Sunday, May 29, 2011

iheartfaces | The Graduate

Does she look older?  Does she look wiser?  This kindergarten graduate is ready to conquer the world - as long as she can get there on her Plasma Car!  She's ready to tackle any job - as long as they still break for morning snacks!  Regardless of the economy, there will always be a place for her kindness.  First grade will seem elementary to someone who leads her peers with a quiet, tender spirit.

Congratulations, Ella Pinkerella!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kindergarten Graduation Ideas

Well, it's official.  My baby is a kindergarten graduate.

In the south, where we reside, kindergarten graduation is a big deal.  
We're talking caps, gowns, ceremony, diploma, professional portraits and a formal reception.

I love this free "Smartie Pants" printable from  Beth Proudfoot.  

I copied it onto full sheet labels at 90% and used my two-inch craft punch to create these fun goody bag labels.

Sand Pails in school colors made great gift bags for only 99 cents at Michaels.  
Personalization is easy with a paint pen.

We took photos of the kids and displayed them during graduation along with their favorite kindergarten memory.  Some of the responses were sweet (having the best teacher!), some of the responses were serious (Math - really?!) and some responses were hilarious (like watching a classmate dance!)

The kids loved these autograph graduation dogs from Party City.

Aren't they cute?

Look at this adorable cake!  A local baker made one for each class, but the supplies to do the same can be found on line!  The face and caps are made from chocolate molds, with piped on features and tassels.  You can find the chocolate candy molds here.  

The rest of the reception was Kindergarten Friendly:

Strawberries on Cake Pedestals
Brownie Bites 
Juice Boxes

First Grade - Here we come!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

iheartfaces | Yellow

In just a few days, my baby graduates from kindergarten. 
 How quickly these years have gone!  
Fortunately, my baby is in no hurry to grow up.  
She delights in the wonder of childhood.  
Her disposition remains soft and sweet.  
Through her actions, she daily reminds me to stop and smell the flowers.
And because of her, I believe I do.

To see her sweet photos in Black and White, click here.

To see more photos filled with sunshine, visit iheartfaces!


I took these pictures today for the I Heart Faces photo challenge.  
Although the theme was "Yellow", I love how soft and sweet they look in Black and White.

Ella graduates from kindergarten this week.  
When I saw these pictures, they reminded me of how swiftly time goes.

They reminded me to breathe deeply and delight in every moment, 
because these moments come only once in a lifetime.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuxedo Cake Pops

I've been wanting to make Cake Pops ever since I first laid eyes on Bakerella's beautiful blog.  I even saved  a layered cake disaster in the freezer (see below),  just waiting for the right moment to come along.  (I blame it on my frugal upbringing...... waste not, want not!)  

So when it came time for the kids' piano recital - I knew my time had come.  Finally, I had an occasion  to make something special and portable - Tuxedo Cake Pops!

You can find Bakerella's basic cake ball tutorial here, but here's the short story:
  • Crumble a 9 x 13" pan of cake into a bowl 
  • Add one tub of cream cheese frosting (or homemade equivalent)  
  • Mix the cake and frosting together and roll it into little balls.  

As you can see, my one layer cake was not quite enough.  Fortunately, I also had nine chocolate cupcakes in the freezer.  (Thanks, Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club!)

The resulting combination led my six year old daughter to tell my husband that, "Today mommy made meatballs and then dipped them in chocolate!" 

Dip one end of the Cake Pop stick into melted chocolate and insert it into your meatballs Cake Balls.  Put the pan into the freezer and let them harden.  This leads me to mention that this was the most difficult part of the project - finding this much space in my freezer!

After they have hardened, dip the Cake Pops into melted white chocolate. ( I used Wilton's candy melts.) 

When the white chocolate has hardened, tip the sides of the cake pops at an angle into melted dark chocolate.  

Roll the cake ball in the chocolate to cover the back.  

I "stamped" on the buttons by dipping the end of a cake pop stick into the melted chocolate.  

These Tuxedo Cake Pops are ready for Carnegie Hall!

My own voice is already ringing in my head............

Kids, do NOT put food on the piano!

I'm Linking Up With............

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tiramisu Cupcakes {MSC}

One thing I've really come to appreciate about Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, is the way it attempts to take concepts and reformulate them in the shape of a cupcake.  Take these Tiramisu Cupcakes, for example.  All the key elements of this classic Italian dessert are in place - coffee, cocoa, mascarpone cheese and cream.   But wait - where are the lady fingers?  In their place, we make our own sponge cake.  Starting with a vanilla bean.

Breathe deeply.  Can you smell the fragrant aroma?  I love cooking that allows me to experience with my kids the lessons that food doesn't need to come from a box.  Food should appeal to all the senses!

I call the kids over and they help me scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod.

The bean and seeds steep in milk and are redolent of pure bliss.

Next, eggs and sugar are blended in a double boiler "until the mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted."  

This is what mine looked like after eight minutes.

The dry ingredients, egg-sugar mixture and vanilla bean milk mixture are folded together.

I didn't strain the vanilla seeds because I love the speckled batter.

After the muffins baked (mine came out fairly flat), they were brushed with a coffee-marsala syrup.
Do you like my new Le Creuset silicone pastry brush?

Not being a huge coffee drinker, I was a little worried that the syrup would be bitter, but found that the addition of the sugar and marsala wine gave it a smooth and delicious flavor.

The crowning glory, however, was the Mascarpone Frosting.

If you are not a fan of Tiramisu, just make a bowl of the frosting and eat it with strawberries!  Sweet Italian Mascarpone Cheese, heavy cream and a scant half cup of powdered sugar make this topping light and fluffy and not too sweet.

You can find the recipe on Martha's Website or at Jen's website, The Rookie Baker!  

Thanks, Jen, for a great selection this month!

Join us next month for Father's Day Tee-Time Cupcakes!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

iheartfaces | Flowers

This week we are taking a break from faces and photographing our beautiful May flowers.  Interestingly, in the south, our spring flowers have already faded!  I could have photographed the roses or the the daffodils, but instead, I chose the Belle of my small southern yard - The Magnolia.  I love how the billowy white petals envelope the pistils and stamen, like a secret little package waiting to be opened.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chunky Peanut, Chocolate and Cinnamon Cookies

Anna came home today and declared that she was going to make some cookies.    She paged through my Martha Stewart's Cookies book and selected these:  Chunky Peanut, Chocolate and Cinnamon Cookies. This selection amused to me since, last time I checked, she didn't like peanuts, peanut butter or cinnamon!

We started out by locating all the ingredients.  As luck would have it, they were all on hand!

I was excited that she wanted to attempt this on her own.
A ten year old is perfectly capable of creaming sugar and butter.....

...  and leveling the flour!

After scooping the finished dough onto parchment,

they baked to a tender, golden brown!

These cookies are a delicious alternative to the standard chocolate chip.
The surprise of cinnamon and the crunch of the peanuts give them an edge of sophistication.

And after baking with peanut butter and cinnamon, guess what?  Anna liked them!

Maybe next she'll ask to cook asparagus!

Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies
Martha Stewart's Cookies

Makes about 5 Dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Put butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.  Add sugars; mix 2 minutes.  Mix in eggs.  Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts, and vanilla until well distributed.  Fold in chocolate chips, peanuts, and vanilla until well distributed.  Refrigerate dough until slightly firm, 15 minutes.
  3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Space balls 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Flatten slightly.  Bake until just golden, about 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

One thing I've learned about Southern Ladies - they know how to party - In Style!  And so, when my friend and party planner extraordinaire, Joy Burns, told me about a Kentucky Derby party she was throwing for friend's 40th birthday, I volunteered to take some pre-party photos so I could share them with all of you, I mean all y'all!  (That's plural for y'all)

Look at these perfectly themed glasses she had printed.
They read, "Lucky in Life * Julie's 40th Birthday".

These glasses will be perfect for Mint Juleps, 
the official drink of the Kentucky Derby!

Wine glasses are complete with jewel studded "lucky" silver horseshoe charms
tied with natural raffia.

Here's a look at her amazing southern-themed buffet menu:


Mint Juleps
Arnie Palmers

Crudites with French Onion Dip
Assorted Fruit and Cheese Platter

Finger Sandwiches:  
Pimento Cheese
Cucumber and Cream Cheese

Spinach and Strawberry Salad
BBQ Pork Sliders
Shrimp and Grits served in Martini Glasses
 BBQ Spareribs
Sweet Potato Chips

Decorated Cupcakes
Derby Pie

For those of you not familiar with the ways of The South, Derby Pie was created in 1950 by the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky as a specialty pastry.  The original Derby Pie's recipe has never been published, but it's key ingredients include chocolate, bourbon and walnuts - not pecans as are found in some recipes.  If you click the link above, you can find a similar recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

This "Run For the Roses" themed party just wouldn't be complete without 
LOTS AND LOTS of red roses!

These roses in a southern silver vase were elegantly displayed in the betting room where guests were invited to place a friendly wager if they wished.

Outside, tables were dressed to the nine's with formal white linens 
topped with tea-length natural linen toppers.

Look how the rose stems are camouflaged with a
black satin ribbon and a natural burlap wrap.

Here's a glimpse at her show stopping food styling.
This cheese platter looked amazing!

Continuing the rose theme were these large arrangements on the fireplace mantel.

These simple buds in the foyer were perhaps my favorite.

Guests arrived in Black and White dresses and hats, ready to surprise the birthday girl!

By paying attention to details and playing out a theme in a big way,
you, too, can have a picture perfect party!