Red Velvet Cake

This was my 1st attempt in making a Red Velvet cake & I think this recipe did the job!

Red Velvet Cake

Vegetable oil/spray for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour your cake pans (I used 1 regular sized bundt cake pan)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

*Note: if your buttermilk is not a room temp, your batter will look curdled. Heat in microwave for a few seconds if you need to.

Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Pour cake batter in cake pan(s). Place the pan(s) & bake. Rotate the pan(s) halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
*Note: Since I used a Regular sized Bundt Cake pan, my cooking time was closer to 45 min – 1 hour.

Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. Invert the cake onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.
*Note: Since a bundt cake pan is a lot deeper than other cake pans, you should let the cake cool a bit before trying to remove it from the pan. Removing the cake too soon will cause the top of the cake to tear apart from the bottom. This is not a problem if you plan on icing the cake, but will is a HUGE problem if you plan to just ice the top like most bundt cakes.

Recipe Source: Food Network

Indiana Jones 7th Birthday

With 3 kids, I’d have to say that I’ve done a few birthday parties here & there. But, this one is definitely one of my Favorites!!!

Invitations:
These invitations were super easy to make & gave a good feel for the Indiana Jones Theme.

Entertainment:
What’s Indiana Jones without a few snakes?

The snake guy we hired was absolutely AMAZING! Despite the fact that a gigantic lizard pooped all over my dining table multiple times, I was very pleased.

Although I am far from a reptile lover, I couldn’t be happier with the look on my son’s face while holding all of the different snakes & lizards.

Activities:
Before the reptile show began, the kids were put on a Mission. The Mission to find their Bravery! One must be brave to handle snakes & lizards 🙂

We had 4 tasks to complete in order to accomplish our Mission of Bravery.
1. Mission Funding: Searched for gold coins, which were spread out all over our backyard grass.
2. Diamond Quest: What Indiana Jones Mission didn’t include diamonds? NONE! The kids had to dig for over sized diamonds in a large bin of sand. This became a big hit when we had about 30 minutes to kill before the snake guy came. A handful of kids would dig up all of the extra diamonds, bury them again & repeat. Great Fun!
3. Key of Bravery: One must “unlock” their bravery inside in order to conquer the snakes. Each kid had to stick their hand in the Treasure Chest and pull out a key. The Treasure Chest (piñata) was full of cooked spaghetti & keys from the scrapbook store.

4. Conquer the Snakes: Each kid had to take their new found bravery, run up the slide of our playground & conquer a rubber snake. Who knew allowing the kids to run up the slide would be such a big hit.

When the kids first arrived, they were given their own Indiana Jones satchel. This is where they could store all of their new found treasure while completing each task (gold coins, diamonds, key & rubber snake)

Cake:

My all time favorite detail of every birthday party…The Cake! This snake cake was so fun to make. I decided to make it a Red Velvet cake as my son wanted the insides to look like blood. Of course! Do you expect anything less from a 7 year old boy?

The body was made out of 2 bundt cakes, which were cut & arranged to make the curve of the body. We are a cream cheese frosting kind of family, so that is what I used. However, doing so did make the icing a bit softer then if I used something a bit more stiff.

Although this cake was super cute, it was A LOT of cake! We had a ton left over, which was a bonus for the birthday boy.

So there you have it… Another year, another kid older, more happy memories!

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Soup

Don’t know what to do with all of that leftover Turkey? Don’t know what to do with those itty, bitty, tiny pieces of turkey, skin & juice on your cutting board?

MAKE A SOUP!!!

We deep fry our turkey every year and are always left with all of these tiny pieces of turkey goodness. They are found on the cutting board, on the serving patter & anywhere else you’re willing to grab extra pieces of turkey (i.e: the kids plate as they never touch the stuff).

Throw all of that flavorful goodness into your crock pot & follow my Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. Of course, replace the chicken with your Turkey.

You can even add some of your side dishes into the soup if you’d like. Roasted/Grilled/Steamed veggies would be great. Replace some of the Cream of Mushroom Soup with your Thanksgiving gravy. Add a scoop of stuffing to each serving bowl & pour soup on top. Cut up some Caramelized Yams into bit size pieces and add when you’re ready to serve. Your options are endless!

Caramelized Yams

This delicious Thanksgiving side dish has been in my family well before my time. I have fond memories of eating more than my share, while growing up, & I’m so thrilled to share them with my family (and you, of course). I also have memories of calling them Sweet Potatoes, but they are in fact Yams. 🙂

The pure smell of these, which starts 2 days before Thanksgiving, is the instant movement Thanksgiving starts for me. It’s kind of like Christmas music kicking off the Holiday season… it just goes hand in hand.

While it might not be the prettiest dish on our Thanksgiving table, it is certainly the most delicious & most coveted.

Caramelized Yams (aka Sweet Potatoes in our household)

Yams (approx. 1 per person plus a few extra for left overs)
Brown Sugar (I do a combo of both light & dark)
Salted Butter

*note: Yams are orange inside. Sweet Potatoes are yellow inside. I always use yams but I’m sure sweet potatoes would work if you prefer.

In an electric skillet, melt 1 stick of butter & 1 bag of brown sugar. Once both are melted you can see how much sauce you have. Add more brown sugar if the sauce is too thin. Add more butter if the sauce is too thick and not melting smooth. Add both if you want more sauce.

Peel, cut to desired size, and boil yams in a pot of water until slightly tender.

*Note: the centers of the yams should be tender, without having the outside too soft where it falls apart. It’s ok if the centers are still a tad bit firm, as they will continue to cook in the caramel sauce.

Remove yams from pot & drain well. Any left over water will prevent the caramel sauce from thickening up.

Add cooked yams to sauce & simmer on low. Turn yams over occasionally & spoon sauce over the tops to ensure entire yam is caramelized.

*Note: Use a large spoon to turn the yams over. Try not to puncture the yams with a fork or thongs as they will start to fall apart.

*Note: for best results, start cooking 1-2 days before Thanksgiving & simmer on low until ready to eat. You can turn the skillet off at night but DO NOT COVER!!! Covering the yams will cause condensation which will prevent the sauce from getting thick. Turn skillet on low again in the morning.

    From my family to yours… Happy Thanksgiving!

Continue reading

Let them eat cake….

Well in this case, they ate various mini tarts 🙂

I had the great honor of preparing the desserts for my good friends Engagement Party. Considering I had never prepared desserts for 70 people before, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. Due to this, I was super, oober organized, had a clear idea on what I wanted to make & how I wanted it to look. In the end, it all turned out great & I made my dear friend a very happy Bride to be!

Cream Puffs

Chocolate Mousse Mini Tarts

Raspberry Mousse Mini Tarts

Lemon Tarts

Fruit Tart

Asian Spinach Salad

When I first came across this recipe in 2008, we ate it almost every night. It is so simple & tasty it was difficult to move on.

Asian Spinach Salad

7 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 – three ounce package Asian noodle soup mix (such as Top Ramen), noodles coarsely broken (I doesn’t matter which flavor, as only the noodles will be used)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
1 ten ounce bag ready-to-use spinach leaves

Whisk 6 tablespoons oil, sugar, vinegar and soy sauce in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add noodles from soup mix (reserve seasoning packet for another use), nuts and sesame seeds. Stir until noodles, nuts and seeds are toasted and golden, about 8 minutes.

Pour contents of skillet into large bowl and cool 10 minutes. Add spinach, Toss with enough dressing to coat & Serve

Recipe Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

Backyard Chickens

Raising Chickens in your backyard is very “egg”citing! Sorry… I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

This past March, we decided we were going to raise backyard chickens. The thought of having fresh eggs in our own backyard seems really neat to me.

Our good friend, Cara, has been raising her chickens for a year & it didn’t seem that difficult. After picking her brain for a few weeks (over & over again – Thank you Cara!), I decided we were ready!

We picked up our 5 baby chicks from a local Farmers Feed & Supply Store.

Girls @ 1 week old

Who knew chickens grew so quickly?

Girls @ almost 2 weeks old


Girls @ almost 3 weeks old.
Notice how much bigger the white one is. Yes, we will get to the reason for that soon.


4 weeks


6 weeks. Again, notice how GIGANTIC the white bird is.

By 8 weeks of age, the Girls were moved to the coop.

My amazing husband & father in-law build the coop & it turned out fantastic! The girls are so happy to have more space. Hopefully, this will lead to many fresh eggs in our near future.

Now back to the white chicken… She has always been much bigger than the other chickens. It was normal for her to lay around more than the other birds, in the smaller cage. I thought this was because she didn’t have enough room. When we moved everyone out into the new, bigger coop, I noticed she still did not walk around as much as the other birds. In fact, she couldn’t even carry herself up the ramp to sleep in the hen house at night.

After some research & chatting on local yahoo chicken boards (yes, they exist), I come to find out she is NOT a White Leghorn chicken, as I had originally thought (mind you, I thought this because this is what the darn sign said at the Farmers Feed & Supply Store where I got her).

It turns out she is a Meat Bird. Yes, you heard me correctly. A Meat Bird! As in Foster Farms/Tyson Chickens.

This breed of chickens are bred for the sole purpose of processing, which usually takes place at 8-10 weeks of age. “Processing” was NOT something I was about to do!

Our Meat Bird is still with us, due to the fact we haven’t figured out a better alternative for her. She actually moves around more often & seems very happy. However, I do realize she may never lay eggs or live very long. We shall see what happens.

As for our other chickens…

This one turned out to be a Rooster, which we cannot have in our community. After a quick posting on Craigslist, he was picked up by a nice woman & hopefully brought to a nice new home.


These 3 are all doing very well! We received our very 1st egg yesterday & another one this morning. We are all very excited!!!

Weekend Plans…

  • Make Cheese (Chevre & Mozzarella) – using all of the skills I learned from a Love Apple Farm cheese making class back in April. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
  • Make my own Granola. If it turns out ok, I plan to turn that into Granola Bars

Wish me luck! I’ll report back the outcome next week