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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 5

Sunday was my husbands birthday so he choose what cupcakes were on the menu...thats only fair right??? He decided that he wanted pineapple cake with coconut cream cheese frosting. The first time I made the was a little less than a year ago. I made the pineapple cupcakes to go with the sponge bob cake that my husband made for the 5 year olds birthday party (sponge bob live in a pineapple - get where I was going with that???
They were a huge hit and super easy. They have been a favorite in our house ever since. The first time I made the I used a Butter Cake (box cake mix) and it was amazing...horrible for you but really good. I simply filled the cupcake tin 1/3 of the way layered the crushed pineapples and the layered on some more cake batter. Then I made a normal cream frosting and simply mixed the coconut in at the end.
This weekend I made a white cake and once the batter was just about done I added the pineapple in and let in continue mixing for another minute to disburse the pineapple throughout the batter.
The 5 year old wanted to make a cake so using the same recipe we made a small round cake, cupcakes and sandwich cupcakes (cut in half and layered with crushed pineapple ans coconut cream cheese frosting in the middle. They were just as good as I hoped they would be...these cupcakes will continue to be a favorite in our house!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Boys are at it again

Well mostly the little guy (16 months)...he has major issues with not getting his way. This weekend my husband was reading an Elmo book to the little guy and the 5 year old came over to listen. He didn't even go near the book he was just standing off to the side listening. The little guy turned around and grabbed the 5 year old and pushed him to the ground. Yes, my 16 month old is beating up his big brother over an Elmo book. The little guy got in trouble, but really how much impact does it make at that age anyway???
Later I was reading to the little guy while his brother was watching a movie. Every time the 5 year old would look over at us the little guy would slam the book shut and then 30 seconds later he would be saying "book, book" for me to read to him again. This of course became a game for the 5 year old.
Honestly I thought it would take a little more than 16 months for the boys to start tormenting each other, especially since they are 4 1/2 years different in age..I guess that was just wishful thinking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 4

 

We actually decided to pass on making the cupcakes this week for one reason, I ate too many other desserts and wanted to be able to button my pants today.  I brought the 5 year old to friendly's on Friday night, we had Rita's custard on Saturday and had more Rita's ice on Sunday (because it is free and really, who can turn down free desserts).

 

The 5 year old and I did get a bit of cupcake inspiration for the future though.  My husband picked up some of those mini desserts from Starbucks (whoops, did I forget to mention that above - they are tiny so they don't count...right???) on Friday afternoon and we tried the mini red velvet whoopie pies.  The 5 year old loved them and we started talking about making sandwich cupcakes. 

 

I love the idea of a mini cupcake (or a regular size one) cut in half with the frosting layered in between.  Red velvet is a perfect example too because you have the white cream cheese frosting against the deep red cake.  But why stop there, why not cut a chocolate cupcake and fill with a peanut butter or an Oreo frosting or cut a white cake and use a whipped cream frosting and fresh fruit to mimic a shortcake.  I am so excited to start creating them.

 

The creating will have to be put on hold for a couple of weeks, because my husbands birthday is next Sunday and he has already requested pineapple upside down cake (I am currently trying to decide between a full cake, cupcakes or using my perfect brownie pan to make mini cakes).

 

Check back next week to see which pineapple upside down cake I decided to go with.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet Potato topped with a Cranberry and Apple Compote:

I have a sweet potato and cranberry recipe that will be a hit from young to old and with a few simple modifications can be served to anyone from your little baby to the adults at your holiday table (or any time of year). This is also a great way to trick your picky eater into enjoying vegetables.

When I make this recipe, I generally plan about 1/2 to 1 large sweet potato per person and 1-1/2 cups of the cranberry apple compote. You may end up with some left over, but I have found that people generally go back for seconds on this one. If you do end up with leftovers it is a perfect addition to a turkey sandwich or will easily keep as a side dish for a chicken dinner at another point during the week.

To make 4 servings you will need:
1.)  2 baked (or steamed) Sweet Potato's
2.)  A 1 lb bag of Fresh Cranberries (you can use frozen as well, just make sure that there is no sugar or syrup added)
3.)  1 cup of fruit juice (you can use just about any kind - grape, cranberry, pomegranate, apple, apple cider) or water
4.)  The zest of one orange
5.)  The juice of that orange
6.)  The zest of 1 lemon
7.)  The juice of that lemon
8.)  1 cup sugar (depending on the sugar content in the juice you are adding you can modify this amount)
9.)  1 Apple (you can dice or chunk based on the consistency that you want to achieve)

Note: the cranberry apple compote portion of the recipe will make about 4 cups (of which you will only need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups for this recipe) but make the whole amount, I promise you that it will be eaten and enjoyed. I also like to make the cranberry and apple compote a day in advance so it has time to set up and allows the flavors to come together. However, you can make it that day and it will taste just fine.

What to do:
1.)  Rinse Cranberries and add to a medium saucepan
2.)  Add the 1 cup of the Juice of your choice (you can replace the juice with water, but I like the juice for added flavor)
3.)  Add the juice from the orange and the lemon
4.)  Add Sugar (check out my mommy tips, below, for how to reduce/eliminate the added sugar)
5.)  Cook on low until the the cranberries begin to pop (generally between 5-10 minutes)
6.)  Once the cranberries have begun to pop add:
      a.)  Zest from the orange
      b.)  Zest from the lemon
      c.)  The apple - I like to chunk it so that there are pieces of apple in the sauce, but for young children you can cut into small dices if you would like

7.)  Continue to cook another 5 minutes or so, just until the apples begin to soften a bit. My preference is to leave some of the cranberries in tact as well as still having a little bite to the apples. If you are cooking for baby or young children you may want to cook down a bit further to a "sauce" consistency.
















8.)  Bake the sweet potato's (feel free to bake, steam, roast, grill, etc... based on your preference and how you will choose to present the dish)

















How to serve:
For baby - you will want to puree the sweet potato:

For baked sweet potato's just let them cool a bit, peel them and chuck them and place them in your food processor or blender with a bit of water if necessary to get the desired consistency for your baby.

If you have steamed them just remove the chunk from the steamer and place them in the food processor or blender to puree. Again, feel free to add a bit of water if necessary to get the desired consistency for your baby.

If you choose to add the cranberry to your baby's dish you can puree the cranberry apple sauce (or plain cranberry puree - eliminate the apples and zest from the recipe and be sure to use 100% fruit juice) with the sweet potato. Also check out my mommy tips (below) for some of the way's that I reduce / eliminate the added sugar when make these cranberries for my little ones.

For your toddler/child - mash the sweet potato and fold together with 1-1/2 cups of cranberry apple sauce. The amount of cranberry will depend on the size of your sweet potato's and the amount of "meat" you get out of them. This will be a much healthier option for your children (and the whole family) than the more traditional gooey marshmallow topping that you may find on a sweet potato casserole.

For your older children and adults - cut the baked sweet potato in half and top with the cranberry apple sauce you can even top with some crushed walnuts if you would like. I promise you won't miss the buttery, brown sugary, cinnamony topping that you may normally add to your baked sweet potato.

The end result is a simple, yummy and healthy festive side dish for the whole family.

**Mommy Tip**

When making for baby's and small children (or even if you are just making it for adults) you may want to check out these tips to reduce the added sugar in the cranberries.

1.) The Juice will act as a sweetener and allow you to reduce the amount of sugar that you add to this dish. I like to add 100% fruit juice (with no added sugar) as a way to add sweetness without adding sugar. Using a sweet apple instead of a tart apple will allow you to reduce the sugar as well. Replace the lemon juice with the juice of another orange or a couple of small tangerines. By using these tips you can basically reduce the added sugar to a very minimal amount.

2.) If you don't want to add any sugar, you can combine with a sweeter fruit puree (think pears or peaches) to cut through some of the tartness of the cranberry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Fun

This is generally our parade weekend,  there are two local parades (each one town away) and we generally go to both of them.  This year, we decided to take the kids to the more family friendly parade and skip the larger and a little less family friendly one.  The larger one is the 6th oldest St. Patricks Day parade in the country and is the largest parade in our state and though we love to go to it (and I have been going since I was a baby) we decided that since the older one doesn't generally like parades anyway and since it is one of those once you get in you can't get out type of things, added to the fact that the 5 year old had a birthday party to go to on Sunday afternoon, we would watch that parade on TV from the comfort of our living room.

 

We did however attend the smaller parade on Saturday.  The 5 year old actually marched with my mom's Irish Dance Group, since he is the one who generally doesn't like the noise of the parades, it was better that he marched with them then standing on the "sidelines" watching.  The baby loved it, the noise from the marching bands did not bother him one bit and he just sat in his stroller dancing and clapping.  Even when they shot the guns he just laughed.  While there we got to see some friends thst we hadn't seen in a while too so that was a nice added bonus.

 

After the parade we went with my mom and her dancers to a local pub that was having an after parade party with music and of course my moms dancers were preforming.  The baby loved the band and the music and was running around like crazy, until he just about feel asleep standing up - this was right as we were getting ready to leave.  The 5 year old was so tired from marching in the parade that he was ready to head home too.

 

On Saturday evening, I was volunteered to help my mom with one of the shows that her dancers were performing at.  She had 15 shows on Saturday, 5 of which were right around the same time on Saturday night so she asked me to run one of them.  Realistically, though I taught for a while in College, I haven't danced in about 10 years so I was a little out of my comfort zone, but the performance went well.  I even ended up having to fill in for one of the girls that was sick and if I do say so myself I did fine!!! Good think I have been doing my cardio lately.

 

As I said we did not choose to attend Sunday'a parade in person but we did watch it as a family at home.  The little guys both watched for a bit, played for a bit, etc... so it was nice for them to be home. After watching the parade the 5 year old and I made St Patricks Day cupcakes before getting him ready to go to his friends karate birthday party.  It was a good thing that we decided to skip the parade he was exhausted after the birthday party so if we had done something else earlier in the day, I think it would have been a really bad evening with him.  He gets slightly off the wall when he is over-tired.

 

So we had an enjoyable family filled pre St Patricks Day weekend and as long as the weather holds out next weekend we will be following it up with a post St. Patricks day parade weekend as well.

 

Someone tell my 5 year old that we are NOT a co-sleeping family

 

Let me start by saying that I LOVE my children and I have nothing against co-sleeping (to a point) if thats what you choose, but I NEED my sleep.  The closest that we have ever come to co-sleeping is the moses basket that we got as a gift and used for the baby (and once again that was only because I NEED my sleep).  Well the 5 year old has started this nightly routine in which he comes into our bed between 3 and 4 am.  Which is not the best time for this when you know you have to get up at 6.  By the time we get him back to bed and get ourselves back to sleep it is just about time to wake up again. 

 

So here is the problem - at first I wasn't good about getting up and putting him back to bed,  so I would tell him to go back to bed and sometimes he would and other times he would get in our bed and go back to sleep.  This worked out nicely because I could basically just sleep through it (waking up just long enough to acknowlegde him).  However, since I didn't put him back to bed, it became more frequent and he is in our room just about every night now.  So we have been trying to be strict about getting up and putting him back to bed, because (1) he kicks me while he is sleeping and (2) I really can't let this become more of a habit then it already is.  The problem with being strict about putting him back to bed is that it means getting up, dealing with crying, dealing with what ever the reason is that he CAN'T go back to sleep, finally getting him to stay in bed, getting myself back to bed, finally falling alseep and him coming back into the room - or it being time to get up (depends on the night).

 

So, can someone please tell my son that we are NOT a co-sleeping family so that we can all go back to getting a full nights sleep?

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 3

This was the weekend to try some St. Patricks Day cupcakes.  It didn't go exactly how I initially planned it, but the cupcakes we made did come out good.

Initially my plan was to make two batches, one would be Chocolate and Guinness cupcakes and the other would be the kid-friendly cupcakes with green frosting and/or white frosting with green sprinkles.  My husband, however, shot down my idea of trying the Chocolate and Guinness cupcakes.  He said he didn't think he would like them and he probably wouldn't eat any and though I could and probably would eat a batch of cupcakes on my own I decided against making these cupcakes since I had nobody to share them with.



I did however, make our kid friendly St. Patricks day cupcakes with the five year old.  This is what we ended up with, a white cupcakes with vanilla frosting and green sugar sprinkles and green cupcakes with green vanilla frosting some with sprinkles and some with out.  I will admit that some of the sprinkles my little guy choose to use were more spring pastely greens, instead of the dark green that would be expected on a St. Patricks Day cupcake and realistically (to me) they looked more like Easter/Spring cupcakes than St. Patricks Day cupcakes.  Maybe we will make them as "Spring" cupcakes in a few weeks.


So even though the weekend cupcake baking didn't go as planned we still ended our weekend with a yummy treat and most importantly the 5 year old enjoyed making them - even though he only ate the frosting!!! I still have a couple of days to try to convince my wonderful husband that Chocolate/Guinness cupcakes will be yummy and that we should have them as a St Patricks Day treat. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: My Boys

Decorating cookies at Hershey





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My little man is sick

He has has a cough since last wee. Well last night he was up on and off throughout the night and was so phlemmy (is that a word and if so is it spelled correctly?) that he was actually gagging and vommiting a bit. We decided to make a doctors appointment for him today. I am not "that" mom who brings her child to the doctor for every little cough/sneeze (especially with our 2nd child) but it's been a few days and we all really need some sleep.
nyway, as expected he has a cold and we just need to let it run it's course. She said if it's not clearing up by Friday or if he gets a fever to bring him back.

No big surprise - but I just hate when my little guys are sick.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My little guy is going to be a troublemaker

I can see it already...his big brother (the 5 year old) was in time out yesterday for not listening and talking back. We were even at the point that we had added time because he wasn't even behaving in time out. Well we get the 5 year old about halfway through his time out when the little guy (15 months) goes up to his brother and starts pulling him out of time out by the back of his shirt. I couldn't believe it...the baby was pulling the 5 year old out of the time out corner.


The funniest part was when the 5 year old went back to the corner to finish his time out and the baby pulled him out of time out again. We actually had to bring the baby out of the room so the 5 year old could finish his time out.

I see this becoming a problem when the baby gets older!!!

Weekend Day Trip

When we use the phrase "day trip" in our family it can mean anything from an adventure 20 minutes away to an adventure 4 hours away. Though when we get into the upper range (3-4 hours) we may stay the night, most of the time we will do it in one day. This weekend was one of those times. We began our day Saturday with the plan of grabbing breakfast out and then heading to the grand opening of a local (about 30 min away) cupcake shop. We did both of those things, but continued from the cupcake shop and headed another couple of hours away to check out an adorable little chocolate factory and pretzel factory near the Pocono's in Pennsylvania.

We take these road trips frequently and we do go to Pennsylvania frequently (we were just there two weeks ago) but we have never been to that area so we figured why no check it out. We loved the area, it was beautiful. We went to Callies Candy Kitchen and Callies Pretzel Facory (http://www.calliescandy.com/) they were small places about a few miles away from each other and they were in converted houses. They were adorable and the people working at both places were so sweet. At the candy shop they had wonderful molded candies (that you could watch them make) in every shape/character you can think of, but the real surprise were their "chocolate covered" items and their "barks." They had chocolate covered sunflower seeds and gummy bears, chocolate cover pretzels and potato chips and then came the way out of the norm items (and honestly we would go back there to try some of the other "out of the norm" options). We tried chocolate covered grapes (which the 5 year old loves) they were littlerally a grape covered in chocolate and they were wonderful. We also tried the bacon bark wich was basically a stick of chocolate with bacon in it - the sweet and salty combo was really good. Last but not least, we tried chocolate covered cream cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. It was simply a cream cheese square covered in chocolate. At first bite, it does sort of feel like you are biting into a block of cream cheese but it quickly combines with the chocolate and to give the impression of eating a chocolate cheese cake. I will admit that I was a little scared to try it, but honestly, it was good. I would try it again, and we will most likely be back there to try some of their other fun chocolate dipped creations in the future.

From there we headed to their pretzel factory. When I say factory, I mean a room in the back of another converted house that has machines that they use to make pretzels. But they are wonderful. You can watch them make the pretzels and then you can buy pre-packaged of fresh made pretzels and popcorn. We got pretzel dogs as an early dinner, and soft pretzels as well and then we tried a bunch of popcorn flavors from (cheddar cheese, to cheese and garlic to buffalo wing and the list goes on) and ended up with a couple of bags of popcorn too.

From there we just headed back home. We were home and the boys were in bed about an hour after bedtime and it would have been closer but we hit some traffic that held us up a bit. Not too bad, our timing was relatively close and even though the little man slept in the car he slept until 6:45 the following morning so we were happy with that (I was worried that the sleeping in the car would mess him up).

One more wonderful family adventure under our belts.

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 2

This week my cupcake adventure was not a cupcake baking adventure, but a cupcake eating adventure at the Grand Opening of a local (30 min away) cupcake bakery. I read an article about them online last week and so my husband and I decided to take the kids.

The bakery, Cupcakes & Milkshakes, is a 50's theme bakery featuring cupcakes and a milkshake bar, as the name implys. For the most part the cupcakes are the "normal" flavors you would find at any cupcake shop (chocolate with buttercream, vanilla with buttercream, chocolate with mint frosting and of course red velvet), however, there were a couple of surprises. They had a mock hostess cupcake complete with the cream filling and the white icing squiggle on top. They also had a peanut butter and jelly cupcake that had a mild peanut butter cake, filled with peanut butter and jelly and frosted with a peanut butter frosting. For me the thing that made this unique was that the peanut butter frosting actually had a little saltiness to it, like real peanut butter. I have had peanut butter frosting that is so sweet you can barely tell that they are intended to be peanut butter flavored. My husband wasn't a fan of those ones but I liked it.
The big surprise though, was the variety of milkshakes from bannana split (including all the components of a banana split, even the sprinkles) to root beer float to an orange milkshake made with tang. They had many more out of the ordinary options as well.
For the grand opening they did mini cupcakes and mini milkshakes and it was a great idea. They gave you just enough of a taste to entice you to buy some cupcakes. They gave samples of the peanut butter and jelly, the chocolate with mint frosting and the chocolate buttercream cupcakes. My favorite of the three samples was the peanut butter and jelly. My husband and I also agreed that we liked the chocolate with mint frosting, though we both thought that because the mint was so flavorful it worked best in the mini cupcake form. The baby immediately went for the mint one, but as soon as he tasted the mint frosting he was done. He did, however go back for the chocolate cake and liked that. The 5 year old (mr picky) waited for daddy to buy a box of cupcakes and then attacked the peanut butter cup one. He is not a big cake eater (he is however a frosting eater) so he seemed to be more excited about them milkshakes.
We had a really good experience, the place was cute, the people were friendly and most importantly the cupcakes (and milkshakes) were good. We ended up buying 6 to bring some. We went with a variety of peanut butter cup (2), chocolate, vanilla, fake hostess and what turned out to be everyones favorite, the oreo one.

The only criticism that I would have is that I would like them to offer mini cupcakes as well. The cupcakes are wonderful, but some of them have such bold flavors that for me they are more suited to a small cupcake (a couple of bites) than an huge cupcake. The benefit to the big cupcakes though, is that we all got to share each one.
We enjoyed our cupcake adventure this weekend and are looking forward to making some St. Patricks day cupcakes next weekend, so stay tuned.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Harry Connick Jr: In Concert on Broadway - Sponsored Post

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