Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kids in the Kitchen: Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

For the last week or so, Lauren has been asking me to make cupcakes with pink, green and yellow icing. Pretty specific right?
Well, you see, both girls are a little obsessed with
Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse and there's an episode or three where they make cupcakes with pink, yellow and green icing on them.

So one rainy day last week, we decided to do some baking. And even though we'd had our fill of sweets from Olivia's birthday, I gave in and said yes to the cupcakes.

It's hard to say no to these cute little faces!

I used my usual one bowl chocolate cake recipe. That recipe can be found here, or at the bottom of this cute kid picture filled post!

I ended cutting the recipe in half because as I mentioned above, the last couple of weeks were full of sweets!
My math skills are a little on the awful side, so I was a bit nervous about how they were going to turn out, but they were awesome!

And the baking begins...




Lauren has become quite the egg cracking pro!



A task to keep the girls busy for a few more minutes...


And the final products...


Cupcakes decorated by the girls.

When I make buttercream, I usually make it with all butter, not a mix of butter and shortening. This time I made it with a mix of them. It's a totally different texture when you use shortening. It's very light, velvety and smooth...if that makes sense!
I used the Wilton's Buttercream icing recipe, also below.

Cupcakes and tea (milk) for the little ones.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake:

Ingredients:
2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare two 8" or 9" round pans (I used two 6" round pan). You can either grease and flour the pans, use non-stick cooking spray, or use homemade cake pan release (recipe below).

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, then stir in the boiling water
Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then flip them out on a wire rack and let completely cool before frosting.



Buttercream Icing:
(Adapted from Wilton)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup softened, salted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp cream
pinch of salt

Directions:
Dissolve the salt in the cream and stir.
Beat butter until slightly fluffy.
Add vanilla.
Add icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
Gradually add cream until light and fluffy. 
If icing is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time.


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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Olivia's Birthday Part Two: The Frozen Party!

As I mentioned last week, Olivia celebrated her second birthday on January 12th.
In our house, it's still all about Frozen - Lauren loves Elsa and Olivia loves Anna. Because of her love for Anna, we threw her an Anna/Frozen birthday party.

The birthday girl and her big sister (dressed as Elsa).

I love planning parties and spend way too many late nights perfecting every last detail. And even though this was a small party, I still spent many late nights working on it.

This post contains LOTS of pictures...you've been warned!

The Invitations:

We've been making our own invitations and thank you cards for a little while now, I think we started when Lauren turned two. It's one of my favorite things to do. I may not be a pro, but it's so much fun making them!


The Food:

For the food, I made Frozen inspired appetizers. I got some cute food tents and water bottle labels from ErikasPaperCreations on Etsy that were super easy to customize. All of the food was labeled with lines or quotes from the movie, or something related to Frozen.

Melted Snow (Bottled Water)

Olaf's Arms (Pretzel Sticks),
Sven's Snacks (Fruit Plate),
True Love Kisses (Hershey's Kisses),
I Like Warm Hugs (Hershey's Hugs)




Honey Garlic, BBQ and 
Sweet & Sou
Troll Rocks (Meatballs)

We Finish Each Others Sandwiches
(Egg Salad and Tuna Salad Sandwiches),
Sven's Snacks (Veggie Plate) 

It's Coronation Day Caesar Salad

And the most popular thing at the party, besides
the birthday girl...
A chocolate fountain!!

What's That Amazing Smell?
MMM...Chocolate!

Some of things we had for the fountain were, marshmallows, pretzels, Ritz crackers and strawberries. But when it came to the chocolate fountain, pretty much anything went!


Waiting for the cake:



The Cake:

This was the first doll cake I ever made and I am so proud of it!
It turned out exactly how I wanted it to.
My freehand piping (flowers) skills need a little work, but overall, that's not a big deal.


I made my usual pink lemonade cake with buttercream.
I used the Wilton Wonder Mold Kit, and two 8' round cakes. The reason I added the two 8 inch cakes was because the Anna doll was a full size doll (12 inches, I think) and the doll cake pan was only 5 inches deep. It ended up being a big, heavy 3 layered cake!


And, she loved it!




Pink Lemonade Cake:
(Adapted from www.ericasweettooth.com)
I tripled the recipe to have enough to fill all three cake pans.


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. Prepare cake pan(s).

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.

Pour batter into cake pan(s).

Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

The 8 inch cakes took about 30 minutes to bake and the doll cake pan was about 35 minutes.
Allow to cool before decorating.


Buttercream Icing:
(Adapted from Wilton)

Ingredients:
1 cup softened, salted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp cream
pinch of salt

Directions:
Dissolve the salt in the cream and stir.
Beat butter until slightly fluffy.
Add vanilla.
Add icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
Gradually add cream until light and fluffy. If icing is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time.


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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Olivia's Birthday Part One: The Goldfish Cake

On January 12th, Olivia turned two!
It's crazy to think she's already two. It feels like we just brought her home, but at the same time it feels like so long ago.
Either way, I can clearly remember the pain of giving birth to her like it was yesterday!


Anyways...
I'm not proud to admit it, but this little girl loves goldfish crackers. LOVES them! I'm not sure where she stashes them, but every time I look at her when we're in the car she has a goldfish cracker.
So on Olivia's birthday I made her a goldfish cake.


I've mentioned in previous posts that I don't have a go-to white cake recipe yet, so I just used a box cake.
After carving and icing this cake, I decided that I need to find a go-to recipe right away.
Carving this cake was not fun. It was so light and fluffy that when I was both cutting out the fish and icing it, it just crumbled. I managed to get a crumb coat on and then popped it in the fridge for about an hour.

As I iced it, parts of the back kept crumbling away...that's why it became the back. And see those blue "waves" below the fish? Those were to cover up the not so smooth, crumbly bits on the front!
I also had a really hard time getting the buttercream smooth.

But all those issues aside, this was how the birthday girl felt about it...




She loved it and that's all that matters!


Be sure to check back next week for Olivia's Anna/Frozen Birthday Party!

Buttercream Icing:
(Adapted from Wilton)

Ingredients:
1 cup softened, salted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp cream
pinch of salt

Directions:
Dissolve the salt in the cream and stir.
Beat butter until slightly fluffy.
Add vanilla.
Add icing sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
Gradually add cream until light and fluffy. If icing is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time.


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Sunday, January 10, 2016

A (repost) tribute to my Grampa: Lemon Meringue Tarts

On Christmas Eve my Grampa passed away.
I've written about him a few times because we used to bake cookies for him when we'd go visit at the hospital.

He was a pretty quiet, old school, say whatever was on his mind, rough and tough cowboy, but he loved our girls and they loved him back.
It was funny because he never said much to them, but he had a huge impact on them, Lauren in particular.

It was the little things he'd do that showed he cared.
For instance, as soon as the girls got there, he'd perk up a bit and prop himself up so he could see the girls and watch them sing and dance. He'd talk about them for days afterwards. They also gave him a burst of energy. I don't know how many times we went to see him and were told he wasn't doing well and probably didn't have much time left, and then sure enough after we left he was a whole a new man full of life again.

My grampa and my dad

I don't have a new post ready today, because I was asked to MC his celebration of life which was yesterday.
So those late nights I usually spend editing photos and writing about baking, were spent writing (and re-writing) speeches and a schedule for the day. 

My Grampa loved baking pies and was known for his lemon meringue pies. 
So as a little tribute to him, here's an old post of mine all about Lemon Meringue Tarts!

He was 93 and ready to go. Not too long ago he told my aunt he was happy with his life and if he had to do it over, he wouldn't change a thing. Not many people can say that. And knowing that, made it a little easier to say goodbye. You'll be missed, RIP Cowboy Grampa.

My dad and grampa on the farm

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Lunch Time Favourite: Macaroni & Cheese

For lunch, my girls love two things...tuna sandwiches and macaroni & cheese.
Most days they have tuna, but I end up making macaroni and cheese pretty much every week.

 I like making it for a few reasons - they're guaranteed to eat it, I make enough so they can have it for lunch twice and because I've made it so many times, I know my recipe well and that makes it an easy, pretty fast meal to make.

Tortiglioni & Cheese

I also like the fact that I can easily sneak healthy vegetable purees into it. 
I started adding purees to different meals when Olivia was younger because she was a very selective eater and I wanted to make sure she was getting enough vegetables in her diet. 
Even though she eats better now, sometimes, I still throw them in. Not only do the purees add a little extra flavor and nutrients, it' s also a great way to use up extra vegetables that you have lying around.

We did baby led weaning with both girls so I never did the puree thing. I find it to be such a time consuming, painful task! But on the other hand, I hate wasting food so making purees kind of makes sense.

And to anyone that made/makes purees for their babies, major props to you!

Rotini & Cheese with Carrot Puree

When I do make purees, I try to make a big batch and then freeze them in 1/4 - 1/2 cups servings.
Some of my go-to purees are carrot, cauliflower, sweet potato and my current favourite is a carrot and red pepper mix.

On Thursday I made mac & cheese for lunch and the puree I added was a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and brussels sprouts. All of which were leftovers from dinner the night before. I was a bit worried that the broccoli and brussels would be a little overpowering, but it was fine. The girls gobbled it up in no time.

Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:
8oz Macaroni (or any other pasta)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
Spices - salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder etc. *(See note below)
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheese - I usually use Old or Medium Cheddar  
1/4 - 1/2 cup vegetable puree - Optional

*I don't usually measure my spices, I pretty much just go by taste and smell. I also like to change things up and try different spices and combinations. I try and keep a mental note of what the girls like and don't like.  

Directions:
Cook pasta as directed.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour and spices.
Once mixed in, slowly whisk in the milk.
Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.
Whisk in the vegetable puree.
Stir in cheese until melted.
Drain pasta; add to cheese sauce; stir to coat.

Mac & Cheese with Carrot and Red Pepper Puree

To me, macaroni & cheese is the ultimate comfort food and perfect for cold January days!
What kid, or adult for that matter, doesn't like it?

Now go make some and enjoy!


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