghost Pudding Cups...





I know you have probably seen treats similar to these all over the web, but dang gone it, I wanted to make some too!

I am so happy I did!

They were so very easy to make. It took no time at all to draw a ghostly face on the plastic cups and prepare the instant pudding. Then, all you do is pour and chill! Easy, easy, easy!

You could definitely have school age kids draw the faces... and prepare the pudding... they could pretty much make these all by themselves!

These pudding cups are perfect to make if you are in quick need of a class party treat...  or keep them on hand this October as a fun afternoon snack for when the kids come home from school!

Ghost Pudding Cups

  • Small, Clear, Plastic Cups
  • Sharpie Markers, Black and/or Various Colors
  • Instant Vanilla Pudding and Ingredients Listed on Box* 
Begin by drawing ghostly faces on the plastic cups with the marker(s). Make the vanilla pudding according to the package directions. Pour the pudding into the plastic cups and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

* The amount of pudding needed will vary on the size of the plastic cups and the amount of servings you would like to make. 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Autumn Pear Salad with Balsamic Pomegranate Vinaigrette...

 


I really love the fall.

The kids are off to school.

I love the crispness in the air.

I get to bake more.

Oh, let me count the ways.... but I won't. We'd be here all day!

Not only do I love all that comes along with fall, but I also love to make salads. I love them because you can turn something so basic as lettuce or mixed greens, into a fabulous creation!

I bought some pears at the store, and some Gorgonzola, and I thought, "What to do with these delicious ingredients?" Immediately I thought of a salad. Something for fall.

This is what I came up with and it's wonderful... if I do say so myself.


Autumn Pear Salad

  • Baby Romaine Greens, Mixed
  • 5-4 Fresh Un-Peeled Pear Wedges
  • Walnuts, Roughly Chopped
  • Gorgonzola Cheese, Crumbled

Balsamic Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
  • 1 Tablespoon Pomegranate Infused Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Good Quality

On a serving plate for one, place a large hand full of greens. Add the pear wedges, then the walnuts and Gorgonzola to taste. Set aside.

For the vinaigrette, add all of the ingredients to a small mason jar. Attach the lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Makes 4 oz. of vinaigrette. Drizzle a tablespoon or so, over the salad.  

You can easily double this recipe for a family sized salad. You can also mix the vinaigrette into the salad (to taste) first, toss, then add the other toppings. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cake Box Donuts...

 

This week was Back to School Week for our family. Both girls are in sports this fall as well. So, needless to say we have been pretty busy!

That last stretch of summer vacation seemed to fly by... I cannot believe that my youngest is now in the 4th grade! Even more unbelievable......

...... I have a FRESHMAN in high school!

I am so excited for her, since I have wonderful memories of my high school experience, but I am a bit depressed about it. I mean, it seems as if she were a little baby just yesterday... my 4th grader as well! Where does the time go? In four years, which I'm sure will fly by as well, she will hopefully be off to collage and my youngest will be off to high school.

Inconceivable! (Name that movie)

Hey, my girls getting older, means that I'm get older. Yikes! Denial, anyone?

So, I thought that these lovely treats would help make it all better.  Boy, was I was right!


Cake Box Donuts

  • 1 Cup, Half and Half
  • 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 Boxed Vanilla Cake Mix (15.25 oz)
  • 1 Egg, Room Temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Vegetable Oil, For Frying the Donuts
  • 1 Candy Thermometer 
  • 1-1/2 Cups Cinnamon Sugar, For Coating the Donuts 
Begin by measuring the half and half in a cup, then add the vinegar. Let it sit 15-20 minutes.

Attach the candy thermometer to a medium saucepan. Add the vegetable oil, until it fills the saucepan an inch or so above half way. Turn the heat on to medium low.

Add the cinnamon sugar to a bowl for coating, then cover a large plate with paper towels. Set both aside. 

Add the boxed cake mix to a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the half and half mixture, egg, and vanilla until combined. 

Once the candy thermometer reads between 350 to 375 degrees, use an 18/8 sized ice cream scoop to begin adding the donut batter to the oil. After scooping the batter, add it to the oil carefully. Only add three or four individual scoops of the batter to the oil. You don't want to over crowd the saucepan. 

Using a hand held Asian strainer... similar to this one... gently move the donuts around for 3-5 minutes, or until the donut is fully cooked. To determine cooking time for all the donuts, you can pull one from the first batch out at 3 minutes and cut it open to check. If it is not fully cooked, leave the others in a minute or two longer. Also, make sure the oil temperature stays between 350 to 375 degrees.

Once cooked, remove the donuts, gently shaking off any access oil, and then dropping into the cinnamon sugar to coat. Place the coated donuts onto the paper towel covered plate to catch any more oil. 

Continue this process until all the batter is used up. Makes around 40 donuts. 

Enjoy!



I'm linking this post to I'm Lovin' It. Head on over and check out all the great link-ups!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No Bake Tropical Cheesecake...



It's August...... I cannot believe another school year is upon us! I have one daughter entering the 4th grade and another entering high school...... yikes!

To celebrate that last hurrah of summer......

....... a pie.

...... a tropical pie.

...... a tropical cheesecake pie. Yes, a cheesecake/pie. They exist.

...... and it's NO BAKE!

...... and the recipe title rhymes. You should make it and consume it, for that reason alone.

So, you hooked now?


No Bake Tropical Cheesecake

  • 2- 8oz. Packages of Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/3 Cup Regular or Light Sour Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Pineapple Coconut Juice
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1- 8oz. Can of Crushed Pineapple, Drained
  • 1- 11oz. Can of Mandarin Oranges, Drained
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut
  • 4oz. Cool Whip, Thawed (About half of the container)
  • 2- 6oz. Prepared Graham Cracker Crusts or a Baked Pastry Pie Crust
Garnish (optional): Cool Whip and *toasted shredded coconut.

Using a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, juice, and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, pineapple, oranges and coconut. Mix well.

Fold in the whipped topping. Divide the filling between two prepared pie crusts. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped topping and toasted coconut.

* To toast coconut:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Place the desired amount of shredded coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven, to brown. It will not take very long, so watch carefully. You do not want it to burn! Remove the cookie sheet carefully and allow the toasted coconut to cool.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

4th of July Cookie Sandwiches...




I'm back with something easy and sweet for your 4th of July BBQ!

You won't believe how simple and cute these cookie sandwiches are......
...... seriously!

The colors are a fun red, white, and blue... perfect for celebrating Independence Day!

I love to use a boxed cake mix... just to make my life easier, especially when entertaining. The cookies can be made a day ahead and stored until you are ready to pipe on the filling and sandwich them a few hours before your guests arrive. A definite time-saver.

Plus, they are a great treat to eat while watching fireworks!


4th of July Cookie Sandwiches

For the Cookies:

  • 1 Box, Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 2 Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Salted Butter, Softened
  • 1 Tablespoon, Pure Vanilla Extract
For the Filling:

  • 4 Cups Vanilla or Cream Cheese Frosting, Divided
  • Blue Food Coloring Gel
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). 

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix the cake mix, eggs, butter, and vanilla until combined. Using a tablespoon, scoop the dough and shape into balls. Place onto parchment lined cookie sheets, 2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until just set, not burning. Remove and cool a few minutes before transferring the cookies to cooling racks. Makes about 2 dozen cookies. 

After dividing the frosting into two separate bowls, use the blue food coloring gel, as desired, to color the frosting in one of the bowls. Using a large disposable piping bag, fit it with a 1M swirl tip and coupler. Then, spoon the white frosting into a small disposable piping bag, filling about half way. Do the same in another small disposable piping bag with the blue frosting. Snip both tips of the piping bags. Enough so that the frosting can easily pipe out.  

Place both small piping bags into the large bag and twist shut. Here is a great tutorial from Our Best Bites on how to pipe swirled frosting. Turn the cookie over so the flat side is up. Then begin piping a large rosette by starting in the center of the  cookie and swirling it outward, covering the entire surface. Top with another cookie to sandwich the frosting in the middle. Makes about 12 cookie sandwiches.

Enjoy!

I'm linking this post up to I'm Lovin' It!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tropical Breakfast Smoothie...

 


I am on a smoothie kick these days.

They are super simple and healthy, depending on the ingredients, of course. They are great for breakfast, since you can drink them on the go. We are always in a rush in the morning, so it works for us!

I have found frozen fruit to work great in smoothies. You can divide big bags up into plastic snack pack bags for individual servings! Just grab and add the frozen fruit to the blender... such a time saver!

I've also gone crazy for Coconut Oil... you can cook with it AND use it as a beauty product. I have used it on my skin, but haven't tried it in my hair. It keeps my skin soft and it smells wonderful!

I've found that when I use it in smoothies, it keeps me full and satisfied the entire morning until lunch-time... no unhealthy snacking!

Something else I've found and love...... Coconut Water! It's refreshing, low in calories, fat and cholesterol free, and is a fabulous hydrator!

Combine the two, plus a few other healthy ingredients and it makes one delicious, guilt-free smoothie!




Tropical Breakfast Smoothie

  • Tropical Fruit Blend, Frozen
  • 1 Banana
  • 2 Heaping Tablespoons of Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon, Extra-Virgin Non-Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Water
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Makes 1 serving. 

Enjoy!

* I just have to note, that I am not a nutritionist or doctor, but have found these ingredients to work for me. This smoothie has coconut ingredients and you may want to substitute those ingredients with others if you have a coconut allergy. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Movie Themed Birthday Party...




I've been pretty busy around here planning two Birthday parties, both within a few weeks of one another.

My youngest wanted to have a party at the Movie Theatre, but there wasn't anything appropriate for kids playing this past weekend, so I decided we should show a movie at our home.

Aren't these tissue paper tassels adorable!?! I hung them, along with strands of "Admit One" tickets from the chandelier above our kitchen table.

(I'll have all the party references listed for you at the bottom of the post.)




It was my first time making "popcorn" cupcakes and I was very pleased with how they turned out! I found these cute popcorn bags at the dollar store and thought they would be great as goodie bags for the kids. I filled them with candy, microwavable popcorn bags, and glow sticks, then used double sided tape to stick an "Admit One" ticket to secure it shut... perfect for our guests to take home and have their own movie night!




I found a roll of paper tickets at Staples and knew they would be perfect for decorating!




To make the "Admit One" ticket skirt, I measured out the length of my buffet and tore strands of the tickets, so that they would cover it all the way down to the bottom. I then used double sided tape and taped them along the boarder. I also made a "Concessions" banner (not shown... the photo was too dark) out of card stock and letters I printed off of my Word program to mount on each piece of card stock. I then punched a few holes in each piece of card stock with a puncher and strung white ribbon through to hang above the buffet.

I provided candy, popped fresh popcorn on the stove for the kids, and had lemonade in disposable plastic cups with lids and stuck an adorable paper straw in the drink. The kids were free to choose their concessions while they watched the movie!



I think it turned out pretty darn well!

Party Supplies

I don't have the invitation I used to show you, but here is a link to Greeting Island, and the exact invitation I was able to customize and print for FREE! 

"Popcorn" Cupcakes How-To

For the "popcorn," take freshly bought mini marshmallows and, using kitchen scissors, snip the tops. For a variety, snip anywhere from 2 to 4 snips in the marshmallows. Working one at a time, I piped buttercream frosting onto chocolate cupcakes, then placed 6-8 snipped marshmallows on each cupcake. I then displayed the cupcakes on a cupcake stand. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading about this Movie Party... I know I had a blast putting it together and I know the kids had a fun time attending! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza...




I'm trying to eat a bit healthier around this place, but there are just some things a girl CAN'T give up.

Pizza.

As I was grocery shopping a few weeks back, I saw a canister of artisan pizza dough. I had to try it out. Then I started thinking about what toppings I could put on it, without it getting too fatty boom ba latty.

I decided on parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. Oh my!

Not only did it taste good, it looked gourmet.... well, I thought it did. Anyway, I think I'll explore my pizza making skills again..... and soon..... very soon.

I think I've found a new calling...

Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza

  • 1 Canister of Artisan Pizza Dough
  • 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, Plus Some for Greasing
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, Shredded
  • 7 oz. Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Drained
  • 3/4 of a Jar of Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil, Drained
  • 4 oz. Soft Goat Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to Taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F).

Grease a large cookie sheet with a bit of olive oil. Take the pizza dough out of the canister and unroll it onto the cookie sheet. Gently push it out to cover most of the surface, without stretching it too thin. Pre-bake in the oven for 8 minutes. 

When ready, carefully remove the pizza crust from the oven (it will be hot). Brush the surface with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese, the artichoke hearts (breaking them up if needed), and the sun dried tomatoes onto the crust. Finally crumble the goat cheese on and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 13 to 17 minutes or until the edges are browned and the cheese is somewhat melted. Makes 6-8 servings.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 6, 2013

DIY Chalkboard Flower Pot for Teacher Appreciation...

 


Teacher Appreciation Week is upon us and I always enjoy creating something for my kids to give as a "Thank You" to their teachers.

It's always nice to show our teachers how grateful we are for them. After all, they are with our children most of the time during the school year. Without their dedication we wouldn't have doctor's, lawyers, performers, artists, or entrepreneurs....... and there are many more jobs/careers besides the ones listed, of course.

Teacher Appreciation Week runs through May 10th, so there's still time to whip up a little something! This flower pot is super simple and of low cost. I spent less than $10.00 for this gift!

I hope you'll try your hand at this economical and simple DIY gift...

Supplies:

  • Terracotta Pot, Small or Medium Size
  • Painters Tape
  • Chalkboard Spray Paint
  • Potting Soil
  • Flower, Any kind
  • String or Washi Tape
  • Two Pieces of Chalk, White or Colored
Begin by removing any price stickers from the terracotta pot and tape off the rim with painters tape. Shake the chalkboard spray paint according to the directions before use. In a well ventilated area, on either a large piece of cardboard or a tarp, spray the untaped area of the pot, using short sweeping strokes. 

Allow the paint to dry, about 15-20 minutes, then apply a second coat. If you don't have the entire area of the pot covered, wait another 15-20 minutes, then apply a third coat. This will depend on how big your pot is. It should only take two coats for the chalkboard paint to be ready to write on. 

Plant your flower using some potting soil. After wiping any soil that has dirtied the finished pot, have your child write a message with a separate piece of chalk. Attach an unused piece of chalk with either string or washi tape.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turkey Quesadillas...

 


I hope you are all gearing up for Cinco de Mayo, this year! I really do try to make something festive for the Mexican holiday.

Other than eating Mexican Cuisine growing up... on this holiday and all the time... we didn't celebrate it any other way. Researching the holiday, I found that Portland has an awesome festival or fiesta.

I'm definitely going to try and talk my husband into venturing into the city for this one (he can't stand crowds). Personally, I think it would be a blast!

Any spectacular Cinco de Mayo events taking place near you?

If not, say you'll celebrate by making these tasty quesadillas...

On a side note, please excuse my photo, I didn't realize when I took it, that my camera was on the wrong setting... yikes! While editing, I noticed how grainy the photo was, and I was out of ground turkey. So, that was that!

Have a festive Cino de Mayo!

Oh, you may also want to try this, or this, or this!


Turkey Quesadillas

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Pound Ground Turkey
  • 1 Small Onion, Finely Diced
  • 2 Mini Red Peppers, Finely Diced
  • 2 Mini Orange Peppers, Finely Diced
  • 2 Mini Yellow Peppers, Finely Diced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt or Regular Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I like to use Carroll Shelby)
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth, Low Sodium
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Mexican Style Cheese, Shredded
Begin by heating the olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan on medium heat. Cook the onion and peppers until soft, then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant; don't burn the garlic. Add the ground turkey, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. 

Brown and crumble the turkey in the vegetable mixture; about 10 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the stock reduces, but the turkey mixture is still moist and finished cooking. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.

To make the quesadillas, heat a griddle or comal on medium/low heat. Take a flour tortilla and place it on the hot griddle/comal. Add a little (or a lot) of shredded cheese, ground turkey mixture, then shredded cheese again. Place another tortilla on top. Once one side of the quesadilla is browned, flip and brown the other side. Cut in fourths and serve with salsa, guacamole, and/or sour cream. 

Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Strawberry Lime Soda Slushy...

 

I'm a Fall kinda-girl, but after living in the PacNorWest for almost a year now, I am soooo ready for Spring, and Summer, for that matter!

The birds are starting to chirp, I'm seeing baby lambs and calves around and about, and THE SUN IS SHINNING!

Hallelujah!

Whatever season, I love incorporating those ingredients into my recipes, and because I'm so excited for warmer weather, I decided to incorporate strawberries and lime into a recipe.

When I think of warmer weather, I think of slushy-like drinks and refreshing drinks. This drink is just that!

There is a sweetness from the strawberries and the lime will certainly quench your thirst. Another great tidbit about this slushy is that it only has 4 ingredients!

What foods or drinks do you like to make/eat/drink in warmer weather?

Please ponder, while sipping on one of these slushies...


Strawberry Lime Soda Slushy

  • 16 oz Frozen Container of Sliced Sweetened Strawberries, Thawed
  • 1 Lime, Zested and Juiced, Plus Lime Wedges
  • 1 Cup Lime Soda
  • 2 Cups of Ice Cubes
In a small heavy duty saucepan, combine the strawberries, lime zest and juice. Cook on medium low heat and bring to a boil, lower the heat as needed. Once the mixture has reduced down to about half of what you started with, and has thickened a bit, remove from the heat and cool. Makes about a cup of syrup.

To make the soda slushies, add the strawberry lime syrup, the lime soda, and ice cubes to a blender. Blend on high until well combined. Pour into cups, and using one lime wedge per cup, squeeze the lime juice into the slushy and stir. Makes about 4 cups.

*If you want it even slushier, add more ice to the blender. 

Enjoy!

I'm sharing this post on I'm Lovin' It!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DIY Photo Board for Food Photography...

 


A few months ago, I decided to make my own photo board to use for all of my food photography. Honestly, it was sooo much easier than I thought it would be!

I wanted a simple DIY project that did not include me building anything. This photo board was completed in only a few simple steps......

...... SCORE!

Mama loves an easy project! I still need to get in gear and finish three other boards. I'm planning on making a white board, a teal blue board, and an espresso stained board.

Let's start off with what you will need!

Supplies:

  • One, 2ft. x 4ft. piece of plywood, cut in half to make two, 2ft. x 2ft. square boards. 
Home Depot will cut the wood for FREE! I bought two pieces of plywood and had them cut, to total four boards.
  • Sandpaper and/or a sanding block. 
The roughness of the plywood will determine what sandpaper you use. I used 120 (medium) grit and 220 (finishing) grit.

  • Tack cloth.
  •  Non-toxic acrylic paint, one base coat color and one accent color.
I used Delta Creative Ceramcoat Acrylic Paint in Pearl Finish for my base and Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Paint in Wet Cement for my accent.
  • Paint brush or a large foam brush.
  • An old (clean) rag or old (clean) t-shirt.
  • Safety glasses and a sanding respirator
You certainly don't want any of the sanding particles getting in your eyes or lungs!

Instructions:

1.) Sand the best side of the board and the sides of the board down, starting with the lowest grit of sandpaper. Sand until smooth and there aren't any more splinters. Finish sanding with the higher grit of sandpaper.

2.) Wipe the surface of the sanded board with a tack cloth, or other clean cloth, to get any fine sanding particles off before painting.

3.) Using a paint brush, paint the board using the base coat, in long strokes. Painting with the grain of the board. If applying a second coat, allow the paint to dry completely.

4.) Either on the first coat or second coat (depending on how many coats you apply) of the base coat, when it is still a bit tacky, apply the accent color using the rag or t-shirt. Squeeze small amounts of the accent color in different areas of the board and wipe along the grain of the board. Apply the accent color in as many areas as you like.

5.) Allow the board to dry completely before using.

Now how easy is that!?!

I don't have an exact total on the cost... since I can't find my receipts. I already had the paint brush, tack cloth, and respirator, so those were of no cost. With the cost of the other items, I'm pretty sure I spent around $28 for this project. That includes the other half of the unfinished plywood. So with the cost of some other paint, you have potentially two finished boards!

This project is so worth it if you do a ton of food photography! Now, to get to those other boards.....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Three Cheese Macaroni...




Is anyone else out there finding it hard to fit in all the TV shows they like to watch!?!

I most definitely am. Yes, we do have a DVR, but there are just so many great shows that have premiered, I can't keep up with them all.

I am a TV fanatic. The good in that is I do know a lot of TV trivia. The bad in that is I obviously could be doing something a little healthier, oh say, working out!

Here are some of the shows I'm watching this season:

Jeopardy

This is a nostalgic one for me. My grandparents would watch this every night, followed by Wheel of  Fortune. They would go out to dinner every Saturday night and stop by our house to visit. We would all watch Jeopardy together, while my sister and I would snack on the left-overs my grandma would bring back from the restaurant.

Dance Moms

Don't ask me why, but I love that crazy dance teacher Abby Lee Miller and those crazy dance moms. I guess I'm a sucker for mama drama... not in my life, of course.

The Voice

I wasn't so sure about Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera leaving the show, and how that would affect the dynamic between all of the judges, but after watching, I LOVE Usher and Shakira as their replacements! It's a great program to watch with the family.

Game of Thrones

Definitely NOT a program to enjoy with the family! This is strictly for mature audiences. It has a wonderful plot and so many diverse characters. The book series, of which the TV series is based on, are very entertaining and the TV series closely follows the storyline of the books. 

Mad Men

Oh how I love thee. A throwback to a time before I was even born, but somehow I feel like I can relate to the characters in a way. When watching I feel like I'm apart of the story.

Call the Midwife

Did I ever mention that I use to want to go into nursing. Yeah, I did, but my fear of needles pretty much ruined that one for me. Anyway, the interaction between the characters and their personal stories keeps me coming back for more.

That's not all of them either, but I won't delve into all of my favorite shows any further. We'd be here all day! For real.

Well, maybe one other mention that premieres soon...... The Killing. It's dark and dreary, but exciting too... a great who done it!

Something you can definitely find time for though......

...... this macaroni recipe.


Three Cheese Macaroni

For the macaroni:

  • 1 Pound Uncooked Large Pasta Shells
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Good Quality Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, Finely Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 4 Tablespoons Four
  • 4 Cups 2% Milk
  • 1 Cup Colby Jack Cheese, Shredded, More if Needed
  • 1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded, More if Needed
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded, More if Needed
  • 1-1/2 Teaspoons, Fine Sea Salt or Regular Salt
  • 2-3 Pinches Fresh or Ground Nutmeg

For the topping:

  • 1/2 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan
  • Good Quality Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (F).

Prepare the topping. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and parmesan together and set aside.

Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta shells according to the al dente instructions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil on medium heat in a large saute pan, then add the diced onion. Cook until transparent. Add the garlic and cook a few seconds, or until fragrant, do not burn. Turn the heat down to medium/low. Add the flour and coat the onion and garlic. Cook about a minute, stirring all the while.

Begin alternating 3 cups of the milk with the three different cheeses, whisking continuously, and adjusting the heat, lowering if needed. Once the 3 cups of milk and cheeses are combined, slowly whisk in the last cup of milk. Add a little more of the cheeses if the sauce needs to thicken. Keep whisking until the cheese sauce is smooth and coats a spoon, dripping only a little, season with the salt and nutmeg then remove from the heat. 

Add the drained pasta shells to the cheese sauce and coat well. Transfer the mixture to a 13x9 dish and top with the bread crumb parmesan mixture. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly and hot. Serve with a salad and/or bread and butter.

Enjoy! 

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