Celebrating 7!

This weekend, we celebrated my eldest daughter turning seven. It seems like only yesterday that I found out I was pregnant with her and all of a sudden she’s turning 7! Where did the time go?

When asked how she would like to celebrate, she said she wanted a small party with just seven friends. She also said she wanted to paint and have a pinata. And she wanted purple. And no theme. Okaaaaaay…… I was seriously stumped here. So I kind of let the thoughts on the party percolate for a bit, asking for a little more detail each day. She said she definitely did not want a theme. So when I asked about the pinata, she finally told me she wanted an emoji. Great! Now we were getting somewhere!

As for the painting, no emojis for that. Okaaaaaay….. So finally I was able to get from her that she wanted a puppy. Great! More direction!

Finally, the cake. Purple. No theme. Not a dog, not an emoji. Okaaaaaay…… Hello Pinterest, can you please solve this for me? After looking at photos of many purple cakes, I finally landed on an ombre rosette cake using purple (instead of the pink I was seeing everywhere.). I showed the boss and we had a winner!

While the elements of the party weren’t in the same family by any means, it was still enough to feel cohesive and fun. I think I did a pretty good job of pulling this one together. What do you think?

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2017 Holiday Season Done!

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday!  I can’t believe it’s already the new year!  Time really flies!  This holiday season, as a class mom, I was responsible for helping with holiday party at the end of the year.  This meant mass cookie decorating.  I was stumped, I had never done this with more than three kids, tops!

Cue Pinterest.  I was constrained by a time limit of 20 minutes for eighteen kids, so I knew there would be no time to waste on passing out decorations or cookies and such.  I determined that I should pre-package a kit for each child that consisted of the following:

2 sugar cookies

(1) 2 oz. container of silver decorating balls

(1) 2 oz. container of mini holiday M&M’s

(1) 2 oz. container of holiday gummies

(2) mini candy canes

(1) small popsicle stick for spreading icing

I made sure each child had a plate to decorate the cookie on so the decorations wouldn’t get everywhere.   I also pre-prepared (3) bags of colored royal icing for each table of 4-5 kids so they all had a bag of red, green and white icing to share in disposable icing bags sealed with a rubber band at the end.  I cut off the tips at the event so the icing stayed fresh and made it 2 days in advance.

This went very smoothly.  Each child had a great time either decorating or eating the decorations.  The pre-packaged kits were very helpful for the event and made everything run so efficiently.  I think we pulled off a great activity at the party and got everyone in the holiday spirit!  How did you start and end your holiday season?

Wicked-ly Delicious

 

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Things have been so busy that I have found myself seriously neglecting my blog.  Not to say that I haven’t still be making things, but I haven’t had time to share all the lovely things I’ve been doing with my girls.

Well, this coming week is Halloween!  I can’t say that I am an avid participator in the holiday, but being a class mom and having two small girls who love dressing up, I find myself getting sucked in.  While both my daughters are having Halloween parties at school, I volunteered to bring the cupcakes for my youngest since I will be missing her parade to be at the eldest’s class party.

I wanted to be sure to make something that was a little more  thoughtful than the regular store-bought cupcakes (seeing as how there is no specialty cupcake store in my area that I know of).  I scoured websites and Pinterest for a simple yet fun Halloween cupcake and found this.  I had to slightly modify it based on the ingredients that I was able to find, but I think that they ended up really cute.

I know that both my daughters were very excited to help make the witches hats (especially the unwrapping of the kisses, and then making sure that they were still good… haha!)  These were relatively simple to make, and I took a little shortcut, buying a boxed cake mix since I was a little pinched for time.  Below is the quick and dirty on how I made them:

Witches Hats:

1 bag of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses

1 package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

1 recipe buttercream frosting

Hat Assembly: Unwrap the kisses.  Place buttercream frosting using a very small tip to ice the bottom and place it in the center of a wafer, pressing down firmly.  Pipe a ring around the bottom of the kiss to the wafer and finish with a bow.  Set aside.

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1 box Devil’s Food Cake (makes 24 cupcakes)

Cupcake Assembly: Using a large round tip, pipe the frosting onto the cupcake starting at the outer edge and then spiraling inwards.  Sprinkle the sprinkles of your choice around the sides of the frosting and place one of the witches hats on the top of the frosting.  I kinked them a little so that you could see the frosting with the sprinkles peeking out from under the hat as a little teaser.

I ended up making the frosting green and having the girls sprinkle purple and orange sprinkles on the cupcakes before adorning each with a hat.  I think that these turned out really cute and they were really quick and easy to make with the kids help.  Hopefully all of my daughters friends will have as much fun eating them as she did in making them!  Happy Halloween everyone!

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A 3rd Birthday for Baby

I guess I shouldnt call her a baby anymore as she just turned three, but I can’t help it! I still see remnants of her baby fat and chubby cheeks and yet she’s old enough to ask for a Belle-themed birthday party!  It’s bittersweet for sure.

I figured since this was her first real birthday party, we could have some of her close friends over and have a small, intimate party.  The challenge with daycare and commuting is that my schedule never overlaps other parents so while my daughter talks about her friends, I never have occasion to have my path cross with any of her friends parents.  Birthday parties are really a good way to remedy that.

I don’t know where my daughter got an idea for a Belle birthday party, but she wanted it.  I’m not a big fan of character parties so I was trying to think of the best way to accomplish this theme without having Disney paraphernalia everywhere.  I settled on a subtle Belle theme using yellow, gold and white with cupcakes alluding to the movie.

I found this cute cupcake idea on pinterst.  Unfortunately, the Wilton roses that were recommended for this cupcake had reviews that all agreed they tasted terrible.  I was talking to my mom on the phone about this one day and she decided she wanted to make icing roses for the cupcakes and FedEx then to me! Amazing!  I made a simple lemon cupcake recipe with a the buttercream frosting I have blogged about before.

For decorations, I stuck to a simple color scheme of white and gold throughout.  I think it turned out very nice and the kids had a great time!  In my next post I’ll talk about the craft all the kiddies got to make.  Until then, a very happy birthday to my littlest munchkin!

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day!  I quickly put together a pretty standard dinner risotto but gave it that extra festive touch by making little heart-shaped pie crust and filling them with the risotto as a lovely little surprise.  Boy were these a big hit.  My youngest decided to hoard all the extras and not give any of us more than one.  She relented eventually, but it was quite amusing to see her surrounded by hearts when everyone else only had a single one.  Recipes I used were this for the crust and an adaption of this for the risotto.  All I did differently with the risotto was use pancetta and add peas in lieu of the prosciutto.  Delicious and fun!

Bakery Blues

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One of my main sorrows in leaving the city is the lack of a good sit-down bakery to enjoy delicious baked goods for breakfast (I’m not talking about cupcakes).  Ever since our first daughter was born, we made a ritual of going out to breakfast on the week-ends.  I would bring my daughter to one of the various coffee/ bakery shops around us and we would enjoy some quality mommy-daughter time.  It was always such a pleasant way to begin the week-end.  In moving to the suburbs, I had a hard time finding the perfect breakfast spot that had the ambiance and the the quality of baked goods.  One of our favorite places to frequent in Brooklyn was a wonderful little bakery called Blue Sky Bakery.  They make the most delicious muffins.  All of them are fresh-made daily and incorporate seasonal ingredients, such as fresh pumpkin or apple in the fall, peaches in the summer, and so on.  On any given day, they have at least 10 varieties to choose from.  My daughter loved to eat all of the fruit out of my muffins and we thoroughly enjoyed the varieties offered each day.

I wondered if I could find the recipe for these muffins, as the shop only had two base recipes, one bran and one non-bran, with different fruit mixtures for variety.  I was in luck and thank you Google for helping me find it!  These are seriously the best bran muffins I have had and I was so excited to find the recipe out there.  I found out that it was published in a cookbook “Table of Contents“.  You can use any combination of fruit in these muffins and they are always amazing.  I made these as my two year old sat on the kitchen counter watching me create these wonders and when they were done, she dug in, eating all the fruit out of the center, just like her sister used to do.  It’s like they’re related!  You should try these muffins out.  Not too sweet, very easy and fast, extremely delicious!

Blue Sky Bakery Bran Muffin (makes 2 dozen)

  • 2 and 2/3 c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c vegetable oil
  • 3 c. wheat bran
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cup fruit (I used raspberries and peaches)

Preheat oven to 425 and coat muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.

Mix buttermilk, eggs and oil in a medium bowl.

In seperate bowl combine wheat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt.

Pour wet mixture into dry one and mix until just combined.

Place about 2 tbsp of batter in each muffin tin (the batter will expand to fill about 1/2 the cup).  Place a generous layer of fruit  (about 2 heaping teaspoons) into each cup.  Measure 2 tsp of the sugar in a small bowl, taking pinches with your fingers, sprinkle the sugar over the fruit.  Divide remaining batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Place remaining 2 tspn of sugar into bowl and pinch and sprinkle the sugar over the top!

Bake for 5 minutes.  Rotate muffin tins front to bake to ensure even cooking and bake for another 11-13 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  Do NOT overbake.

Cook on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin.

 

Happy New Year 2017!

We were fortunate enough to have my parents visiting for the New Year, which allowed me to be a little more ambitious for our New Year’s dinner.  I have been wanting to teach the girls how to make dumplings.  I still have fond memories as a child of all of us seated at the kitchen table making dumplings, talking and joking while making delicious food. These are the kinds of small traditions I want to pass on to my children, but it is a lot of work for just one person to prepare all of the ingredients and follow through, because, inevitably, children’s attention spans are short. With my mom in town, this eliminated a lot of these concerns as we have been working together for so long that it’s almost like second nature when we are together and making food.

We ended up making three different dumplings: shui jiao and guo tie (same style, just cooked differently), wontons and shumei. Can I just say, TASTY!!!!  To save time we bought the store-bought dumpling wrappers but made the filling from scratch. Making it fun for the kids, we had on child per adult and I had my daughters separate the he dumpling skins, spoon the filling, and put water around the perimeter of the hehe he skins for sealing.  My mom, husband and I wrapped the dumplings.  When they get older they can get more interactive, learning how to wrap the different types of dumplings.

Dumpling filling (for 5 packs of small, round dumpling skins):

2 lb ground pork

1 lb diced shrimp

2 lb chopped chives

4 stalks scallions, diced

4 slices Ginger, diced

2 T cooking wine

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

4 T soy sauce

4 T sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Wrap away!

Happy New Year to all!