Valentines Treats

I  can’t believe it but  here we are  two full weeks away from valentines day and I have actually  finished the valentines for  my oldest two girls classes. Seriously.  If  you knew  me  you would know that I am usually finishing these things at 11:00 the  night before they need to be there.  But  for whatever reason I actually finished them early  and I love the way they turned out.

This was a super easy food craft to make and it  was a lot of fun for my girls  to help with. From making the bark to packaging it up they  were very hands on. Which was great because they  like to be hands on. Which is sometimes hard for me  because I want things to look perfect but that’s a post for another day.

The process to make the bark was very easy.  For 45 kids I used about 3 lbs  of melting wafers. Half white chocolate and half milk chocolate, conversation hearts and colored sprinkles of your choice.  Over low heat we  melted the white chocolate wafers and poured them onto a large clean cookie sheet. We did the same with the milk  chocolate wafers and poured them over the white chocolate before it set.  Before the milk chocolate sets sprinkle the conversation hearts on  and then  your sprinkles.

This is what you’ll have:

A yummy chocolatey tray of Valentines treats.  Now for the fun part. Break it up. Snap it into evenly sized pieces. You will want to make sure that you have a few extra pieces left for  testing.  Quality control is very important.

At our local dollar store we found  packages of forty  valentines themed cellophane bags for a dollar, the perfect price for us, and packaged them up.

I had been looking on pinterest for some  valentines printables and found these and these (I don’t know if I will ever get through another post without mentioning pinterest).   Printed them out and they were a perfect fit.

What are you doing for Valentines Day? Do  you have anything special planned for your kids?

Apple Quinoa Muffins

I know I have been  doing a lot of  posts about baking lately and I  will be getting back to crafting soon.  I  actually  have a  couple of really cute Valentines crafts coming up in the next couple weeks.  But for now we are on a  baking  spree.

Each Sunday I  try  to  get some baking done  so my  girls have some nutritious nibbles for their lunches.  I  have 2  school aged children and two little ones  at home so whatever I  make I  have to make a lot of. It needs to be  low sugar, because I am on a mission to  minimize the amount of  sugar my kids consume.  It  has to  be healthy.    It has to be baby friendly because I am doing  baby led weaning with my 9 month old, and it has to be tasty because I have two very  picky  children.

Recently I have been  using  quinoa in a lot of  my  baking and cooking  because it is a fantastic grain that has a ton  of health benefits and is a complete protein on it’s own.

A while ago I made  a pumpkin  quinoa  muffin that was really good.  I  figure  since I am on an apple  kick these days that I would  change things up a  bit  and play with the recipe.

After a  couple of attempts, I came up  with a version that I am pretty happy with. If your kids are  picky  about textures you can blend the cooked quinoa with the milk in the recipe and it will produce a smoother texture in the  muffin. This is what I have to do for my oldest two.

Apple Quinoa Muffins                                                                                                                           

2 cups cooked Quinoa

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you could use half whole wheat if you like)

1 Tbs cinnamon

2 medium grated apples

2  eggs

½ cup agave syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 pinch of salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Yeilds 12 Large muffins or 18 medium sized muffins

I use silicone muffin cups, which are fantastic, but if you don’t have those grease a  muffin tin.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together the milk, oil, quinoa, vanilla, and egg.  Stir in the grated apples.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened, and portion out the batter.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the top of the muffin springs back when you touch it.

This makes a great addition to school lunches.  Because they are loaded with protein  they fill up little stomachs and  give a great boost of energy.

What are some of your favorite things to put in lunches?

Caramel Apple Cake

I have a beautiful little 2 year old who loves to bake.  So much so that she will often go to her kitchen with a collection of goodies  she has scooped from my kitchen.  Sometimes  I go to the microwave and find that she  has put a collection of things there too (I am so grateful that  she  doesn’t know how to turn it on yet!). So when little Miss  asks to bake I do try to accommodate her.  It also helps when it’s my turn to  bring treats for my ladies group. Quite frankly any excuse to bake and I usually take  it.  I love to get in my kitchen and create.  This is what I  came up with.

I was on Pinterest the other day and saw this:

Now I am  betting  that it tastes even better than it looks but this is not the  kind  of thing that  I  have the time to throw  together  on the average day.   So I  decided to try something a little more low key.  Now   I will admit my cake  is a lot  less fancy looking  but it is huge on flavor.  Yumm-o!

Here’s my recipe:

Caramel Apple Cake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a  9×13 inch pan and set aside.

Cake:

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon  salt

1 ½  teaspoons cinnamon

4 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable  oil

½ cup butter

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups finely chopped apples

Caramel Glaze:

1 1/2 cups  packed   brown sugar (I prefer light brown sugar because it adds to the caramel flavor)

1/3 cup  butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup  cream

1 cup  finely chopped pecans (optional, and very tasty)

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl . In a large bowl, mix the oil, butter and sugar, add the eggs and  vanilla and beat well.Stir in the dry ingredients until just moistened. Add in the apples and stir until coated.

If you like smaller apple chunks  you can definitely  make yours smaller than I did,  you could actually  grate them up if you don’t like  bigger pieces.

Pour the  batter into prepared pan and bake for  about 50  minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  With a skewer poke  holes  all over the  top of  the cake, the more the better.  This will allow the caramel to  soak into the  cake adding pockets of caramel goodness

Combine all the caramel glaze ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over  medium  heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens up, about 5 minutes, it  should come to a soft boil.  When  it  reaches this point  pour the caramel over the hot from  the oven cake.

I used a  pastry brush to  spread the caramel over the  top and to stop the glaze from  pooling around the sides.

One of the great things  about the  glaze is that when it sets it  leaves a  slightly crunchy texture on top.  It makes a  really nice contrast to the moist crumb of the cake and the soft apple pieces.

 

If you give this  a try I would love to hear what you think.  Thanks for stopping by!

Coffee Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

It  snowed yesterday.  A lot.  Well, a lot for Victoria.   Victoria  is  not a  city  known for snow and when  it  does snow more than a  couple centimeters the whole city shuts down.  When I woke up   to almost 10 centimeters  I knew that we are housebound for the day.

My  girls played outside, my husband stayed home from work  and I  played around in the kitchen.  I  love it when we have days at home and I can get creative. I  wanted to try  something  a little different  for me and since I was already missing my  Tim Hortons coffee which I was clearly  not going to  get,  I decided to  try and concoct a  coffee flavoured treat.  I am  really  happy with the way this turned out.

I think the  flavor of the coffee and  the chocolate chips  compliment each other nicely.  The coffee flavor really pops especially because this is not an overly sweet  bread to begin with.

Here’s the recipe:

3 cups Grated zucchini (about 5 small zucchini)

1 cup Organic Cane sugar (if  you don’t have this on hand you can use 1/ 2 cup of                  white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar for a  similar flavor)

2/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp pure vanilla

4 eggs

3 cups flour ( you can  use half whole wheat flour if you have it and the coffee will mask the flavor)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp cinnamon

4 Tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 2 Tbsp or warm water

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Combine the  zucchini, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the coffee granules and add them into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together your dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.  Add  however many you like. About a  cup is quite generous. And that`s coming from a chocolate lover.

This recipe makes one REALLY large loaf or  two small loaves.  It  lends itself really nicely to muffins as well.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Until a  toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool and enjoy. It`s a perfect treat for a cold day.

What do you like to  do  when the  weather keeps you at home

A Rainbow Fairy Party!

My sweet Sammy girl turned 6 a couple weeks ago, holy is time ever flying by! Sammy is about the most girly tomboy you will ever meet. She loves dresses and dirt, sparkles and mud. So when her birthday rolls around I am always curious to see what theme she will pick for her birthday. This year it was girly! Hurray for me!

She settled on a  rainbow fairy  theme which  was  great because I  had  been  pinning a  ton   of rainbow ideas on Pinterest.   Incorporating   fairies  seemed  to be  the tricky part  until  I  stumbled across the Rainbow  magic  website.  They  have this lovely “create a  fairy” activity  so   we went to the  site  and Sam  spent  about an hour designing and printing  out  fairies (I spent a lot longer  cutting them out!).

For the  activities we  decorated fairy skirts, wands and  wings.

The skirts were super simple to make.  I tied a length of elastic in a circle and then had the girls tie strips of  different color tulle on it.  I found that tying on 4 or 5 pieces at a time on really helped speed things along and also made a fuller looking skirt.  The wings came from Michaels and we decorated them  with glitter,  glue, feathers, jewels and markers.

There are a ton of ideas on pinterest for rainbow parties so I  found some fun ideas  there for the food.

The  jello was easy.  We made the jello colors separately and  added a new color  when each layer in the cup had set. We made fairy popcorn (popcorn with jelly beans  sprinkled on top) and “Magic” punch.   The  week before the party I took the punch cups and put a couple drops of food coloring in the bottom of each one.  I did different colors in each one and allowed them to dry before the party.   The  punch was made of 7-up and white cranberry juice.  When  the  guests scooped the  white punch in their  cup it “magically” changed colors.

The  fairy wands were a big hit.  The  girls started  working on those in August and they  didn’t  turn out  quite as well as I   had  hoped they would.  They  were pretty skinny and  we decided after  using 12 pounds of sugar that we were  just going to leave them that way!

We also had Fairy Fruit

But the favorite  thing of the day was the cake.

I  used marshmallow  fondant to  make the rainbow on the top of the cake.  The inside…….

 A rainbow of course!  I was a  fun party.  The girls  had a blast and  the  birthday girl was thoroughly impressed.

National Cheesecake Day!

Did you know that National Cheesecake Day even existed?  I definitely did not but  what a  lovely excuse to make one!  Cheesecake is  my most favorite  dessert ever.  I  love everything about it and I  have yet to  meet a piece I didn’t like so I decided  I  was going to try one I had never made before.  Since blueberries are in season and one of my favorite activities to do with my girls is picking berries at the local U-pick farms,  I  decided  blueberry cheesecake  would be a  perfect choice.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

3 1/2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

Sauce:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 Tbs cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. For the crust, mix the first three ingredients. Firmly press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. I gave mine a  quick spray of Pam before putting the  crust in.  Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

3. To make the sauce, combine 2  cups blueberries and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Cool slightly. You will need to puree about half a cup of the sauce  for the filling.

4. Place cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Combine 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and salt. Add sugar mixture to cheese mixture; beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each one. Pour batter over prepared crust. Pour the 1/2 cup blueberry puree over batter; gently swirl with a knife.

                     You only need a few swirls otherwise  it will be over mixed.

Don’t the colors look gorgeous?

5. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; place cheesecake on a wire rack.  Cool to room temperature and cover and chill at least 8 hours (this is the hardest part for m!)  Remove sides of springform pan.

6.  When  your ready to serve, pour the  blueberry sauce over the top of the cheesecake or you can put it on top of the individual  slices,  either way works.

When you are  done this is what you get for all your effort:

  Happy Belated National Cheesecake Day!

Caramel Coconut Brownie Squares

It’s been a ho-hum kind of day.  Summer has arrived but the warm weather has not.  We have had a few sunny days but for the most part it’s been more cloudy skies and rain than sunshine.  So today we went to the library and then  came home and had a  jammie day.

When I get bored I often head to the kitchen in search of something new  to make to fill my time.    My hubby wanted something sweet and he always like it when I bake for him so we both win.  Today I came up with a twist on the seven layer bar.

It’s got everything a gal could want in a sugary treat.  Caramel, coconut, pecans, chocolate and  graham crackers.  I think you could even add in a  couple handfuls of crushed pretzels to  get a sweet/salty thing going on and it would be even better.

 

Caramel Coconut Brownie Squares

Crust:

2 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup of melted butter

1/2 cup ground pecans

Mix the  crumbs and melted butter  together and  press into a  9×13 pan lined with parchment paper.   Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Brownie Layer:

1 cup Melted butter

2 cups of white sugar

4 eggs

2/3 cup cocoa

1 cup flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp of salt

1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in a pan,  remove from heat and  stir in  sugar.   One by one blend in the eggs.   Add  all the dry ingredients and stir.  Pour onto the crust and  return to the oven  to bake for 30 minutes.

Caramel Layer:

I package of Kraft Caramels

1 can of condensed milk

1/4 cup butter

1 cup pecan pieces

2 cups coconut

1 cup of  broken pretzel pieces (optional)

In a  medium saucepan mix the condensed milk,  caramels and butter, over medium heat stir until  the caramel is melted and blended.  Stir in  the coconut, pecans and pretzels if you are using them.  Pour this mixture over the brownie layer  and spread.

Cool for several hours and then remove from the pan.  Cut and serve.

These bars are worth the effort.  They are dense, chocolatey, chewy and rich. My only word of advice is make sure  you have someone to share them with.  Maybe a few someones.

Vanilla Cupcakes

 

My oldest daughter is a vanilla girl.  Won’t touch “brown chocolate” except for the occasional  smartie.  She doesn’t even like frosting so when I make vanilla cupcakes they need to be good.  It needs to be all about the cupcake.  I have been playing around  with a  couple  of different recipes and came up with  this one.  It’s  the one.   Vanilla is a common flavor and is often not done very well, but vanilla done well can be fantastic.  I love frosting and  this cupcake is so  full of vanilla flavor that I was totally happy to just eat the cake part.   Of course  what is a  cupcake without the frosting?  So I frosted them and they were even better.

Vanilla Cupcakes

1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

3 tsp cornstarch

1/2 cup of milk

1/2  of one vanilla bean

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 salt

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.  When well mixed add the eggs one at a time and mix.  Add the vanilla and set aside.

2. Slice the vanilla bean down the center and scrape the seeds out.  put the seeds and the pod in the  milk and heat on the stove over medium.  When the milk has been  simmering  for a  few minutes remove from heat.  Take  the vanilla pod out and cool.

3.  In a  bowl mix the dry ingredients together.

4. Add half the flour mixture to the  butter/sugar/egg mix.  Stir in the milk and then add the rest of  flour mix.

5. Bake at 350 degrees  for 16 minutes,  don’t over bake them or they will be dry.

6. Cool and frost with your favorite frosting recipe.

 

Rice Krispie Lollipops

One of my favorite ways to spent my time is in the kitchen baking for my family. I love it. When I had my first daughter I knew that she was going to be my baking buddy, so whenever possible I try to include her in what I am doing in there.  She loves it.

We like to take goodies to school for holidays and celebrations, and because tomorrow is the last day of school she wanted to do something really special for the kids in her class.  This is what we came up with.

I had seen a picture of something similar to this in my online travels and decided it would be a fun project to try.

Here’s how we did it.

12 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
600 grams Marshmallows (about 90)

Chocolate and vanilla melting wafers  (about 1 lb each)

Rainbow Sprinkles

 

Melt the butter in a large pot and add the marshmallows. when the marshmallows are melted stir in your vanilla. Add the rice krispies and stir until they are well coated. Pour the mixture into a greased 9×9 pan. Pack it in there really well. I actually built the squares so they were about an inch above the top of the pan.

Next you place your lollipop sticks in the squares. If you like perfection you can make a 9×9 grid on paper and mark where you would like the sticks to go then place the paper over the pan and insert them.  If you are me then you just eyeball it and end up with a mostly even result.

Press the rice krispie mixture very firmly down around the base of the lollipop sticks while they are still warm. The firmer the better because when the mixture cools you want those sticks to hold the square in place.

When the squares are cooled remove the whole 9×9 square and cut into pieces. I cut five rows of five from one pan.

For the decorations we used white and chocolate melting wafers and two different kinds of sprinkles. Melt the wafers in separate bowls. Place your sprinkles in bowls too.

Dip the lollipops one at a time in the chocolate (being sure to shake off the excess) and then into the sprinkles. Place on a sheet of wax paper until dry. Then wrap and enjoy.

Easy peasy.

I wanted to add a tag to the lollipops and I found these little owl tags which were perfect.

I have already thought of about 15 variations that I am going to try down the road but for now I’m done.  I hear my girls calling and I hate to disappoint them!

My Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream cheese frosting is definitely one of my favorites.  I love the sweetness and the tang of it.  I also love how versatile it is.  I use it for cinnamon buns,  carrot cake, a bunch of cupcake flavors, cookies, doughnut filling and more.  Best of all it’s easy to make.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup cream cheese

1/2 cup butter

2 tbsp milk

4 cups powdered sugar

Mix the cream cheese, butter and milk together.  Gradually add the powdered sugar.  When the sugar is mixed in beat it on high for about 5 minutes until fluffy.

If you are going to just spread it that’s all.  If you would like to pipe it then  putting it in the fridge for about an hour  prior to use will make it much easier to work with.

If you would like to use it for cinnamon buns reduce the milk  powdered sugar by half.  This gives it a nice consistency  when you put it on the warm buns.

Depending on what I am using the frosting for I will add flavorings (vanilla, Lemon zest, Orange zest, Kahlua). One day I will tackle Italian butter cream,  marshmallow frosting and fondant too, but for now I will stick to my cream cheese frosting.