Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wedding Shower Menu

I thought I would share the menu we had for the wedding shower last weekend. Everything turned out wonderfully and tasted great!

The table had a light pink table cloth with a lace overlay. Then I used off-white and pink tulle to add some extra detail. Let me know if you have any questions! We are hosting another shower in a couple of week, so look for more menu ideas!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Baked Brie

We had a bridal shower at our house (I'll post the complete menu later this week) and I was in charge of making a baked brie. This was honestly the first time I had ever used puff pastry (and it's not as hard as you might think). Not to brag, but this was a hit at the shower. I served it with green apples, pears, and water crackers. A small change I made was that I substituted bourbon with dark rum (we didn't have any bourbon in the house).
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 T bourbon or rum
  • 1/2 package of frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 round brie
  • apples, pears, crackers

1. Stir together first three ingredients
2. Place puff pastry sheet on lightly floured surface; roll out fold lines
3. Cut the rind off the Brie and then cut the Brie in half horizontally
4. Spread brown sugar and pecan mixture between the two pieces of Brie
5. Place the Brie in the center of the puff pastry and fold all 4 corners to the center of the Brie. Rub the seems to prevent leaking. Turn upside down so the folded portion is on the bottom.
6. Bake on 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned
7. Let cool for 10 minutes

Make sure the Brie has just come out of the refrigerator when you cut the rind off, because it will be more difficult to cut if it is room temperature.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ham & Cheese Party Sandwiches

These are great little sandwiches that are easy to make, and according to my dad and Ben they are quite tasty. This recipe makes enough for 24 rolls.
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 4 tablespoons mustard
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 24 bread rolls (I just used Kroger brand)
  • 2 packages thinly sliced ham
  • 1 package sliced Swiss cheese
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix butter, poppy seeds, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and onion in a bowl.
3. Cut rolls in half horizontally.
4. Put mustard spread on both sides of the roll
5. Put 1 slice of ham on the bottom half of the roll (I had to tear it into smaller pieces so it would fit on the roll)
6. Put 1/2 of a slice of Swiss cheese on top of the ham and put the tops on the sandwiches
7. Place on a baking sheet and cover with foil
8. Bake 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted. The rolls at the center of the cookie sheet may take longer, depending on your oven.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chocolate Cake with Caramel

For Ben's grandparents' birthdays I made a 2-layer golden vanilla cake with caramel swirls and chocolate buttercream frosting. This is seriously the best chocolate frosting I have ever tasted (and that's saying something). It was only the 2nd time I have ever tried to make chocolate icing (gasp!) The recipe is from Southern Living and is easy to make (unless you have a stubborn 1980s hand mixer that dies every other minute). I used Hershey's chocolate cocoa which costs more than the store brand, but I think it's worth it. Southern Living also had a mint chocolate chip buttercream frosting that I wish I would have known about when I made the mint chocolate cake! I doubled the icing recipe because I my original idea was to make a 3-layer cake, however I discovered that the lid for the cake stand would not fit with 3 layers, but it was good to know that doubling the recipe makes plenty of icing for 3 cakes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting - double this recipe
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 5 to 7 Tbsp. milk

1. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

2. Whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa. Gradually add powdered sugar mixture alternately with 3 Tbsp. milk, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat in up to 4 Tbsp. additional milk for desired consistency.

I added apple-dipping caramel to the cakes after letting them bake for about 8 minutes. I added the caramel later, because I was hoping it would prevent it from sinking to the bottom, but it didn't, so the caramel taste was not as prevalent as I had hoped it would be.

Like other times before, I iced the top of the first layer, placed the second layer on top of the first and iced the top of it. I saw on Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee that she put a couple of pieces of parchment paper on the cake stand when she was icing the cake, then simply slipped it off whenever she was done. The key word here is simply. It was not so simple to pull the sheets of paper out from under the cake after I had finished icing. This could have been because I did not have parchment paper and instead used wax paper. From now on I'm going to stick with just cleaning the cake stand with a damp paper towel.

To ice the cake I tried a different technique. It's more of a wispy look. I used my large offset spatula and a spoon to make the affect. Put about 1 cup of icing on the top of the cake and spread the frosting to the edge and down the sides of the cake using a sweeping motion. You will need more than 1 cup of icing to complete this task, but it's easier to work with a smaller amount then add more.

To add a little color, I used a few strawberries. I cut them and tried to fan them out a little bit.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chocolate Almond Pecan Mango Bark

One word: YUM! This dessert/treat is so easy, but looks professional (at least that's what Ben told me) and tastes wonderful!

  • 1 1/2 packages of chocolate morsels
  • almonds
  • pecans
  • dried mangoes

1. place a medium-sized cookie sheet in the refrigerator

2. melt chocolate morsels in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring continuously

3. line cookie sheet with parchment paper

4. pour warm (not hot) chocolate into cookie sheet. use an offset spatula to smooth it out (about 1/4 inch thick)

5. sprinkle almonds, pecans, and dried mangoes over the chocolate and set in freezer for 20 minutes

I think this recipe is great, because you can use any kind of topping that you want (nuts, dried fruit, candies) and it's almost guaranteed to taste delicious. Next time, I'm going to try dried cherries and use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (just trying to stay healthy, right?). I am definitely sticking with the almonds, though (chocolate + almonds = heaven).

There are two different ways to cut the chocolate bark. I chose to go for the messy look. To do this, let the chocolate stay in the freezer for the full 20 minutes, then simply break it into pieces using your hands. If you want to cut the bark into neat, identical pieces then you will have to take it out of the freezer after about 13-15 minutes and cut it then. The bark must be kept in a cool, dry place so it will not melt. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hostess Aprons

I made a hostess apron over the weekend and I'm not going to lie, I like the way it turned out. I know this is not something you can eat, but it's something you can definitely wear when you are serving all of the tasty things you've made! I got the idea from this and that blog but I made some modifications (aka I did it a different way, because it was easier for me to understand). This is important because I have done very little sewing in my life. The last time I sewed something I was probably 10 or 11 years old and it was a lovely sleeping bag for my beanie babies complete with a pillow and ribbon to roll up the sleeping bag and tie it for traveling purposes, of course. And these were sewn by hand.

This time I decided to go a step further and use a sewing machine and to tell you the truth, the hardest thing about this project was prepping the sewing machine (threading the bobbin was the worst), but after that it was smooth sailing.
What you'll need:
1/2 yard fabric1
1/2 yard fabric2
7x7 scrap fabric3
matching thread

from fabric1 cut a 30" x 13" piece

from fabric2 cut 2 4" wide strips (try to cut these as straight as possible, it will pay off later). if you want to be able to wrap the tie around you twice in order to tie it in the front, then cut 3 4" strips. cut each end of the strips at a 45 degree angle, then sew the ends together. in the below picture you will see how I laid 2 strips and where I would sew along the edge. Once they are sewn together, cut the ends of the strips so they are straight. Lay the connected strips flat and fold about 3/4" down from the top and iron it, then 3/4" up from the bottom and iron it.

On fabric1, fold 1/2" on all sides except the top. Sew the 2 shorter sides and then the 1 longer side, leaving the top "raw". The below picture is of me sewing one of the shorter sides.

Now for the pocket. Take fabric3, your 7x7 piece, and fold 3 of the sides over, iron them flat, then sew them just as you did fabric1 (leaving the top "raw").

Cut a 7" piece from fabric2. For my pocket I cut a 7" x 3" piece of fabric2 and folded half of it down on the front of the pocket and the other half behind the pocket and sewed it down.

Place the pocket about 7 inches from the right or left, depending on where you want the pocket. Now sew the pocket on to fabric1. Make sure you don't sew the top closed!

Now find the middle of fabric1 and the middle of the tie and pin them together. I then folded the tie fabric over the apron, like I did with the pocket, (half of it in front and half of it on the back of apron) and pinned it in place all along the fabric. Then I sewed it to seal it closed.

It was a lot of fabric to manage. And I ended up cutting some off the ends so it wouldn't be so long.

Finished! It looks really good with my orange sweatpants, right?

If you have questions, let me know! I'm sure I forgot a step!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Cookies

I made Easter egg shaped sugar cookies again this year, but with a little more experience. I also used a different sugar cookie recipe and made homemade icing.

Sugar Cookies Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
1. cream shortening, butter, sugar, and vanilla.
2. add eggs, beat well.
3. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into creamed mixture along with milk.
4. chill overnight
5. roll onto floured board into 1/4" thickness and cut into desired shapes.
6. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes. This recipe made 2 1/2 dozen egg-shaped cookies.

White Icing
  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 cups (1 lb.) powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (use clear if you want pure white icing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients together until stiff peaks form (8-10 minutes). To vary the consistency, add water to thin and add powdered sugar to thicken. Will ice 2 1/2 - 3 dozen cookies.

The cookies are pretty self-explanatory. It's the icing that gets complicated to use. Whenever I roll out the cookie dough, I always use a lot of flour, so that the dough does not get sticky and therefore hard to transfer to the cookie sheet.

To make the icing process a little easier, I covered my kitchen counter in wax paper and taped it down. This way I had plenty of room to spread out the cookies. After letting the cookies cool, I began the tedious process of icing them. As you can see in the below picture, I drew a border around the egg with a #3 icing tip. This can get frustrating, because sometimes the border is not straight or there are breaks in it. Just take your time and make sure it is a complete circle, otherwise when you ice the middle the icing will leak out. Also in this picture, there are eggs that are have already been filled-in with white icing. To do this, put a couple of scoops of icing in a small bowl or cup and gradually add small amounts of water to it until it is runny, constantly stirring it. Then transfer the icing to a plastic bag and cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. Squeeze the icing on to the cookies, making sure to stay in the lines. I squeeze some on about 5 cookies then take a tooth pick and spread it around evenly. I also use the tooth pick to pop some of the air bubbles that form. Let these dry for 1 hour before starting on the details.

Divide the rest of the original icing into bowls and put 2-3 drops of food coloring in each. I did pink, yellow, blue, and green. Then I used tip #5 to make the designs.

If you have any questions just leave it in the comment section!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

For dinner this week I broiled some tilapia fillets with a Parmesan sauce. Also served was wild rice, mixed vegetables, and Sister Shubert rolls (we recently discovered the larger ones, so good)!

I found the recipe for the tilapia at

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons mayo
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 5 tilapia fillets
1. pre-heat ovens broiler, grease broiling pan
2. in a small bowl, mix together parmesan cheese, butter, mayo, lemon juice. Season with dried basil, black pepper, onion power, and celery salt.
3. sprinkle tilapia with salt and pepper
4. arrange fillets in a single layer on the broiling pan. Broil on top shelf of oven. Broil on side 1 for 2 minutes. Broil on side 2 for 2 minutes.
5. take fillets out of the oven and cover side 1 with parmesan spread. put back in the oven for 4 minutes, or until the topping is browned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

While camping over the weekend, we made a beer can chicken for dinner with potatoes and asparagus (a camping favorite). We also grilled a steak for fun. To grill the chicken, we used the tailgate grill. For seasonings, we used the basics: seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and anything else we could find. Basically you can't really go wrong when seasoning a chicken (well you can go wrong, but not if you're smart about it). Ben's favorite part about beer can chicken is being in charge of "emptying" half of the beer can. You can do this however you want to. Ben chooses to drink the beer, but you can just pour it out if you like.

You need a little less than half of the beer remaining before you stick it in the chicken. Arrange the chicken on the grill grate so that it will stand up by itself. The total cooking time for the chicken is one hour over medium heat. Don't turn up the heat too high, because the skin will burn before the chicken gets cooked. Rotate the chicken about every 15-20 minutes.

To fix the potatoes and asparagus, put butter, seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic and wrapped them in separate aluminum foil packages and placed them on the fire (pictured above). Put the potatoes on about 15 minutes after you start the chicken, because they take a while to cook. Rotate them over the fire a few times and poke them with a fork to check on their softness. Put the asparagus on the fire about 15 minutes before the chicken is done.

The steak was seasoned with Montreal steak seasoning. I think it had a little kick to it, but I don't like spicy things at all, so a normal person probably wouldn't notice.

This picture doesn't show the potatoes, because they were not ready yet. Yum! The only thing missing was S'mores for dessert!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Camping Trip Breakfast of Champions

We went camping and fishing this weekend in North Arkansas. Unfortunately, the generators were running and it was extremely hard to wade and fish in the water, which I contribute to the number of fish I didn't catch. Regardless of the lack of fish, we still prepared a delicious breakfast and dinner! To anyone that likes to camp, I suggest you invest in one of these. They are very handy and fold up nicely for packing purposes (Ben found his at Academy Sports, but Wal-Mart carries them, too).

For breakfast, we made eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns with cheese. We cooked the bacon first so that we could use the leftover grease for the eggs and hashbrowns (it makes them extra tasty).

In order to keep everything warm while we were cooking, we fired up the tailgate grill and put aluminum foil on the grate and placed the food on top. The tailgate grill is awesome. It's your basic gas grill, except there's s special part that attaches to the trailer hitch and the bottom of the grill. Great investment for camping and football games. The hashbrowns definitely took the longest, but they normally take longer to cook on a normal stove, so just plan accordingly. To top the hashbrowns off, we put American cheese on them (yes, just like at Waffle House).

NOTE: Do not place a red (or any color) plastic plate on top of foil, on top of the grill grate when the grill is on. The plate will melt. That was not my idea, but I must admit it was pretty cool to see a melted plate.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tilapia Po'Boy


This week, Ben made tilapia po'boys which were amazing!!! Each sandwich had its own tilapia filet, topped with whatever you want (this is a very large sandwich and I would only try to eat the whole thing if you're really hungry). Season the tilapia however you like (lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, etc). Then cook the tilapia in a skillet, rather than broiling in the oven.

The first two pictures are of Ben's po'boy. He put more interesting things on his. I'm more of a plain jane, turkey-cheese-mustard type. The spread on the right side of the bread was 1 cup mayo, 4 oz. dill relish, and hot sauce to taste. He only put the spread on one side of the bread, but you may put it on both, just double the recipe.

Toppings can include tomatoes, lettuce, swiss cheese, pickles, banana peppers, Louisiana Sauce and basically anything else you would want.

We served the meal with fresh green beans and a salad. Below is my plain, boring po'boy (swiss cheese and pickles). Let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whole Grain Pasta with Garbanzo Beans

This recipe makes more servings than the recipe says (about 6-8 depending on size), which is a good thing (I love leftovers). It's from Food Network's website and Ben found it one day and we decided to try it out last week. We made a few tweaks to the original recipe (which of course made it better, right?). Instead of using chickpeas, we used garbanzo beans and we doubled the amount so that the dish would be extra hardy. And instead of using escarole (because we couldn't find it in the grocery store) we use arugula. Not much of a difference there. Anyways, here's the recipe!

Whole Grain Pasta with Chickpeas
  • 2 cups whole grain penne
  • 1 head arugula, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons EVOO, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained and patted dry
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed slightly
  • liquid reserved
  • 2 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1. cook the pasta according to the package directions; add the arugula during the last 2 minutes, cover and do not stir.
2. Remove arugula with tongs; set aside. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
3. If you are using capers, heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the capers and fry until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
4. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Cook the garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes until the garlic toast slightly, 1 minute.
5. Add tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a pinch of salt and the bay leaves. Cook until the garbanzo beans soften a little, about 6 minutes.
6. Add the arugula and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 4 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
7. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce. Stir in the cheese and top with fried capers