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.