Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Carvel Who?

1st snowstorm of the year calls for an ice cream cake, doesn't it?

Ok, well not exactly. More like a birthday boy (who happens to like ice cream cake) and a cancelled flight due to the snowstorm. Not only did we miss out on our visit, we were also left with a birthday cake to tend to (by tend to, I mean eat of course). Tough week...

Don't get me wrong, when it comes to ice cream cake, I like Carvel just as much as the next guy.  And if you're local to the Lehigh Valley, the ice cream cakes at The Bethlehem Dairy Store (aka The Cup) are no joke either! making it myself, I had something to blog about.

The layers speak for themselves (fyi...he's a vanilla kind of guy)...


Now, I said I made the ice cream cake, not the ice cream. Breyers was my brand of choice, along with Cool Whip, store bought caramel topping and cookies....assembly required!

I considered a cookies and cream crunch layer, but decided to keep with the traditional chocolate cookie crunch. So instead of running out to buy plain chocolate wafers, I scraped the cream out of the Oreos that I had on hand. No worries, my kids were in heaven. You've all heard of double stuffed Oreos, well my guys were quadruple stuffing theirs. And with no food processor on hand, I took out some aggression by crushing the cookies with the end of a rolling pin. Aaah!

Last but not least, I'll let you in on a little scoop (no pun intended). Somewhere, some time ago, I read about Carvel's secret to their chocolate crunchies...a coating of an ice cream topping similar to Magic Shell. Top secret?? I guess not, considering it's all over the internet.

Ice Cream Cake
2 half gallons of ice cream
chocolate wafer cookies
Magic Shell ice cream topping
caramel topping
Cool Whip

Allow 1 half gallon of ice cream per layer to soften (not melt) and stir until smooth, folding in any additions at this point (ie: chopped candy, nuts, etc). Spread bottom layer into 9" springform pan. Place in freezer.

Crush cookies. Add the Magic Shell to the cookies crumbs slowly and just until coated. Spread cookie crunch over bottom layer. Place in freezer.

Add top layer of ice cream. Place in freezer. Spread layer of caramel topping over top layer. Place in freezer. Once cake is completely frozen, remove outer ring of springform pan. Place in freezer.

Ice cake with Cool Whip. Place in freezer. Decorate as desired.

If you haven't figured it out by my repetition of "Place in freezer.", it's important to return the cake to the freezer between steps allowing each layer to set.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Cheatin' Heart Chocolate Chip

"Really, aren't you going to make chocolate chip?"

Seriously? After 2 days of rolling kiffles, this is what I get? Not to mention the shopping, the cleaning, and come on people, these presents aren't gonna wrap themselves!

The guilt got the best of me, my hubby wants chocolate chip, my hubby will get chocolate chip.

But you see, I have another cookie recipe waiting to be baked by tomorrow, as well as another very special treat that needs my attention (be sure to check back next week).

Priorities right?

And frankly, chocolate chip bore me. Don't get me wrong, they are absolutely delicious, but there are so many other recipes to I cheated.


All of you bakers out there... please forgive me. All of you busy moms...high fives all around!

Thank you Nestle Toll House!

Question is, do I fess up? Hmmm???

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kiffles...A Christmas Tradition

Every Christmas, I make kiffles, lots and lots of kiffles.

Many years ago (10 give or take), I swiped the recipe from my mother's kitchen drawer. However, the word recipe may be stretching it a bit...

The recipe originally came from my aunt's aunt. That would be my father's brother's wife's mother or father's sister (or possibly sister-in-law). Did you get that? Gotta love a recipe with some family history!

It's your traditional cream cheese kiffle dough, maybe not quite as flaky as some other recipes out there, but trust me, they melt in your mouth. Mmmmm! There was a time or two when I thought about toying with a different recipe, but the consensus around here was 'DO NOT CHANGE A THING!' So if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Now, as far as filling...lekvar for mom, raspberry in the annual attempt to entice my hubby*, and apricot for everyone else, but most importantly...the more, the better!

That's a matter of taste though, some like just a hint of flavor. Not my gang. My gang goes more for the jelly donut concept, bite in to one end, the filling squishes out the other. Time to make the kiffles!

*Much to my dismay, my husband is not a fan of the kiffle. He wants to know where the chocolate chip cookies are...ugggh!

24 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 lb unsalted butter (6 sticks)
6 cups flour

Cream butter and cheese, slowing add flour until soft dough forms. Form ball and chill dough for 2-3 hours, or 2-3 days in my case ( I just don't have a whole day to commit to kiffles, so I make the dough and hope for the best). Split dough into smaller balls and roll in confectioner's sugar before rolling flat with a rolling pin, cut into 2" squares, place dollop of filling in center of each square and roll corner to corner. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when cool.


Friday, December 10, 2010

White Christmas Cocoa

'Tis the season...

We're decking the halls!

Tree is up, stockings are hung, and shopping has begun. (One gift down, dozens to go!)

Dreaming of a white Christmas? I am!

Let it snow!

While waiting on mother nature and thinking of some more cheesy Christmas cliches, some white chocolate hot cocoa might hit the spot. When I found this recipe, I couldn't resist. (Thank you Food Network!)

Such a festive treat, topped with marshmallows or whipped cream and garnished with a candy cane stirrer.

We also tried rimming the mug with melted chocolate and dipping it in crushed peppermint. (I'm a margarita drinker, can you tell??) The kids loved this one, a bite of candy with every sip. It was the perfect end to a long, cold day.

How about some holiday cheer? White Christmas Cocoa with a little (or a lot) of peppermint liquor, cheers! Or get creative, I added my favorite...

Mmmmmm, talk about warm and cozy!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! (sorry, couldn't resist)

White Christmas Cocoa
1 cup white chocolate chips (don't be shy)
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 tsp vanilla extract
whipped topping or marshmallows
candy canes

Melt white chocolate with heavy cream over medium heat, stir continuously until completely melted. Stir in half-and-half and vanilla. Continue stirring until heated through. Pour into mugs and garnish with topping and candy.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Snickers Surprise

It's been awhile...

I can tell you that I've been getting lots of rest, but that's not really the case. Actually, that's not the case at all. I've been itching to post, but since our return from Disney, my camera charger has been M.I.A. That said, the following pics were taken with my iphone and I'm still trying to figure it out. Just got the phone this week, it was an early Christmas gift. Woot, woot, thanks Santa! (Yep, I just said woot, woot.)

Ok, I don't make cookies for a reason...well, with the exception of my banana bread cookies (YUM!) of course.

I did, however, try my hand at these Snickers stuffed peanut butter cookies.

So what's my reason for not making cookies? I get easily distracted. Such a short baking time doesn't allow me the necessary buffer needed to walk away. By the time I have the "Oh, my cookies!" moment, it's already too late.

Don't walk away or set a timer...great advice, and sounds so simple doesn't it?! (Sigh)

Warm from the oven, the gooey center was a sweet surprise. Dark bottoms or not, they still got a thumbs up from the critics. Although, there are still some left, which is highly unusual with this bunch.

I think I'll leave the cookie making to someone else. Good thing I have a couple of friends and a sister-in-law that make cookies to die for, so no worries!

I used the 1-1-1-1 peanut butter cookie recipe and wrapped 1/2 of a miniature Snickers in the cookie dough, making sure to cover the candy completely to avoid having a melted mess on the cookie sheet. With the following recipe I made 1 dozen Snickers surprise cookies, and 1 dozen mini peanut butter (unstuffed).

1-1-1-1 Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white sugar (some variations use a mix of brown and white sugar)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

miniature Snickers bars - halved

Combine all ingredients, wrap dough around candy pieces or drop teaspoonfuls (for regular pb cookies) on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8-10 minutes (not 10-15!)

For crisscross pattern on stuffed cookies bake a couple of minutes to soften candy then use sugar coated fork an GENTLY press. For unstuffed, press pattern onto cookies prior to baking.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

Wondering where I've been? Haven't even missed me? Either way, I'm back! We took a long (much needed) family vacation over the Thanksgiving break. And WHEW, now I need a vacation! 
                                                                                                                                                                   You would think, being Thanksgiving and all, that I would have come back with all kinds of goodies to blog about. Nope. We ate and drank tons, but I didn't take one picture (of our treats, that is). We were in Disney and much too busy with Mickey, Minnie, and the Princesses of course. Now, the car ride down and back with 4 kids, THAT would have been a treat to blog about. (Did I mention I live in PA?)

While I recoup, let me leave you with a few of my fall favorites...                                                                    
Pumpkin Pecan Minis

Banana Bread Cookies

Freakin' Fabulous Cream Puffs with Pecan Mousse

Open Face Nutella S'mores

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I sure did!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ooh, Ooh, Oozy Bread

I don't watch much daytime TV, if any at all, but a few years back I did catch a great episode of Rachel Ray (had to be pre-Sophia, I was probably pregnant). During that episode, Rachel made her Oozy Bread. Mmm, mmm, mmm! Best daytime TV I've ever watched!

Now a staple during all of our family vacations, this bread will also be a great morning quick fix to serve those overnight holiday guests.

Rachel attaches the following caution message to this recipe: Your neighbors may smell this from a mile away and suddenly pop in unannounced for a piece! Well I say bring 'em on! Otherwise, I may just eat the whole thing myself...

Oozy Bread
1 package bacon, chopped (I use pre-cooked bacon. Saves a step, tastes just as good)
1 8-ounce jar maple syrup
1 stick butter
1 package (8 biscuits) home-style buttermilk biscuits, preferred brand Pillsbury

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon. Cook until crisp, about 8-10 minutes and reserve. Place a small saucepot over medium heat and add the maple syrup and the butter -- do not bring up to a boil. Cook until butter is melted, then turn the heat off and reserve. Butter or spray a 3x9 loaf pan. Pour a couple tablespoons of the maple/butter sauce in the bottom. Layer 3 of the biscuits in the bottom of the pan. Tear up one of the biscuits and fill in any open spaces with the pieces. Don't worry if any still remain, the ooze will fill those in. Sprinkle half of the reserved bacon onto of the biscuits and top with about a 1/2 cup of the butter/syrup mixture. Place the remaining biscuits on top, sprinkle the rest of the bacon over them and top with the remaining maple sauce. Transfer to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and immediately turn over onto a serving dish.

Thank you Rachel Ray!!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crumb Coat Cakes: Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty Cake

Every year my husband requests pie instead of cake for his birthday. So this year, like her daddy, my 5 year old wanted a birthday pie (pumpkin to be exact) instead of a birthday cake. Yep, same kid that wanted cheese and crackers instead of cupcakes (re: Marshmallow Pops post). So you're probably wondering why there's a picture of a Hello Kitty Cake above, right? Well, she got her pumpkin pie...but after getting a guilt trip from my hubby (the pie man himself), I made her a cake. 

I know my last two posts make me out to be some kind of cake bully, but I'm not. Really, I'm not! After the whole cupcakes vs. crackers incident, I was more than happy to leave well enough alone. Pumpkin pie sounded good to me! Until..."Wow!? I can't believe you're not making her a cake?" 

With the help of a Hello Kitty cake pan, some leftover fondant, and Sylvia Weinstock's vanilla cake recipe I got it done.  

I'm glad I did, and so was she!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marshmallow Pops

Preschool snack = goldfish, crackers, pretzels, maybe the occasional cookie...EXCEPT when it's someone's birthday! Birthdays = cupcakes!

Not always.

When I asked my daughter what kind of cupcakes we should make for her birthday snack she informed me that cupcakes were not in the plan. She wanted crackers and cheese. Crackers and cheese? For a birthday snack? Who's kid is this?

The power of persuasion was not on my side. Her birthday, her choice...crackers and cheese it was. I was not, however, going down without a fight! While shopping, I continued to throw out some ideas to send in WITH the crackers and cheese (I just couldn't let down the kids that were looking forward to a cupcake). Something caught her eye, and she finally gave in.  Handing me a bag of pink marshmallows, she said "Fine, I'll take these."

So, now the kids were going to get crackers, cheese, and a marshmallow. It was time to get creative.

She called these marshmallow princess wands.

The chocolate dipped marshmallow is always a favorite. I just stuck it on a stick and added a mini marshmallow flower.

Viola! A special birthday treat (to compliment the crackers and cheese of course)!

Marshmallow Pops
Large marshmallows (we used strawberry)
Chocolate melting discs (we used white chocolate)
Sprinkles (could use chopped candy or nuts)
Mini marshmallows
Buttercream Icing (picked up a small tube of yellow from baking aisle)
Lollipop sticks

Place one large marshmallow on the end of each lollipop stick. Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring until smooth. Dip marshmallows in melted chocolate, turning to coat. Allow excess chocolate drip off. Sprinkle with topping of choice (sprinkles, candy, nuts, etc) Let pops dry by placing bottoms of sticks into a styrofoam block, or egg carton.  Wrap in plastic and tie with ribbon.

Mini Marshmallow Flowers
Cut mini marshmallows into 4 pieces arrange on top of large marshmallow, using melted chocolate as glue, pipe center of flower with buttercream icing.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kid Friendly Entertaining...(sorry no treats today)

Now I’m no Martha, but recently I threw a formal dinner party and I’d like to share a few tips that helped the evening run smoothly. It was an intimate affair, only 4 on the guest list…all under the age of 13. That’s right, I threw a formal dinner party for kids. An extra special birthday celebration for my 3 girls. 

No, I’m not losing my mind (I lost that a long time ago).

The upcoming holiday season can bring guests of all ages to your table. So whether hosting a formal dinner party for some well deserving kids, or just sprinkling them in among your adult guests, you’ll need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Let's start with the hardware...china, silver, and crystal. Or should I say...plastic, plastic, and plastic.

Actually, I did use my good china (if you can even call it that). It has been sitting in the cabinet for 15 years. Never used. Not once, until now.  My 4 year old always asks about the “fancy” plates in the cabinet, so what the heck?! I blew off the dust and put them to use.  Now, if my china was a bit more precious, then by all means, I would have picked up a pack of plastic china (also found at many grocery or department stores).

I don’t own real silver, and flatware is hard to come by in my house. You know how dryers eat socks?  Well, my dishwasher eats forks.  There’s no other explanation! I have an abundance of spoons, but where do all of my forks go?  OK, back to the dinner…No silver or stainless, I went with plastic.  I love this stuff! Sale price -$4.99 (Wegman’s), can’t even tell it’s plastic until you pick it up.

I tied utensils with ribbon to simplify an already busy tablescape.

I’m sure everyone, at some point, has toasted in the New Year with a plastic champagne flute. I know I have. But I assure you, mine was never filled with Sparkling Cider.


On to the tablescape…

Simple is always best when it comes to kids.  But if you love a decorated table, then go for it, but keep it durable.  Which means the delicate centerpiece from grandma is better off kept for another occasion.  Kids touch EVERYTHING!

Kids and candles? Supervision, supervision, supervision!!!

Candles (unscented of course) can really set the mood, but typically, with kids, you’re better off doing without.  I choose to incorporate candles into the tablescape. In addition to having the proper supervision, I went with an enclosed flame.  My patio lanterns served the purpose and blended perfectly with the rustic fall theme. 

Not to mention, the enclosed flame stifled my son’s urge to see what burned quicker, the pinecones or the cinnamon sticks.

Place cards may seem unnecessary to some, unless of course, they serve another purpose.  

I picked up some mini chalkboards ($1 each) at A.C. Moore, attached a piece of ribbon to the frame with a hot glue gun, and tied on a piece of chalk.  Just a little something to keep them busy between courses. Tic Tac Toe, Hangman maybe?                                                                                                                                       

They make chalkboard tablecloths now too, hmmm? Could also occupy the adults when that darn turkey timer just won’t pop.  Pick up game of Pictionary anyone?

Before this post officially qualifies as a novel, I will end it with this (saving the menu for another time)… 

I added a fun twist by including some special treats tucked away throughout the tablescape. Everyone loves an unexpected surprise!! 

Ah, ah, ah, those are for after dinner! Happy Holidays! 


Have a kid friendly tip to share? I’d love to hear it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pretzel Hugs

So much to say, so little time. Since I'm still running ragged, I'll leave you with another simple treat.

My excuse for making these is always "The kids just LOVE them!" 
Really??? Who am I kidding...

An irresistible little taste of sweet and salty. Another twist on the candy coated chocolate covered pretzel, just...bite size. 

My favorite variation is: pretzel snap, Hershey's Hug, and peanut M&M. Or maybe... pretzel snap, chocolate Kiss and a peanut butter M&M...mmmm! 

So many possibilities!!! 

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Line cookie sheet with wax paper. Lay pretzel snaps side by side, filling cookie sheet. Unwrap Hugs and place one on each pretzel.

Place pretzels and hugs in oven for 4-5 minutes, just long enough to soften the Hug. (if using a chocolate Kiss it will take slightly longer to soften) Remove from oven and immediately place one M&M on each Hug. Once all M&Ms are in place, put in the freezer for 10 minutes (this will help set the softened chocolate).