Monday, April 16, 2012

Angelina Ballerina Birthday

Last Wednesday was the day before Madeleine turned 4 1/2. And on that day we had a fabulous Angelina Ballerina Birthday party.  Yes, six months late. (It kept getting put off for various reasons, but ultimately, we had to do it before moving.  I work well under deadlines. ;)

We kept the decor simple and purple balloons...

...and a few books for decoration...

...and storytime.  I found both these titles on Amazon...and each is delightful...both the story and the illustrations.  (With lots of pink and purple by coincidence, keeping with the color theme!)
I love the one of Madeleine reading...Mimi was able to capture several precious ones of her absorbed in her new story!

Each guest (three friends + Madeleine & Hadleigh) chose a tutu to wear and then take home.  My Mom and I had some late-night fun the evening before creating them the night before.  It's a very simple project, though a little time intensive. (I'll work on a tutorial soon!)

And then we worked on a craft that has had me excited about a ballerina birthday since I first saw it on pinterest!  Each girl chose a leotard and flower...

...and had their hands painted shades of pink and purple... create these darling handprint art pieces.   I was completely surprised that Madeleine made a pink one...but for some reason, much of this party she wanted pink.

I had the most fun with her cake, though.  And it was worth it for the look on her face!

She requested a pink cake with Angelina on it.  (I surprised her with a real Angelina toy figure...she was expecting Angelina out of icing?!?!?)  

I had seen the ruffle cake ages ago, and this seemed the perfect chance to attempt it.  I used this tutorial and was surprised how very easy this is to create. And such pretty results.  I will be doing this again. It's addicting!

A little surprise of lavender frosting inside. :)

She was so very excited that it was her party day...possibly a bit too excited.  But she had such a fun time with her friends. They all played so sweetly together...and I think she enjoyed every bit of it.

This little girl, full of joy and spunk and sweet cuddles, is such a blessing to our family. 

And that's something to celebrate.

ETA: I have received many emails, comments, and questions regarding the Angelina cake topper. Angelina seemed to have lost her retail appeal the year that Madeleine requested this party theme; I could barely find anything other than books locally. I finally found an Angelina playset on Amazon. It contains Angelina and Polly figures and a small house with furniture. I removed the Angelina figure for the cake and then wrapped the rest of it as a gift. 

At the time of this edit, it is priced around $60 which is a lot more than the $18 I paid for in 2012. Here's another option that is a little bit less expensive: Angelina Sweets and Dance Shop

If you find another good option, feel free to leave your own suggestions for Angelina toppers in the comments!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

12 on the Twelfth

the April version:

  1.  Our yard is so full of color right now.
  2.  This little girl is four and a half today!
  3.  Cheeseburgers with Mimi at a new diner.
  4.  A pile of Zoob's waiting on Nathanael.
  5.  Afternoon gelato
  6.  Mine = cheesecake & dark chocolate
  7.  Packing (what we're taking with us) so far. (Movers come Monday.)
  8.  Chinese Terracotta Warriors (souvenir from Mimi & Grampa's trip)
  9.  I love that our aprons have a home in our pantry.
10.  I fell in love with blue doors in Paris. Someday, I'd love a side entry like this.
11.  Dinner tonight homemade guacamole...
12.  ...or homemade salsa? Which is your favorite?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Add some spice.

This recipe has been on my list to try for a long time...and it does have some autumn flavors...but really, it's delicious with a cup of tea any time of year.

Chai Spiced Cookies

2-3 spiced chai tea bags
3 cups flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1.5 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 recipe Powdered Sugar icing

1. Remove tea bag contents (to make 3 tsp.) and discard bags.  In a medium bowl, combine tea, flour, and pumpkin pie spices.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar  on medium-high until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks and molasses. Beat in flour mixture until combined.  Cookie dough will be stiff.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment.  Using a 1.5-inch cookie scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheet, leaving space in between each cookie.  Using three fingers, gently press cookie to flatten, then do the same in the opposite direction.

4. Bake for 12 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes and then transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.  After completely cooled, drizzle each cookie with icing. Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. milk

1. Combine ingredients. Stir in additional 1 tsp. milk at a time until icing is a good consistency for drizzle.

Store cookies room temperature for 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Hope you've enjoyed this week!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Take Two.

Brent's birthday falls on a very busy day after we've moved out of our home and before leaving for Virginia.  So we decided to celebrate a few weeks early.  After making one of his favorite meals, I brought out his requested birthday cake.  

My wonderful husband does not enjoy traditional cakes very much.  He much prefers pie and cheesecake to birthday cake.  So at his request, I repeated a birthday cheesecake from 2004.  

It's funny...I have two very specific memories of making this recipe 8 years ago.  First, I remember that the crust layer was SO difficult to cut.  This time I made sure that the corner of the crust wasn't too thick before adding the ganache.  Secondly, I remember that I was a little overwhelmed at the long process of this cheesecake.  I definitely recommend starting this cheesecake at least a day in advance...but it really isn't a hard recipe to follow.  I had to smile at my "still new to cooking" self; this recipe now seems quite easy!  I've broken the recipe into four steps, but please read through it in its entirety before beginning (a rule I should remember more often!)

It is delicious...and worth every second it takes to make it! (And yes, those are the book boxes behind that next picture! Mmmm. Look at all those layers!)

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

Step One:


1 9 oz. box chocolate wafer cookies
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
7 Tbsp. hot melted unsalted butter

1. Finely grind cookies, chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a food processor or blender.  Add butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, about 1 minute.

2. Transfer crumbs to a 10" diameter springform pan with 3-inch high sides.  Wrap plastic wrap around fingers and press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan.

Step 2:


1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
20 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Kahlua

1. Bring whipping cream to simmer in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat; add chocolate and Kahlua. Whisk until chocolate is melted and ganache is smooth.

2. Pour two cups of ganache over bottom of crust.  (I spread it up over the sides too, because it's just sooo yummy.) Freeze crust until ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.

3. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature to use later.

(I make the crust a day in advance, so I stuck the extra ganache in the fridge and brought it out a few hours before needing it. Also, I moved the crust from the freezer to the fridge after 30 minutes.)

Step 3:

Cheesecake Filling

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. Kahlua
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder or coffee crystals
2 Tbsp. ground espresso coffee beans
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. light molasses
4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in the middle of the oven.

2. Mix cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer until blended.  Beat in flour.  Stir rum, espresso, coffee, vanilla, and molasses in a small bowl until instant coffee dissolves.  Beat into the cream cheese mixture.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.

3. Pour filling over cold ganache in crust. Smooth top of filling.  Place cheesecake on a rimmed baking sheet. 

4. Bake until top is brown, puffed, and cracked at edges, about 1 hour 5 minutes. (Though I usually add 5-15 minutes.)  Transfer to a rack and cool 15 minutes.  Maintain oven temperature.

Step 4:


1.5 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
remaining ganache

1. Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl to blend.  Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely.  Bake until topping is set, about 10-12 minutes.

2. Transfer cheesecake to a rack and place hot cheesecake on rack in the refrigerator until cool, about 3 hours.

3. Run a sharp knife between crust and pan to loosen sides; release springform pan sides.  Transfer cheesecake to platter.

4. Spoon reserved ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe 6 diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing 1 inch apart.  Repeat in opposite direction, making a lattice design.  Chill until ganache is firm, at least 6 hours.  OR spread ganache gently over sour cream layer to completely cover, as I did this last time.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

On Baking & Books

That is what my week has been full of. Baking & Books.

Brent smiled at me when I said it was National Baking Week.  It coincides with what I've started calling "the beginning of the end," for in 12 days, our house will be packed up.  So I think part of my desire for baking each day this week is wrapped up in enjoying these last days in the kitchen that we built and I love.  

I am currently in the middle of packing up the books in our home; two big bookshelves down and still more to go. (We're helping out the liquor stores with their box recycling, let me tell you!)  Deciding which books I'll want to have on hand over the next month and which I can wait on.  Packing away books always makes me a little bit sad; each is like an old friend.  Thankfully, it shouldn't be too long until I can unpack them in their new home!

Now on to the baking part...

The best thing (in my opinion) to snack on while reading is a scone and a hot cuppa tea.  Here is a twist on old stand-by favorite recipe.

Cranberry Pecan Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (regular whipping cream can do in a pinch, but heavy is best)
1/3 cup dried cranberries 

1/3 cup chopped pecans 
cinnamon sugar to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Add cranberries and pecans, adjusting amount to suit your taste. Mix. Add cream. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Gather dough into a ball and knead it gently against the bowl 5-10 time until all dough is together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface *** and pat dough into an 8-inch round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 8 or 12 wedges. Place scones 1/2 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. (I line mine with parchment paper.)
4. Brush tops of scones with additional heavy cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
5. Bake until golden, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

*** To create more scones, at this point in the recipe, sometimes I cut the ball of dough in half, patting each into a round and cutting each round into 12 wedges, yielding 24 slightly smaller scones from each recipe. 

What's your most unique scone recipe? I'd love to try some new ones!


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Fruity Biscuits?!?

I came across today's recipe in this month's Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  I was intrigued by the combination of fruit in biscuits...and curious when I saw that the recipe was very similar to my cream scone recipe. 

So yesterday, we enjoyed these for breakfast, recipe adapted ever so slightly. Delicious. The kiddos asked for more.  We even had breakfast for dinner last night to finish them off (along with delicious omelettes!)  

They recommend serving them with a blueberry sauce...but I think a sweetened butter or a dab of mascarpone cheese would be delicious too! 

Blueberry Cream Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. raw sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup blueberries
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
more sugar for sprinkling 

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and nutmeg.  Add blueberries and stir gently.  Stir in cream until the flour mixture is moistened.

3. Place dough onto a floured surface and gently fold the dough, 3-5 times.  Place the dough on the parchment and press the dough into a 7-8 inch square shape, about 1 inch thick. Using a floured knife, cut 12-16 biscuits, leaving the dough intact. Sprinkle more raw sugar over top of biscuits.

4. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until browned.  Allow to cool slightly.  

 5. Separate biscuits and serve.

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Delicious Week

Did you know this week is National Baking Week? That kind of celebration is definitely up my alley. :)

Please come back each day this week...I'll be sharing some favorite old & new recipes! All for the love of baking!

First up, a delicious recipe I have made about 4 times in the last 2 weeks.  I started out with a blondie recipe from the Smitten Kitchen and tweaked it a bit for a morning bake sale in conjunction with a joint garage sale a couple weekends ago.  Our kiddos manned the bake sale/lemonade stand and so we let them keep their profits...impressive profits, if I do say so myself!

Since then, they've gone to several church functions...and are met with delight from both adults and children! And more than likely, you already have most of the ingredients you need in your pantry.

Blueberry Pecan Blondies

2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. vanilla paste
pinch of salt
2 cups flour
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup chopped pecans
4 oz. white chocolate bar, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13x9" baking pan.

2. Mix butter with brown sugar and beat with mixer until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add salt. Using the lowest setting on mixer, stir in flour.  Add blueberries, pecans, and white chocolate and stir until combined.

3. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan, spreading until even. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set in the middle.  (I find that for my oven, 20-22 minutes produces a more gooey bar, while 24-25 minutes creates a cakier texture.)  Allow to cool.  Slice and serve.

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