Friday, October 28, 2011

Microwave popcorn

Did you know that you can make popcorn in the microwave with just a plain brown paper bag? No oil or butter! Unless you want it for flavoring afterwards!

I just popped some and sprinkled a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. Deeeelicious!

Easy instructions: Put 1/4- 1/2 cup of corn kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold over twice. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, actually less- remove bag when you hear fewer pops, just like those other microwave bags.

Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Steel-cut Oatmeal

I'm not a big cooked oatmeal fan (I didn't think) but my doctor suggested adding oatmeal to my breakfast line-up because it's packed with protein and will keep me full. I've heard that steel-cut oatmeal is the healthiest but it takes a lot longer to cook. Voila. Crockpot!

I have issues with texture so when I saw this gloppy finished product I was a bit scared. I added a bit of brown sugar, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds. SO much better! It wasn't as gloppy as I thought but rather chewy and hearty.

It was very easy to throw together and I imagine that you can change up the basic recipe as you like. I think adding dried fruit would be great. If I added dried fruit I wouldn't add more liquid, because I think I like my oatmeal on the drier side. If I made it exactly like this again I would decrease the water by 1/2 cup.

I saw on other websites that people didn't like making the oatmeal directly in the crockpot because of the browned bits on the sides (they were preparing the oatmeal in a bowl within the crockpot, like a steam bath). I actually thought those bits added a lot to the flavor and texture. It firmed it up.

The verdict: Did it keep me fuller and not make me break out into the shakes by 10am? I think I need to eat it a few times more and then decide.

It makes 5 1-cup servings and the recipe says it freezes well. I did freeze a few portions but they didn't last long in the freezer. We ate them up pretty quickly! We'll definitely be making this again.

I did need to buy two ingredients that I wouldn't normally have in the house. Each bag cost around $5. The steel cut oatmeal will make 3 crockpot recipes. And then for the ground flaxseed you only need 2 Tablespoons so this bag will last a long time. I should find some other recipes for the flaxseed. I think it's one of those ingredients that I've seen around but I hadn't made the leap to buy it until now. In muffins?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

There is no better time to make cupcakes than when you have no reason! I had ALL the ingredients for these so why not??

2+ dozen cupcakes... I hope I find some people at work to share these with....

The frosting was very sweet so I piped little stars instead of a big mass of sweetness.

I tried another pastry bag tip.

And also, when there is no occasion I can mix and match my odds and ends. I had blue cupcake liners, white, and light pink.

The pumpkin and the greek yogurt made these very moist. There is a hint of pumpkin, but it's mostly chocolate goodness. The buttercream is a bit grainy from the brown sugar but I think I like it. I strayed away from the recipe by NOT using shortening. I've had enough shortening in the last month, thank you very much. I am now a firm believer that buttercream should have butter and not shortening.

I just used another 1/4 cup of butter.

My husband is so sweet. He tells me my cupcakes (these and last weekend's) are better than a bakery's! We've tried several cupcakes from cupcake specialty bakeries but they've been disappointing. Do they not find the BEST cake recipe and make them fresh? Doesn't seem like...


Click here for the stolen recipe for Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream. (Remember, I didn't use the shortening. It worked just fine.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Laura's 70th Birthday Party

Happy Birthday to Laura! This mother-in-law, mother, grandma, and friend needed a party to help her celebrate a milestone birthday. When we first mentioned to Laura that we wanted to host a party for her she was pretty hesitant. I'm so glad that she let us (where there any stopping us?!) and then that she embraced the idea of gathering her loved ones to celebrate her day.

I'll include the pictures that I took of the guests and friends, the decor, and of course the food! I totally embraced the FOOD! It was a fun challenge :) We've never hosted so many people in our home, and I wasn't sure how that would work out, but it did! It was a beautiful day, inside and out!

The recipe links will be at the very bottom of this blog entry.

If there was a theme, it was "Fall". I looooooooove fall!

My Mom's hand at floral design. She transformed simple Cub bouquets into these masterpieces. This one has fresh cranberries in the vase. Lovely!

Goat Cheese and Parsley cheese ball, Cheddar and Cranberry cheese ball, and Blue Cheese Walnut cheese ball. I was so happy with how these turned out.

Three Olive Tapenade. The colors were much more fabulous in person. Flecks of green, black, purple, and red. Beauty!

Yogurt Dill vegetable dip

Sweet potato and Beet chips. I think my Mom told some guests that I MADE these. I needed to publicly announce that I did NOT! Haha. Martha suggested these for one of the cheese balls.

We asked Laura to bring pictures. These picture boards were so cool to see!

We had treat bags for the guests to take home. James was so cute- he was in charge of passing them out and he did a great job! He sweetly told people, "Thank you for coming!" He took his job very seriously :)

Each bag had one Hot Chocolate on a Stick and a few Sea Salt Caramels. We taste tasted each and we approved! James has been loving "warm chocolate milk" at night.

The Hot Chocolate on a Sticks are a marshmallow and a fudge-like cube that can be eaten as is, but can also be melted into a cup of hot milk for a sweet treat.

The chocolate fountain was a HUGE hit! And so impressive to see when you first walked in our front door. Thanks to my sister Ana for owning this great fountain and for letting me borrow it. I hope it wasn't too much trouble (wink wink!)!

We served some more homemade marshmallows, Coconut Cream Cheese Pound Cake, and sliced strawberries with the chocolate. My little man James had a BALL, helping himself to it all throughout the day.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes and Carrot Cake cupcakes. Yum!

My wonderful husband made the BEST Ginger Tea Lemonade. We had several requests for the recipe, so of course it will be below.

James also helped himself to crackers, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli. I'm glad he ate some vegetables and not just chocolate :)

James probably ate 2 cups of strawberries!

James insisted on taking a picture of Grandma Laura. This is the picture he took.

Cupcake break!

Friends and family pictures-

I'm really glad we have our big dining table- it was well used! Lots of chatting and eating. I really loved the way the apple candles worked out. I hollowed out the top of an apple, inserted a tea light, and placed them in cocktail glasses. So cool!

Great Aunt Betty and Joe. I'm sorry the sunlight was so bright behind them, but Aunt Betty looks angelic :)

My Mom had the great idea of taking pictures from above, on our catwalk. These next few pictures are from when everyone was seated and the violinist played several songs. You can barely see him on the bottom.

Laura made a speech.

Again, I'm sorry that the violinist is glowing :)

I found this grouping taking pictures on the deck. I quickly snapped my own picture. They are an attractive bunch!

After all the guests left, James was still dipping in the chocolate!

Thank you to everyone for such a great party! Special thanks to my M-O-M, the real reason I had an "immaculate house", creative decor, and a well-behaved little boy!

Click here for the stolen recipe for Coconut Cream Cheese Pound Cake. (I followed this recipe but used Lindt white chocolate with coconut flakes. Yum.)

Click here for the stolen recipe for Marshmallows. (A funny: My Mom to me, "Did you know you can get these in a bag at the grocery store?" Haha.)