Black Forest Cookies

I'm back! Thanks Big C, for covering for me while I was busy making boring "grown-up" food (chicken cordon bleu, crab-stuffed pork loin, and chicken tikka masala in case anyone was wondering :)).

I made up these little cookies last week for a "cake mix bake-off" with some girlfriends, they were delicious! They're perfect for parties and look beautiful wrapped up on a plate as a gift. Even better, you can make them in a snap!

Black Forest Cookies
1 box chocolate cake mix (we like chocolate fudge)
1 egg
1/2 c. butter, softened (that's one stick)
1 can cherry pie filling
buttercream icing (recipe below)
chocolate sprinkles, optional (you can find them near the ice cream toppings or in the cooking aisle)
note: this recipe uses about half the can of cherry pie filling, so I usually double it and use the whole can.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, egg, and butter in a medium bowl until well blended and stiff dough forms. Roll into 1" balls and set on greased cookie sheet. With your thumb, make an indentation on each ball.
Open pie filing and place one cherry and a bit of sauce in each cookie's indentation.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set. Cookies will spread when baking. Cool completely.
Put frosting in a pasty bag with a star tip (or a ziploc bag with the end snipped off). Make a circle of frosting around the cookie's center and garnish with sprinkles. Yum!
Basic Buttercream Icing:
1 cup butter, softened (use vegetable shortening when pure white icing is needed)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla or other desired flavoring
2 pounds confectioners' sugar (about 5 cups)

Cream butter until smooth. Add about 1 c. sugar at a time, alternating with a little milk. Blend well. If stiffer icing is needed, or if the weather is very warm, add a little extra sugar. This recipe is enough to cover and fill a 9 by 13-inch sheet cake or 2 (9-inch) layers.


Spooky Snake Pizza

Hi everyone, it's guest blogger Big C! Gourmet Mom is busy preparing for a crowd of company so I guess it's up to me to keep the kitchen rolling. I thought I'd share my idea for an easy Halloween dinner--I whipped it up after school yesterday in just a couple minutes!
Spooky Snake Pizza
4-6 plain bagels (depends on how many you are feeding)
Pizza sauce (I used leftover spaghetti sauce!)
Pizza toppings (I used pepperoni)
2 green olives, for eyes
red pepper piece (for toungue)
Cut bagels in half then place on baking sheet to resemble a twisty snake. Cut the last bagel in half again to resemble the snake's pointy head. (Eat the extra half for an after-school snack:)) Spread with pizza sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Add two olive eyes and a red pepper tongue. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch it slither away at the dinner table!
Check out my quick tutorial!


Not Your Mummy's Meatloaf

We're getting into the Halloween spirit around here and I found a half-open box of lasagna noodles in the pantry, so we decided to dress up tonight's meatloaf. The result was spoooooooky!

Not Your Mummy's Meatloaf
Meatloaf Ingredients:
2 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey (you can cut this down, but I wanted a large meatloaf so we could have sandwiches tomorrow, yum!:))
3/4 c. crushed Wheaties Cereal
1/4 c. ketchup
2 T. Mustard
2 eggs
1 T. grape jelly (weird, but it's awesome, I promise!)
1 C. finely shredded carrots
Garlic salt, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish Ingredients:
6-8 lasagna noodles, cooked
ketchup (optional)
2 slices cheese, any kind
2 green or black olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Mix all meatloaf ingredients well in a large bowl. Press into a glass bowl (make sure it's ok for the oven) and bake for 60 minutes or until center is done.
When completely cooked, Drain any fat off the meatloaf and turn onto a serving pan. Spread with a thin layer of ketchup, if desired. Cut cheese slices into circles and place on meatloaf as the "eyes".
Cut the cooked lasagna noodles in half then trim the edges so the "scallops" are cut off. Place them randomly across the meatloaf, cutting of extra and using it to fill in spaces. This is a great job for the kids, you want the bandages to look "messy"!:)
Add two olives for eyes and serve!


10 Minute Doughnuts

10 minute doughnuts?? Oh, yes!!! These are also called Semi-Homemade Doughnuts but for some reason I feel better about myself if I don't use the words "Semi-Homemade". We made these. At home. Ha!
Little C and Baby H were sleeping when Big C came home from school. She wanted to whip up a dessert for dinner and I remembered this recipe from Make and Takes (her blog is fabulous). All you need are a few ingredients. This was a fun way for us to have an after-school chat.

Fastest Doughnuts in the West
--1 can biscuit dough (or homemade if you're feeling wild)
--Small circle cutter (we used a water bottle or you could use the cup that comes with Children's Tylenol)
--1/2 cup cooking oil (we like Smart Balance)

Garnish (choose your favorite):
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Cinnamon Sugar
Powdered Sugar glaze (mix powdered sugar with a little water and lemon juice until desired consistency)

Put oil in a large skillet and turn on medium high heat. If you are using a very large pan, you may want to add more oil, you want the doughnuts to be half covered with oil when cooking. Open biscuit can and separate onto a cutting board. Using circle cutter, cut out the center of the biscuits (be sure to cook the centers, too, for tasty doughnut holes!). Big C wanted to do a tutorial:

Place doughnuts a few at a time in oil, watch carefully and turn over when bottoms are browned.

Place on a baking rack with paper towels underneath it or drop in cinnamon sugar. Garnish as desired. We went with half of them cinnamon sugar and half a powdered sugar glaze with sprinkles. We gobbled up the doughnut holes and saved the doughnuts for dinner. Big C was so proud to share her special dessert! So, grab a can of biscuits and enjoy some after-school chattin'!:)


Cheesy Mini-Pumpkins

I saw a big cheeseball pumpkin in a magazine and thought, "how about mini ones for party appetizers or after-school snacks?". We whipped up a batch today and they were gobbled up! Use any cheeseball recipe you like, we just picked something easy since my kids are big Ranch fans. These would be absolutely adorable at a Fall Party!!!
Cheesey Mini-Pumpkins
makes about 20

2 pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 package Ranch dressing mix
1 C. shredded cheese, any kind (we used a Mexican blend)
1 C. crushed cheese crackers
Green Onion, for garnish
Green Pepper, for garnish

Mix cream cheese, ranch dressing mix, and shredded cheese in a bowl until combined. Take a heaping spoonful, roll it into a ball shape and roll in crushed cheese crackers.
Set on a plate and make a small indention with your finger to form the pumpkin shape. Add a green pepper "stem" and green onion "leaf". (see video tutorial)

Serve with pretzels, carrots, crackers, pea pods, whatever your family likes to dip.


Chocolate Toddler Truffles

I found this interesting recipe from The Toddler Cafe, they look like chocolate but are made of beans! These little gems are delicious and packed with fiber. I couldn't resist and added 1/4 of cocoa and put a few chocolate sprinkles on top since after all, we're from Hershey. :)

I used the melon baller and some fruit for a fun, flowery presentation. I decided to surprise the kiddos and served them for breakfast. The response? "Dessert for Breakfast?! Mom, you are going crazy today!". They were a hit.

Toddler Truffles from The Toddler Cafe
Makes about 24 balls

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 stick (2 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 c. cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
2 eggs
sprinkles or powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray or butter an 8 by 8-inch pan; set aside.
In a large, deep bowl, combine the beans, sugars, nuts, butter, baking powder, and salt. Using a stick blender or food processor, start to work the ingredients around. When they are fully blended, add the eggs and blend to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until firm and the edges get slightly crisp. Cool and cut into small cubes or take a spoonful and roll into small balls in your palms. Dust with powdered sugar or sprinkles.
Store covered, up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
• Substitute white beans, pintos, or adzuki beans. They can be found in the ethnic aisle of your store. The texture and color may change, but the idea stays the same—a cake made of beans!
• Add a tablespoon of orange zest, try different kinds of chopped nuts, or add dried currants after blending for a chunkier texture.


Frozen Errupting Valcano Desserts!

Hi Friends, I'm back and in the kitchen!
Gourmet Dad and I had wild, fun, romantic, crazy vacation in...Costa Rica! We went all around the country but stayed for a few days at the base of the Arenal Volcano and had fun watching it errupt at night. Anyway, while we were gone I left a special dessert for the girls to have...Erupting Volcanoes! These would also be a fabulous "V" treat for preschool!
Frozen Erupting Volcano Desserts
Ice Cream Cones (the pointy "sugar cones")
Chocolate Chips (or chocolate candy melts)
Ice Cream (any flavor)
Butterscotch or Caramel Ice Cream Topping
Red and Orange Candy Melts (or just use red licorice strings!!)
Red Food coloring

Optional Ingredients:
Candy Rocks
Flaked Coconut
Green Food Coloring

Place chocolate chips in a bowl and mirowave on high for 60 seconds. Stir well. The chocolate shouldn't be thoroughly melted, you want it a little chunky so it looks like rocks & dirt.:)
Spread melted chocolate on the outside of the ice cream cones...let the kids do this part, the messier the better! Place on wax paper to dry.
If you are using candy melts for the lava "explosions", melt a small amount in a bowl, place in a plastic baggie, snip the end, and draw a few squiggly lines on wax paper. Let set completely. If you're using licorice, simply seperate the licorice strings and snip to various lengths (or let everyone eat their own to various lengths:).

Put butterscotch ice cream topping in a bowl and tint with red food coloring to make your lava.

When cones are dry, fill with your favorite ice cream, just to the top of the cone. Place upside down on a plate and carefully cut off the top inch or so of the cone to resemble a volcano. Get your butterscotch "lava" and fill the top and drizzle some down the sides of the cone. Place candy melts (or licorice strings!) in the top to resemble and explosion.

Serve and enjoy!!

Optional: Put come coconut and green food coloring in a baggie, mix well to tint the coconut. Place around the base of your volcano to resemble grass along with a few candy rocks.
DISCLAIMER: Grandma and Grandpa reported that it took them 3 hours to settle the baby down after all that sugar, so I don't recommend this dessert right before bedtime. :)


One Clue: Erupting Volcano Desserts

I hate to leave, but hunky Gourmet Dad and I are escaping.....alone! We'll be back on the 15th. I'm not telling you where we're going (we don't want the kids to find us. ha!) until we get back, but here's a clue: When I get home, I'm going to show you all how to make Frozen Erupting Volcano Desserts! Yowza!

to everyone who voted for me in Iron Cupcake: Earth! I came in second place and I actually was edging up on that fabulous and famous Bakerella! I'm glad she won, she's an amazing chef, heck, she's been on Martha Stewart! I'm just happy I came close and I really felt the love! Thank you to everyone who voted!


Edible Chandelier

While Big C was at school today, Little C and I cleaned the kitchen light fixtures (Mom, are you still breathing?). I also thought it might be fun to start teaching her basic sewing, so we combined everything to make an edible Chandelier Sculpture! Big C couldn't believe her eyes when she saw this luscious after-school snack! This would be a fun rainy-day afternoon project, I'm sure we'll do it again with everyone.

Edible Chandelier
Light Fixture ;)
Ribbon, String, Coat Hangers, or Yarn
Dental Floss
Large Sewing Needles
Mini-Doughnuts or Doughnut Holes

Clean light fixture thoroughly. Tie ribbon, string, or place coat hangers on fixture to create a base for your creation!
Cut pieces of Dental Floss according to your desired length (ours were about 18 inches)
Using a Sterilized needle, thread several pieces of fruit on a dental floss string. Tie ends together.
Hang on your light (see video). Keep threading fruit (and doughnuts in our case:)) and hanging until you're creation is complete! NOTE: If using apples, dip them in a lemon juice/water mixture or pineapple juice before hanging. This will help keep them from turning brown too quickly.

Let the kiddos cut them down and enjoy!!
I can't wait until Daddy gets home and when he asks what they did, they'll reply, "Not much, just ate some grapes off the chandelier....". To be honest, I don't think he'll be surprised...:)


Funny Fruit

My girls call this "Funny Fruit". It's super easy and always disappears about as quickly as I can make it!
Funny Fruit
Fruit, any variety of a similar size. (we like apples, oranges, and pears)

Slice fruit into about 1/4" slices. Mix up pieces and stack to resemble a "striped" piece of fruit. Serve and enjoy! Note: You can core the fruit before stacking, but my kids don't mind nibbling around the apple cores so I don't waste the time.:)

Holiday Playlist

My grandmother hasn't been doing well...to cheer her up, I rounded up a few of my musical friends and made an album of Holiday songs fo...