Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rolled Manicotti with Creamy Bechamel Sauce

Under all of that creamy topping is a whole family of Rolled Manicotti.  This recipe took a little bit of work, but can easily be made ahead and popped in the oven after a day at work.  Serve with a big, green salad for a weeknight or a special weekend meal. Woof!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chocolate Cranberry Almond Biscotti

These biscotti are so easy to make, you can make them in the dark. Really!  The power went out as I was in the final steps, and they still tasted great.  These chocolaty biscotti go great with coffee...the next the light of day.  Woof!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Green Bean Chicken

This recipe is very similar to the String Bean Chicken at Panda Express.   It takes about 30 hands-on minutes to make, but it's quite yummy and comes together with ingredients you probably have on hand.  Give it a try.  Woof!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strawberry Dream Cake

I'm not really a big fan of anything that's not chocolate, but this cake is an exception to the rule. Despite containing epic amounts of butter and cream cheese this Strawberry Dream Cake manages to taste "light" and oh so dreamy.  Woof!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gingerbread House Party Tips

After making Gingerbread Houses for a few years now, and hosting our Second Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party, I have a few tips I'd like to remember and pass along.  Don't forget to check out our First Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party here.  There are a lot of valuable tips in that post too!

1.  It's much easier to weigh out ingredients when possible, especially when you're making a big batch.  This recipe will give your mixer a workout.  I use my heavy duty Kitchen Aid.

Gingerbread Dough Recipe (for about 9 mini-cottages)
720 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 grams ground ginger
12 grams ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
288 grams brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter
2 large eggs
1 cup molasses

2.  Here's what you'll need to buy to make about 50 Gingerbread Houses. That's about six recipes. Surprisingly, all these ingredients cost me only about $40.

10 pounds flour
1 container baking powder (Buy a fresh one, and you'll have it for all your other holiday baking!)
salt (You probably already have this on hand.)
1 container ground ginger (Not the small size.  This comes to 42 grams.)
1 extra large container of cinnamon (You'll need 72 grams.)
1 small container of cloves
4 pounds of brown sugar
2 pounds + 1 stick of unsalted butter
1 dozen eggs
5 - 12 ounce jars of molasses
plastic wrap
extra wide parchment paper (Use the name brand kind!)
powdered sugar (More on that below...)
1 small container of meringue powder
piping bags (More on that below...)

3.  It's easier to make all this dough when your ingredients are at room temperature.  I found that I very rarely had to scrape the bowl when I put the brown sugar in first, followed by the butter.  I didn't have any butter sticking to the bowl.

4.  I divided the dough into thirds before wrapping and refrigerating it.

5.  I've found the best way to roll out the dough is on floured parchment paper.  I put two tea towels underneath to stop the parchment paper from sliding around so much. 

6.  You can buy frosting or make it.  It's much cheaper to make it.  All  you need is powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water.  You need about a pound of powdered sugar to make 5 bags of frosting.  Each bag will easily provide frosting for two gingerbread "cottages".  Guests can share!  Meringue power can be purchased at a craft store like JoAnn's or Michael's.  Just be sure to bring one of those coupons. 

7.  I've tried using plastic baggies for piping the royal icing, but the baggies tend to split open.  You can buy disposable piping bags at a craft store like JoAnn's or Michael's.  Just be sure to bring one of those coupons.  I bought mine online. 

8.  The first weekend in December seems to be a good weekend to host this type of party.  It's a nice way for you and your guests to get into the season, but people's weekends aren't typically booked solid yet!  As a bonus, your guests will go home with a festive decoration/a delicious treat to begin their holiday.

9.  This year I added a taco bar pot luck poll to my Evite.  I suppose you could do a general pot luck, but I set the theme to tacos, since I'm a control freak like that!  Either way, it was so nice not having to think about feeding my guests too.  I did make the taco meat, but that was super easy and inexpensive to make ahead of time.  I kept it warm in my Crock Pot during the party.  Guests were very generous, and we had plenty of food to go around! 

10.  Another poll that I added to my Evite was a candy poll.  You'll want your guests to bring a bag of candy to share, and the poll allows for a good variety. 

11.  I'm a big dessert fan, but for this party I did not make a dessert or request that guests bring one.  The candy table was plenty sugar!  However, I did set up a hot cocoa bar.  My mom's church loaned me a big hot water dispenser.  I bought a big container of hot cocoa mix from the supermarket along with a big bag of marshmallows.  I also made some chocolate and candy cane covered spoons; like this. They were simple to make and the guests really enjoyed them.   All in all, the hot cocoa bar was a big hit!

12.  I always have a difficult time scheduling activities for any party.  I like for things to happened naturally, but, as a guest, it's nice to know what's happening when.  Next year, I'll be more specific.  Something like this, "Please join us for a Gingerbread House Decorating Party from 1-4pm.  We'll eat promptly at 1:30 and start story time and decorating shortly after."  What actually happened was quite nice.  Our guests arrived at 1 and their kids played.  At about 1:30 some people started eating.  By 2pm, I asked one of my teacher friend guests to read The Gingerbread Cowboy.  Kids were then directed to get decorating.

13.  Story time is a great idea for the younger crowd.  Who doesn't love a good story?  Plus, it allows you to round up and calm down your younger guests before the actual construction and decorating begins.  In addition to The Gingerbread Cowboy, some other favorites include The Gingerbread Pirates and The Gingerbread Baby

14.  I kept the unassembled gingerbread pieces out of sight so we could all start decorating together.  It would help to have several gingerbread house models pre-assembled in the different stages of construction.  One great tip I learned this year is to draw a square, in frosting, on the plate base to "glue" the house to the plate with.  With these "cottages", you'll need to attach the pentagon to the inside of the square.  It's much easier to show this than to explain it.

15.  And finally, you'll want to decorate your home a bit for the party.  We put everything up in the days after Thanksgiving, save the Christmas tree.  Not putting up the tree saved me some time, and allowed for more space in the house for my guests. 

Happy decorating!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Not Banana Split Cupcakes

You know when you want something to be so right, but all the wishing in the world won't make it so? That's the banana filling of these cupcakes. Blah! The rest of the cupcake was insanely delicious.  However, without the banana filling you can't go calling it a Banana Split Cupcake. Oh well...let's just call them Not Banana Split Cupcakes. Woof!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Fall in So Cal usually means warm days and cool nights. Today however, the weather took a sharp turn. Luckily, I prepared and came home to this Lentil Soup.  Delicious, nutritious, hearty, and warm.  Woof!
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