Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Joy of a {Cup}Cake!

Wonderful article on Martha Stewart Weddings about cupcakes! I know they're becoming a bit over done, but I love them just the same. Read all about the wonderful designs, score a few new recipes and display tips here. I'm going to try the first ones this weekend. I'm pretty good with the meringue. The rosettes might be a bit of a challenge but I am sooo addicted to them right now.

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love, love, LOVE these! Here they are at Paper Source (one of my FAVORITE paper stores on the planet!). Perfect for any party (including a Tiki BBQ). Check out the website or the blog for great ideas for a myriad of occasions!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

{Etsy Sweets}

I have found a brilliant new shop! I love to make cupcakes. I do. I can't help it. They're whimsical, fun and oh, so lovely! Let me tell you about Layer Cake Shop in Chicago! Their etsy shop is literally where I intend to spend the bulk of my next check..... The most exciting thing (I think) is that everything is so unbelievably affordable. It's really encouraging that these crafty ladies have created a place for amateur and expert bakers alike. Their shop is inviting, stylish and oh so much fun to look at. I feel so lucky that I've found them. I just wish it had been sooner. My kitchen {not to mention my wallet} would be much better off. But enough of my blathering. Hows about I let the product speak for itself, hmmm?....

1. The Happy Hula Cupcake Kit. Um, hello? This is about the cutest darn thing I have ever seen. Chock full o' surprises, this kit has 67 items, including 24 cupcake toppers (a mixture of hula dancers, palm trees, hula musicians and more), 24 cake liners, sugars, sprinkles and bakery labels. All this fun for only, get this $12.00! You're practically stealing this! Go here for full details. You can also check out this dynamic duo at their website.(here you can find the cutest freaking cookie cutters ever)

2. Plastic Rose Cupcake Toppers. For a paltry $3.50 you get a set of 12 1.75 x .75 inch cupcake picks. $3.50?! You heard right folks. I couldn't believe it either. You'll find them in yellow, red, pink and blue.
3. Blue Swirl Cupcake Liners. These might be my favorite thing in the shop. I am constantly in search of decorative cupcake liners. I think the right ones can put the finishing touch on any batch of cupcakes. I also tend to be all about the details. I love showing my guests I've gone the extra mile and put some of my self into what I'm creating. These liners are standard cupcake size and come in a variety of color combinations. A stack of 45 will cost you $5.50 (plus shipping, of course).
4. Pink Decorative Sanding Sugar. I love love LOVE this. Sanding Sugar doesn't melt in the heat so feel free to add a little sparkle before or after baking. This 4 ounce package will brighten multiple batches of cookies or cupcakes and will cost you a mere $2.00. Available in a wide variety of fabulous colors.
5. Vintage Car Cupcake Toppers. So cute! They come in a set of four and each car measures approximately 2.5" in length. Perfect for lots of events. I saw these and my gears started turning. Oh, my what I could do with these! $3.25 for the set.
Once again, this is just the tip of the iceberg from the brilliant Layer Cake Shop located in Chicago. Do yourself a favor and get to either their etsy shop or brand new website tout de suite!
Photo credit: All photos are property of Layer Cake Shop. Please, be a button and don't steal!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Kitty Culprit

Look at this face. See how adorable? How sweet?

Well. Don't be fooled. This is the face of a destruction hurricane. A naughty tornado, if you will.

This is the face of a four legged paper shredder. And a camera moistener. This tiny creature single-handedly created a lake on my antique coffee table (ice cubes in glasses are her Kryptonite). Of course this must have been after she got a hold of my invitations and reduced them to confetti.

I will rebuild the how-to for your enjoyment tomorrow....

The camera is fine...

This is the face of a kitty who's grounded.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Grilling Me Softly Part Three: Broquets of Wisdom

Hello Everyone! Welcome to the final installment of Grilling Me Softly.

Summer to me means one thing. Cookouts. But, the perfect cookout can be elusive. From marinade to plate, grilling can be tough. So I decided to talk to the best darn griller I know this side of the Mason-Dixon line. My Dad. I asked him to share his top ten grilling secrets with us in hopes that we all can enjoy the perfect cookout.

Here's what he had to say:

1. Coat racks with Pam or vegetable oil if you are using a gas grill. Make sure the racks are clean. If you have a gas grill, put foil under the burners to catch most of the grease and grime. Get beer.
2. If cooking vegetables and meats, plan the cooking so that everything is done together. Let meat warm up to room temperature for about 30-45 minutes before cooking. Marinade your meat ahead of time. Using cedar planks, or mesquite, hickory or fruitwood chips adds a unique flavor.
3. Preheat the grill appropriately for whatever you are cooking. If you are using charcoal, make sure that the coals are all evenly heated. Barbecuing is slower (200 - 250 degrees) than grilling. Cooking slow works best in both situations. Different types of meat and different thicknesses require different cooking times. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. Use the center of the meat for the most accurate reading. Leaner cuts of meat have more flavor, but get tough if cooked past medium.The sirloin, New York, round and flank fit this description. The most marbled cut is a rib eye, which comes from the same piece of meat as prime rib. it remains a good steak even when well done. Tenderloin is the most tender, but not necessarily the most flavorful. Always use tongs; don't stab the meat. (We Nebraskans know our beef. Go Big Red!)
4. Be patient. Pay attention to the food without being overly fussy. Do not keep turning the meat over and over again. Get more beer.
5. Skewers work great for grilling vegetables such as zucchini or squash. Kabobs are usually cut into chunks a little over an inch thick and need about 12 minutes while turning often
6. Asparagus, corn on the cob or potato chunks do really well in foil. (Throw in a little rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Sprinkle with a little EVOO and you've got yourself some flavor!)
7. When cooking peppers, cook them slowly and watch that they don't burn.
8. Make sure fish is fresh. Always thaw frozen fish overnight in the refrigerator. Small whole fish will need about 7 minutes on each side. Large whole fish need about 15 minutes on each side. Salmon fillets will need about 6-8 minutes per side. Trout fillets may only need 4 minutes per side. Cook fish on an oiled grill skin side down for the first part of the cooking time, to keep it from burning and drying out. (As you know, fresh fish should not smell "fishy" at all. If it does, walk away. I try to purchase and grill my fresh fish in the same day. This will ensure freshness and flavor.)
9. Turn off the grill.
10. Get more beer and enjoy! (This one is The Hubbs' favorite! For me, a white wine spritzer will do perfectly.)

Well, there you have it. Straight from the Husker's mouth. Now get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather! Thanks Dad!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Grilling Me Softly: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of Grilling Me Softly. If you'll remember, I'm giving up some of my favorite recipes in the name of the upcoming holiday. So lets get started....

Side Dishes

Corn on the Cob Ala My Mom in Nebraska

You'll Need:
1-2 Fresh Corn Cob per person
Cracked Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil

1. Grease grill grates and start grill and set to medium high heat.

2. Divide aluminum foil into rectangles slightly larger in size than the corn. Place corn in foil. Season with olive oil, rosemary, black pepper, sea salt and rosemary to taste.

3. Wrap foil around corn cobs, twist ends and place on grill. Turn occasionally to avoid overcooking. Grill about 10 minutes. Unwrap, arrange on platter and serve.

Summer Tomato Salad

You'll Need

1/4c white wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped, chile pepper (serrano, thai, or jalapeno)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
4-6 large tomatoes of varying colors
1c thinly sliced yellow onion

1. In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, salt and green chile. Toss with with onion and set aside for 5 minutes in order for the flavors to blend. Add tomatoes and combine thoroughly. Set aside 15 minutes before serving.


Drunken Angel Fruit Salad

You'll Need:

1c diced: pineapple, mango, papaya
1c sliced: strawberries, mandarin oranges, banana
1c. whole: raspberries, blueberries
1c. sugar (or 1/2c Splenda)
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Spiced Rum to taste (for me, 3 tbsp.)

1. Combine fruit in large serving bowl. Add sugar and rum to fruit and combine thoroughly. Set aside in fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Chocolate Honey-Pies

You'll Need

3/4c all purpose flour
1/4c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (sadly, I never use butter, only margarine for me...)
2/3c sugar
1 large egg (I substitute 2 egg whites)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 pint strawberry ice cream, slightly softened

1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a electric mixer, mix sugar and butter until light. Add egg and vanilla until evenly mixed. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Mix in chocolate chips by hand.

3. Spoon dough onto baking sheets, be sure to space them far apart. Spread dough out into rounds. Bake, switching sheets from bottom to top halfway through. Edges of the rounds should be firm, not hard (about 15-20 minutes). Transfer to racks to cool completely.

4. Assemble sandwiches: Spoon some ice cream onto the flat side of half the rounds. Cover with the remaining rounds. Press gently to form the sandwich. Freeze until firm, approximately 1-2 hours.

Drinks....(everyone's favorite course, I think)

Rum Punch

You'll Need:

1 1/2c light rum
3c orange juice
3c pineapple juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbsp cranberry juice
2 tbsp grenadine
ice cubes
lime, sliced for garnish

1. In a large pitcher combine rum with the juices and grenadine. Stir until well thoroughly blended. Divide mixture between ice filled glasses. Garnish lime and serve.

Classic Limeade

You'll Need:

3 cups freshly squeezed lime juiced (about 25 limes)
2 cups superfine sugar
4 cups cold water
4 cups ice cubes
2 limes sliced for garnish

1. Into large pitcher, strain citrus juice, mix with the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the water and stir again until combined (I suggest testing a spoonful, you may need more sweetener). Add ice to fill and a few lime slices.

Well, there you have it! My favorite summer menu! I hope you can enjoy the recipes I shared with you all.

Have a festive and SAFE holiday weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grilling Me Softly

Well, the holiday weekend is nearly upon us and what better way to celebrate than with a BBQ? I love throwing summertime parties but unfortunately, this year time is working against us. With our honeymoon rapidly approaching, The Hubbs and I just don't have a ton of extra money to spend on a big, Independence Day party. Boo.

Instead, to quench my insatiable thirst for grilling and all its trappings, I've decided to include some of my favorite cookout recipes. If I can't use them, I might as well share. Enjoy!

Starters....or Appi-teasers if you like cutesy a play on words like I do!


You'll Need:

1/4c. chopped scallions (if the scallions in your area are questionable, you can substitute green onions)
2 tsp. sodium-free soy sauce (the hard stuff is fine, I just usually err on the side of health)
2 1/2 tsp. grated, peeled ginger (you can use the packaged ginger if you wish...)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c teriyaki marinade (the thicker the better)
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (feel free to omit this if you like, I really don't like the added oil)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1 1/2 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey (my favorite!)
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
one egg white

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, scallions, ginger, oil, garlic, and pepper. Whisk until properly blended. Add meat and mix with your hands until combined. Shape into approx 30 1 1/2" balls (I use a large melon baller to guarantee uniform size)

3. Spray a large skillet, wok or, meatball grill basket. Add half the meatballs and saute approx 5 minutes, or until evenly browned on all sides. Brown remaining meatballs.

4. Arrange meatballs evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the teriyaki sauce. Bake 20 minutes or until cooked through and evenly glazed.

5. Insert toothpicks, garnish with sesame seeds and arrange artfully on the platter of your choice.

Spinach Artichoke Dip (perhaps my signature starter)
Disclaimer: I have enormous issues with food and calories, but mostly fats. Namely, saturated fats. If you know me, you know that. I like, nay LOVE being the hostess with a variety of diet conscious food options at her parties. I can't help it, I'm down with the sickness, so they say. That said, this recipe is printed the way I make it, substitutions and all. If you don't go in for this sort of thing, feel free to substitute my substitutions! "Viva la resistance!"

You'll need:
2 8oz blocks of fat free or 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
1 pint fat free sour cream
2 6 oz. jars artichoke hearts, drained and chopped ( or 1 14oz. can, but jars taste better to me)
1 cup reduced fat Mozzarella cheese
1 cup reduced fat Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP fat-free plain yogurt (most recipes call for mayo, but I cannot STAND it; feel free to omit this entirely)
1 box frozen spinach, chopped, thawed and drained (make sure you don't buy the kind with the stems in it-a disaster will surely ensue)
1 large onion, finely chopped and sauteed
3 TBSP minced, roasted garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
pita wedges, crudites or crostini for serving
paprika for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream. Fold cheese mixture until smooth. Add Parmesan cheese and fold. Once mixed, fold in artichokes, spinach and onions until blended.

3. Add garlic, salt and pepper (to taste). Spread mixture into a lightly greased 9" glass pie plate. Spread mozzarella cheese on top and sprinkle with paprika for some color. Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated evenly. Serve with pita wedges or crudites.

Grilled Scallop Kabobs and Seasoned Potato Wedges
You'll Need
2 lbs large sea scallops
cayenne pepper
sweet potatoes, boiled (I usually figure 1 potato per person)
1 cup of your favorite glaze (my fave? Chile lime glaze, usually a crowd favorite. I make my own, but you can find it in any grocery store)
10" bamboo skewers
aluminum foil

1. Prepare your grill for direct grilling on high heat. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and slide onto skewers. Slice boiled sweet potatoes into 1 1/2" wedges.

2. Place potatoes on half of grill brush with oil. Place scallops on the other half and brush with glaze. Turn potatoes occasionally until grill marks form and knife pierces with a little resistance (about 8 minutes). Cook scallops until grill marks form (about 3-4 minutes per side). Remove potatoes from heat, season with salt and pepper (use cayenne sparingly for extra kick) and serve. Remove scallops from heat, brush again with glaze and serve.

That's a lot of information! Tune in tomorrow for part two: Sides, Desserts, and Drinks. Yum!
You're probably wondering, "What, What?! No meat recipes?". Well, maybe tomorrow. I wanted you all to have something a bit different.

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma