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Monday, September 29, 2008

Wilton Course 3 - Class 3 & 4

In class 3, we went back to working with royal icing. We practiced lilies, petunias, poinsettias, and morning glories. We used the lily nail for each of the flowers and practiced several of each. The flowers in this class were probably my least favorite of everything we have done. The flowers in the book look great, but mine - not so much. Part of the problem was using tip 68 to make the petals. If I ever try to make these again, I will attempt them with tip 352, instead and hope for better results. Sorry, these weren't picture worthy.

For my final Wilton Cake in class 4, I decided to go a different route than the tiered cake in the course book. Instead of doing a fondant covered cake with cascading roses, I made a tiered chocolate cake, covered in peanut butter buttercream, detailed in buttercream on the sides with the brush embroidery method we learned and decorated with Fall themed fondant pieces. I made my own marshmallow fondant instead of buying the boxed, Wilton fondant. I loved how the fondant pieces looked, but I didn't really like how the sides came out. What can you do?

Overall, I was happy with the cake. It didn't really survive the ride home. I'm glad I brought my camera to class! I don't know if it was from the car ride, or pushing the pillars into the cake, but the icing on the sides started to crack pretty bad and slide off. I forgot to put the bottom border on! agh!

I sent this cake to work with Aaron for his coworkers to enjoy....here are the photos: (The spiral things you see were supposed to stick into the top tier, but the yellow and orange ones both broke on me. I knew I should have made some extras.)









Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chocolate Marshmallow Fondant

Recipe from Diary of a Cake Stylist

Ingredients:
1 lb of Mini Marshmallows (easier to melt)
1 tsp Clear Vanilla Extract
1tsp No Color Butter Flavor
2 tbsp of Water
2 lbs of Powdered Sugar (sifted)
1 oz melted semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder (it can be either Dutch-process or natural - the later will give a more pronounced flavor)*
A little bit of shortening


Instructions:
Grease a microwaveable bowl with shortening. Add all mini marshmallows, clear vanilla, butter flavoring and water

Microwave for 60 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir with greased spoon until completely melted.

If all the mini marshmallows don't melt after stirring, return to microwave for 30 seconds and stir (repeat in itervals if necessary).

Once these are melted, stir melted chocolate in a mixing bowl until well incorporated. Set aside.

Place the sugar in a small mixing bowl and sift the cocoa powder in a small mesh strainer over the sugar. Mix the dry ingredients.

Add the powdered sugar gradually (you might not need all the sugar) and stir until well incorporated, then knead with greased hands.

Powder surface with powder sugar. Knead marshmallow mix (Be careful, it might be hot at this point so knead with spoon until it cools down a bit.) Kneading should not take long.

If the mix is too sticky, then add more sugar until it becomes firmer.

Knead into a loaf. It will be a little bit soft at this point but don't worry. Wrap in plastic and cool for one hour (it will get firmer then).

You can store on dry place or refrigerator. It will store for weeks.

*Variations to this recipe:
- You can also use white chocolate by substituting 1 oz of semi-sweet chocolate and 1 tbsp of cocoa powder with 2 oz of white chocolate.

Marshmallow Fondant

I had fun making fondant over the weekend. It was kind of like making bread and kind of like playing with play-doh. After tasting the the Wilton fondant, I knew I wanted to try making my own to see how it compared. I also wanted to try chocolate marshmallow fondant, so I split this recipe, 3/4 regular and 1/4 to make a small amount of chocolate fondant. From start to finish, including cleanup, this took just under 1 hour.

Recipe from: Diary of a Cake Stylist

Ingredients:
1 lb of Mini Marshmallows (easier to melt)
1 tsp Clear Vanilla Extract
1 tsp No Color Butter Flavor
2 tbsp of Water
2 lbs of Powdered Sugar (sifted)
A little bit of shortening

Instructions:
Grease a microwaveable bowl with shortening. Add all mini marshmallows, clear vanilla, butter flavoring and water

Microwave for 60 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir until completely melted with fork

If all the mini marshmallows don't melt after stirring, return to microwave for 30 seconds and sitr (repeat in itervals if necessary) - this step is usually not necesary for me

Add the powdered sugar gradually (you might not need all the sugar) and process at low speed until well incorporated, then increase speed (if you don't have a stand mixer, mix with fork until well incorporated then knead)

Powder surface with powder sugar. Knead marshmallow mix (careful, it might be hot at this point so knead with fork until it cools down a bit. You can grease your hands if you like to avoid marshmallow sticking to your hands). Kneading should not take long.

If the mix is too sticky, then add more sugar until it becomes firmer

Knead into a loaf (it will be a little bit soft at this point but don't worry). Wrap in plastic and cool for one hour (it will get firmer then)

You can store on dry place or refrigerator (it will store for weeks)

Peanut Butter Buttercream

After making batch after batch of the regular Wilton buttercream, I was ready to try something different. This buttercream reminds me of the peanut butter ice cream we've made over and over. It was really light (not in calories!) and fluffy. It went great with the chocolate cake I made for the final cake for Course 3. This recipe comes from Wilton's Cupcake Fun site.

Ingredients
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)

Yield: Make about 3 cups icing.

Directions
Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer.

Add peanut butter, milk and vanilla.

Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.

Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. (I was confused at this last instruction as it says to add the milk above. So, I added 1/2 with the peanut butter and vanilla, and half at this step.)

Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Weight Watchers Pumpkin Mousse


A while back, I found a recipe for Weight Watcher's Pumpkin Mousse and was just waiting for Fall to come so we could try it. I didn't calculate the nutrition or points on the ingredients I used, but I'm sure it's not far off from what I originally read somewhere online as only being 1.5 points. I can't find the original recipe, but I remembered the basic ingredients. I never would have guessed in a million years that this is a healthy dessert. A great alternative to pumpkin pie that we both loved and will make again.

Ingredients:
2 boxes fat-free, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
15 oz. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups 1% milk
1- 8oz tub of cool-whip light

Directions:
Beat pudding and 2 cups of milk in bowl until thick. Mix in pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in fat-free cool whip.

Turkey & Stuffing Rolls


One of my favorite blogs is A Year in the Kitchen. I have so many starred recipes from Ashlee. This is just the latest one. Once Fall hits, I immediately think of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. This is pure genius and a great way to have Thanksgiving dinner any time of the year. I did cheat and buy a package of gravy mix, but next time I will make my own. I'll have to rate this one a 10!

Served with Pumpkin Mousse for dessert.

Adapted from: A Year in the Kitchen

Ingredients:
4 slices of Honey Turkey Breast sliced very thick
6 mushrooms (I was in such a rush last night, I completely forgot about the mushrooms)
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 onion
2 garlic cloves (forgot this, too)
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 c. cornbread stuffing crumbles (pepperidge farm)
1 c. chicken stock
1 egg

Gravy:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. gravy master
Fresh black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet to medium high.

In a food processor, grate all vegetables, then dump into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, sweat vegetables for 8 minutes. Turn off heat.

Add poultry seasoning and cornbread crumbs. Toss to combine. Add chicken stock a bit at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add egg and mix quickly so it doesn't scramble in the hot pan.

Place a slice of turkey on the board, spoon in some stuffing, roll and place in a baking dish. Finish with all turkey and stuffing (We got 6 slices of turkey for 1 lb.).

Turn skillet back on medium. Add butter, melt, add flour, and whisk to cook. Add stock, gravy master, and lots of black pepper. Whisk until it is thick, then pour over turkey.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wilton Course 3 - Class 2

After a week delay, due to power outages from the wind storm, we finally got to work with fondant last night! First we practiced the rose, which is very time consuming! I'll need to think of an alternative design to the final cake next week because I don't see myself sitting for that many hours making roses between now and then. Note for next time - make a much smaller center to the rose.



Then, we covered our cakes and smoothed out the corners. I had some cracks, but luckily our design was forgiving, so they were immediately covered up with the bow and flowers. We used a pattern to cut out the pieces for the bow and used cutters to make the flowers. My favorite thing about this cake are the ribbon curls. One of my classmates made her cake primarily purple, so we traded some fondant to use a few colors on both of our cakes. They turned out so cute! And boo to poor lighting at 9:30 p.m.

Root Beer Pulled Pork


This past Saturday Aaron and I went to the Pork Festival in Eaton, OH. We had never been before. I was surprised that he wanted to go because he claims does not like pork. I've made pulled pork before, and he's eaten it, liked it, had seconds even. He's eaten ham in things, pepperoni, sausage, etc. So, there are a lot of exceptions to his dislike of pork. But this weekend we made a breakthrough - now, his dislike has been narrowed down to bacon and holiday hams. Fair enough!

At the Pork Fest, I really wouldn't have known it had anything to do with pork, other than eating a pulled pork sandwich from the food booth. There was barn after barn of crafts & vendors. I wish we had more time to spend there (ok, and money - I found some cool Halloween/Fall decorations), but we quickly went through a few of the barns and got away with a bottle of Sweet & Spicy BBQ sauce from a vendor who came up from Tennessee. Since we now had half the ingredients to make these sandwiches, and it's a really popular recipe floating around the WC board, I figured now is as good as ever to put this on our menu.

Aaron brought leftovers for a sandwich at lunch today. Normally he doesn't do leftovers, so I know this one must have been pretty good!

Ingredients:
4-5 lb pork shoulder (this made enough pulled pork to fill a 2 quart dish)
1 - 20 oz. bottle root beer (we used Meijer root beer)
garlic powder
pepper
1 bottle BBQ sauce

Directions:
Place pork in crock pot. Season with garlic powder & pepper. Pour in bottle of root beer. Cook on low for about 8 hours. (It will probably be done sooner, but my darn job wouldn't let me leave early to know exactly when.) Drain liquid & shred with fork. Mix bottle of BBQ sauce into meat. Serve on bun.

Beer Cheese


You can't have soft pretzels without beer cheese dip, so when Aaron asked me to make some pretzels for a party, we came up with this recipe for the cheese. Aaron made most of it, so it's hard to tell for measurements on some of the ingredients, as he always adds extra! I'll be making this one again for sure. Aaron said everything was gone in no time at the party!

Known quantities & ingredients:

2, 8-oz. blocks cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
2, 8-oz packages of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup beer
1/2 TBSP garlic
2 chopped mild jalapenos
2 chopped serrano peppers

Unknown quantities of the following:
garlic powder (estimate: 1/2 tsp?)
worcestershire sauce (estimate: 2-3 TBSP)
tobasco sauce (estimate: couple splashes)

Combine everything using the mixer. This made quite a bit of cheese dip. Next time, half the recipe would probably be plenty. I put some in a container to save in the freezer for next time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'd like to thank the academy...

I feel so special! I received my first blog award, people! Stephanie, from Macaroni & Cheesecake, was so kind to give me this award. I am just happy that people read my blog - Thank you!

I am passing this award on to a few of the awesome blogs I have come across. If you've already received this award, don't feel pressured to send it out again. Just know that your blog is very much enjoyed :)


Apple a Day
A Year in the Kitchen
Carrie's Sweet Life
Daily Deliciousness
Lauren's Kitchen
Mrs. Sac's Purple Kitchen
My Sweet Life
Reading, 'Riting and Recipes
SweetTea in Texas
Taste & See

A little FYI to the deserving recipients: this award comes with a few rules attached to it.


Please find at least 10 more blogs, of any kind, which you deem to be excellent; but hey if you only come up with 3 or 5, I don’t mind. Quality over quantity folks! Post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them. Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know too.

Vegetable Garden Cake

I was so excited when I was asked to make a birthday cake for my friend's son. As an almost 8 year old, he's into so many things - legos, bugs, animals, and even gardening. One of the best sites to get decorating ideas is cakecentral.com. You can seriously find ANYTHING. I found this adorable garden cake on that site that I had to try and duplicate.

I am signed up for the Wilton Fondant class (course 3), but haven't gotten into the fondant yet, as our last class was canceled due to the power outage. But, the birthday party is on, so I was brave and went for it before learning anything about it. It's like playing with play-doh. So much fun. I made very simple watermelons, pumpkins, tomatoes, and lettuce or cabbages (whatever you think they look like).

I made a hershey chocolate cake, iced in buttercream. The dirt is oreo crumbs and the grass is piped in buttercream. The fence and vegetables are fondant. I hope I don't ruin this on delivery!!!








Tortilla & Black Bean Pie

I have so many great things to say about this recipe. First, it just looks cool. Second, it's one that I starred in my reader a while back, and is originally adapted from Liz's Cooking Blog. I star far more recipes in my reader than I can possibly make in a lifetime, so I am really happy when I get to try one of them. This one is fantastic and will be in our normal dinner rotation. It's similar to the mexican lasagna I sometimes make, but prettier. Aaron won't consider a dinner without meat, so I did add ground beef to this and made a few small changes, as listed below.

We served this with the Jalapeno Poppers when Aaron's parents came over for dinner earlier this week. Everyone loved it! It was even better as leftovers the next day.


Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef, seasoned with your favorite taco seasoning
1 small jar enchilada sauce
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 large onion, diced
2 mild jalapenos and 2 serranos
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
1 can corn, drained OR 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream and salsa, for serving


Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.


Brown ground beef and drain fat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.


Add beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn, and remove from heat.


Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the meat & beans, spoon some enchilada sauce over top (maybe 3-4 spoonfuls) and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; spoon any extra enchilada sauce on top, then sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa.


Jalapeno Poppers

I love appetizers. If it were up to me, I would make a dinner out of appetizers any night of the week. I know, this particular one isn't exactly the healthiest thing, but it is a vegetable, right? It's got to count for something! I actually made this recipe last year for the first time, but our jalapeños were deadly last year. I mean, I took one bite and felt it eating my throat and stomach all night. Not good. This year we grew mild jalapeños, and these turned out to have absolutely no heat at all. Maybe next year they will be just the right amount of heat.

Overall, the poppers are easy and fun to make. We had a big wind storm Sunday and everyone lost power. We were lucky enough to get power back Monday morning, but Aaron's parents had none, so we had them over for dinner and served these poppers with Tortilla & Black Bean Pie.

Recipe Source: Allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon bacon bits
12 ounces jalapeno peppers, seeded and halved
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 quarts oil for frying

DIRECTIONS
In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno pepper halves.

Put the milk and flour into two separate small bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour, making sure they are well coated with each. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.

Dip the jalapenos in milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs. Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of the jalapeno is coated.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F ( 180 degrees C). Deep fry the coated jalapenos 2 to 3 minutes each, until golden brown. Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby Shower!

We live in an awesome neighborhood with great neighbors. Our house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, and it's the hangout place of the neighborhood. There are lots of kids playing, always people outside, always something going on. This weekend, a baby shower is what's going on! Our neighbor Melissa just had a baby boy in August, and our neighbor Melanie is due with a baby girl in November. I was only too excited to be able to make the cakes for this shower. Since taking the Wilton classes, I am happy to get some real pratice, and not just make cakes for class.

I don't consider myself a very creative person, so I went searching online for some ideas. I found a super cute design in pink that I had to make, and another safari/animal cake I would do for little Jayden. Both are 6 inch cakes.

These cakes are both Duncan Hines box mixes, with buttercream icing. Megan's cake is white and Jayden's is chocolate. I think they turned out pretty good! I need to work on keeping steady hands.












Chicken Florentine Sandwiches

A couple of years ago, Subway had this sub - Chicken Florentine. It had a spinach dip type spread on the bread, then chicken, and topped with whatever you desire. Aaron and I were both working in Dayton at the time, and would meet up for lunch and order this together. It was short lived at Subway because of the spinach ban that came out not long after it was put on the menu. So sad.

Since then, I've made our own version of this sandwich at home. This time I just used a regular bun, but sometimes we made these on hoagy rolls or whatever type of bread looks good. First, I pound 2 chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thickness and cook on the stovetop, seasoned with salt & pepper. While the chicken is cooking, I mix a few spoonfuls of chopped spinach (the frozen box, thawed), a little garlic, shredded parmesan cheese, and a little light mayo (enough to make the mixture spreadable) in a small bowl. Once chicken is done, cut into strips.

Spoon the spinach mixture onto the bread, top with chicken strips, and a 1/2 piece of cheese (I used provolone) and broil for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and browned.

Oh, I just got an idea...I need to add artichokes!

The spinach mixture before adding chicken:

And the chicken strips ready for the piece of cheese to be placed on top:

Wedding Cake


It's hard to believe we have been married for a year already! I'm a little late posting, as our anniversary was almost a week ago, on Sept 8th! Despite making, decorating, eating, thinking about a lot of cakes lately with the Wilton classes, I was pretty excited to get our top tier of the wedding cake out of the freezer.

I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted our cake to look like at the wedding, until I found a picture of a rustic, adirondak style cake online. Since we honeymooned in Alaska, it was perfect. My friend Jill's mom - Susan, made our cake. Everyone loved it! We had basic white and chocolate cake, but instead of buttercream or fondant, we had a white chocolate transfer wrapped around the cake to look like birch bark. Then, she filled in the layers with some greenery and delicious truffles from my brother, Jared. Our bride and groom moose topper came from eBay, along with the other Alaskan animal figures. I think I only had one bite that night...we did just a little smashing in the face (I made sure my piece to give Aaron was much bigger, so he wouldn't have much to smash in my face).


A few pictures from the wedding...








And here it is...1 year later! The cake tasted great and was still pretty moist. The white chocolate was like eating a candy bar. That was fun, and now I have more space in my freezer!


 
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