Tag Archives: Kate from Scratch

Quick and Easy Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers

Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate in fostering a love of reading by celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  My son’s school is celebrating all week long with fun activities and asked parents to get involved.  Being a fan of reading and especially Dr. Seuss, we decided to go with it.

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes Kate from Scratch-3

I first went to my most trusted of personal assistants, who also calls herself Google.  She’s fabulously helpful most of the time.  However, what I found there needed specialty store items and eBay purchases.

No thanks!

While fondant and edible printer ink is surely terrific, I wanted to create a simple variation.  One that anyone can manage with a quick run to the grocery store and twenty minutes.  Of course if you want to make the cupcakes with your best “from scratch” recipe and whip up three different colored frostings, you are more than welcome to do that.  But, I’m well aware that not everyone sees that as a rational investment of time.

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes Kate from Scratch-5

If you want to get the cupcakes from the bakery or use a boxed mix and some funfetti frosting  this recipe still works, though using the term “recipe” is a bit of an over statement.  It’s more like instructions for assembly.

And, so this is what we concocted with a little inspiration from pinterest and my husband’s genius idea in the candy aisle.

 

 

Fast and Easy Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers

Makes 24

  • 1 bag of marshmallows (not mini)
  • coconut oil (optional, for handling marshmallows)
  • 3 bags Life Savers Berry Bites Gummies
  • 24 cocktail straws or lollipop sticks (toothpicks will work too)
  • 24 cupcakes, prepared and frosted

Note: The gummies are three different colors/flavors, one of which is somewhat orange in color so I only used the two red of the three flavors.
1. Cut the ends off the marshmallows and reshape back to a circle (doesn’t have to be perfect and if you find your marshmallows to be too sticky, you may use coconut oil to reduce stickiness).
2. Stack three red gummies white side up and skewer with either a lollipop stick or cocktail straw (toothpick will work too, just warn the teacher about pointy edges).
3.  Slide the stack to the end of the skewer and then slide the cut marshmallow end to the stack.  Note, the marshmallow should be touching the red side of the gummy.
4.  Cut skewer to the height of the prepared cupcake.
5. Gently slide each skewer into the center of each cupcake.

Posted in Dessert, For Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ten Tips for Perfect Blanching (and a recipe for Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze)

 

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-8

We’re getting another ten inches of snow this weekend, however, it is technically almost spring.  And if you have even the slightest bit of luck, you might start to feel the weather warm up in the next couple of weeks (or months. But I’m optimistic, so just roll with it).

The markets will become flooded with sweet baby peas, green beans, baby broccoli florets, and of course, the Easter favorite and spring go-to of all households, asparagus spears.

Many people pride themselves on their marinades and dry rubs, their rich or perfectly balanced sauces, and they are, of course, all wonderful, I’m sure.  However there is one common cooking method that is sadly overlooked, often underestimated and unfortunately executed with little attention to detail and lackluster flare.  You’ve probably blanched and shocked vegetables in the past and not given it much thought, but it’s almost spring and we need to talk technique.  These vegetables should be given the respect they deserve.

Nobody puts spring green vegetables in the corner and I’m here to help.

Blanching and shocking is a simple, effective and delicious way to prepare these spring favorites.  However, it must be done properly or not at all, in my opinion.  If it’s not done properly you will be left with a quaggy, gray, disgusting, mush-like dish that someone said was once a vegetable and probably would benefit from a can of condensed soup poured on top of it.  Oh, yes, I did just say that.

This is not ok, people!

No main dish can make up for the fact that your vegetables are terrible (says the vegetarian).

Yes, I might be biased, but I feel it’s time we pay more attention to our vegetable dishes especially when they’ve just come back from the dead of the frozen winter ground for our consumption.  Fresh green beans and asparagus spears have a deliciously bitter-sweet and earthy flavor that should be enhanced, not smothered.  Smothering is so November through January.  Macaroni and cheese and sweet potato chili are now nearly a thing of our past.

It’s time to think about sweet pea soups that barely need cooking and lemon scented crispy green beans or grilled broccoli spears dusted with parmesan and sea salt.  These vegetables don’t need much help, they’re pretty much perfect the way they are with just a little help.

So here are some tips on how to perfectly blanch spring green vegetables.

1.  Salt the water!  If the water tastes like nothing, then your vegetables will taste (yup, you guessed it) like nothing.  The water should be as salty as the ocean.  The salt will be washed away in the ice bath so don’t under season your boiling water.  It is important.

2.  Add some flavor.  I add garlic cloves or some lemon slices and allow them to soften up in the simmering water before I add the vegetables. This infuses a gentle hint of flavor into the green vegetables without overpowering their natural and authentic flavor.

3.  Bring your water to a rapid rolling boil before adding the vegetables.  Adding the vegetables at any point in time before this, will not suffice.

4.  Stay there!   This particular category of vegetables can cook in less than thirty seconds, depending on the size and thickness of them.  Stay there and watch them turn bright spring green.  Remove them from the water with a large spider or colander and drop them directly into the ice bath.

5.  How to tell when they’re done?

a) For small vegetables like peas and green beans:  They will turn a very vivid shade of green.  At this point, remove one and taste it.  Are they too crunchy? Probably not, because they take about thirty seconds to cook.  So, unless it’s only been ten seconds, remove and shock.

b) If the vegetables are larger like asparagus or broccoli spears, stick a knife into the center of the vegetables when they change to bright green.  If the knife clings to the vegetable without budging, wait another minute.  If the knife slides easily through the vegetables,  then get them out of that water as soon as possible because they’re almost overcooked.

6. The vegetables will continue to cook until you shock them.  This is why I prefer to get them out of the boiling water when they’re still bright and crisp.  I can drain them and wait a minute and then shock them and they’re still perfect.  Overdone is not reversible, so it’s better to err on the side of caution with this method.

7.  Keep the vegetables in the ice water bath long enough for them to cool completely.  If they’re not cooled completely, they’re still cooking and will therefore become mushy soon after.

8.  The ice water shock bath should be equal parts ice and water and leave enough room in the bowl for the vegetables.  You don’t want things overflowing.

9.  If you plan to cook them with a sauce after blanching and shocking ( either in a baking dish or a stir fry, etc. ), then reduce the cooking time a bit.  They will finish cooking once combined with the sauce of your choosing.

10.  Taste.  This tip goes for every recipe and method in cooking.  Taste the water, taste the product at every stage of cooking so you know what direction you’re headed in with the dish.   An untasted dish of any kind, is most likely going to need a lot of help once you finally take that first bite.  You don’t want that bite to be had by everyone at the table.   That’s when people start grabbing the ketchup.  It’s not because they love ketchup. It’s because you didn’t taste.

If these tips are followed you will be enjoying brightly colored, tender but crisp earthy fresh spring greens. You’ll taste a nuance of the ocean and the brightness of lemons.  It should taste like spring.

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-2

Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze

Serves 4 (with rice or noodles) as an entree.  Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish.

NOTE: Please taste the salted water to make sure it is thoroughly flavored.  This recipe is for standard 1/2 inch asparagus spears.  If using baby asparagus, reduce cooking time by half (about one and a half minutes into the boiling water).  This recipe works with any green vegetable if you’re not a fan of asparagus.

Garlic-Infused and Perfectly-Blanched Asparagus

  • 5 cloves of garlic, whole and peeled
  • salt
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  1. Fill a large metal bowl half way with equal parts ice and water. Set aside, near the stovetop.
  2. In a large saucepan with a fitted lid, fill three quarters of the way with salted water.  Cover and place over high heat until it starts to simmer.  Taste the blanching water to make sure it is thoroughly salted and add more if needed.
  3. Add garlic to the pot and allow to cook for about three minutes, or until garlic is fragrant and soft.
  4. When water boils rapidly, add asparagus to the water and allow to cook for three or four minutes, or until tender but crisp.
  5. Using a large spider, strainer or colander, remove asparagus and garlic from the boiling water and transfer to the ice water bath.  Stir until the asparagus is warm and the ice melts slightly.

Orange Ginger Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (+ more for garnish/color, optional)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about the amount of juice from one large naval orange)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  •  a dash or two of sriracha (optional)
  • 2 pounds prepared vegetables*

*1  recipe for prepared “Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus” (above)

In a large nonstick saucepan over high heat, add all ingredients.  Toss until hot and covered evenly.  Note: you may add a bit of water if needed to help coat the asparagus evenly.  You may double the ingredients if you prefer a more saucy dish. Remove whole garlic cloves before serving.

Serve with rice or noodles, garnish with zest

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The Best Hot Chocolate Recipe Of All Time

 Do you remember how as a kid everything looked better in cartoons?  Strawberry-Shortcake-land food looked way better than the food in real life.  That’s just a fact.

This made the reality of actual strawberry shortcake highly disappointing at times, particularly when the products used in recipes didn’t hold much merit.

best-hot-chocolate-e

The ninja turtles had far better pizza than anyone else in the world and I found it quite unfair.  I didn’t live too far from the sewers of New York City.  Why couldn’t I just go there and get some?  I was about seven then, so you’ll have to forgive my illogical logic, naturally.  While we’re on the subject of cartoons, have you seen those cabbage patch doll hats?  They are weirdly adorable.

But, getting back to my point, this hot chocolate is absolutely perfect.  It’s the best recipe one will ever find.  Not just a delicious treat, in my opinion but the apex of all other hot chocolate in existence and therefore completely rivals all cartoon hot chocolate.  That’s a huge deal and obviously a much bigger deal than rivaling any real hot chocolate you’ve ever come in contact with.

I have made it dozens of times, if not more, in all variations.  You can add a dash of cinnamon or a dash of cayenne or make a peppermint mocha as I so often do around Christmas time (directions below).

It’s rich, creamy, classic, pure chocolate flavor is like drinking a cup of pure comfort.  It’s warm and aromatic and soothing and might be, quite possibly, my most favorite thing in the world.

The Best Hot Chocolate Recipe Of All Time

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup +2 tablespoons white sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3  3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine mix with water and bring to a light simmer.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir every minute until very hot.  Note: Do not boil once milk and cream are added.
  2. Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired.
  3. Variation: For a peppermint mocha, use coffee instead of the hot water and add a peppermint candy cane to the steaming cup once finished.  Stir the candy cane so it melts into the mocha.
This post was written and photographed by Kate Moran, owner and editor of Kate from Scratch. 
The recipe was adapted from one original sent to us from a reader. 
Please keep the recipes and post ideas coming.
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Ten Awesome Game Day Recipes

The Super Bowl is coming soon and it’s practically right next door to us too.  Get excited.  This means that not only is traffic going to be an absolute freaking nightmare in our area (Fun!), but also that it is time to start planning your big game menu.

We have it all covered.

The second you take one look at these Super Bowl recipes you will be completely sold and doing whatever it is that’s required to get them into your mouth menu plan as quickly as possible.

Make food, drink beer, get rowdy.  It’s the Super Bowl.

   Jalapeno Popper Dip

jalapenopopperdipThis dip is so insanely addictive that it has been coined “jalapeno crack dip” in our home.  One bite and you will be hooked.

Chili

black bean chiliThis easy peasy one pot wonder is a staple for any game gathering and will stay hot all day in a slow cooker while you enjoy the game.

Add some extra heat just for me.

Whiskey Steak

Whiskey-Steak Yes I said whiskey and steak in the same sentence.  Meat and booze lovers rejoice!

Egg Rolls

vegetarian-egg-rollsThese egg rolls are surprisingly light and packed with vegetables and protein.

Pair with some Thai style chili sauce or traditional duck sauce (found in the international aisle of your regular grocery store).

You won’t be sorry.

Meatballs

meatballs Make mini ones for an appetizer or buffet and be sure to make meatball pockets if there’s anything leftover the next day.

There probably won’t be.

 Hot Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Hot Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Hot Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip is green so it’s obviously good for you.  Yep, I’m rolling with that.

Deep Dish Pizza

http://katefromscratch.com/2013/03/23/cake-pan-pizza/

Click the photo, get the recipe and then let your imagination run wild with toppings.   This crust is built for it.  Don’t be shy.

Overstuffed Potatoes

overstuffed-potatoes-broccoli-cheddar-twice-baked-game-dayOverstuffed twice baked potatoes are meant to be over the top.  These are brimming with cheese and broccoli, but for the non vegetarians out there, go ahead …add bacon.  You know you want to.

Eggplant Rollatini

eggplant rollatini

Make the most delicious eggplant rollatini in the world.   The superbowl in in New Jersey this year.  Gotta represent.

OR

Southwest Style Veggie Wraps

Southwest Grilled Veggie Wrap

This one also works well for those of you grilling or tailgating.

Looking for more recipe ideas?  Kraft’s Game Day Pinboard is highly drool-worthy.  Check out the other Kraft boards to see some of my stuff there.  Feel free to spread the love.

Happy Game Day!

Posted in All, Basics, Breakfast, Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Death By Chocolate Cupcakes

Happy 2014 everyone!  This year, we’ve decided to hold back on the pretenses and celebrate the new year the proper way.

With death by chocolate cupcakes, obviously.

Death-By-Chocolate-Cupcake

I found and adapted this recipe from another blog and it’s really quite delicious as is.  Now I know I should depend on blogs more often for my baking recipes.   The cake was moist, the filling decadent and never lacking in chocolate flavor.

Overall, it’s a win and I highly recommend it.

The only thing I altered was filling the cupcakes with most of the frosting and leaving only a small amount on top of each cake.  I find this method to give the perfect cake to frosting ratio with each bite.  I also just upped the vanilla a little bit and used dark brown sugar instead of light, but that’s just for a little more oomph in the flavor department.

I bet a dash of espresso powder would be delicious as well, but I wouldn’t recommend that for the kids.  They get crazy enough with just the sugar, no need to add coffee to that equation.  Yikes.

Death-By-Chocolate-Cupcake-3

Death By Chocolate Cupcakes

Recipe Adapted from Blog: Sally’s Baking Addiction

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (64g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour (you may use cake flour for a more soft and tender crumb)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk

Dark Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 and 3/4 cup (330g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup (80g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 Tablespoons (95ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt (to balance sweetness of frosting)
  • 1/3 cup (60g) semi-sweet chocolate chips for decoration, optional

Directions

chocolate cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 12 cup cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners (Tip: double up the liners to prevent fading of pattern on liners).
  2. Place chocolate and butter into a glass bowl and microwave on high in thirty-second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each.  Note: If you prefer to do this in a double boiler –the old-fashioned way–, you may.  Remove from heat once thoroughly melted and set aside to cool slightly until further notice.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together dry ingredients:  Cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set that aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Add cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  6. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until barely combined you do not want to over mix as this will cause a tough cupcake (and while that sounds adorable, it is not).
  7. The batter will be very thick like pudding.
  8. Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan.  Bake for 18 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when gently pressed with the back end of a wooden spoon.  Note: I prefer this “press test” to the toothpick test to prevent over-baking, but the toothpick test works if you prefer it.
  9. Allow to cool completely before frosting.  Be patient.  It’s worth it. Promise.

Chocolate Frosting:

  1. Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder to assure there are no lumps. Set aside.
  2. With a handheld of stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy  which should take about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sifted sugar and cocoa powder alternately with the heavy cream and vanilla in small batches. Beat on low speed after each batch of sugar added to prevent sugar from flying everywhere.
  4. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too dark (or) add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet for your liking; as I did.

Note:  Using a frosting filled pastry bag (or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped), fill the insides of the cupcakes by inserting the tip of the pastry bag half way into cupcake.  Fill until the cake plumps up, which should be about 2 tablespoons of frosting inside.  Then swirl the top of each cake with an additional two tablespoons of frosting as well.  This gives the perfect cake to frosting ratio in every bite.

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Wicked Famous Apple Cinnamon Muffins

wicked-famous-apple-muffins-kate-from-scratch

It is the most beloved, the most requested, the most downloaded and the most adored recipe on Kate from Scratch.  This recipe exploded all over the internet when it was first published; shared and linked and highlighted and commented upon regularly for over a year.  I got emails saying how “wicked good” and “totally amazing” and even (dare I repeat it, for fear of sounding like a blogger)  …

“amazeballs” they are.  Yes, seriously.

I just figured it was luck and never gave it much thought after that.    So, after nearly two years of people referring to these as, “you know those really good apple cinnamon muffins with that stuff on top you made that one time?”

I figured I’d make them again.  And as you can tell from that mess of a pan.  I made a LOT of them.

Kate-from-scratch-apple-muffins

Yes, people…

I, the one who never ever makes the same thing twice (seriously never) have followed my own recipe and perfected it upon picking over fifty pounds of apples with the family over the weekend.  If you thought these muffins were “wicked awesome” before… brace yourselves.

You asked for it and you got it.

My “Wicked Famous Apple Muffins” are here once again and now that I sit here and eat one, I get it.  I understand.  They really are pretty good if I do say so myself.

The secret?

famous-apple-streusel-muffins-kate-from-scratch-3

They don’t hold back.

There’s lots of real butter, lots of fresh ripe and crisp New York apples with an entire container of sour cream in the batter to keep the crumb of the muffin moist and tender.  Not to mention tons of honey graham cracker cinnamon sugar streusel on top.

Hey, if you’re going to do something, do it right.

Wicked Famous Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Makes three dozen muffins

Apple Cinnamon Muffins
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups diced, peeled tart fresh and ripe quality apples
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 16-ounce container of sour cream
  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
Graham Cracker Streusel:
  • 10 sheets of graham crackers (40 individual graham crackers), crushed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks of butter cut into pea sized pieces
      1. Move oven rack to top third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line or generously grease 36 muffin cups
      2. In a large bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and whisk to evenly distribute dry ingredients.  Add apples to dry ingredients.  Toss to coat.   Add eggs, sour cream and butter and mix to combine.
      3. In a medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients (you can use your hands for this) for the streusel topping until crumbly.
      4. Using an ice cream scoop or a one quarter cup dry measure, add batter to each prepared pan.  Place one handful of streusel (about two rounded teaspoons) on top of each muffin and press gently to make sure the streusel sticks.  Place pan(s) in preheated oven on top rack and bake until muffin springs back when gently pressed, or for about ten minutes.
      5. Remove pan(s) from oven and place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.  Remove muffins from pan and enjoy.
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Best Brownies Ever

brownies

Max disappeared into his room for a few minutes and then this happened. Never mind that mess in the background. One more week and they’re in school, this place will be tolerably clean again, but I digress.

kate-from-scratch Then he decided that it was time to “conquer a brownie battle” .  I obliged considering I was dubbed his “sidekick dragon-lady” and I take my character very seriously and also …I like brownies.  It makes sense.

I make cookies and brownies materialize so ubiquitously that I often forget to include them in my recipe arsenal.  I surmise that everyone already knows their favorite brownie recipe, so there’s no sense in inundating you, my clever and knowledgable readers, with unnecessary and trivial things such as brownies.

Right?

But, wait just a minute.  Maybe this assumption I’ve made on your behalf is all kinds of wrong.

Maybe you don’t have a favorite brownie recipe yet.  I didn’t have a favorite brownie recipe until last year!  In fact, I wasted a lot of time and energy on years of crappy disappointing brownie recipes, one just as disastrous as the next.

So, maybe you’re just like me three years ago; kitchen surfaces showing their brownie battle wounds and you, randomly being splattered in chocolate and the only thing to show for it is overly fluffy, grossly gooey or the worst –”I can’t believe I wasted that much good (expletive) chocolate on a wrongly written baking time” brownies.  It’s a thing, yes, wrong baking times are out there and some are even in print.  You’ve been warned.

Maybe you always turn back to box mixes because it’s just easier than the obnoxious recipe that calls for things you never have on hand.  Things like time, patience, Himalayan salt and fifty zillion egg yolks.  The entire point of brownies is that they’re uncomplicated and cut straight to the point with little fuss.  You can slather them in chocolate frosting, drop handfuls of peanut butter chips into the batter before baking, you can add that bowl of candy to the batter that’s sitting around after Halloween or (if you’re fancy) swirl in some goat cheese lightly doused with cinnamon and sugar if that’s your thing.  I kept it simple and added one single Hershey kiss to the center of each brownie this time.

brownies-best-ever

Best Brownies Ever

Hardly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  •  3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Optional: 9 Hershey’s Kisses, or 3/4 cup of your favorite add-in (chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter chips, nuts, chopped candy, cream cheese swirl, etc)
  • Optional: confectioner’s sugar or a drizzle or light coating of frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter an 8×8 inch square glass or metal brownie pan.  Note: As always, if using metal, baking time will be less than when using glass so please be aware of this.
  2. Place strip of fitted parchment inside of greased pan and rub butter over parchment.
  3. Melt chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl over a pot filled with two inches of simmering water until only a lump or two remain. Remove bowl from heat and stir until thoroughly melted.
  4. While whisking constantly, add sugar, eggs. vanilla and salt.
  5. Continue to beat until smooth and velvety.
  6. Fold in flour until combined.
  7. Pour batter into prepared baking dish
  8. Place one unwrapped Hershey kiss into the center of each brownie portion (3×3 grid)
  9. Bake in preheated oven for twenty-six to twenty-nine minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out fairly clean.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack until warm.  Grab parchment at sides and lift out of brownie pan.
  11. Served most deliciously while warm with ice cream.
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The Sweetest Place On Earth

I mentioned that we were going to bring our sons on what we call, a “mystery trip” for Trey’s seventh birthday.  And well, let’s just say… it’s going to require some very slick and clever planning on my part to top this year’s birthday shenanigans in honor of next year’s celebrations (We’ll worry about that next year, though).  For now, let’s just revel in this evidently thrilling, deliciously raucous and totally awesome birthday.

So, “why Hershey Park” you ask?  Well, first,there’s this…

untitled-29

That’s right!  They fit a six piece brass band including a sousaphone into a golf cart.  Awesome?  Uhh…yeah it is!  Wielding big smiles and a flair for jazz, they played for me and my boys as we walked to our car.

untitled-26

 

But, also his birthday is at the end of summer; which, let’s face it, totally blows for scheduling a big birthday event.  Everyone is either away or out of touch on weekends or they’re always around and you see them all the time and you’re kind of just sick of them already (no, not you, don’t worry).   But, yeah, you get the idea.  Second of all, ever since Trey was two, he requests one thing… and  that thing is CHOCOLATE.  Sure, his birthday request is usually in cake form but honestly, they’re just vessels for KitKats and Hershey bars among other treats.

I’m onto him and I dig it.

So, I figured… let’s just cut to the chase and do it right.

chocolate-character-hershey-park-1

I also happen to know for a fact that he got my genes in the department of loving all things fast, crazy, and fun.  So, the only thing he might love more than chocolate…

untitled-24

…is roller coasters.

 

roller-coaster-hershey-park

hershey-park

The park did not disappoint and Trey even went on his first “completely upside down and backwards” roller coaster which immediately got Max on the competitive fast track of fun too.

loop-roller-coaster-hershey-park

Yep, Max who stands at three years and barely three feet tall (yikes), managed to finagle his adorable self onto his first -ever- roller coaster and absolutely raved about it!  Sure, there are still plenty of rides we couldn’t go on with both of them yet, but that didn’t mean anyone was sidelined, fortunately.

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And even he were sidelined, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind since he decided that the only thing more awesome than rides and roller coasters, is drums!

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He was right!   That part was very cool, too.

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After hours of fun and chocolate and cake, we were all utterly exhausted.  We didn’t get to go onto any of the water rides yet as this was our first time there, but maybe we’ll be able to stay a few days next time and get everything in.  Overall it was probably the best birthday any of us have ever had, which is saying a lot considering we have had about seventy seven birthdays between the four of us.  And, now I have massive amounts of chocolate to bake with, so you too can enjoy some very sweet creations…coming soon.

 

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Kettle Corn

We’re already getting ready for that one and only time of year that freshly sharpened pencils and the sound of cutting construction paper make me smile joyfully.  Yes, “Back to school” is mingling around us and I am keeping up the pretenses of summer mode for Trey’s sake until next week.  You see, we don’t dare talk to Trey about such things until his birthday has passed and this year we’ve decided to do a something a bit different; a bit surprising and a bit special for his birthday in place of renting out a party room for him and twenty other sugar fueled kids at our local fun-kid-crazy-center.
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However, if I told you, the surprise would be ruined and what fun would that be?  So, you’ll just have to wait for the big reveal this weekend, as will he.  However, somehow these two ideas (both the surprise and “back to school”) have coupled in my mind and presented itself as this beautiful sweet-salty-peanut-buttery creation.  And, while this creation isn’t exactly a  hint, it will have to do for now.
 It’s fun, sweet, delicious with a touch of rich peanut butter, sea salt, and yogurt covered raising…and it’s reminiscent of what I ate for lunch at school almost every single day for approximately five years when I was his age.  And, while peanut butter may mean banishment to the “peanut tables” at his school in this day in age, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it here as a pre-birthday, pre-back-to-school treat.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Kettle Corn

Amusement Park Style Kettle Corn with Roasted Peanuts and Yogurt Covered Raisins

  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut, coconut or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup yogurt covered raising
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped or whole
  • sea salt to taste, optional

In a large, heavy bottomed pot with tight fitting lid over medium-high heat, add oil.  Lightly whisk together the corn kernels with one tablespoon white sugar and all of the brown sugar.  Once oil is rippling and sizzling, add sugar-kernel mixture to the popcorn pot. Cover the pot with a lid, and move the pot fairly briskly in a circular motion on the stove.  Allow the corn to pop, moving the pot constantly, until the rate has slowed down to one pop every two or three seconds. Remove the pot from the stove, and shake the pot until the popping stops. Pour into a parchment lined sheet pan, and allow to cool to room temperature.   Meanwhile, heat peanut butter with one and a half teaspoons of white sugar and the yogurt covered raisins in a small nonstick pot over medium low heat; stirring gently as needed, until the mixture melted (the yogurt will melt off the raisins as well) and smooth. Cool until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.   Pour peanut butter mixture over cooled popcorn in a drizzly fashion.  Immediately sprinkle drizzled popcorn with roasted peanuts and allow to cool.  Season with salt to taste, if needed.  Break apart the large clumps of popcorn by hand.  Devour blissfully.

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Quick and Easy Vegetarian Sub Sandwich


It’s easy, delicious and it doesn’t require heat or dishes; which for a busy and hot summer afternoon, sounds just perfect to me.   Tomato and basil cheddar, a thin slice of swiss, handfuls of crunchy and sweet yellow peppers with arugula and spinach for a little hearty green protein and of course fresh tomatoes on a lightly toasted crusty roll with a tangy avocado spread.

vegetarian-sub-sandwich

 

Vegetarian Sub Sandwich

  • avocado
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • Sandwich rolls
  • cheddar or american cheese, thinly sliced
  • swiss or provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • tomato, sliced,
  • arugula and/or spinach
  • fresh basil (optional)
  • yellow pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine 1 avocado, vinegar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Mash it together and add salt and pepper to taste.  Toast sandwich roll (optional) and spread avocado mixture thinly onto both sides.  Stack light layers of cheese between tomatoes, greens, basil and yellow peppers.  Enjoy!

Posted in Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment