Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Catching Grasshoppers and Poor Child Rearing...

Baking for the church youth group dessert auction has become a yearly tradition.  So has finding fun recipes to try that I hope people will like.  This year I did one that I knew would go over well - the Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes - and truly they were a hit.  I also tried a Grasshopper Pie.
First you have to be sneaky - you have to catch about 25 grasshoppers.  If you don't live near somewhere they can be found you can simply go to the store - or send your loving husband and ask him to buy the chocolate mint cookies oddly named grasshoppers.  In our case we shop at Aldi - so they aren't called grasshoppers.  So I have to explain, "You know where the cookies are?   you know how they have Girl Scout wannabe cookies that are amazing?  Look for cookies that look like thin mints - chocolate cookie covered in chocolate with mint."  Imagine if we went to a normal grocery store and I could just say "hey, please pick up some grasshopper cookies" - that would be too easy.
This pie while boosting some pretty heavy ingredients was actually pretty light and minty.  Certainly a nice cool summer treat.  It was fun to have Bronwyn's help with counting the cookies and crushing them.  The up side of her not liking chocolate, no missing cookies.  In other news… my daughter does not like chocolate… was she switched at birth?  Is she un-American?  She used to not like French fries too… crazy talk.

Grasshopper Pie
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz tub Cool Whip
1 Oreo Crust
1/2  (of a 14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
16 Grasshopper Cookies
Green food coloring

Crush cookies in a large Ziploc bag.  Some large chunks are fine, but you want mostly very small, even crushed pieces.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until smooth.  Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined.  Mix in crushed cookies and fold in Cool Whip.  Add food coloring and fold in until desired color is achieved.  Pour into pie shell and chill for at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaching Pumpkin Punching Near the Beach

On July 9 I had the pleasure of being asked to teach several punch needle classes at The Black Cat Stitchery in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois.  
When I looked at the map, I realized just how close the shop was to the shore of Lake Michigan, so how could I not go sneak a peek when I arrived a few minutes early?  Got a little sand between my toes and inhaled the fresh air.  Perfect start to the day.
The classes were wonderful – fast learners, lovely conversation, and lots of punching.  It was fun to see friends give each other a hard time and strangers become friends.  I designed a teaching piece just for the class called “Of Pumpkins and Meow” – it was in coordination with the ‘Collective Stitch’ pattern that I designed as well.
What a fun day with some lovely people.  Can’t wait to visit again and I might just sneak away to the beach again…

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What you 'should' want to eat each morning....

Being back on the healthy eating wagon kinda makes me sad at breakfast time.
Lies would be spoken if I said I loved oatmeal and thought Lucky Charms were kid stuff.  I heart heart Lucky Charms.  But guess what?  If I ate what I wanted in Lucky Charms every morning, not only would we be in the poor house, I would also being eating carrots and celery the rest of the day. And not to mention those marshmallows aren't exactly brimming with health qualities and fiber.  So hungrier faster.  Dang it... now I want Lucky Charms.
To make breakfast a bit more healthy and interesting, enter in Egg Cups.
Egg cups are a mix of eggs, cottage cheese, veggies and ham made in little silicon cups that are an easy on the go breakfast.  Pretty high in protein - powerful in flavor, good stuff.  At first I made them in a cupcake tin and oh where they a pistol to get out.  Since then, I've perfected putting them in silicon cupcake liners so you can pop them out when you want them.  They store great in the fridge and stay individual that way. Andy has also been enjoying the eat part (not so much the making part).
If you want an easy breakfast to try - give these a shot.

Egg Cups
12 eggs
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz turkey ham (diced)
1 bag fresh spinach
1 tbls minced garlic
1 4 oz chopped fresh mushrooms
1 onion - diced
1 green pepper diced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Chop spinach and sauté with garlic until wilted, set aside.
Sauté mushrooms with pinch of salt, add to spinach.
Sauté onions, pepper and ham together until onions are translucent - add to spinach and mushroom mix.
Crack 12 eggs, add cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper and mix together well.
Line silicon cupcake liners on cookie sheet (square works best).  Give them a light spray of cooking spray.  Ladle mixture evenly into 28 cups (recipe can be halved).  Bake for 20-30 minutes until each egg cup is firm and does not jiggle.
Cool completely before storing in plastic container in fridge.
To serve, pop egg cup (or two or three) out of molds, add salsa or hot sauce, microwave or eat cold.  Delicious either way.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Buttons and Layers for a Special 4 Year Old

Things you will not see in these pictures of Bronwyn’s 4th birthday cake: a beauty shot of the inside (let’s be honest – I suck at cutting cakes so while it was really colorful, it also was not photo ready), the blood and sweat of the baker (no honest – I cut myself and am still healing from it… oops), the hands of the person who couldn’t seem to keep the gel color away making her look quite like a smurf, and the tears of the mother of a four year old.
The girl is four years old.  What?!  How?!  She was just… three.  Oh right right.
This year we decided to go super fun on the cake, less on the theme.  Bronwyn has been watching baking videos with my on my phone, and we saw this cake done, each layer has 3 rings, 6 layers means 18 rights.  She got to watch me put the whole thing together and pray it didn’t fall over.  Sure it leaned, but leaning is better than falling apart.  Last year I bought a candy button mold and we deiced to decorate this cake with lots of candy buttons.
Such a fun cake for a fun four year old. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Eyes, The Look, The Shake of the Head... The Lemon Story.

Freeze Dried Strawberries - saw them at my Aldi  and wondered why on earth you'd want to eat them when you could eat fresh berries.  Then I found this recipe for Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes - Oh… that's why you might want them…  for amazing frosting…. I see.
Heading off to our friends for dinner, looking for a recipe that wasn't crazy chocolate.  Feels like I do a lot of chocolate.  This recipe had the right mix of delicious non overly sweet frosting and near death experience in the cake part.
The zesting of the lemon is what often gets me in trouble.  It also gives me away to Andy - in a big way.  I get "the eyes" and "the look" and the "shake of the head" and the "you’re an adult, you do what you want" speech.  But as you can tell - I survived another near zesting experience.   It's true!
There was quite a bit of lemon juice in the batter as well - but oh did it taste good.  Shhhh…
The recipe I read said to sift the strawberries to get the big pieces out.  Bah… big pieces sounded yummy.  Oh… then they don't pipe all that well and when you do pipe them they get stuck in your tips and your pretty flowers end up looking really strange.  See… sometimes people know things.  It's good to know things.   Know you know things.  Like you should try these, they are amazing… some might say life changing… or life ending, I mean changing.
Note: I just made these again for a dessert auction at church - they collected a pretty penny… Nice to see people have awesome taste.

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Lemon Cake:
1 box white cake mix
1/3 C. oil or melted butter
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 C. sour cream
1/2 C. milk

Strawberry Frosting:
1 C. butter
1 (1.2 oz) pkg. freeze dried strawberries*, crushed and sifted to remove large pieces
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, optional
3-4 C. powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pan with cupcake liners.
2. Sift cake mix into a large bowl to remove any lumps and continue to add the remaining cake ingredients. Stir until smooth.
3. Sill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
4. Let cool.
5. Strawberry Frosting: Beat butter and crush freeze dried strawberries until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon juice and slowly add in powdered sugar. Scrape the side of the bowl as needed and add powder sugar until it becomes thick enough.
6. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes
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