Friday, November 12, 2010

I almost forgot the cutest cowgirl! Bobby requires that all his baby girls be a cowgirl for Halloween. Claire seemed happy to oblige.

And how about that cowboy. Looking good, like I knew you would.

These are not the droids you're looking for.

We were watching Star Wars together a lot as a family together a while back. At first Sophie wasn't really into it. One time she got really upset when one of the characters she liked died, and she ran up the stairs, crying, "I don't like Star Wars. I like DORA!" She's come around. Franny had "show and tell" a month ago at school and brought her Darth Vader figurine. She asked me if she could be Darth Vader for Halloween and I said no. Franny decided she wanted to be Princess Leia for Halloween. Then Sophie decided she wanted to be the same thing. We sort of made the suggestion that she be Queen Amidala and she loved the idea of dressing up as Franny's Star Wars mom. So I guess all this is to say that we are now officially Star Wars nerds.

The girls were really excited about their costumes. It was a different story when I was applying Sophie's face makeup, though. She was crying, "I change my mind! I change my mind." She didn't like the way it felt on her skin, I guess. But I think it totally made the costume! So I sort of insisted. We were hoping Franny might want to use her costume next year, but then I washed and dried a load of whites with a black crayon and destroyed it (along with many other articles of white clothing. Super lame.)

We had a fun Halloween weekend, despite Bobby having a busy call weekend. We kind of lucked out because even though he worked a lot, he was still able to join us for most of our Halloween activities. We hit the SAA trunk-or-treat Saturday morning, then we stopped at Hyvee for some trick-or-treating and then on the way to the church Halloween party we stopped and trick-or-treated at our neighbor's dad's house. He likes to give the kids he knows giant candy bars. He gave my girls the biggest candy bars I have ever seen in my life! The girls were so excited.

It was a nice change to not be running around all day on Halloween, since usually it's a two-day affair for us. On Sunday we had our traditional chili dinner and the girls actually passed out candy to a few trick-or-treaters, which I think they kind of liked. Then we all curled up and watched Harry Potter. It was a great Halloween.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kid Food

I've noticed a bit of a direction change in my cooking. I mean, my absolute favorite recipe I've found this year has been for spaghetti and meatballs! I'm definitely not taking a lot of chances. I'm sure that's because I'm cooking for a four-year-old and a six-year-old everyday and I expect them to eat what I make. It's fine with me, though- I really do love that spaghetti and meatballs. I'll have plenty of time to try that recipe for Penang Curried Pumpkin and Prawn Soup that I've been holding onto. And until now, I've never really been into preparing food that is all about "kid-appeal" and less about taste, but my kids are old enough to enjoy it and I think it's pretty fun. I mean look at these fun cheesy witch fingers I made for Franny's Halloween party at school:

The girls and I made these on Saturday afternoon between Halloween activities. I think they are so cute!! I found the chocolate dough a little hard to work with, so I ended up just pinching off two small pieces for each cookie and smashing them under a drinking glass.

Owl Cookies from Tangled and True


This dough is enough to make a large batch of cookies for Halloween school parties or Halloween home parties.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Ground sea salt
1 1/2 sticks organic butter
1 1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients well in bowl. Cream the butter and add sugar to dry ingredients. Beat eggs and vanilla separately then add slowly to mixture. Blend well.

Separate the dough. Take approximately 1/3 of the dough and mix in half a package of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. The dough will become chocolate dough and form a log. Roll the dough very quickly before the chocolate solidifies. Make sure it is a solid roll. Cover with wax paper and put in the refrigerator.

With the remaining vanilla dough (white) roll it out in a long rectangular shape, this dough will be the outer later that will encase the chocolate log. It should resemble a bulls-eye, an outer vanilla layer, with the inner chocolate roll. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate until firm. Wait at least 2 hours or you can freeze the dough a head of time for up to one month.

When ready to assemble the owls place the semi-sweet chocolate chip in a small bowl for easy access. Place the cashews in another small bowl.
(If there are nut allergies you can substitute with candy corn for the nose)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the cookie sheets with butter. Cut the logs into 1/8-slices. On the cookie sheet join the two slices together, by pinching them. Slightly pinch the two opposite sides of the rounds into pointy ear shapes. Place a chocolate chip upside down in the center of each chocolate eye. Then place the cashew embedded into the center of the two joined circles. It is now complete.
Continue the same process. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees, for about 10 minutes. Watch closely until lightly browned. Remove and cool on a cookie rack.

Thanksgiving Dinner cupcakes. I found these on familyfun.go. I cannot believe how cute these are!!!! The mashed potatoes- cream cheese frosting with a little cinnamon (pepper). The peas- non-pareils for cake decorating. Cranberry sauce- red crystal sugar. Turkey- pie crust baked and broken into small bits to look like turkey slices with a little hershey's syrup over top as gravy.

I think the cupcakes were a big hit with the girls. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Caramel Cake

It was my turn to pick the book for book club in October and I chose The Help by Kathryn Stockett. In the book, one of the characters named Minny makes a delicious and indulgent caramel cake. And since I identify with food so much, I set out in search of the perfect recipe to serve the ladies when they met at my house for book club. I served it on the pretty vintage luncheon trays with matching teacups that my mother-in-law found for me- wish I had taken the time to take a picture of those! I love when I get a chance to use them. The cake was sinfully delicious- I think you'll love it! (Sorry the pictures are so lame. I'm always in such a hurry these days!)

BEST-EVER CARAMEL CAKE recipe from Kitchen Parade

Hands-on time: 1 hour with regular attention throughout over 4 hours
Time to serve: Cake tastes best the day after it’s made
Serves 12 or 16 or even 20


(Vanilla Cake only)
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total time to make & cool: 2-1/2 hours

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter three 8-inch cake pans. Cut three rounds of parchment for the pan bottoms. Butter the parchment and then flour the pans. Tap out the excess flour. If you have just one mixing bowl, you might want to whip the 3/4 cup of cream that's called for late in the cake recipe too.

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a bowl, gently whisk the milk, egg whites and vanilla until just combined.

In standing mixer, mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt for a few seconds.

  • 12 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoons, warmed to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Add the butter and milk to the flour mixture, blend at low speed til blended, then medium speed until smooth, about one minute. Beat in the milk-egg white mixture in three batches.

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks in another bowl

With a spatula, stir in about a third of the whipped cream, then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Divide the cake batter among the three pans, smoothing the tops. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, peel off the parchment, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

Once cool, place five or six strips of waxed paper around the perimeter of a cake plate or cake stand, then place the bottom layer in the center, covering up about an inch of the waxed paper strips. (Why the waxed paper? To protect the plate from the Caramel Icing as it drips down the sides.)


This icing uses no powdered sugar! It is thickened by the caramel itself and sets to a firm but not hard cake frosting.
(Caramel Icing Only)
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time to mix and ice: 90 minutes
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk

DISSOLVE THE SUGAR In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup and milk, then cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep warm while continuing.

  • 1/2 cup sugar

MAKE THE CARAMEL In a large, heavy saucepan (my four-quart Dutch oven worked perfectly, the caramel swells a lot as it cooks so be sure to use a large enough pan), sprinkle the sugar over the pan’s bottom. Cook over moderate heat, swirling occasionally, until an amber caramel forms. (For more caramel flavor, let the caramel get quite dark, just be careful not to burn the sugar.) Carefully pour the warm milk mixture over the caramel (careful, it will sizzle). Cook over medium high, stirring, until the caramel dissolves (this will take awhile, just keep stirring, scraping up any caramel bits from the bottom of the pan). Now, this will be hard but STOP STIRRING and cook until caramel registers 235F (the soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes. (During this time, the caramel should bubble fast and will swell to nearly fill the saucepan. If it doesn’t, gradually increase the heat until it does.) Remove from the heat.

  • 1 stick butter, softened to room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cream

ADD RICHNESS & COOL Stir in the butter, vanilla and cream and stir until the butter melts. Strain the caramel into the bowl of the standing mixer, let cool 15 minutes.

  • 1/4 cup cream

BEAT UNTIL CREAMY Beating the mixture at medium speed, slowly add the cream. Continue beating the mixture until light and creamy, about 15 minutes. Work quickly from this point on, the icing will begin to harden.

FINALLY! ICE THE CAKE Set one cake layer on a plate, pour enough icing over the layer to cover the top, leaving about a quarter inch around the perimeter for the icing to squeeze out. Top with the second layer, cover with icing. Add the final layer and pour the rest of the icing over the top, letting it run down the sides. Working quickly, use a knife or offset spatula to spread the icing gently around the sides. Check the sides carefully for complete coverage, patching later will be obvious. I used only about 2/3 of the icing, it was plenty.

If you like, transfer some icing to a squeeze bottle and squeeze out a design on cake’s top. I used a V pattern for the outer ring, then a U pattern inside it, then dots in the center. Much to my surprise, from the top, it looked like a sunflower! Go crazy!

LET ICING SET Let the cake stand for 2 hours before to allow the icing to set. If serving the next day, refrigerate overnight but return to room temperature before serving.

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