Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Velvet Cake Pops


As soon as I saw Duncan Hines Spring Velvet Cake mix, I knew I wanted to do something different with it. Pretty pink and yellow colors, perfect for spring! I didn't want to do a cake or cupcakes, and cookies would have been a good idea, but no. With those 3 out of the way, that only left one thing. CAKE POPS! Another reason I had to make the cake pops? Wilton's Spring colored nonpareils. They were just so pastel and pretty!

I always use homemade frosting for my cakes and cupcakes, but decided I would go with Duncan Hines canned cream cheese frosting this time and I am so glad I did. They turned out delicious! My plan was to get this rolled out before Easter, but THAT didn't work out. Oh well! Who needs a holiday to eat cake pops?! I sure don't!


Ingredients:
Duncan Hines Spring Velvet Cake Mix
Ingredients needed to bake the cake (eggs, butter, water)
Non-Stick spray for pans
Duncan Hines Cream Cheese Frosting
Wilton Sprinkles
1 package of White CandiQuik or store brand candy coating (I buy the Kroger Brand and it melts beautifully)
Sticks for your cake pops, or you are more than welcome to make cake balls
M&Ms are completely optional, I used them since it was Easter and they were pretty. ;) I also used a bright set of Cake Mate sprinkles I thought were pretty.

Method:
Bake your cake as directed on the box. I used two 8 inch cake pans to bake the cakes and baked them for 35 minutes. After your cakes have cooled, break off large pieces and pulse in batches in a food processor until the cake resembles coarse crumbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can use the tines of a fork to pull through the cake and crumble it up. Make sure to keep each color separate in two different bowls.

Next, mix your cream cheese frosting into your cake crumbs. I used approximately 1/2 cup of frosting per 8 inch layer. The mixture was not too dry and not too sticky. When everything appears to be well blended, start making 1 - 1 1/2 inch balls. I made my balls and then smoothed them out with the ball shaped My Little Cupcake Pop mold, wiping off the excess (and possibly sneaking in bites of the extra).

Pop the cake balls into the refrigerator for a little while. By a little while, I mean the time it takes to melt your candy coating and following the directions on the packaging as microwave times vary for everyone. What works for me may not work for you. I used a small Rival crock pot I got on sale after Christmas, but I had to be super careful and had to keep on stirring because this one tends to overheat and I have had the candy coating get scorched before. When the candy coating is melted, bring the cake balls back out, and dip the end of a stick about 1/2 to 3/4 inches into the coating, and insert into the cake ball, a little more than halfway. You don't want it to fall out easily when you are dipping. Do this until they are all done, unless you are making cake balls.

Pop the cake pops into the freezer for about 15 minutes to help the sticks get "anchored" into the cake balls, as this will make your dipping process MUCH easier.

In the meantime, occasionally stir the candy coating to avoid scorching if you are using a mini crock pot like mine, or wait until the end of the 15 minutes are up to reheat the candy coating if needed.

Pull the cake pops out of the freezer and begin your dipping process. Let the excess drip off the pop, slowly turning the stick over the melted coating. The frozen pop will help the coating harden a bit quicker, but add the sprinkles while the coating is melted enough to help it adhere. It's a very tricky process, but it can be done! It helped to have some paper plates to let the sprinkles fall on, creating less mess and helping with the collection of sprinkles in a baggie later. Don't dip your pop into the sprinkles, just turn the cake pop around while sprinkling over it. I have a rectangular artificial flower arrangement piece of foam that helps to stick the pop sticks in as they set. It would be a HUGE help, unless you have a cake pop holder, which in this case, makes you very lucky! Be creative, and enjoy these sweet treats! Don't get frustrated with the process if you have trouble. If your pop gets too soft, you can always put it back in the freezer for a little while and the start the dipping process again.


One of my favorite bloggers, Love from the Oven, has some AMAZING cake pop tricks if you want to check the link out HERE.

Thank you so much for looking! Now go dip up some YUM!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and ideas!

XOXO,

Diana


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Italian Zucchini Boats



So I don't have much to say in this post, other than there wasn't much to making this healthy meal! (AndI wish I had better lighting!) I had seen a recipe for something with zucchini and inspiration struck! Why not stuff them and make them a meal? The great thing about these zucchini boats is that you can use your preferred meat (ground beef or ground turkey, etc.), preferred spaghetti sauce (in a jar or use your own recipe), top it with cheese (or not), the only thing you can't change is the zucchini. Well, maybe you can. Yellow squash? Though I am guessing those might bake up too squishy?! In any case, these were super easy and delicious, and healthy to boot.

Ingredients:
6 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1 lb Ground turkey (what I used) or ground meat of choice
Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Spaghetti/Marinara sauce of choice
Mozzarella cheese for topping (optional)

Directions:
Brown your meat and season to taste. I am not adding the measurements of what I used because everyone likes to season differently; though I did use garlic powder, minced garlic, and oregano for mine since I was out of Italian seasoning. I am sure the addition of finely chopped fresh onion would be wonderful!

While the meat is browning, wash and cut the ends of your zucchini and cut your zucchini lengthwise. I found it best to scoop out the seeds with a melon baller (pictured below) in a see-saw motion with my hand. You can scrape down if you'd like, just find what works best for you. It may take a little doing, but I got the hang of it pretty quick. 


After your meat is browned, add your sauce and let simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. Fill each "boat" with a spoon as pictured below, then place in a 350 degree oven. My zucchini took about 35-40 minutes to bake. At the 35 minute mark, I took the zucchini out and sprinkled shredded cheese on top and let it bake for 5 more minutes. 


Enjoy! Thank you so much for looking, now go bake something and spread some YUM!

As always, I welcome your ideas, thoughts, questions and and comments!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chorizo Burgers with Bacon and Guac


With the gorgeous weather starting to set in, it's time to get grillin' again folks! I am making some cheddar bacon burgers tonight, but remembered the chorizo burgers I made a few months back. For those of you not familiar with chorizo, it's a spicy Spanish pork sausage.

I grew up eating it crumbled, mixed with eggs or refried beans, reminding me of the summers I spent in Mexico in my grandmother's kitchen. She would have freshly made flour tortillas for us, butter them up, and fill them with the yummiest things.

As of last year, I had never mixed chorizo with anything other than eggs or beans until I saw a recipe for chorizo burgers. That sounded too good so I decided to make some for a day hiking trip/picnic we had late last summer. For these burgers, I didn't follow the recipe, I just threw a few things I liked together and cooked them up after our hike. I also made them bunless, but you are more than welcome to bun it up, m'kay?

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef
1 2.5 oz link uncooked chorizo sausage (I like Ole Mexican Foods brand)
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 small finely chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
8 slices of bacon, cooked - optional - but who am I kidding? YOU NEED to have bacon.
guacamole - optional
cheddar slices (or your favorite cheese) optional

Method:
Fire (or gas up) your grill
Mix the ground beef with the chorizo, mustard, chopped onion, salt, and pepper until combined. Form into 4 patties. Grill about 10 minutes on each side, or until done to your liking. Top with cheese, guacamole and crisp bacon. Enjoy!

Thank you so much for looking, now go grill up some YUM!

As always, I welcome your comments/thoughts/ideas!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Loaf with Meyer Lemon Glaze


I think the weather enjoys teasing us. Beautiful seventies one day, in the thirties the next. I am getting Spring fever, and as much as I love the cooler weather, I am getting so frustrated! Feeling the warm breeze has me craving days with ice cold lemonade, fresh berries, salads, Spring season things... Sigh.

Speaking of in-season things, Meyer lemons are here again! Last year I made a Meyer lemon icebox pie with freshly squeezed juice and it was delicious! Needless to say, the next time I went back for them, they were gone. I was so sad! Ever since I discovered Meyer lemons, I have been obsessed with making something involving them with blueberries. Instead of making a pie this time (though I have a feeling I will be making another one soon) I decided on a pound cake with fresh blueberries. As much as I bake, I have never made a pound cake before, so I went looking for and found a Paula Deen recipe. We all know we can't go wrong with a Paula Deen recipe, right? :) This recipe was a winner, with the addition of some Meyer lemon juice, fresh crushed blueberries, and a lovely sweet and tangy drizzle of Meyer lemon glaze.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen's "Mama's Pound Cake" Recipe

Ingredients:

For the loaf:
Non-stick Baker's Joy or Pam spray for pans
2 sticks of butter
3 cups of granulated sugar
5 eggs
3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Meyer lemon, juiced
2 pints of blueberries

For the glaze:
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
1 Meyer lemon, juiced - you may only need 2 - 3 tablespoons


Method:

Stir your flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Spray the non-stick spray into 2 5x9" loaf pans and set aside. (I used a 5x9" and a 4x10" pan) Using a mixer, cream your butter and shortening together. Add your sugar a little bit at a time, then add your eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated after each addition. Starting and ending with the flour, add the flour and milk alternately to the wet mixture until well blended, then add vanilla. Add the juice of ONE Meyer lemon to the batter and blend until incorporated. Next, prepare your blueberries: Smash one pint. Toss about half (more or less to taste) of the second pint of blueberries into a sandwich bag with a tablespoon or 2 of flour for the top of the loaves. Pour a quarter of the batter to cover the bottom of one of the pans, and do the same with the second pan. Top with smashed blueberries  on both and spread them around the batter to cover almost to the edges. Top each "loaf" with remaining batter and toss floured blueberries on top. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half. Loaves are ready when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans for about 20 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack and let cool completely.


 (So I was a little obsessed with the glaze...)

While loaves are cooling, prepare your glaze. Add 1 cup of confectioner's sugar to a small bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice to begin with and stir. Add more Meyer lemon juice in 1/2 tablespoon increments and continue to stir until it reaches glaze consistency, using about 2 -3 tablespoons total. Pour over loaves and enjoy!


Try it with blackberries as well, it's delicious!

Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something and spread some YUM!

 








Sunday, March 16, 2014

Peppermint Patty Milkshake


Happy St. Patrick's Day! I am nowhere close to being Irish, but there's just something fun about the holiday, all the green, fun and frolic. It was one of my favorite things to be cheerleading in the St. Patrick's Day parade as a wee child in Chicago as we would pass over the river, which was dyed GREEN! It was always cold, but so much fun. Fun facts about the way the river is dyed green and how it came to be, click HERE.

I made a milkshake in honor of the holiday, it's fresh, minty, and definitely not for the minor Leprechauns. It's a Peppermint Patty Milkshake. Enjoy.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup O'Reilly's Mint Chocolate Liqueur (or a similar liqueur)
12 oz milk
3 cups of vanilla ice cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Honey and sprinkles for garnish (optional)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender, adding more ice cream if you desire more creaminess.

Pour sprinkles onto a dish. With a small food-safe paintbrush, dip into honey and "paint" around the rim on the glasses. Dip onto the sprinkles for garnish if desired.

Thank you so much for looking!

Now go blend it and spread some YUM!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Birthday Cake!


I always get a funny comment when my birthday rolls around. Several times. "Happy Birthday Diana! I hope someone else makes your cake so you don't have to!" WHAT??? You mean to tell me, baking is my passion and you think I want someone else to make my cake?! NO WAY JOSE! It might take a little bit of work for me to do it but by golly, it's a labor of love! For myself! Besides, I have started making more involved cakes and I don't want to put anybody through that just for lil' ol' me.


I used to get the Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream cake with chocolate cake just because it's some of what I grew up with and it's my favorite ice cream flavor evah, but then I starting experimenting with new flavors and just distanced myself from buying cakes. Last year I found and made a cake on Sweetapolita's site that had me drooling, and this year, I found a couple of other recipes that I decided to blend together. Chocolate Cake and Nutella Cloud Frosting. The only change I made was that I used Hershey's Special Dark for the cocoa (I didn't have access or enough time to order the fancy cocoa she uses) and my coffee happened to be Dunkin Donuts Blueberry Muffin flavor. (It's all I had folks!) I also added sprinkles in between flavors because she gave me the idea and I loved it! I just have to say, if you ever make yourself a cake, make this one. Please. It's SO worth it! 

Click HERE for the Chocolate Cake Recipe, and HERE for the Nutella Cloud Frosting. 

Now go bake this cake and SPREAD SOME YUM!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!


 
Spring is in the air! I was walking around work one morning this past week and smelled cucumbers. It took me back to spring and summer and reminded me of a wonderful salad I had posted on an old food blog a LONG time ago. 
This salad is such a wonderful mix of flavor and colors, perfectly crisp and delicious. Great for a side salad and I usually make it for Easter gatherings as well! I got the recipe from a co-worker and I've been hooked ever since she took it to the office. Try this out for your next large gathering, it makes a good bit! Enjoy!  
P.S. Please excuse the small picture, it was all I had!

1 Head of lettuce, torn into pieces and washed
1 bag of Spring Mix salad (it helps to wash this as well, gets rid of the plastic bag flavor)
1 hothouse cucumber 
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 red, 1 green, and 1 yellow bell pepper, all sliced 
1 quart of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Croutons (whichever you like) 
Ranch or Italian dressing. Either of these dressings seem to be pretty good for this salad. 
Toss everything together and enjoy!