Be My Valentine Snack Mix

Since my son began a traditional daycare in August (versus an in-home daycare), I’ve been quickly introduced to the world of daycare parties. Daycare parties require treats and not just any treat; the foods must be appealing to the very young and often toothless crowd. Add in the pressure of living in a Pinterest world and it can be quite stressful.

For Valentine’s Day, I was pretty set on cupcakes since I already had Valentine cupcake liners left over from years past. However, I was late to signing up and cupcakes were already spoken for. After searching the web, I settled on a Valentine Snack Mix. There were lots of options and out there and I ultimately chose one that used popcorn as the base because my son LOVES popcorn (as do I). I omitted the nuts because so many kids have nut allergies these days.

Coating popcorn with candy coating is not something I’d ever considered doing. But it turned out really good. Another mom made a similar mix with plain puffcorn rather than popcorn. If you’re not acquainted, puffcorn is not corn at all, it’s basically a puffy Cheeto shaped like popcorn. The plain variety is basically a Cheeto with no cheese. I sampled my son’s treat bag of it and found it tasty.

I also used Goldfish pretzels instead of regular pretzels because, well, toddlers…Goldfish…you know.

  Valentine Snack Mix

5 to 6 cups of plain popcorn (I used Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals as it seemed it would be the plainest)

1 tray of white candy coating (such as Candiquick) or almond bark

Valentine Nonpareils (fancy word for sprinkles, who knew?)

1 package of Pretzel Goldfish

1 bag of Valentine M&M Candies

 

Prepare popcorn according to package directions. I found that one bag yielded the 5 to 6 cups that I needed. I poured my popcorn out into a glass measuring bowl to measure it then placed it one handful at a time into a larger bowl. I did this so I could be sure to pick out any unpopped kernels that might irritate little teeth.

Next, melt candy coating/bark as directed on package. Once it’s melted, pour over popcorn and mix very gently. Too aggressive with the spoon and the popcorn will break! Spread the coated popcorn on a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle with the nonpareils. In hindsight, I would also add some M&M candies at this stage because they sort of fell to the bottom of the mix.

  Let the candy coating cool and set which takes about 15 minutes. Break apart the popcorn and mix in your candy and pretzel Goldfish. Store in airtight container. Can be divided out into gift bags for maximum cuteness.

Thanks Home is Where the Boat Is for the Pin-spiration!

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Mardi Gras Recipe Round Up!

  Our office tries to do fun potluck meals on occasion. One idea that we came up with last year was to try a combined Fat Tuesday/Valentine potluck. We originally called it Beads and Beaux but decided to change it to Beads and Bows after a couple confused looks. We’d been collecting recipes on Pinterest for a year so we were definitely prepared. I’ve decided to do a round up of the recipe links rather than a recipe post. For one thing, I want to be able to capture several of the recipes at one time, and second, my dish (Cajun Shrimp Dip) wasn’t very photogenic.

In choosing recipes, we joked that to make something Cajun just add Cajun seasoning and to make something Valentine themed, add red food color or cut it in a heart shape.

Here’s what we came up with:

I made Cajun Shrimp Dip. To me, it was just ok. The recipe calls for a pound of salad shrimp and the biggest bag I could find was 11 ounces. And honestly, I felt that was too much shrimp. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use an even smaller bag and cut the shrimp flavor down a bit. Or maybe use shredded or canned chicken.

Candace made Red Beans and Rice Salad. She would be the first to tell you that she overcooked her rice. Slow cookers can be fickle. Nonetheless, I thought this was a really tasty dish. I had an extra container on hand so I boxed up a portion for the next day’s lunch and I think it was even better because everything a chance to blend together.

Shelia brought in Valentine Blondies. She cut hers in a heart shape. They were very yummy and my 2 year old very much enjoyed the one I brought home to him. He loves chocolate chip cookies and these were like a thick cookie. Yum!

Rita made Maque Choux which was a new experience for all of us.  She made two versions: one with sausage and one without for the vegetarians. I liked it a lot and I think it would be really good in summer when there’s fresh corn available.

And last but not least, Sherry provided Southern Pecan Praline Cake. As one taster said, “Lord have mercy!”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

It was a good meal and gave us a chance to step out of our culinary comfort zones and try some new recipes.

 

“I Want To Marry You” Cookies

The holidays are over and many of us are trying to move past all of the cookies, cakes,  and candy we ate. But I can’t move forward without paying my respects to a new cookie recipe that I found. And loved.

Our office hosts a cookie exchange each year. In the weeks (ok, months. Ok, we’re already planning this year’s) leading up to it, we talk a lot about cookies. We look for cookies online. We remember fondly cookies of past Christmas seasons.

I had a short list of cookies/treats that I was considering for this year’s exchange. Then I scrapped the whole list when I found this recipe on The Cooking Channel’s website. There were several reasons that it appealed to me. 1) It looked easy. 2) It looked tasty and 3) I had almost everything on hand to make it.

I really wanted to change the name though. I even posed the question to my Fb friends. Suggestions included “Double Chocolate Oatmeal Delights”, “Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em Cookies” “I’m Already Taken Cookies”, and “Happily Ever  After Cookies”. Since I’m already married, I considered “So Good He Put a Ring On It Cookies”. I also kept thinking of that old episode of Designing Women where the girls sing “Wedding Bell Blues” so I kind of wanted to call these “Come On and Marry Me Bill Cookies”. But my husband isn’t Bill and we do work in the same building, so I didn’t want to start any rumors.

So, I didn’t rename the cookies. Pardon me for just putting you through a pointless story.

The cookies are a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and an oatmeal cookie. I really enjoyed them, and they were all claimed at the cookie exchange. It’s definitely a keeper recipe.

  

 I Want to Marry You Cookies

1 cup butter

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup uncooked rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter completely over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until sugars are incorporated and smooth. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.

Stir in both kinds of chips. 

Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and chill for 30 minutes. You can place your dough balls on a cookie sheet to do this, or you can do what I did,  which was to layer them in a bowl with wax paper between each layer. 

Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Dreamsicle Fudge

Recipes like this one are part of the reason I started this blog. One day I mentioned in passing that my husband loved Dreamsicle fudge. A beloved co-worker and friend said “Well honey, you should make him some. I’ve got a great recipe!” Now, me and candy making aren’t exactly friends. I find it very intimidating. But this recipe WAS easy. And the best part is that it came handwritten to me on an actual paper recipe card.

I love those handwritten recipes. My mom has a treasure trove of them. And one reason that I started this blog was to try to preserve some of them.

The recipe calls for orange chips. I used orange candy melts that I found at a craft/hobby store.

 

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Dreamsicle Fudge

3 1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 1/2 sticks butter

12 oz orange candy melts

7 oz marshmallow cream

1 tablespoon orange flavoring

Boil sugar, cream, and butter for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; beat in candy melts, marshmallow cream and flavoring. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Cool before cutting.

 

Nilla Wafer “Cake Bites”

Last year, this recipe popped up as a sponsored post on Facebook. I decided to give it a try for my family’s Christmas dinner. To me, these were just okay but my husband LOVED them. In fact, he liked them so much that he asked me to make a double batch  for us to take to his family’s house for our Christmas visit. I did as he requested thinking that I’d take them to our get together with the extended family on Christmas Eve. Well as it turns out, my father-in-law liked them as much as my husband and they wouldn’t let me take them to the party! So while these might not be my favorite, they definitely are going to be repeated again. You could really decorate them anyway you choose and serve them for any occasion.

Let me apologize for the poor photographs. The lighting in December is not great and I’m not yet up to speed on my new flash.

Nilla Wafer Cake Bites

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36 Nilla Wafers

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1/4 cup raspberry jam

8 oz. white candy coating wafers (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 Tbsp. oil

Assorted decorations:  colored sprinkles, M&Ms, colored sugar, decorating icings, etc.

Brush flat sides of 24 NILLA Wafers with juice, then spread with jam. Place remaining wafers, rounded sides up, on waxed paper-covered baking sheet; top each with 2 jam-topped wafers, jam sides down. Refrigerate 6 hours or until firm enough to handle. Melt  candy wafers as directed on package; stir in oil until blended. Dip NILLA stacks, 1 at a time, in melted candy wafers, turning to evenly coat stack and reheating candy wafer mixture if needed. Return to baking sheet. Immediately drizzle with decorating icings or melted candy wafers, sprinkle with crushed candies or sugar and/or add decorations to resemble photo.

REFRIGERATE  30 min. or until candy coating is firm. Keep refrigerated.

I’m not too proud to admit that I used Candy Quik coating rather than wafers and oil. Easy to melt and you can toss the microwavable tray later!

 

The Perfect Cupcake, Birthdays, and the Struggles of Modern Motherhood

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My son will turn two in less than three months and I have no clue what his party theme will be for his 2nd birthday party. In case you haven’t reproduced in the social media age, let me break that down for you.

I’m woefully behind in planning.

While my peers and I have may have turned out just fine with a Totino’s Pizza and a cake from the Piggly Wiggly, for the modern birthday child this will not do. Today’s parent must procure a custom made designer cake with 3 inches of fondant and a backyard petting zoo complete with a panda. Think I’m exaggerating? Search “First birthday party ideas” on Pinterest. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Are your eyes spinning? SEE, I TOLD YOU.

For my son’s first birthday, I did a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme. I bought a few things online, picked up a few things at Dollar Tree and all in all, I think it turned out well although I certainly didn’t have a Pinterest worthy party. One thing that did rock though was the cupcakes.

I decided to buy a cake from-gasp– Meijer for him. I just couldn’t justify spending a small fortune for a cake that he wouldn’t remember, I’d be too tired too enjoy, and my husband probably wouldn’t like. To supplement the cake, I made these cupcakes.

And while I may have been lackluster in my other party efforts, I was a rock star with these cupcakes. The taste of them, that is. My icing skills are sorely lacking.

I hadn’t blogged the recipe yet and considered not blogging it since I didn’t change anything and the recipe is already out on the interwebs. But I’ve lost some really good recipes before when the original site disappeared and I don’t want to lose this one.

The cupcakes were a huge hit and I had requests for the recipe. I also made my son a small cake using some extra batter and a ramekin as my cake pan. It wasn’t fancy but it was cute. And he loved it. And didn’t realize it wasn’t a fancy smash cake. Because, he’s you know, a baby.

So, while I may be clueless about this year’s party theme, one thing is for sure: these cupcakes will be on the menu.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

Orginal recipe here.

Ingredients:

1 16.25 oz box white cake mix

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cup water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

4 egg whites

For the Buttercream Frosting:

6 cups powdered sugar

2 cups butter, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with your choice of cupcake liners. Set aside.

In the bowl of an upright mixer, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Attach the paddle attachment, add the rest of the ingredients and beat together until well mixed.

Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 full of batter.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

While cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Mix the butter and powdered sugar together slowly and carefully so that the sugar doesn’t go flying everywhere. Add in the vanilla extract. Mix slowly until frosting consistency.

Top your cooled cupcakes-make sure they are completely cooled-with frosting.

Red Velvet Poke Cake

My husband and I have never been the types to go out for Valentine’s Day. Generally, I cook although there were a couple of Valentine pizzas over the years. This year, I wanted to make something that all three of us could enjoy. I settled on spaghetti.

Spaghetti is kind of a special meal for us. My husband brought his recipe for spaghetti sauce into our marriage. We actually bought the ingredients and fixed spaghetti on our honeymoon. So, it seemed fitting. Along with it, we had salad with Olive Garden dressing, garlic bread and this Red Velvet Poke Cake recipe courtesy of The Country Cook.

Motherhood has made me more prone to decorating for obscure holidays so I whipped up this little centerpiece for our big meal.

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The potted heart was a find at Michael’s. Since it was the day before Valentine’s Day, it was 40% off. I also picked up the red votive holders pretty cheap. Unfortunately, I either used all of my little battery powered votives or I stashed them somewhere after Christmas because they were not to be found. Oh well. I also decorated baby boy’s seat with hearts cut out from the Valentine gift bag that my mom had his gifts in.
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But oh yes, on with the cake. Poke cake, if you’re not familiar, is a cake with holes poked in it. You then pour pudding on top and it seeps into the holes and into the cake. The Country Cook has lots of different varieties of poke cake. I made a Banana Pudding version for Easter last year.

The cake was pretty and very festive for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t get the Oreos on top as she suggests. I bought them and their whereabouts now are not up for discussion. I couldn’t find the cheesecake flavored pudding so I used white chocolate and it was a good combination. Both of my Valentines enjoyed it.

The Country Cook’s Red Velvet Poke Cake

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1 box Red Velvet cake mix

ingredients needed to make cake (eggs, oil & water)

2 (3.4 oz.) boxes instant Cheesecake-flavored pudding (White Chocolate works fine!)

4 cups milk

1 (8 oz.) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

10 Oreo cookies, crushed (optional)

 

Directions:

Prepare cake mix according to package directions for a 9×13 cake.

Once cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool for just a couple of minutes.

Then, with a wooden spoon handle, a spatula handle, or some other similarly-sized object, begin poking holes in the warm cake. I used a bamboo skewer because my wooden spoons have flat ends. Since it was smaller than a spoon, I had to poke and then twirl the skewer around a little to make the holes bigger.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pudding mix with 4 cups of milk.

Whisk until all the lumps are gone.

Pour pudding over cake. Be sure to pour it right into the holes as much as possible.

Spread it all out and using the back of the spoon, gently push pudding down into the holes.

Put the cake into the fridge to set and cool (about 2 hours)

When cake is good and cooled and settled and all, spread the whipped topping evenly on top. If you use the Oreos, crush them up and sprinkle liberally across the top. Or you can add them just before serving to keep them crunchier.

Or you can eat them during the Winter Storm of 2015. Just sayin.

The cake needs to be kept refrigerated.