Archive for ‘Parties’

November 6, 2011

Easiest Chocolate Cake

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My internal dialogue was definitely discouraging, while making this cake. No egg, who bakes a cake without eggs – even brownies have eggs, this was certain to be a disaster. And now add lemon juice or vinegar! What was this going to taste like? And really!? I’m going to prepare this cake right in the baking pan! No mixing bowl? No creaming the butter, but melt it? Huh? Where am I!? What is going on? After all of that, the batter was thinner than pancake batter! We were surely headed for thin deflated cupcakes. Certainly, you are asking me why would I even consider this recipe after reading it? Well it comes from the Joy of Baking website, a place I trust and the photo was very enticing. New and different is what I like, new challenges!

Joy of Baking – Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder(not Dutch-processed), sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon lemon juice(or vinegar)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.

In an ungreased 8 inch square cake pan, stir together the flour, sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the melted butter, water, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. With a fork, mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

**NOTE: I made these into cupcakes rather than a cake. Fill the baking cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes – or until a toothpick comes out clean.**

In the end, this is a very good simple recipe. It’s a heavier, moist cake. Not a light cake. The best description was somewhere between a brownie and cake. I’m more amazed by how well this cake came out and that it doesn’t have any eggs! (can’t get over that!).

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~Enjoy~

Amanda

October 31, 2011

Ghosties Cupcakes

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We have been reading the “Three Little Ghosties” book by Pippa Goodhart, this Halloween. It has best illustrations! (by AnnaLaura Cantone"). This is where I got the name for these cute little cupcake treats.

For my daughter’s Halloween Party at school we were assigned a dozen cupcakes. For this recipe I used my Chocolate Cake recipe and Vanilla frosting recipe:

Chocolate Cake

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. (The time will depend on your oven.  Since moving and changing ovens I have had to cook these for 21 minutes otherwise they deflate because they aren’t cooked thoroughly.)

 

Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

Use a cake decorating bag or a zip lock bag and spoon in the frosting. Cut a big sized corner off the bag. Pipe on the ghosties by holding your bag straight up and down and squeeze some frosting in a spiral motion onto the cupcake. You can also squeeze the frosting out and press down a little then back up and then down again, repeating this action.  

Eyes & Mouth

Melt some of your favorite milk or dark chocolate in the microwave (at 30 second intervals stirring each interval until completely melted) or melt in a double boiler (I use a small pot with a few inches of simmering water, and a metal mixing bowl that is big enough to sit on the pot, not in it).

Allow the chocolate to cool enough to handle.  Pour your chocolate into a zip lock baggie, cut a super small tip off the corner of the bag and pipe on the eyes and mouth. Using dots for the eyes and different shapes for the mouths – oval, sad, circular – filled in solid with chocolate.

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September 7, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

(recipe from Just Get off Your Butt and Bake)

This recipe is a fantastic idea for teacher gifts. My daughter and I made this for her teacher on the first day of Kindergarten. Crispy, sweet, cinnamon-spiced popcorn with a creamy chocolatey swirl is such a perfect snack. Seriously, it almost did not make it to the teacher. Actually I’m pretty glad that we were giving it away because my daughter and I would have eaten it all in minutes. My mom took some home and instead of sharing with my dad and brother, she saved it for herself. Really it is that good.

This would work really well as a Halloween treat for a costume party, or to give away as Fall treats! However, I would eat this at any time of the year and it would make me smile. What will make you smile is that this is very easy to make.

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn

12 cups of Popped Popcorn (1 cup of kernels)

1 cup nuts (optional) – cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Karo Syrup

a pinch of salt

1 stick or cube of Real Butter

1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Almond bark, vanilla chips or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Pop your popcorn – I use my air popper so that there isn’t the added oil from popping in a pan and it cuts down on the hard kernels too. You could even use microwave popcorn, but I’m not sure how buttered microwave popcorn would taste. Remove any kernels.

You will need about 12 cups of popcorn.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted add your brown sugar, Karo Syrup and salt.

Over medium heat melt the butter and sugar (You can do this part in a microwave by cooking in 2 minute intervals and stirring until completely melted).

While the butter and sugar are cooking get the vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda ready. Once the sugar and butter are melted, remove from heat and add these last three ingredients. The caramel will lighten in color and sort of poof up…this is good!

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Pour the caramel over the popcorn in a very large bowl (or a few big bowls if you don’t have one large). Toss the caramel and popcorn until completely coated (oh and you can add nuts at this point too).

Place your pan or pans in a preheated 250 degree oven.

Stir every 5 minutes and rotate pans. The recipe I used said to cook for 20 minutes for crunchy corn, I think it was more like 30-35 minutes.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and lay out on wax paper on the counter to cool. It will get crunchier as it cools.

Now you can melt the white chocolate and drizzle over all the popcorn – as little or as much as you’d like.

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Corn 1

~Enjoy~

Amanda

August 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup—Cupcakes

This, my friends, will make you weak in the knees if you like chocolate, peanut butter, especially the two combined. Funny enough I know a guy, he doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate – I think someone needs to check his frontal lobe for injury or maybe his medulla oblongata needs adjusting!

Moving on…this was a fun cupcake to make. I was inspired by Amanda Cupcake (it must be in the name!) who made milky way cupcakes and melted milky way candy bars and added it to her frosting—so many ideas went fleeting through my head, but first this one…Reese’s PB Cups!

 

Chocolate Cake

(makes about 30 cupcakes)

2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 package of instant chocolate pudding (only the powder)
1 1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures

1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups minis (the smallest of them all)

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. Measure out the milk and add the vanilla to the milk, set aside.

With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients and milk by alternating – 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 of the milk. Once all the milk and dry ingredients are mixed beat the batter for a minute or two.

Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Scoop a heaping scoop of the batter into each cup. Stick one Reese’s miniature peanut butter cup in the middle of the batter in each cup.

Bake for 18 minutes.

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Peanut Butter Ribbon

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix ingredients together in a sauce pan. Heat over low heat stirring constantly until peanut butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Set and aside and cool, while making the frosting.

Melted PB Cups for Frosting

Melt 1/2 cup of peanut butter cups with a little heavy cream over low heat until completely melted. Set aside and cool while making the frosting.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter ribbon (recipe below)

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla bean and extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the peanut butter ribbon and milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 2-3T for a medium consistency.

At this point you may cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place the frosting in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

In your pastry/frosting bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut off) drizzle a little peanut butter ribbon down one side of the bag and a little of the melted peanut butter cups down the other side, just enough coat the side of the bag. Don’t let the two pool at the bottom of the bag or you’ll have a giant glop of the candy without frosting. You want the candy to swirl in the frosting…this is fun!

Pipe on the frosting with your favorite tip (or if using a Ziploc cut the tip as big as you prefer for decorating).

Use the new Peanut Butter Cup minis (in the candy isle) to top.

~Enjoy

Amanda

April 21, 2011

Strawberry-Avocado Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

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This recipe came from Cooking Light May 2011 Issue. I don’t know about you but I think Cooking Light always has the prettiest food! Full of color  and rustic backgrounds. I am really starting to like that magazine. Especially after this recipe. (Since I’m not as “healthy” as Cooking Light I added a little more oil (originally 2 teaspoons) and bumped the cinnamon sugar mixture (originally 2 teaspoons of sugar – I don’t know how you are supposed to cover 6 tortillas with that!) At the same time, I did not go overboard and lightly sugared and oiled the tortillas.

1 Tablespoon Canola oil
6 whole wheat tortillas
Cinnamon and sugar (I always keep this mixture on hand for cinnamon toast or cookies so if you don’t use it all you can save it for something else!)
2 ripe finely chopped and peeled avocados
1 cup finely diced strawberries (all the same size)
2 Tablespoons minced cilantro
1 teaspoon finely diced, seeded jalapenos
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3/8 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • To prepare chips, brush oil evenly over one side of each tortilla. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle a little evenly over the oil-coated sides of the tortillas.
  • Cut each tortilla into 12 wedges (I used a fluted pastry cutter to make the chips more fancy); arrange wedges in a single layer on two baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until crisp.
  • Combine avocado and remaining ingredients; stir gently to combine.

Serve with chips. Enjoy~

December 25, 2010

Mexican-style Shrimp Cocktail

Inspired by my recent trip to Monterey, CA and more specifically eating at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto on the Monterey Wharf.

Exploring Monterey means not only visiting the sights at Cannery Row and Carmel not only hearing the sounds and feeling the sea air by the sandy beaches, but you will also notice the smells of food everywhere you go. If I had to sum up what Monterey smells like I really only remember smelling food everywhere, occasionally you get to smell some salty sea air, occasionally…The walk down the Wharf is pretty much window shopping for the perfect restaurant. You have clam chowder samples being thrown at you left and right, fresh seafood in open air delis. I wanted to eat something from each place, but my stomach wasn’t big enough. Clam chowder and fish and chips are all phenomenal. But I tried this mexican style shrimp cocktail and that is what impressed me the most. It’s like salsa, avocado and shrimp with some cocktail sauce…wow! It was so fresh tasting, with a hint of spicy chilies. Very impressive. I knew I had to try making my own version.  I hope you enjoy, please let me know of any suggestions you might have.

 

1 lb cooked peeled shrimp (41-50ct)

2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 bunch cilantro coarsely chopped

1 jalapeno finely diced

4 green onions

1-11.5oz can tomato juice

1 T horseradish

1 tsp sugar

salt and black pepper

1T olive oil

Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning

1 lime, juiced

1 ripe avocado

Dice the tomatoes, chop the cilantro, finely dice the jalapeno and slice the green onions. Toss together with the shrimp in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, mix the tomato sauce, horseradish, sugar, salt and pepper. Add more or less horseradish for more or less heat. Sprinkle the old bay seasoning and mix again.

Pour the cocktail sauce over the shrimp mixture and stir until combined. Leave in the fridge overnight to meld the flavors.

before serving squeeze the lime over the shrimp cocktail and dice the avocado and stir in.

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Serve with tortilla chips.

December 23, 2010

T’was a Christmas Cookie Party

This year Linda Marrone invited me to fill in as a judge for her Christmas Cookie Party. I was super excited and felt honored to have my opinion count so much.  Going into this adventure I thought it would be simple – taste cookies and pick my favorites. However, it was not so easily done. The cookies were amazing and all had their own appeal. I spent at least 45 minutes tasting 13 cookies and deciding which was the best, and changed my mind along the way. Taking into consideration taste, texture, the look of the cookie, and how traditional the cookie. My kind side wanted everyone to win because they all put so much work into these cookies and they all were really really good. But I had a job to do, so I got down to business.

Like I said the task was not an easy one, but it sure was fun and yummy! I enjoyed meeting the ladies, they were all so creative and enthusiastic, and you can tell they loved being part of the Christmas Cookie Party and getting together with one another each year. No wonder this is the 30th year Linda has held this party! What fun!

 

Organizing such a party is no small task in itself, but everyone involved brought an appetizer, a white elephant (or used) gift, and everyone makes 15 dozen cookies and some even hand make containers for their cookies. Really a great time is had, the ladies laugh the entire time and really just enjoy themselves.  Holiday cheer is definitely in the air.

Below are some photos of the winners, cookies, containers and other randomness I enjoyed along the way! Thanks everyone you did a FANTASTIC job – all the cookies were great you are all really winners, I’d eat all the cookies (in fact I did).

Meet everyone involved (Yes the baby helped with cookies too):

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Please excuse the photo quality – I was in low light at night…

FIRST PLACE – SWEDISH SNOWBALL COOKIES by Laura Vance and Laurie Oswald for Laurie’s mom’s recipe.

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SECOND PLACE – PECAN EGGNOG ROUNDS by Breana Coons & Lauren Coons.

2nd Place Cookie

THIRD PLACE – LEMON SUGAR COOKIE SNOWFLAKES by Sandy McCleary & Kristin Stokes.

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FOURTH PLACE TIE – MOLASSIS SUGAR COOKIE by Paula Tlachac & VIENNESE ROUNDS by Sheryl Seaman

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These are all the other cookies that were fabulous as well!

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THE CONTAINERS –

I am sorry I did not get a good shot of the third place winner Debbie Coleman’s Santa Head. She put a lot of work into these containers, but my photo didn’t come out sorry!  The container was a wonderful Santa Head with Santa’s beard filled with little bells.

FIRST PLACE – PHOTO COLLAGES (filled with memories over the years of the individuals who participate in the cookie party). by Linda Marrone & Kim Sayre

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SECOND PLACE (also the second place cookie) – ELF BUTTS by Breana and Lauren Coons

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FOURTH PLACE – SNOWMAN MITTENS by Darlene Cobbey and Carol Smith

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These are some of the other containers – homemade and not.

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We were lucky enough to have Christmas carolers from Carson High School choir stop by. I have never had carolers stop by my house and it was such a treat – a really neat Christmas tradition you always see in books and Christmas shows/movies, but in real life – I have to say I was thoroughly impressed and just topped off the evening.

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Here are some random photos of Linda’s holiday decorations around the house. (I just love her house).

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December 16, 2010

Think Pink Potluck

Each year at the law firm I work at, we get together and have an annual Think Pink fundraiser. The fundraiser is held to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  This cause is near and dear to me. Breast cancer runs in my family genetics. My grandmother, aunt, and my grandmother’s niece have all been diagnosed with breast cancer in their lives. Luckily, and thanks to all the research and attention breast cancer has received, all three survived breast cancer. Now my grandmother is no longer with us, but she was diagnosed in the 70’s with breast cancer and even back then, with less resources than we have now she survived!  Susan G. Komen is a fantastic foundation and I am very proud that my employer supports such a terrific cause.

Now I know I am a few months late, but I still wanted to get this posted on the blog because being healthy and teaching people healthier eating habits is very important. Everyone in the office came up with very creative and yummy dishes incorporating “superfoods.” On our potluck sign up sheet we listed “superfood” items with a breif explanation of what is “super” about the particular ingredient. The ingredients each have a property that helps our bodies fight against cancer – from breast cancer to prostate cancer – and many harmful diseases and environmental pollutants.  These foods are just plain good for you (although some of these recipes below may not be ALL good for you, but they do contain some foods that are very good for you).  Below are some photos and descriptions of the items that were served at our Think Pink Fundraiser. My recipes are included below.

Coconut Cupcakes

COCONUT – high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s oil is has been described as one of the “healthiest oils on the earth.”

 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 package of instant vanilla pudding (only the powder)
1- 13oz can unsweetened coconut milk
¼ c. shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 c. room temperature butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs 
½ – 14oz bag of sweetened shredded coconut.Preheat oven to 350°Toast the shredded coconut until browned about 8-10 minutes. Spread out on a sheet of wax paper to cool.Whisk together flour, baking powder, pudding powder and salt. With an electric mixer in a large bowl combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate well before moving on to the next ingredient. Incorporate the dry ingredients and coconut milk by alternating – half of the dry ingredients and half of the coconut milk. Use a small ice cream scoop for the cupcake batter. It makes the perfect size cupcakes. Bake for 18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. 

 

 

 

Frosting Recipe   1/2 cup shortening (used the Crisco stick because it’s easier to measure)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) – room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 T. coconut milk (just the creamy top portion of the canned coconut milk)
1 T. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together, add the vanilla extract.  Incorporate the sugar gradually – 1c. at a time. Once sugar is incorporated (it will look dry) add the coconut milk 1 T. at a time until you get the consistency you like. It will be about 3T for a medium consistency.Cover with a wet cloth while not in use, or place in the fridge if you plan on using it much later.

 

Deviled Eggs

EGGS – one study showed that women who consumed at least 6 eggs per week lowered their risk of breast cancer by 44%

Shrimp with Spicy Chili Sauce

 SHRIMP – contain selenium , an antioxidant which some studies link to the prevention of cancer.

Bacon Wrapped dates and almonds with balsamic reduction (aka “bacon balls”)

ALMONDS –  also contain selenium ,  and they help heart health.

Caprese Salad

TOMATOES – contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant

1lb roma tomatoes

1 pkg fresh mozzerella

1 bunch of basil

Olive Oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper

Thinly slice the mozzerella, slice tomatoes 1/4 inch thick. Lay mozzerella on a plate, top with basil leaf and a tomato. Drizzle balsamic dressing over the salad. Serve!

Walnut Torte

WALNUTS – some studies indicate that walnuts positively impact heart health, bone health, diabetes and weight management.

Kale, Apple and Pancetta Salad

KALE – contains sulforaphane, which some studies have shown to have anti-cancer properties. Also Indole-3-carbinol which some studies have show to help repair damaged cells.

This recipe came from Food and Wine magazine, the Thanksgiving issue. I wasn’t unsure about Kale, as I had never tried it and was under the impression it was a green that should be cooked. But after trying some in the store it reminded me a lot of broccoli. The strong flavor of Kale with the sweet apple, salty pancetta and the tangy dressing mix so well with one another! This salad went over very well even with the threat of KALE.

2c. pecans

1/2c. confectioners’ sugar

1/2tsp cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

1/4c extra-virgin olive oil

6 oz thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced

1/4c. white wine

2Tbsp caper brine (from a jar of capers)

3Tbsp maple syrup

Freshly ground black pepper

2 granny Smith Apples, cut into matchsticks

1 large head radicchio, shredded

one 8-oz bunch of kale, finely shredded

3Tbsp snipped chives

1Tbsp chopped tarragon

2 oz. shaved pecorino

1.     Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, cayenne pepper and 1 1/2 tsp salt. In a sieve rinsk the pecans in water and strain completely.  Add the pecans to the sugar mixture and toss. In a sieve shake off the excess coating.  Arrange pecans on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the sugar is lightly caramelized and the pcans are golden.

2.     In a skillet, heat the oil with th pancetta and cook until the pancetta is browned, about 6 minutes.  Strain the pan drippings into a large bowl; whisk in te vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup. Season the dressig with salt and pepper.

3.     Toss the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and dressing. Top with pecorino.

NOTE: I did not use radicchio, I couldn’t find anything in my local grocery stores that looked good.