8/29/2008

Gone Fishin' Snacks

Here's an idea for a quick, healthy after school snack: let the kids Go Fishing! I used Chiquita Peapod Bites but you could use pretzel rods, carrots, anything your imagination can dream up! For the dip, you could also substitute peanut butter or flavored cream cheese. Speaking of Chiquita, they have a fun new program, http://www.freshfunds.com/. You can collect wrappers and use the "points" on them to bid on items or donate them to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure or American Cancer Society. Great food, great causes! Gone Fishin' Snacks
Ingredients:
Chiquita Peapod Bites
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
Goldfish Crackers, any variety

Directions:
Give each child a pile of Peapod Bites and Goldfish crackers. Mix the ranch dip (included with Peapod Bites) with cream cheese and put on plate. Have the kids take a "fishing pole" (peapod bite), dip it in some "bait" (cream cheese mix) and "fish" for a cracker. One of my little chefs in training is giving her demo here:

video
For more snack ideas, you can see my winning entry in Chiquita's contest! Startcooking.com has the video they made of it up here. It's pretty cute, they did an amazing job!

8/26/2008

Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes

I wanted something spicy, indulgent and luxurious and thus Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes were born…

Why Mayan cupcakes? Well, the ancient Mayans used chili peppers along with vanilla and other ingredients to spice their chocolate drinks. It’s not the hot chocolate we enjoy today, but a bitter, spiced drink enjoyed by the wealthy. After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, the Aztec king taxed them in cacao and vanilla beans. Why? Legend says he drank as much as 50 cups of the indulgent cacao drink after dinner and wanted his pantry full of the ingredients! This cupcake is patterned after what we know of that ancient, luxurious drink. It’s also said to have great aphrodisiac properties.
Since cacao beans were used as currency by the Mayans, only the very wealthy could afford to “eat” their money. So, these cupcakes have real 23 carat gold flakes on them so you can eat your money, too. :) The symbol on the top is a chocolate replica of the Mayan symbol Hanab Ku, said to represent all consciousness that ever existed in the galaxy. I hope you enjoy them!

Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes
with Vanilla Bean/Dark Chocolate Icing

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 C. Dark Cocoa Powder
3 oz. dark chocolate, melted (high quality)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. ground Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. ground annato (achiote molido)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cupcake pan or line with paper wrappers. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat well. Add dark cocoa powder and melted chocolate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and vinegar. Mix well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground annato, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk. With each addition, mix until the ingredients are incorporated. Put batter into a gallon Ziploc bag, snip off about an inch from one corner, and pipe batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about ¾ full. Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with icing.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
1 vanilla bean
4 cups confectioner's sugar (approximately 1 lb.) or more, depending on desired thickness
2 Tablespoons Milk

Directions:
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Split open vanilla bean and scrape out seeds, add to butter mixture. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups Confectioners' sugar sifted
3-4 tablespoons Milk

Directions:
Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa, melted chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Lastly, but most importantly, a HUGE THANK YOU to my funny, mind-blowingly-talented, amazing, silly, sweet, perfectly wonderful friend Annie for these photos. She felt sorry for my pitiful photo skills and came over, camera and kids in tow to take these. If you ever need a laugh or a pick-me-up, read her blog. It's hilarious.
A couple people have asked where I got the edible Gold Leaf for the cupcakes. You can get some for your own fancy schmancy desserts here.

8/25/2008

Happy Pancakes

My oldest, C, had her first day of Kindergarten today! So, I whipped up some Happy Pancakes to start the day off right! They're easy and sure to bring a lot of smiles to the breakfast table.

Happy Pancakes
Ingredients:
Pancake Batter (your choice, basic recipe below)
Food coloring
Medicine Dropper or Turkey Baster

Directions:
Make pancake batter and reserve about 1/4 of it in a small bowl. Add yellow food coloring to the larger bowl and purple/black to the smaller bowl (you can really use any colors you want:)). In a skillet over medium-high heat, add a generous spoonful of the yellow batter. Using your medicine dropper or turkey baster, get some purple batter and draw a smiley face on top of the yellow batter. When bubbles begin to form, carefully flip the pancake and cook for an additional minute. Serve and enjoy! Video tutorial below:

video

I may have put on a happy face, but to be honest I was feeling a little:

She did great and is looking forward to another great day tomorrow. Way to go, C!!

Basic Pancake Batter
2 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. milk
3 tbsp. oil
Mix all together. Cook as directed above.

8/23/2008

Runs with Scissors and Eats Crayons...

Last Valentine's Day, I made some edible crayons. They were such a hit that we decided to make them for Back-to-School treats! I made some Back To School crayon labels that you can download here. Just print them out and you're ready to go!

Edible Crayons
Ingredients:
*Pretzel Rods
*Candy Melts (or white chocolate bark/chocolate chips with a little of your favorite food coloring added)
*Paper Labels (make them yourself or download mine here. Print on colored paper of your choice)

Instructions:
-Break or cut pretzel rods in half.
-Melt candy melts or chocoalte chips in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking at 15 second intervals until melted. Stir well. Add a few drops food coloring if desired.
-Dip ends of pretzels in melted candy.

-Place on wax paper or aluminum foil to dry.
-When dry, wrap with crayon label and secure with tape. "CrayonEatr" got the most giggles since our baby is quite the professional. :)
We put some in inexpensive pencil boxes for back to school gifts!

Notes: You can buy Candy Melts in white or brown at Wal-Mart. They're in the craft section in the wedding supplies. Wal-Mart also had white chocolate bark in the baking aisle. For colored Candy Melts, check your local cake supply store or you can get them at http://www.sugarcraft.com/. On sugarcraft.com, do a search for "compound coating". To color melted white chocolate chips or chocolate bark, oil-based candy food coloring is best. If you have regular food coloring, just make sure the chocolate isn't too hot (just warm) when you add it or it might make it clumpy.

8/20/2008

Mile High Cupcakes

I've always loved those bakery shop cupcakes with the frosting at least 3 inches high but yowza, that's a lot of frosting! So, I thought I'd share my secret with you for getting gorgeous looking cupcakes without worrying about a huge pile of frosting tipping over (or a huge pile of frosting in your kids' stomachs:)). Check out the video for an easy tutorial!

video

Mile High Cupcakes
Ingredients:
Your Favorite Cupcakes
Frosting
Ziploc Freezer Baggie (quart or gallon size)
Large Marshmallows
Sprinkles, etc. (optional)

Directions:
Place frosting in Ziploc bag and snip off bag corner to use as your "decorating bag". Adhere marshmallow to center of cupcake with a dab of icing. Starting at the base of the cupcake, make swirls around the marshmallow, following it to the top. Voila! A Mountain of Frosting! Decorate with sprinkles, etc.
Notes: when using baggies as decorating bags, make sure to use freezer bags. The regular storage bags will often break apart when decorating (learned from personal experience! ack!).

8/19/2008

Attack of the Chocolate PB Cake!

You may have seen this cake before, but I'm posting about it again! Why, you ask? Because The Secret is in the Sauce is having a recipe contest and this one is my favorite! Whenever we have guests come to Hershey, this is what we serve 'em! Fingers crossed that they're as addicted to chocolate as we are! If you have an original recipe you want to enter, go on over and join in the fun!

I've converted many a cake-hater with this little number (unless you hate peanut butter, then you're out of luck:)). I tried chocolate/peanut butter cake for the first time at Hershey's Chocolate World and I've worked on this recipe for over a year trying to re-create it. It's fabulous! I've never had such a moist, chocolate-y cake.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Cake
Cake:
1 box Chocolate Fudge cake mix (or any chocolate cake mix)
1 (3 oz.) box instant chocolate pudding
2 C. sour cream
5 eggs
1 C. melted butter
1 tsp. almond extract
1 C. chocolate chips (I recommend ghirardelli)

In a large bowl, beat first 6 ingredients until well blended. Mixture will be thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into three greased 9” pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-40 minutes. (Keep an eye on them so they don’t overbake). Cool completely. I actually like to pop them in the freezer for easy assembling.

Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing
Ingredients
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
6-8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 2 lb.)
Directions
Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer.
Add peanut butter, milk and vanilla.
Gradually add 6 c. sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add more sugar (or milk) as needed until icing is desired consistency (should be firm enough to hold a shape but still smooth)
Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.


TO ASSEMBLE CAKE:
First of all, if you don't have a canvas decorating bag and an extra-large star tip, I recommend getting one (you can get them at Wal-Mart, under $5 for all). The tip is Wilton size 1M. I use it for EVERYTHING. It makes super-fast, gorgeous cupcakes and is the very easiest way to decorate a cake (no crumbs!).








Place a small dab of frosting on a cake platter, set first cake layer on top (it's easiest to assemble if the layers are frozen but not necessary). Pipe out (or spread) frosting over top of layer and add next layer. Repeat with final layer. Spread a layer of frosting on the very top and sprinkle chocolate shavings on top (or chocolate chips or chopped reeses peanut butter cups!).





Using your large star tip, make stripes up and down the sides of cake. This is super-easy and you have no frosting crumbs! Hooray!














To finish, draw "S" shapes all around the top edge of the cake. Voila! You have decorated a professional looking cake in 5 minutes! Enjoy!

8/18/2008

Pupcakes

Right now it's everything "doggie" at our house! The girls pretend to be doggies, bark their favorite songs, you name it. They would love a puppy, but that just isn't happening right now. So, we decided to celebrate their stuffed animal dogs' "birthdays" with some Pupcakes!

I also think you could make the white ones with coconut fur and use them as a "Book and a Snack" with Norbert Rosing's fabulous The World of the Polar Bear. The kids will love flipping through this huge book with amazing photos. They looked more like polar bear prints than dog's to me, anyway.:)Pupcakes
Ingredients:
Your favorite cupcakes
Icing (I used buttercream, a can of coconut pecan icing, and chocolate buttercream)
Mini York Peppermint Patties (sold in bags in the candy aisle)
Jr. Mints Candies
Flaked Coconut (optional, if you need some "fur")

Directions:
Frost cupcakes with your choice icing, depending on what color "paws" you want. I thought the can of coconut pecan icing looked great, almost like real fur! The coconut on the white icing reminded me of a polar bear.:)
Place one Mini York Peppermint Patty on the frosted cupcake and three Jr. Mints candies on top to look like a paw print. Woof!

8/15/2008

Sunshine Cupcakes

Summer is almost over! Ack! The other day I was staring at a bag of Bugles on the counter and was thinking about how much we'll miss the swimming, playing, sunshine-y days. I was inspired! Sunshine Lemonade Cupcakes
Ingredients:
Your Favorite Cupcakes (strawberry or lemon are my choice!)
Lemon Buttercream Icing (recipe below)
Chocolate Chips or Mini Kisses
Chocolate canned frosting (or melt some chocolate chips)
Licorice Strings
Bugles (in the chip aisle)
Yellow Sprinkes (optional)

Directions:
Frost cupcakes with Lemonde Icing. Add a few yellow sprinkles (optional). Place 2 chocolate chips or mini-kisses for sunglasses. Place a small amount of chocolate frosting in a baggie, snip a small corner off the bag and squeeze out to finish "sunglasses". Add a small piece of licorice for a smile. Place Bugles around outside edge of cupcake to make the sun's rays, pressing in slightly to adhere to cupcake.

This one saw me in a swimsuit...

This one heard what we're having for dessert tonight...

Lemon Buttercream Icing from Wilton
Ingredients
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
Additional lemon juice or milk
yellow food coloring

Directions
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add Lemon juice and zest; beat well.
Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
When all sugar has been mixed in, if icing is dry, add additional juice or milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add food coloring until desired yellow color.
Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Re-whip before using.

8/14/2008

More Sandwich Fun

During summer, we eat a lot of sandwiches for lunch! We're either running around outside and need something portable or I'm in the middle of a project and need something quick. Also, school is starting soon and I'm sure you'll be after some new sandwich ideas. Here are a few ideas to liven things up.

1) New Shapes. Simply use a large cookie cutter and cut out a shape from a prepared sandwich. Image from Family Fun.

2) Cheesey Face. Cut out a face shape on one slice of bread. Make a grilled cheese sandwich and add some tomato ears and chip "hair". I have no idea where this is from, I like to give credit to whoever came up with it, but I just found this pic in my files. If it's yours, please tell me! :)

3) Robot. Cut crusts off sandwich and cut into two rectangles. Add a banana smile, grape eyes, and cheese puff antennae.

4) Puzzlers. Make one sandwich on white bread and one on whole wheat bread. Cut a similar "puzzle" piece out of each sandwich. Swap the pieces and serve. (This one is great for school lunches!)
5) Cell phone Sandwiches. This one's from Denise. She's actually a soapmaker, but came up with these cuties!
6) Tic-Tac-Toe Melts from HomeBasics. To make the “board”, top a slice of lightly toasted bread with a slice of cheese. Then use thin strips of ham to divide the slice into nine squares. Decorate with playing pieces: “O’s” made from black olive rings and “X’s” made from small strips of red bell pepper. Broil until bubbly and serve.

8/12/2008

Butterfly Biscuits

We enjoyed these for dinner tonight with bacon and scrambled eggs. Breakfast for dinner, YUM!
Butterfly Biscuits
1 can Pillsbury Grands Biscuits, any flavor
3-4 T. Strawberry Jam
Grated Orange peel from one orange
Colored Sugar (optional)
Whipped cream (I used the stuff in the spray can)
Strawberries, sprinkles, licorice strings for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Spray cookie sheet w/ cooking spray. Open biscuits and carefully seperate them into two layers. Spread about 1/2 tsp. jam between layers then press back together, pinching the edges to seal. Cut biscuits in half and pinch edges to make sure they are sealed. Place two halves together on baking sheet, with rounded edges touching. Repeat with remaining biscuits. Spread a slight amount of jam on the top of each butterfly and sprinkle with orange peel and colored sugar. Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool slightly then transfer to a plate where you can garnish with whipped cream "bodies", licorice "antenne", and chocolate sprinkle (or mini-chocolate chip) "eyes". Enjoy!

8/10/2008

Sandwich Art

I found this on Family Fun and think it's awesome! We're doing it tomorrow! This would be a fun and cheap thing to do for a playdate or for any day that you want to jazz up lunch. :)


PAINTED SANDWICHES:
Paper cups
Milk
Food coloring
New paintbrushes
White bread
Toaster

1. Fill each paper cup with two tbsp. of milk. Add a few drops of food coloring to each cup.
2. Paint pictures and designs on the bread using the colored milk and new paintbrushes.
3. Toast lightly and use the slices to make crazy sandwiches.

8/08/2008

Yummy BBQ & Crockpot Chicken!

We're big BBQ fans, I can't count the numberous yummy sauces we've tried. I recently found about this one, Country Bob's, and it's awesome! It's a tiny bit sweet and has a nice tang to it-- perfect! We give it 2 Gourmet-Mom-on-the-Go thumbs up! :)

They are sure that you'll be hooked, so they'll give you a bottle for free! That's right! How nice is that? Just register for their free newsletter and they'll send you a coupon for a free bottle of sauce. Yum!

Crockpot Orange Honey Chicken from countrybobs.com
Ingredients:
6 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce (or may substitute Spicy Hot)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cornstarch

Directions:
Brown chicken breasts then put in crock pot. Mix juice, broth, honey, dry mustard, teriyaki sauce, and Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. Pour over chicken in crock pot. Cook on low for 4 hours. Add vegetables and cornstarct about 1 hour before serving then cook for an additional hour and serve over rice.

Doggy Dinner

Who says cleaning out the freezer/fridge can't be fun? It's one of our favorite days around here! During the week, I throw our leftover veggies in a big ziploc baggie that I keep in the freezer. When it's full, I make a huge pot of veggie soup, using the Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli Soup recipe as the base.
Normally, this is kid-feeding suicide....LEFTOVER VEGGIES thrown in a soup?? Well, if you take about five extra minutes you can turn this into one of your kids' favorite dinners! It's all about presentation.;) Add some Doggie Biscuits, let them eat in the Dog House, and you have a winner!

What You Need:
Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli Soup (add your own veggies/whatever you have on hand)
Doggie Biscuits (recipe below)
The Dog House (instructions below)

Doggie Biscuits:
Ingredients:
Can of Refrigerator biscuits (any kind)
Directions:
Open can, seperate biscuits. Pinch off about half of biscuit and make into circle shape. Seperate the rest of biscuit into 3 or 4 pieces and roll into balls. Place around the top of the larger piece to look like a "pawprint". Bake as directed.
The Dog House:
Find some old sheets or tablecloths, cover them over your kitchen table so edges touch the ground. Print or make a Doghouse Sign (optional). Let them climb in to eat! Smile when they tell their teacher at school that their mom makes them eat in the doghouse.:)
Here's the Doghouse Sign, click to enlarge and print.

8/01/2008

Marshmallow Ice Cream S'more Stackers

Thanks for all the recipes you've been posting on my bloggy giveaway! I was intrigued by Jennifer's recipe for ice cream s'mores, so we had to try it! I made a few modifications (we added bananas since I love chocolate/bananas and love Chiquita as you all know!) and am including the recipe for Grandma's Chocolate Sauce.

Marshmallow Ice Cream S'more Stackers
Ingredients:
2 T vanilla
2 C milk
40 large marshmallows
1 pt. whipping cream, whipped (or just use a carton of Cool Whip to cut the fat)
Hershey bars (optional)
Graham Crackers
Bananas
Grandma's Chocolate Sauce (recipe below) or your favorite chocolate syrup

Directions:
Place the marshmallows and milk in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high 2 minutes. Whisk well and microwave at 1 minute intervals until marshmallows are melted. Add the vanilla and cool.
When chilled and beginning to thicken, carefully whisk in whipped cream until thick but not stiff. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and freeze.


TIME TO STACK! When firm, cut ice cream into graham cracker sized squares. Take one graham cracker, place an ice cream square on top, and place several sliced bananas on top of the ice cream. Add pieces of hershey bar (I found that my kids didn't like them since they get so cold and hard, so I'll leave them out next time) and top with final graham cracker. Drizzle Grandma's chocolate sauce on top or provide everyone with a small bowl for dipping.

Note: I made up a whole bunch of these at the same time and wrapped the extras in wax paper, put them all in a large ziploc, and now they're ready for a quick dessert!

Grandma's Chocolate Sauce
Ingredients:
2 ½ c. white sugar
¼ c. cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder, yum!)
¾ c. corn syrup
½ c. milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 T. Vanilla extract

Add all ingredients except evaporated milk and vanilla in a large pot. Cook over medium/high heat until boiling, stirring often. Continue to boil, Cook to firm ball stage, about 252 degrees (about 7-8 minutes for those of you who don't have a candy thermometer), stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla and evaporated milk. Cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Store in refrigerator. WARNING: THIS IS DANGEROUS IN THE FRIDGE! MANY BANANAS HAVE DROWNED IN GRANDMA'S CHOCOLATE SAUCE! :)