Saturday, October 5, 2013

Darth Vader Cake and "AMAZING ILENE Buttercream FROSTING"

My baby boy turned 5 years old.  He is into Star Wars, the original Star Wars with Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leah, and Chewy. And he just loves Darth Vader.  Because when you are little and innocent, you only see and understand what you know to be true.  So he says that Darth Vader is a good daddy. Because he only knows a world where daddies are good.  So he focuses on that last scene when Vader stops the Emperor from electric shocking Luke, his son.  Hence..... Darth Vader is a good daddy.

When he first decided on a Darth Vader cake for his 5th birthday party, I showed him pictures of  flat Darth Vader cakes.

Aidan immediately said, "oh, no Mommy I want the head to be a real sized head sitting on the table."
To which I responded, "you mean 3D?"
Aidan said," no not 3D.... I want Darth Vader... with his black helmet."
I said,"That is 3D .... that mean a 3 dimensional head." And I showed him with my hands what I meant.
Aidan was excited and his head started shaking up and down, "yes, that is what I mean a 3D Darth Vader."

He was satisfied that I understood my challenge, and he walked away telling me he couldn't wait to see his cake.  It felt a bit like a mob boss scene from a movie.  He set up the difficult challenge, and he walked away with confidence that the task he requested would meet the requirements he set forth. I was a bit sick to my stomach.  I was pretty sure this was going to be the first birthday cake I was not going to be able to make.

I did a bit of research on the internet.  All the 3D Vader heads I found were covered in black fondant, because it gives the cake that smooth perfect finished look.  The only problem is my family loves the frosting I make.  This frosting is amazing; it is not my recipe it is my dear friend Ilene's (Lene's) recipe.  She has used this recipe for year for all of her kid's birthday cakes.  As only Ilene would say, " this recipe is ancient."  Trust me that is exactly what she would say.  And I feel so fortunate that she shared this perfect recipe with me.  So thank you Lene.  Once you make this frosting, it would be totally appropriate for you to say "thank you Ilene"  aloud in your kitchen.  And when I say amazing.... that is only because I cannot think of another more spectacular word to use.

Here is the recipe for

Ilene's Spectacular Amazing Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup of Crisco (shortening) (I use the sticks -- so it is 1/2 of a stick)
1/2 cup of soften butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract (I use almond)

Cream shortening and butter until smooth.  Add sugar and cream again.  Add milk slowly and extract - beat on high for 5 minutes.  Frost or store in airtight container in the refrigerator.  Whip again before using.

I use this frosting to frost well, anything that needs frosting.  I dye it to suit my needs.  And for this cake I needed a little to be dark grey and a lot to be black. My mom found some dark black Wilton gel icing color.  It was perfect.  It didn't turn that typical grey color.  The frosting turned a beautiful strong black color.

Now back to my cake problem.  It seemed to me that I had two main problems.  First issue was making the actual cake --- carving and putting together a head.  The second problem was this fondant issue.  I don't know how to use it, and even if I did -- I want to use the AMAZING ILENE frosting.  In in the end, I knew if I failed I would have to submit to the local bakery and admit my son had pushed and found the end of my cake design talents.  But until I reached the end and realized I was defeated by Darth Vader, I was going to try to make this cake for my boy.  I mean if Aidan believed I could make this cake, why couldn't I have that kind of confidence in myself.

As far as the cake is concerned, I made a lot of cake for this one.  I made three 9 inch rounds, one 7 inch round, one bowl (for the top of the head), and one small ramekin (to cut in half for the eyes). Once all the cakes were made and cooled.  I put all the cakes in the freezer for an hour.  I needed them to be harder before I started cutting into them.

I put two of the 9 inch rounds on the bottom.  Then I put the 7 inch round on top of those two cakes, and I finished the top of the cake with the bowl. I used the last of the 9 inch rounds for spare parts.  I cut a small rectangle from the 9 inch round to make Vader's breathing apparatus / mouth piece on his helmet.  Then I cut about a 1/4 of an inch out of the depth of the rectangle to make the the two triangles on the sides of that breathing apparatus.  I tried to stick to shapes I know in order to create the helmet -- rectangles, triangles, and semicircles.  I cut the little ramekin in half and used those semicircles to make Vader's eyes.  I cut two curved pieces out of the remaining cake and attached it to the side of Vader's helmet (like where ears would be).  This was supposed to be the curve or flared out part of Vader's helmet.  Let me tell you, it looked rough before I put the crumb coat (think layer of frosting) all over the cake.

Lastly, I put a crumb coat (thin coat of frosting) all over the cake.

This is what it looked like with just a crumb coat of frosting.  A bit rough looking, but I had faith that once the black frosting was on and all the details were in place it would look like Darth Vader. Once the crumb coat was on, I put it in the refrigerator for an hour.

Now it was time to put the black frosting on.  I had to triple the above recipe.  For past cakes, I have only had to double the recipe, but Darth required a lot of frosting.  Once I frosted the cake, it was time to add some details.  My mom went out an bought me black fondant, which worked perfectly.  I was skeptical about using it since I never had used it before.  I figured I wouldn't be able to use it since I had no experience.  I was wrong, it was easy to work with -- well, for the small quantity I used, it was easy.  I used it to put details -- lines of definition on the mask, and for that purpose it was perfect and easy for a beginner.  I highly recommend trying it for details on your cakes.  I am so glad my mom bought the fondant because I wouldn't have, and in the end the details made the cake look so much better.  Thanks mom.

When my little boy saw the cake, he covered his happy smile with his perfect little hands, screamed in delight, and immediately said,"it is perfect, thank you Mommy."

My lesson learned -- 

Even when you think your child's expectations of you are too high, start reaching even higher. Happy Birthday Aidan, you are a Blessing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Minnie Mouse Cake

I am going to flashback to a little over a year ago when my daughter wanted a Minnie Mouse theme for her second birthday.  She sweetly refers to Minnie Mouse as MeeMee.  This was an easy cake to make, and she loved it.  So I thought I would share this successful birthday cake. I used one 9 inch round cake pan and two ramekins. The hardest part was making sure I filled all three pans to the same height.  I used a toothpick to measure the height of each. The second difficulty I had was getting the icing to be BLACK BLACK and not sort of black grey.  In the end, it wasn't as black as I wished it could have been.  But my sweet little two year old daughter didn't even notice.  She squealed with delight when she saw it and yelled, " MeeMee .... MeeMee I love you.... thank you Mommy... thank you."  I got a great big wonderful hug that melted my heart. And honestly..... the way I choose to remember this cake .... is the way my daughter remembers it .... as the perfect Mee Mee cake.  Here it is ......

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The BEST Rolled Sugar Cookies

These are my go to cookie for birthday parties, special occasion-guest-take-home-gift, anytime sugar cookie recipe.  They are easy, you can make them into any shape or cut out cookies you want, you can make them ahead of time (they keep beautifully), and oooooh I almost forgot the best part --- they are super yummy and soft.  I have made these cookies into dinosaures, trains, butterflies, flowers, crosses, firetrucks, and monkeys --- just to name a few.

Here is the Golden Cookie Award winning recipe -- I received this award from the Academy of OUR Family.  This Academy has members in it ranging from age 2 to 80.  All have selected this cookie recipe as the favorite.  The question is will your family agree?  This recipe came from

Best Rolled/Cut Out Cookie Recipe


1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

powdered sugar for rolling surface


In a large bowl cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine flour baking powder, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in three different batches.  Do not over beat.  Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap, cover and wrap tightly for at least an hour or even for overnight.  Take the dough out and cut off a chunk that is manageable for you to work with. Once the dough gets too warm from your hands, it is becomes difficult to work with -- hence keep the dough pieces you cut manageable.  Sprinkle your counter with some powdered sugar.  I use powdered sugar instead of flour because the extra flour makes the dough tough.  Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch in thickness and then use the cookie cutter of your choice. When you have extra dough, but there is not enough to cut into more cookies or it has become too warm from your hands, put it back into the refrigerator to get cold again.

Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes. The cookies stay pretty light in color. It may take a few times to figure out the exact time for your oven;  8 minutes is perfect for my oven.   Remove them from the pan and let them cool.  Decorate or leave plain they are wonderful any way you choose to eat them.  If you keep the cookies in an airtight container, they save well.  When I make these for party favors, I put one or two in a small clear baggie and tie a ribbon on the top.   You can make these cookies 5-7 days before your party, the guests will never know -- the cookies are that good.

I have decorated these cookies using M&Ms; I did this when I decorated butterfly, flower, and dinosaur cookies.  Mix a bit of water and a bit of powdered sugar into a paste. Use this paste to "glue" M&Ms onto cookies. I have used Royal Icing to decorate these cookies too.  I have also served them plain.  No matter what you choice, you cannot lose with this cookie.

I have also put together cookie baskets for those who I love so that they can give cookies out at their special occasion.  For example when my dear friend, Kristen, had a Baptism for her little boy Carter; I made a cookie basket for her to give out cookies to her guests as a thank you gift.  I also made a similar basket for Nel, a friend of mine, who recently got married.

So no matter how you choice to use this recipe.  Know that it will be a winner. And people will ask you if you are serving your yummy sugar cookies.
Buon Appetito!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Lettuce Salad with an easy Vinaigrette

It is summer and the veggies look so wonderful in the grocery store.  And like every mom I am always trying to put veggies on the table in a new way to entice my kids and husband. Here the story of The Mommy, a bunch of veggies, and her two hungry kids.

When I was dating my husband he used to make me dinner.  And one of the salads he used to make me was his No Lettuce Salad.  Cute concept, right? A salad without leafy greens, just the crunchy parts. Anyway, we haven't made it for years.  So the other day when I was thinking about how to get my kids to eat more veggies, I made this salad.  I was thinking that some of the veggies in it they love and some not so much.  But it would offer me an opportunity to talk about these veggies and everyone can sample small bite sized pieces of each variety.  Plus the salad is so colorful and pretty, it makes you want to try it.

Once I was finished with the salad, I left it sitting in my kitchen. Not realizing what a temptation I was leaving on my counter, I went upstairs to fold laundry. Can you believe I just called my salad a temptation.  But it was a temptation! It is so beautiful with a wide variety of colors.  When I came downstairs, they both were sitting in the family room watching TV with a bowl of vegetables in front of them.  I yelled in my frantic funny mom voice, "are you kidding me? Are you two eating mommy's dinner BEFORE dinner?  I cannot believe it!"  They both busted out laughing and started telling me the story about how my son got the little bowls out and both of them started picking through the veggies and sticking them in their bowl.  And I also hear how hungry they were.  "Mommy, we are starving!" my son says to me.

I have to say I was very pleased to see them eating vegetables at 4:30.  I figured they were just having their first course (veggie course) a bit early for dinner.  And how perfect to have the majority of their vegetable consumed while they are "starving" for dinner.  Instead of having the first thing they put in their mouth be a piece of bread, like we are served in most restaurants.  We usually have dinner between 5:00 and 5:30, so in the end I didn't think of the No Lettuce Salad as a snack, but the early start of their meal.

Obviously the colorful bowl that was left within their reach was a temptation, but I also think an important key to this story is the NO SNACK rule that was put in place about one month ago.  I used to give the kids a lot more snacks throughout the day.  I have cut that back significantly.  I used to give them a snack between breakfast and lunch.  Now if they get hungry around 10:30, I give them some carrots and call it pre-lunch --- and give them their lunch at 11:00.  Then since it is a longer stretch until dinner at 5:00/5:30, I give a small snack at 1:30. This makes them good and hungry for dinner. Hence at 4:30, the  kids were "sneaking" some veggies off my counter.  I only see a win - win in this situation.

So what is the moral of the story of The Mommy, a bunch of veggies, and her two hungry kids?  Don't snack your kids until they are no longer hungry for the good food you put on the table and leave fresh attractive food within their reach. The End.

There were just a few changes I made to my husband's original recipe.  I changed the dressing from a store bought dressing to my homemade dressing --- this was a healthy change.  And he used to steam the broccoli until it lost it's raw texture and had a little give to it and shocked it cold to keep its pretty green color.  I decided to roast my broccoli, but either way works.

Here is the recipe ---

No Lettuce Salad

1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
some broccoli florets (steamed and cooled or roasted in oven at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes)
2 -3 carrots
1 seedless cucumber
1 small zucchini
1 small red onion
some  shredded cheddar cheese

Start by working with the broccoli if you want to cook it in some way.  We prefer cooked broccoli to raw, but if you like raw... leave it.  I placed my broccoli on a cookie sheet with salt and olive oil and roasted it in a 400 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  My husband used to steam it until he achieved the texture he was looking for, then he put the broccoli in the freezer to stop the cooking process and preserve the green color.  Whatever works for you--do it.  Then chop the rest of the vegetables into bite sized pieces and add the amount of cheese or no cheese that best fits your family.  Only dress it when you are ready to serve on the amount of veggies you are going to eat, or it will get soggy in the refrigerator.  The leftovers I leave in an airtight container.

Italian Vinaigrette

4 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
some chopped garlic and/or chopped shallots (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Add the optional garlic and/or shallots at this point.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil while continually whisking.  At this point you should have a perfectly emulsified dressing.  Brava!

Try leaving your No Lettuce Salad on your counter with hungry kids in the house and see what happens.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Peach Cobbler

My mom and dad were visiting with friends who shared with them "the BEST peaches" they have eaten since being in Italy.  I guess there is this man who drives a refrigerated truck filled with peaches and blueberries from Georgia, parks in a parking lot, and sells the fruit right out of his truck.  I am not sure how people find out about the location, but they do.  I guess his business mantra is, "deliver the peaches, and they will come."

Anyway, my parents decided to meet this trucker and buy some of his Georgia peaches and blueberries. My parents are very generous people.  They bought this wonderful fruit and shared it with my brother and his family and me and my family.  There is nothing like spending a wonderful day at the zoo and coming home to a kitchen counter filled with perfectly ripened fruits and a note from your parents explaining the gift that was left for you and the family.  And those are some of the Blessings in my life.
So after eating several of the peaches, the baker in me decided to make something perfectly summer like with them.  Funny thing is, I called my mom to tell her what I was going to do with some of the peaches only to find out that her and my dad did the very same thing the night before. I guess this only stands to reason, I was raised in her kitchen.

The following recipe I am about to share is a variation on a recipe I found online at  I looked up many cobbler recipes and the basics of this cobbler recipe can be found all over. Here is the recipe I used with the changes I made.

Peach Cobbler

peach part

7-9 peaches depending on the size or about 5 cups (pealed and sliced)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice

Start by blanching your peaches (quickly boiling your peaches) to get the skin off.  Unless you prefer to keep the skin on the peaches; that is just a personal preference. To blanch your peaches, bring water to a rolling boil.  Use a knife to place an X on the bottom side of your peaches (to help the boiling water loosen the skin).  Place the peaches in the boiling water for about 45 seconds -- to 1 minutes if they are less than perfectly ripe.  Take the peaches out and put them immediately into an ice bath; this stops the cooking process.  Once the peaches are cool, it should be easy to take the skin off.  Now cut the peaches into bite sized pieces.  Place the peaches, sugar, water, and lemon juice into a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside and cool.

cobbler part

1/2 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons of baking powder
1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of skim milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
some cinnamon

powdered sugar for garnish
pecans for garnish (toast nuts in a dry pan)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  This recipe can be made in one 13 x 9 or one 7 x 11 and one loaf pan.  Melt the butter the baking dish with high sides you chose to use.  While butter is melting, make cobbler part.  Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Once blended, slowing add milk and stir making sure you don't get any lumps.  Lastly, add the vanilla.  Once butter is melted, add cobbler mixture to baking dish, but DO NOT stir mixture into butter; just let it sit there.  Lightly, add peaches and liquid on top of cobbler mixture.  As the cobbler bakes it will rise to the top and pass up the peaches .  Trust me it is worth the wait. If you want, this is the point I added a dash of cinnamon. Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Keep checking your cobbler; it should be light brown on the edges.  Take out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

While cobbler is cooling, heat pecans in a dry pan.  Once you smell the pecan, they are done.  Don't warm them for too long or you will burn them.  Serve your cobbler warm, garnish with some powdered sugar and warm pecans.  If you are looking to make this perfect dessert even more perfect, serve it with a bit of vanilla ice cream.

After you make this the first time, don't be surprised when your family starts requesting it -- I know mine did.

Thanks Mom and Dad for your generous gift of the perfect summer peaches -- what a treat!

Buon Appetito! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Romantic Anniversary Gift

The most romantic gifts aren't diamonds and emeralds.  Don't get me wrong jewelry is always a big hit, but it doesn't go in the romantic category.  Yesterday was my husband and my 8th wedding Anniversary.  My husband came home from work yesterday with this..........

Now although anyone looking at this flower arrangement may say,"oh that is pretty."  It would end there.  Flowers are always a nice treat, but they usually don't invoke tears.  But this flower arrangement put tears in my eyes.  As I was starring at it speechless, my husband asked, "do you recognize this arrangement?"

"Of course," I say, "it is my wedding bouquet."  And I continue to stare at the flowers as my heart is rushed filled with memories of that sacred day. My wedding bouquet was a tight ball of red roses with highlights of white stephanotis flowers.  It was beautiful. Here is my bouquet.

The florist told my husband that the stephanotis flowers are used for weddings, but they really don't last for more than one day. So she used some filler flowers in the flower arrangement she made so there would be flowers present when the stephanotis withered.

I am very Blessed to have such a wonderful thoughtful husband.

I live "La bella vita" -- the beautiful life    

Monday, July 22, 2013

Princess Birthday Cake

My little Bambolina (little doll in Italian) wanted to have a Princess birthday party this year, a Sleeping Beauty Aurora party to be precise.  She loves Sleeping Beauty Aurora, she loves pink, and she loves anything princess.  So I knew I had to make the princess cake that Wilton and Betty Crocker have been making since ... well way before I was born.  You know the one.  The one with the little doll sticking out of the top and the cake is the girl's dress.  Yep, that was the one I needed to make.  There are all sorts of You Tubes about this type of cake out there for any baker to watch.  And here is my story about my first princess cake for my daughter's 3rd birthday.

First thing I did was try to figure out what bowl I was going to bake my cake in.  I looked at all my bowls and didn't see the tell tale markings on the bottom that would make me think I could bake safely in any of my bowls.  So I called my dear friend Lene; I knew she would have a baking bowl.  And she did.  She also had a Wilton baking book to help inspire my dress decorating side.  This book as she said was "ancient."  But I have to tell you the cakes in that book are beautiful to look at; and I am not sure if the home baker today attempts cakes like this anymore .... nope I am sure .... most home bakers today do not attempt cakes like this.  The princess cakes in the book were elaborate, and I knew I didn't have that level of expertise.  But the book did give me ideas for some pretty lines of decorations that I could put on Sleeping Beauty's dress.

The next step was making the cakes.  I chose to make a yellow cake in Lene's bowl, which would become the part of the dress closest to the doll's waist.  And two chocolate 9 inch round cakes.  I figured this would give me four layers of cake (the bowl cake gets split into two layers because it the bowl is so deep) and a good sized dress.

Once the cakes were done and cooled, it was time to start stacking the layers.  But first, I needed to create the hole which the princess would stick out of.  So I took a round cookie cutter and cut a hole in both chocolate round cakes.  Then I cut the bowl cake on the horizontal first.

 Lastly I cut the same round cookie hole in both parts of the bowl cake.  Time to start stacking.  I made a butter cream frosting to use between each layer.

Then I put a crumb coat over the whole cake.  This is just a thin layer of frosting used to hold the crumbs down, so that when you put on your final layer of frosting there are no crumbs to be seen.  It makes your cake look more professional.  After putting this crumb coat on, I put the cake in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the frosting set hard.

This is where I ran into trouble. It was  time to finish the cake.  I took the cake out of the refrigerator, put plastic wrap around the Sleeping Beauty doll I bought my daughter.

I place the doll into the hole I made and........... The cake / dress came up to the doll's mid thigh.  I forgot to measure how much dress I needed.  I just assumed that  four tiers (two 9 inch rounds and 1 bowl cut in half) would be enough.  I clearly needed another 9 inch round.  Since there was nothing I could do to make the cake taller, I used one of my daughter's less expensive knock off Barbie dolls because it was easy to take the doll apart at the waist. Now with only half a doll (from the waist up) I was able to place her in the hole I made and use a couple of  toothpicks to support her floating torso. 

Now it was time to decorate the dress.  I had fun with this part. I made the dress pink with dark pink embellishments and small little pearl candies.
I had to put the doll's hair in an "updo" so it wouldn't get into the cake.
I had to add a lot of dark pink flowers to the back of her dress to help hold her floating torso up.

The BEST PART .... my son made my daughter close her eyes, so she could be surprised when she saw the cake for the first time.  And was she surprised? YOU BET SHE WAS!  I will always remember her face and that beautiful smile.  The first thing she said was," oh.... thank you Mama!"

Happy 3rd Birthday my Little Princess.  I love you. Mama

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Madeleine Cookies

Madeleine cookies for my little girl Madeleine.

When I was a kid my mom used to make Madeleine cookies.  They were such a special treat.  Instead of simply dropping cookies on a cookie sheet, these cookies required their own special pans.  They look like small individual sized cakes in the shape of an elegant shell that has been lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  They are a French treat.  Little did I know then that I would be making those cookies with my mom's pans for my daughter, Madeleine.

Madeleine turns three this week.  I love remembering significant events by reliving and telling the stories of that day.  I do this with special days like birthdays and vacations.  But just ask my husband and kids, I also do this with a random Thursday.  I love remembering, appreciating, and celebrating the special in the everyday.

This week leading up to Madeleine's birthday, I have been telling baby Madeleine stories to the kids.  It is fun to watch their expressions and excitement when learning about themselves in the past --- the very close past -- like within the last three years.  To us adults, it seems like yesterday.  And yet in the short lives of our babies, these are memories that are so far in their past that they don't even remember. So reliving their beginnings with them is like telling them a wondrous story with very special characters (themselves).

I told Madeleine that the first time I made these cookies in her honor she was not able to enjoy them because it was for her Baptism party, and she wasn't eating cookies yet.  She said that makes her sad because she missed out on eating them.  I told her that she would make up for it this year for her third birthday; she can eat all the cookies she wants.

So this is my mom's recipe for the elegant Madeleine cookies from my childhood (there are a few changes I made).

10 Tablespoons of butter (melted and cooled)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar (I used 2/3 of a cup)
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
(this time around I added a little lemon zest ... it turned out great ... that is the fun part...making a recipe your own)

Melt butter and allow it to cool.  Heat eggs and sugar in a double boiler until lukewarm, remember to stir it constantly over low heat --- you don't want to scramble your eggs. Remove from heat and beat slowly until creaming and frothy.

When cooled, add flour gradually.  Then melted butter, rum, and vanilla. This is where I added the lemon zest.  Stirring constantly.

Spray Madeleine pans then scoop a teaspoon or so of the batter into each shell (about 3/4 full).

Bake at 375 degrees for 11 - 15 minutes.  When they come out of the oven use a small pairing knife to gently cut around the edges to help the delicate cookies pop out when you turn the pan over.  Lightly dust with powdered sugar while cookies are still hot.

Trust me ..... when you eat your first will be transported to a small cafe in Paris.  Until you hear your three year old in the background yelling at your other child.  Oooppps!  That is my story ... not yours. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salmon Non-Salmon Eaters will LOVE

The first time I made this meal, my husband told me it was "restaurant quality."  Now that is not a review that I often hear from him.  My husband always gives his review at the end of the meal.  And although he enjoys my cooking, I don't always take home the Gold medal when I make dinner.  Because I don't just get rave reviews, I believe he is honest and I feel that I can always trust his reviews.

This salmon is a bit sweet, a bit Asian, and totally easy to make.  I have adapted it from Great Food Fast a recipe book written by The Martha Stewart. I have made it for my family and served it with white rice and green beans.  My four year old and two year old only make yummy sounds when eating it.  My son ALWAYS says, " Oh, thank you Mommy ... I love this" when I place his salmon filled plate on the table for dinner.  I am telling you if you love salmon, you will love this .... and if you don't like salmon, it is possible you might not hate this salmon.  It is pretty darn good.  And the best part is it is so easy to make.

Sweet Salmon that makes Non-Salmon Eaters say," Ohhhhhhh
Maybe I do like Salmon"

The ingredients you will need:

orange juice
Hoisin sauce (you find this in the Asian section of your store)
sesame seeds

Place your salmon in a baking dish that just fits your salmon (in other words you don't want there to be too much room in the dish because you want the sauce you make to really sit on and around the salmon)

In a small bowl mix

3 Tablespoons of orange juice
2 Tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
1 - 2 teaspoons of honey (the truth is I am not sure about the measurement; I just squeeze some in)

And that is it!  Pour the mixture over the salmon.  Put it under the broiler for 5 - 8 minutes (400 or 450 degrees) depending on the thickness of the salmon pieces.  Sometimes if I am not ready to serve my salmon right away, I turn the oven down to 300 degrees and leave it in there another 2 minutes and then shut the oven off.

I serve the salmon with rice and green beans.  And just before I serve the salmon, I sprinkle it with sesame seeds.  It gives it that restaurant look. Buon Appetito!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So we have been sick at home for awhile now.  It is time to make cookies.  I need a cookie recipe where I have all the ingredients in the house, as I haven't been out of the house in .... what day is it again? So you see what I mean.  My two year old daughter and I eat Quaker oatmeal for breakfast about five days a week.  We love it.  And it is super easy.  Here is how we make it.

Quaker Oatmeal -- quick 1 minute oats

use a microwave safe bowl

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup skim milk
splash of maple syrup (real maple syrup not pancake fake stuff)
sprinkle of cinnamon (the spice not cinnamon sugar)
Microwave for 1 and half minutes (90 seconds)

"YUMMY" and that is a direct quote from my daughter Madeleine.

Since we eat this almost everyday, I see this Vanishing cookie recipe all the time.  I have also notice that I have all the ingredients on hand.

This is Quaker's recipe; I just added honey.  They turned out great so I thought I would share.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker oats (quick or old fashion uncooked)
1 cup raisins
I added some honey

Preheat oven 350.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet.  Then add oats and raisins.  This is where I added some honey.  Drop small rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8 - 10 minutes.  I cooked mine for 10 minutes.  They turn a light golden color.  Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet.  Cool completely on a wire rake.  Store in a covered container.  Makes about 4 dozen.

I have to say they were easy to make, and the kids loved making them --
but they loved eating them even more.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pink Eye and Toddlers

I am not saying it is the worst childhood illness.  I am not even saying it ranks in the top ten worst childhood illnesses.  I understand and am able to keep thing in perspective.  I have healthy children, but that being said.  Wow!   Eye drops are hard to use on a toddler.  Is hard the right word?  I am not sure.  Almost impossible might be a better word.  I know the nurse told me to drop some of the medicine into the corner of my son's eye and have him move his head to the side and the drop will just roll gracefully into his eye all by itself.  When she described it, I thought great idea -- I can do that.  I tried her way a few times, but my son kept his eye closed with a vise like closure.  There were no drops getting past those beautiful drawbridge lashes. I have never seen him close his eyes tighter.

So quickly realized I had to physically open his eye myself and get those drops in there.  It is my job; I am his mom.  I felt like I was at the carnival playing some awful water gun game where the target moves back and forth and up and down. This is not to mention the eight arms my child clearly must have.  I never knew my kid was this strong.  If he is this strong, why does her still ask me to carry him. As person administering the medicine, you have to hold the arms -- all eight of them -- down, gently pry the target (eye) open with your two free fingers, while you hold the medicine bottle in the other hand and carefully drop a small amount of liquid into the MOVING target. All the while listening to your child say "NO Mommy don't, NO!"  Nothing like trying to preform a difficult task with your own child yelling at you to stop.  Best part --- after you are finished, you remember you have to do this four times a day for seven days.  That was just the first dose.

Forty-eight hours later...eight doses in... 20 doses left.  My other child, my youngest, Madeleine wakes up with pink eye too. I do the quick math and .... 48 doses left.  Today is a pajama day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Easy Valentine's ... Swedish Fish Bowls

I saw this idea in Family Fun Magazine.  It is super cute and best of all it is super easy.  I created all the parts, and my kids put the Valentine together.  I started this project yesterday afternoon and finished a couple hours later.  You know what part took the longest?  Finding Swedish Fish.  I went to three stores.  So if you know where to locate these yummy gummy fish, the project itself is fast and fun for the kids.

Items to gather before you start:

blue card stock, or blue construction paper, or blue paper
small clear treat baggies
Swedish Fish (gummy fish)
something to tie the baggies with (ribbon, twisties, string etc...)
regular scissors 
scissors that cut with a curvy edge or regular scissors (you have to cut the waves by hand - up and down with your scissors)

Depending on how old your kids are they can help with the entire process. I have a four year old and a two year old, so they couldn't join in on the fun until step three.

First Step:

Cut the blue paper a bit shorter than the width of the clear baggies so it fits inside.  And only about half has tall as the baggie; you have to leave enough room to use the ribbon or twistie to close the baggie. After you have all the little blue squares cut, cut the top of the blue paper with the curvy scissors or use the regular scissors in an up and down fashion to create the appearance of a wave.  This is going to be the water background for the fish.
Second Step:

Write on the wavy water background you just created.  The suggestions from Family Fun Magazine are:
I am glad you are in my school, It's ofFISHial - you're awsome, and I FISH you were mine.  So cute with the fish at the bottom of the "bowl" aka baggie.  I added a heart and my child's name.

Third Step:

This is when my kids joined the process.  I set the project up like a little assembly line; they loved it.  They put the water (blue paper) in the fish bowl (clear baggie) and then put five fish in the bowl on the same side as the little note I wrote about being in "school together."  And lastly, they placed their small Valentine on the backside of the water.  And I tied the bowl (clear baggie) closed.  It was a great afternoon project.  It used various skills: listening to directions, following the process, and counting.

And the best part is it looks special even though it didn't take must time or money to add something to the simple Valentine card.

Thanks again Family Fun!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Milk Shakes for the Kids because... why not?

There are plenty of difficult parts involved in being a stay-at-home-mom.  No need to list.  Of course  there are built in perks, and there are those perks that are a mommy's prerogative to create. Today I used my mommy power to create Milk Shake Friday.

No reason to do it. But no reason not to.  My two year old daughter asked me for a milk shake.  I have never made her one.  I don't know how that idea popped into her head.  My guess is a cartoon. Or one of her story books has some fairies drinking milk shakes.  Anyway she asked me.  They just finished their lunch, and I could not for the life if me think of a reason to say no.  So I said yes.

*Side note -- I have never made a milk shake before, so I this is what I did.  I am not sure if this is what the experts do, but it worked perfectly.

Vanilla Milk Shake

these are approximate -- I just eyeballed it

Vanilla ice cream (3-4 scoops)
Some milk (1 cup)
Splash of vanilla extract (1 Tablespoon) 
Whipped cream for decoration
Strawberry for decoration

I made the kids sit at the table, close their eyes, and wait for their surprise.  This was their reaction when they opened their eyes -- truly priceless 

This is the reason I decided to stay at home and stop teaching.  I loved teaching high school English, but I love this more.

Milk shakes at 1:30 in the afternoon on January 11, 2013.  What life is ALL about.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Mommy gets sick...

the kids still have to be taken care of and played with.  I came down with the flu on Christmas Eve and my kids and my husband got sick three days later.  We were sick during all of Christmas break.  My four year old and two year old were sick with runny noses, coughs, and a fevers.  But thankfully in true kid form they didn't lose their desire to play and run around the house even with their fevers.  And this is a Blessing because they are sick, but not that sick.  Nothing is harder to see than your little one too sick to drive you crazy. On the flip side of this family-is-sick-for-the-Holidays-coin is adults are much weaker than kids when they get sick.  As we get older, sick means sick and adults do not feel like running around and playing with a fever. HOWEVER.... kids don't understand that and all they see is we are all home; let's play!

So hear are a few ways I kept my little sick, not so sick kids entertained while I was real-adult-sick this Christmas break.

We made sock puppets..... I have to say they loved it.  They picked out eyes and noses out of a button bowl.  And this process took a long time, which afforded my a bit of time to just sit at the kitchen table and rest.  I liked that part.  I hot glued their choices onto my husband's socks.  Then it was time to give the puppets hair.  We looped a bunch of hair, and I glued it down.  Lastly, they wanted tongues on their new friends.  We made those out of felt.  Once the puppets were complete, Aidan my four year old had a new object to chase my daughter Madeleine around the house with..... and by some weird twist my daughter was all of a sudden absolutely afraid of the puppet she made from start to finish.  The process was relaxing for awhile until it ended up in a chase through my kitchen, dinning room, and family room.  But I highly suggest making sock puppets even while you are adult sick.

Aidan kept asking to make Star Wars cookies, and he wanted to "paint" them -- decorate them for  you none four year olds.   Like any determined little boy..... he asked me, and then asked me again, and then asked me again, and again, and again .... you get the picture... I pulled the butter out of the refrigerator to bring it up to room temperature.  He saw me do this, and he squealed in delight because he knew that was the first step in making sugar cookies.  He is a very bright boy.  Aidan wanted to cut out Star Wars cookies and Maddie wanted to cut out butterflies and flowers.  And of course they wanted to paint them.  Funny part --- I only let them each paint five cookies because I had a feeling they would not like to eat the "painted" (royal icing) cookies as much as the plain cookies that they are used to.  Mommy was right -- Aidan bit into his Darth Vader cookie and said "it is yucky... too sweet." Another project done.  When will the flu end... that is what I kept thinking as I was coughing during this baking session.  Needless to say, I will not be sharing our baked treasures with anyone this time around.
Of course there was castle building, bridge building, fort building...playing with blocks.

And one day I even decided to bake donuts with the kids.

Because sick kids still need to be played with regardless if their Mommy is healthy or sick herself.  The kids have to come first; that is why we have them.  They are our Blessings.