French Onion Soup

Eric and I live in the 20th century. I think I get it from my parents, who didn’t even get a DVD player until a couple years ago. (I think it was mostly because my mom loved her sports-car-shaped-VHS-rewinder so much and couldn’t bear to accept that once she got a DVD player it would be useless.)

IMG_1934Eric and I don’t have a digital bathroom scale, it’s just the old-fashioned dial kind. I accepted a long time ago that it is not really accurate enough to tell you your weight, but it is useful in tracking your fluctuation day to day. (Or week to week, or month to month…I kind of like having an estimate weight. It makes me less curious. It’s also nice to get on the scale, see the number, and legitimately think, “Well, it’s probably wrong.”)

IMG_1932Eric’s parents were in town a few weeks ago and Eric’s dad informed him that our scale is 15 pounds too heavy. Eric was very concerned and wanted to buy a new digital scale immediately. I reminded him that I am 8 months pregnant and see a doctor once a week. The scale is not 15 pounds heavy. He brushed that aside and said, Karen, I have the potential to lose 15 pounds here, just buy the scale!

I think the moral of the story here is that Eric’s dad needs to cut back on the Cheez-its when he goes on a road trip.

IMG_1929I used to think that I didn’t like onions. I mean when I was a kid. I also didn’t like mustard or blue cheese, so obviously I was way lame. Because of this onion aversion, I never ordered French Onion Soup in a restaurant because, hello, I thought it would be disgusting. I have since repented. Onions are a gift from the culinary gods, and French Onion Soup is not far behind. This is a basic recipe. Sometimes you just don’t need to mess with the classics. Make this the next time you have a rainy afternoon at home. You can babysit your caramelizing onions while you enjoy some cocoa and a good book.

French Onion Soup

Source: Table for Two

3 pounds yellow onions, chopped or thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more if needed
1 pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
4 cups of water
4 cups high quality beef broth
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used white cooking wine)
1 crusty baguette
8 ounces gruyere or swiss cheese

Melt butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, salt and sugar. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Take the cover off, turn the heat to low, and cook the onions for 90 minutes, stirring about every 20 0r 30 minutes. Don’t rush this. I know 90 minutes seems long, but this is how you get that deep caramel-y onion flavor. You should achieve a golden brown color to the onions.

After 90 minutes, add a tablespoon of water and stir to loosen up the brown bits at the bottom. Add a tablespoon of water every 10 minutes or so for another 30 minutes until the onions are an even darker brown.

Add the tablespoon of flour, stir, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of wine and let cook for another couple minutes.

Add the 4 cups of broth and the 4 cups of water. Add the thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Turn on your broiler and adjust the rack to the upper middle position. Slice the baguette into 3/4 inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet.

Broil the baguettes for 1-2 minutes on each side (or until they achieve a light brown crisp color – watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Remove from oven and set aside.

Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls. Place a slice of toasted baguette on top and a large slice of gruyere or swiss cheese on top of the baguette slice. Place the bowls carefully into the oven and broil until cheese has melted and is bubbly and slightly brown, about 3-5 minutes. It’s easier to do several at once if you put the bowls on a baking sheet.

Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Make sure you warn people not to touch the bowls, they will be very hot.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Can anybody say “crowd-pleaser”? That’s exactly what this recipe is. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like this Poppyseed Chicken; there is a reason that there are about 900 variations floating around the internet. This is down-home, no-fuss comfort food.

IMG_1886I am officially in casserole-mode over here. With only a month left til my little bun is born, I just want to freeze everything I make recently in preparation for The Event. I’m so nervous about having 2 kids. I kind of feel like a wuss because Charlotte is such an easy toddler, relatively speaking. (I’m talking relative to the ones that have off the chart decibel levels and take off running whenever you take their leash off let go of their hand, or who are fond of streaking in public.) What if I were having a second baby and already had a hooligan child? Yes, some people have it much worse.

IMG_1877At least I can rest assured that I will have plenty of frozen casseroles to help me with the transition. Just a freezerfull of casserole helps the medicine go dooooown….or something like that.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Source: this one’s all over the internet, but my sister Laura gave me the recipe.

Serves 6-8

Note: This is a fancy-fied version. You can leave out all the spices if you want. I just like to jazz it up a bit. Or season it to your taste. Don’t not make this because you are missing the garlic or something. Leave it out or replace it with something else. This recipe is pretty forgiving. Also, since most kids love this stuff, it might be a good idea to throw in some veggies if you have a hard time getting your kiddos to eat healthy. I’m thinking peas or broccoli.

2 10-oz. cans cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
3/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (This doesn’t make it spicy, it just adds great flavor.)
5 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed

2 stacks Ritz crackers (about 2 cups crushed)
1 1/2 tablespoons poppyseed
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) melted butter

1 lb egg noodles (or any pasta, really), cooked according to package directions

In a large bowl combine the first 10 ingredients (soup through chicken). Spread this mixture into a 9×13 inch dish. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend the 2 stacks of Ritz crackers with the poppyseeds until they are fine crumbs. (You can do this the old fashioned way too, of course. But don’t bang on the crackers while they are still in the plastic or one of the ends might explode on you, resulting in crackers crumbs all over your kitchen…transfer to a ziplock first. We can thank my sister Laura for this valuable information.) Once the crackers are crumbs and you have added the poppyseeds, add the melted butter and pulse in the food processor until thoroughly combined. (Or mix it up in a bowl.)

Sprinkle the cracker mixture evenly over the chicken and sauce. Bake at 350˚ for about 35 minutes, until bubbly and the top starts to brown. I turned my broiler on for the last minute or so because I like my casseroles extra crunchy on top. (Just make sure you keep an eye on it!)

Serve over hot egg noodles.

My Favorite Snickerdoodles

Eureka!! I’ve found it!! A Snickerdoodle recipe that I love inside and out and in between. I know, you’ve all been on the edge of your seats about this.

IMG_1756But really guys. These Snickerdoodles are legit. I know everyone has different opinions on the perfect Snickerdoodle, so before you all come yelling at me that these are not it, here’s my definition: Snickerdoodles should be very very cinnamon-y. They should be chewy. They should not be a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon. They should not be flat. They should not be crunchy, except a tiny little crisp on the very outside edge–but overall they are soft and chewy, melt in your mouth, and make you want to go to cinnamon-sugar heaven. And that, my friends, is exactly what this recipe will give you. So if this description has your mouth watering, then bust out the mixer.

IMG_1783I make lots and lots of food. I bake a lot. If I try a recipe and it’s not my favorite, usually I will wait until I’m craving that particular food again before I try a different recipe. But not this time. For some reason I had to have the perfect recipe right now. We have Snickerdoodles coming out our ears around here. I still have several pounds (for real) of reject-Snickerdoodle dough in my fridge. Every time I make Snickerdoodles I am always a little bit disappointed; they are either too crunchy, too flat, lacking flavor, or overwhelmingly tart from too much cream of tarter. But not anymore! I have found my version of Snickerdoodle perfection. Yesss! I hope you guys love this one as much as I do.


Source: adapted from Lovin’ From the Oven

Makes 16-18 cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour, spooned carefully into the measuring cup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Beat for at least a couple minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and cinnamon. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, using a spatula to scrape the sides.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (yes, 300!) while you let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping.

IMG_1739Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and roll it into a ball. (It should be about the size a large cookie scoop would be. In fact, using a large cookie scoop is a good idea, but you will still have to roll it into a ball in the cinnamon-sugar). Roll each ball into the cinnamon-sugar and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat, about 2 inches apart. Repeat for the remaining cookies.

IMG_1793On my first batch, I rolled the dough into about 1 inch balls. They were still good, just not as thick. The second time I made them huge, at least 2 inches across, and they stayed nice and big. You can see the difference above.

IMG_1753Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They will puff up quite a bit in the oven, as you can see above, but once you take them out they will fall a little bit. The cookies should still look pretty soft in the middle, but the outside edges should be firm. They will continue to cook on the pan after you take them out. After 5 minutes or so, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Is Indiana Jones just a guy thing? Do any of you ladies have a special place in your heart for Indiana Jones? Because I definitely don’t. I’d seen bits and pieces of all the movies before but for some reason couldn’t remember them very well. Now I know why. They are totally boring.

IMG_1669Eric loves the whole series. I decided to try out doing a “themed” stay-at-home date last weekend. I know Eric’s had a hankering to watch them recently, so we rented all the movies (thank you public library!), grabbed some Indian take-out (they go to India in Temple of Doom, okay? Like I need a more substantial excuse to get Indian take out.) and I made some “monkey brains” Monkey Bread for dessert. It was really fun. At least the food part was.

IMG_1685This was the first meal Eric’s mom ever made me. It was a few days after Christmas and I flew out to Montana to meet Eric’s family for the first time. I was 20 years old and scared to death. Eric and I had talked pretty seriously about getting married but weren’t engaged yet. It’s one thing to meet a boyfriend’s family, but knowing that they might soon become your family is a whooooooole different ballgame.

IMG_1706But I had nothing to worry about. Eric’s family is awesome. I should have known when I tasted this soup. Only awesome people make such awesome food, right? (That’s what I tell myself every day.) The fact that I have intense memories of the flavor of this soup in such a high-pressure situation is a testament to its deliciousness. Or perhaps it’s just a testament to my obsession with food.

Either way, I promise you will love this soup. Don’t be turned off by the fact that it calls for masa harina.

IMG_1710You can find this in the Hispanic foods aisle in any grocery store. It makes the soup so thick that you don’t even need to add sour cream, and it gives it that distinct enchilada-y flavor. Also don’t be a Velveeta hater! Embrace it! It’s the only way to keep the soup creamy. Shredded cheese will always gloop up on you. And nobody wants gloop-soup. Enjoy this!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Source: my mother-in-law Kris, who got it from “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes” by Todd Wilbur

Serves 10

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breast (about 3), salted
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed and minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup masa harina
3 cups water
1 cup enchilada sauce (I like green, red is fine)
16 oz. Velveeta (I use light)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin

For the Pico de Gallo:
4 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
3/4 cup diced red or yellow onion
3 tablespoons diced jalapenos (about 2, or 3 if they are small)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Juice of 2-3 limes
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

For garnish:
shredded cheddar cheese
crumbled corn tortilla chips
Pico de Gallo
avocado (optional)

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken breasts to pot and brown for 4-5 minutes per side, or until they are no longer pink. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.

Add onions to the remaining oil in the pot (if there isn’t much left, add a bit more), and saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions begin to become translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, add 2 cups of water. Add the masa harina gradually, whisking constantly. (This helps avoid grainy-ness.) Add masa mixture to pot with onions, garlic and broth.

Add remaining water, enchilada sauce, Velveeta, and spices to the pot and bring mixture to a boil.

Shred the chicken into small, bite-size pieces and add it to the pot.  Reduce heat to low and simmer soup for 30-40 minutes or until thick.

Serve soup garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled corn tortilla chips, avocado, and Pico de Gallo.

7up Biscuits

Eric and I have a goal this year to have more fun. I know that sounds kind of silly and generic, but we really mean it. By “have fun” we mean both that we want to make more awesome memories, and also that we want to find ways to have more fun doing all our regular stuff.

IMG_1646The idea stems from a conversation Eric had with my brother (also named Eric…I know, confusing) who is an ER doctor. They were talking about different careers they could have chosen. Doctor Eric said something like, “I wouldn’t really want a desk job, but I’d have fun no matter what I did.” And it’s true. My brother has one of the most fun-loving spirits I have ever encountered. He and his family are always having crazy adventures.

So Eric (my Eric) and I decided that we should be having more fun too, no matter what we’re doing. Since we live in Utah with tons of beautiful powdery snow everywhere, I decided that we should go snowshoeing. (Because skiing is expensive. Also I am 8 months pregnant and although there may not be official rules about that, in my case there should be. If you could get your hands on some footage of me strapped to 2 sticks falling rolling skiing down a slippery mountain, you would understand.)

IMG_1611Anyway. We were going to go with my sister and her kids, but she called me that morning and told me that there was going to be a huge blizzard in like 20 minutes. Fun fail. You can’t have fun if you don’t check the weather, idiot! I was totally bummed. But then I remembered that the goal was fun, not snowshoeing. So we went over to their house and played Fox and Geese in the backyard with all the kids and had a massive snowball fight.

snowHere I am forging the trail. It was pretty epic. And memorable. And definitely fun. Yesss!

IMG_1649These biscuits are fun too. (See how awesome we are doing on our goal??) For real though, these biscuits taste like the ones at KFC, except way better. Which I didn’t even know was possible. The original recipe says it’s a Popeye’s knockoff, but I’ve never been there so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that these babies are baked in butter. That’s right. You melt butter in the baking dish and plop the dough right in it. I never would have thought of doing that, but the result is to die for. Especially when you drizzle honey over the top…you will be craving fried chicken in no time. Eat these with a glass of water.

7Up Biscuits

Source: recipe from Plain Chicken, recommended to me by Ami over at bunkers down.

Makes 9 biscuits

2 cups bisquick*
1/2 cup sour cream (light works great)
1/2 cup 7Up or ginger ale (don’t use diet)
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 450. In a medium size bowl, use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the sour cream into the bisquick. Add the 7Up and stir with a spoon or spatula. The dough will be very soft and wet.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in an 8 or 9 inch square pan and set aside.

Sprinkle additional bisquick on counter or pastry cloth. Scrape the dough onto the bisquick and sprinkle the top with more bisquick so that it doesn’t stick so much to your fingers. Pat down so that it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 2-1/2 inch biscuit cutter or similar sized upside-down glass to cut out 9 biscuits, reshaping the dough as necessary.

Place cut biscuits in prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Do the toothpick test if you are worried about them being done. Then drench them in honey and smile while you get fat.

*I didn’t have any, so I made my own. Combine 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons baking powder. Cut in 1/4 cup butter-flavored shortening with a pastry cutter. You only need 2 cups of this mixture for the biscuits, so be sure to measure it. Use the rest for the counter top.

Roasted Carrots with Dill

Today I went to the store to pick up a new toothbrush for Charlotte. I was going to let her pick out one with a princess or Dora the Explorer on it to help her be excited about brushing her teeth (although this is less of a problem recently since I started letting her brush my teeth/gag me while I brush hers).

IMG_1553But I was dismayed to find that princesses come at a high price. They were all $2.25 or more for 1 toothbrush. I ended up getting the Peanuts toothbrush (2 for $1!), although it goes against my lame-cartoons-code.

IMG_1576Does anyone else have personal cartoon standards? I just can’t bring myself to like lame cartoons that aren’t funny. Like Peanuts. Or Garfield. They are just not funny, at all. My brother Nate and I were obsessed with Garfield as a kid, and now when I read them I just want to stab myself in the eye. Nate recently sent me a link to Garfield Minus Garfield, a website dedicated to removing all other characters from the strip to focus on Jon. It’s actually really funny when you take out Garfield.

calvin und hobbes swift kick in the butt is for sale

Why can’t we get more cartoons like Calvin and Hobbes?

IMG_1570Now let’s talk about these carrots. Sometimes I go through phases where I forget that I love carrots. It never gets to the point that I convince myself that I don’t like them, I just forget how awesome they are and miss out on months of vitamin A. Someone made this recipe for me after a long bout of carrot amnesia, and now I’m in carrot heaven again. These roasted carrots are so simple, and soooooo good. Plus it makes you feel good to eat orange food. No really, it does. That’s why Cheetos are so addictive.

Roasted Carrots with Dill

Source: slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 6

12 carrots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill OR 2 teaspoons dried dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel carrots or just give them a good scrub. If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole. Slice the carrots diagonally into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices, or however big you want them, really. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so big slices are fine. You will just have to up your roasting time.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried dill, if you don’t have fresh.

Transfer to a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil for easy clean up) and spread out in a single layer. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until they are brown and fork-tender. The roasting time depends on how big your carrots are. If you are using fresh dill, toss the carrots with the minced dill after they are roasted, season to taste, and serve.

Easy Homemade Maple Syrup

How is your February going? I can’t believe it’s almost over. Seeing all the Easter stuff everywhere is freaking me out. This baby boy is due 5 days afterward and I’m not ready!! Not that I have a list of things to do or anything. If I did, it would be stuff like, “Sleep now or forever hold your peace,” or “Grow up,” or “Stop getting mad at your toddler when she throws her food at the wall because pretty soon you’re going to have two of them to deal with.” Wish me luck.

IMG_1538This is another great recipe from Eric’s mom. She claimed last week that 25% of the recipes on this site are from her, which I heatedly contested. But she’s really not that far off. She’s a great cook, what can I say. This recipe is a family classic. When we first started dating, Eric thought it was so weird that I used store-bought maple syrup on my pancakes. I had to gently inform him that no, most people don’t make their own syrup, they buy it for a dollar and a half at the store. But he’s got me converted. I prefer this recipe to the store-stuff now.

IMG_1530Just a heads up, this recipe is much thinner than the syrup you’re used to. The store stuff is basically corn syrup with some flavoring and cellulose gum, whatever that is (it makes me think of cellulite, which is not exactly appetizing). This recipe is meant to be made ahead of time, and it does thicken up as it cools, but I always eat it immediately anyway. The flavor is delicious and I promise you won’t miss the cellulose gum. Enjoy your pancakes and waffles and French toast!

Easy Homemade Maple Syrup

Source: Eric’s mom Kris

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon maple extract

Combine both sugars and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about a minute or two, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 or 3 minutes. Add maple extract. Let cool completely; the syrup will be thicker the colder it is. Store in the fridge for up to…forever, as far as I know. We’ve never had ours go bad, but then again it usually doesn’t last that long.

Elmo Cake Tutorial for Dummies (without an Elmo Cake Pan)

We had Charlotte’s 2nd birthday party this weekend! It doesn’t get any better than family, presents, balloons, and bright red cake. At least I’m pretty sure those are Charlotte’s favorite things.

I decided to make an Elmo cake for the big day. She loves Sesame Street even though we rarely watch it anymore—that was only during the dark ages (also known as the first trimester. TV is a mom’s best friend when you’re sick.) Two-year-olds have long memories when it comes to furry red monsters though, apparently.

There is an Elmo cake pan you can buy for 10 bucks, but some of us just can’t justify that kind of purchase. I mean, how many Elmo cakes do I anticipate making in my life? Probably just this one. I looked for tutorials online and only found one that didn’t use the cake pan and wasn’t a fondant cake. So I followed it the best I could. I was so happy with how it turned out!

IMG_1290I am NOT a cake decorator. I got skipped when they were handing out the “makes crafts/food beautiful with little or no effort” gene. If you ever see food on this blog that could be classified as beautiful, it’s usually either a trick of the light or the result of a ridiculous amount of effort. But never fear; this cake falls under neither category. It was easy, even for me. All it takes is a little time. Here we go!

Elmo Cake Tutorial for Dummies (without an Elmo Cake Pan)

Source: Third Time’s a Charm

Makes a little less than 1 single layer 9-inch cake

1 white or yellow cake mix (plus the eggs, water, and oil called for on the box)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk, plus more for thinning the base frosting
red food coloring, gel or paste (NOT liquid)
orange food coloring (gel, paste, or combine 1 part red liquid food coloring to 3 parts yellow liquid food coloring)
1 tube of black decorating icing
a printed picture of Elmo’s face, about 8 inches across.
about 1,000 toothpicks

IMG_1195I didn’t take pictures of the batter-making process. I figure you probably all know how to pour oil and crack an egg. Use a yellow or white cake mix so that if you end up having a really crumbly cake, the crumbs won’t be so dark. So, after you mix up your cake batter, grease two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans very well, and dust with flour. Sprinkle the flour into the pan, and, working over a sink, shake the pan sideways until it is all covered in flour.

IMG_1201I used these Bake-Even Cake Strips to get my cake to bake flat. My mom gave them to me for Christmas.

IMG_1206Here they are…

IMG_1210Pour in the batter…

IMG_1211They did NOT work. I was totally bummed. Way to go, Mom. :)

IMG_1221Look at that dome! Sigh.

IMG_1234But then I tried it again. (I made a second cake for the adults at our party, since the Elmo cake was only enough to feed the kids.) It worked the second time around. They puffed up quite a bit in the oven, but once I took them out they flattened. This is just an fyi. If you buy these cake-strips, make sure to soak them VERY well the first time you use them. I think they just needed to be tempered. I’ve heard you can replicate this process by soaking strips of towels and wrapping them around the pan.

IMG_1224Well however you get it done, make your cake flat. I used a long serrated knife to chop off the top here. We are only using one layer to make Elmo, so save the other half for something else.

IMG_1227Then wrap it up in saran wrap and toss it in the freezer for at least an hour or two. This will make it easier to cut. (Try to ignore my freezer full of butter and ice cream.)

IMG_1241If you do a Google image search for “Elmo’s face” you will get about a trillion options for a face to print out. I think I used the first hit. Just make sure that Elmo’s face is no wider than your cake. Cut out the face and place it on top of your cake.

IMG_1244Then practice a little voodoo. Just kidding. Use as many toothpicks as you need to outline the features of Elmo’s face. I used a ton because I have no artistic skills at all whatsoever. Connect the dots is about as creative as I get.

IMG_1247Then use a knife to cut off the edges of the cake. The tutorial I was following said not to bother cutting the furry edges of his face jagged…

IMG_1248…but I couldn’t help myself. I did it anyway. This makes it really hard to frost, and I ended up using so much frosting on those spots that you couldn’t really tell I had made the effort. So you might want to make this choice according to your frosting-skill-level. (I believe they have frosting-skill-level-quizzes online; check it out. This is an important thing to know.) If you consider yourself an advanced froster, then go ahead, make your fur jagged. If you are a beginner like me, then don’t worry about it. You can creatively dollop the frosting  to make it look like fur later.

IMG_1251Okay. Elmo’s all cut out.

IMG_1252Now carefully lift off the paper, leaving the toothpicks in place. Try not to stab yourself.

IMG_1256Next, take a serrated knife and score the outline of the face according to where your toothpicks are. Then toss Elmo back in the freezer (sorry I forgot to take a picture) while you make your frosting.

IMG_1257Cream the butter, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time, add the vanilla, add milk until it is a spreadable consistency that you like, yadda yadda. Then take out a cup or two and put it in a separate bowl. Add a couple more tablespoons of milk to the bowl and stir it up. This is your base frosting, the thin layer that you put on the cake before your colored frosting so that you don’t have crumbs in Elmo’s eyes. You want the consistency of this frosting to be pretty thin, but not to the point that it’s drippy. You can see in my picture how it’s started to get a little grainy.

IMG_1265Then frost your cake. Use a toothpick to outline Elmo’s face as you frost. This does not need to be a thick layer of frosting and it certainly does not have to be perfect. NOTE: If you are doing your base frosting on the cake plate that you plan to serve this on, then take strips of parchment paper and tuck them under the cake before you start frosting. This will keep your cake plate clean and pretty.

IMG_1268Now spoon some of your original frosting (not the extra-thin-milky-stuff) into 3 separate bowls. Leave one white, for the eyes, then dye one red and one orange.


Here is the gel food coloring that I used. I had orange, but if you don’t have it liquid food coloring will work fine; it doesn’t need to be ultra-bright. The red, on the other hand, does. This red gel food coloring was a little more than half full and I used all of it for maybe 2 cups of frosting. It still didn’t look red enough, so I dumped in some liquid red food coloring too. Just keep in mind that the longer it sits, the deeper the color becomes. (This gel coloring claims to be “No-taste” which I totally did not believe. But I was proved wrong. I used a ton of the stuff and it still tasted like buttercream.) Above you can see the black-decorator-icing I used. I didn’t want to bother dying frosting and having it turn out gray. Plus it was nice to have it in a tube like this to make the edges of his mouth and eyes.

IMG_1274Once you have your frostings all dyed and ready to go, get Elmo out of the freezer. It’s cold in there. At this point I used a flat baking sheet and a spatula to transfer the cake to the plate I was going to serve it on. I only did this because my cake platter won’t fit in my freezer. (At least not with all the butter and ice cream in there.) Skip this step if you can, it was a little nerve wracking.

IMG_1279Now take strips of parchment paper, if you haven’t already, and slide them under the cake so that you don’t get your plate all frosting-y. Then start on Elmo’s nose. Dump some frosting right in the middle and spread carefully to the outside. Next do his eyes, toothpick-drawing the pupils as you go.

IMG_1281Then get started on the red. Put the frosting in the middle and carefully spread to the edges. Use toothpicks to spread in tight areas, like that scary spot under his eyes where the red, orange, and white meet. Put in toothpicks to outline his mouth. You don’t need to put red frosting on the inside of his mouth, I just did it on accident.

IMG_1289Once you get the edges all done, carefully remove the parchment paper. Do this as soon as you can, the colder your cake is the better. Then get started on the pupils and mouth…

IMG_1290Use a toothpick or spatula to spread out the black icing.

IMG_1291Use a knife or the back of a spoon to make little red dollops on the face so that it looks like fur. And voila! You’re done! Every two-year-old who sees this will think you are the most awesome person ever! And who doesn’t want that? Happy Birthday Charlotte!!



Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

IMG_1130Eric just told me that when he was a kid, he went through a phase where he decided that the best way to dry off after a shower was by shaking himself like a dog. I would pay quite a bit to see scrawny-naked-10-year-old-Eric shaking his booty til he got dry. His parents should have installed a disco ball and strobe lights in the bathroom.

IMG_1147Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day! There are lots of ways to show love to people, but 9 times out of 10 I choose to show that love through food. That way I get some lovin’ too. Call me selfish. So I got up early and cooked myself some pancakes for Eric and Charlotte. With strawberries and nutella and syrup. I love how we call this an acceptable breakfast.

IMG_1169These are some good, fluffy, buttery, old fashioned pancakes. I like them because not only do they taste amazing, but they are also sturdy. I am the world’s worst pancake-flipper. I always manage to destroy them. And forget about making them into a perfect circle. They always end up looking like boomerangs, and then when I flip them I get batter all over the cooked side. But not THESE pancakes. They are perfectly flippable, even for inept people like myself. They are moist and flavorful, and they puff up a ton, which I love.


Good Old Fashioned Pancakes


Serves 4

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
more butter for frying

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl beat the milk and the eggs until smooth. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk mixture and melted butter; mix until combined, but don’t overdo it.

Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Flip when the bubbles on the top start to pop. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Valentine’s Day Round Up

If you’re like me and hate waiting forever to be seated at a restaurant, then Valentine’s Day is not the day to go out to dinner. We always cook at home and go out before or after. Here are some breakfast, dinner, and dessert ideas.

Breakfast Banana Split. Strawberries, bananas, and Greek yogurt drizzled with warm Nutella. Delicious, kind of healthy, and super easy.

Mini Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing. These little cheater rolls are so awesome. They are made from a can of crescent rolls. They are tiny and adorable and fast.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes. These pancakes are super moist. Remember to soak the oats overnight!

And for dinner…

Chicken Cordon Bleu in Creamy Wine Sauce. I think that if I had to choose a last meal, this would be it.

Malaysian Chicken Pizza. Here’s a fun and easy one. This is one of my favorite pizzas. It’s pretty quick too.

Chicken Shawarma. I never ever get tired of this.

Spinach Mushroom Tortellini. How can you go wrong with cheese-stuffed pasta?

And let’s not forget dessert.

Almond Apricot Tart. This is so good. I know apricots aren’t in season, but you could put whatever fruit you want on top really. Strawberries would be good. This is a good make-ahead dessert.

Butterscotch Peanut Butter Wheaties Treats. Okay so maybe these aren’t exactly high class, but you can’t deny that they are delicious and easy. Always a crowd-pleaser.

IMG_0669Browned Butter Brownies. Some of the best brownies I have ever had. Ridiculously moist and fudgey.

IMG_2364Strawberry Glace Pie. This pie has cream cheese smeared on the bottom of the crust. So dang good. It’s easy to make ahead, and you can use frozen strawberries.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!