Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nicholas' Skateboard Cake

I think it is the goal of both of my children when their birthday comes around to try to pick a theme that is either super hard to make or is not in any store, so that I have to improvise.  :)  I can't tell them no, st being their birthday and all, so I figure out a way to make it happen.  (See my many other cakes on this blog.  lol)  Luckily some other mom's had to do the same skateboard theme cake, so looking at other skateboard cakes on google made it much easier for me!

My oldest son, Nicholas, turned 10 this February.  I have no idea how that happened!  I was hoping for a bowling party, where I do little to nothing, but make a cake.  That was not his plan.  After getting the Tony Hawk Ride game for the PS3 for Christmas, he decided on a skateboard theme and to have it at home to play the game with his friends.  Insert 14 kids to my house here. 

First let me start with the cake.  It really was simple.  I baked a chocolate cake in a rectangle baking pan using my favorite "One Bowl Chocolate Cake" recipe from Martha Stewart.  Then I made two 9" yellow cakes (for the ends and the wheels) from my Martha Stewart Homebaking Handbook.  

Cut the rectangle to shape it into the skateboard middle.  Then cut one of the yellow cakes in half to make the ends of the board.  It doesn't have to be perfect...that is what frosting is for!  :)

Speaking of frosting...did I mention my son's favorite color is orange?  So yes, we had orange plates, tablecloths, candy, silverware, cups, and why not orange FROSTING?  I made buttercream frosting and added a little orange gel until it got to the color that he wanted.

I made a separate white buttercream frosting to frost the wheels.  I used a biscuit cuter to cut the wheels from the second 9" yellow cake.  The rods in the middle are those Pepperidge Farm wafer stick/cookie things.  I coated them in melted white chocolate, then pushed them into the "wheels."

I used the rest of the white icing and added some blue gel coloring to it.  Then wrote on the cake and the foil.  I think it turned out cute.  He was happy with it and that is all that really matters, right?

Here is the whole family at his party.  I know you are wondering what the heck I did with all those kids, right?  Well, I made sk8er bingo cards, which we didn't use.  

Of course they took turns playing the skateboard game.

Played some basketball and pool downstairs.

Painted fingerboards I bought online.

Hung out and had a good time.  :)  We had pizza and snacks too.  I thought this wall mount was hilarious.  The kids all put their heads in and I took a pic of each of them.  Come to think of it...I need to get those developed and out to our guests.  :)  

Happy Birthday Nicholas!  I cannot believe it has been TEN years since you were born.  I love you so much and you make me so proud!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Conversation Heart Cookies for Valentine's Day

Are these not the cutest Valentine's Day cookies ever?  I saw a few versions online and decided on these for the boys' Valentine parties at school.  I LOVE baking.  I have wanted to decorate cookies forever, but was afraid it would be to difficult and they wouldn't turn out well.  I proved myself wrong.  The kids were so excited to take them and I think they turned out great.  Not bad for a first try, if I don't say so myself.   :)

I got the recipes for the sugar cookies and icing from a great blog called Annie's Eats.  She has amazing goodies on there all the time.  I used her recipes for:  "Ella's White Sugar Cookies" and "Royal Icing." You can find the recipes on her website by following the link above.

Here is what I did:


Make the dough and shape into disks.  Place in the refrigerator until firm.  Roll out and cut out heat shapes.  I used a scalloped cutter.

 Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Do not brown them.  Let cool on a baking sheet.  Prepare the icing to outline the cookies.

Outline the cookies with the icing.  I left room on the edges so you can see the scalloped edges.

Thin the icing and put into a small squeeze bottle to make it easier to flood the cookies.

Squeeze the thinned icing into the center of the outline.  Use a toothpick or the bottle tip to move the icing around.  You can also gently shake the cookie to make sure it is evenly coated.

Put them somewhere and let them dry completely.  I used the cooling rack.

Here is another shot of the other colors that I did.

Be sure to let them dry completely before trying to write on them or you will have a mess.  Luckily all my cookies turned out.  NO ISSUES!  That is a first!  :) 

Write the regular conversation hearts messages or make your own!  :) 

I tied to make them Kid appropriate since they were going to school.  My husband and I questioned the KISS ME ones.  But you can't have conversation hearts without a couple KISS MEs!  :) 

I sealed them individually and put a label on the back from the boys.



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pot Roast with Herbed Flatbread and Green Beans

My husband actually said, "this is the best roast you've ever made."  I always love to hear that someone enjoyed my meal.  We actually watched Giada De Laurentiis make this on her show Giada at Home.  I immediately picked up my laptop and looked up the recipe.  I printed it and put the ingredients on the grocery list.  My oldest had two huge portions and asked to take the flatbread in his lunchbox the next day.  Marcus, my youngest, usually never cares for steak or stew gobbled it up too without argument.  We have a winner.  I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we did.  The roast is amazing as a sandwich the next day too!!!

You start by browning the roast on all sides in 6 quart pan.  The recipe called for a 5 lb roast, but Meijer had 2 1/2 lb roasts on sale; so I bought two and tied them together.  It worked just fine.  Once you brown all the sides, place it on a plate while you prepare the vegetables.

Add the vegetables and cook for about 8 minutes.  The recipe called for fennel, but it was priced to high, so I skipped it.  I was going to substitute onions, but thought it may be to much with the boiling onions and more onions, so I skipped it.  I'll try fennel next time.  

Add the roast back to the pot along with the beef broth and wine.  The recipe called for sherry, but I had a bottle of red wine open, so used that.  Bring this to a boil and then cover and cook in the oven for 4 hours.

This is so juicy and delicious.  But we are not done yet.  I usually would stop here when I make a roast.  Giada has you remove the roast and use and emulsion blender to blend the veggies and broth to a thick broth/gravy to pour over the roast!  It is a step worth taking.  If you don't have an emulsion blender, just use your mixer in batches.  Be careful, as it is very hot!

Okay, now here is the flatbread.  So yummy and very easy to make!!!  The fresh herbs make the bread so flavorful!!!  Put the dry ingredients in the mixer and use the paddle attachment.  Add the liquid and mix until it comes together.  Kneed the dough and shape into four disks.

Roll out the four disks to a size that will fit into your grill pan.

Look how amazing it looks with all the fresh herbs in it.  I can't wait to try parmesan cheese and other varieties!

Brush both sides with olive oil.  Grill in your grill pan with the press on top for about 4 minutes on each side.

Yummy.  Golden brown on both sides.  I made these while the boys set the table.  They are super fast to cook!

Here are the breads.  You just break off pieces and dip in your roast juices.  You want to see the roast, right?

You break it off into chunks and pour some of the sauce over the top.  My mouth is watering while I type.  I will be having the leftovers for lunch today!!!

Here is my plate from that night.  OH YUM! 

The recipes are posted below.  They can also be found on the food network site under Giada at Home.

Cipollini Onion and Fennel Pot Roast


Herb rub:

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound (about 2 cups) cipollini, boiler, or pearl onions, peeled
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, plus extra, as needed
  • 2 dried bay leaves


For the rub: In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, thyme, oil, salt, and pepper until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and rub on all sides with the herb rub. In a heavy 6-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove the beef and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, onions, carrots, and fennel to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the sherry and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth and bay leaves. Return the beef and any juices to the pot and bring the liquids to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef is fork-tender, about 4 hours, turning the beef over halfway through and adding extra broth, as needed, to keep the beef halfway covered in liquid.

Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Spoon any excess fat off the top of the pan juices. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables and cooking juices together until smooth. (The vegetables can also be pureed in a blender). Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep warm over low heat.

Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and place on a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Herbed Flatbread


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup water, plus extra, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, rosemary, and thyme in the bowl of an upright mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. With the machine running, slowly add the water until the mixture forms a dough, adding more water, if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form into disc shapes and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece of dough into an 8 to 10-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Brush each circle with olive oil and grill for 4 minutes each side. Remove the flatbread from the grill and cool slightly before serving. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shrimp Rolls with Homemade Potato Chips

These were so good.  The recipe comes together quickly and you probably have the ingredients on hand.  I am looking forward to making these in the summer!  Very refreshing.

The recipe calls for a pound of cooked, shelled shrimp.  I personally think the precooked shrimp tastes very bland.  I always have a bag of uncooked, frozen shrimp in the freezer, so I pour half the 2 pound bag into a bowl of warm water while I am getting all the other ingredients out.  Then I take off the tails and put them on a paper towel to get the water off of them.  I find the best way to cook shrimp is to put them on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

These shrimp are good  if you chill them and serve them with cocktail sauce too!!  YUM.

Here are the ingredients that make the "shrimp salad."  If you have never used Greek yogurt, you should.  It is awesome and I can use it for lots of things.  I substitute it for sour cream all the time.  You can add fruit and granola to it for a quick and healthy breakfast.  YUM.  My son loves it with a scoop of strawberry jam as a snack.  

These are all things you probably have on hand (minus the yogurt).  I always have it on hand.  They now sell Greek yogurt at costco, which makes me very happy!  Oh did I mention it is good for you?

Once you mix all your ingredients with the cooled shrimp.  You put a lid on it and place it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

I can hear the Bunco girls teasing me now..."you know you can buy a bag of chips for a few bucks."  :)  Yes, I know this.  I am not really a chip eater though.  I love oven fries and potato wedges, but chips are not my favorite.  I do find the kids get huge smiles when they think they are getting "junk" we don't usually buy.  

Chips are very easy to make.  Use a mandoline to slice the potatoes 1/8-in thick.  Season with oil, salt and pepper (or whatever seasoning you like), and bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Take some whole wheat hot dog buns and brush them with olive oil.  Place them in a grill pan and toast them until grill marks appear.  Fill with shrimp mixture.


Serve with homemade chips.  Yes, mine are slightly overcooked!  lol  I think next time I will slice them thicker!  Or pay attention!!  

Shrimp Roll


  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt 
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallion green (about 1 scallion)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound cooked, shelled medium shrimp
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 whole-wheat hot dog buns
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


If using regular yogurt, place it in a strainer lined with paper towel and set the strainer over a bowl. Let the yogurt drain and thicken for 20 minutes. 

In a bowl, stir together the thickened or Greek-style yogurt, mayonnaise, celery, scallion and lemon juice. Fold in the shrimp and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to use.

Just before serving, open the hot dog buns and brush the inside with olive oil. Heat a grill pan over moderately high heat and grill the bread, cut side down, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Fill each with 3/4 cup of the shrimp mixture and serve immediately. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Asian Noodle Bowl

The Asian noodle bowl went over very well with the family.  The boys only question was, why are my noodles so dark?  I usually use whole wheat noodles, which are lighter than Soba noodles.  I have always substituted whole wheat pasta for Soba in the past because I couldn't find them.  I finally found them at Meijer, in the Asian isle.  I wasn't looking for the right packaging!  Now I know and will definitely use these again.  They cook fast and really authenticate the dish!

As I stated in my post about the Tri-color pepper steak recipe.  When cooking Asian food, have all your prep work done in advance.  It makes the cooking process super quick and easy!

I'm putting this picture in here for those of you wondering what ginger root looks like.  Fresh ginger is so fragrant.  To peel the skin off (thin brown layer), you can use a spoon and just scrape it right off.  It is very easy to do.  Break off a piece of the ginger (however much you need for your recipe) and store the rest of the root in the fridge.  As you see in the pic, the inside is yellow.  I minced it for the recipe.

I have found with many of Ellie's recipes, it just doesn't have enough flavor.  I used Asian Seasoning (Pampered Chef) and Sazon (Goya) on the chicken before cooking it.  The meat was juicy and flavorful!

These are soba noodles.  Of course, you take off the fancy paper that holds them together before cooking!  :)  These are great because they only take about 3-5  minutes to cook!

I love my wok, and use it whenever I can.  If you don't have one, don't worry.  You can use a large skillet and accomplish the same thing.  Have all of your ingredients sliced and in prep bowls so that when it is time to add you can do it right away.  With everything prepped, the dish takes no time to cook.  

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family.   Have some fun and use chopsticks if you like!

by Ellie Krieger from the  So Easy cookbook

8 oz soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
2 tsp canola oil
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), sliced (save 1/4 C for garnish)
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 15-oz can baby corn, drained
1/2 lb broccoli florets (about 3 cups)
1/2 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the noodles or pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or very large skillet over medium heat.  Add the scallions and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds. 

Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes.  Add the baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, pepper slices, broth, and soy sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender and the peppers are crisp-tender, 5-6 minutes. 

Add the noodles and sesame oil and toss to combine.  Divide among bowls and garnish with the reserved 1/4 cup of scallions.

Makes 4 servings