Sunday, April 8, 2012

From old to new!

I've been loving my thrift store shopping lately... there's just something about springtime that makes me want to make things new again!
Recently, I was trying to come up with ideas for Brooklyn's birthday party and I kept seeing these adorable teacup and saucer three tiered treat stands on Etsy.  They looked so easy but I really wanted something larger than saucer sized, and I wanted it more uniform, all one color, than the pretty porcelain designs I was seeing on craft websites I was browsing.
I started with a silver platter, a dinner plate, and a unique saucer, separated by two ugly candlesticks, and a little epoxy and spray paint later, ended up with just the three tiered treat stand I was looking for.



First, make sure everything is completely free of dust and debris.  Wash thoroughly and dry even more thoroughly. Mix epoxy according to package directions.  I prefer the Gorilla brand epoxy wit the little wooden stirrer and mixing tray included. It sets in five minutes, and worked really well for my purpose.
Use a Sharpie to mark the center point on the bottom two layers of your stand. In my case, the silver tray and dinner plate. Also mark the center point on the bottom.  Making sure the center points are aligned, spread a small amount of epoxy on the top and bottom of the bottom candlestick and press it firmly into the center of the bottom layer (my silver tray.). Place the second layer in the center of the top of the bottom candlestick, making sure it's even and level, and hold in place until it stays on it's own. Next, spread epoxy on the bottom and top of the upper candlestick, pressing it firmly onto the second layer, or dinner plate. Press the top saucer into the center of the top candlestick and make sure the whole thing is uniform, level, and even. Let sit just like that for ninety minutes to make sure the epoxy is cured. Use a food safe spray paint and evenly coat the whole tray with spraypaint. I used 5 or 6 coats by the time we were all done, just making sure it was even. After it has dried, let cure for 24 hours before use. I used Ballet Slipper pink for my tray, but you could do chrome paint or black, or blue, teal, anything your heart desires.  I think next time I'm going to do a bright happy yellow then stencil on gray fleur de lis. What a fun and easy project! 

Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter, everyone!  It's been a couple weeks since I've posted a blog, which is a little bittersweet because on one hand, I'm sad that I haven't been able to keep up as much lately but I'm thrilled about on the other hand because it means business has been going really well.
Brooklyn turns two today, and we celebrated with a small birthday party/Easter egg hunt at Grandma and Papa's house yesterday afternoon.
I wanted to share these treats from the party because they were soooo tasty and fun!

These nests were so easy and tasty, and I loved the way they looked.  Simple and easy to assemble, they went like hotcakes.

Easy bird's nests

1 bag La Choy Chinese Noodles
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag Cadbury mini chocolate eggs with candy coating

Pour the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips into a medium to large glass bowl.  Microwave on high at thirty second intervals, stirring with a rubber spatula in between, until smooth and creamy.  This shouldn't take more than 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Use the spatula to mix in the Chinese noodles until evenly coated.  Transfer by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet, using your thumbs to press into the center the pinching up the sides to form a nest.  While the nests are still melted, lay three Cadbury mini eggs into the center of each nest. Pop the baking sheet in the freezer for about ten minutes then transfer to a serving platter.  These will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week. If you have trouble with your eggs staying put, you can use a small dab of melted chocolate or Nutella to hold them in place.

The party was a fun time had by all, with an egg hunt, cookie decorating, and sherbet punch.  It doesn't get much better than this.
And this sweet baby is two years old!!! I can't even believe it! Thanks, Papa Tony, for taking such beautiful pictures for us!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eggs in Nests

Today was a beautiful almost spring day, and I wanted a beautiful spring breakfast to match. So I made these...

Eggs in Nests

1 cup grated potato
1 ounce grated sharp cheddar
6 eggs
cracked salt & pepper

How easy is this? Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a 6 cavity muffin tin with cooking spray. Mix a little cracked salt and pepper into the grated potato. Evenly distribute the grated potato through the 6 muffin cups and press into the bottoms and up the sides to make "nests." Next, distribute the cheese into the bottom of each cup. Press down into the bottom.  Crack an egg on top of each of the cups, then crack fresh pepper and salt over the top to taste.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until eggs are done and edges are crispy.  Use a spatula to loosen and remove the nests. 

These were soooo delicious with some grilled ham, and elegant enough to serve with crepes and prosciutto for  breakfast if we have guests. Yum!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chocolate and Caramel

Jamie came over today. We always get a sweet tooth when we get together and end up making some delicious concoction.  Today was no different.  We were watching cupcake wars and decided to make our own cupcake, the "one" we would make if we were on the show.  Here's what we came up with:

Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream and a Salted Caramel Drizzle

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add in eggs, butter, vanilla, and sour cream and mix until well combined with a wooden spoon. Use a cookie scoop to scoop batter into a prepared 12 cavity muffin tin. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

While baking, prepare the buttercream.
In a large clean, dry bowl, beat 2 softened sticks of butter with 4 cups of powdered sugar for 4 or 5 minutes, until fluffy.  This is a messy process, so don't be surprised to get it everywhere. Beat in 2 Tbs heavy cream, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 2 tsp vanilla.  Continue beating for another 4-5 minutes, adding in more powdered sugar if necessary to reach desired consistency.  Set aside.

Make caramel drizzle while cupcakes are cooling.  In a large heavy saucepan, melt 2 sticks of butter over medium heat.  Add 2 1/3 cups brown sugar and whisk til well combined.  Stirring constantly, add in 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup light corn syrup.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon and boil over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until it reaches soft ball stage.  Remove from heat and pour into a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Prepare cupcakes:  Pipe buttercream onto each cupcake in desired design, then drizzle caramel over the top with a fork or small spoon.  Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt over the top.

These cupcakes really hit the sweet spot, and we had such a great time making them! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mmmmm, Brownies...

Lately business has taken off a bit, which is good, but it's left me in a bit of a lag as far as blogging goes, which is not good.
I really miss blogging almost every day, so I'm going to post more in the coming months, especially with spring around the corner... it's so much fun to create new delicious things from fresh ingredients when the Farmer's Market starts back up again!
Today I was really craving some chocolate, but not the candy type.  I needed something dense, and rich, and these brownies definitely did the trick.  Probably the best brownie recipe I've ever had for this purpose. That is, to satisfy a real chocolate craving. Paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some warm caramel sauce, and pecans, this is a dangerous treat worthy of a tall glass of ice cold milk.

Fudgy Brownies

12 Tbs cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
3 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough overlap off the edges to create a handle. Spray generously with cooking spray, both the pan and the foil used to line it.

In a large bowl, use a fork to slightly mix the olive oil into the cocoa powder. Scrape the fork, ad the butter tot he bowl, and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Whisking constantly, mix in the 2 cups of sugar.  Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in first the eggs, then the vanilla, salt, and flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly tot he edges with a rubber spatula. Bake 30 - 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, making sure not to overbake. Let cool at least ten minutes before slicing.

Serve warm with ice cream and caramel sauce or hot fudge and pecans for a rich, sweet treat or eat one with a cup of cold milk.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Birthday Cake (or pie!)

So the 20th was my dad's birthday, and the day before, he and his wife came up to visit and spend some time. We threw him a Triplitt style birthday party, complete with homemade hats and birthday bunting. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad's birthday means Boston Cream Pie. Of course, growing up, we always picked one up from the supermarket.  This time, I made one from scratch.

Boston Cream Pie (adapted from here)

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 room temperature eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, plus 4 yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
4 ounces finely chopped semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

First, preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch cake pan and cut a piece of parchment to line just the bottom. To do this easily, you can fold a piece of parchment into a square, then fold the square in half at a point to form a triangle. fold it one more time to form a smaller triangle then set the point of the paper in the middle of the cake pan and cut the edge, following the curve of the pan.  Open it up and it's a circle that fits. Or, you can always just trace the bottom of the pan and cut just inside the line. That works too.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Beat the eggs and sugar in a separate clean dry glass bowl on high speed until pale and tripled in volume, about fifteen minutes.  Fold in the flour mixture gently until well combined.  Mix in the milk, oil, and vanilla and beat til combined.  Pour the thin batter into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  The original recipe called for 25-30 minutes, but I baked mine for 35 and it was perfect. At 25 minutes it was still liquid in the center. Let cool ten minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack until cooled completely.
While it cools make the pudding.  Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat but don't boil it. Whisk the eggs, yolk, and sugar in a large bowl til light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.  Add cornstarch and salt and whisk vigorously and make sure there are no remaining lumps. Very slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture. Don't pour it in all at once or you'll cook the eggs... you want it to temper.Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until pudding like consistency forms, about ten minutes. Press through a fine mesh sieve . Let cool slightly, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.
Use a cake leveler to clean up the top of the cake and divide the cake into two equal layers. Spread the pudding onto the bottom layer and evenly press the top layer on, just until the pudding starts to come out the edges. Use a cake spatula to even off the excess pudding from the sides. 
Make the ganache by heating the heavy cream in a saucepan until a simmer forms around the edges, swirling the cream slowly to prevent a skin from forming. Pour the cream over the chocolate in a medium glass bowl, and use a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate is melted. Stir in the vanilla and salt and pour over the cake, allowing the ganache to run down the sides of the cake.  As a side note, I doubled the ganache recipe because I love chocolate. Refrigerate the cake at least 30 minutes before serving, and keep refrigerated any leftovers.

Enjoy! Happy birthday, Dad!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brownie Sandwiches and Love

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Today was yet another school party that I made treats for, and these might be my favorite.  They were chewy and delicious, and fun to make!

I'm not including a brownie recipe with this one, or a buttercream recipe, but I will include directions on making them with boxed brownies.  Some things just have to stay secret, ya know.

Assuming you have already followed the directions on the back of the brownie mix box, twice (because you need two boxes) and now have a large bowl of batter, we'll skip straight to the prep stages.  To bake these, spray 2 13x9 inch pans with cooking spray and divide the batter between the two. Bake 20 - 25 minutes at 350 or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  While that's cooling either make a buttercream or open a can of buttercream and beat in a few drops of cherry flavoring and red food coloring, plus enough powdered sugar to stiffen it back up again.

I used $3 plastic cookie cutters from a superstore heart set to cut the hearts, 12 total.  Do this while the brownies are just slightly warm still, and then use a butterknife to carefully slice them in half sandwich style.  Use a very small heart cutter to cut the center out of half of the hearts, then pipe the buttercream onto the rest of the hearts. Place the brownies with the cutouts on top and press gently. I left them out on the countertop for about 4 hours to set.  They were a huge hit, and if you use shortcuts instead of doing it all from scratch (not that I'm condoning boxed mix) it makes a great quick and impressive party snack.