Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Tips - Cake Mix

I love baking cakes with cake mix. Don't get me wrong, scratch cakes are good, but in a pinch cake mix is the way to go! I took a cake decorating class several years back from the Decorette Shop in Tigard and learned something that has completely changed my cake baking for the better: Bake cakes at 325 degrees instead of the 350 degrees that the box recommends. Yes, you will have to bake the cakes longer but, and this is a major but, your cake will be more evenly cooked (no dome top) and will be moist!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Green Chicken

I found this recipe in Martha Stewart Living last year. It's supposed to be done with a whole butterflied chicken or spatchcocked chicken. I didn't have a whole chicken so used 8 chicken thighs. The recipe turned out great! We've made this a couple of times now, once without letting it marinade and it still turned out great! Nate loves this dish and re-dubbed it Green Chicken.

Green Chicken


1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/3 c. packed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage leaves
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 lemon, zested removed in strips with a peeler
3-4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken
salt and pepper to taste


Puree onion, garlic, herbs, oil and zest in a food processor. Rub some puree under skin and the remaining on top of the skin. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Wipe off most of rub; season with salt and pepper.

Heat grill to medium-high, or set up for indirect heat. Grill chicken until done. Let rest 10 minutes before eating.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Tips

I've learned so much since becoming a stay-at-home mom. Not just about kids but about household matters too. Other moms, my mother-in-law, neighbors and friends have all helped me be a bit less clueless. I've decided that I really shouldn't keep this inforamtion to myself so will start sharing some tips I've learned every Tuesday.

Perhaps one of the biggest "I can't believe I hadn't thought of that before" moments was when I learned how to properly clean a rubber spatula. It doesn't seem that it should be too hard, right? Did you know you are supposed to take the rubber spatula head off of the wooden handle when you wash them? You did? Well, you are one step ahead of me.

See the grey tinge to the wood? When I first pulled off the rubber spatula off the handle was covered in mold. Ick. And double ick. That is why you need to take the head off when cleaning them. The easiest thing to do is throw the rubber head into the dishwasher and wash the wooden handle by hand. Be sure to wait until the slot of the rubber head is completely dry before reassembling; otherwise you will end up with mold...not something you want to add to the brownies you are making. (just gave myself the shivers. Eww!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This is a picture of the kiddos from December 2011. It seems like yesterday...at the same time it feels like ages ago. Gabs was just 5 months old and still nursing. Nate was still in diapers. Crazy how time flies!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boozy Cupcakes

The last Easter dessert I made were these decadent boozy cupcakes: chocolate stout cake, whiskey ganache and Irish cream frosting. I'm not much of a drinker but thought they would be the perfect treat for our older nieces and nephews. We still give them Easter baskets but they've outgrown the traditional candy baskets and thought these were a bit more age-appropriate.

The cupcakes are called Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. Before anyone gets up in arms over the name, here is where the name comes from:
  1. The “Irish” reference is used to describe the contents of the cocktail (IRISH whiskey, Bailey’s IRISH creme, Guinness IRISH stout) as well as differentiate between similar recipes ( California Car Bomb, Cherry Bomb, etc).
  2. A “side car”, (also known as a “chaser”) is the actual term referring to a beverage accompanying a shot of liquor, usually non alcoholic or beer, to make the liquor less offensive in the throat, and to reduce the strength of the taste in the mouth.
  3. The “bomb” is a quite accurate description of the effect created by taking the shot glass of liquor and dropping it quickly into a pint glass full of the “car”, thus creating a fizzing explosion type reaction..at which time you immediately consume the cocktail as quickly as you can. The term also alerts the consumer that drinking the amount of alcohol in this cocktail so quickly gets you “bombed".
These were tasty treats. I could definitely taste the alcohol but my more alcohol tolerant neighbor said she couldn't taste it at all. Regardless, they were fun to make and would make a great treat next St. Patty's Day.
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes


For the Cupcakes:
1 c. Guinness stout
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ c. Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1½ t. baking soda
¾ t. salt
2 eggs
2/3 c. sour cream

For the Whiskey Ganache Filling:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2/3 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter, room temperature
2 t. Irish whiskey

For the Baileys Frosting:
2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
5 c. powdered sugar
6 T. Bailey's Irish Cream


To Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

To Make the Whiskey Ganache Filling: Finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey (I used Bushmills) and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

To Fill the Cupcakes: Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a large decorating tip), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Transfer the ganache to a piping back with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

To Make the Baileys Frosting: Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Baileys, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sugar Cookies - Flooding Icing

I have just two more Easter recipes to share. I made my favorite sugar cookies but decided to get creative with the frosting with a process called flooding. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and a lot more fun! Here is how to do it:

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies


3 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 sticks (salted) butter, cold & cut into chunks
1 egg
1 1/4 T. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets or Silpat mats. Freeze the cut shape on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Royal Icing


4 T. meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp light corn syrup
few drops clear extract (optional)


Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.

Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!) Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired.

Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form.

(You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not over beat.

Color using gel paste food colorings.

Once your colors are mixed, add water a teaspoon at a time to thin it for flooding. Stir the water in with a rubber spatula, rather than beating it. Hold your rubber spatula over the bowl and let some icing fall back into the bowl. The ribbon of icing should disappear into the rest of the icing in about 2-3 seconds, counting "one-one thousand, two-one thousand". The consistency should be that of syrup.

When decorating the cookies simply add the colors you desire. Using a toothpick swirl the colors to get the tie-die look. Dry completely before stacking the cookies for storage.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little Stars

Last night was the big fundraising auction for Nate's preschool. The theme was Little Stars. My job for the auction was to take photos of all of the kids, edit them, have them printed and then mount them onto foam boards. It was a huge undertaking.
It took a many hours over the last three months to take the photos and edit them. I had a lot of help from my great in-laws who watched Nate and Gabby while I took photos. Though the amount of help from Jim was amazing. I questioned over and over whether he liked photo A or photo B better. He also helped me to mount all of the pictures which was more of a pain than it should have been. Finally hanging the pictures. I wouldn't have been able to do it without him.
I learned some cool Photoshop tricks that I will try to share in some later posts. I also learned tricks to get kids to smile. I learned that Jim has limitless patience. Most importantly I learned not to sign up for a job without knowing the details and time commitment it will take!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chocolate Mouse

Another of the desserts I made for Easter was a classic Chocolate Mousse. This recipe uses espresso which seems to enhance the dark chocolaty flavor and keeps the mousse from being cloyingly sweet.

Chocolate Mousse


3/4 c. chilled heavy cream, divided
4 large egg yolks
1/4 c. espresso or strong coffee, room temperature
1/8 t. kosher salt
3 T. sugar, divided
6 oz. semisweet chocolate (61-72% cacao), chopped
2 large egg whites

Beat 1/2 cup cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form; cover and chill.

Combine egg yolks, espresso, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is lighter in color and almost doubled in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees, about 1 minute.

Remove bowl from pan. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until firm peaks form.

Fold egg whites into chocolate in 2 additions; fold whipped cream into mixture just to blend.

Divide mousse among 6 4-oz. ramekins. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Do Ahead: Mousse can be made 1 day ahead; cover and keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Before serving, whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form; dollop over mousse.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Surprise Cookies

These cookies were a huge hit at Easter. My neighbors said they were the perfect combination of flavors and textures. A niece said they were like Ding Dongs wrapped up into a cookie. I say they were just plain yummy.

They are called Surprise Cookies because of the marshmallow surprise tucked under the frosting. Yes, there were a lot of steps to making these cookies but it wasn't complicated. Nate had fun squishing the marshmallows on top. We'll definitely make this part of our regular cookie baking repertoire.

Surprise Cookies


For the Cookies:

1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. coarse salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract
About 15 large marshmallows, halved crosswise

For the Frosting:

3 c. confectioners' sugar
6 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. plus 1 1/2 t. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/4 c. plus 2 T. whole milk
3/4 t. vanilla extract


Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined.

Using a 1 3/4- inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately press a marshmallow half on top of each cookie. (Press cut side down to avoid getting overly sticky fingers). Bake until marshmallows begin to melt, 2 minutes more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

Make the frosting: Put confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt butter with the cocoa powder in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add butter mixture to the confectioners' sugar. Whisk in milk and vanilla. Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cookie to cover marshmallow. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes. Cookies can be stored in a single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Note: One of our neighbors froze the cookies and pulled one out each day for a snack. She said that the cookie tasted fresh and there were no ill effects from freezing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

MAKit Plates 2013

Every year I gather all of my young cousins and kids and we pull out our inner artist and draw. Last year was fun, this year was almost competitive. The cousins are getting older and spent so much time and energy you can see it in the end product!

This is my older sis' plate. It is all of the foods she hates.

Gabby's plate. Not bad for a one year old! Good color usage!

Cuz' Sophia always uses a lot of color and has such pretty plates.

This is my cuz' Philip. He's in college and thought he was too big to color a plate. Luckily another cousin berrated him into it. Isn't it impressive?
Cuz' Miranda is a senior in high school. She made Candy Land. For some reason the photo kept flipping everytime I uploaded it but I had to include it anyway. Her colors always amaze me, especially since we are using chunky Crayola washable markers.
This is an annual tradition so we probably won't stop anytime soon. Though the MAKit corporation makes it easy! If you order over 10 plates you are considered a group and they send a kit of blank sheets with your completed order. Great customer service!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Butterfinger Truffles

Today is my sweetie pie's birthday. Happy Birthday, honey! One thing that we do not have in common is a sweet tooth. Jim doesn't seem to have one. Baffling isn't it?

Of the seven desserts I made for Easter this was one of the only ones that he partook, Butterfinger truffles.
They have a creamy texture, super chocolaty flavor with the little candy bar crunch. A perfect chocolate lovers indulgence.
Note: The next time I make them I will make them a bit smaller. These were two-bite truffles. I think they would be better as one bite truffles.
Butterfinger Truffles
10 oz. semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
1 T. unsalted butter
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. chopped Butterfinger candy bars (about 8 oz.)
4 t. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)


Place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan; pour hot cream over chocolate mixture. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in chopped candy. Cover and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or a Silpat mat. Using a melon baller, scoop 3/4" balls (or heaping teaspoonfuls) from chocolate mixture. Roll truffles between your palms to make surface smooth. Place on the prepared sheet.

Place cocoa powder in a small bowl. Roll truffles in cocoa powder to coat. Chill until firm. Do Ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper. Keep chilled.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cherry Pie

Cherry pie is an all-American desserts that seems like it should be relegated to the past. The ones I've had have been gummy and no where near tasting of real cherries.

My pal Amanda introduced me to Oregon Fruit Products cherries a few years back and they changed my whole perception of cherry pie. It is so simple to make and tastes like Summer!
Cherry Pie
1 c. sugar
3 T. corn starch
3 cans cherries, juice reserved from one can
1 T. butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan whisk together the sugar and corn starch until well blended. Open the cherries (I used one can each of Dark Sweet, Red Tart and Royal Anne) and drain; reserving the juice from one can. Add the juice to the sugar mixture and cook on medium heat until thickened. Fold in the cherries and then poor into the prepared crust. Dot top with butter then place top crust on. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the filling starts bubbling.
Let the pie cool several hours so the filling will thicken. Slice and serve!