Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Firetruck almost called for firetruck cake disaster cake... in other news, Nicholas is 3!

Sometimes when I make birthday cakes I surprise myself with how well they turn out. This was not one of those times.
Nicholas is 3! How that happened so quickly - I will never know. But he is 3! For his birthday I didn't know what kind of cake. He doesn't have anything he's really interested in - other than the color orange. One thing we have noticed is how much he loves to watch the fire trucks go by. We live in a crazy busy corner with plenty of emergency vehicles flying around the corner. A firetruck was a winner with the birthday boy.
The cakes I found as examples were easy. Stack the cake, frost it, add a few candies here and there... done. Right.
Since I needed a bigger cake than in the examples, I made a half sheet cake - then measured and cut it.
I frosted with canned frosting. It's easy and delicious and I have yet to find a frosting recipe that I really like. I used an entire bottle of red food coloring - first giant mistake - the frosting had this wang to it. Blech. As I stacked the cakes, hindsight - I should have refrigerated the whole thing. I didn't. So guess what happened as I continued? the layers just slid ALL over the place. When I finished frosting and decorating and realized the whole business was going to go - I got Nicholas to pose for a few pictures before the whole thing fell apart.
I was crushed. I shoved it back in place, put it in the fridge and dejected - started picking up the mess I'd made.
Thankfully my son has such a big heart. Nicholas told me, "It's OK Mommy, it's just broken." That's right buddy... it still tastes OK. He didn't even eat any of the cake! He stuck his fingers in the frosting and ate the gumdrops. Hey... he's the birthday boy, right?
Bronwyn and I already have her birthday cake planned... I already have the idea to refrigerate it after stacking... important step! Lesson learned! I have 4 months to mentally get over this firetruck cake before on to the next one. Deep breath! Oh, wait! I have a niece and nephew cake to do too!! oof...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Oh, Do you know the The Muffin Girl?

The flu is a jerk. A big hairy mean jerk. I’m not talking about the stomach bug that people call the flu, I’m talking about Influenza - the virus that knocks you on your butt for a week. Recently our house has been infected with influenza. And not just one strain of the virus - two of them A and B. Awesome.
Bronwyn missed an entire week of school, Andy was sick with the same type - Influenza B. Finally by Saturday she was feeling well enough to do some baking so we made some muffins - her request. She got a baking set for Christmas from Grandma and wants to use it - all the time. I love that she loves to bake. At first, she wanted to do cookies - but her attention span isn't awesome with cookies - one tray and she's done. So we went with these yummy muffins. She wasn't a fan of the pastry cutter - but we made it work.
Sunday morning we all enjoyed the muffins - that is except Nicholas. Why? We found out later he had Influenza A. Round two of the flu! Ugh!! We have exceeded the snot limit for the year - no more… done and done. Me? I started taking Tamiflu as a precaution - but I keep getting the same "cold" when they get the flu - so I'm guessing it's my body's own personal response to the virus. Ugh. This flu season needs to be done! Maybe these muffins will help.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

For the streusel:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

For the batter:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the dry streusel ingredients (flour, sugar and cinnamon) and stir with a whisk to combine. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, add the butter pieces and work into the dry mixture until well incorporated. Set aside.
To make the batter, in another medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together. Set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer, beat together softened butter, oil, and sugar and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added.
Keeping the mixer on a low speed, slowly add in the sour cream and vanilla and finally the flour mixture and mix until fully combined, but being careful not to over mix the batter. (Once you’ve turned off the mixer, using a spatula, give the mixture one additional stir by hand just to make sure that all of the wet ingredients from the bottom are completely mixed into the flour mixture.)
Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Then sprinkle some of the streusel mixture on top of the batter. Divide the remaining batter into the muffin cups (spoon on top of the streusel layer) and then divide the remaining streusel over each muffin, sprinkling it over the batter.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and remove each muffin to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chicken Wild Rice Soup Attempts to Save Cranky Family

With the flu in full swing at our house, we had to cancel plans to attend a wedding of a family friend. I decided it was time to make some chicken soup to help send this sickness packing. (It didn't actually work but I like to imagine it did.)
I used chicken thighs instead of breasts. Thighs don't dry out like breasts do - even soaking in chicken stock in the crock pot a chicken breast can be as dry as cork. I don't know about you but I've had some REALLY dry chicken out of a crockpot.
This recipe wasn't exactly set it and forget it - sure it cooked all day, but I had a bunch to do at the end to finish it off - but I thought it was good. Don't ask my cranky family what they thought. We had to beg them to eat it in order to get more bread. And Andy? He was too cranky to ask. I thought it was good - add some salt to taste and enjoy.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup wild rice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half* (or more milk)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken into a 6-qt slow cooker.
Stir in chicken stock, wild rice, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Add mushrooms during the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred, using two forks.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Whisk in milk and half and half, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Stir chicken and milk mixture into the slow cooker. If the soup is too thick, add more half and half as needed until desired consistency is reached.
Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Flat Bottomed Bread Tastes as Good as Round Bottomed

I started following someone new on Instagram based off a recommendation - The Food Nanny. While the recipes seemed doable and sound good - I couldn't stand the family who was behind the recipes. They scream into the camera explaining their recipes and how they do things, the one woman fouls up everything she tried to cook/bake, it got old really fast. I clicked the unfollow button pretty quick. One thing I did see her attempt to make was Baguettes. The recipe looked really easy and workable. No, I didn't have a baguette pan - but we could have flat bottomed bread.
I used my warm oven trick to get these loaves of bread to rise. Start the oven and get it up to 170 degrees - then turn it off and stick your covered rising dough inside with the door cracked open. This bread was SO good. It makes 2 loaves of bread but I could see halving the recipe easily and only make one. I can also see a baguette pan in my future, or at least on my Amazon wish list.

French Baguettes

2 Baguettes
1 1/2 cups warm (105-115 degrees) water, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
3 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 teaspoons salt
Melted butter, for brushing on loaves (optional)
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the water, the yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Stir just to combine and cover with plastic wrap or a plate. Let the mixture stand about 5 minutes or until bubbly or foamy.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of heavy-duty mixer or food processor, blend the flour, salt, the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast mixture. Gradually add water, up to the remaining 1 cup, and mix until the dough forms a smooth ball that is not too sticky to handle. (If the dough ends up too sticky, add a little more flour.) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Cut the dough in half and shape the halves into baguettes. Grease a baguette pan or a cookie sheet and place the loaves in the pan. Score the loaves down the middle cover with a dish towel, and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.  Bake the baguettes for 15 minutes or until they have a hollow sound when tapped with a knife. If desired, brush the tops of the loaves with butter halfway through baking. For a softer crust, brush with butter when they have finished baking.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Inadequate Baking Supplies Brings About Delicious Snack

Softening butter is not my favorite thing to do.  If something needs softened butter?  Yeah... less likely to make it.  I had a recipe all picked out and planned for a girls' night I was going to.  Guess how hard it is to soften butter in sub-degree temperatures?  Yeah... You think I have yeast rising issues?  Try getting butter to be not as hard as a rock.  "Use the microwave" people say.  Yeah - right... do you know the fine line between rock hard butter and microwave butter?  My microwave sure doesn't.  Ugh.
So when I got home and had forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge, and wasn't feeling my finest - you see because I've had every germ known to man in the last few months... I went googling for something else.  Something easy.  Something I had the ingredients for.  Imagine how many cream cheese based recipes would have been awesome?  Guess what I didn't have for the first time in ever?
What DID I have?  Cake mix.  Check.  Sprinkles.  Check.  DONE!  It really was easy, although the recipe I found says you should use an 11 x 17 pan an bake it for much longer.  I used a jelly roll pan, then used plastic wrap to mush the batter to the edges of the pan.  I watched my baking time too since it was pretty thin.
I brought these to our girl's night.  I was one of 3 of the 8 of us who ate one.  Ugh! Really?  To be honest - everyone was looking for savory food and all the food there was amazing.  That's cool - I brought them to work the next day?  Winner Winner Sprinkle Snack!  Yeah, that didn't really go as well as I hoped - but Yes! They were a giant hit.  See... when you don't have bacon wrapped goodness and buffalo chicken dip to compete with you can win!  Ok... it's not about winning.  But it kind of feels like it.
Also, it's good to try a recipe for the first time in a while.  I did do a new crockpot recipe this week but took no pictures but it was good!  This is why I should take lots of pictures even if it's dark outside and the food looks blah!  Yay for blah looking delicious food!

Cake Batter Blondies
1 box yellow or vanilla cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1/3 -1/2 cup milk (less is better)
1/2 cup sprinkles
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Spray 11x7 baking pan with nonstick spray.
Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Add the milk slowly. You want to cake batter to be as dense & thick as possible. Mix in the sprinkles and white chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared baking pan, sprinkle a few more sprinkles on top, and bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are just turning brown.
Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes so the center sets, before cutting into squares.
Make ahead tip: Blondies remain fresh up to 2 weeks stored covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Blondies freeze well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
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