Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oreo Pudding Pops

I'm a sucker for those little cookbooks that they display in the checkout line at the supermarket.  I've been practicing self-control and haven't purchased any in quite a long time, but I saw this one and it spoke to me, being that Oreos are the only cookie that Sugarbear will eat (he'll even choose them over homemade, from scratch cookies).

As I was flipping through the book, I came across the recipe for Oreo Cookies and Creme Pudding Pops.  Fond memories of Bill Cosby popped into my head for some reason, and I decided to try them out.  They were easy to make and Sweetpea liked them.  Of course Sugarbear wanted nothing to do with them; he is sticking with plain ol' Oreos, thank you very much.

I don't know, they look pretty good to me:

Oreo Cookies and Creme Pudding Pops

1.   Beat 1 package (3.4 oz) Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding and
2 cups cold, whole milk with a whisk for 2 minutes.

2.  Chop 6 regular Oreo cookies; crush 8 Oreos into fine crumbs.  Spoon half of the crushed cookies onto the bottoms of 10 (3 oz) Dixie cups.

3.  Add 1/2 cup thawed Cool Whip to the pudding and stir until just blended.  Fold in the chopped Oreos.  Spoon the pudding mixture into the prepared cups and top with the remaining crushed cookies.

4.  Insert popsicle sticks into each for a handle.  Freeze 5 hours or until firm.  To remove the pops from the cups, roll each cup between your hands until the pop loosens and can be pushed out of the cup.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Birthday

My sweet mama turned 86 today!  Five of my six brothers and sisters and I met up at her house to help her celebrate.  We decided to have an Italian-style feast featuring Bruschetta and Crostini, Baked Manicotti, Sea Salt and Rosemary Focaccia, and Garlic Bread.  My sister baked her most delicious 14-Carrot Cake.  I'm still stuffed.

Here's my lovely mom at age 16:

and here she is today:

For this post, I'm going to share the recipe for the Bruschetta and Crostini:

It just tastes of summer, with my favorite combination of tomatoes, basil and garlic.  This recipe comes from Susan Branch's The Summer Book.

Bruschetta y Crostini

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 450-degrees.

2.  For the crostini, slice a baguette into 1/4-inch slices.  Place the slices on a large baking sheet.  Brush the bread with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Toast the bread in the hot oven until golden brown.

3.  Remove the cores and seeds from fresh, summer tomatoes (I usually use about 6).  Dice the tomatoes.

4.  For each cup of diced tomatoes, add the following: 
2 tablespoons slivered, fresh basil, 2 tablespoons minced green onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well and let sit at room temperature for at least one hour.  Serve on top of the crostini. 

Fresh, easy and yummy.  This is one of my all-time favorite appetizers.

Sweetpea loves her Grandma, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Of Dads and Crumb Cakes

Last Sunday was Father's Day and I was seriously missing my daddy and my daddy-in-law.  They both passed away, within two weeks of each other, ten years ago.  I wish that my children could have known them better.  Sweetpea was barely two when they departed this life and Sugarbear never got to meet them.  It is a tremendous loss to my children not to have these wonderful men in their lives. 

Luckily, my kiddos have a wonderful daddy of their own.  He is hard-working, honest, trustworthy, loving, kind, smart, and loyal, as well as very good-looking.  Where I am a homebody, he is the one who gets us to the beach or out for a bike ride.  Through him, I see what an important and necessary role a father plays in his family.

To honor hubby on his special day, I made sure to bake his favorite crumb cakes for him.  Who am I kidding, they're my favorite, as well.  These are the tender, little cakes that he chooses over white cake with buttercream frosting for his birthday each year.  And they are the traditional Father's Day treat in our home.

Crumb Cake a la mode.

I received this gem of a recipe from the good folks at King Arthur Flour.  The recipe came with some cute 4-inch paper tart pans, that they no longer sell.  Luckily, I found these 4-inch pans from Wilton that work perfectly for these cakes.  Mini springform pans would probably work, as well.  I checked their site to see if the recipe was posted there, but I couldn't find this particular one, so I will share it with you here:

Crumb Cakes

1.  Grease nine 4-inch pans lightly.  (My pans are non-stick.  If yours aren't, you may want to grease and flour them.)  Pre-heat the oven to 325-degrees.

2.  For the streusel topping:  in a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons shortening, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 6 tablespoons packed brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Mix just until crumbly.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

3.  For the cakes:  beat together 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened, unsalted butter with 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar  for 2 minutes.  Add 3 large, room-temperature eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Continue beating for 5 minutes longer at medium-high speed.  In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour* with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  In another bowl or large measuring cup, mix 1/2 cup plain, whole-fat yogurt with 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the yogurt mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Place the 9 prepared pans on a large baking sheet and measure 1/4 cup of batter into each pan, distributing it evenly among the pans.

5.  Bake the cakes for 15 minutes, or until they look just barely set on top.  Remove them from the oven (leave oven on), sprinkle them evenly with the streusel, and return them to the oven.  You'll want to do this rather quickly, so that the cakes aren't out of the oven too long.  Bake for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.

6.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a small, thin spatula around the edge of each cake and remove it from the pan.  Leave on a wire rack until completely cool.  Then eat them all up, quickly, unless you're prepared to share.

*I used King Arthur all-purpose, unbleached flour.  The test kitchen at King Arthur Flour measures flour with the spoon in / level off method.  If using a kitchen scale, you will need 6-3/8 ounces flour.  If you don't already have one, a kitchen scale should be on your baking wish-list.  It is a much more accurate way to measure ingredients and helps to divide doughs and batters evenly.   A 1/4-cup disher (scoop) is also useful for this recipe and others like it. 

 Sweetpea likes them for her birthday, too!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Busy Cuttin'

This past May, I was wishing and hoping to get a Silhouette SD e-cutter for Mother's Day.  I decided to take matters into my own hands and ordered one for myself (hubby and the kids wrapped it up for me).  I've finally had some time to sit and play around with the thing.  And all I can say is that I'M IN LOVE!  This things cuts like a hot knife through butta, baby!  My favorite feature so far is the Trace tool in Silhouette Studio.  There is a good tutorial here on using it.  I just mess with the settings, click trace, and see what happens.  If I don't like it, I just click the back-arrow and try again.  I also use the eraser and the edit-points tool to finesse the design.

Here is a card that I made for the Principal at the kids' school, to say thanks for coaching the track team:

I searched for runner silhouettes and clip-art images and found this guy.  I saved the image as a jpg, and then imported it to the Silhouette Studio software.  I used the trace tool to make an image that the machine would be able to cut.  I used the free-drawing tool to make the finish-line ribbon.  I also cut the frame and text (Brush Script MT). 

I used pumpkin stencils that I found online to create some Star Wars art for SugarBear's room.  I used the same technique as I did for the card above.  

I found this Darth Vader stencil here.  I cut the image onto white cardstock and mounted it onto black using a spray adhesive.  I ran the mask pieces through a Xyron sticker maker and used a glue stick for the tiniest bits.  I used the left-over white Vader outline to help me place the mask details. 

Here is Chewbacca, from this stencil:

This one was easy.  I cut it out of white card stock and adhered it to bown cardstock.  No little pieces.

I can see many hours of the day being lost to this seductive little machine.  Hopefully someone else will learn how to use a vacuum around here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cancer Sucks

I have a  new friend who is super cute and sweet.  He is four-years old and is the apple of his parents' eyes.  His name is Michael, and he was recently diagnosed with leukemia. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area on Wednesday, June 15th, and would like to donate blood or blood platelets to help out Mikey Doodle, here is the info for a blood drive being held in his honor:

If you can't be in LA to donate, please consider keeping this little fighter in your prayers.  Or find out how you can donate for other little guys and gals like Mikey.  Many thanks from the bottom of my heart! 

Friday, June 10, 2011

School's Out for Summer!

For the first time in a long time, I have no place to be and nothing that needs doing on a deadline.  I thought this would be the perfect time to attend to my sad, little blog that has been suffering from a severe case of neglect.  I must say that I am truly in awe (and very much jealous of) those bloggers that put up daily posts with full, step-by-step instructions of their own, unique projects, accompanied by professional-level photography.  Maybe one day I'll get there, but for now, I have to remind myself that I blog solely as a place to keep track of what I've made and to share that info with the one or two people out there who find it interesting.  Of course, that doesn't work out too well if I don't post, so here goes:

Sweetpea graduated from 5th grade today.  They don't call it Graduation these days, instead it's Promotion.  A rose by any other name, right?  Last year, I saw that some of the 5th grade graduates (promotites?) had received cool leis made out of candy and money.  I filed that idea away in the ol' noggin (not sure how I retrieved it) and pulled it out this year to make gifts for my daughter and her best friend.

Here are the supplies I used:
Salt-water taffy (Trader Joe's has bags of it in pink/white hues)
Small, clear rubberbands (the kind used for braiding; I got mine at Sally's Beauty Supply)
Small piece of clear, stretchy cord
Pipe cleaners
Small amount of narrow ribbon
Moola, dinero, greenbacks, etc...

To Make:
1.  Arrange 25-26 pieces of salt-water taffy in a pleasing order.  Take two pieces and overlap the twisted part of the wrappers together.  Secure with a rubber band.  Keep adding taffy until you have a long strand of candy.  Use the clear cord (or string or yarn or whatnot) to tie the ends together.

2.  Fan-fold your money lengthwise (short end will meet other short end).  Secure it in the middle with a clear rubberband.

3.  Hold a piece of ribbon (or string or yarn or whatnot) alongside the folded money.  Fold a pipe-cleaner in half and twist it around the money/ribbon.  Curl the ends of the pipe-cleaner around a pencil or knitting needle (or a chopstick or a skewer or whatnot) and trim the ends to your desired length.

4.  Fan out the money and use the ribbon to tie it randomly to the candy lei.

Like I said above, one of these days I'll make one of those fancy-dancy step-by-step tutorials with photos.  For now, this is the best I've got.  I hope you like it anyways.  The graduate/ promotite/future middle schooler liked it............for about 2 minutes, until she decided it was too itchy.  Her best friend kept hers on all afternoon.

At least she kept it on long enough for me to snap a picture.