Monday, April 28, 2014

Strawberry Bruschetta

I'm so excited for summer! Biting into strawberries takes me away to summertime . The colors, the flavors, oh, they are so delicious! I also love bruschetta! I make it often and have about 4 different recipes that I cycle through. This one is perfect for a spring day because it's so refreshing and sweet. It's like taking a bite right out of summer!

1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced
1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
1 French baguette
4 oz spreadable Swiss cheese
Olive oil, about 1 Tbsp or to taste
Balsamic Vinegar, about 1 Tbsp or to taste

We'll start this dish by dicing the strawberries. Don't they look delicious!
Next, sprinkle some sugar on top if using. I've made this many times without sugar, it tastes just as yummy if your strawberries are ripe and juicy. But today I felt like adding some sugar. 
Give the strawberries a good stir. Then let them soak in their own juices for about 30 minutes. You can work on the rest of the bruschetta while they are soaking up the sugar.
Now you need a baguette. Have you seen these at Target? I love them! You buy them and bake them at home so you have nice warm bread! You can also freeze them and then pop them right in the oven! Fresh bread! Maybe they've been around forever but I just discovered them. When they go on sale I buy a few and put them in the freezer. So anyway, take your bread (bake if you need to) and cut it on a bias, or diagonally.

It should look something like this. 
Do this for all the bread until you have something like this. You cut it on a bias so you have to most surface area on the bread for the bruschetta, plus it looks little nicer.

Next you need some spreadable Swiss cheese. I like this one but feel free to try a different brand.

You only need about 4oz of the cheese and this one is 6 oz so just use about 6 slices. 
Spread it on the bread, like so.

Do this for all of the bread.

Now scoop the strawberries onto the bread

This is how I store my Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. I use olive oil in almost every recipe so having it in this makes it simple to pour. These cost about $2

Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over all your bruschetta pieces. You can use as much or little as you like. I love vinegar so I tend to you more.

And there you have it, easy strawberry bruschetta!

So good! Enjoy!

Right click words below, save then print.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash! It is so tasty and goes great with so many flavors. You can have it in almost any way you would eat spaghetti. This is my favorite way to cook spaghetti squash and I hope you'll enjoy it too. This was adapted from the lovely Martha Stewart.

1 spaghetti squash (about 4 lbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/4 cup almonds
optional: bacon bits

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grab your spaghetti squash. Just in case you don't know what it looks like (I didn't when I first started to learn to cook) here it is.

Cut it in half lengthwise

Scoop out all the seeds so you're left with just the delicious inside!

Next brush the insides and the rims of the spaghetti squash halves with the brown sugar (1/2 Tbsp for each half). Normally I don't use sugar in recipes and I often substitute it for honey. However, that isn't the case for this recipe, it just tastes so good! Maybe I'll try it someday with honey, I'll let you know.
So now lightly spray a rimmed baking dish with cooking spray. Put the two squash halves cut side down in the dish.

Pop then in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until tender. If it's more than 4 lbs a little longer, if weighs less than a little shorter. 

I scrapped the squash in that picture with a fork just a little bit to show you what it should do when it's done cooking. If it starts to come up looking like spaghetti, than it is done. If not, then pop it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Once it's done, let it it cool for a little bit so you can handle it, about 10 minutes. Once it's cooled, scrape it with a fork until all the insides are out and put them in a bowl. It should look like spaghetti! Add the olive oil, Parmesan, parsley, cilantro, almonds and salt and pepper to the spaghetti. If using bacon, add it. I used store bought bacon bits this time because I was out of turkey bacon.
Toss it and enjoy!

Right click image below to print:

Make it Healthier: 
Leave out the brown sugar, perhaps try honey

You can try any nuts if you don't like almonds: pine nuts, pecans, hazel nuts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Baby Canvas Footprint

I bought this canvas from Hobby Lobby. It was about $7 for a 2 pack (that is the price here, it might be different in your area). 

I also bought these rollers. 

This paint. 
That says "Sargent Art", sorry for the price tag

These paint brushes. 

And these stencils. 

The last tool you need is a baby and 12 months! You can pick any months that you want. I chose to measure my daughter's footprints at 4 months, 8 months and 16 months (I doubled each month) to show the growth. O, my 16 month old daughter, is pretty small for her age so her feet didn't grow too much but I can still see it a little bit. You could even do new born, one year and two year if you want to see major growth. 

So once you decide what you want, paint the canvas a solid color with a roller. I picked pink. It needed more than one coat once it dried. I'm sure there are other paints out there that would have done it in one coat but I like these. I chose the paint I did because once the canvas is painted, if you mess up (or get a foot slip), you can easily wipe the wet paint away with a damp paper towel. But have the paper towel handy, it dries pretty quick. So I painted it one night, let it dry and then painted it again the next night. 

Once you're ready, you need to grab a baby. And a helper! I had my husband, Carson, hold O. He had her sit on his knee and he held her foot. I put a little paint on some cardboard and rolled my roller in it. Then I rolled the roller over her foot. He held her foot out straight and I brought the canvas to her. I did learn that the hard way! At first I had the canvas on the ground and brought her to the canvas but that just resulted in kicking and a smudged foot print! But that was easily wiped away. Make sure you have something to wipe the paint off your baby's foot, otherwise you could get paint everywhere if they escape! 

It was that easy! We repeated that over the next 12 months and voila! Beautiful baby footprints captured forever! I grabbed a wet paper towel, my stencils and painted one letter at a time. In between each letter, I wiped off the stencil with the paper towel so it wouldn't transfer paint when I moved it (little bits of paint get on the underneath side when you paint). I also waited for each letter to dry so I wouldn't smear it, it takes only a minute or two. So to make it go faster, I started with "O" at the bottom, while that was drying I moved up to "4", while that was drying painted the "8" and then the "1" in 16 and I repeated that pattern until I filled in everything.

Don't get too much paint on the brush with the stencils, it will make it lump up on the letters. Better to have a little bit of paint and paint over it several times than have too much paint that clumps.

Don't be intimidated by how long it takes. They are only babies for a little while and really it doesn't take that much active time. To paint the feet and clean them takes less than 5 minutes. The stenciling part took me about 20 minutes, but you can do that any time, it's only the foot part that is time sensitive.

Older is better. It was easier doing the 16 month foot than the 4 month foot. Maybe I had just gotten better but babies move, a lot. My 4 month old squirmed a lot and curled her toes a bunch. My toddler was just kind of staring at what I was doing and was kind of mesmerized, she didn't move a muscle because she was interested in what I was doing.

Pick the right time. Make sure your baby is in a good mood, not grumpy or hungry. 

Have fun! You're making memories with your baby, what could be more fun than that!

If you have any other tips, be sure to let me know!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

I know this is a late post for Easter however these are so cute and delicious that I know you want to make them! Or maybe Pin them and use them next year. My husband has to work this weekend, yes over Easter. Don't worry, I talked to the Easter bunny and he's going to come by our house on Monday. But since my husband and his coworkers are working over the holiday, I thought I could cheer them up with some Easter Cupcakes! I don't normally make sweets because I don't like them however my husband has a sweet tooth. I usually make sweets around the holidays, mainly because I like to decorate them more than eat them ha ha. So I found a picture of these on Pinterest (Follow me here!) but there weren't any directions, just a picture. I used my go to cupcake & frosting recipe (adapted from Bakerella), a little Pinspiration and came up with these cute little cupcakes! And now I'll share the recipe with you in case you're looking for a last minute Easter treat! For these, you can make them 2 different ways. You can either make 12 or 24. It's the same recipe. With 12 you'll get giant, somewhat square cupcakes. With 24 you'll get normal looking cupcakes. I'll tell you were you need to make your decision.

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
a few drops of red food coloring 
2 1/2 cups of all purpose non-bleached flour (this will make the red food coloring turn brown, if using bleached you might have to play around with the colors a bit)
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick/1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups confectioners' sugar
A few drops of green food coloring

12 or 24 cupcake papers
Jelly beans
12 or 24 bunny peeps (they come in packs of 4 for a $1 at Target). Number depends on how many cupcakes you're making.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Then start with cracking two eggs and placing them in bowl
Whisk them up until they are well blended

Next it's time to add the 1 cup oil, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 Tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp vanilla and the few drops of red food coloring. Don't add too much food coloring, you can always add more later but you can't take it out. 
Whisk it all together. Pretty! It will turn brown when you add the unbleached flour. 

In a separate bowl, add the 2 1/2 cups of all purpose non-bleached flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp baking cocoa, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking soda. Whisk it all together. I also like to get my fingers in there to mix, just to make sure all the clumps are broken up.
So then pour the liquid bowl into the dry bowl.

Give it a good stir with your whisk until it's all blended. I did it by hand but you can use a mixer if you have one handy. Just make sure all the dry is incorporated and all the clumps are broken up. This is also the time to adjust the color if you want it darker. I was looking for brown to make the "dirt" under the grass.

Here is where you can decide if you want to make 12 or 24 cupcakes. 24 cupcakes is too many for me so I like to make 12 BIG cupcakes! Also 12 big ones means more room to decorate. The 12 big ones overflow onto the metal part of the cookie sheet (spray the cookie sheet with non-stick flour cooking spray to keep them from sticking). If you make 24 cupcakes, they will be normal sized cupcakes. Line 12 or 24 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.

Next pour the mix into the cupcake papers, remember to spray the metal part if making 12! I used a measuring cup to pour it into the paper instead of trying to do it from the bowl.

See how full they are! You know they are going to over flow into yummy GIANT cupcakes! Drop your pan or pans onto the counter a few times to get all the bubbles out. Pop them into the preheated 350 degree oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean: If making 12 cook for 28 to 30 minutes, if making 24 cook for about 18 minutes. Remember you can always bake them for longer if they are under cooked but you can't un-bake them if they are over cooked/burned so always error on the side of under-cooking them and adding more time if they are still not baked.

So while those are baking, lets work on the frosting! This is DELICIOUS! I always get rave reviews. I always cut up the softened cream cheese and softened butter into squares and them pop them in a blender. I feel it helps the blender out and that's less work for me! I use a long wooden to put it down until it gets all blended.

Once it's all blended, it should look something like this.

Add the 1/2 tsp vanilla and blend again.

So now it's time to add the 3 cups confectioner's sugar. It's best to add it in 1/2 cup batches. Just pour in a 1/2 cup of sugar and blend until it's all liquid. 

Scrape the sides of the blender to make sure it's all blended. Than add another 1/2 cup and repeat with the blending and scraping the sides. Do that until you have 5 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar blended. Before you add the last 1/2 cup, add some green food coloring (for the grass). Add just a little food coloring, you can always add more. Than dump your last 1/2 confectioner's sugar. Blend it all together! If you don't like the color, add more coloring until it's the green you want. The food coloring also helps you make sure it's all getting blended. Use your spoon if it there are places that aren't mixing well.

It should end up looking something like this. I ran out of green food coloring and ended up with lime green! You can go darker though.

Next pour it into a piping bag but if you're like me, pour it into a ziplock bag. Don't have a 2nd set of hands to hold the bag open while you use a rubber spatula to scrape the frosting out of the blender? Don't worry, I have a solution for you. Place your bag in a cup and fold the top over. Ta da!

When you've emptied the blender into the bag, push it all to the bottom to one corner. 

Cut off the corner with some scissors. Voila, a piping bag!

By now, your cupcakes should be done and cooled off a bit. If you made 12 large cupcakes, use a knife to cut the cupcakes apart (some will be squareish) and then slide the knife under the tops to loosen them up from the metal. Then pull the out. Here is a giant cupcake from the top.

And here it is from the side! Yes it's giant and perfect for decorating! 
Squeeze the frosting on the cupcake with your piping bag and then take a butter knife and try to make it as smooth as possible.

Then take a fork and gently poke/scrape along the icing to make it spike up a bit, like grass. I bought some green sprinkles to add to make it look even more like grass but I forgot to add them. So you can try that if you want, let me know how it looks if you do! Also if you having a piping bag, you can use a tip to make it look even more like grass. These were kind of a last minute thing for me so I didn't have time to pick up a piping bag.

Next take a peep bunny and gently push him into the frosting. Once the icing hardens, he'll stay in there pretty good.

Then lay a few Easter Eggs, I mean Jelly Beans, at your bunny's feet. 

Happy Easter everybody!

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