Monday, February 27, 2012

How to make slime

Now this was fun!

Making slime with your kids, what could be better? 
It certainly was a unique way to make some art everyday--of the shiny, stretchy, slimy sort.



Fun and easy. You need only a few common household items to make your own slime and have some fun with your kids (or your friends--I thought it was way fun):

Ingredients:
Liquid starch (found in the laundry detergent isle)
Elmer's glue
Water
Food dye



And if you want to get really science-y you can explain how the molecules of glue are polymers--stringy molecules--and then you can explain how the liquid starch cross-links the polymers together creating this really fun slimy texture. Not quite solid, not quite liquid--an amorphous solid. :) How's that for your science fill of the day?


Here's what you do:
(according to Science Bob)
1. Combine the following:
 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. Elmer's glue
a bit of food dye
 I used a sandwich bag to do this, which worked great, but in the end we dumped it into bowls to play with anyway, so it might be just as easy to start in a bowl and use a spoon to stir it up.

2. Once the above ingredients are well-combined, add 1/4 c. liquid starch and stir (or squish if you are doing it in a bag) until you get that great slimy texture.

Voila! Now you have slime and lots of smiles from you kids!

Enjoy. :)



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Friday, February 24, 2012

Healthy Fudge

Yes, you read correctly, this is healthy fudge.

AND it tastes good--honest!


I have this problem--I love high-quality desserts. No candy and Snickers bars for me, I'm all about creme brulee and chocolate truffles.

BUT I also like healthy food. I cook with pretty much all self-ground, whole-wheat flour, we reduce our sugar intake, (in fact, we have "no sugar week" the first week of every month--with some exceptions) and we try to eat lots of produce. LOTS of produce.


So, I regularly have this conflict in my mind--wanting to whip up a batch of molten lava cakes but thinking I should probably just eat a smoothie instead. Balance--it's all about balance.

Well, sometimes I try to strike that balance with "healthy" desserts. Now, I know some of you would snear at the thought of ruining a perfectly wonderful dessert by trying to make it healthy, trust me, much of the time I am the same way. BUT I figure I can have dessert more often if it is healthy sometimes. :) right?


Plus, I really like making healthy desserts with the kids. My older one is starting to realize the difference, but for the most part, they still think that smoothie popsicles and "jello" jigglers made with Knox pectin and real fruit juice are the best desserts out there. Score for me.


So, with all this background in mind, when my friend Jamie said she had a healthy fudge recipe, I was interested, but quite doubtful (sorry I doubted you Jamie). I mean, go ahead and make some desserts healthy if you can, but chocolate--don't mess with chocolate.

However, I gave these a whirl one week for one of our family night treats, and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. I was not impressed after the first bite, but once I realized that it isn't really fudge and it won't taste that way so don't expect it to, well then I liked them a good deal.

Then I couldn't stay out of them!

Then I ate half of the pan! And mmm mmm did I enjoy it. :) The kids loved them too. I made them again and we ate them with fresh strawberries, TO DIE FOR!


So, here's the recipe for ya. Give it a whirl; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.



Healthy Fudge

1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup soy milk (or rice milk)
1 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Begin by soaking the dates and raisins in the milk so that they chop easier. In food processor, chop dates and raisins until very fine. Pour chopped mixture into a bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Press into an 8x8, lined with wax paper, glass baking dish. Refrigerate.

Click here to print.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to improve your food photography


Taking pictures of your food is fun.

Taking really good pictures of your food is awesome.

So what's the secret?
How do you get from the top cookie picture to the bottom cookie picture?

Well, I'll be the first to say I don't really know what I'm doing, but I have been learning some, and I am getting better. And I'm having a lot of fun in the process. :) The pictures above were taken with the same camera, but here's what the differences are:

1. different lighting
2. different background

That's it!

The top picture was taken at night, in my kitchen with a flash with a the cookies on a plate.

The bottom picture was taken in the day, by a window, without a flash, with a white board under and behind the cookies.

That's it!

Remember these yummy cheesecake pictures?





Some of the best food pictures I've ever taken. And the secret is the same--gentle natural light with the white boards.

Here's my set up:


Seriously, I was taking pictures of the cheesecake and just stepped back a few feet and took a picture of the set up. You can see that there's nothing fancy going on--my preschooler is hanging out with me, the table is getting ready for my husband's Superman birthday party, etc. But, you can see how I have the white foam boards below and beind the cheesecake and you can see a bit of the window off to the left there. I used the same thing for the cookies.

So if you are ready to improve your food photography, the simplest thing I think you could do is to get a hold of some white boards and work on improving your lighting.


 
Good luck!





Linking up here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Neiman Marcus Cookies

The other day seemed like the perfect day for a warm chocolate chip cookie. So I made some with my kids.


Then I got to thinking, when is it NOT a perfect day for a chocolate chip cookie? I can't think of a time that I wouldn't want to eat one. I mean, sure, the summers can be hot and turning on the oven isn't always the smartest idea, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't do it if I wanted a chocolate chip cookie.

And these cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies out there.


And by best, I mean the best.
I've tried a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes in my day, and I've been a real stickler for my Great Grandma Storm's recipe, but these ones are just plain incredible.

Soft, wonderful texture.
Grated chocolate bar right in the dough!
YUM! 

Sometimes I even like to add coconut. Sometimes I leave out the grated chocolate and put in coconut (like shown below) or perhaps pretzels or maybe chopped up heath bars or peanut butter cups or....

I think that's part of the reason why I like chocolate chip cookies so much--they're so basic, but they're so versatile also.

I couldn't resist...I had to have a bite...or two.

Do I have you convinced that today is a perfect day for a chocolate chip cookie? Well, here's the recipe for ya.


Ingredients

5 c. oatmeal, blended
1 c. butter
1 c. shortening
2 c. white sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour (I like to do 3 c. all-purpose, 1 c. whole-wheat)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 8-oz. Hershey’s chocolate bar, grated
3 c. chopped nuts
 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Measure the oatmeal and blend in a blender until a fine powder (or not, if you like some texture to it).
  3. Cream the butter, shortening and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients together: flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the wet ingredients
  5. Add the chocolate chips, grated Hershey’s bar and nuts. Mix.
  6. Roll into balls and place two-inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
 
Note: Since this recipe makes so many, I often halve the recipe with great results. Alternatively, I sometimes freeze the remaining dough in log-shapes and then slice and bake them at will.

  
Click here to print the recipe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Caterpillar Birthday Cake

My baby girl is turning 1 soon, so I've had birthday on the brain.
Then I was thinking... I don't think I have ever posted my son's first birthday cake.
A Caterpillar Cake!

The caterpillar is made of chocolate cupcakes. The head I frosted yellow and the body green and blue-green. I lined them all up on a cookie sheet and added the decorations. Mike-n-Ike, licorice ropes, and M&Ms. Cute and tasty. And more importantly.... easy.



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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesecake with Glazed Fresh Berries

Happy Birthday Hubby!
Who wouldn't want this fabulous cheesecake for their birthday? Now that's a question.



My husband and I always joke that it was part of our prenuptuials that I had to learn to make a mean cheesecake. He informed me that I have succeeded. :)




Silky-smooth cheesecake that's the pefect amount of sweet, perfect amount of tanginess.

All decked out and bejewelled with fresh, glazed berries.




YUM!!!




And what was my request in our prenups you might ask?



No whipping your wife with a towel!!!

He too has kept up his end of the bargain.

For that, I will gladly make him cheesecake to his hearts desire.

Now, this cheesecake recipe is literally tasted and tweaked to perfection. I started with the Best Recipe's version of a New York cheesecake (btw, that's the best cookbook out there), but then changed some things to make it better. Like the crust for instance--I like graham cracker crusts and all, but they are a tad on the sweet side for me. Enter this yummy lemony shortbread-like crust. Perfect!

THIS is the cheesecake recipe you've been waiting for. Give it a go. :)

Cheesecake with Glazed Fresh Berries
Crust
1 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ c. butter, softened
1 slightly-beaten egg yolk
¼ tsp. vanilla

Filling

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ¼ c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. sour cream
2 large egg yolks
6 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

Glazed Berry Topping

3 lbs. fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, any one or combination you like)
½ c. sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. fruit juice
2 Tbsp. corn syrup


Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Prepare crust: Combine the flour, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then, add the egg yolk and vanilla, mix well. Pat about 1/3 of the dough on the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan with the sides removed. Bake at 400 for about 8 minutes or until the crust starts to appear golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool. Now, butter the ides of the pan and attach the bottom (with the cooked crust). Starting at the bottom, pat the remaining dough on to the sides of the pan. It should go up about 1-2 inches.


Increase oven to 500 degrees.

Filling: In a large mixing bowl, cut cream cheese into cubes and then beat until smooth; add salt and sugar a little at a time while mixing, keeping speed on the mixer at medium-low. Scrape the bowl; add the sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat on low for about 1 minute or until well-combined. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yolks, beating well on medium-low until well-combined (about 1 minute). Scrape the bowl; add the eggs, two at a time, beating thoroughly on medium-low and scraping the bowl between additions. Pour into crust; and bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake until the cheesecake registers ~ 150 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. This should take about 1 ½ hours and the middle should be mostly set (when the pan is gently moved, the center will jiggle slightly).


Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the pan sides. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours but up to 4 days. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving (take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before desired time).


Topping: Combine the sugar and the cornstarch together in a small bowl. Dissolve the sugar-cornstarch mixture with the fruit juice in a small saucepan. Cook until thickened; stir in the corn syrup. Bring back to a boil and remove from heat. Cool.

Prepare the berries by washing and slicing them if desired. Dry them. Place them in a large bowl and poor about ½ to ¾ of the glaze over the berries and gently toss to coat. Arrange on top of the cheesecake and enjoy. J

Click here to print.



Bon appetite!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Ideas

It seems like such a waste to have all these great Valentines ideas stockpiled from past posts and not share them again.

So here you go. A bunch of post I thought might help you with your Valentines plans this year!







 





Lots of love and Happy Valentine's everyone!



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Turtle Birthday Cake

Here's my son's second birthday cake...
a TURTLE!

He was crazy about turtles at the time, so this one was a hit.


I baked the body/shell in a round pyrex bowl. (I think it took one cake recipe for the body and another for all the parts).
 The head was baked in a large muffin cup and the feet in regualr muffin cups.
I cut the bottom of each cupcake at an angle so they would tilt how I wanted.
                                    

I frosted the whole cake light green, then added the dark green with a star tip.
(oh, and peanutbutter M&Ms for eyes)

Then I couldn't waist the rest of the batter, so I made coordinating cupcakes.





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