Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

Just a little treat to say Happy Thanksgiving! I keep looking for reasons to make something from my Hello Cupcake book, and there just hasn't been a great opportunity. So, I decided to stop waiting for something special and just make something for fun. I had to go visiting teaching yesterday, had most of the ingredients on hand, thought they looked easy, and decided to make some turkey cupcakes!

I think they turned out so cute! Jaxon and Gavin had fun helping me. My only complaint is that the cupcakes in this book are supposed to be easy, with easy to find supplies. Well, I had to visit 3 grocery stores to find the right kind of cookie for the feathers, and was never able to find any caramel jimmies (not even Michael's had any--the only place I could find them was online.... not handy)... so we settled for a different sprinkle mix, that still turned out OK (not as cute as the jimmies would have been, though...)
Plus, I thought I had one fruit by the foot left in the pantry for the wattle... I did have 1 left, but it was a multi-color one and not red! So we had to pipe the wattles with red frosting. But I liked it just as much, and these really were easy to put together... once I found all the blasted stuff. (Even the candy corns were hard to find... you cannot get them after Halloween! I had to rummage the clearance bins to find 1 measly bag... moral of the story is stock up on candy corns at Halloween time!) I can't wait to try some Christmas themed ones next month! Thanks for the book, Daysh!


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (mini and regular, baked in white liners)
Cream Cheese frosting (tinted light brown)
Regular can of white frosting
Candy Corns
Caramel Jimmies (or Turtle Crumb mix from Michael's, when you're desperate...)
Anna's Thin Ginger Cookies (finally found at Von's/Safeway)
Black chocolate covered sunflower seeds
Regular marshmallows (cut in half diagonally, and used to support the tail feather)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Baby Shower Cupcakes

I made these twice this last Spring... once in blue, for a friend's baby shower, and then again, in pink, for Dacia's baby shower. The original concept was from my Hello, Cupcake book. But I had seen some I liked on another blog and decided to take my favorite ideas from both cupcakes and turn them into 1 unique design. It's not totally unique, but still really cute, and pretty easy to put together. So if you're looking for a relatively simple and cute treat for your next baby shower, give these a try!
For the girls, I was able to find light pink lifesavers that were perfect pacifier holders. The handles inside were done with airheads, cut into thin strips. For the boys, I couldn't find any blue lifesavers, so I resorted to Fruit Loops. I liked the bigger lifesavers betters... but until there are blue ones, the fruit loops were cute, too. For the smaller Fruit Loop pacifiers, I used red licorice strings as handles inside.

The baby bottles are made with Starburst's (molded into a nipple shape... my, that sounds dirty...), and mini marshmallows, with a dab of frosting to hold the two together.

The open crying mouth is made with a red fruit roll-up, cut into a circle, and then outlined with a thin piped ring of red frosting.

I made a couple double deckers one, using mini cupcakes for heads, and then piping on bibs. I needed blue bibs, which is why I piped them on. If I was doing girl double deckers, I would use red fruit leather for the bibs... easier and cleaner unless you're good at piping (I am obviously not).

For hair, the girls got marshmallow bonnets. I simply cut marshmallows in half and spaced them half way around their heads. For the boys, they got a curly-q with piped melted chocolate. I also piped on the eyes with melted chocolate. Finally, don't foget an extra little dab of peach colored frosting for their noses.

Simple and cute, and fun!

Cream Cheese Chicken Soup

I spaced dinner the other night and needed something quick and cheap at the last minute. This soup met all my criteria and even though I didn't have carrots (who doesn't have carrots?!), I still pulled it off and it was delish. (Don't let the horrific pictures fool you... food pictures with flash are awful! Eventhough I had this soup ready at 5:30, it was still pitch black outside...) Even Jared commented on how much he liked it... you KNOW that's a big deal. He even ate the leftovers the next day. The cream cheese gave it a fabulous tang and you could make it healthier by using Neuchtafel cheese instead of fatty regular cream cheese. I really liked that this didn't taste like your typical cream soup, but was still extremely creamy and rich. This is going into my "staples" file. I found the recipe here (quickly becoming one of my new favorite sites...)
A couple of notes: Like I said, I didn't have any carrots, so I used red peppers instead and thought they were great. I also think celery, mushrooms, and peas would be good in this soup. Feel free to add whatever veggies you have on hand.

I also didn't have a ton of chicken on hand, so I upped the potatoes and veggies to make my soup go farther. I just added a bit more broth to completely cover them.

I threw my chicken breasts into the oven right before I started my soup. They ended up being done at almost the exact same time the veggies were tender. It made meal prep easy and quick.

Finally, the recipe calls for softened cream cheese. I find that no matter how "soft" my cream cheese is, when I add it to a sauce or soup, it gets slightly lumpy and doesn't look very appetizing. I almost always put the cream cheese in the microwave for 30 or so seconds, and stir it until it's smooth before I add it to a sauce or soup. That way it doesn't go lumpy and looks more appetizing.

1 lb. chicken, cooked and diced (I used 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
3 cups chicken broth (either canned or use bouillon or chicken base--I used water with chicken base)
1 onion, finely diced
1-2 T butter
2 handfuls baby carrots (4-5 regular carrots) (think about 2 cups chopped vegetables)
4-5 potatoes, diced
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoons flour
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cayenne (I like my soup with a teensy kick... this is optional)

1. Saute onion in butter. Add 3 cups chicken broth, carrots or other vegetables, and potatoes. Add more broth to completely cover vegetables if necessary. Bring to a boil, then simmer until veggies are tender.

2. Mix the flour with the cold milk. Once veggies are tender (about 10 minutes), add milk mixture to pot of veggies, stirring well.

3. Add cream cheese to soup, little pieces at a time and stir until melted. Add cooked chicken and heat through. Season well with salt and pepper and cayenne, if desired.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gourmet Rice Krispies, Take Two

One more yummy dessert from our pre-Thanksgiving fun this last week. I actually made this dessert twice... once on my own accord, and the second time, it was requested. It's super quick and easy, but looks gourmet... and tastes mighty tasty, too. You wouldn't believe how much dried fruit adds to rice krispies! I found the recipe here, a new favorite food blog that I've wasted far too much time on lately, perusing recipes, appreciating beautiful food pictures (the pictures are from her site), and increasing my ever growing "must try" list.

3 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 ounce) bag marshmallows
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, plus extra if desired (I used about an extra 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup dried cranberries, cherries, etc. (I used a mixed bag of cranberries, blueberries, and cherries)
1/2 cup choc. chips, melted (the original recipe calls for semi-sweet, but it was a bit too rich for me. I didn't use any the second time and liked them better. But I may try milk chocolate next time)

1. Prepare pan by spraying with cooking spray or lining the pan with foil, allowing excess foil to hang over the pan edges (still spray your tin foil with cooking spray). The size pan you use depends on how thick you want your rice krispies. I used a 9x13 pan, and got thinner treats. But you could easily use an 11x7 or 8x8 pan, too and get really nice, thick, pretty treats.
2. Melt butter in large pot over low to medium heat. Add marshmallows, 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 8 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

(OK... so this may be obvious to many of you, but I just figured this out, after making dozens of crappy rice kripsies... you have to use fresh marshmallows (duh) and you have to melt over low heat. If you melt your marshmallows too quickly over higher heat, they will harden and you won't get soft, gooey rice krispies. Be sure to use a lower heat setting to get the gooiest, softest, and most perfect rice krispies!)

3. Off heat, stir in rice krispies, dried fruit, and any extra white chocolate chunks if you desire, until incorporated. Scrape mixture into prepared pan and press into bottom and corners with either a greased spatula or greased hands.

4. Let cool completely. Pour melted chocolate into baggie and snip off a small corner of the bag. Drizzle melted chocolate over treats. Allow chocolate to cool and harden. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Lemon Chiffon Cheesecake

I may or may not have mentioned that I love anything tart... especially lemon. You certainly couldn't tell from the types of recipes I post on here.... but here's one more that I made for our pre-Thanksgiving feast this last week and it was delicious! I wasn't sure it was lemony enough at first for my tastes, but the more I eat of it, the more I love it (my hips not so much, though...). The texture is just sooooo smooth and creamy and perfect, and the gingersnap crust adds just the right amount of tang. Plus, there's no baking involved, so it's a no fail cheesecake! Oh, and the presentation is gorgeous. I found the recipe here, again. (Oh, her desserts are so amazing! She has so much yummy stuff... I could look at her pictures for hours). I'm borrowing her pictures until I get a copy of the ones Alan took of mine. Enjoy!

2 cups crushed gingersnaps
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

6-7 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (yes, it needs to be fresh!)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 2 1/2 tsp.)
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
10 ounces white chocolate, chopped
24 ounces cream cheese (3 8 oz. packages), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon zest (don't skip this, even if you hate lemon zest, Dacia...)

For the crust:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 10 inch springform pan. Set aside. (I let mine chill in the fridge)

For the filling:
1. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice and gelatin and let stand for 2 minutes.

2. Bring 1/2 cup of whipping cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add white chocolate, stirring until smooth.

3. Stir the gelatin mixture and whipping cream mixture together and allow to cool.

4. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until well combined. Slowly beat in cooled white chocolate mixture and combine.

5. In a large bowl beat remaining cups of cream at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold into white chocolate and cream cheese mixture. Pour into prepared crust. (Instead of garnishing later with chocolate curls, I poured some white chocolate chips into the bottom of my crust, before pouring the cake mixture in.)

6. Cover and freeze overnight. Remove from freezer at least 15 minutes before you plan to serve (otherwise it's too hard to cut slices... I may know this from experience). Run a knife around the edge of the pan to release the crust from the sides of the pan. Garnish with chocolate curls and enjoy!