KUMBAYA!!

Last weekend we had a birthday celebration at the house – Jaks’ 2nd birthday and Hudson’s 13th birthday.  10 kids, all cousins, on a beautiful, sunny day, all playing, laughing, eating bbq’d hot dogs and burgers, being silly……being kids!  Along with Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Grandma, Grandpa, Great Aunts, 2nd cousins, friends, basically a nice, big family party.

  Happy Birthday   taste test2
What better fun birthday dessert could I make for the event, but Minion cupcakes!  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the Minions, they’re funny, cute, silly and they sort of walk to their own beat!  Making these definitely brought out the kid in me, (not that the kid in me isn’t out almost every day already)., but I got to make Bob, Dave, Kevin, Stuart and have fun making goofy smiles with them!  I used licorice wheels, giant marshmallows, the brown Reese’s Pieces and some black icing to create their faces.

End ProductFor the cupcakes, I used a basic vanilla recipe out of this amazing little recipe book I have from the Food Network Magazine.

  • 1 1/3c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1c sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2c milk

This book has everything from a birthday classic cupcake to salted caramel toffee to malted milk to passion fruit to root beer float – yes, we are still talking about cupcakes!  There are 50 different kinds of cupcakes……hmmmm, maybe this should be the recipe “book” that I use to make every recipe listed.  Not enough variety maybe?  We’ll see.  Anyway, back to my Minions…..I sliced the tops with an ‘X’ and filled them with a shot of vanilla custard just to give the kids an extra surprise when they bit into them, which was a HUGE hit!

           ready to mix    Filling

As much as using a boxed cupcake mix would be simpler and maybe save me about 5 minutes (ok, maybe 10)……there’s just something about a cupcake from scratch that is sooooo much yummier than a powder in a bag in a box where you add oil, an egg and some milk.  Nope, not gonna do it!!  Plus, I can also modify the ingredients and make it a “healthier” version if I want to.  Same goes for the icing – none of that plastic tub stuff.  I want the real deal……scrumptious, fluffy buttercream frosting, which conveniently, I found on the Food Network’s website.  Mmmmmm, YUM!  It’s crazy simple to whip up and it tastes way better than the ready made store bought icing.   From the looks on these little munchkins’ faces, I think it’s safe to say they’re “kid approved”!

Collage

So next time you’re throwing a birthday party for one of your kidlets, be creative, be adventurous, have some fun with the “cake”.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be the traditional cake that you cut into pieces for everyone – cupcakes are kind of like their own personal mini cake.  Plus, you won’t have anyone fighting over the flower, balloon or whatever the decoration may be on the corner of the cake slab so they can have extra icing!!

Happy BakingBusiness Card heart

 

Mushy Smooshy Heart Day

Yes, I’m talking about St. Valentine’s Day.  Some people look forward to this “holiday” as soon as New Year’s is over, some people loathe this day (for varying reasons) and some people (like me) are completely indifferent on the day.  It really has no bearing on the way, (or more specifically when), I show my love for those that are close to me.  The only impact it does have on me is that it’s an excuse to make some treats – not that I really need an excuse!  This year, I made something new and a bit different than just my regular lovey-dovey heart shaped shortbreads, something that is sort of trending lately – Cake Pops.  They were both fun to make and a big hit!  The nice thing about the cake pop maker I bought is that it came with a pretty good recipe book, with simple recipes from scratch.  To use the maker itself, is as easy as pie, as simple as ABC, like taking candy from a kid……well, you get the idea!  It’s like a waffle maker – you can only mess it up if you put too much batter in each of the divots, which if you follow the directions of 1 tbsp of batter, you’re good to go!

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Seeing as Valentine’s Day typically goes for reds, pinks, hearts, x’s & o’s, smoochy lips and chocolate, I thought it best to stick with tradition.  We don’t have a microwave (and honestly, I don’t even miss it!), so melting the chocolate in the oven is the best option for me – plus, I find melting chocolate slow in the oven just works better.  Dipping the cake pops into the chocolate does require a bit of patience, as you have to wait until the excess chocolate has dripped off so you don’t waste any or get it all over the place.  The secret to getting the stick to stay in the cake ball is to dip the end of the stick into the chocolate first, then jab it in (gently of course).

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If you plan on using sprinkles or small candies to decorate, keep in mind to roll the cake pop in the decorative whatever-you’re-using once the chocolate or glaze stops dripping and they are tacky, or you’ll get ‘bald spots’ on them!  And if you are drizzling chocolate on them, make sure the chocolate or glaze is dry, otherwise the drizzle just slides right off! Just remember that however you choose to decorate them, they will be amazing because it’s YOUR creativity that’s making them!

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Now of course, I had to make shortbread, but I wanted to do something really cool with them.  Something I hadn’t tried before, something that tested my “skills”.  So, these happened!  My simple shortbread cookies became pretty!  Ha

February 2016 054Although these took a little bit of time to create, it was relatively simple “artwork”.  It just took some diligence and a steady hand.  The trick to blending the icing without it running is to use flood consistency Royal Icing, which you can find on various different websites!  You will need a #1 icing tip to create the designs, as well as a scribe tool.  I wouldn’t try using a toothpick instead of the scribe tool, as the wood will soak in the icing and it will run, which won’t work too well for your little hearts.

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It’s also important to remember to let your charming little indulgences set overnight so they don’t stick together when you package them up for a beautiful little gift d’amour!

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Both cake pops and yummy shortbread cookies are great for all occasions – parties, luncheons, birthdays, family get togethers, even business meetings!  Contact me to place your custom order!

 

 

 

 

Rolling with my BIT (baker in training)

When it comes to baking, at least for me, it’s usually something you do on your own.  It’s my escape from…….everything really!  However, there’s always an exception and that’s when any of my nieces, nephews or friends’ kidlets ask me to bake with them.  I just can’t say no to spending some fun time with them and helping them make some yummy treats!

                          Kya chilling in the leaves    Kya waterfall b&w

This is Ric’s beautiful daughter, Kya.  I have the joy of being able to hang out with her on a weekly basis and just seeing her makes my day brighter!  She’s a ball of magnificent energy and her smile lights up a room, so when she asked me if we could make some cinnamon rolls together, I was all over it.  We picked out a recipe together from Food.com, which took us a little bit to find, as we were looking for a recipe that didn’t call for yeast (we didn’t have any in the pantry and wasn’t able to go out & get any).  Kya then took over the reigns and basically did everything from the measuring to the mixing to rolling the dough out on her own.

     Kya rolling   Sprinkling cinnamon   Cutting the roll of dough

She wanted them to be extra tasty, so we used a little more butter and cinnamon/sugar mix than the recipe called for on the dough before rolling it up!  My only job was slicing up the rolled dough and taking them out of the oven.  Now, I have to admit, we probably should have used a recipe that included yeast, as these ones came out a bit dense and flat, but they were still tasty…. just look at that big smile, it’s obvious that Kya enjoyed them!

cinnamon rolls yum

Kid Approved

With all the baking I do, most of the recipes are full on desserts, meaning they’re made with things like flour, butter, eggs, milk, a lot of the traditional ingredients you’d use when you think of desserts.  So when my beautiful and dear friend, Victoria, asked me if I could write a blog with some gluten free and vegan recipes, I happily went through my recipe books in search of a few good ones.

So, yes, most kids love ooey, gooey, sugary cookies and cupcakes, but in all honesty, how many do you know that would actually eat not just a ‘protein energy ball’, but a gluten free and healthy one?  HA!  Well, I found a crazy delicious recipe on thewhoot.com that is all of the above AND it’s kid approved!  These cutie patooties are Ryland and Jaks, 2 of the 4 sweet little munchkins that I have the pleasure of spending my days with and they are, without a doubt, typical kids that love their cookies!  So, I was very happy when they both devoured a couple of these little morsels!

                                  Ryland approved    Jaks approved

These seriously take about 5 minutes to toss these 8 simple, healthy ingredients together in a bowl – 1 cup oats, 2/3 cup coconut, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 cup ground flaxseed, 1/3 cup honey (or maple syrup), 1/2 cup cacao nibs, 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 tsp vanilla. Chill in the fridge for about a 1/2 hour, roll into balls and voila…..you have a tasty treat!  Just keep in mind – with the flaxseed and chia seeds in them, if you eat more than a few of them in one day, they will certainly give your digestion a big boost!!

                                  Ingredients Mixed    Protein Balls

As I’ve done a 30 day healthy detox program with my USANA business a few times, there are a lot of gluten free and vegan recipes, but most are meals, not desserts.  However, one of the desserts in the program, which is both gluten free and vegan, is so delicious, that the pan of them literally does not last more than a couple days any time I’ve made them.  The No Bake Protein Bars recipe was created by Gorete Almeida, who is one of the brilliant nutritionists that helped create the program and some of the recipes.

                                   Ready for the freezer   Plated

Typically, dessert recipes that are gluten free and/or vegan have ingredients that some people really don’t care for too much (like tofu) or that you may need to do a little hunting around for, such as amaranth, buckwheat or coconut flour or even flaxseed meal.  Luckily, these sensational squares are made with simple ingredients and most are probably in your pantry or cupboards right now!  Coconut, oats, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, natural peanut butter……and they’re all healthy too!  And on a side note – these are out-of-this-world delish when you store them in the freezer!

Easy Peasy Banana Bread

In the past 6 months, I think I’ve made this recipe at least a dozen times, I can almost make it with my eyes closed!!  This is because it’s both a delicious bread and also because of Leanne’s, Ric’s and consequently now Kya’s, Ryland’s and Jaks’ love, (I think it’s actually nearing obsession ), for banana bread.  Only difference between them with their unanimous love of banana bread is that Ric isn’t too fond of the chocolate chips in this recipe – he tolerates them, but I think he truly believes that they have no right to be in any type of banana bread!  If I remember to, sometimes I’ll add the chocolate to the batter just before I put it in the oven and only into one side of the bread.

                               Ingredients   eaten

This recipe from Allrecipes, is probably one of the simpler ones I’ve made and believe me, I’ve made copious banana breads, cakes and muffins over the years.  Mush the bananas, add some melted butter, an egg and mix that into your flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and your batter is ready.  After baking for about 45 minutes, you have a fluffy, spongy yummy cake.  It’s even better when it’s still warm from the oven – just ask Leanne and Ric!

Squares cut