Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Go out with a bang with Cake Pops!!

Yesterday was an adventurous day in the kitchen. 

I put to use one of my new Christmas presents! I received Bakerella's Cake Pops book from my mom. Yay!!

You'd think I never want to see another sweet again, after the 25 (err... 23) days of Christmas Cookies, but that is definitely not the case. I'm a sweets girl all the way. Give me a choice between a DQ Blizzard and a $25 steak, and I will choose the ice cream every time. 

Now, if you haven't heard of cake pops yet, let me explain. They're little balls of cake-frosting dipped in candy coating or melted chocolate, on a stick. Because everything is better on a stick, right? They're basically little balls of sugary goodness. You can do different flavor-combinations, but I went pretty basic for my first time. I chose to do vanilla and chocolate.

You first start off by baking a cake. Cake mix will do just fine, since you will be crumbling it all up anyway. Once it cools, you crumble it up into teeny tiny pieces. 

Then, you add 3/4 can of frosting. I used vanilla frosting with the white cake. (Although I imagine strawberry frosting with the white cake would be super-good.)

Then, you roll it into little bitty balls, about 1-inch in diameter. You should get 48 per cake.

Action shot!

Cake ball, pre-dipped.

Then, you pop the balls into the fridge.

That is the basis of most of the cake pops recipes in the book. Then, Bakerella has all these different designs you can make. Ladybugs, soccer balls, clowns (a lil scary looking), Christmas trees, even little bride-and-groom wedding favors. (Oh, how I wish I could have had them at my wedding. So cute! Maybe I will make some for my 1-year anniversary.)

I chose to make the Ice Cream Cone Sundaes for my first batch. I thought maybe I could bring myself a lil' taste of summer in the middle of the winter.

For these, you have to get some regular-size sugar cones. And then, you cut them down with a serrated knife to be 'miniature-sized.' 

Yes, it took awhile to saw all these down. And yes, quite a few broke.

I grabbed some styrofoam at good ole' Wally World and covered it with tissue paper and poked holes in it so my ice cream cones could stand up.

Once your cones are ready, you melt some candy coating in a deep bowl. (I dyed some white candy coating pink. But you must use oil-based food coloring, or it will ruin the candy coating! You can also buy already-colored candy coating.) 

Then, you plop a cake ball in the candy coating, and make sure it is totally coated. Remove it with a lollipop stick and place it on the ice cream cone. 

Sadly, the above picture is my only action shot. My photographer gave up and went in the other room to watch some TV. I have no idea why he would get bored so quickly... I mean it was only the fourth hour of the project! By the way, if you make these make sure you have lots of time. I think from beginning to end, it took 6 hours. But totally worth it, to me!

The good news about these is that you don't have to be perfect! Ice cream cones are always drippy. And you don't have to worry about the hole that the stick will leave behind on top, because you end up covering that up with faux hot fudge sauce.

After you have all your ice cream cones assembled, you add the hot fudge. I just melted some semisweet chocolate chips in a plastic baggie, snipped off the corner, and squiggled it on all haphazardly. Then, add a red m&m for a cherry and you're done! Oh, and don't forget the sprinkles, because sprinkles make all baked goods even cuter! (Except maybe cinnamon rolls... I just can't picture it.)

Are these cute or what? Yes, they're extremely sweet to taste, but oh-so-sweet to look at!

I created an 'Ice Cream Cone Display' by carving out some holes in a cardboard box and covering it with cute scrapbook paper. I like this look much better than the tissue-covered styrofoam. And, it's less messy, as the styrofoam seemed to crumble everywhere.

Whoops! Looks like someone dropped their cone!
All in all, this was a fun lazy afternoon project. A perfect way to wrap up 2010!

Now I'm off to go for a run outside in this amazing 50* weather! The sun is out and I'll be wearing shorts! Who would've ever guessed??

Monday, December 27, 2010

Days 24 & 25: I kinda fell off the band-wagon...

Goodness... the last few days have been a whirlwind of activity! My apologies for not getting any recipes for Day 24 & Day 25! I had high hopes, but life got in the way.

Let's rewind a bit...

The day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve?) my Business Man and I exchanged stockings with each other. We decided to just do stockings because they are the most fun! And then we could put some extra money in our "House Fund."

I had to blur out my Business Man's on his stocking! Can't let out the secret! Haha...
On Christmas Eve, my Business Man and I traveled home to go to my Grandma's for Christmas Eve dinner. Unfortunately, we hit a pretty bad snow storm about 100 miles to go, so the drive was extended an hour or two.

But, we made it safely and enjoyed some ham & cheesy potatoes with my fam. And got to watch my little cousin Ayden open his packages. He was adopted from Guatemala a few years ago, and is a very special member of the family! He is the youngest, so he brings a lot of excitement to the whole group. (The next youngest is 22!)

My Grandma's pretty purple tree in her purple front room.

My Business Man and Ayden playing cars after dinner.
He got his own trike! He didn't think it was really for him... he kept telling me to get on it. I was a little too big!

Peeking outside the window looking for Santa. (My cousin Charlie was ringing a bell in the corner of the room, and Ayden couldn't figure out where the noise was coming from. So of course, we told him it was Santa outside! And of course, he believed us...)

Of course, once we got back to my parents' that night, I had to have some QT cuddling with my mom's sweet lil' Maggie.

Christmas morning, we woke up pretty early, and I headed out for a run before we drove up to Chicago-area to spend Christmas with my Business Man's grandparents. It was actually pretty neat... a few miles into my run, I stumbled across a group of people getting ready to go for a run, all dressed in holiday attire. They invited me to join them, so I did! It was super-fun to run with people for the first time in like 2 months! Oh, how I miss running with my team... 

Anyways, after I got back and cleaned up, my we headed up to Chicago-land. We were a little afraid that the roads would be bad because they were so awful the previous night, but they were fine. The drive was actually really pretty.

We had a really good with my Business Man's extended family... we hadn't seen most of them since the wedding almost 6 months ago. Of course, we enjoyed some delicious food, including the most awesome twice-baked potatoes I have ever eaten. Of course, I forgot my camera, so I couldn't capture any of the excitement of gift-opening or family-visiting.

When we got back to my parents' that night, we visited a bit with my mom's friend and her family who had come over for dinner. Then, around 10pm we had another gift exchange, with my parents! (It was a long, but very enjoyable day.)

My Business Man and Maggie got comfy on the couch. Don't they just look like two peas in a pod? Hehe...

Somebody's snooping!
Very excited about the best vanilla extract ever! I got some from my parents and my Business Man's brothers. It will last me all year! Wheeee!
The next morning, we hosted brunch at my parents' place for my dad's side of the family. (Yes, we had dinner with them on Christmas Eve, but not everyone was able to make it. So we had brunch so we could all be together and do our gift exchange.)

I set out on a project for said brunch, and attempted The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls.

Oh goodness... these were delicious. Very buttery, very sugary, very delicious. The dough is unique; it uses yeast, baking soda, and baking powder. And you don't have to knead it at all. The frosting of the regular cinnamon rolls includes maple extract and coffee, which I thought was a nice touch. Even though these would be great without frosting even.

Beware... it makes 6 pans of rolls. I ended up making half of them into Orange-Marmalade Rolls. With an orange-frosting. These were my favorite. We ended up taking two pans over to my Business Man's family's house later that night.

Anyways, after brunching it up with my family, we headed to my Business Man's parents' to have Christmas. (His little sister had been patiently waiting to open gifts until Dec. 26! And the evening at that!)

After reading the Christmas Story and exchanging gifts, we took part in the usual family tradition... go through the Festival of Lights and then dinner at Steak'n'Shake

Let me just say... it has been a looooong time since I've had a greasy bacon-burger and fries. And it totally hit the spot. And of course I stole a few sips of my Business Man's chocolate milkshake.

And that's it! We've had five Christmas celebrations in the last three days, and we've got one more to go this afternoon! Gotta love it!

Look later this week for a few appetizer recipes! Yum yum! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 23: Creme de Menthe Cake

Can you believe that the challenge is almost over? Christmas is almost here, and I've still got 7 or 8 cookie recipes on my list! I guess some will have to wait until next year's Christmas.

I know today's recipe is not a cookie, but it is the ultimate Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner dessert. Cookies are a perfectly fine dessert (especially with ice cream!), but it's also nice to have something a little fancier.

My Mom has made this cake on Christmas for dessert as long as I can remember. I'm not sure it would be Christmas at her house without it!

This cake is light, fluffy, and moist with a slight taste of mint. With a layer of thick hot fudge down the middle, it's absolutely scrumptious. And it's frosted with a minty-flavored Cool Whip. What could be better? The perfect ending to an indulgent meal.

And the best thing? Simple and easy to make.

Here's what you need for success.

Creme de Menthe syrup, white cake mix (Betty Crocker's my fav!), hot fudge sauce, and Cool Whip.
Creme de Menthe syrup can be tricky to find sometimes. My suggestion would be to look near the ice cream toppings. Because who doesn't want ice cream drowned in mint sauce? (Not quite my cup of tea there. Mint chocolate chip, yes please. Mint sauce on my ice cream, no thank you.)

First, you make your batter. (Just follow the directions on the back of the box, adding 3 tbsp. Creme de Menthe syrup.)

Then, grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. This is important, so that you will be able to flip them out later!

[Note: You can also do this in a 9x13-inch. There just won't be two layers.]

Pour the batter into the pans.

Smooth it out until it's even. Then lick the spatula before you throw it in the sink. And maybe the bowl, too... 

Then, bake according to the package directions. (Mine ended up being at 325*F for about 27 minutes.)

After letting them cool about 10 minutes, very carefully flip the cakes out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. If you leave them too long in the pans, they will be very hard to get out!

While they're cooling, you can make the 'frosting.' Take your tub of Cool Whip, and dump it into a bowl. Pour in 3 tbsp. Creme de Menthe syrup. 

Carefully fold the syrup into the Cool Whip until it's thoroughly combined. (Don't whip it around too much, or your Cool Whip will deflate! And no one wants to eat droopy, deflated Cool Whip.)

You can also add green food coloring, but I think the syrups colors it exactly enough.
Now, it's time to assemble.

Spread a little bit of the Cool Whip onto your cake stand to keep your cake from sliding around.

Place your first cake layer down. Now, you could get all fancy, and level off the tops of the cakes, so they're nice and even. But, in my opinion, why would you want less cake in the final product? Who cares if it's a little rounded at the top. ;-)

Now, spread that yummy hot fudge all over the top of the first layer. You probably won't use it all. Store it in your fridge, and let that be the reason you have to buy ice cream on your next grocery trip. When your Business Man questions you, simply explain that you "Absolutely have to use up the hot fudge in the fridge before it goes bad!" He'll definitely understand.

Then, place your next layer on top of the first layer.

To me, this looks like a giant hamburger. Anyone else see it?
Now, it's time to frost! Spread the Cool Whip over the sides and on top of the cake. Good news: if you think you're bad at frosting 2-layer cakes, no worries here. The Cool Whip spreads super-easy because it's so light, and it doesn't pull the crumbs away from the cake. You won't have any crumbs in your frosting!

Finish frosting...


And enjoy!!

Don't mind if I do!

Creme de Menthe Cake

  • 1 18.25-oz. white cake mix
  • 1 jar hot fudge topping
  • 1 8-oz. container Cool Whip
  • 6 tbsp. Creme de Menthe syrup, divided


Make cake batter as directed on package, adding 3 tbsp. Creme de Menthe syrup to batter. Bake in pans as directed on package. Cool and invert.

To assemble, frost one layer with hot fudge topping. Top with second layer. Top with more hot fudge. In bowl, mix Cool Whip and remaining 3 tbsp. Creme de Menthe syrup. Spread Cool Whip over entire cake. Store in refrigerator.

Garnish with Andes' mints.


*Use Smucker's Hot Fudge... it's the best.

In other news, my Business Man and I celebrated 'Our Christmas' tonight with a trip to one of our favorite restaurants in the Bean Town--Beer Barrel Pizza! We're about ready to go open our stockings for each other and enjoy some cake! 

We'll be heading back to the good ole' IL tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with our families. Can't wait to see my mom and dad and their cute lil' pup!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 22: Cranberry-Orange Biscotti

Today was such a wonderful day... my first 'relaxed' day of the break. I slept in, and had a lazy morning with my coffee and Regis & Kelly. I got to play around in the kitchen, and go for a longer run. (Outside again!) Then, I got a haircut, ran a few fun errands around town, and spent the afternoon wrapping gifts and eating biscotti. 

Yup, biscotti! That is today's cookie of the day. It is an old Italian treat, that comes from the word biscotto, which is broken into two words: "bis" (twice) and "coctum" (baked). So, biscotti is twice-baked.

And yes, literally, you do bake it twice.

These biscotti's are light in flavor, and have a good crunch to them. Flavored with cranberries and orange, they are a perfect wintery flavor. The white chocolate drizzle adds an extra bit of sweetness that make them slightly indulgent.

These would be beautiful wrapped up in a cute little bag, and given to someone as a gift along with a pound of their favorite coffee! (Or hot cocoa or tea...)

This recipe is pretty simple, because it calls for a Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread mix. 

First, you whip up the dough. (Really easy. See the recipe at the bottom of the page.)

Then, form it into two 9x3-inch logs, about 1-inch high.

Then you bake it the first time.

Once it cools for a bit, you slice each log into 10-12 slices.

Then, you lay each slice on its side, and bake it for the second time.

Voila! Biscotti!

Drizzle with white chocolate and enjoy.

Cranberry-Orange Biscotti
Makes 20-24 cookies

1 package (15.6-oz) Pillsbury Cranberry Quick Bread Mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 tbsp. orange zest
2-5 tbsp. flour
1 cup white chocolate chips, for drizzle

Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together mix, butter, and eggs until moistened. Stir in white chocolate chips and orange zest.

Sprinkle work surface with 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Roll dough into ball, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Divide dough in half; place on sprayed cookie sheet. Form each half into a 9x3-inch log, flattening tops to about 1-inch thick.

Bake at 350*F for 23-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool 15 minutes.

On cutting board, cut each log into 10-12 slices. Place slices upright and 1 inch apart on same cookie sheet.

Return to oven; bake an additional 12-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.

While cooling, melt white chocolate chips on 50% power in microwave, stirring every minute until melted. Drizzle over biscotti cookies.

Question: Does anyone have any other types of good biscotti recipes? I have only tried this type, but I'm thinking something chocolatey would be oh-so-delicious.

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