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Lemon Creme Brulee

I had this brilliant idea to serve the lemon creme brulee in a hollowed out lemon. Looks adorable right? Well…don’t try it. It turns out, it’s not a good idea. However, I was smart enough to make this delicious citrusy custard in ramekins as well and that turned out amazing. Next time I make this, and I will make it again, I’ll make it in this tart shell and serve it with this whipped cream.

Don’t be afraid of Creme Brulee. If you’ve never made it, you should try. All home cooks should have a list of five recipes that they want to master. Shoot high. Really. Nothing is off limits and Creme Brulee is a great place to start. It’s a classic recipe, its beautiful, sounds super fancy, and it’s pretty simple.  Creme Brulee tarts are also a great dessert to pull out for guests, guaranteed to evoke major OOOOOHHHH’s.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp lemon zest

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar, plus another 1/4 cup for the topping

2 tbs lemon juice

Special equipment needed:

Culinary torch. Don’t be affraid of this either. Easy to use and not expensive. Mr. Fits bought me one at Crate and Barrel. But you can also buy them at Target and Amazon. You’ll also needbutane for it.

Most people cook them in ramekins, but you can use any oven safe, small, shallow dish, a tart or pie shell.

Once you have these three things you can make as much Creme Brulee as much as you want! You’re all set.

Preheat the oven to 300.

Put the cream, vanilla and the zest in a sauce pan over medium heat. cook just until its bubbly around the edges but not boiling. Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Whisk until frothy, about 3 minutes.

While continuing to whisk, slowly add the cream mixture until well combined.

At this point, I cut up about 4 lemons to make the cups. Because the custard has to bake in the cups and then sit for 4 hours until set, the dessert leached too much bitterness from the white rind making it borderline inedible. The cups where really beautiful, so if I ever make a dessert that doesn’t need to be baked and can be served immediately (mousse, curd, pudding) I would make them again. I would coat the inside with lemon juice, then with sugar. I’d serve Lemon Mousse in these.

Using a paring knife and a spoon, I cut out the pulp and juiced it.

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But, for this recipe DON’T make these. Use a ramekin or a tart shell (just have to reiterate that. It was a waste of perfectly yummy custard)

Put your ramekins in a baking dish, filling the baking dish with about 1 inch of water (if you are using a tart crust or pie shell, skip this).

Pour your custard through a mesh strainer into your designated Creme Brulee vessel.

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Cover the baking dish or tart with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool, at room temp, in the water filled baking dish for 30 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to chill and set in the fridge for 4 hours. Right before serving, cover the top of your set custard with an even, thin layer of about of sugar (about 1/2-1 tsp). Then run your culinary torch over your sugar, slowly, until it melts and turns an amber color. Don’t touch it. I know, sounds like it should go without saying, but sometimes you get curious and you really WANT to touch it to see if its set or not, and it burns you and you yell profanities and scare your husband.

Another tip: Don’t brulee the sugar until you are ready to serve. After about an hour of just sitting there, the sugar will start to liquify again.

Roasted Garlic and Spinach Muffins Stuffed With Goat Cheese

I love to stuff food with other food. It’s so fun to try and figure out exactly how that can be done. These turned out beautifully, but if you would rather not eat stuffed muffins, you can always serve the goat cheese mixture as a spread.

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic

1-2 tbs olive oil

6 tbs of butter

1 cup of chopped fresh spinach

1/4 cup of onion, chopped

2 1/2 cups of flour

3 tbs baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbs rosemary, minced

1 1/3 cup whole milk

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

5 oz goat cheese

1/4 cup chopped tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Makes 12 muffins

Preheat oven to 400. If you have never roasted garlic before, it’s time you start. I love roasted garlic so much, its great to add to so many recipes or just use as a spread on toast. Plus, it smells amazing.  Start by chopping off the top of the garlic to expose the cloves inside. Put him on a sheet of aluminum foil and pour about 1-2 tbs of olive oil over him, salt and pepper.

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Close the foil into a tight package, put in a baking dish and cook for about 30-40 minutes or until garlic is soft.

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While the garlic is roasting, heat the butter in sauce pan over medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the onions and the spinach and saute until onions are translucent and spinach is soft. Allow to cool

in a large bowl, add the flour, salt, rosemary and baking powder and whisk until well combined. make a well in the center. In another bowl, add the eggs, milk and oil. Once your garlic is done cooking and you have allowed him to cool a bit. Squeeze the garlic into the liquids bowl and break up the pieces as much as you can. Make sure that the papery skin doesn’t make it into the bowl. Stir the wet ingredients until well combined. Add the wet ingredients and the butter/spinach mixture to the well you made in the dry ingredients and still until combined, but don’t over mix. Add the batter to a greased muffin tin until each well is about 2/3 full.

In a small bowl, add the goat cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper.

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Mix until combined and then form balls with your hands using about 2 tsp of the cheese mixture.

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Add the cheese balls to the middle of the batter filled muffin tin, press down slightly.

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Put the muffin tin in the refrigerator and allow to chill for 15 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

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Salad with Egg Yolk Dressing in a Bacon Basket

There is a beautiful restaurant in Chicago called the Blackbird. They have this amazing little salad that they serve in a crispy basket made out of potatoes. So brilliant. This got me thinking about other foods that would make great crispy edible baskets…bacon.Of course.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of salad you serve this on top of, because the bacon and egg yolk are clearly the star. I just used what I had on hand.

Ingredients:

2 cups of chopped fresh spinach

1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers

2 tbs shredded fresh parmesan

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs balasmic vinegar

1 tsp crouse ground mustard

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

2-4 strips of bacon (depending on thickness)

1 egg yolk (or two, if you’re like me and pop the first on when trying to separate it from the whites)

Start with the bacon. Preheat oven to 350. Take one or two strips and line the inside walls of a muffin pan. I had really thick bacon so that’s what I used, but I think the next time I make this, super thin bacon would work really well. Cut a second strip in half and use it to line the bottom of the pan, overlapping with the sides.

bacon-cup-rawBake until its stable enough to hold together on its own, about 15 minutes, but again, this will depend on your  bacon thickness. Transfer to a baking dish and continue to cook until its crispy.

bacon-cup-cooking(At this point, you may want to add a pot of water to the stove to boil.)

While your bacon basket is crisping, assemble your salad veggies on a plate. Add the oil, vinegar, and mustard to a bowl and stir it up

salad-dressingThen add the lemon and stir some more.

salad-dressing-lemonTop the salad with the dressing, salt and pepper and toss a bit. Add the beautiful bacon basket to the top.

Separate your egg yolk from your white and flash poach. I’m not completely sure if “Flash Poach” is an actual term, but in Fits Land it means to poach for one minute in rapidly boiling water until the yolk is slightly encapsulated so that it doesn’t break apart upon entering afore mentioned crispy basket.

salad-flash-poachAdd the egg yolk to the basket and stand back and revel in the beauty of a salad that you can’t wait to eat.

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Chocolate Cherry Pie with CHOCOLATE PIE DOUGH!!!

CCP finished slice

It’s pretty clear by my excessive use of capitalization what my favorite part of this pie is. I woke up in the middle of the night (I know, overly dramatic for a food blog post) with the idea of a chocolate pie dough crust. After a quick google search I wasn’t able to find a recipe for inspiration, leading my to wonder if my midnight dessert vision wasn’t even possible. By only modifying my go-to pie dough crust, It turns out that it is VERY possible, and super tasty.

CHOCOLATE PIE DOUGH!!! Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 2/3 cup of all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbs sugar

8 tbs butter (1 stick), cut into cubes

1/2 cup shortning

1/4 cup vodka

1/4 cup cold water

Pie Filling ingredients:

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 tbs cornstarch

5 cups of fresh bing cherries

3 tbs lemon juice from a real life lemon, none of that squeeze bottle crap (about 1 large lemon’s worth)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate, broken up into chunks (I used 56%)

3 tbs butter

1 tbs light corn syrup

2 tbs butter (for crust assembly)

plus 2 tbs white sugar to sprinkle on top before cooking

I did some pretty extensive research on pie dough over the past few years and I’ve learned a few things that I’ll pass on to you all. First, food processors are great at getting the job done as quickly as possible, and we all know that the more you mess with dough the tougher it becomes. So break out that food processor and add the cocoa, 2 cups of the flour, salt and sugar and give it a quick pulse until it’s combined.

ccp-crsut-fp-dryAdd the cubes of butter and the shortening and pulse until combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. A mix of shortening and butter gives a good flavor and texture.

ccp-dough-in-fpNow, if you have a larger food processor that mine, then add the remaining flour and pulse until it gathers around the blade. MINE is tiny and I need a new one. So if you are in the same boat as I am, just transfer it to a bowl and add the remaining flour by hand. (if you have a nice big guy food processor, transfer to a bowl after you add the remaining flour)

ccp-crust-bowlThen add the water and the vodka and squish it into the dough until its all combined. Vodka is another tip I picked up during my dough research. It cooks off completely (unlike water) creating a super flakey crust. Your dough will be very moist, but you can add a bit of flour if it is too moist to hold together. Then split into two evenly sized disks and wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for AT LEAST AN HOUR, super important, don’t skip this step.

ccp-dough-circles-wrappedYou can chill it for a few days if you need to, in that case, put the wrapped circles in a zip lock bag.

Before you get to the cherries, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and vanilla in a large bowl and set aside.

ccp-sugar-cs-lemonNow, get out those beautiful cherries

ccp-cherries-asYou’ll have to pit them, so I hope you have a pitter. You can buy them for about $8 and its totally worth it.

ccp-cherry-pittinTo pit 5 cups, it should only take about 10 minutes. Unless, your daughter needs a nap and she won’t sleep and you can hear her jumping in her crib throwing bedtime bunny, sleepy time bug, and her sippy cup across the room and you have to go in and lay her down and tell her that she is a tired lady and she needs to go nigh night….in that case, it may take longer.

Add the pitted cherries to the sugar mixture bowl and stir until the cherries are well coated. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes.

ccp-cherries-bowl-restingGet your cold dough out of the fridge and place it on a well floured surface. I’m not gonna lie to you, this is not the easiest dough to work with. It’ll need a lot of flour on both sides, flour the top to make sure it doesn’t stick to your rolling pin. roll out into a circle large enough to fit into your pie pan with only a little over hang. If it breaks apart, just smoosh it back together with your fingers.

ccp-crust-rolledTransfer to your pie pan, if it breaks, again, just push the cracks back together.

ccp-crust-in-panin a microwave safe bowl, add your chocolate chunks, butter and corn syrup.

ccp-chocolate-ingredients-premeltMicrowave for 20 seconds, stir and repeat until all melty. Pour the chocolate into the crust and smooth out to make an even layer.

ccp-crust-with-chocolateThen add your beautiful cherries

ccp-crust-with-fillinOK, so by this point I was a little fed up with my crust, so the double crust plan was altered a bit. If you want to roll out circle #2 and make it a double crust, be my guest. I decided to roll out #2 and cut him up with two mini cookie cutters. You can also cut strips to do a lattice top.

ccp-crust-cut-outsI then layered them on the top to create parallel lines, brushing each cutout with melted butter to help them adhere to each other

ccp-top-butterI then filed in a bit of the blank spaces with randomly placed cutouts and sprinkled the top with sugar

ccp-oven-readyBy this point you may be thinking, “Why didn’t she ask me to preheat the oven? Did she forget? should I just set it to my go-to 350?” Nope. This is one of those pearls of pie dough wisdom that I am passing on. Ice cold dough cooks better than room temp dough. SInce we have worked this pie dough over pretty good, it needs to rest and chill before going into the oven. SO now, turn the oven on and set it to 475 and place your pie in the fridge to chill. Wait about 20 minutes and then bake your pie at 475 for about 15 minutes. Then, turn your oven down to 375 and finish baking for about 45 minutes or until the filling is thick and bubbly. If your crust looks like it is browning too much, cover it in foil.

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ccp-finished-in-pan-cut

Mini Smores Cheesecakes

If we asked everyone who grew up in America to write down the dessert that most reminded them of summer, I’d bet some good cash that Smores would end up on top. Since memorial day is the unofficial kick off of the summer season, I wanted to reinvent this iconic treat to welcome in the season.

Ingredients:

Batter:

20 oz cream cheese

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3/4 cup of sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup melted chocolate (I used 56%, because that’s what I had)

2 tbs unsweetened cocoa

Crust:

9 graham crackers

1 tbs brown sugar

1/2 stick of butter, melted

Topin:

3 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350

In a stand mixer (this is what I used, if you want to use a hand mixer, it’ll be OK) combine the cream cheese, Greek yogurt and the sugar, beat until well combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.

scc-kitchenaidIna food processor, add the graham crackers and the brown sugar and pulse until nothin is left but crumbs

scc-crust-crumbsThen add the melted butter and pulse until it looks like wet sand

scc-crsut-wet-sandAdd 1 tbs of the crust to each well of a muffin tin and pack well into the bottom (you can use cupcake papers to make it easier to get them out of the pan, if you’d like)

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scc-crust-in-pan

Top the crust with 1/4 cup of the batter, making the batter nearly flush with the top of the muffin pan, slightly below

scc-batter-in-pantop with mini marshmallows, about 1-2 tbs, making sure to keep clear of the far edge so that the marshmallows don’t adhere to the pan. Press down slightly on the marshmallows

sccmarshmallos-in-panBake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before attempting to remove them from the pan. If you are having a hard time getting these little suckers out of the pan, place the entire pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then run a butter knife under hot water for a few minutes and run it around the edge of the cheesecakes to loosen them up.

To give them that campfire taste, run a kitchen torch over them for a few minutes.

scc-finished-bruleeOK, so you don’t actually need to light them on fire, unless you are one of those charred marshmallow types.

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Savory French Toast

I love french toast. I’ll take it in any form I can get it. Here is my version for those of you who don’t want to start your day with a large dose of sugary goodness. Although you are free to cook your eggs as you see fit, I have a strong urge to beat the people who like a well cooked yolk. After all, it’s natures perfect sauce.

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole milk

2 eggs + additional 8 eggs

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

Cooking spray

8 slices of bread

8 slices of bacon, cooked

Serves 4.  In an appropriately sized bowl, add the milk, 2 eggs, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper and beat until well combined. Heat a pan over medium high heat, lightly coat with cooking spray. Soak the bread, one at a time, in the milk mixture for about 30 seconds.  Cook the bread on each side until goldeny brown, about 2 minutes per side. Cook eggs over medium so that the whites are mostly cooked and the yolks are still runny. Top the bread with one slice of bacon, cut in half and then an egg.

Downloadable recipe

Savory French Toast

Drunken Southern Scones: Bourbon Peach

I came across these adorable small little white peaches at my local market. Beautiful, firm, fragrant and adorable. I walked around the store muttering to myself, “Peaches, Peaches, what goes with peaches…” Ginger? Too trite. Blueberry? Too expected. Tequila? Hmmm…too “Spring Break Hangover.” Bourbon just seemed to fit the bill. I love cooking with bourbon, the sweetness is a perfect complement to the peaches. The vessel for my bourbon soaked peaches? Scones. Drunken Southern Scones.

scone-peach-bourbon-bottle

If you don’t have the adorable small versions, a regular size peach is fine.  I leave the skin on, but feel free to take it off if that’s what you like. While cutting these little guys, the peach seeds broke in half more often than not. Out came the mellon baller, a perfect sollution

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Preheat oven to 375.

Dice two cups of peaches

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In a pan, over medium heat, add 4 tbs butter, 1 cup sugar and your diced peaches

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Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. You will know that the peaches will be ready once the sauce leaves a track behind when you drag your spoon through it

scones-pan-track

Then add a 1/4 cup of bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace) and stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens again, about 3 minutes

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At some point while the peaches are cooking, start the dry ingredients. 3 cups of flour, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, whisk together in a bowl and form a well in the middle.

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After the peaches have cooled, add them to the middle of the well you have created in the dry ingredients,

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stir together until well combined with the dry ingredients. It will be flaky and crumbly. Add 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and stir until a soft dough forms.

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Mound the dough onto a floured surface and form a log that is about 14 inches long by 1 1/2 inches tall

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Cut into 6 to 7 equal sized  slices

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then cut the slices diagnoaly to form two triangles for each slice

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Bake in the oven at 375 for about 12-15 minutes or until goldeny brown.

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Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tsp water in bowl

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Once the scones have cooled, drizzle glaze on top and allow to set.

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Doughnuts With Dark Chocolate Ganche Glaze

Mr. Fits loves the idea of homemade doughnuts. In fact, one of the first conversations I ever had with him was about how he wanted to own a bar that served high end doughnuts. And it only took us 15 years to make our first attempt at making these ourselves. I do have to pause a second to talk about the deep fryer. Mr. Fits is super excited about this deep fryer, he even did research. He’s more of an impulsive shopper when it comes to…well, just about everything so I was VERY impressed that he spent so much time reading product reviews before hitting the BUY button. I was NOT excited about the fact that he bought it about 3 months after I had Tater and was JUST about to lose that last 3 pounds of baby weight. Due to tempura batter and deep frying everything that wasn’t nailed down, those last three pounds did take me another 3 months. Totally Worth it.

Heat up your deep fryer to 350 or you can heat up oil in a big pot on your stove until it reaches that temp, adjusting the heat to maintain it.

First, proof the yeast. Yeast hates me, I always have trouble with it so I let Mr. Fits do it. Yeast likes him and always proofs for him. in a small bowl add 3 tbs of water that is between 100-110 degrees. sprinkle with 1 package of dry active yeast (.25 ounce) and let it get foamy, about 5 minutes.

Then in a large bowl combine:

your proofed yeast

3/4 cup  lukewarm milk

1/3 cup  white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 eggs

3 tablespoons shortening

1 cups all-purpose flour

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Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined

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Add another 1 1/2 cups of flour to the dough, about 1/4 a cup at a time, until it is no longer sticky and is able to form a ball

coat the inside of a large glass bowl with oil. knead the dough a bit with your hands until soft and elastic, form into a ball and then place in your greased glass bowl.

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Cover it and allow it to rise until doubled in size

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Then take your dough ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface

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Mr. Fits really wanted square doughnuts. He just used a knife to cut the dough, but you can use biscuit cutters if you want them in circles. I like the squares, no waste and they turned out pretty darn cute

doughnut-cut

Cover with a light cloth or paper towels and allow your little doughnuts to rise again until doubled in size, about an hour.

Drop the doughnuts in to the hot oil and allow to cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until puffy and golden. We used chopsticks to turn the doughnuts

doughnut-frying

Don’t crowd the fryer, just a few at a time.

doughnut-frying1

The glaze!! We used 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) of 60% chocolate,1 tsp instant espresso powder, 2 tbs of butter, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Put the chocolate chunks in a bowl with the espresso powder. In another bowl, add the cream and the butter and microwave until steamy. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until combine. OK, if you have never made ganche the last step takes longer than you expect. at some point during the stirring your will look at the mess that looks like chunky hot chocolate and think “That girl lies!! This looks terrible, Did I do it wrong??” and then your will keep stirring, and stirring and then at some point you will think, “Oh…wait.. it looks great. I kinda want to lick it and give that Domestic Fits girl and big chocolaty kiss.” At that point, it’s done.

Once your cute doughnuts are out of the fryer and cooled,

doughnut-just-out-of-fryer

dip them in the chocolate and let them set

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Really cute, right?

Aqua + Black + White Bridal Shower

My Adorable little sister is getting hiched next month. My eqauly as adorable older sister and I planned a bridal shower using Little Sisters wedding colors.

We had the candy buffet:

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I made lables for the take away boxes that we gave to all the guests

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And of course, there were cupcakes

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The food was lovely,

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we had

Goat Cheese and Flank Steak Crustinis

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Roasted Chicken Salad on Crosants

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Caprese Skewers

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Fruit Skewers

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Meatball Sliders with Pesto Sauce

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For the drinks we had a lovely Peach Sangria as well as Jones Soda’s that matched her colors

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My favorite of all was the photo banner that I made using a Chipboard Book Kit (http://www.stuff4scrapbooking.com/6-x8-with-8-pages-2-rings-chip-art-chipboard-bracket-book-kit-466594.html) I covered each page with paper that matched her wedding colors by tracing the shape, cutting it out, and then using spray adhesive to attach the paper to the book page. I then used pictures of the couple and photo corners on each page. I strung the pages up with a ribbon and put a color coordinating pinwheel at each end

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When the party was over, I used binder rings to make it into a book that she can put on the guest book table at her wedding

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I love you little sister and I wish you a long and happy marriage.

Strawberry Basil Tart with Lime Curd

Strawberry season comes in fierce here in California. All of the sudden, those red little beauties are everywhere and so cheap, they’re practically free. This week, at my favorite local market, I bought 3 pounds for only $2.50. So let the baking begin!

tart-fruitPreheat oven to 350

The crust. My favorite part of any tart. I used lemon shortbread cookies, about three cups in my food processor

tart-lemon-cookiesAdd five tbs of melted butter and 2 tbs of brown sugar. The brown sugar will give you a nice caramel flavor that you won’t get with white sugar. Pulse away until it looks like wet sand

tart-crust-in-fpSpray the inside of your tart pan with butter flavored cooking spray. I like to dump the contents of my food processor into the tart pan (use a tart pan with a removable bottom) and then assemble the sides before packing the bottom, it makes it easier to get even, sturdy sides

tart-crust-sidesThen move on to the bottom and pack it really tight

tart-crustCook tart crust for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned, allow to cool.

Then make the curd. It’s really an unappealing term for such a lovely treat. Lime curd is:

2 tbs lime zest

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup lime juice

5 tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Add the first 4 ingredients to a bowl and mix well then add to a pan over medium/low heat along with the butter

tart-lime-curd-panWhisk until thickened, about 8 minutes

tart-lime-curd-pan2Pour the curd into the cooled tart crust and chill until set, about 15-20 minutes.

Then I made some whipped cream. Not because this was my original plan but because I felt there was a desperate need, and because I love homemade whipped cream. Now, you can add this to the top, but I didn’t want to hide the beauty of the berries under all of that fluff, so I added it to the middle.

3/4 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar, blend in a stand mixer on high for about 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add this to the top of the cooled and set curd.

Cut the berries. I make two cuts down the center of the strawberry like this

tart-starwberry-4-cutThen chop them to make little triangle pieces, about 1 1/2 cups total

Then stack up about 5 basil leaves and roll them up tight like a cigar and chop them really finely to make skinny tiny ribbons

tart-basil-rollThen add the berries and the basil (about 1 tbs) to a bowl with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar

tart-strawberries-basil-bowlMix away until well combined and then add it to the top of the tart and serve fairly immediately.

If you plan to make the tart ahead of time, it really doesn’t sit well. You can make the tart crust, curd and whipped cream (store curd and whipped cream in Tupperware), cut the strawberries and basil but keep them separate, and assemble it all right before serving.

tart-finished2
tart-finished

Savory Bacon Garlic Cheesecake

Savory cheesecake. Really, an invention of necessity. I want cheesecake, but it’s not dessert time. The solution? Pre-diner cheesecake. Brilliant. Then add the candy of the meat world: Bacon. Yum. E.
    Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes | Total time: 55 minutes | Servings: 8
  • 5 Large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 tsp. of olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. of salt
  • 5 Strips of bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups of Ritz Crackers
  • 5 tbsp. of melted butter (unsalted)
  • 16 ounces of  Cream Cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 cups of sour cream
  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced and toasted (optional, for serving)
Steps
  1. Roast the garlic: (your kitchen is about to smell SOOO good) Preheat the oven to 400. Place the five cloves of garlic on a small sheet of aluminium foil. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the 1/8 tsp salt. Fold up the aluminium foil into a tight pouch; you don’t want any of that goodness to seep out. Roast in the oven until garlic cloves are soft, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool (seriously, you really want to allow those suckers to cool) then remove the skins. Once garlic is done cooking, reduce oven temp to 350.
  2. Bacon time: While the garlic is roasting, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat, turning frequently. Again, your kitchen probably smells so amazing that you may need to lock your doors. Remove bacon from the pan once it is dark pink and the fat is mostly rendered, allow to cool on paper towels.
  3. Crust o’clock: In a food processor, add the crackers and pulse until reduced to crumbs and then add the butter, pulse until all that remains is a beautiful, buttery, crumbly pile that looks like wet sand. Press the cracker crumbs into the bottom of a 6 inch spring form pan.
  4. Blend well: in a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, your yummy garlic, eggs, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, rosemary, sour cream and mix the crap out of it. Seriously, don’t be shy, show that cream cheese who’s boss.
  5. Puttin’ it all together: Add the cream cheese mixture to the spring form pan. Chop the cooled bacon and sprinkle over the top of the cheese cake (it’s OK if you take a nibble or two of the yummy bacon).
  6. Bake: In the oven for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool completely and serve with bread, or eat alone. And by alone, I don’t mean "by yourself" because, really, if you have a Bacon Garlic Cheesecake, you will never be lonely again. Enjoy!!

Caramelized Pineapple Shortcakes with Vermouth Whipped Cream

Why should strawberries have all the fun? Shortcakes are an amazing vessel for so many different types of fruit. Now that the fruit producing summer is almost upon us, the shortcake options are limitless. Blueberry Balsamic, Spiced Apple, Raspberry Apricot…great, now I just want to stop typing and go bake some more! There is a good chance there will be more bake good posts shortly.

Ingredients:

Shortcakes:

2 cups of flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 tsp salt (pinch)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 stick unsalted chilled butter, cut into small cubes

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp butter extract

Pineapples:

I large pineapple, rind and core removed, diced

2 tbs butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbs vermouth

This is the Pineapple that inspired this dessert. He was delivered to me in my weekly produce delivery from Love Deliveries out of Venice Beach. He just sat on the counter begging to be used (cue Bill Withers “Use Me”)

shortcakes-pine-wholePreheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together. Add the butter cubes and mash it through with your fingers until all the butter cubes are completely mixed.

shortcakes-flour-butter-bowlIn a small bowl, add the cream, yolks and butter extract and mix until well combined. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until just combined, don’t over mix of your dough will be tough.

shortcake-dough-in-bowlThen put the big dough lump on a floured surface

shortcake-dough-lumpJust knead the dough three times. Three times? You ask. Yes, that’s my magic Shortcakes dough kneading number. Two isn’t enough and four may just be too many. Roll a rolling pin over Dough Lump, one or two times in each direction, or until the dough is about one inch thick. Then cut out circles with a 3 inch biscuit cutter. This will make about 9.

shortcakes-dough-cutPlace the shortcakes on a greased cookie sheet and bake until they are golden brown, about 12 minutes.

shortcakes-on-baking-sheetAdd all the pineapple ingredients to a large skillet over medium high heat.

shortcakes-pine-butter-sug-panStir constantly until the sugar and butter has reduced so much that it looks like the pan only contains pineapple and frothy bubbles, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat to check the consistency, you want the caramel sauce thick and to leave a large track when you drag your spatula through it.

shortcakes-pine-in-pan-endWhipped cream: In a stand mixer, add all the whipped cream ingredients. Mix on high with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. I love the subtle flavor of vermouth. It really is an over looked liquor with a nice finish and should not just be relegated to martinis. Next time your are looking for a nice smooth drinkin’ liquor, try vermouth on the rocks with a lemon. This is the one I use for baking and stressful days:http://www.melandrose.com/istar.asp?a=6&id=91496&utm_source=Vinquire&utm_medium=WineFeed&utm_content=Dolin+Blanc+Vermouth&utm_campaign=base&v_traceback=c0405_0531_f0501_0253

Once the shortcakes are baked and cooled, cut them in half the long way. I stacked them up in this order, using 3 shortcake halves: Shortcake, pineapples with sauce, whipped cream, repeat. Then top with a final shortcake.

shortcake-finished

Potato, Leek and Artichoke Gratin

Gratin simply means “with a browned crust of bread crumbs and cheese” or, “Yummy, creamy and Melty.” OK, that last one is just mine, but in my opinion, pretty darn accurate. Sadly, too many people have never formed a relationship with Gratin outside of a dehydrated Betty Crocker box that my Grandmother called “Potatoes All Rotten”. Y’all are missing out.  Homemade Gratins are fantastic and easy and will most likely always grace my holiday tables. This one is my favorite. I hope that if you are one of those who still bares the scars of adolescent forced prepackaged food trauma, that you will give this recipe a try. Really, its like therapy.

gratin-cheese-and-creamIngredients:

3 large leeks

1/2 a large red onion

8 medium sized red potatoes, peeled

1/4 stick of butter

3 cloves of garlic, minced

12 oz of artichoke hearts (2 small jars, drained)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Swiss or Gruyere plus 1/2 cup, divided

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Slice the leeks, onion, and potatoes to an even 1/4 inch thickness, a mandolin slicer is the easiest & fastest way to do this. I tend towards simple kitchen gadgets, similar to this one:http://www.norpro.com/store/products/mandoline-slicergrater-wguard

gratin-leeks-cutIf I were writing this for one of those cooking contests I love to enter, I would tell you to boil the potatoes for 5 minutes in lightly salted water. BUT for you, I’ll give the shortcut. In a microwave safe bowl, add the potatoes and cover completely with water. Microwave for about 8 minutes or until you are able to get a fork through the potatoes, but they are still a little firm, check after 5 minutes in case your microwave is WAY more powerful than mine, it’s old. This will allow all the veggies to cook at the same rate while in the oven rather than over cooking some and under cooking others.

gratin-veggies-in-waterThen remove them and place on paper towels to soak up excess liquid, if not, you’ll have a soupy gratin

gratin-potato-paper-towelIn a large sauce pan over medium high heat, heat the butter until melted. Add the garlic, onions, & leeks and cook until soft and slightly caramelized. Then add the cream, salt and pepper and reduce heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Add one cup of the cheese and the artichokes and cook until cheese is melted.

grain-veggies-cookingIn a baking dish (I used  8 inch round) arrange the potatoes in tight concentric circles

gratin-potato-layerUsing a slotted spoon, top the potatoes with a layer of the veggie/cheese mixture.

gratin-veggie-layerAdd another layer of potatoes and another layer of veggies. Spoon about 1/2 a cup of the remaining cheesy cream mixture that the veggies where just in, onto the gratin. Top with remaining 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and then Panko, salt and pepper.

gratin-pre-ovenCover in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top lives up to its Gratin title and the center is no longer cold. You can also make this a day ahead of time, just increase the cooking time to 30 minutes covered and then 20 uncovered if it’s out-of-the-fridge-cold.

gratin-cooked

Bacon Jalapeno Cornbread

 

Bacon and Jalapenos are the new peas and carrots, the new beets and goat cheese, tomatoes and basil. The sweet saltiness of the pork and the acidic spice of the jalapenos  make these two a perfect pair. And with a textured backdrop of cornbread to highlight this union’s symbiosis, I am also in love. I wish the happy couple a long and prosperous relationship.

Although this past weekend  gave us beautiful weather, this recipe is best eaten on a cool day, along side a steamy bowl of Chili.

1 1/3 cups coarse yellow cornmeal

1 cup buttermilk

6 strips of bacon, (make sure to reserve bacon grease)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

½ tsp smoked paprika

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 tbs olive oil

¼ cup picked Jalapenos, diced

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

2 tbs honey

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal and the buttermilk; allow to soak at room temperature for one hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, turning frequently. Remove from the pan when slightly underdone. Reserve grease. In a bowl, combine flower, paprika, baking powder, salt, and sugar, whisk until well combined. In a separate bowl combine the melted butter, olive oil, jalapenos, eggs, honey and ¼ a cup of the bacon grease.  Staring and ending with the dry ingredients, add both the dry and the wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture a bit at a time. Stirring after each addition until all three batters are combined. Line muffin tins with muffin papers. Add ¼ a cup of the batter to each muffin paper. Coarsely chop the bacon and evenly sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick in the center of the muffin come out clean.

Spring Flower Garland and Hanging Decorations

flower-garland-and-hanging-done-tableMy favorite part about these decorations are the brads. I haven’t used brads since I was in 4th grade and I think I’ve been missing out. I love the birds, and the bunnies add a subtle Easter touch without having to write “HOPPY EASTER” on a pastel banner.  The process and materials are similar to my Paper Lantern post, so if you’ve attempted those you’ll be ahead of the game. Change the colors and they aren’t just for Easter. I would also love these for a baby shower or with patriotic colors for a 4th of July party.

Materials (per four hanging flowers and one 12 foot garland strand)

4 pieces of 12×12 scrapbook paper (I used yellow)

12 pieces of 6X6 paper (also yellow)

4 bunny brads (the ones I used)

12 Bird Brads (the bird ones)

12 to 14 Feet of jute or twine, Plus 2 feet for each hanging flower (the stuff I used)

Hole punch

Paper cutter

Start by cutting your 12X12 inch sheets into about 1.5 inch strips. I just pushed them flush with the edge of my paper cutter and the strips turned out great.

haning-flower-paper-cutterhanging-flower-stripsThen punched a hole in each end of the strip

hanging-flower-strips-with-holesThen stack up all the strips, then put a brad through the holes in one end and bend the stack around to also put the brad through the holes in the other end, making a teardrop shape. Then pull the strips out the make the flower shape

flower-garland-hoops-with-bradhanging-flower-doneUse about 2 feet of string to hang the flower decoration

hanging-flower-done-outsideI made the garland the same way, using the 6×6 sheets

flower-garland-paper-cutterflower-garland-done-singleand strung them on the 14 feet of twine

flower-garland-done-tableflower-garland-done-fenceflower-garland-done-fence-closeflower-garland-done-fence-2

Girly Pink Skull Cake

Somehow, over the past half a decade, the iconic symbol of rebellion, mayhem and destruction has morph itself into an adorable emblem of girly fun. I’m not sure who does PR for the Skull, but BRAVO! This cultural make-over surpasses even Mark Wahlbergs move from the Funky Bunch to Oscar Nominee. My current cake creation was in celebration of my wonderful friend, (who is a symbol of Girly Fun times in my life) and her most recent birthday.

To start, I made a four layer lemon cake. I decided to make Mango Cream Cheese frosting because that is a favorite of the birthday girl. It was good, but the mango bits made the frosting a bit chunky and it wasn’t mango-y enough. If you like  mild mango flavor, here is the recipe. To mango it up a notch, you can add Mango Extract: http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Mango-Extract-29-Fl/dp/B002BX351A

In a sauce pan over low heat, add 2 cups of sugar, 1/4 cup of butter and one large mango, diced, skin removed. Stir infrequently until the mango chunks are super soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes. I left this on the stove, semi-forgotten, while I gave Tater a bath, so you really don’t need to babysit it as long as the heat is on low and you stir it occasionally. Let it cool to room temperature, then puree in a food processor until as smooth as you can make it. The biggest rule for making cream cheese frosting is that your ingredients NEED to be at room temperature. You can’t cheat and try and trick your frosting, you’ll end up with a big mess the consistency of ground beef.  In a stand mixer, put 32 ounces of room temp cream cheese 2 sticks of room temp butter and mix well. Then add the room temp mango mixture and blend well. Everyone likes a different sweetness level on their frosting, I like mine closer to savory than overly sweet. I added about 1 cup of powdered sugar to this, taste and add more depending on your preference. I also added quite a bit of pink food coloring

pink-frostingStarting with a white 14 inch cake board circle (you can buy at cake supply stores or Michaels Arts and Crafts) I stacked up the layers with a hefty amount of frosting in between each layer. After that,  I iced the cake completely, this will be the first coat. Some call it crumb coat, because the cake crumbs will invade this first layer, and others (including myself) call it dirty ice, because it sounds more fun. Allow that to set completely, about an hour.

dirty-iceThe next coat is your final coat and it helps to sooth everything out and cover any bumps or holes in your cake. Think of fondant as that super shiny, thin bridesmaid dress that makes you look awful and shows every flaw, and you would never be caught dead it in it, let alone PHOTOGRAPHED in it over and over, if you didn’t really love your friend–and the final ice is the Spanx that allowed you to keep your sanity and hit on the cute bartender. The final ice is the compression garment of the cake world, makes everything look smooth and pretty.

cake-final-iceFondant is tricky and unforgiving. There are several different kinds of fondant, including homemade. The easiest to work with, although the yuckiest to eat, is Wilton’s. It would probably be the most accessible for you because it is the most widely carried. I do recommend using it for beginners because it is the most forgiving and will allow you to get a feel for fondant work before moving on the bitchier fondants. Just tell your guest that it is edible, but that you recommend they peel it off and don’t eat it. I used Fondx, actually pretty tasty but very soft and unforgiving. You can buy it in all different colors but I would recommend white and then color it yourself. Just use gel food coloring instead of liquid and if it gets too goopy, add powdered sugar. Then grab an unspecified amount (just gonna have to guess based on your cake size) and put on a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar. I used a softball size, colored hot pink

fondant-ballThen roll it as close to a circle as you can. I would highly recommend the use of a marble rolling pin.

pink-rolled-fondantSlowly  and carefully pick it up (you can use your rolling pin for assistance) and move to the cake. Here is a good picture tutorial from Satin ice: http://www.satinfinefoods.com/how.htm

Starting at the top, gently smooth the fondant. This will cause the bottom of your fondant to have bit of a ruffle effect

cake-fondant-precutTo cut the ruffle off, I use a sharp paring knife that I push the fondant a bit under the cake. A lot of people use a pizza cutter. Just use what works for you.

bottom-fondant-cutYou will notice quite a bit of powdered sugar left on your pretty cake. You can buy a brush at cake supply stores, I used a clean make-up blush brush. Just brush the cake until all the sugar is gone. You will still have a light layer. The next step is vodka! Not a shot for the weary baker, but a spray for the cake. Vodka is used in nearly every bakery to clean up cakes and give them a pretty shine. I use a small travel size spray bottle, probably intended to transport hairspray across FAA lines, but works really well in my kitchen. Just spray a light layer over your cake for a pretty, powder sugar free shine

cake-fondant-coveredI rolled a small hunk of white fondant on my cuttin’ surface and used a skull cookie cutter to cut out some decorations for the cake.

fondant-skulls-cut-outI used food coloring and a small artist brush to make a boy skull and a girl skull as well as left over fondant to make little bows

fondant-skulls-just-madeI decided that the boy and girl skulls made for a Hot Topic Wedding Cake look that I wasn’t diggin’ so I just used the girl skulls

fondant-skulls-no-mini-cupcakesAt some point in this decorating furry, I managed to make about 18 mini cupcakes and 3 regular sized cupcakes in black cupcake papers. I also ran out of pink frosting, as well as cream cheese, so I made Vermouth Whipped Cream. Sounds super hard and fancy, right? Not really. In a stand mixer, combine 2 cups heavy cream (or whipping cream, both will work just fine), 1 cup of sugar, 1 shot of vermouth and I added the pink food coloring. beat on high for about 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Opposite of the cream cheese, the cream has to be chilled or you’ll be churning butter. Then spoon it into a large Ziplock bag for the cheater piping bag. Cut the corner off, about the size of your pinky nail. Then pipe the whipped cream on in a swirl pattern. Looks SO fancy and it’s easier and faster than any other frosting method.

cheater-piping-bagThen I sprinkled the cupcakes with small pink sugar pearls. I placed them on the cake board at the base of the cake, securing them the the Wilton’s Candy melts that I use so often for my pastry glue. Just put a small amount of candy melts in a glass bowl, microwave for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until melted. Smear a bit on the bottom of each cupcake and place on the cake board.

fondant-skulls-on-cakeThe top cupcakes I used a wooden skewer to secure in place, I didn’t want those babies going anywhere

cupcake-skewerI used those same Wilton’s candy melts in a Pirate Skull Pick Mold

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=1E26F64B-1E0B-C910-EA95C108A7B263D0&killnav=1

and stuck two of them in each of the cupcakes to make a two sided skull topper

cupcake-topIt didn’t look quite done so I made some black fondant and cut out three hearts to add balance. DONE!! Happy Birthday Kelly!!

cake-done-6cake-donecake-done2cake-done3
cake-done4

Easter Table Center Peeps

 

Peeps, love ‘em or hate ‘em, will always conjure up spring time memories of pastel plastic baskets and egg hunts on the back lawn. Even as a kid I was never a huge fan of sugar coated sugar in the shape of farm animals, but I would have been disappointed had I not seen a row of co-joined marshmallow quadruplets on top of my green plastic Easter Grass. This center piece (oh, excuse me, Center Peep) was made to bring those lovely memories into my current day celebration, a way to reminisce without the calories.

 

Materials (per one center peep)

 

One empty ribbon spool, about a half inch wide

 

9 Bunny Peeps (I used Yellow)

 

1 green chick Peep

 

Wilton’s Candy Melts (can be used in the color of your bunnies, or in white)

 

1 plastic squeeze bottle, like a mustard bottle (can be found most craft stores, restaurant supply stores and sometimes grocery stores)

 

1 wooden skewer

 

Hot glue gun, with glue

 

Sprinkles in the color of your bunny

 

Floral Foam

 

1 Terra Cotta pot (or any color that you choose)

 

1 sheet of tissue paper

 

Start by ripping the ribbon spool apart so that you just have the middle cardboard hoop

 

centerpeep-ribbon-ring

 

The hot glue the flat end of the wooden skewer to the hoop and don’t be shy with the hot glue, really slather it on for a strong hold.

 

ring-stick-glue

 

The pull your bunnies apart and castrate them (yikes!) so that their bottom is flat

 

centerpeep-bunny-cut

 

Then put about 3/4 cup of candy melts in the squeeze bottle. Put in the microwave for thirty seconds, remove and shake a bit. Repeat until candy is melty and squeezes out of the bottle easily.

 

Squirt a bit of the candy melts on the freshly exposed bunny undercarriage

 

centerpeep-bunny-chocolate

 

Push against the cardboard ring. I made two of these and the easiest way to do it is to start close to the stick and crowd the bunnies close together so that all nine will fit on the ring.

 

The rim the exposed carboard ring with the candy melts. This makes it look prettier as well as provides a stronger hold for the rouge bunny. Before the candy melts dry, cover it with the sprinkles.

 

centerpeep-sprinkles

 

The take your green chick peep and cut a bit of an angle where his shoulder would be

 

centerpeep-chick-leaf-cut

 

Fill his cut with the candy melt and place him on the stick, a bit higher up that you might want so that the bottom half of the stick can go into the pot without a problem.

 

You can also add more candy melts when he is on the stick to make the hold better.

 

The cut a wedge of floral foam to fit snugly inside your pot

 

centerpeep-floral-foam

 

Put your foam into your pot and cover with the tissue paper, tucking the ends into the pot. Allow your Center Peep to cool completely before moving. It will take about 20 minutes. When you lift it up, support the head so that all the weight isn’t on the hot glue joint. Then skewer it all the way into your pot

 

centerpeep-stick-in-pot

 

Cover the tissue paper with your favorite Easter candy (jelly beans, mini candy eggs, pastel M&M’s) I just used candy left over from the Candy Buffet at Tater’s first birthday party.

 

All done!!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake

 

The adorable Miss Emmi turned 1 just a few days after Tater. Emmi loves the Very Hungry Caterpillar more that I have ever seen a kid love a book, it’s quite adorable. She’s that bugs #1 fan. So of course, her party had to follow suit. Tater and I spent Saturday afternoon hagnin’ out with Emmi and her fabulous mother and we made a cake.

First, I made a 20 inch 2 layer strawberry cake

hc-cake-base-cake

The we covered it in cream cheese frosting and then a layer of white fondant and put brightly colored gumballs at the bottom

hc-cake-gumballs

We then cut out three inch circles from another sheet cake, cutting off the rounded top and cut those circles in half

hc-cake-circles

We frosted those half circles and then covered them in different shades of green fondant

hc-cake

We covered one of the cake circles in red fondant to use as the head

hc-cake-just-head

On went the body

hc-cake-body-part-way-on

Although Miss Emmi’s house is filled with every baby toy imaginable, the ladies spent most of the day playing on the stairs

claire-emmi-stairs

Emmi’s mom was a quick study with the fondant and was able to make her name, Caterpillar legs, antennae and eyes as well as an adorable sun

emmis-party-9

And check out that mini smash cake, made by Emmi’s aunt. Very adorable!

Happy first year Emmi!