Saturday, July 19, 2014

Homemade Caramel Sauce

This recipe takes me back.  When I was growing up, it was a special day when Grandma would make chocolate waffles.  We would eat them with vanilla ice cream drizzled with this caramel sauce.

Please note that this makes a very thin sauce.  If you want it thicker, double the cornstarch.

Here's the recipe:

1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt butter in heavy sauce pan.  Add brown sugar, then cornstarch and water mixture.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring often.  Remove from heat and add vanilla before serving.  Serve warm.

I let mine cool a bit and then put it in a plastic container and stored in the refrigerator.  The butter will separate upon refrigerating.  Simply warm it up in the microwave before serving.

Serve this over chocolate waffles and/or some homemade vanilla ice cream!

Looking for other ice cream toppings?  Check out this recipe for Super Simple Hot Fudge Sauce.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maddie's 10th and Grant's 2nd Birthday Party

We were excited to be done with harvest and able to celebrate Maddie's tenth and Grant's second birthday on July sixth (Maddie's actual birthday!)

I say this every year, but I can't believe how quickly time has flown and how much these two have grown!  With Maddie hitting double digits, I am starting to realize anew how important it is to enjoy every moment.

Maddie is into horses, so I wanted to make her a horse-themed cake.  I really like cupcakes because they are easy to serve.  For instructions on how to make this cake, see this post.

Grant loves Elmo (or "Mo-Mo," as he calls him), and I knew if would be easy to make Elmo cupcakes.  I simply used black decorator gel to make the mouths, then piped red stars on with a #16 Wilton tip to make the fur.  The nose is an orange pretzel M & M, and the eyes are candy eyes bought at Walmart .

One note:  I made these ahead of time and froze them.  When they thawed, the black on the eyes bled a little bit.  I used some black decorator gel over the top to cover up the blurred edges.  In the future I would add the eyes later to prevent this problem.

Anna helped Grant blow out his candle.

It took a little bit for Grant to get the hang of opening presents, but his cousin Abby was ready and willing to help!  We gave him his quilt, which I had finally finished the binding on (post to come later hopefully!).  He also received a large Tonka dump truck, wooden alphabet blocks, a Duplo lego zoo set, PJ's, and a wooden stacking puzzle.  He also received some birthday money which we will soon put to good use--I am wanting to put together some bins for him to use to stay occupied during school time!

Maddie received a Samurai sword, art supplies, a play horse stable set, the Jungle Book movie, and birthday money as well!  (She wants to use the money to buy a Samurai sword for Evan because she thinks he would like one, too!)

I couldn't get Grant to look up because he was too busy playing with his new favorite toy--a combine with Donald Duck to drive it!  Happy birthday, my dear boy!  You bring such light and life into this world.  I love your smile and the way you grab my hand to lead me outside when you want to go play.  I am excited to see you grow and change over the next year.   I love you so much!

Love,  Mom

Look at that smile!  Maddie, your heart for God and for others makes me so proud to be your Mom.  I enjoy seeing you work on projects and looking for ways to serve others.  You have a gift for seeing what others need or would like.  You are so generous and kind.  I look forward to seeing what this next year will bring for you.  I love you dearly!  Happy Birthday!

Love,  Mom
Saturday, July 12, 2014

Horse Cupcake Cake

My daughter Maddie just turned 10, and she really likes horses.  So, when I saw a picture of a cake like this on Pinterest, I knew that I wanted to make one for her birthday party.  I couldn't find any tutorials online for how much frosting to make, etc., so I thought I would post how I did it.

It was a pretty easy cake.  Maddie and I baked the cupcakes and had it frosted in an afternoon!

You will need:

26 cupcakes (see my recipe below or use your favorite!)
2 recipes this chocolate frosting
1 recipe this buttercream frosting (you will have extra left over)
Cake board (I use a piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil)
Wilton 1 M cupcake frosting tip
Frosting bags (Use disposable--you will thank me later at clean up time!)
Wilton size 3 tip or larger

What to do:

1.  Bake your cupcakes.  I used this recipe from pinterest for modifying a white cake mix.  I used a Funfetti cake mix.

To a white cake mix add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 large egg whites and 1 cup sour cream.  Bake at 325 degrees approximately 18 minutes.

This made a really moist, dense cake.  I really liked it!

I used bandana-pattern cupcake liners (found at the General Store in Sharon Springs for you local people!)  This recipe yielded 32 cupcakes for me.

2.  Mix your frosting while the cupcakes are baking and cooling.

3.  Arrange your cupcakes on your cake board like so.  Once you get them to your liking, spread a small amount of frosting on the bottom of each cupcake and place it on your cake board.  This step is optional, but I think it helps to keep the cupcakes from shifting as you decorate.  I tried to squish the cupcakes in as much as possible to minimize the amount of space between them.

4.  Using your 1 M tip and the chocolate frosting, pipe a small amount of frosting in the spaces between your cupcakes that will be frosted brown.

5.  Frost all but your four "tail" cupcakes with chocolate frosting using 1 M tip and swirl technique.  (You could also just use a frosting spatula and smooth frost over all of your cupcakes.)

6.  Using the 1 M tip with white buttercream frosting, frost the tail and add the mane.

7.  Add the white for the eye.  (I was lazy and used my 1 M tip for this.  It would have been better to use a size 3 tip so it would have looked smoother.)

8.  Color about 1/4 cup white frosting black.  Using your size 3 tip, add the pupil of the eye, smile, and hooves.

9.  Your are done!  Celebrate how great your cake looks and how little time it took to make!

Note:  I made this ahead of time and popped it in the freezer.  After about 2 hours, I covered the cake with press and seal.  The evening before the birthday party, I took the cake out of the freezer, removed the press and seal, and placed it in the refrigerator to thaw.  It worked perfectly, and it was nice to have the cake made in advance!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Homemade Dark Chocolate

Since my sister-in-law had a baby in December, she has cut out dairy from her diet because he seems to get fussy when she eats it.  This means--gasp!!--she can't have chocolate.  So, of course, I thought I should help her out by making her some homemade, dairy-free dark chocolate. 

Homemade Dark Chocolate (Adapted from this recipe)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup coconut butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa
Approximately 2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Hefty shake cinnamon

Melt your coconut oil over low heat in a small skillet while you assemble the rest of your ingredients.  Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl or pitcher.  I just eyeball the amount of honey.  Taste and add more honey if needed.  Don't freak out at the texture--it is much better when it sets up!  Pour into lined mini muffin cups or use a silicon tray.  I like this one from Amazon.

Place in the refrigerator or freezer and allow to harden.  Pop out of the silicon tray.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  It should last for at least a week, I think--it doesn't last that long in my house!
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Super Easy Chicken & Broccoli Bake

Since starting on a mostly-paleo diet almost two years ago, I must say that I sometimes miss the ease of popping a casserole in the oven.  This easy, one-dish meal has been a go-to recipe for me.  I make it at least twice a month!  I can have it ready and in the oven quite quickly.  Plus, it's healthy and delicious.  Here's the recipe.

Super Easy Chicken and Broccoli Bake (Slightly adapted from this recipe)

8 four ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 heads broccoli
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Place sweet potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl.  Add a small amount of water, cover, and cook on high for five to six minutes or until slightly tender.  Drain.  Place oil and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Place chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli in bowl and stir well to coat.  Place chicken in large baking dish (mine is slightly bigger than a 9 by 13) and pour veggies on top.  Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until chicken is done.

Megan's tip:  I wash my broccoli ahead of time, cut it, and place it in a ziploc bag with a couple of paper towels.  Then it is dry and ready to go when I need it.
Monday, July 7, 2014

Swim Teacher Gift, Take 2!

Last year, the kids and I made this to give to their swim teacher after they completed their lessons.  Judging by the number of hits that post got, I thought others might be interested to see what we did for their swim teachers this year.

Having just finished two weeks worth of lessons (three hours each morning since I had three in different levels!) we definitely felt like celebrating with some cupcakes.  Since we were finishing up on July 4th, we baked cupcakes in star-spangled cupcake liners.  (Local people, check out the cupcake liners at the General Store in Sharon Springs--I love them!)

I put the cupcakes into clear plastic cups after frosting them with red frosting.  The kids were more than happy to help with 4th of July-themed sprinkles (The sprinkles were also from the General Store, just FYI.)  I wrapped the cups in cellophane because I was out of clear plastic treat bags.  I will be stocking up on those because the cellophane was much harder to work with than the bags would have been.

I found the labels here at Crazy Little Projects.  Maddie cut out the circles, punched a hole, and tied them on with a ribbon.  They were so proud to be able to give their teachers something they had helped make.  Maddie and Evan each passed their level, and Anna did great in hers.  I was really proud of how hard they had worked.  Lyla is so excited to be old enough to take lessons next year--it should be interesting!

Hope you have a blessed day!

Looking for other thank you gift ideas?

Swim Teacher Gift
Mason Jar Mini Pies
Perfect Pumpkin Bread
Etched Cookie Jar
Almond Poppy Seed Bread
French Vanilla Coffee Mix
Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
Double Fudge Brownie Mix
Spiral Soup Mix
Perfect Pancake Mix

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