Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lemon Meringue Tarts

When I was a kid, my favorite dessert by far, was lemon meringue pie. I'm pretty sure there were a few years that I requested it for my birthday "cake".

Part of me wonders if it's a genetic thing, because my Grampa was the king of lemon meringue pie. He made it regularly and made it well!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my Grampa has been living in a nursing home for the last couple of years.
We try and visit at least once a month. The girls love going and it seems every time we go see him, the next day he's a new man.
I think the girls give him a little burst of energy. We all know that they have enough energy for everyone...

When we go visit, we usually end up taking him a few freshly baked cookies.
Before our last visit, we were told he wasn't doing well. He was getting weaker and not eating.
So I thought maybe some lemon meringue goodness would pique his interest.

Who wouldn't want one of these??

We usually visit on Sundays, so on Saturday night I decided to make lemon meringue tarts.
I haven't made lemon meringue anything for years. I'm pretty sure the last time I made it, it was from scratch. This time it wasn't!


As usual this wasn't a planned out thing. It was a spur of the moment, I saw the mix at the store and decided that's what Grampa was getting kind of thing!
I used a Shirriff Lemon Pie Filling & Dessert Mix and frozen tart shells. But I made the meringue!

Lemon Meringue Tarts:
(From Shirriff)

Bake tart shells as directed.

Meringue:
Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:
Separate 2 fresh eggs, put two egg yolks aside into a saucepan and egg whites into a mixing bowl.
Beat 2 fresh egg whites on medium until soft peaks form, about 30 seconds.
Gradually beat in the sugar.
Beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes

Filling:
Ingredients:

2 yolks
1/3 cup cold water
2 cups hot water
1 Tbsp butter
1 pouch of Shirriff Lemon Pie filling

Directions:
In a saucepan with 2 slightly beaten egg yolks, add cold water and stir.
Add pouch of lemon filling and whisk until smooth.
Add 2 cups of hot water and mix well.
Cook over medium high heat, stirring continuously for about 15 minutes.
When bubbles first break the surface, continue to boil and stir for 30 seconds.
Remove from stove top, and stir in 1 tbsp butter.
Cool 5 minutes, stirring twice - product will thicken as it cools. 

Tarts:
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Pour filling into baked and cooled tart shells.
Top with meringue (I piped the meringue on with a Wilton 2M tip).
Bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden.
Allow to cool on counter for 3 hours before serving.


On the morning we were supposed to go see my Grampa, we ended up having to cancel because both girls were sick with a cold. I'm pretty sure the last place two sick kids should be is at a nursing home.
Unfortunately we ended up throwing most of the tarts in the compost because we had nobody to give them to and we didn't need to eat all of them!
Even though we couldn't deliver them, it was still fun making them and practicing piping on the meringue, which was something I'd never done before.
And they were really good!



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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Mommy, Can I Lick the Spoon? Update!

Sunday is the day that I usually put up new blog posts. Well, Sunday came and went and there was no new baking post.

Why? Well, there are several reasons...

I haven't had much time lately to work on Mommy, Can I Lick the Spoon? which is a little frustrating because there's so much I want to do.

Life has been busy. This post alone took me 4 days to finish!

My last few baking projects have been complete and total fails - more on that another day!

And finally, the last 3 - 4 weeks have been an absolute gong show...

Out of nowhere, our happy, free spirited three year old came down with a case of separation anxiety. I think I've been watching/hearing too many episodes of Doc McStuffins...
The kid that practically pushed me out of the door when I dropped her off at preschool, all of a sudden started screaming and crying for me. I couldn't even leave the house to go for a run, or drop her off at Nana's for a couple hours without her getting so worked up and sad.

I've been in the ECE field for over 10 years and have helped many families and kids with that exact issue, but let me tell you, being on the other side SUCKS!!

So after getting some advice from a friend/co-worker of mine, reading Llama Llama Misses Mama & Birdie's First Day of School (several times a day!) and letting her wear a special necklace of mine to school, it appears that we've made it through that tough phase!

Then, both girls decided to go on a sleep strike. Seriously, we're talking about these crazy girls waking up 3+ times a night.  We also had a couple nights where Lauren woke up every 45-60 minutes, and when Lauren wakes up, it takes forever to get her back to sleep.
And of course when they wake up, it's dramatic and they only want me...not dad. Which I guess is good considering Dave started a new job and has to be up and out of the door by 6:30 am. 
Oh, and it was taking anywhere from 1.5 - 2.5 hours for them to actually fall asleep when we put them to bed. 
No joke, it's been like having newborns again.

They still aren't sleeping through the night, but they usually only wake up 1 or 2 times a night now. Which is great because I'm getting a little more sleep every night and I don't feel like I'm hungover every morning.

And then the icing on the cake, (such a bad pun for a baking blog), happened on Friday.

It started off as beautiful, cold, sunny morning. I decided to take the girls to a zoo, but first we had to make a stop at Old Navy to get some snow pants for Olivia. It can get pretty windy at the zoo and there are lots of shady areas, and like I said, it was a cold day!
When we were getting close to our exit on the highway, traffic stopped because of an accident up ahead. We were pretty much parked for 35-45 minutes. When the accident finally got cleared up and traffic started to move, my truck started sputtering and decided it didn't want to drive. Somehow (thankfully), I was able to get it off the road where we sat waiting to be rescued. The fire truck that had been at the accident stopped to see if I had run out of gas. I wish it was something so simple. They offered me ride to the next highway exit, which was nice of them, but not an option because I had the girls with me.
My mom came and saved the day, but let me tell you, being parked on the side of the highway with semi-trucks flying by at 120 km/hour is pretty scary!

Long story short, my Xterra is done. Dead. Finished. Over.
Sure it's it was old, and noisy, and bright orange, but I loved that truck.
We had three days of rental cars until we were able to get my Jetta (that's been parked for 8 months), ready to drive. We've been talking for months about selling the Jetta but never got around to it...See, sometimes being lazy is a good thing!

But when you really think about, with all the craziness going on in the world, we have it pretty good.
We have our health, food on the table, warm clothes, a roof over our head and a wonderful, crazy little family.
And if a dead truck, a little sleep deprivation and a couple weeks of missed blog posts are the biggest "problems" I have, then I really can't complain.

Hope to see you Sunday with a new post!

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Halloween Fun: Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treats!

I love Halloween!
And now that we have we kids, it's even more fun!
Last year we took the girls trick-or-treating, and they enjoyed it, but this year they were both SO excited!
Olivia didn't really care about getting candy, she just liked running from house to house and saying 'Trick or Treat!'. Lauren liked everything about it...especially the candy!

My little goblins as Princess Anna and a Police Officer.


When Lauren started preschool in September, I got excited thinking about all the preschool parties she'd be having and the fun treats that we I would get to make for them.
I've worked with kids in the ECE field for over 10 years, and as crazy as they were, preschool party days were my favorite!

So, for her first Halloween party I made (happy, not scary) Frankenstein Rice Krispie treats!



These were a little time consuming, but super easy to make!
I just made regular Rice Krispie treats and added green food coloring to the melted marshmallows.
Once they were hard enough, I cut them into squares, put the sticks in and dipped the tops into melted chocolate. Right after that I added some black sprinkles to make hair. Their eyes and smiles were made out of royal icing.

Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treats:
(Adapted from www.ricekrispies.com)

To make the Rice Krisipie Treats:
I doubled the recipe (below) and was able to make around 30 Frankensteins.
Ingredients:
6 tbsp butter
8 cups miniature marshmallows
12 cups Rice Krispies/Rice cereal
2 tsp vanilla 
Green food coloring
Wooden popsicle sticks

Directions:
In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat.
Add marshmallows, vanilla and green food coloring.
Stir until completely melted.
Remove from heat.

Add rice cereal and stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula evenly press mixture into
two 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. 

Let cool and cut into squares. Insert popsicle sticks.

To make the eyes and smiles:
Royal Icing:

Ingredients:
1.5 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Wilton Christmas Red Icing Color
Wilton Black Decorating Gel

Directions:
Add icing sugar and milk to a clean bowl, blend with a mixer until it is mostly lump free. 
Add corn syrup and extract and continue to blend until smooth for about 45 seconds - 1 minute.
If it's too thick, add water by the drop. If it's too thin, add more confectioner's sugar.
*See note below

Divide the icing into separate bowls.
For the eyes, keep it white.
For the smiles, add the red color gel until you get the desired color.

Using a small round tip, pipe the eyes and smiles onto the squares.
I used a size 3 for the mouth and size 4 round tip for the mouth.

For the pupils, I used a small amount of Wilton black decorating gel.
Wilton sells candy eyes that can be used instead of royal icing, which I had wanted to use, but they were sold out everywhere.

**Royal Icing should somewhat hold it shape for a count of 10. This will make a perfect consistency for cookies and gingerbread house decorating  (scoop up some icing with a spoon and let it drizzle into the bowl. You should be able to see where you drizzled the icing for a count of 10...if it combines too quickly with the other icing it will spread out too much when decorating.)

To make the hair:
Ingredients:

Chocolate chips or melting chocolate wafers (I didn't actually measure them out, I just kind of guessed at how much I would need. Super helpful, I know!)
Black sprinkles

Directions:
To melt the chocolate, I used this chocolate melting pot.
If you don't have a melting pot, bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Place a heatproof bowl in the mouth of the pot, making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.
Stir chocolate occasionally as it softens.
When chocolate is melted, remove bowl from heat.

Once the chocolate is melted, dip the tops on the squares in it. Place on a cooling rack or parchment paper and add the black sprinkles. 

For Lauren's party I decided to bag them up individually. And because I was in a bit a of hurry, it was almost midnight and I wanted to go to bed, I put the Frankensteins in the fridge to speed up the drying process. 
Be sure to let the black decorating gel (pupils) completely dry/harden before bagging the treats or the pupils will smudge...Like some of mine did. 

All bagged up and ready to go!
 
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Surprise 60th Travel Themed Birthday!

At the end of September, my mom turned 60.
Earlier this year, like in March or April, she started telling us that she didn't want a birthday party.
So naturally, we went ahead and planned her a surprise party.


My mom is a travel agent, so we went with a travel theme.

The Guest Globe
Instead of a traditional guest book, we had a guest globe. Each guest left a special message for the birthday girl right on the globe.



60 Years of Memories
When I mailed out the invitations, I included some blank cards with a note attached asking each guest to write down their favourite memories of the birthday girl and bring them to the party.  When they arrived, we collected them and later gave them to my mom.




Table Decor
Each table had a '1955 Was a Remarkable Year' card on it with some interesting facts from 1955, the year my mom was born.


The Flowers
I got the vases at the dollar store. To incorporate the travel theme, I wrapped a piece of brown craft paper around it, followed by a piece of map that I had cut and finished it off by wrapping a piece of rope around it and tying a bow.  So easy and cute!



One of my favorite things was the airplane confetti. Look how cute it is!


The Travel Table
My Gramma had the amazing idea to set up a table with a map and markers of all the places my mom has traveled. We also included some souvenirs from some of the places like, Italy, China, Switzerland and Portugal.



The Food
I forgot to take a picture of the food table once it was completely set up, but we kept it simple. The party was at 1pm, so we figured everyone would've had lunch by then, so appetizers/snacks were the best way to go.
We had chips and dip, cheezies, a fruit and veggie tray, homemade sausage rolls (made by Gramma), and an appetizer plate with mini pizzas, pulled chicken sandwiches and other goodies.


The Dessert Table
We had brownies, little apricot turnovers (both made by my Gramma), an assortment of squares and of course, I made cupcakes!


The Cupcakes
My original plan was to make globe cupcakes, which I did...but they didn't turn out. They looked great, but were under cooked (even though when I checked them my cake tester came out clean).
I had wanted to cut off the tops, make a heart cut out (with a cookie cutter) and fill it with pink or red buttercream.

They do look kinda cool though, right?!

So at 9:30pm, when I realized that those weren't happening I needed a Plan B. I was running out of time, as I needed to get a kid to sleep and the store by our place closed at 10pm. And I didn't feel like being up until 3am. 
That's when I decided to make my no fail, always delicious, throw everything in the mixer, Pink Lemonade Cupcakes! 


And topped with pink buttercream, they were a success!

The cupcake stand, which, I love and am super proud of, was another DIY project that Dave and I made. Well Dave did most of the work, I just told him what to do. 


Dave built the cupcake stand and then we cut pieces of maps to fit each tier. For the edges, we printed little rows of flags we found on google. To keep the maps and borders in place we Modge Poged it. 


Pink Lemonade Cupcakes:
(Adapted from www.ericasweettooth.com)
Ingredients:

1 White cake mix
3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites

Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffins tins with liners

Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer and begin by mixing low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium for another minute.

Divide the batter evenly, filling the liners about 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes for about 18 - 23 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.