Saturday, May 25, 2013

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups

I made these yummy fruit salads for a brunch recently, and they were a big hit.  The original recipe called for putting them in aluminum muffin liners, but I like the look of these 9 ounce clear Solo cups.  These fruit cups are so versatile--you could serve them at a baby shower or a backyard barbeque.  Best of all, you can make them up to several days in advance!  You can use any combination of fruit you like.  I chose to use strawberries, mandarin oranges, and bananas, but you could use blueberries, pineapple, and even add some chopped nuts.  

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups (Adapted from Taste of Home recipe found here)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I use light)
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
1 1/2 cups strawberries, cut into small pieces
11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 - 2 bananas, cut into small pieces (These will brown after a couple of days in the freezer, so you may want to sprinkle some Fruit Fresh on them if you are planning on them lasting longer than that.)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well mixed.  Fold in Cool Whip until combined, then gently fold in the fruit.  Spoon into cups or muffin liners. (I used a large cookie scoop to do the job.)  Place in freezer.  Be sure to take them out of the freezer about ten minutes before you are ready to serve them.

I put the cups on a 15 by 10 inch jelly roll pan and covered in Press N Seal before putting them in the freezer.

Yield:  15 servings

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

My sister-in-law, Joni, had just finished making this in her food processor when I stopped by the other day.  She let me have a sample, and I just had to have the recipe!  And, yes, there is cauliflower in it.  Before you get too turned off by this fact, just look at the beautiful color of this hummus. I would be willing to paint a room in my house this color if we could get a good match.  Anyway, I mixed up a batch of Roasted Red Pepper Hummus this morning, and it is so good!  I had to cut up some peppers to eat some for  my morning snack!  I'm not sure if I'm going to get my husband (not a cauliflower fan!) to try this, but we'll see.  I guess that just means more for me!  I hope you enjoy this delicious and healthy recipe.  Let me know if you try it, especially if you experiment with modifying the spices!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 large head cauliflower, steamed
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
Roasted red peppers (from a jar)  I just scooped some out.  I probably used the equivalent of at least 1/2 of a pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I just used the stuff in the jar)
1 teaspoon cumin
heaping 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Place cauliflower in food processor and process until smooth.  Then add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Store tightly covered in refrigerator.  Serve with your favorite veggies or crackers.  I'm also planning to try this slathered on my next grilled chicken sandwich.  The possibilities are endless, so enjoy!
Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Tips on Decorating Cakes

Happy Mother's Day!  Mother's Day is a bittersweet day for me.  I love the homemade cards from my kids and the big hugs and kisses, but there is an emptiness there as well.  My mom passed away a little over 13 years ago after a battle with cancer.  With time, God has healed much of my grief, but I will always miss her.  And Mother's Day is one of the days of the year that I miss her the most.

My mom was the sort of lady who could do just about anything.  She could fix a tractor or supper in 30 minutes or less.  She was very pretty, but she never worried much about wearing make-up or having to look "just right."  Most of all, she was the one I went to when I needed help with a problem.  She always seemed to know just what to do. 

"What," you may ask, "Does this have to do with decorating cakes?"  Well, my mom would always decorate a cake for my brother and me for our birthdays.  I remember watching her squeeze little frosting stars out onto the cake for what seemed like hours.  It always made me feel special.  So, I have kept the cake decorating tradition going with my children.

I am by no means an expert, but I have now decorated over twenty birthday cakes.  I have used special cake pans, carved cakes, and even dipped cake pops.  I have a great time with it, and over the years I have developed some strategies and tips to make cake decorating as easy, quick, and fun as possible.  So, I wanted to share them with you.

Megan's Tips on Cake Decorating

1.  Give yourself plenty of time.  Take however long you think it will take you to make this thing and double it.  I'm serious. I also like to plan to have the cake decorated and done the day before the party.  Then I'm able to relax and not worry about last-minute decorating.

2.  Double check and make sure that you have all of the supplies that you need before you get started.  I hate it when I am ready to color my frosting, and I'm almost out of the food coloring that I need!  Luckily, my mother-in-law is just up the road and usually has the color I need!

3.  Start in advance.  I like to bake the cake one day and pop it in the freezer.  Then I make and color my frostings the next day.  On the following day, I decorate the cake.

4.  Always freeze your cakes.  The frosting goes on with much more easily.  Also, if you have any carving to do, it's much better to work with a frozen cake than a spongy, mushy one. 

5.  The fewer the colors of frosting, the better.  The above combine cake for Evan had four:  black, green, yellow, and gray.  That was plenty to deal with.  I remember decorating a Dora the Explorer cake for Maddie's fourth birthday party.  There were something like eight different colors of frosting.  More frosing colors means more time.  Period.  You can make a lot of great cakes with just a few frosting colors.  One of my favorites was a bumble bee that I made for Anna's second birthday; it only used black and yellow frosting.  (The wings were made with melted almond bark.)  See here for instructions on how to make this cake. 


6.  Get some disposable cake decorating bags.  I know that it's more expensive, but clean-up is so much easier.  I used to dread washing out my non-disposable bags.  Now I just cut out the coupler with a scissors and throw the bag and extra frosting away!  And, with a package of 24 - 50, you will know that you have plenty of bags should you decide to go for a 9-different-colors-of-frosting cake.  It's no fun to wash out a bag in order to put a different color of frosting in it only to discover you forgot to decorate a particularly-important area with the previous color!  Anyway, you can buy disposable bags at Walmart or find them here

7.  Buy lots of decorating tips.  I use #3 and #16 the most often, and I probably have 6 of each.  They are not very expensive at Walmart, and it's worth it not to have to keep washing out your tips in between colors.  Also, I invariably need a color again (as I talked about previously) and end up having to repeat the process!

8.  To clean your tips, hold them with the large side up under hot running water and push out as much frosting as possible with your finger.  Place them in a small dish and cover them with water.  Add a hefty dose of Dawn dishsoap and allow to soak for at least a day.  Then remove and rinse well with warm water.

9.  Know your limits!  I have five children now.  I don't have the time to spend on cakes that I once did.  This was Anna's cake that I made recently for her fifth birthday party.  It only took me about an hour, and she loved it!

Conversely, this is the cake I chose to make for Lyla's first birthday.

Granted, it was cool.  But, it took me about 4 hours to decorate. (Of course, I thought it would only take me two!)  I got stressed out, and no one has a good time at our house when Mommy is stressed!  If I had it to do over, I would have just done the cupcakes.  That being said, if you want to tackle this one, you can find the instructions here.

10.  If you want to add some words, write them on your cake board.  Then, if you mess up, you can simply wipe them off and begin again.  If you must put your message on the cake, write it in the frosting with a toothpick first anf the pipe your frosting on top of your lines. 

11.  To make an easy, inexpensive cake board, cut a rectangle out of a large, sturdy cardboard box.  (I used a one.)  Then just cover it with foil.  I find it helpful to tape the foil in place underneath.

12.  Finally, remind yourself that this is a cake that people will eat.  It does not have to be perfect.  As I was decorating the farm cake, I remember using a tweezers to remove a piece of coconut that had fallen from the chick cupcake onto my green grass. Your kids (and other guests) are not going to care if the frosting is not perfectly smooth (or if there is some coconut out of place!)  By the way, my one candle is backwards.  Did you notice that?

I remember how awesome my mom's cakes used to look.  When I look at pictures now, I can see that they weren't perfect, but that didn't matter.  What mattered was celebrating a special time together as a family!

Our sermon this morning was a great one--think of others more than yourself.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that these cakes are for my kids' enjoyment and not to show how perfectly I can decorate cakes (my pride can rear its ugly head so quickly!)

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others."
--Phillipians 2:3-4

I definitely need to keep this one in mind.  So often, the focus of my day starts to be me and what I want to do.  Then I get irritated by the endless interruptions of the day.  When I change my focus to what I can do for others, however, those interruptions are so much less irritating, even when I'm trying to get a cake decorated!

I hope this helps you with your next cake-decorating project!  Please leave me some pictures of your creations in the comment section.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Who doesn't love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate?  I came up with this recipe by combining my recipe for Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars and this one found here.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

For the Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1 cup Nestle Dark Chocolate Chips
For the Cheesecake:
2 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
1 cup sugar
2 egg
1/2 cups peanut butter
For the topping:
1/4 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and cream again. Sift together the baking soda, flour, and cocoa. Slowly add to the butter mixture until incorporated. Stir in the peanut butter chips and baking melts by hand. Press half the dough into the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and peanut butter and beat until smooth. Pour on top of the cookie dough.
  3. Press small pieces of cookie dough onto the top of the cream cheese layer. Continue until all the dough has been used and the cheesecake has been covered. Bake at 350* for 45-50  minutes or until browned and the center is almost set.  Remove and let cool completely. Cut into 24 bars.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and 1/2 teaspoon shortening. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir until melted and smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag that has one corner cut off. Drizzle over bars. Repeat with chocolate chips.  Store in refrigerator.
Looking for more peanut butter and chocolate combinations?  Try these:

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