30 June 2011

Patriotic Pops

My Top Ten List for the Fourth of July:

10. Barbecue...everything. Steak, sausages, corn, you name it. I love that part of the Fourth.  It's a little bit of a bummer this year because we won't have a barbecue, so we'll have to move inside and faux-becue.

9.  Fresh watermelon, eaten after a water balloon fight.

8.  Red, white, and blue crafts: paper flags, pinwheels, flag wind socks and anything that requires crepe paper and patriotic card stock.

7.  Red, white, and blue tie dyed shirts. Even if they come out magenta.

5. Watching fireworks on TV (East Coast time). Because there is no way my husband and I my kid could stay up to watch the real thing.

4.  Small town parades. Ours throws candy and we come home with a haul the likes of Halloween.

3.  Buying a special bathing suit for my daughter that looks like an American Flag. And watching her wear it proudly, all summer long.

2.  That this year, we will be walking on the beach and picnicking. And because there are no fireworks allowed, I won't have to face my fear of all things fire.

1. The "proud to be an American" feeling that is just oozed everywhere by the holiday.

Oh, and one more thing.

These patriotic pops.

I was going to call them "patriotic pops and balls" but, well, I decided not to. You can probably figure out why.

I wasn't having much luck with cake pops when I made these. I don't know if it was the cake recipe I used or the fact that they were too big, but they kept falling off the stick. I managed to get a few of them striped, like I'd wanted. They're sort of like those bomb popsicles. Or Papa Smurf, whichever you prefer.

After several of the pops fell off the stick, I decided to switch tactics. I decided to make cupcake balls instead. I used a candy cup mold to make the base.

These are made very similarly to my Baby Peeps: fill the mold with your candy melts, then pour out the excess  chocolate. Freeze the molds for a few minutes and pop out the shell.

At this point, your cake balls should be ready and waiting for you. Pipe some candy melt into the bottom of the shell and add your cake ball. Let it harden and then dip in the candy you want to represent the "frosting". (Yes, I know the cake ball looks like mold. If you ever try to make blue velvet cake, make sure you use enough blue food coloring.) Top your "cupcake" with sprinkles and a red M&M (or red chocolate covered sunflower seed) and let it harden.

Cute little red, white, and blue "cupcakes". Perfect to help you celebrate the Fourth of July.

I loved arranging them this way. The cake pops in the background seemed proud to be covered in red, white, and blue, don't you think?

What is on your Fourth of July Top 10 List?

Patriotic Pops and Cupcake Bites

by Crazy for Crust
Keywords: July 4th cupcake

  • 1 box cake mix (any flavor), prepared according to package directions, baked and cooled
  • 1 can frosting (any flavor)
  • 1 bag white candy melts
  • 1 bag blue candy melts
  • ½ bag red candy melts
  • Red, white, and blue sprinkles
  • Red M&Ms or chocolate covered sunflower seeds or similar candy
  1. Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Add half the can of frosting and mix well. Test to see if the cake ball is wet enough to stick together. If not, add more frosting up to ¾ of the can.
  2. Make round balls of the cake mixture and place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes before dipping.

For the Patriotic Pops:
  1. Melt white candy coating in a medium sized but deep bowl.
  2. Working in batches, remove cake balls from freezer (place extras into the refrigerator; you don’t want them frozen). Dip a lollipop stick into the melted candy and then insert into the bottom of the cake ball. Dip each pop in the melted white candy coating. Do not swirl or move the cake pop inside the melted candy. If needed, use a spoon to help you cover the entire ball with white candy. Pull straight up to remove and tap your wrist (not the stick) to remove excess candy. Place upright in a styrofoam block. Repeat with remaining pops and freeze until hardened.
  3. Repeat step #3 with the blue chocolate and red, dipping less of the cake pop each time to create stripes. Let harden in between each layer.

For the Cupcake Balls:
  1. Melt the blue candy melts and add to a squeeze bottle. Fill the candy molds with the blue candy. Pour the excess back into the bowl and freeze the mold. When solid, pop out the candy cups.
  2. Add a little more melted candy to the bottom of the cup. Add a cake ball and wait until it hardens. Melt your topping color candy coating and dip the cupcake ball upside down in it. Pull straight up (do not swirl) and top with sprinkles. Chill until firm.
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This recipe will be linked with:
Cast Party WednesdayMade It On Monday (Lark's Country Heart), 2 Maids a Baking (2 Maids a Milking), This Chick CooksSweet Treats Thursday (Something Swanky), Chic-and-Crafty (Frugal Girls), Sweet Tooth Friday (Alli-n-son), Sweets for a Saturday (Sweet as Sugar Cookies), A Themed Baker's Sunday (Cupcake Apothecary)

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27 June 2011

Brownie Batter Crispy Treats

Last night I couldn't sleep. I woke up at midnight and it took me a couple hours to fall back asleep. I couldn't stop thinking about my to-do list: bake this or that, write this or that, stuff I had to do before our playgroup today, etc. I spent the hours tossing from right to left coming close to sleep a few times, only to be startled awake by a new thought like, "Where did I put those water balloons???" followed by another amount of time obsessing about where I could have put them.

Whenever I have nights like these, I remember what my dad always says about restless nights. He'd find himself awake at nights worrying about work and he would envision a little guy up in his head with a big broom who would sweep, sweep, sweep those thoughts away. It helped him to clear his mind so he could fall asleep.

So, last night, I dutifully brought out my little guy with his broom. I tried to make him sweep. But, this is where I differ from my dad. Because the little sweeper doesn't make me stop thinking about things, in fact it does the opposite.

What is the guy wearing? A green maintenance suit? Shorts and a t-shirt?

What's he look like? I can't just envision a faceless person, that's creepy.  Glasses? Hair? No hair?

Wait a minute. What if it's not a guy? What if it's a girl? Is she pretty? Sparkly? Thinner than me?

Wait a minute, she is thinner than me! I must stop baking so much. I need to work out more. My tummy is too  smooshy.

Speaking of smooshy tummy, how am I going to look good in a bathing suit? I want to look good on our (adults only!) trip to Las Vegas. I can't wait; it's for our anniversary.

Oh, but before our anniversary is my husband's birthday. A big party. I have so much to do. Shop, make, cook, plan. Oh I'm so stressed out about his birthday.

And I end up right back where I started.

You know what's better than a sleepless night?  These Brownie Batter Crispy Treats.

Awhile back I made Cake Batter Crispy Treats, from How Sweet It Is. A few weeks later I wanted to use up some of the crispy rice cereal I had overbought and I was trying to think of a new flavor treat. I'd already done peanut butter. I was looking through the cabinet when it hit me. Brownies! Brownies are one of my absolute favorite desserts (add a crust and it gets even better). I did the same thing for the Brownie Batter Crispy Treats that I did for the cake batter ones - just added some powdered mix into the melted marshmallow/butter mixture.

If you need something to take to a party this July 4th, think about making these treats. They're easy to make and very portable. Kids love them (and adults too!)

So, next time you have a restless night, make some Brownie Batter Crispy Treats. They might not help you get back to sleep, but they'll sure taste good.

If you get a chance, head on over to Something Swanky: {DIY} Specialty Cupcakes and Desserts today. She recently hosted a bake sale and used several recipes from fellow bloggers. I was privileged to be one of them! You can read about my Oatmeal Cookie Brownies at her bake sale.


Brownie Batter Krispie Treats

by Crazy for Crust

  • Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 6 cups mini marshmallows
  • 5 cups Crispy Rice Cereal
  • ¾ cup brownie mix (the powder, not the batter)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and the marshmallows in a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. As the marshmallows begin to melt, slowly add in the brownie mix until it is incorporated with the marshmallows and butter. Quickly stir in the crispy rice cereal.
  3. Pour the marshmallow-cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and press to combine. (I like to spray my hands with cooking spray and use them to press the treats into the pan – just be careful not to burn yourself.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.
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This recipe will be linked with:
Mingle Monday (Add a Pinch), Joy of DessertsCast Party Wednesday, Made It On Monday (Lark's Country Heart), 2 Maids a Baking (2 Maids a Milking), This Chick CooksSweet Treats Thursday (Something Swanky), Chic-and-Crafty (Frugal Girls), Sweet Tooth Friday (Alli-n-son), Sweets for a Saturday (Sweet as Sugar Cookies), A Well-Seasoned LifeSavory Sunday (The Sweet Details)

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23 June 2011

Spiral Cookies

Last weekend we took Jordan to see Mr. Popper's Penguins. I loved that book as a kid. I still remember turning the pages and looking at the illustrations of the penguins in the refrigerator.

There was a short movie that played before the main event. It featured one of the characters from Ice Age. It's hard to explain, but it showed him making various parts of the earth, like the continents and various landmarks. One such landmark was Mount Rushmore. Next to me, I hear Jordan say "hey, that's Mount Rushmore!" I smiled to myself. Hey, my 6-year-old pays attention in school! She learned in Kindergarten about Mount Rushmore! I wondered if she knew the presidents names, too. What a smart kid!

After the movie we went to dinner where I mentioned this to my husband. He asked Jordan, "did you learn about Mount Rushmore in Kindergarten?"

Her answer? "Nope. I learned about it on Phineas and Ferb. They tried to put Candace on the mountain."

So much for being so smart in school. All my Kindergartner ever wanted to know she learned by watching the Disney Channel. All those hours weren't for naught after all.

Speaking of Mount Rushmore, the Fourth of July is right around the corner.

Enter these red, white, and blue cookies.

I made these spiral cookies a few years ago for the 4th and they were a huge hit. They disappeared quite quickly. I've been making them ever since. They are super easy and super yummy. I think the almond extract adds a little extra to the cookie. (You can sub vanilla if you don't like almond.)They are quick and easy to eat and very portable if you are having an outdoor event or need to travel with them. And the best part about them is that you can change out the colors for different holidays (red/green for Christmas, orange/black for Halloween...)

What I love about making these cookies? Is that there is no mess! You roll out (or use your hands to press) the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. There is enough butter in the dough it doesn't stick. No messy flour clean-up. That's my kind of cookie. Then you just slice and bake. Easy peasy.

This is the first of a few 4th of July recipes I'll be sharing. I'm learning to plan ahead. 

Excuse me while I go put on another Phineas and Ferb for Jordan. It's summer and I don't want her to loose her school skills. Disney = Educational, you know (wink, wink).

Spiral Cookies

by Crazy for Crust
Source: Betty Crocker

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup red colored sugar
  • ¼ cup blue colored sugar
  1. Add sugar, butter, almond extract, and egg to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until combined. Slowly stir in your flour and mix until just combined.
  2. Divide dough into two pieces. Place one half on wax or plastic wrap spread out on your counter. Cover the top with another sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap. Use your hands or a rolling pin to press the dough into a 8-inch rectangle (oblong is fine). Alternating colors, sprinkle sugars in lines across the dough. Use the bottom sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap to help you roll the dough. Repeat with the second half of dough. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour (overnight is fine).
  3. Heat oven to 350°. Slice rolls of cookie dough into ¼-inch slices. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake 6-8 minutes until the edges begin to brown. You may want to rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet and then remove to a cooling rack.

*Use any color sugar you want; red and green for Christmas or orange and black for Halloween, etc.

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This recipe is linked with:
Sweet Treats Thursday (Something Swanky), Chic-and-Crafty (Frugal Girls), Sweet Tooth Friday (Alli-n-son), Sweets for a Saturday (Sweet as Sugar Cookies), Joy of Desserts, Cast Party Wednesday, 2 Maids a Baking (2 Maids a Milking), A Well-Seasoned Life, Savory Sunday (The Sweet Details), This Chick Cooks A Themed Baker's Sunday (Cupcake Apothecary)

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20 June 2011

Maple Yogurt Waffles

Have I ever mentioned I have a dog? I'm sure I have. (I've recently noticed I can no longer recall if I've told a story to someone. Same thing on this blog. I start to write a post and think hmmm...have I written this before?? I guess it comes with aging. And parenting.)

My dog's name is Ginger. She's a golden retriever. We rescued her three years ago, when she was 5. Why anyone would give up this dog, I have no idea. She's sweet, loving, somewhat trained. And, by somewhat, I mean she can sit when she wants to and heel while she's walking if she feels like it.

Ginger enjoys food. All food. She would prefer me to cook her a steak and some french fries for dinner than give her the all-natural, wheat-free, super-expensive dog food I buy her. When we first got her we wondered if she was actually fed dog food in her previous life; if maybe they just cooked and served her three-course meals on fine china and linens.

One morning shortly after we brought her home, I made pancakes for breakfast. Ginger is always underfoot in the kitchen, hoping I'll drop something. But when I started to make the pancakes it was different. The dog recognized the batter bowl. The begging was so different than usual.  Later, after we'd eaten and I'd placed the leftover pancakes on the counter to cool, I came back in the kitchen and found her, paws up on the counter, eating them.

It was then I realized she really likes pancakes. And, soon after I realized, waffles too. Because not only does she recognize the batter bowl, but she knows what the waffle iron looks like. And where I keep it. And, that when I go to that cabinet at 7:00am, it means only one thing. Snacks for her.

I wanted to make waffles from scratch recently so I searched my saved recipes and found one I'd saved from Two Peas and their Pod, a blog I really enjoy. The recipe was for Honey Yogurt Waffles. I however, had neither honey nor the plain Greek yogurt called for. So I made Maple Yogurt Waffles (with vanilla yogurt) instead.

They were really good. I forgot to put sprinkles in them as my daughter prefers, so I served them with syrup. They weren't too sweet and had a great texture. I also felt good that they didn't contain tons of refined sugar and had whole wheat flour. That way I could have six two. My family liked them.

And so did Ginger.

Maple Yogurt Waffles
Printer-Friendly Recipe

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and their Pod

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups nonfat milk
¾ cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.    Whisk flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the milk, yogurt, syrup, eggs, vanilla, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
2.    Preheat the waffle iron and spray lightly with cooking spray. Fill and cook according to the manufacturer instructions. Serve with additional maple syrup.

*If your kid is like mine, add some sprinkles to the batch of batter before cooking. Then you don’t need syrup!

This recipe is linked with:

Lark's Country Heart

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18 June 2011


Pin It
Happy Father's Day!

On Mother's Day I showcased one of my mom's recipes, so I thought my dad shouldn't be left out on Father's Day. Hence, I give you:

You probably tried to read that and gave up. Don't worry; I would have too. In fact, until I did research for this post, I had no idea how it was spelled. I always spelled it the way I said it: Kniflea (k-ni-flea).

Yes, you say. But what in the heck is it?

Knoepfle is a type of egg noodle. Have you ever heard of Spaetzle? Spaetzle is the more popular form of this noodle. Spaetzle is a German egg noodle, but is (supposed to be) longer and thinner, somewhat like spaghetti. Knoepfle is the "button-shaped" equivalent to spaetzle. I equate it with Switzerland, because my dad is Swiss and we always explained it by calling knoepfle a "swiss noodle." I think that Knoepfle originated in Germany and, from my research, I learned in Switzerland it is spelled Chnoepfli.

For me, knoepfle means two things: "holidays" and "daddy."

My Dad
Knoepfle is a special occasion food. It's one of those things that is not entirely simple to make and it's time consuming. We ate it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe one other time of year when the stretch between Christmas and the next Thanksgiving got to be too long. My dad's whole family makes it. I remember my Nana and Uncle preparing it when I was a child. But, really, I equate it with my dad, because no one makes it like him.

As a child celebrating Thanksgiving, I never new people ate mashed potatoes with their meal. We would have stuffing and knoepfle. It wasn't until I was older that I realized mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple. I wasn't even going to make them last year until it dawned on me that my husbands' family was attending our meal and would probably miss one of their traditions.

Last week we went and visited my parents for a few days. My mom had asked if we'd enjoy turkey as one of the meals. When I got there I realized we were having Thanksgiving in June, and I was delighted. Once a year is not enough for that meal. Then I realized my dad was making knoepfle and I was beyond excited. I immediately got out my camera and began snapping photos.

You're probably wondering how the noodles come out that shape, like little buttons. (Jordan said they looked like little teeth, which would have grossed me out if I hadn't thought the exact same thing as a little kid.) Knoepfle dough is wet and sticky, not unlike the consistency of bread dough before all the kneading. My great-grandmother used to scrape the dough with a knife into boiling water to achieve the "little buttons." I can't imagine how long and laborious that process was. Luckily, nowadays we have this:

It looks like a flat grater, but it has a track and a place to put the knoepfle dough. Then you run the container back and forth on the track dropping little bits of goodness into boiling water.

Once they all float to the surface, you cook for an additional minute and then drain into a large bowl. Traditionally (at least in our family tradition), knoepfle are served with sauteed onions.  And butter. Lots and lots of butter. I remember as a kid watching my parents go through (I think) a pound of butter for a batch. At least two sticks would go into sauteing the onions. I liked mine plain, so large pats chunks of butter would be added after each batch was cooked to prevent sticking. Over the years we've managed to cut down on the butter. Little pats in between each cooked batch, and last week my mom actually cooked the onions in the microwave with barely any butter. *gasp*

Growing up, there were always two containers of knoepfle on the holiday table: with onions and plain. I liked mine with just (more) butter and parmesan cheese. My dad likes his with onions and gravy (or leftover with melted Swiss cheese). You can dress them up however you like.

I've always been too scared to make them myself. My dad does it so perfectly and effortlessly that I don't even think mine would compare. But now I want to try making them on my own. I have spaetzle press, after all. It shouldn't go to waste. Maybe we'll have Thanksgiving in August.

So, Happy Father's Day to my dad. Thanks for bringing me up with such a special tradition. No holiday is ever complete without your knoepfle. It's something that I hope I will be brave enough to do with Jordan one day. Thanks for being a great dad! I love you.

Yes, I was a pizza for Halloween. The whole food thing seems clearer now, no?


by Crazy for Crust

  • 8 eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-8 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions and 8 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Beat eggs in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour, milk, and salt. Batter will be very thick and sticky. Mix on low speed until all the lumps are out.
  2. If you plan to serve your knoepfle with onions now is the time to cook them. Chop the onions and sauté in the butter until they are translucent. Set aside. You can mix them with the cooked knoepfle (see next step) or serve them in a separate bowl on the side.
  3. Meanwhile, begin boiling your water. It is best to use a large stock pot that has a colander (pasta) pot with it. Once water is boiling, add approximately a cup of batter to the spaetzle press and slowly slide the press back and forth to create your knoepfle. Watch for the knoepfle to float to the top of the water, then boil for an additional one minute (after they are all floating). Strain and place into a large bowl. Mix with a tablespoon (or two) of butter (to prevent sticking). You can mix with the sautéed onions instead of the butter in this step. You may want to taste your knoepfle at this point to see if the batter needs more salt. Repeat until batter is finished, about 4 times.
  4. Serve with the sautéed onions, extra butter, gravy, and Swiss or parmesan cheese.
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Knoepfle information found on www.spaetzlewunder.com.

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16 June 2011

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches (Cooking With Kids)

This Sunday is Father's Day. So I thought, for this week's installment of Cooking With Kids, that I should have Jordan help me make something for her daddy. I immediately thought about these peanut butter cookies, the easiest ones one the planet.

Let me tell you something about my husband, Mel. He loves peanut butter. LOVES. I think he loves it more than most things. I have to hide my multiple-jar stash of peanut butter, unless he's being super conscious of his WW points (and sometimes even then). Sometimes I will open a new jar to make a PB&J for Jordan and then, a few days later, go to make another one and the jar will be almost empty. It's like burglars come in the night and eat my peanut butter because I never see my husband eat it. But, unless my dog has learned to unscrew jars (I wouldn't put it past her), my husband is usually the culprit.

He also loves ice cream. He eats it every night, in the form of a Skinny Cow cup. So, when brainstorming ideas for this dessert, I decided to marry his two favorite things into one delicious dessert: Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches. And I used fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt. It's not a Skinny Cow cup, but at least its portioned.

Jordan loved helping me with these. I scooped out the ice cream onto the bottom cookie and let her place the top cookie and squish it down. But I thought they needed something else.

The ice cream sandwiches just seemed boring. So I thought sprinkles or chocolate chips would be a good addition to make them pop. Guess which one Jordan chose?

The chocolate chips, of course. Girl after my own heart. The hardest part for her was when I told her she needs to wait until Sunday to eat one. Although I might be nice and let her have one tonight. 'Cuz I'm sweet like that.

The hardest part (for me) about doing this with Jordan was being fast. Because kids just...aren't. Ice cream melts. It tends to melt more when you handle it. And it makes it a tad chaotic when you're trying work with ice cream, be fast, help the kid, and take photos. But it was fun anyway. (And, without the photo taking, it would have been a lot easier.)

Here's another thing about my husband: he's an awesome dad. Jordan adores him (and so do I). The first thing she asks him in the morning is to play with her. When he can, he does. He's a great player. They lock themselves in her room and play princesses. He tells her stories. Ones he makes up. He takes her places every weekend for "daddy-daughter" time. Once in awhile he even takes her to his mom or dad's for the weekend (without me!) I am so happy that they have such a great relationship. I often feel like the odd-man out when we're all together. And that's okay. Because he is her hero.

And he's mine too.

I love you sweetie! Happy Father's Day to the best husband in the whole world.


Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 cup sugar
Ice Cream (any flavor you like)
Sprinkles or Mini Chocolate Chips

1.    Preheat oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.    Mix the peanut butter, egg, and sugar in a large bowl by hand until blended.
3.    Scoop uniform balls of dough onto your cookie sheets (I used a 2 tablespoon scoop). Fill a small bowl with water. Dip a fork in the water and press the cookies down, creating a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely.
4.    To make the ice cream sandwiches, place a cookie upside down and top it with a scoop of ice cream. Place a second cookie on the top and squish it down a little. Roll the sandwiches in sprinkles or mini chocolate chips and freeze immediately.

Yield: makes about 6 ice cream sandwiches (depending on size)

This recipe is linked with:

Joy of Desserts
Cast Party Wednesday

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13 June 2011

Boston Cream Cupcakes (with some Cake Balls thrown in)

When I was growing up, there was always dessert. I learned to bake from my mom and I got my love of all things sugary from both my parents.  As an adult, I have always looked forward to birthdays and holidays and visits with my parents because I can bake treats for them. Then, a few years ago, my dad was told by his doctor to limit/cut out all sugar from his diet. This was before the whole "everything comes sugar-free" revolution. When Father's Day or his birthday rolled around I was at a loss.  Finding sugar-free recipes isn't easy. They usually have unrecognizable ingredients or don't taste that good. I've tried baking with Splenda and have never liked the results.  And "moderation" was never a thing that my family has been good at. I was always (and still am) confused by those people that can eat one cookie or slice of pie and stop. I've never been able to do that. It was always a running joke in my house that when we got a one pound box of See's Candy as a gift it would be gone by the end of the day. And that was no joke; it was usually true.

A few years ago I discovered sugar-free chocolate melts through An Occasional Chocolate. Since then I have also found them at Winco, which is a local grocery store where I live. (They have tons of bulk bins and lots of sugar-free stuff.) Once I found those, I was able to start doing chocolate-covered sugar-free cookies (like Oreos or Murray's brand). I've even made sugar-free Oreo truffles.

But the one thing I hadn't been able to make that my dad really loves is cake. Growing up, birthdays meant a Duncan Hines (or whatever brand was on sale) sheet cake with a healthy layer of frosting on top. Those always lasted about as long as the See's Candy did. So, imagine my excitement when I was cruising the baking aisle and saw that Pillsbury is now making sugar-free cake mix (frosting and brownie mix too). I was so excited! I immediately bought a box of yellow cake mix and a can of the chocolate frosting. I was curious how it would taste.

But, in typical fashion for me, I couldn't just make a yellow cake or cupcake. I needed to do something else. Because my dad loves pudding of all sorts, I decided to fill the cupcakes with sugar-free pudding to make them extra special.

I baked the cupcakes according to the package directions. While the cake was cooling I made a box of instant sugar-free vanilla pudding and then piped it inside the cupcakes, then frosted them with the sugar-free chocolate frosting.

The cake tasted exactly like regular cake mix. There was no sugar-free after taste. The frosting was harder than usual frosting (piping it on top of the cupcakes was a pain-in-the-hand, so next time I'll just use a knife). It had the slightest sugar-free taste, but not bad. My dad liked them. Jordan wanted to add those "All Star" flags because she thinks her Papa is an all-star. (So do I.)

Now, if you don't need to eat sugar-free food, just use regular cake mix, frosting, and pudding. This would be an easy recipe for flavor variation: chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, cheesecake pudding...the combinations are endless.

I've written the recipe below for the entire cake mix, frosting, and pudding mix. However, I only made a dozen cupcakes. Remember the whole "moderation" thing? The fact that my family lacks the ability to do it? I figured my dad didn't need two dozen cupcakes staring at him. Instead, I made a dozen cupcakes (had some frosting and pudding left over) and made one 9" round cake layer. I froze that for later use. "Later" was this past week when we saw my parents again. 

What to do with a little bit of frosting and a frozen cake layer?

Make cake balls, of course.

I crumbled the cake and added about 1/4 cup of frosting. Mix it all together and form your cake balls. Freeze them for about 30 minutes, then dip in melted sugar-free chocolate. I made large cake balls this time because making small ones sometimes can drive a girl to go insane. It. Takes. So. Long.

So, sugar-free cupcakes and cake balls, all made with Pillsbury Sugar-Free mixes. I give this product two-thumbs up and hope it sticks around for awhile.  (Again, you can substitute all regular, not sugar-free ingredients in these recipes.)


*This is NOT a sponsored post. I just wanted to try out the products and share my results, in case you know someone who also is in need of sugar-free baking.*

Boston Cream Cupcakes (Sugar-Free)
Printer-Friendly Recipe

24 vanilla cupcakes, baked and cooled (You can use your favorite recipe or a box mix. For the sugar-free version, use the Pillsbury Sugar-Free Yellow Cake mix.)
1 (small) package instant vanilla pudding (sugar-free, if desired)
1 ½ cups nonfat milk
1 can chocolate frosting, or use your favorite recipe (for sugar-free cupcakes, use Pillsbury Sugar-Free Chocolate Frosting)

1.    Prepare your pudding according to the package directions, using the 1 ½ cups nonfat milk.
2.    Fit a disposable pasty bag with a round decorating tip (#230) and fill the bag with the pudding. Place the tip into the center of the top of the cupcake and fill. Alternately, you can cut a small hole in the top of the cupcake and add a spoonful of pudding.
3.    Frost the tops with the chocolate icing. Note: the sugar-free icing is very thick. I recommend using a warmed knife to frost the cupcakes instead of using a pastry bag.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

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10 June 2011

Dessert Pizza (Cooking with Kids, week #1)

Normally, I do all of my baking while Jordan is at school. I find it's just easier that way; I can go from baking to cleaning to photographing without worrying that I'm neglecting her or that she's watching too much TV. It's quiet and I can take the time to photograph and make recipe notations while I work. I've got a schedule and a system for it all.

But all of a sudden I realized something. Something important. Something that was going to disrupt my schedule.

Summer vacation. Endless days of heat and no school. NO SCHOOL. Weeks of finding outings for Jordan so she doesn't make my head explode get bored. Let's just put it this way: Jordan is a very active, very full-of-energy only child. If I want to do anything that's not entirely with her, she's usually watching TV, because that's just how she is.

So I had a brainstorm the other day. Why not try and include her in my baking this summer? Why not try and find some easy, kid-friendly recipes she will have the patience to help with? It'll create a fun activity she and I can do together. I can let her drive the ideas so she can have some ownership of them. And I can blog about it all, of course. Because I know some of you out there are in the same boat. Summer vacation is awesome...for about a week. Then the kids get bored. If you're like me, you take in as many additional kids as you can as often as their parents will give them to you, for sanity's sake. Cooking with Kids can be a fun addition to any parent summer survival guide.

So here we go, Cooking with Kids, week #1: Dessert Pizzas.

Jordan did this with a friend who was over for dinner and a movie. I thought they would have fun making their own dessert. Of course, I had planned it as being this whole drawn-out thing, and it took them about five minutes, but they had fun anyway.

The pizzas are made with actual pizza dough. Use one pound of your favorite pizza dough, homemade or store-bought. This will make about 4-6 dessert pizzas, depending on the size you make them. Pre-bake them and let them cool a bit so the kiddos don't burn their fingers.

Gather all your pizza ingredients: melted chocolate chips for the "sauce" and things like M&Ms, jelly beans, or marshmallows for the toppings.

Give the kids a basting brush and let them paint the pre-baked crust with the chocolate sauce.

Then let them decorate their pizzas as they please. You could use anything for toppings - just raid your pantry. I bet there is still some Valentine's Day/Easter/Last Day of School candy in there you can use.

Once the kids are done decorating you can slice the pizzas and serve them. Or, if you want to puff up marshmallows or melt some extra chocolate on top, heat them in the oven for just a minute or two. Any way you serve these, the kids are going to love them. It's a sweet treat and they helped make it - how could they not enjoy it?  I hope your kids love this idea as much as Jordan did.

Happy Summer!

Dessert Pizza
Printer-Friendly Recipe

1 pound pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
1 bag chocolate chips
M&M's, marshmallows, jelly beans, or other candies for decorating

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Divide your pizza dough into 4-6 individual pieces (depending on the size you wish to make them). Roll them out into a circle. Place on the parchment lined cookie sheets and bake until done, about 5-8 minutes (or according to your package directions).
  3. Melt your chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Assemble all your "toppings".
  4. Paint the pizzas with the melted chocolate and top it with assorted candies. If you wish to melt the candies, bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. Slice and serve to happy kids.
Yield: 4-6 individual pizzas

Source: idea from Food Network Magazine

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