Monday, April 23, 2012

baby shower fun with begonia burlap favors, menu including recipe for chocolate cake with rosette frosting, and a diy fabric baby sling

I love being crafty and even more than that I love spoiling others with my gifts of time and whatever small quantity of talent I may have! I was so excited to throw one of my very best friends a baby shower. Fortunately, I had lots of help too! Here are the details for the shower that I organized and menu that I planned related to the shower:
Favors: Originally we discussed putting rosemary in the small biodegradable pots ($1.50 for a pkg of 10) to give as favors, but due to budgetary reasons I chose begonias instead ($1.75 for a 6 cell pack). I planted the flowers a week before the shower in the small pots and left them on my porch to soak up some sunshine. They grew some over the course of the week and remained healthy (thank goodness!). The morning of the shower I wrapped each pot in a square of burlap and tied jute cord around the outside. I then wrapped the remainder of rectangular cardboard packaging in brown craft paper and placed them all inside. I looked everywhere for a cute silver tray to put them in, but to no avail.

 I also planted some flowers for myself to enjoy! Thank you Young's Nursery for beautiful lisianthus and double impatiens

Non-Alcoholic White Sangria
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Mini Quiches
Tea Sandwiches
Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Icing

And this is what happens when you don't sleep at make cards with clearly obvious titles for food **Note following in my footsteps in this area leads to merciless quantities of teasing**

The menu was inspired by a baby shower featured on BumpSmitten.

Chocolate Cake
Cake adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans (I used 2 9-inch round cake pans). Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (I made these cakes approximately 3 days before and froze for a day per Deb's recommendations-they were so much easier to handle and it broke up the workload significantly).

4. The next day I covered the cake in a simple syrup of vanilla and water, then iced the cake with Wilton Buttercream icing to make a crumb coating-another Deb suggestion that really paid off! I then refrigerated the cake until the morning of the shower. 
5. The morning of the shower I followed I am baker's tutorial for making a rose cake using a 1M tip; however I filled in spaces with stars as inspired by BumpSmitten's blog. It was so simple and I received so many compliments, that I felt somewhat ridiculous

Wilton Buttercream Icing
Icing adapted from Wilton (My mom has been swearing on this icing recipe my whole life and it has produced many a shaped cake-even Barbie)

1/2 C shortening
1/2 C butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add 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. Keep bowl 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. Rewhip before using.
I tripled the recipe, as the roses require a lot of icing! I also reduced the milk slightly for a stiffer frosting. 

The Gift 

My friend chose for me to make her a baby sling. I already owned this pattern and had made previous carriers with success. She chose a light weight knit in an eggplant shade that had a medium quantity of stretch. This is the simplest pattern to sew up, though I am also interested in making carriers that use the ring systems widely discussed on the web. For this pattern you take two rounded oblong pieces of fabric cut out from pattern included, place right sides together, pin, then stitch from along both long ends, leaving a small hole to turn right side out eventually. Then you match up short rounded ends and stitch same color to same color to form a complete loop. Turn right side out and whip stitch remaining hole closed. Press for a more finished look. The carrier is worn over one shoulder with opposite arm through, pocket facing up to hold baby. I made one for my sister and used it while I was visiting her a few years ago. It was so comfy for both of us and it was so nice to be able to snuggle and use my hands simultaneously!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Laid-Back Brisket Party Menu and Recipes

Brisket Party
Courtesy of Real Simple


This past weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of having his family over for dinner and I love any excuse to cook a full menu of fun things. A few years ago we ate at Chesapeake's in Knoxville, TN and I had the most delicious meal of smashed potatoes, tomato jam, and seared tuna steak. Ever since I have been looking high and low for a recipe for tomato jam or somewhere to purchase it. So, thank you Real Simple for finally providing me with one!! The meal was a hit and everything was thoroughly enjoyed, my only disappointment being that I did not get an adequate quantity of pictures for all of the dishes.


1-28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, 1/2 C sugar, Kosher salt, 16 2" biscuits (I made cream drop biscuits with half whole wheat flour), 4 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
Bring the tomatoes and their juices, sugar, and 1 tsp salt to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook, mashing occasionally, until thick and jammy, 15-20 minutes (mine took substantially longer than this estimated time to the point that I was getting fussy about it not thickening). Serve with biscuits and Cheddar.

No one else ate their biscuits with the Cheddar, but I loved how they complemented each other.


1 Tbsp Canola oil, 3lbs beef brisket-trimmed, 1 Tbsp ground coriander, Kosher salt and pepper, 1 lb carrots-peeled cut into 2" pieces and halved lengthwise, 1 lb parsnips-same as carrots, 1 large onion-peeled and cut into wedges, 1/4 C tomato paste, 1/4 cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 5 C low-sodium chicken broth
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a 5-6 qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the brisket with the coriander, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Add the brisket to the Dutch oven and cook until browned, 3-4 minutes per side; transfer to plate.
Add the carrots, parsnips, onion, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, broth, vinegar, and Worcestershire and stir to combine.
Nestle the brisket in the vegetables and bring to a boil; cover and transfer to oven. Cook until the brisket is tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve the brisket and vegetables with the cooking liquid.


4 C low-sodium chicken broth, 2 C quick cooking grits, Kosher salt and pepper, 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, 1/4 C heavy cream

Bring the broth and 4 C of water to a boil in a large pot. Gradually whisk in the grits, 1 1/2 salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until soft and creamy, 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cream.


I sauteed spinach in a bit of olive oil in skillet with dashes of salt and pepper.


9oz pkg chocolate wafer cookies, 6 Tbsp unsalted butter- melted, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 3 pints coffee ice cream-softened (1 normal size container), jar of hot fudge, 1/4 chopped roasted salted peanuts

I made an Oreo cookie crust because I couldn't find chocolate wafer cookies, with less butter and no sugar or salt. 

After Oreo crust is cooked, spread the ice cream in the prepared crust and freeze, covered, until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Before serving, remove the pie from the freezer and let rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle with 1/4 C fudge sauce and sprinkle with the peanuts. Serve with additional hot fudge.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Maple Inspired Dinner Recipe

Nothing like a simple rustic and healthy dinner to make you feel good about yourself and life in general!
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Maple Glaze
I roasted a pork tenderloin after patting dry with paper towels, then seasoning with salt and pepper. First sear the pork tenderloin in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until browned on all sides-approximately 5-10 minutes. Then transfer to either a 9x13 inch baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees until internal temperature is 140-145 degrees- approximately 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer the tenderloin to a carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. I love so many variations of a roasted pork tenderloin, but this time I covered the pork with a maple glaze of maple syrup (low sugar variety), ground cinnamon, and cloves before placing in the oven. 

Maple-Glazed Roasted Green Beans and Carrots
Adapted from the Deen Bros 
1.5 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed; 8 oz carrots quartered lengthwise; 2 Tbsp olive oil; 1 Tbsp kosher salt; 1/2 tsp pepper; 1/4 maple syrup (I used reduced sugar); 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Combine green beans, carrots on prepared rimmed baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper; tossing gently. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Drizzle with syrup and vinegar; bake for 5 minutes longer or to desired degree of doneness. Garnish with parsley if desired.
 I hate canned green beans but I love them roasted especially with this touch of sweetness. I also really like the Deen family's recipes for special occasions or when willing to splurge on the calories. I am also really excited that the Deen bros are trying lighter versions of old favorites!