Thursday, March 28, 2013

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Bird's Nests

We are escaping our LOOOOONG northern winter in search for some spring break sun.  We found the sun in southern Florida, and, fortunately, the kids are content with ignoring the fact that it was in the 40's when we set out on a shell hunt this morning.  Did you hear me?  FORTIES PEOPLE! I guess it's all relative.  Forties is still way better than sub-zero and two feet of snow.  The sun actually felt warm on the miniature golf course despite the fact that the high today was 64! 

It wasn't too cold for swimming.  And it definitely wasn't too cold to try out these 2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Bird's Nests.  Crunchy and sweet, these adorable nests will add some WOW to your Easter Buffet! With only two ingredients (three if you count the delicious Cadbury Mini-Eggs!), you still have time to whip up a batch yourself!

Just start with a bag of semi-sweet chocolate.  Melt it in the microwave and stir until smooth.

Add in about 8 ounces of Chow Mein noodles and stir until they are coated.

Divide mixture into 12 greased muffin tins. 
Using your fingers, press the middle down and the sides up to form a nest shape.

Chill for an hour or until firm.  
Using a knife, pry them out of the muffin tin and place three mini Cadbury eggs inside.

How Cute is that?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Carrot-Inspired Utensil Wraps

Is the Easter Bunny on your horizon?  Do you have a few spring parties in store?  I was digging through some of my photo archives and ran across this cute idea that I used a few years ago for a class Easter party:  Green silverware wrapped in an orange napkin and tied with green chenille stems (chenille stems, I found out, is the new crafters term for pipe cleaners.)

How easy is that?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Flower Cookies

Happy Spring!  I'm saying that out loud in hopes that it will come true.  It didn't feel like spring when I walked the dog this morning in sub-zero wind chills.  The snow crunched under my feet and the wind against my forehead caused a brain freeze - the kind that only feels good when you're drinking a slushee on a really hot day.  They say that  today is the coldest start to spring here in almost 50 years.  It  might not seem likely at the moment, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that real spring will eventually arrive!

In Atlanta, March is always marked by the blooming of the daffodils.  Since the weather up here wasn't cooperating, I did my best to re-create spring for Arielle's birthday brunch.  I brought in my own spring flowers, and bagged up flower cookies for take home treats.

I love how simple these cookies are.  
Poured Cookie Icing adds a pop of color and candy melts dot the centers.

Check out Ina Garten's amazing Shortbread Cookie Recipe!

Poured Cookie Icing


1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Place sugar, corn syrup and milk in bowl.  Stir until mixed thoroughly.  Add corn syrup and mix well.  For filling in areas, use thinned icing (add small amounts of light corn syrup until desired consistency is reached).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Guinness Cupcakes

Appropriately, this month's Martha Stewart Cupcake Club assignment is Stout Cupcakes - 
A nod to the Irish!

The secret ingredient, of course, is Guinness Beer!

Two years ago, I bought a six-pack of Guinness for our St. Patrick's Day feast of Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Unfortunately, the rest of the lonely five bottles sat in the fridge for the next year and a half until we moved and some kind friends were willing to take them off our hands.  This year I vow to find more Guinness recipes!

Here's the other surprise ingredient:  Orange!  I doubled the zest and added the juice which I thought added a bright note and balanced out the bitterness of the Guinness and the molasses.

Now, normally I'm a throw-all-the-cupcake-ingredients-in-a-bowl-and-mix kinda gal, but this recipe is a good exception. It's not the beer - it's the molasses. Have you ever tried mixing  molasses into dry ingredients? It doesn't work very well. Don't ask me how I know this.

To avoid this sticky situation, mix all the wet ingredients with a hand mixer and then gradually add the whisked flour mixture into it.

The result is a deliciously thick batter.

And perfectly baked, dark, moist spice cupcakes.

Now, don't be scared. I know that "beer frosting" may not sound that appealing, but when you add two cups of powdered sugar to just about anything, it tastes pretty good.

I used the dipping technique for these cupcakes.  I like the little drippies.

Please excuse the chipped bubblegum pink fingernail. I hosted a sleepover last weekend for ten fourth graders. There was nail polish involved.  Lots of it.

This Irish twist on the Spice Cake would be great any time of year!

Guinness Cupcakes
Inspired by Martha Stewart's Cupcake Book

Dry Ingredients:

3 3/4 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Wet Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups canola oil
1 1/4 cups unsulfured molasses
1 cup brown sugar
2 large whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 bottle of Guinness (reserve 1/4 cup), poured and settled


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together dry ingredients.

With an electric mixer, beat together wet ingredients until smooth.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among 28 muffin tins.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

To finish, place cupcakes on a wire rack and spoon glaze over the top.  Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are glazed.

Guinness Glaze

2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup reserved Guinness.

Whisk together ingredients until combined.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Key Lime Pie in a Jar

Happy Pi Day!  
(That's March 14th or 3.14 for you math fanatics.)

Pi Day has become a much anticipated holiday in our house ever since the kids figured out it included a blog post on Pie!  They begged me for another round of last year's Vegan Peanut Butter Pie, but this year Pi Day also happens to correspond precisely with the Teacher Appreciation Dinner, so I decided to pull out all the stops and make Key Lime Pie in a Jar.  Besides, I'm really ready for spring.  And I love Key Lime Pie.

Some of you may remember my first experience with Key Limes when I made Key Lime Cake Pops.  I squeezed approximately 10,000 itty bitty key limes to get enough juice.  While spending an afternoon squeezing limes was really fun and all, this year I decided to go with the bottle.

Now I was a little confused when I read the bottle.  Is this really Key Lime Juice?  Or is it just regular limes that are grown in Key West?  I decided to go with the Key Lime story. 

Making the pies in a jar is really simple.  First, make your graham cracker base.  I doubled a normal recipe just because it's my favorite kind of crust ever.  Divide the mixture into 12 1/2 pint canning jars. Place the jars on a Jelly roll pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes.

After the crust cools, add the key lime filling.  Once you see how easy this 4-ingredient filling is, you'll wonder why you don't make it more often.

I love the fresh bits of lime zest.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Florida, here I come!

Key Lime Pie in a Jar


2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
10 tablespoons butter

2 (14 oz) cans Sweetened Condensed Milk
2/3 cup Key Lime Juice
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons grated lime peel

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Add melted butter and stir until evenly moistened.  Divide mixture into 12 1/2 pint canning jars. Press down mixture.  Place jars on a Jelly Roll Pan and Bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and sour cream in a large bowl until blended.  Stir in lime peel.  Divide filling into 12 jars.  Bake 7 -10 minutes. Cool completely.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Top with whipped cream and a lime wedge!