Tiny Food Party!

DSC_4080

In case you didn’t know, I’m one of those people that loves things in miniature. And tiny food is pretty much at the top of my ‘things that are cuter in miniature’ list. A few years ago Paul and I had a daylong obsession with buying these themed sets of tiny plastic food. They came in a little set with maybe 5 different types of food. My favorites were the carnival set with funnel cake and snow cones and a fast food breakfast set that even came with the styrofoam tray and to-go lid. So funny! And the part that really sucked us in was that they came in a mystery box so you didn’t know which set you were getting. We bought one each at Urban Outfitters, opened them right outside the store and I think promptly went back inside and bought two more. I can’t remember what they were called and I can’t find them online, but maybe I’ll dig them up and take some photos when I’m back in Colorado! If you have any idea what I’m talking about, please let me know!

Ok, so tiny plastic food is awesome, but tiny real food is of course, even better. As I mentioned in the mac and cheese bites post, we had a tiny food party when I was home and it was so much fun. We all had at least one dish to make – even our brother put together the lovely caprese skewers! It’s always extra fun when everyone is assembling together. We used the Tiny Food Party book for the skewers, mac and cheese bites, crab cake sliders, and mini chicken and waffles. Yes, MINI CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! Can you believe it? Not only is it the cutest thing ever, but they were really delicious and a lot more convenient to eat. Our grocery store was out of mini waffles, so we just cut regular ones into smaller circles. I seriously can’t get enough of this book. I’m sure you will be seeing it make some more appearances in the future! How do you feel about miniature food? Cute or just annoying??

DSC_4078DSC_4038DSC_4059DSC_4054DSC_4071DSC_4068DSC_4076DSC_4074DSC_4079DSC_4081

Coconut Cream Ombre Rosette Cake

DSC_3996File this one under Mom’s Corner! I had basically nothing to do with this one other than the fact that it was made for my sister’s and my birthday. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I stirred the coconut cream for like 10 minutes straight! Ha, I can weasel my way into any accomplishment. But really, it’s pretty amazing that my mom took the time to make this because we had just finished making 200 cupcakes for a wedding two days before. It was super fun and I’ll probably post more on it later, but also kind of tortuous because I didn’t get to try one of the coconut cream cupcakes that everyone, and especially my brother, kept raving about. I missed out on the cupcake tasting and we had no extras. I tried each components separately and knew they were delicious, but mom said that wasn’t enough (yay!). She recreated the cupcakes into this beautiful, pink, girly masterpiece. Seriously, thank goodness she did. It really lived up to the hype. Luckily, she had been wanting to attempt an ombre rosette cake for a while – I think it turned out so cute (and the cut slices look like hearts)! The recipes she uses are down below. I included her notes for high altitude bakers since it has worked so well for her! It’s her go-to, especially for cupcakes.

Thanks mom for the beautiful cake and for always giving us such special birthdays!! DSC_3991 DSC_3994DSC_3999 DSC_4002 DSC_4017

Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa sifted
1 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 cups sugar  (remove one tablespoon for high altitude)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved. Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps. Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed in. Divide into two cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F (375 for high altitude) for about 30 minutes or until done. Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Cream (Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch
1/2-1 cup of toasted coconut

Mix all ingredients, except toasted coconut, together and mix well.  Cook all ingredients together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thicken. Add the toasted coconut, if using, after the pudding has cooled.

Coconut Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp coconut extract

Beat the butter and half the confectioners’ sugar until smooth; add half the coconut milk, then the rest, and the extract, and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, beating until you have a spreadable frosting. Cool completely before frosting.

Assembly

Spread coconut cream on top of the bottom layer (For an extra touch, add a small layer of chocolate buttercream too). Place the second cake on top of the coconut cream. Frost entire cake with coconut frosting.

DSC_4024

Mac & Cheese Bites

DSC_4068

Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…

I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog! And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to Pass the Curds for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!

We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!

DSC_4006First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better. DSC_4009Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)DSC_4032Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this. DSC_4039Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem. DSC_4040 DSC_4041Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly! DSC_4043See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg. DSC_4048And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated. DSC_4050And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.DSC_4068Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen. DSC_4073Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!

Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)

Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!

For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For Frying
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish.  Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).

DSC_4069

Indoor Birthday Picnic

DSC_3766

July was too hot for picnics. This was heartbreaking for me because picnics are definitely on my list of top favorite activities. I apparently don’t hide this fact either – last year for my birthday Paul and my mom almost got me the exact same picnic themed gift! My mom sent me an adorable, custom picnic kit and Paul said, ‘hey! I almost ordered a nearly identical basket!’ I didn’t get the set until the day after my annual birthday picnic, but don’t worry, it still got used! So yes, this year’s annual birthday picnic was a given, but the weather was just miserable. I have not adapted well to the Boston humidity…rather than sweating through our lunch we decided to try an indoor picnic. We kind of stumbled around the internet to see if there are any places you can go to set up an indoor picnic…we really weren’t sure how that would work or what we were looking for though. In the end, I thought a picnic at home with Mad Men sounded very pleasant! This was, I believe, the week that Mad Men stole my life. It was lovely and I’m glad we still kept up the tradition even when we were too stubborn to go outside. I was leaving for Colorado the next day, so it felt really nice to just chill out and enjoy the day before a busy travel day.

I also have to give a shout out to the prettiest birthday package (last photos)! I woke up and gasped at the sight of this beautifully wrapped box on my desk. Isn’t waking up to packages just the best feeling ever?? Birthday part two featuring the prettiest cake coming up soon!

DSC_3758 DSC_3759 DSC_3760 DSC_3762 DSC_3764 DSC_3776DSC_3746 DSC_3757

Skillet Shrimp and Orzo

DSC_3619

Here’s what I did with the rest of Captain Rob’s bargain shrimp! This recipe was just as easy as the shrimp tacos and is another great find from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine. It’s very similar to a paella, but of course so much easier to make since it uses orzo pasta instead of rice. Paul and I were just recently remembering a time that we tried to make paella in my parent’s kitchen years ago…it was going very well until I discovered that half of the rice was black and stuck to the bottom of the pot. I’m still not sure if that pot survived the massacre. I’m also not sure if I have attempted to make real rice since that experience. I’m so much more of a pasta fan than a rice fan anyhow!

This sauce is pretty similar to the roasted tomato and capicola recipe that I have already posted about. In this case though, you let the tomatoes cook on the stove with spices and herbs and then let the orzo soak it up in the oven. Who doesn’t love a one skillet meal??

DSC_3598DSC_3604DSC_3609DSC_3621DSC_3616

Shrimp Tacos with Coleslaw and Avocado

DSC_3485

This post is partially brought to you by Captain Rob! I was all set to buy the tiny (er, shrimpy? heh) shrimp when Captain Rob enthusiastically introduced himself and cut me a (way too generous) deal on the jumbo shrimp if I promised to keep coming back. Duh, Captain Rob! I’m in. Since I was actually planning on just using the shrimpy shrimp, I got two meals out of these. Double thanks to Captain Rob! When I was planning my shopping list I decided that shrimp tacos sounded like the quintessential summer dish. Super colorful, light, and fresh. But, I gotta be honest – my primary reason for making these tacos was because I thought they would be fun to photograph. Eek! I knew my new camera lens was arriving soon and I was already excitedly planning my next kitchen photo sessions. The lens arrived right as I was about to leave for the store, so I was psyched. And then Captain Rob made my trip even more exciting. Ha! The tacos were perfect for enjoying a beautiful summer evening (as much as we can without a balcony, boo) and they went very nicely with my mint cherry limeades! And easy too – seasoned shrimp (paprika is good) + coleslaw + avocado + (optional) tomatoes. A little lime and mint helps this pair even better with the cherry limeades. Loving the summer food and loving my new lens! Second shrimp dish to come soon!

DSC_3426DSC_3442DSC_3471DSC_3434DSC_3453DSC_3475DSC_3486DSC_3512DSC_3478DSC_3516DSC_3488

Salad with Tuna and Fennel

DSC_3183

This was a my quick lunch a couple of weeks ago. It’s another salad that was part of my cookbook, but mostly magazine, challenge and something I would never think to make on my own. I actually got my ingredients a little confused when I put this together, but it all worked out okay. The recipe uses oranges rather than grapefruit, which I think would be a lot better even though I love grapefruit more than oranges. I’m also not too sure how I feel about fennel…I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t eat all of the fennel on my plate. Something about it was just weird to me. I’ve had it chopped up in smaller pieces in salad before and really liked it though! On the more positive side, I can’t believe I never realized how good tuna and avocado are together! I’m embarrassed. So tasty! Next time, oranges! And I’ll try cutting up the fennel. And maybe not roasting it? Or maybe just ditch it? How do you feel about fennel??

DSC_3176 DSC_3184 DSC_3181

Dad’s Corner

20130623-140603.jpg

It seems like after every family celebration I get to write a post about how I surprised so-and-so with a visit. Sadly, this isn’t one of those posts. I didn’t buy a plane ticket home for Father’s Day even though I really, really wanted to! I’m trying to save up for future visits and such and I had just been home a month ago. I got to feel semi-included though with a FaceTime call and a group text convo complete with picture updates. Dad got a special meal, of course, but as always, the ‘puppy brother’ tends to take over everything. I tried to keep this balanced though and limited the puppy pictures to just two!

I mentioned last time I was home that there has been a casual competition to ‘make the blog,’ which I think dad has already won with his enthusiasm alone! SO, in honor of dad, this is Dad’s Corner. I missed a good meal! They barely had time to digest all of this before my mom and dad were off to ALASKA the next day! I’m so glad they got to go on a trip they’ve been dreaming of for so long to celebrate a very special anniversary. Us kids are so fortunate to have great parents that have taught us that it’s important to work hard and do great things but also how equally important it is to have a sense of humor and see as much of the world as possible! Oops, mom kind of snuck in on Dad’s Corner somehow! I hope dad can deal with that…I really wanted to include a picture of his famous (and probably record breaking) soft serve ice cream cone towers. The only one I could find from my own camera is the first one we ever took and it looks pretty wimpy. Since then, he has really perfected the art. Uh oh, I smell a Dad’s Corner part 2. 20130623-140616.jpg

20130623-140623.jpg

IMG_0025.JPG

I had to throw in a cool picture from another past anniversary (I think) in honor of the most recent one! All you need is love. : )

20130623-144127.jpg

This is our puppy brother taking over the whole phone chat and looking right at me! haha! 20130623-140630.jpg

And here he is getting ready to be shipped off to visit me. Why so sad? No overnight shipping for this pup. : P

Mint Cherry Limeade

DSC_3489_1DSC_3490

First off, I must make a blogger confession…I don’t own any mason jars. Yes, we all know that the top three things that all bloggers must have are 1. a decent camera 2. too much time on their hands and 3. mason jars. I made due with these just as cute (maybe?) soda glasses that we got last summer and have barely used! For some reason we have all these cute ice cream and drink glasses, but we rarely drink alcohol and are typically too lazy to actually scoop the ice cream out of the carton before eating (Ok, that might just be me). Anyway, it’s summer now, so I’ve really been in the mood to make some fancy, fruity drinks! I was going over my grocery list on the way to the store and quickly decided that if I grabbed a whole bunch of limes I could probably fashion some sort of tasty drink. I knew we already had mint and like five cans of tonic water in the fridge and plus I had cherries on the list for a breakfast recipe. Sweet!

Instructions: First step is to make a quick simple syrup – I did 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Then add the juice of 3 or 4 limes, depending on how tart you want it. Then I smashed a handful of cherries and strained the juice into the mixture. Fill your glass up about halfway with the juice and then fill the rest with whatever fizzy stuff you got. I had tonic water, so that’s what I used. Then you must add some extra halved cherries because they taste sooo yummy after they’ve been floating around in the drink for a while! The mint is a great touch, but that’s up to you as well! Feel free to sweeten with more sugar if needed. This made enough for 4 drinks.

DSC_3508DSC_3498DSC_3519

Tip: We had some extra soda left so I soaked some cherries in the fridge, which made a really nice snack for later!

DSC_3507

Puff Pastry Pizza

DSC_3258

According to Paul, this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It’s hard for me to make such bold statements about my own cooking, but this is one dish that I have consistently craved since I made it. Just like my last puff pastry post (which, funnily enough, Paul also declared as one of my best meals), this pizza was totally improvised using what we already had. Luckily, the combination of toppings worked out so perfectly. With frozen dough, this meal couldn’t be more simple to put together. Puff pastry pizza is such a great thing to have in your repertoire of quick, weeknight, throw together meals.

To make sure the pastry gets crispy, pre-bake until it’s ‘set,’ but not browned all the way. For this pizza in particular, I like it best when it’s crisp, but still a little soft and chewy in the middle. It’s up to you though! Char that thing up if that’s what you’re feelin’! After I pre-baked the crust, I spread some pre-made pesto and then topped it with salami, green olives, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and sage. Ok, and I threw in some extra garlic too. So easy, and seriously delicious. I really, really recommend this combination of toppings, but I can imagine so many other great combos too. Let me know if you have any topping loves/suggestions!

DSC_3212DSC_3210DSC_3215DSC_3229DSC_3249DSC_3254 DSC_3260