A Little Something For Easter

Prompted by a co-worker’s exclamation that she was inviting her brothers and their families over for an Easter dinner, I decided to throw a small Easter gathering for my kids and a couple of their friends.  I mean, I have never done an Easter themed party and when I say Easter themed, I mean the commercialized version of the holiday (I am so going to get it for that) so why not celebrate in true SPD style.

IMG_4795

IMG_4752

IMG_4753

IMG_4743

First I must say, I have turned over a new leaf.  Call it age.  Call it finally learning from my experiences, but whatever it is I have finally come to terms that I cannot do it all.  With that said, I pushed it a bit but I really did keep this  one (my kind of) simple.  Party time was strategically set at 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm;  well enough after lunch to start twitching for some food  and early enough to not be craving dinner just yet so I would only need to have snacks purchased from the store.  I know, gasp!  A fruit platter (I recommend homemade as it cuts down the cost by at least a third especially if you have bargain stores like Aldi), a cheese and cracker platter, and some veggies.  The cone bags filled with Trader Joe’s “Cheetos are my favorite snack for the kids since they use a type of turmeric too give that orangish color so their are no artificial flavors.  Now before you start pondering whether or not I have gone off my rocker, I absolutely made sure there was plenty of homemade dessert.  Oh and the milk bunnies idea I found on…you guessed it….Pinterest!

Before I go into the details of the desserts as that is all I really want to talk about, I will say I got a little creative with the activities.  The kids painted eggs with paint (because I was not in the mood to deal with dye) and boy were the kids serious about their masterpieces.  I also hosted an Easter egg hunt which was was outfitted with cute pinwheels I made using gorgeous card stock purchased on sale at Micheal’s.  Side note:  this works best with the very thick stock.  I used the thin ones because they had the most beautiful patterns but the wind proved to be a tough match.

IMG_4787

Now back to dessert, my proudest was the Lemon Cheese Layer Cake which I later renamed 4 Layer Lemon-Orange Citrus cake as there is nothing cheese about this cake.  Even Southern Living, from which the recipe was obtained, mentioned the name was a bit misleading.  The layers are filled with a lemon curd, which, turns out is way easier to make than one would think.  Then the sides are smothered in a buttercream laced with orange zest.  This had to be the most well assembled cake I have ever prepared thanks to some YouTube tips.  I chose to top it off with a beautiful yellow tulip in which  I secretly wrapped the stem in plastic before I inserted it into the cake so the yucky flower germs wouldn’t touch it and also to retain the moisture.  I will definitely make this one again.

IMG_4781

The rice crispie treat nests were so cute.  I opted for the brown buttered version of the recipe w/ a hint of vanilla bean paste to kick it up a notch.  The little chocolate eggs add just the perfect look.

IMG_4789

IMG_4761

The cupcakes were a simple white cake and standard buttercream frosting, but you can’t tell me the sprinkles and cute bunny toppers found in line at Home Goods do not put them over the top.

IMG_4817

IMG_4814

All in All I was so happy that I got my creative juices flowing again and finally got a moment to take pictures to share.  I am not even going to apologize for the fact that this is my first post in like months because it just shows how life can take over.  I am not one of those moms that has it together all of the time.  I have two young boys, a demanding full time job and all the stuff in between so adding in regular blog posts just won’t happen,  But every once in a blue moon I can muster up the strength to share a little gem.

Side Note: my photography skills have diminished and the lighting was not consistent so neither were my photos.  But I hope  you still enjoyed it.

IMG_4797

Advertisements

Pinteresting Baking: 4th Birthday Treat

Yeah….so…..the 35 weeks of baking hit a hard wall.  I cannot even explain it, but I literally could not bring myself to blog.  I was and still am baking and I usually remember to take pictures, but sitting at the computer and editing images and then writing about the experience seemed so daunting and add to the fact that time just would not stop.  But I am not the one to give up.  I am just tweaking or adapting the plan.  I have lost track of the weeks and have had several weeks without baking so I will just bake when I can and post when I remember.  With the holidays coming up, I suspect there shall be a great frequency of posts.

IMG_1491

My son’s 4th birthday was in August and, true to my rule of “only one”, he did not have a party.  We had our dessert ceremony as a family or four plus the in-laws and went on a mini-trip planned with the munchkin in mind (The rule of “Only One” is that only one kid gets a birthday a year and the other gets a trip or a day of their choosing-from meals to some fun location).

IMG_1431

This dessert was so fun to make.  It’s a Neapolitan cupcake!  Basically a chocolate layer and vanilla layer of cake and a strawberry frosting on top.  My layers did not come out as defined as the picture from the original post and when I removed the cupcakes from the oven, you could see the chocolate bubbled through the vanilla.  The bonus, is that the frosting covered it up and it tasted delicious.

I guess I can say this was just a fun dessert with a cherry on top.

IMG_1490

 

Cleaning & Cocktails

 

IMG_1729

I know! I know! I have been M.I.A and what happened to my 35 week challenge you ask… life!  Life happened and there was nothing I could do about it but accept that I had, once again, challenged myself to an unattainable level.  I will say, however, with the exception of a couple of weeks, I have been baking up a storm.  The major challenge has been to transfer my pictures to the desktop and edit them and then proceed to write up a reader worty blog post.  I assure you, I will get those delicious, Pinterest board delicacies on my post but for now I will leave you with a quick recap of my latest endeavor.

After begrudgingly attending a friends Norwex party, I found myself walking back to my car with a baggy of freebies in my hand, an order receipt in my pocket, and contemplation in my mind as I had purchased products and volunteered to host a party.  The clever consultant, Jennifer, both lured me with her excellent presentation and played to my hosting obsession.  Fast Forward to a few days after  my friend’s party and I  not only had a theme for my party but an catchy title as thought up by Jennifer The Consultant (Thanks Jen…I didn’t even ask her if I could call her that)….”Cleaning & Cocktails”.  Oh be still my hosting heart.

IMG_1719

Unfortunately in the middle of planning, I had a life situation happen that distracted me and took me out of town away from my children for the first time.  I actually ended up returning only four days from hosting day.  So you know what that meant, last minute shopping and running behind.

IMG_1734

On the day of the party, I was really limited in my time.  I was fortunate enough to have baked my cupcakes two days in advance and tossed them in the freezer (I can never thank the baker who posted this tip in a thread).  Anyway, I will tell you one thing that has come out of all of this baking and cooking, I am getting pretty fast.  I think I am ready for one of those speed baking cooking shows.  In the morning, with my kids running circles around me, I was able to prepare a mint chocolate mousse (post to follow….at some point), mint flavored whipped cream (homemade), tart crust and shrimp bruschetta topping.

IMG_1725

Since I had little decorating time, I chose to buy four gold balloons and instead of wrapping the gift boxes containing the most amazing coconut cupcakes I have ever tasted (oh yes I am boasting about something I made and you will be as well should you try it out) with gold ribbon I had purchased, I used the gold marker with which I decorated the mirror in the drink bar area to write a simple “Thank you!” and it looked pretty cute.

IMG_1727

I was so behind, I was plating up dishes when guests arrived so the pictures are few and poorer quality than my usual and I even put Jennifer The Consultant to work on prepping the caramelized onion tartlets.  She did an amazing job by the way!

IMG_1737

IMG_1736

In the end, the turn out was enough to make me smile and the food had everyone including myself eye rolling.  You know what I mean…when the only response you can muster when savoring every bite of a delicious piece of food is just a slow roll of the eye.

IMG_1723

Top all of that off with yummy wine and Moscow mules and I was a happy girl.  I had almost forgotten someone was selling something in the middle of all of this.

IMG_1733

A special thank you to all my guests and a special special thank you for your purchases.  I made it to some freebies!  Who could ask for anything more!!!

IMG_1728

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 9 – A Sophisticated Strawberry Cake for A Sophisticated 7 Year old

I did not take many pics of this one so I will also attempt to spare you the long, drawn out, wordy blog, but don’t get too comfortable with this format.  For my 9th Pinteresting goodie, I chose to make a cake for my son’s actual birthday.  Again, I will be posting his party sometime this week.  He loves strawberry desserts so what better treat than to create a delicious Strawberry Cake with an even more irresistible Brown Buttered, Roasted Strawberry Buttercream Frosting.  Oh yes, you heard me right, roasted strawberry and, at this point, you are likely not surprised that the butter has been “browned”.

IMG_0476

For this cake, I actually combined two different recipes with the frosting being the sole inspiration for the cake.  My son liking strawberry desserts was a cover-up I must confess.  The roasting of the strawberries was exactly what you imagine….heavenly.  First you toss the fresh strawberries in brown sugar and I don’t know about you, but strawberries are probably the most beautiful fruit with that rich, red color and sugar always brings it out even more.

IMG_0454

Finally when they are pulled out of the oven, you get this rich and syrupy version of the strawberry that produces an aroma sweet enough to give you a cavity without a single bite.

IMG_0460

The cake recipe itself, was quite simple and definitely made sure it stood out alongside the superstar frosting.  The cake also contains fresh strawberries in the form of a puree and produced a really moist texture.  I did slightly overmix the batter so it did not turn out making the final product slightly more dense than it should have been.

This cake was so delicious and I love that, as emphasized in the recipe prep, the strawberry pieces were visible through the frosting.  I am telling you this had to be the best tasting cake I have made so far.  I ate more than I care to admit, but most importantly my son was so excited despite likely not appreciating the quality and sophistication of the frosting, but the smile on his face when he saw his cake was more than any praise I could ever get from even the most experienced of bakers.

IMG_0495

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 8 – The Unbreakable Cinnamon Roll

Once again, I am late with my post, but I have decided as long as I bake in real time I have fulfilled my challenge.  Being a working, who relentlessly takes on more than I can handle pretty much sets me up to constantly have something fall by the wayside.  I must say, though, I have been baking away come hell or high water or just plain crying…I have been baking!

This particular week, I sneaked over to my “Breakfast Breakfast Brunch” board to find a delicious addition to my son’s birthday breakfast which I will post later.  I landed on this handy dandy recipe and let me tell you I did not regret it.  The funny thing about making cinnamon rolls is it is very intimidating.  Then, mid-way through preparation, you realize it is not that bad.  I think it is the yeast that gets you.  I mean some weird creature that you have to feed or keep a certain temperature or you baked good will not turn out right seems pretty creepy.

Well this time was no exception.  I was pretty much worn out from party preparations when it was time to prep.  I  almost almost decided not to bake so you can imagine that when I chose to push forward, I was dragging.

IMG_8939

IMG_8946

In preparing the dough, as the recipe notes, it was really sticky and and took longer to rise than I am used to.  It also requires you to come back and forth to your dough mound and flip it and flop it in a 2 hour time period.  Fortunately it is a two day process so Thursday evening while on my last leg, I was pretty happy when I got to the point of putting it in the fridge for the overnight rise.

IMG_8949

Day 2, I was more energetic, but who would I be if I was having to rush due to the fact that people would be over shortly to taste whatever it is that was going to come out of the oven.  First thing is I must watch a master roll out the dough.  I never obtain this mythical, measured rectangle that recipes so often tell me to make in order to get a particular size and amount of cinnamon rolls and this time was no exception.  Actually it was an exception, an exceptionally far deviation from the measurements as I was really really rushing at this point.  It was so funny when I rolled my dough and found more of a cone rather than a perfectly symmetrical cylinder.  Needless to say, I got several rolls and tossed them in the oven.

IMG_8952

I almost overcooked them since I was chasing 7  year old boys around and also preparing many other dishes, but they made it out with what I would just call an elevated browning.

IMG_8954

The frosting took seconds to make and I just slapped it on and threw the dish on the table.  Once things settled down and I had finished my hosting duties, I snagged a bite and holy bleep, they were amazing.  You have absolutely got to try this recipe.  Even with my half-step, one eye open, delirious baking they turned out so good.  The rolls were moist and the cream cheese topping melted in my mouth.  I think the main difference with this roll that contributed to its amazing flavor was the honey.  Most cinnamon roll recipes do not have this and I often find them tasting quite yeasty.  Now that may be my fault and my strange husband says he likes that taste, but I am not a fan.  If you are looking for a recipe where you can go wrong, look no further, I have found it for you.  Enjoy!

IMG_8989

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 7 – Franken Pie

For shame!  I am so behind on my posting that it should be a crime.  In all fairness, I baked two last week and then just could not post.  Why do I put so many challenges on myself, I could not tell you.

This week I attempted to make a dessert for Father’s day.  I planned on making apple pie since that is the favorite of my husband and my father in-law (if I add the vanilla ice cream.  On baking day, I ended up not having any apples so I opted for a pie with whatever a had remaining in the house.  In this case it turned out to be random berries, raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry to be exact.  I had a recipe for mixed berry hand pies so naturally I decided to use that recipe, but without the hand part.  I wanted it to be a full on pie because that just looks fancier.  Also I call it Franken pie because, for some reason, it took several links to get me to the actual recipe from the link I have on my Pinterest board and I am pretty sure in the end I just meshed together a few recipes that I viewed while trying to confirm my actual Pinteresting recipe was legit.  I also used the streusel from this recipe since I opted against a double crusted pie.

IMG_8753

IMG_8755

IMG_8756

 

I was unstoppable.  I made my fancy crust and utilized the techniques I learned (e.g. use the rolling pin to gather the dough and place over the pie plate).  I rinsed the fruit which, in itself, looked so gorgeous.

IMG_8750

IMG_8760

IMG_8763

IMG_8766

I was on a roll!  I mean, I made two desserts in one day and had this gorgeous pie.  Oh yes, I was full of myself…..for a moment.    I even tried to use the stressel recipe instad of just adding a top crust.

While driving on the back roads on the way to Oma and Opa’s house, I noticed some liquid forming on the surface of the pie.  “That’s weird”, I thought to myself and like a bolt of lightning, it hit me…Holy sh*@, I forgot the flour.  I totally forgot to add flour to the filling.  I cursed myself all the way to the in-laws.  All that freakin’ work.  All of that self-gratification gone!  It was so liquid like, we totally ended up depending on it being an ice cream topping.

IMG_8774

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The flavor of the crust (to which I added an extra tablespoon of sugar) was superb and the berries tasted like heaven.  I want to make this one again with the, you know, correct ingredients.  It is definitely worth a try!

35 Weeks of “Pinteresting” Baking: Week 6 – The Little Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches That Could

I mentally prepared myself to start this blog post off with yet another baking fail.  When I took the cookies out of the oven, they were super flat and appeared discolored.  I was even embarrassed as I knew I had to post and confess my defeat.  Not to mention the fact that I am a week overdue.  Scratch that, it is now two weeks overdue.  This challenge I have given myself has definitely proven to be a….well, a challenge, but I am not giving up!

IMG_8715

I chose this dessert because I kept seeing the beautiful image staring at me while perusing my board.  It was kind of nostalgic as it brought up memories of the white rectangular box that housed my favorite individually packed Oatmeal cookies sandwiches.  I am pretty sure we had an everlasting supply in my house.  I even had them on hand in my dorm room when I went to college.  Fast forward to several years later and a maturing palate and I now see a poison sign whenever I look at that box so you can imagine it brought me excitement to be able to get a childhood treat made with ingredients I can pronounce.

IMG_8701

This time I did cheat a bit and recruit my mini bakers to balance wild boys and attempting to pump out yet another baked treat.  They are becoming pros now as the oldest has been helping me bake for about 4 years and my youngest for almost 2.  We started off with the cookie portion which was quite easy.  I cannot tell you why they came out so flat and discolored, but I think I let the butter sit out too long and that may explain the flatness.  I opened a new box of baking soda so it wasn’t that.  Regardless, this was definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover moment.

I “tested” one of the cookies and had a moment.  The cookie was so soft and flavorful.  It really felt like it was melting in my mouth.  I would definitely attribute the texture to the molasses.  You don’t really taste it but it makes sure its presence is known by creating a cookie that seems to almost massage your teeth as you chew.

IMG_8722

I was pretty exhausted when it came to creating the filling so I just cut a hole in a ziploc bag and went to town.  I also need to note that I did not use bourbon or brown the butter.  I know I know, don’t fall out.  I missed that it was browned butter as that is usually  highlighted in the recipe description and I refuse to purchase alcohol at the ABC stores.  I just added 1 tablespoon of vanilla and used plain butter.

IMG_8727

IMG_8735

They were so good, there was almost no final product to capture.  I had to leave the last few at my in-laws so I would devour every single one myself.  This is definitely going down in the books as a go to treat.