Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kenzie's Sweet 16

Sue here!
I decided to do the blog today as it was my baby's Sweet 16th. Jo and I decided to go all out for her party. Kenzie chose purple, black, and white as her theme for the party.
She also decided she wanted mini food.
We had so much fun searching Pinterest and the internet for ideas. Here is what we settled on:

There is the table full of all the little goodies. The photos below are close ups of all the yumminess!

Above is how we made wonton wrappers into mini tacos. Simply drape the wonton wrapper over a cooling rack on a cookie sheet, prop the cooling rack up on some tinfoil so the wrappers don't touch the cookie sheet, and bake at 375 until browned.

Fill the baked wrappers with some shredded turkey, sour cream, and shredded cheese. (FYI - we didn't really love the shredded turkey - I think ground beef would have been way better!)

They sure looked cute on the serving platter though.

We found some mini champagne plastic glasses at the dollar store so decided to make individual shrimp cocktails. Jo fancied up the plastic glasses by gluing some black and silver beads to the stems.

A spoonful of cocktail sauce and some shrimp made for some pretty cute shrimp cocktails.

The rainbow fruit kabobs were one of the things Kenzie fell in love with from Pinterest.

They turned out so cute. Even though it meant a bazillion trips to the store because, in our last minute panic, we grabbed the wrong fruits like a million times. Geez. They still looked cute though.

What party for teens would be complete without pizza of some sort?
These mini pepperoni pizzas were adorable... and tasty!

Individual taco dips fit my mini glass bowls perfectly. They are a layer of refried beans, layer of cream cheese mixed with taco seasoning, layer of salsa, and topped with a layer of plain sour cream and shredded cheese. They are supposed to have a layer of mashed avocado/guacamole but Kenzie doesn't like avocado/guacamole so we left it out.

The mini smokies were a big hit. We were able to buy the mini hot dog buns so Jo didn't have to make them. Which was good...I think Jo was getting a little bit tired of mini baking/cooking!

Mini turkey burgers! These were a big hit too!

Had to take a close up. They were so cute. A little mustard and a tiny pickle on top and they were delicious. The mini buns were next to the mini hot dog buns so we bought them as well!

Mini popcorn chicken. We served this with a few different dipping sauces.
So yummy!

Our famous caramel dipped green grapes. We first made these for Easter and they were a huge hit.
Kenzie knew she wanted these for her birthday as soon as she ate one at Easter time. They really are super easy and everyone loves them!

Individual servings of jalapeno popper dip. We will do a blog about this recipe on it's own a little later. This tastes exactly like a jalapeno popper.
We found some dollar store mirrors that made really cute serving platters for them.

We made these mustache straws from a Pinterest idea as well. We made black cherry juice with frozen blueberries instead of ice cubes in mason jars, topped with a cupcake liner and canning ring. The kids loved these. They are so much fun!

I fell in love with the paper poofy flowers after I made them for Valentine's Day. They are an inexpensive way to add big, bold decorations to a room.

Of course, the small things are important too. A jar full of purple suckers and a dollar store purple picture frame with a baby picture of the birthday girl make a big impact too.

One last look at the table..starting on the left side....

Now the middle.....Note the glass jars with the "K" full of colored candy.
Another inexpensive way to spruce up a table. Dollar store glass containers with a little colored ribbon, and some "K"s printed out on plain paper. Glue it altogether and BAM monogrammed party decorations. (There is a closer look in the very top photo of the blog)

And now the right side......

Kenzie had a great idea with the plastic forks. A sheet of stickers from the dollar store and some white plastic forks - perfect accessories for her purple theme.
I'm pretty sure she gets her genius from her mother.....

We wanted to give the kids a little thank you for coming to the party. A mini coke, a canning jar full of homemade Caramel Popcorn, and a grape sucker. All it took was a little purple ribbon and a glue gun. These looked so cute as well.
Jo pilfered the "thank you" ribbon from her work. Someone had brought in boxes of chocolate wrapped with the ribbon. Way to recycle!

There is the masterpiece. I made the layers different flavors. The bottom is Chocolate, the middle is Vanilla, and the top is Banana. (I haven't shared my banana cake recipe...yet...)

The birthday girl with her cake.
*Sniff sniff* she is growing up too fast....
We had a family birthday dinner for her a few days earlier and made a Pink Lemonade Ombre Cake.
Yes, we do enjoy our cake.....

Jo and I set up a photo booth for the party. We filled a box with fun hats, glasses, mustaches, etc... the kids had a lot of fun with this. This was another great, inexpensive, fun way to bring some laughter to the party. We found all of our props at the dollar store, or else made them out of construction paper.

I love this photo... I thought they all looked like they were having fun. I think they did.
You may have noticed the one lucky boy in amongst all those pretty girls.
That's our nephew, Nick. He turned 16 last month.
Yes...his hair is really that orange.

So that is Kenzie's sweet 16. She got her learner's permit to drive the morning of her party.
She is growing up too fast. (Which is weird because I'm not getting any older.)

Check out Heatherly Loves for some great links. Don't forget Ms. enPlace as well!
Six Sister's Stuff has a ton of links too! annnnd.....Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons and Carole's Chatter!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole (Guest hosts at Heatherly Loves)

Sue and I are guest hosting over at Heatherly Loves today.
We made a delicious Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole that you do not want to miss!
For the recipe and some more drool-inducing photos just click
and it will take you to Heather's blog.

We hope you have a look around Heather's blog - she has some wonderful recipes and crafting ideas.
Please feel free to leave a message here or at Heatherly Loves and let us know what you think of the casserole.
It is soooooooo tasty. And easy.
Thanks again to Heather for letting us be part of her wonderful blog!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peanut Butter Sesame Granola Bars

Now that the weather is warmer and we can head outside to do more things I thought I would try and find a good homemade granola bar recipe to throw in the backpack for hikes/beach/etc.
They are even good for grab-and-go for breakfasts.
I do have a really yummy one that I have used for a few years but this one sounded even healthier than mine so I thought I would give it a whirl.
Did I like this one better than mine?
I still haven't decided.
I will have to make mine and share it with you so you can be the judge.
(Update: Click HERE for my Chewy Granola Energy Bars)

Peanut Butter Sesame Granola Bar
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup shredded coconut 
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup sesame seeds 
4 Tbsp ground flax
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/3 cup peanut butter

Lightly spray an 8 X 8 (or 9X9) baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and then lightly spray again. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the oats and coconut flakes until finely ground. Remove to a bowl. Then pulse the peanuts and cashews until roughly chopped. Add to oatmeal/coconut mixture. Stir in sunflower seeds and flax.
Toast sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Keep a close eye on them, stirring often, and remove to oat mixture when they turn blonde.
Add the peanut butter and maple syrup to the skillet and heat until runny and well combined (just a few seconds). Stir into oat mixture until well combined.
Press into prepared baking dish. Store in fridge.

I used a 9 X9 pan.

According to the blog I got this from - Life and running in Iowa - if you cut the bars into 16 pieces then it is 184 calories per bar. Not too shabby.
These are super simple to throw together, you don't have to heat up the oven - which is a huge plus in the summer - and are super delicious.
I loved the sesame seeds in these.
I will whip up my recipe soon and see which ones are my favorites.

Have a look at My Turn (for us) for some great links.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate and cream cheese and cookies?
Okay, if you just answered with "not me" then I don't think we can be friends.
I think you may be inflicted with the same disease Sue suffers from.
I call it "craziness".
These cookies not only have a ridiculous amount of deliciousness....they are so easy. You get to cheat by using store bought crescent rolls.
I won't tell if you won't.

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

1 can seamless crescent rolls
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Unroll the crescent roll. Stretch out the dough into a rectangle. (If you can't find the seamless crescent dough then just make sure you pinch the seams together well.)
Spread the cream cheese mixture over the top of the crescent dough - leave a gap at the edge of about 1/2 inch.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Roll the crescent roll up tightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Once chilled - preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Slice the cookie log into about 1/4 inch slices. Bake on prepared sheet for 10 - 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

I don't usually cheat when it comes to cookies but once I saw these I had to try them.
You should too.
They are totally worth it.
No effort and you get to eat cookies.
I don't see a problem with that, do you?
OH! P.S. - These are sooooo much better warm with the chocolate chips all melty. Don't be afraid to microwave them for 5 seconds to warm them up.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Light Potato Soup

I needed to make something fairly quick for dinner tonight. My day was rediculously busy and I didn't feel like prepping for a billion hours.
Also, both mom and dad weren't feeling well so I needed something that would sit well on their upset stomachs.
Plus, I am still trying to eat as healthy as I can so I wanted something that wasn't full of fat, etc...
Guess what I found?
Yummy, hearty, yet healthy potato soup.

Naked soup without toppings!

Light Potato Soup
(adapted from Skinny Taste)

1 medium potato, washed and scrubbed
1 medium head of cauliflower, stem removed & cut into florets
2 cups fat free chicken broth
2 cups 1% milk
salt & pepper
1/2 cup light sour cream
6 Tbsp chives, divided
1/2 cup light, aged cheddar cheese, shredded
3 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled

Pierce potato with a fork and microwave for 5 minutes - or until tender.
Boil cauliflower in a pot full of water until tender. Drain and return to pot.
Over medium heat, add chicken broth, milk, salt & pepper, and potato. Bring to a boil.
Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. (I didn't have an immersion blender so I just used my Magic Bullet and processed it in batches until it was smooth and then poured it back in the pot.)
Add sour cream and half the chives and cook over low heat another 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, ladle 1 cup into bowl, top each serving with 1-2 Tbsp cheese, remaining chives and bacon.

Oooooh pretty!
It is now loaded baked potato soup but without all the fat and calories of regular potato soup.

According to Fitday the breakdown per serving (serving is 1 cup)
Calories - 115
Fat - 2.5
Carbs - 15
Protein - 9
A cup of "regular" potato soup is about 150 calories, 6.4 fat, 17 carbs, and 5.7 protein.

Trust me when I say - you won't know this isn't full fat "regular"potato soup.
Yes, it tastes THAT good.
There is hardly any prep involved in this. You have to love that!
I left the skin on the potato because it adds more nutrients but you certainly don't have to. (Keep in mind you puree everything so you won't have any bits of skin floating around.)
Plus..... it turns out it was a really good choice for mom and dad's upset tummies. They both said it helped them feel less nauseas. Yay!

Check out Carole's Chatter for some great links.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pink Lemonade Ombre Cake with Pink Lemonade Cream Cheese Frosting

It is a bit early but I just had to post a blog of Kenzie’s birthday cake.
Okay…technically it isn’t her ‘birthday” birthday cake.
This is the cake I made for the family dinner we had to celebrate her 16th birthday. Sue and I will be doing a post in a week or so of Kenzie’s REAL birthday. Sue is going all out for Kenz’s big 1-6 and I get to help! Be sure to check back after June 28th to see some party and food pics!
For now though…. I wanted to make something really “girly” and pink for Kenz. I decided on a pink lemonade cake. Then I decided to up it a notch and do an ombre cake, just to see if I could.
I got the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine but did make a few little changes.

Pink Lemonade Cake with Pink Lemonade Cream Cheese Frosting
3 1/3 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
Red food coloring
1 1/3 cups milk
¼ cup pink lemonade concentrate
1 tsp lemon extract
½ cup butter, room temp
1 cup cream cheese, room temp
1 cup marshmallow creme (or fluff)
¼ cup pink lemonade concentrate
Red food coloring
4 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray 2 X 9 inch pans with cooking spray. (I also like to line the bottom of my pans with parchment paper and give them another quick spray.) Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until well combined, scraping sides of bowl as you go. Beat in 1/8 tsp food coloring. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
In a small bowl, stir together milk, pink lemonade concentrate, and lemon extract. (Mixture will appear curdled)
Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture, beating until combined. Divide batter in half. To half of the mixture add another 1/8 tsp food coloring.

Varying the pinkness.

Scrape into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for about 30 – 35 minutes. (Until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.) Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 5 minutes before inverting onto wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting - Beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in marshmallow cream. Add pink lemonade concentrate and food coloring and beat until combined. Very slowly add the icing sugar until you reached spreading consistency. You made to add more or less concentrate or icing sugar to get it where you want it.

Now…in my head I imagined this being a really small cake and I wanted to make a BIG cake…so…I doubled the recipe. Hmmmmm… yeah…..I got a big cake. I needed 5 cake pans. I only used 4 layers for her cake and it was ginormous. I just repeated the above steps twice and then added more food coloring the second time around to get deeper pink colors. I think I doubled the frosting too.
You can see the layers are cut in half. I changed my mind about icing all 8 layers and just went with 4 iced layers.
I initially cut each layer in half and was going to frost between each of the layers so it would be an 8 layer cake…but then decided it may be too sweet with all that icing between the layers and such and just went with 4 big layers. (In hindsight, I think it may have looked even cooler if I had done the 8 layers… but it was still pretty cool.)
I couldn't get it smooth....aaaarg!

 I couldn’t decide how I wanted to finish off the frosting. Initially I was hoping to get it nice and smooth...
but that didn’t work….so then I was going to cover it in fake flowers…but that looked terrible…so then Sue suggested making it fluffy by lightly stabbing it all over with a fork. I think the end result looked really cool. It almost looked like it was covered in coconut. We did leave some fake flowers around the bottom though just to fancy it up. Do you like the plate it is on? Nice, right? I got that for 50 cents at a garage sale.

I thought it turned out really pretty. Kenzie was happy with it so that was the most important thing.
FYI – only double this if you need a really, really BIG cake. We fed 20 people at her dinner, left ¼ of it for the restaurant staff, and I brought ¼ of to work the next day.

Kenzie with her "small piece" piece of birthday cake. Hehehe - it doesn't even fit on the plate!

I hope you come back at the end of the month and check out Kenzie’s birthday party pics and food ideas. Her theme is purple, black, and white. (UPDATE: Click here to see party pics!)

Head over to My Turn (for us) for more great ideas.
Don't forget about Heatherly Loves!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookie Pizza

I just wanted to share this fancy schmancy peanut butter cookie pizza recipe/idea.
Technically you could make this with any cookie dough but I really like the peanut butter with the chocolate and almonds.
Don't get me wrong....I wouldn't be rude and say no to a chocolate chip cookie pizza should one be offered to me. I'm not crazy.
Sue, on the other hand.....well...I think we all know her stance on cookies.

Peanut Butter Cookie Pizza

Cookie Base
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 to 1 cup caramel sauce or ice cream topping
1 cup mini peanut butter cups
1 cup chocolate covered peanuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds
20 - 24 kisses (I used caramel kisses)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a round, regular size pizza pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Cookie base - Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Stir into wet ingredients until combined.
Press evenly onto prepared pizza pan. (TIP - I left about a 1 inch hole in the dough in the middle of the pan so the cookie could spread in the middle a bit so it would cook a bit more evenly.) Prick all over with a fork.
 Bake at 350 for about 10 - 15 minutes or until cookie begin to brown. spreads to cover the little hole I had left in the middle and, thus, cooks evenly.

Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes.

Carefully drizzle caramel sauce over the crust and spread evenly to within an inch of the border. (This is easier if the cookie is a bit warm.)
Sprinkle on toppings. (I did this while my cookie was still warm because I wanted the chocolates to get a bit melty. If you don't want them to melt then just wait until your cookie is completely cool.)
When your pizza is cool you should be able to use the parchment paper and just carefully slide the cookie off onto a serving platter, or serve it from the pizza pan.  

How fun is that??
I made this for a bake sale and put it in a real pizza box. It sold right away!
You could make this with pretty much any cookie recipe and any toppings you prefer. You just have to make sure your cookie is going to be a sturdy enough base.
I have seen lots of fruit toppings on cookie pizzas but thought I would go the total indulgent route with chocolate and more chocolate and a peanut butter cookie base instead of a sugar cookie.
I think I made the right choice.

Check out Carole's Chatter for some great links!