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
Directions
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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pretty Cupcake with a Carrot on top

This year for Easter I decided to make Carrot on Cake - not to be confused with Carrot Cake.  I made super yummy mousse filled cupcakes  (Bronwyn made the mousse) topped with Oreo dirt and then a carrot top.
These carrots were pretty crazy easy.  Basically orange candy melts, melted but somewhat setting. You don't want that candy too loosy goosy… you want some stiffness to it so they look like carrots.  Then I added a little edible green Easter grass before they set and just like that carrots!  I did put the carrots on first, then rolled the cupcakes in Oreo - otherwise the carrots would have never stuck.
Not only were they super cute, they tasted pretty awesome.   This recipe was certainly a winner in my book.

Pudding Filled Dirt Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 chocolate cake mix
1 c. chocolate cookie crumbs
1 can chocolate frosting
24 gummy worms, each one cut into 2 pieces
1 chocolate pudding mix (4 serving box)
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. Cool Whip

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350* Prepare cake mix according to box. Fill liners 3/4 full and bake 18-20 minutes. Cool.
While cupcakes are cooling, whisk the pudding mix and milk for 2 minutes. Refrigerate until set. Fold in cool whip. Cut a small part out of the top of each cupcake. Fill the holes with a scoop of pudding mixture. Cover with the piece of the cupcake top. Frost with the canned frosting and roll in oreo crumbs. Using a sharp knife, cut two slits in the tops of the cupcakes and push the gummy worm halves into them. Keep refrigerated.
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