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Memorial Day

May 28, 2012

We are so proud of you, Jeff.  We love you and can’t wait to see you!  ♥


Best mosquito bite remedy ever

May 25, 2012

When mosquitos look at my kids, I think they see little targets everywhere.  One evening outside means days of itchy welts.  Big golf ball kinds of welts!  I go through a lot of Benadryl every summer because it’s been the only thing that gives them any relief, but I have found a better, safer, cheaper way to get rid of that itch.  Soap!  Just rub a bar of dry soap over a mosquito bite and feel better instantly.  Seriously!

Claudia’s poor little legs were covered with mosquito bites that were even keeping her awake at night.  The anti-itch creams weren’t working for long, and giving her Benadryl during the school day just wasn’t practical, so I turned to my old friend Google.  A quick search led me to TipNut, where I found the perfect remedy to make my sweet girl feel better.  A plain old bar of soap!  And it works!



Jell-o poke cake

May 24, 2012

Jello Poke Cake

J-E-L-L-O!  I got a Jello Poke Cake to celebrate my birthday!  It reminds me of being a kid, which is a good feeling to have on your birthday, right?  I’d love to tell you that my sweet family was solely responsible for treating me to this birthday treat, but it would be a big, fat lie.  I had to buy the ingredients, find the recipe, and finish up the baking while Jim fielded a momentary crisis on the phone.

Do any of you moms organize your own birthdays?  I really did it more for the kids than for me.  They think everyone needs a party when it’s their birthday, so there has to be cake, and if it’s so nice out that those same children would rather be playing outside than baking for their mama, then so be it.  Jim made an effort, though the logic of pouring Jello over a perfectly good cake mystified him.  He’d never heard of a poke cake before and he thought all that Jello was actually going to set!  Ha!

The surprise of cutting into a poke cake is part of the fun, and the kids both thought it would be great to pour different colors of Jello into different parts of the cake for a sort of tie-dyed effect.  I’m leaning toward a 4th of July poke cake – white cake with some red and blue Jello.  Doesn’t that sound fun?

{two years ago:  curried chicken and rice with pineapple}

Recipe:  Jello Poke Cake

(from Betty Crocker)

1 box of white cake mix, and ingredients called for on the cake mix box
1 4-serving size of Jello
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. cold water
1 8-oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Make and bake cake as directed on box for a 13×9″ pan.  Cool completely in pan, about 1 hour.

Pierce cooked cake all over with a fork or the handle of a wooden spoon.  In a small bowl, stir Jello and boiling water until dissolved.  Stir in cold water.  Pour dissolved Jello all over cake.  Refrigerate 2 hours.  Frost with thawed Cool Whip.

Buttermilk donuts

May 19, 2012

Buttermilk Donuts

You know, it’s really a crying shame that tomorrow isn’t Mother’s Day.  If it was, I have no doubt that I’d be showered with gifts and affection to outmatch any Mother’s Day before it.  Today has put me in the lead of the Best Mama Race for sure, at least by my kids’ standards.

First, I made buttermilk donuts for breakfast.  Claudia and I have been reading our way through the Little House on the Prairie series and we’re just finishing up Farmer Boy.  Farmer Boy is about Almanzo, Laura’s future husband, and his childhood and family life.  Claudia can’t get over the fact that there is a donut jar always full of fresh-baked donuts in Almanzo’s kitchen.  He just eats them whenever he wants!  Can you imagine?  Donuts happen to be one of my girl’s favorite things, so I promised that I’d make donuts, just like Almanzo’s mama.  I refuse to let that clever Mrs. Wilder outdo me, and I’ll confess that having warm donuts with my coffee this morning was a pretty nice treat.

Then, we hit pay dirt at a yard sale – an enormous, gigantic, colossal box of Legos!  We already have a pretty big box of our own, but this was one of those really big Rubbermaid containers almost full to the top with Lego blocks.  For SEVEN DOLLARS!  Woohoo!  I actually asked the woman several times if she was sure she only wanted $7, because I know how much money was sitting in that pile of colorful Legos, but she didn’t budge.  In fact, she gave us the container too!

So I’ve got two happily spoiled rotten kiddos today, and I’m okay with that, because I’ve also got leftover donuts to eat while they’re building things with their Legos.  Win-win!

Recipe:  Buttermilk Donuts

(found at Brown Eyed Baker, original source: Baked Explorations)

3½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Vegetable or canola oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Before you begin, line one baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper, and another with a double layer of paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream until combined.  Add the melted, cooled butter and whisk again.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid ingredients into the well.  With a rubber spatula, slowly fold and press the flour into the liquid center until the mixture forms a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and pat it out until it is about ½-inch thick.  Use two circle cookie cutters of different sizes, or glasses with different sized rims, and dip the cutters into flour, then press them into the dough to make donut shapes.  Transfer the donuts and donut holes to the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pat the dough scraps back together, and use them to make more donuts and donuts holes. Chill the dough while you heat the oil.

Pour enough oil into a deep skillet to make a layer approximately 1 inch to 1½ inches deep.  Slowly heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is 365 to 370 degrees F.  (While you are waiting for the oil to reach temperature, mix up the cinnamon sugar topping.)

When the oil reaches temperature, gently lift the large doughnuts off the baking sheet and place them in the hot oil.  Do not crowd the skillet – make no more than 3 donuts at a time.  Once they have browned on one side, turn them over with tongs or a slotted spoon and continue to cook just until browned.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towel-lined baking sheet and continue to fry the rest of the dough until finished.

While the donuts are still warm, dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.  Transfer to a wire rack or enjoy immediately.

Ultimate cookies and cream brownies

May 4, 2012

Ultimate Cookies and Cream Brownies

My dear friend, Ingrid, has some recipes up her sleeve that can make you weak in the knees.  These Oreo-frosted-Oreo-brownies are the perfect example of her mad genius, especially if the creamy filling is your favorite part of an Oreo.  I was going to take the quick route and use a boxed mix, but I completely forgot to pick one up once I had those Double Stuf Oreos in my cart.  All logic seemed to have deserted me at the time, so when it came to baking these babies up, I turned to my tried and true ultimate brownie recipe.

Those ultimate brownies are just about the best and most versatile brownies you can find, and they make a whole 9×13″ pan of goodness.  This time, I added a bunch of chopped up Double Stuf Oreos, then topped them with Ingrid’s cookies and cream frosting.  Yum on top of yum!

Recipe:  Cookies and Cream Brownies

One batch of Ultimate Brownies, with chopped up Oreos stirred in just before pouring them into the baking pan.

Ingrid’s Cookies and Cream Frosting:

4 c. powdered sugar
8 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
2-4 Tbsp. heavy cream or milk
approx. 16 Oreos, chopped into tiny pieces

Combine all frosting ingredients (except the Oreos) and mix until light and fluffy.  You may need to add a bit more heavy cream to get a spreadable consistency.  Gently stir in chopped Oreos.  Spread frosting evenly over cooled brownies.  (Optional idea:  top with ganache!)


Self-frosting Nutella cupcakes

April 30, 2012

Self-Frosting Nutella Cupcakes

Have you heard that there was a class action suit brought against the makers of Nutella for not coming clean with the fact that it really is a chocolatey dessert spread, and not so much a part of your typical nutritious breakfast?  If you’re interested, you can jump on the bandwagon and get your share of the profits that were awarded… $4-$20, depending on how many jars you’ve purchased in the past couple of years.  Personally, I’d rather have my jar of Nutella, so I’ll pass on the cash.

I never deluded myself with the idea that Nutella was good for me.  How could I, when it’s in so many delicious desserts?  You don’t see broccoli showing up in any desserts, right?  So while I agree that the makers of Nutella need to add a little dose of honesty to their advertising, I’ve always found their commercial rather amusing.  I think they’d sell more if they took a new approach and starting showing us how people really enjoy their Nutella.  Like with a spoon, for instance.  Or with these self-frosting cupcakes.

The fact that these cupcakes come out of the oven covered in Nutella goodness is the best part of this recipe.  I wasn’t crazy about the cupcake itself, but I got no complaints from the 7 kids hanging around my house this afternoon.  I like the idea of swirling the Nutella on top, so next time I’ll use a moister cupcake recipe, like this one from Elinor Klivons.  That’s reason enough to keep my jar of Nutella.

Recipe:  Self-Frosting Nutella Cupcakes

(by at Shine)

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola or mild vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325F.  In a medium bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.  Divide the batter between 12 paper-lined muffin cups.  Drop a spoonful of Nutella on top of each, and swirl through the batter with the tip of a bamboo skewer or knife.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until springy to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 cupcakes.


Ritz cracker ice cream dessert

April 19, 2012

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream Dessert

Hmmm, it’s kind of been a while since I paid any attention to my little blog here.  Some people in my family say it’s because I’m bitter.  I’m not exactly bitter – that’s a harsh word – but let me start at the beginning and explain…

Every Easter, we have a little tradition in our family that we call our “Iron Chef Throwdown.”  There’s a shiny trophy and everything.  My sister (Bea) chooses an ingredient and my mom, my youngest sister (Dani), and I throwdown and compete for bragging rights and the trophy.  This year, the not-so-secret ingredient was Ritz crackers.  I whipped up absolutely delicious, hard-to-resist, homemade Twix bars.  My sister made a tasty pecan pie.  And my mom?  Well, she made this ridiculous Cool Whip concoction and decorated the whole thing with sprinkles and jelly beans to appeal to our younger voters.  The votes came back with Mom beating me out by ONE VOTE.  Just one vote!  I tried really hard to be a gracious loser, I really did.  Then I took a nap.  As I was napping, Bea popped in eating one of my Twix bars.  She proceeded to tell me that if they had been colder during the tasting, she would have voted for me over my mom.  Grrrrrr.  That would have meant a tie and we would have had to re-vote.  Totally unprecedented!  So am I bitter?  Well, maybe a little after that!  It’s like rubbing salt in a wound, for crying out loud!

No, seriously, I am glad my mom got to have the trophy back because she was just tickled.  She even got a super cute bunny chef hat to wear.  I still contend that my homemade Twix bars were beyond amazing, and I wasn’t terribly crazy about this dessert my mom served, but obviously a lot of other people were.

This tradition of ours is kooky and fun, and very competitive.  I’ll post the other recipes soon too, so you can judge for yourselves.  And if you choose my Twix bars, please tell my mom!

{two years ago:  English muffin bread}
{three years ago:  tie-dyed mini cheesecakes

Recipe:  Ritz Cracker Ice Cream Dessert

(found here)

2 sleeves reduced fat Ritz crackers
1/2 c. butter
1/2 quart of vanilla ice cream
2 boxes instant white chocolate pudding
1 c. milk
1 container of Cool Whip

Crush crackers and layer in bottom of rectangular cake pan.  Melt butter in microwave and pour over crackers.  Mix together and press into bottom of pan to make a crust.  In a mixing bowl, mix ice cream, pudding, and milk for 2 minutes on high speed.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Pour over cracker crust and refrigerate for about 2 hours or until firm.