Monday, January 31, 2011

Cupcake Spotlight!!! (February 2011)

February conjures thoughts of romance and love.  All we see in the stores is red and pink decorations, hearts, and bunches of flowers.  I love Valentine's Day, especially now that I have children.  They are my special Valentines who I adore so much.  However, I can't forget the Valentine who gave me those two wonderful boys, Jay.

So, for this month's cupcake I decided to do a flavor he would enjoy.  This cupcake is inspired from his favorite ice cream flavor, cookies and cream.  I am also featuring a new cupcake "wrapper" this month.  These wrappers are only decorative and are applied after baking.  They add elegance and pizazz to any occasion. 

You can purchase the cupcake wrappers from a fellow blogger at Home and Holiday Keepsakes.  She makes them for numerous holidays and events.  I ordered several designs and I am happy with them all.  Click here for the recipe.
Linking to these parties.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wholesome Wednesday (Sausage and Kale Soup)

While thumbing through my cookbooks, I came across a recipe that felt perfect with the cold front that is moving through.  Yesterday when I took Adam to school, it was -10 degrees, and the previous night it was -17 degrees.  Cold weather like that makes me crave soup. 

I love all kinds of soup. Soup is comforting and can be so good for you. This soup was inspired by a sausage and escarole soup from Marlene Koch's cookbook Eat What You Love.  I took a few liberties, changed a few items to what I had on hand, and added a little additional seasoning.  She explains her inspiration was a soup at the famous Italian Restaurant chain, that features all you can eat, soup, salad and bread sticks.  Only this soup is much healthier and guilt free.

This recipe makes enough to serve six to eight people. You can easily halve it, or do what I did, give some to the neighbors. 


8 c. reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 lb. pre-cooked chicken sausage
1 big bunch of kale (about 5 cups)
1 large russet potato
1/4 tsp. chili flakes
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. dried minced onion

Slice sausage thinly, about 1/4 inch slices. Wash the potato and with the skin on, cut into a medium dice. Remove kale from the stems, rinse, and do a rough chop.  In a large stock pot, combine all the ingredients, putting the kale in last.  Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. The kale will wilt down into the soup after about five minutes, but needs to simmer for at least 30 minutes to cook out the bitterness.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Serve with biscuits or a nice rustic bread!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You!

I opened my email this morning and discovered I received another Stylish Blogger Award.  This is wonderful. I really do get excited when people take time to think of me and my blog.  This has become a sweet hobby and allows my creative juices to really flow. 

I want to thank Sweet Bee Buzzings for the award.  Go ahead and stop by her blog and pay her some bloggy love.  If you want to see who I awarded the Stylish Blogger Award to click here.

Come back tomorrow to see a wonderful, healthy soup recipe!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fudgy Brownies

My dad was in town yesterday fixing my elliptical, YEAH!!!  I am so happy to have it back.  What does that have to do with today's post you ask??? Well, I always pay my day with food, seeing he would never take money.  We have a standing joke that when he finishes one project he has earned dinner, and if he finishes a second her earns dessert.  Yesterday he earned dinner and dessert. 

I didn't really have a dessert planned, mainly because I have been watching my weight, and just haven't been making a lot of sweets.  While dinner (crab cakes) was cooking, I whipped up an easy fudgy brownie.  This would fill the bill for dessert for my dad, and a play date snack the next day with one of Adam's friends.  The recipe is easy and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.

recipe (serves 12)

1 stick of butter
1 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. chocolate (I used milk chocolate chips)
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips over a double boiler. Set aside to cool a bit.  Cream sugar and eggs until fluffy.  Slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients until just mixed. Bake in a greased 9x9 pan for 42 to 45 minutes.  Be careful not to over bake.  The edges will be slightly crispy but the center should be a little soft.

Pa and Brandon snuggling

Adam helping Pa fix electrical

Linking to these parties.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chocolate Pastry Puffs

I am so so sorry to my blog. I have been very neglectful lately.  In my defense, I have had a strange couple of weeks.  We have had snow days out of the blue, doctors visits, and just a bunch of little things that have distracted me.  I am trying to get back on track, and today's little gem is a goodie.  Now I know Wednesdays are supposed to provide a wholesome treasure, but I just didn't feel like it today.  Please don't judge me, but I really want something really unhealthy today.

My inspiration for the chocolate pastry puffs comes from a famous bakery chain Au Bon Pain.  On my first trip to New York City, we stayed in a little boutique hotel near Union Square.  Every morning Jay and I would go to Au Bon Pain and get breakfast and take it to the park to enjoy.  Most mornings I tried to be healthy and get fresh fruit and a bagel, but one day I strayed. I ordered a chocolate croissant, and oh my it was so delicious!  I am not going to even attempt making croissants and then filling it with chocolate, too much work. However, I can easily defrost puff pastry and fill with chocolate chips and sweetened cream cheese.

As I was going through my freezer, I discovered I had a sheet of puff pastry left over from the beef wellingtons.  I always have cream cheese and chocolate chips in the house, viola my little pastry puffs were born.  The recipe will make six little puffs and uses one sheet of puff pastry, but if you would like to thaw out the whole box, just double the cream cheese and chocolate chips.  These are great for parties.

recipe (yields six pastry puffs)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp. powder sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 c. chocolate chips, plus an additional 1/4 c. melted for drizzle
1 egg, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll the thawed puff pastry, cut into six rectangles, and lay on an ungreased cookie sheet.  In a small bowl, stir cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together.  Evenly spoon mixture among the pastry, about 1/2 teaspoon each.  Sprinkle about 6 to 8 chocolate chips on each pastry. Fold in half and crimp the edges with a fork.  Cut a small slit in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape.  Brush with egg wash, 1 egg with tablespoon of water whisked, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes. The pastry will be golden brown and puffed.

Allow to cool on a rack.  Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining chocolate chips until smooth. Heat on high in 30 second intervals.  Drizzle over the top of the pastry with a fork.  Serve at room temperature.

Linking to these parties.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Valentine Inspired Wreath

Today starting off being a two hour school delay and ended up being a snow day.  The boys have declared it a jammie day, and I am taking this opportunity to post a cute craft idea.  I was thinking it has been a while since I did a craft tutorial, and it was about due.

I love the colors that surround Valentine's Day.  I honestly love it more than Christmas decor.  All the pinks, reds, purples, mixed with a bit of white or cream, is just a lovely palette.  While I love this scheme, I discovered I didn't have a lot of decorations for Valentine's. I have the place mats for the table, a flag for outside, and a little wooden decoration for the mantle, but that was it.  So I decided to make a wreath. After making it I was thumbing through a catalog, and saw something very similar for $20.00, mine was only $5.00.

The process is very simple and can be adapted to any holiday or color scheme.  When I worked at a florist, I learned a really easy way to make a beautiful impact with florals is to use one type of flower in abundance.  That is what I did with this wreath. I used roses in three different colors and it turned out really sweet.  The wreath can be hung by adding a simple ribbon loop, or just lay it flat on a table with a candle for a marvelous centerpiece.  Here's how I did it:

supplies (all purchased from a dollar store)

1 foam wreath
4 to 5 bushes of roses
wire cutters
12 inch piece of coordinating ribbon
1 florist pin

  1. Cut all the roses from the bush leaving a 3 inch stem
  2. In a random pattern insert roses into the foam wreath close together, you don't want to see any gaps in the flowers.  Mix up the colors to give a random look.
  3. Cut a 12 inch piece of ribbon and tie a knot in the bottom to form a loop. Using a florist pin insert the pin into the wreath at the top, pinning the ribbon in place as a hanger.
  4. If you want to use it as a centerpiece then omit the hanger and lay the wreath flat on a table placing a candle with a hurricane in the middle of the wreath.

cut roses off the bushes and insert into foam

coordinating ribbon for hanger

shown as a wreath

shown as a centerpiece

Good luck!!!!  Linking to these parties.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Challah French Toast

For Christmas this year I received a bread machine.  I was super excited to try it out. Up until now, I have been making breads by hand, but didn't like all the mess.  This machine is wonderful and is virtually mess free depending on the kind of bread you are making. 

For my very first bread, I tried Challah.  The machine prepared the dough, and all I had to do was divide it, braid the bread, and bake.  It came out wonderful.

I served this for breakfast, with home made strawberry jam, for a play date earlier in the week.  The next night for dinner, it was destined to become French toast topped with cinnamon butter.  The texture of the bread is wonderful for french toast.  It can stand up to soaking in the egg mix, and not get soggy.  The only problem with this, is now Jay won't let me go back to making French toast with regular white bread.

The recipe is just a basic French toast, so if you have a favorite by all means use it.  The only difference is using this bread cut at about 1 1/2 inch slices, and don't worry you can always buy Challah bread at your grocery store.

French toast recipe (serves 4)

1 loaf Challah bread
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat a griddle, and spray with cooking spray. Cut Challah bread into eight 1 1/2 inch slices using a serrated bread knife, set aside.  In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture, making sure to coat both sides of the bread.  Cook on the griddle for until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.  Top with cinnamon butter and syrup. Enjoy!!!

recipe for cinnamon butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

In a small bowl, cream butter with cinnamon and vanilla.  Store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Another Christmas gift I received is the new place settings the French toast is served on, a gift from the hubby :o)

Linking to these parties.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Thursday!

This morning when I checked my blog, a fellow blogger and "old" friend awarded me a stylish blogger.  Thanks to Classified Mom for the honor.  Stop by her blog and see the many great ideas she has for kid projects! 

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you the award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Award 15 other bloggers.
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
Seven things about myself....this could take a while :o)

  1. I actually like to clean.
  2. My favorite show to watch, including re-runs over and over, is NCIS. I have loved Mark Harmon since his days of Mr. Shoop in Summer School (1987).
  3. I started my own business when I was fourteen years old.
  4. I am very proud of my group of friends, they are very eclectic and I wouldn't trade them for the world.
  5. If I could travel anywhere, it would be Ireland. I'm not Irish, but have fell in love with the country through various books.
  6. I love to shop for housewares, but HATE clothing shopping.
  7. My favorite food is pizza.
Here are my fellow bloggers who I have awarded the stylish blogger.  I love all my fellow bloggers, but I was forced to pick only 15.

Whimsical Creations
The Gourmand Mom
Frou Frou Decor
Lamb Around
North Dakota Kitchen
Le Chateau des fleurs
DeBloom Designs
Chase and Mckell
In the Loop
Pocket Full of Pink
Envy My Cooking
Moms Crazy Cooking
Tweedle Dee Design
Willow Wisp Cottage
Design It Chic

If you have been awarded and wish to participate great, if not just know that I think your blog is great and deserves a little extra attention!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wholesome Wednesday (Creamsicle Smoothie)

Today has proved to be a little trying.  I took my youngest to an ENT and now we have some decisions to make over the next month or so.  In about an hour, I have to go get my oldest from school and then we are off to library class.

I haven't had much of an appetite today, but I need something nutritious before heading back outside. When I get in moods like this, the one thing I go back to time and time again is a smoothie.  It's great for a quick snack or meal. I can make it in less than a minute and feel good about drinking it instead of opting for the less healthy choice of a candy bar.  The smoothie du jour is creamsicle.  It's light and fresh and has received approval from one of my toughest critics, Brandon.  He took a sip and gave me a thumbs up :o)  

Here's the recipe, enjoy!  Check back in a few days to see what else I am cooking or crafting!


1 c. orange juice (regular or 50% less sugar)
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until ice cubes are broken up.  Serve immediately.  Also try adding a banana or some fresh pineapple!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cupcake Spotlight (January 2011)

Sorry this edition is late, but I was out of town and my parents do not have a computer.  So a little late, but I think worth it.  My husband took this batch into work and had a completely unbiased party taste them, and the verdict was: DELICIOUS!!!  

I wanted a cupcake that had a simple flavor to remind me of the clean crisp winter air of January.  I decided on a vanilla bean cupcake with vanilla mascarpone frosting. I made both regular and mini sizes this month.  I also frosted them two ways....a piping bag for a light touch and an ice cream scoop to resemble a snow ball.  Both of these versions could easily be topped with coconut or clear sugar crystals for a more winter appearance.

Next month's cupcake is in the works....any requests???? I am also working with a talented blogger who makes decorative cupcake sleeves.  I am hoping it will be spectacular!  Have a blessed started to the new year :o)

Linking to these wonderful parties.