Monday, November 8, 2010

Bobby Jack "Cake"

Noelle wanted a Bobby Jack cake, except she didn't want it to be a cake, she wanted it to be a brownie. So, I made brownies (from a box) in a round cake pan and just put them on top of one another. I put a layer of vanilla frosting down and decorated on top of that. I had all kind of ideas on how I was going to make the monkey, but the morning of her birthday - when I was decorating the cake - my internet died and I had to improvise. I got a shirt of hers that had him on it and did my best. I think he turned out pretty good! He is made from Tootsie Rolls and Caramels. I softened them in the microwave for 8 seconds which made them moldable. The guitar, the number 9 and his tongue are made of Starburst candies which I softened and molded the same way. His eyes are Wint-O-Green mints with Tootsie Rolls.

She exclaimed that it was her favorite cake EVER!

Without realizing it, I made him match her party tableware and decorations!

We served the brownie with vanilla ice cream and there was NOTHING left on the kids' plates at the end - which isn't usually the case with cake! Maybe Noelle is onto something with this whole brownie idea!

Flower Cake

Ashlyn wanted an ice cream cake this year. It's a good thing I went easy on the decorations because the cake took me about 7 hours to do!
The cake is a Betty Crocker chocolate and vanilla marble cake and has has vanilla Betty Crocker frosting. I used Blue Bunny chocolate ice cream inside.

I baked the cake according to the package directions. When it was cool, I leveled out the tops of all the layers. I let the ice cream soften and then stirred it so there weren't any 'drippy' parts. (You want it firm enough that it doesn't just smoosh out the sides of the cake when you put it together.)

I placed two long sheets of plastic wrap on the counter, one going side to side and the other one top going up and down. I put the bottom layer of the cake down in the center of the plastic wrap. I spread on the ice cream about 1 or 2 inches thick, and then put the top layer of cake on. I wrapped the cake in the plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for about 1 hour. I did the same thing with the smaller two layers of cake. Ideally, you would do this and put it in the freezer overnight and finish up the next day. I didn't have that much time!

When the cake and ice cream layers were frozen, I took them out of the freezer, took off the plastic wrap, put the larger layer on a cake plate, put a smudge of frosting on the top and centered the smaller cake layers on top. I then put a very light coating of frosting all around the cake. (A crumb coat.) Then I put it back in the fridge becausethe ice cream started to melt. Once the ice cream was set again, I frosted the entire cake, smoothing out the sides as much as I could.

I took flowers from the craft store and cut off the blooms, leaving about 3 inches of stem. I placed these in the top layer of the cake. I then wrapped a ribbon around each layer. I secured the ribbon to itself with double sided tape.

The ice cream melting was my biggest problem. I would be in the middle of doing something with it, and see ice cream starting to leak out the bottom and so I'd have to put it in the freezer for a half hour or so. Like I said before, if you can let the ice cream set overnight in the freezer, it would be much easier to work with!

If this had been a regular cake with just frosting in the middle, I would've been done in a flash! Oh well, it tasted DELICIOUS! It was worth all the time and effort.

Transformer Cake

Shaylor's Birthday Cake this year was a Transformer cake. I made the Too Much Chocolate Cake recipe I've already posted on this site. It was very yummy! The decorations are made of marshmallow fondant - however, it was not easy to use, and so I won't post the recipe here. I will post a good fondant recipe when I find one!


Decepticon Face

Autobot Face


He liked it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Berry Cheesecake Tart

I found it in "Taste of Home" magazine and made it this summer, and Ian declared, "This is what I want for my birthday!"
When I found out the neighborhood was having a Dessert contest at the annual Chili Cook-Off, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Lo and behold, I won first prize!
With the combination of a shortbread crust, cheesecake, mixed berries, and an oatmeal crisp top, it is the best of every possible dessert. (Oops, pardon me. It is missing chocolate - so it's almost the best of every possible dessert!)

So, there are a few steps, but don't let that scare you off. It is actually pretty easy.

Berry Cheesecake Tart

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter

1/2 cup strawberry jam (added after crust is'll see!)

Cheesecake Filling:
2 80z. packages cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries (if frozen, thaw and drain them)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter

In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar (crust ingredients). Cut in butter until crumbly. Press onto the bottom and sides of a greased 10 inch springform pan.
Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Once crust is cooled, spread jam over the bottom of it.

Beat cream cheese and sugar (cheesecake ingredients) until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat just until combined. Pour over jam.

Sprinkle berries evenly over the cheesecake.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour and oats (topping ingredients). Cut in the butter. Sprinkle over berries and gently press down evenly.

Bake tart at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Be sure to place a cookie sheet either directly under the pan, or on the rack underneath. It gets quite juicy and it drips down.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife between the tart and the pan to loosen the edges. Cool for another 30 minutes.
Run the knife around again and release the sides of the pan.
Serve warm or cold. (I prefer cold.)

**Note: The original recipe is a little different than what I have posted above. I changed it by doubling the quantities of the ingredients for the crust and the cheesecake filling. All of the other ingredients are the same as the original. I have made it all three times like this because I wanted more cheesecake than just a thin layer, and the crust wasn't covering my pan. If you want the dessert to be a little less rich, simply halve the amounts of the ingredients in the crust and cheesecake filling.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Mousse Trifle

This recipe is a recent discovery, and has become a favorite 'Death By Chocolate' dessert. The trick is to use a brownie mix with chocolate chips in it, and use Real Whipping Cream - not Cool Whip. Trust me - it takes it to a whole new level. The chocolate layer goes from chocolate pudding to chocolate mousse, and it is Divine!
This dessert is rich - it may just kill you - but what a way to go!

Chocolate Mousse Trifle adapted from Allrecipes

1 19.8 oz. package brownie mix (use one with chocolate chips in it!)
16 oz. heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3.9 oz. package instant chocolate pudding mix.
1/2 cup water
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
Chocolate Candy Bar, to shave and put on top

Make brownies according to package directions. Cool completely and cut into 1 inch squares.
Whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
In a large bowl, combine pudding mix, water and sweetened condensed milk. Fold in half of the whipped cream.

In a trifle bowl, make a layer of brownies. Spread 1/3 of the chocolate mixture on top of the brownies, and then 1/3 of the whipped cream on top of that. Repeat the layers until you fill the bowl. Top with the shaved chocolate. Chill overnight. (Overnight will allow the mouse to reach it's most sublime texture!)

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I found HUGE strawberries at Costco and made the BEST treat! (The picture above isn't of the ginormous berries, these were average size, but tasted great too!)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

2 Tbs. Shortening
16 oz. Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
1 lb. fresh strawberries
Toothpicks & Styrofoam

Wash strawberries, leaving the stems on. Dry thoroughly - they can't be wet at all.
Melt the shortening in the top of a double-boiler.
(Or, do what I did and put about 2 inches of water in a pot. Put a glass bowl so it fits over the top of the pan, but doesn't touch the water. Put the Shortening, etc. in the glass bowl. Bring the water to just a boil, then turn it off or keep it on low. If it gets too hot, it will ruin the consistency. You can turn the heat on occasionally as you're dipping strawberries to keep the chocolate melty.)
Add the chocolate and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted.

Push a toothpick in the green stem of the strawberry. Dip strawberry into the chocolate. Place toothpick into Styrofoam. Strawberry will be upside-down, which allows it to dry perfectly. If you're not serving them right away, place the Styrofoam with the dipped strawberries in the fridge to allow everything to stay cold.
Take strawberries out of fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
The chocolate is such a great texture. It doesn't all break off as you bite into the strawberry, which is the comment I got most when I served these - besides "These are SOOOOOO good!"

Artichoke Spinach Dip

I've found some of the best recipes are on food packaging. This recipe comes from the back of the Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix package. I love this dip. So Easy and Yummy!

Artichoke Spinach Dip

1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, and cut up
1 16 oz. container sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise (why does mayonnaise have 2 n's? I think that's dumb.)
1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
1 8 oz. can water chestnuts drained and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 12 oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped ( I try to find the kind that aren't marinated in anything funky - it's hard to get the taste rinsed off - and it is too bitter for me. I would rather taste the artichoke itself.)

Mix it all together and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with crackers. Or, hollow out a round loaf of sourdough bread, fill it with the dip, and serve with the bread you removed (plus another loaf cut into cubes.)

Chicken Salad

My poor friend Tonya. Every time I host anything, I want to make this yummy recipe. However, I can never find the recipe. I have gotten it from her probably 4 or 5 times. I'm happy to post it here for everyone to enjoy, but I'm more excited to have a permanent home for it! I'll never have to ask her for it again!
FYI: This recipe calls for 1 tsp. Accent - which is MSG. I'm sure it tastes a bit better with it, but I can't bring myself to add it. I debate it in the spice aisle every time I go to make it. I think it tastes awesome without it.

Chicken Salad

4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 Tbs. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Prepare chicken.
Mix chicken with celery, mayo, almonds, onion and salt. Chill.
Fill sandwiches with salad and top with sprouts.
I like this best on croissants.

Pina Colada Punch

Despite the less-than-appetizing picture, this drink is so yummy! Just make sure you puree the crushed pineapple well so the texture isn't funky! Put leftovers in a pitcher in the fridge and when you're ready to serve again, put it in a blender with a bunch of ice, and it is as good as fresh!

Pina Colada Punch (from Allrecipes)

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, pureed
1 8 oz. can coconut cream - I think mine was 16 oz. but the more the better, actually!
1 46 oz. can pineapple juice
1 2 liter bottle lemon-lime soda, chilled

Find a large bowl that will fit in your freezer. Combine ice cream, pureed pineapple, coconut cream and pineapple juice in the bowl. If there is room, add the soda. If not, you can add the soda right before serving.
Place bowl in freezer. Freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour. Pour into punch bowl and add the soda - if you haven't already.

Oreo Truffles

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, they are as good as they sound. And yes, they go straight to your hips/butt/belly. But, you can eat one and then run around the block. harm done! (Just don't come crying to me when you gained five pounds because you couldn't stop at just one!) These are from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Oreo Truffles

1 package (18 oz.) Oreo cookies, crushed into small pieces
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 package Almond Bark
Chocolate chips for drizzling or sprinkles for decoration

Mix crushed Oreos and cream cheese until well-combined. (Use your hands - it mixes best this way - plus clean up is yummy!)
Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet or tray. Refrigerate until firm - 3-4 hours (Or freeze for about 1 hour.) After licking your hands clean, run around the block while the truffles chill. ;-)
Melt white Almond Bark according to package directions. Dip truffles in almond bark and put on wax paper to harden.
If using sprinkles, use them right away - the almond bark hardens quickly. Alternately, melt chocolate with a little bit of shortening and drizzle over truffles.
Chill truffles in the fridge - they taste best cold!

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

Can this photo do this salad justice? Never. This pasta salad is AMAZING. It has toasted pine nuts, fresh roma tomatoes and basil pesto that make it unique. Mmmmm. My mouth is just watering looking at the picture. I've made this several times and every time it is a HUGE hit. Make it for your next BBQ - or just come to mine; it'll be there for sure!
Oh! and I got it from Mel's Kitchen Cafe (formerly known as "My Kitchen Cafe.")

Tri-Color Pasta Salad

1 12 oz. package Tri-Colored Rotini Pasta, cooked and drained
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 fresh basil leaves, diced (important that they're fresh, not dried - it does make a difference)
4 Tbs. basil pesto
2/3 cup creamy Caesar dressing
1 tsp. saute spice (equal parts black pepper, salt and garlic powder)
1 cup toasted pine nuts.

Cook pasta, drain and coat with Caesar dressing while still warm. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the pine nuts) and toss. Top with toasted pine nuts.

Tortilla Soup

Since I came upon this recipe at AllRecipes a couple of months ago, I've made it probably a half dozen times. All of the ingredients are found in my food storage, and it comes together in about 5 minutes. Plus, it tastes pretty darn good. So, when it's dinnertime and I haven't planned anything (ya, like that ever happens!), this is my 'go to' meal. Besides that, without the chips and cheese, it is quite healthy!

Tortilla Soup

1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
2 14 oz. cans chicken broth (or 28 oz. water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes)
1 10 oz. can chunk chicken, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
Chili Powder according to your own taste - I use about 1/8 tsp. (because we're weak!)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. minced onion
Tortilla Chips
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Pour all the ingredients into a large pot. Simmer until chicken is heated through. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Everyone knows how to make S'mores, right? Roasted Marshmallow, Hershey's Chocolate Bar, Graham Crackers - it isn't complicated...until you have a boy who may be allergic to graham crackers. I thought he was just going to have to miss out this time.

I even thought I was clever by buying Nutella to smear on the crackers instead of using the chocolate bar that NEVER melts.

Then, along comes Julie who says using Fudge Striped Cookies is the way to go for S'mores. Indeed, she has it right! Simple and yummy!

Even Shaylor thinks so!
P.S. Try them with Coconut marshmallows - YUM!
P.P.S. Sorry for the blurry picture up top, I was shivering!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Zuppa Toscana

This is my favorite soup at one of my favorite restaurants: Olive Garden.
(I am using a very small, very borrowed picture until I find the one I took, or make it again and take another!)
With the potatoes, bacon and sausage, it is real comfort food. It is also a cinch to make - BONUS! It does require a search for Kale in the produce section - but it is worth it! (The man who helped me at Harmon's said, "Oh, you want the kind to make that Olive Garden soup? We get people in here looking for that all the time!") I guess there are a couple of different kinds. The one you need is dark green with 'ruffled' edges. You can add it sooner to the soup if you want. As it simmers, it softens up a bit. I omit the red pepper flakes because my kids won't touch it with the extra spice. So, season according to your family's liking. This recipe will feed 6-8 people. I got it from Tuscan Recipes

Buon Appetito!

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. ground Italian Sausage
1 1/2 tsp. crushed (dried) red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbs bacon pieces (or more - you can't go wrong with more bacon!)
2 tsp minced garlic
10 cups water
5 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. cubed Russet potatoes (about 3 large)
1/4 of a bunch of kale

Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat. Put cooked sausage in a bowl.
In the same pan you cooked the sausage in, cook the bacon, onions and garlic over medium heat until the onions are soft.
Add water and chicken bouillon to pot and bring to a boil.
Add sliced potatoes and cook until soft - about 15 minutes. (Not too soft, they'll continue to cook as you finish up the soup.)
Add the heavy cream and cook until heated through.
Stir in sausage and kale. Let it all heat through and serve.

P.S. Sometimes I have to skim off fat from the sausage as the completed soup heats through. You'll know what I mean if you get orange liquid on the top!