Thursday, December 29, 2011

Zhu Zhu Pet Cake

Beansy is my oldest daughter. She turned 6 last week. She's the reason I started making cakes- her 1st birthday cake was the first fondant-covered cake I made. She had a big week- she suddenly started riding a two-wheeled bike, her first piano recital, she lost her first tooth, she turned 6, and it was Christmas. She's a sweetie pie and I'm so grateful for her. For her birthday, she wanted a Zhu Zhu princess castle with Lyric, her favorite ZZP. 
For her birthday, we went to the Griffith Observatory on what was one of the clearest days I've seen in Southern California. Amazing day for my amazing girl.
Beansy and LuLu in front of the Hollywood sign.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Boxing Cake

A boxing cake for a 7 year old who loves "Rocky." Cake was chocolate with vanilla filling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rainbow cake

A cake for Sophie, who turned 6. The inside is a rainbow cake, I'm waiting on a pic of it from the birthday girl's mom!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

We were invited to a Christmas party in Balboa to see the boat parade and the hosts requested a dozen cookies from each guest. I was indecisive about what kind to bring, but I remembered I had coconut in my pantry and hadn't made macaroons (not macarons) in a long time. A fave at our house, I decided to try this Martha Stewart recipe from an old cookbook.
These little cookies call for unsweetened coconut, but I use sweetened. Less sugar and fewer egg whites and you come out with comparable results. These cookies come together in a few minutes and are a hit (as you can see  from my picture, I didn't shape them into pyramids. Still yum)!
Coconut Pyramids
adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vegetable shortening


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together sugar, coconut, egg whites, and salt. Add butter and extracts, and combine well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Moisten palms of hands with cold water. Roll 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture in palms, squeezing tightly together 2 or 3 times to form a compact ball.
  3. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart, and bake until edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Leave on baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Place chocolate and shortening in a small heat-proof bowl, and set over a pan of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted. Dip bottom 1/4" of each cookie in the melted chocolate. Set each dipped macaroon on cooled baking sheet to allow chocolate to harden.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gift Idea #4- Cinnamon Caramel Corn

My husband loves caramel corn. Like, it's one of his favorite treats. Usually I make caramels because they're a fave, but this year I wasn't up for wrapping 200 caramels, so I went with caramel corn.
I used a recipe that uses cinnamon, and I drizzled it with melted chocolate:
Packed in little gift cello bags, it was an easy and yummy treat!

Cinnamon Caramel Corn
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

2 bags microwave popcorn, popped (I like Light Butter)
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C dark corn syrup
1/2 c stick unsalted butter
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a 2 liter capacity microwave safe bowl.  Mix well. 
 Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture.  Pour corn syrup over the top of 
everything.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine.  Return to microwave
and heat for 2 minutes.  Remove and stir and then microwave for 90 seconds more. 

Remove from microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda.  Stir to combine.  
Mixture will foam and rise.  Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans and stir 
very well so everything is well coated.

Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, 
stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread out on a large piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil.

Microwave chocolate chips on medium heat for 45 seconds. Stir. 
Continue to microwave on medium until melted.  Drizzle over popcorn mixture.
Break into chunks when cooled.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gift Idea #3- Cookies in a Jar

Ok, I saved my favorite for last. This recipe for cookies in a jar is so cute and fun- oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with m&m's. Bakerella posted in a while ago in pink, and then Make it Do posted a Christmas version with the Christmas m&m's. I love this because you can customize it to any holiday or occasion. I really wanted to try it with the CINNAMON m&m's I saw at Target a couple weeks ago, but they weren't Christmas colors. Guess I'll have to make them again! :)
Ok, so I took a picture of the mix in the jar. And then I accidentally erased it. Who erases the most important picture? So here's the pic from Make it Do. Imagine mine was this good. And this cute:
The recipe is so easy, your kids can help! Don't worry if you get a mix from me; no naked kids were allowed to make the mix. And no naked kids make any food that leave this house.
 These cookies are delicious and a great gift for any family!
The recipe for the cookies is here!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gift Idea #2- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bread Mix

Are you on Pintrest? I really don't need any more reasons to spend time online. I have four kids under the age of six, but I love to see all the great ideas that people post. I found this post a couple weeks ago- gifts in a jar. I love the idea of putting mixes in a jar; all the receiver has to do is add a couple wet ingredients for a special treat!
I chose to do the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bread and the Cowgirl cookies from Bakerella (post coming soon).
The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bread is from Sunset Magazine. I layered the dry ingredients as follows: 1. granulated sugar; 2. brown sugar and cinnamon; 3. oats; 4. flour/baking powder and soda/salt; 5. chocolate chips. Note to self #1: break up the flour mixture into two separate layers:
 Note to self #2: Put the chocolate chips lower in the jar:
All the receiver has to add is butter, buttermilk and eggs. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.
The bread is moist and tender; I would prefer it a little sweeter, or with more chocolate chips. Perfect for breakfast!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bread
adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter

In a large bowl, mix the contents of this bottle.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, and  butter.
Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients just until evenly moistened (batter will be lumpy).
Pour batter into a buttered 9" loaf pan, and bake in a 350° oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gift Idea #1- Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I love giving and getting baked goods as a gift. I love the holidays- it's a perfect time to try new recipes and not getting stuck eating it all! This chocolate zucchini bread it a great twist on the  original- cocoa powder and chocolate chips are added to give it a great chocolate flavor. It's moist and the chocolate chips add great texture. The loaf is topped with a crunchy cinnamon-brown sugar topping. Yum.

The bread is quick and easy. Wrapped in cello with a cute bow, it's a great gift, or make it on Christmas morning!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread 
makes 2 loaves
Recipe adapted from

2 C flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking soda
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C canola oil
1 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 C sour cream
2 C grated zucchini
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 T brown sugar
2 T white sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9" loaf pans and set aside.

Mix topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Place flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

With a stand or hand mixer beat oil, white sugar, brown sugar, and eggs until combined and slightly fluffy, 1-2 minutes.

Add vanilla and sour cream and mix until combined.

Gently stir in the grated zucchini. 
Take a spoonful of the flour mixture and stir in with the chocolate chips. Add chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Divide the batter between the two pans and sprinkle topping over each.

Bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.

Let it cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes and then remove from pans.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Review- The Lake of Dreams

The latest book BlogHer book club is reading is The Lake of Dreams by bestselling author Kim Edwards, who also wrote The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Lucy Jarrett is back in her hometown Lake of Dreams to visit her mother. Haunted by the death of her father ten years ago, Lucy has not been back for several years. On one of her first days there, she discovers some old letters in the house that take her on a fascinating journey through her family's history.
I had a couple issues with this book. First of all, I found the main character, Lucy, distinctly unlikable. She's 29 years old, but acts like a spoiled nosy brat when faced with the possibility of her mother becoming involved with another man. She leads on her high school boyfriend even though she is in a relationship with someone else. When her current boyfriend tells her he's resigned from his job because of a conflict with his principles, she says she supports him, but then follows up with statements like, "even if it means we're broke."
Second, I'm not clear on how the letters came to be at their house. The authors of the letters never lived at the house, nor did the collectors of the letters that we know of. The plot seemed a little too coincidental and convenient. If you discount the mysterious circumstances under which the letters came to be in Lucy's possession, the story of her ancestor is quite interesting. Unfortunately, the story is bogged down with too many characters and too many other storylines to keep you interested.
The Lake of Dreams: A Novel
Check out what other reviewers thought, as well as the discussions on BlogHer's The Lake of Dreams page.
This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake bars

I went to a baby shower a couple weeks ago. I remember two main things about it- a Marc Jacobs bag given to the mama-to-be, and these cheesecake bars. Cheesecake with a layer of dulce de leche and chocolate on top. The maker of these goodies pointed me to Pintrest, where it looked like a few people have posted them- Brown Eyed BakerSmitten Kitchen, and some others. I used BEB's recipe and made some changes.
First, I made the dulce de leche from sweetened condensed milk in the microwave using this method (this is an amazing cake, BTW). Then I added more butter to the crust to make it more moist. I also used milk chocolate for the glaze as I don't like the bitterness of darker chocolate with the tang of cream cheese.
I made these for our little guy's baby blessing, along with these. Make them. Now. You don't even have to share them I won't tell.
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Crust:1 cup graham cracker crumbs, crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or 1 can dulce de leche)
2 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces milk chocolate chips
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 325F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with non-stick spray.
2. In a bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and butter. Press mixture evenly in bottom of pan. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden. Set on rack to cool while you make the filling.
3. Make the Filling. Spread the dulce de leche evenly over the graham crust. Chill in the refrigerator refrigerator while you prepare the cream cheese layer.
4. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed unti light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium-high for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the dulce de leche layer evenly, and bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is set. Cool completely and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
6. Glaze the bars. Heat the chocolate, butter and light corn syrup in a double boiler until melted and smooth. Pour the glaze over the cheesecake, tilting the pan to ensure the top is coated evenly. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
7. Lift the cheesecake from the pan using the parchment handles and slice into squares using a sharp knife, wiping it clean after each cut.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Caramel Apple Bars

Caramel and apples is an inspired combination. I always see recipes for caramel apple desserts, but have never found one that actually tastes like caramel apples. I thought caramel apple bars might be a good way to combine the two and still be caramel-y and apple-y. I took an oatmeal crumble-type topping and used it for the crust. Then I spread chopped Granny Smith apples over the crust and drizzled melted caramel over the apples (you could probably use caramel topping, too). I sprinkled more of the crumble topping on the top and baked it until golden.
I waited for them to cool to cut, but I recommend scoring them while they're still a little warm. This was exactly what I was looking for- yummy tart apples with caramel in a dessert form! they're easy and fast!
Caramel Apple Bars
yield: 36 bars
1 c brown sugar packed
3/4 c butter softened
1 1/2 c quick oats
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
3 medium tart apples finely chopped
3 T flour
1 pkg caramels, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Reserve 1 1/2 c of the mixture. Press the remaining in an ungreased 13"x9" pan. Toss apples and flour together in a bowl. Spread over oatmeal mixture. Place caramels in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on med-high for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until melted. Drizzle over apples. Sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Cool partially on rack; cut while warm. Store covered in refrigerator.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dinner Rolls

Did I mention I'm loving this cookbook my mom gave me? Every recipe I've made from it has been a hit. These dinner rolls were no exception. My friend and I started doing a dinner swap once a week and I decided to make a batch of these to go with this soup. The book says these are the world's best, and I think they are definitely in the running. I used Trader Joe's 100% White Whole Wheat flour instead on all-purpose and it was a great, healthy substitution. My husband, who tries not to eat too much bread, ate like 4 of these. They'll definitely be on our Thanksgiving table!
Get the recipe (and others!) here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wedding Cake

This cake was for my friend's mom who got married on 11-11-11. A two-tiered covered simply in cream fondant and wrapped in chocolate brown ribbon. The cakes were red velvet and carrot filled with cream cheese italian merengue buttercream.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Mmm.. pumpkin... it's so Homer Simpson, my love of pumpkin. I found yet another way to have pumpkin and cream cheese frosting- Pumpkin Whoopie Pies! Yes! Little moist pumpkin cakey cookies sandwiching cream cheese frosting.
This recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker, a site full of yumminess. Her recipe uses maple cream cheese frosting. I just used plain cream cheese frosting as I have no use for maple. These are super moist- I think I may have blended them too much after the flour was in- they were a little gummy. Definitely a must-try. Even if you just eat the cream cheese frosting like my 2 year old.
The recipe is here

Monday, November 7, 2011

Toll House Pie

Have you ever been to the Dodo Restaurant in Salt Lake City? They have the BEST desserts. One of my favorites in their Tollhouse Pie. It's like chocolate chip cookie dough in a crust, topped with creamy whipped cream. It's rich and thick and yummy. I've tried to find a similar recipe, but to no avail. Any pie I've found is really just chocolate chip cookie dough baked in a crust. I had a craving for it, so I thought I'd give it a try,
I went to the source- Nestle Tollhouse for a recipe. I made my own pie shell and the filling is just butter, sugars, flour, egg and chocolate chips. It comes together easily.
1 unbaked 9" pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream


PREHEAT oven to 325° F.

BEAT eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels. Spoon into pie shell.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired. 
Not as good as the Dodo, but fairly good. If you like chocolate chip cookies, this won't disappoint!

Candy Bars

We recently added another monkey to our family- a little boy. Once he came, we had an outpouring of meals from our wonderful friends. As a thank you, I decided to make some treats to return in their dishes. I know most of you are probably hating candy right about now, but these are really worth making. A fudge layer topped with a peanut-caramel layer, topped with a layer of chocolate. I loved these right out of the fridge- the chocolate layer has a little bite that I find appealing. They're quick and easy and most importantly, yummy.
Candy Bars
adapted from

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
teaspoon vanilla
30 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts
cup semisweet chocolate pieces

1.Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over edges of pan. Butter the foil; set pan aside.
2.In a large microwave-safe bowl microwave the butter, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until melted. Stir in cocoa powder, brown sugar, and milk. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil, stirring once. Stir again; microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread in prepared pan.
3.In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine caramels and water. Microwave, uncovered, on 50 percent power (medium) for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes or until caramels are melted, stirring once. Stir in peanuts. Microwave, uncovered, on medium for 45 to 60 seconds more or until mixture is softened. Gently and quickly spread peanut mixture over fudge layer in pan.
4.In a 2-cup microwave-safe glass measure combine semisweet and milk chocolate pieces. Microwave, uncovered, on 50 percent power (medium) for 2 to 3 minutes or until melted, stirring once or twice. Spread over peanut layer. Score into pieces while warm. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours or until bottom is firm. Use foil to lift candy out of pan. Cut into pieces. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes about 2-3/4 pounds (64 pieces).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Baked Chicken Taquitos

For my birthday, my mom bought me the cookbook Our Best Bites, from the popular blog. This cookbook is chock full of great recipes that are perfect for family and entertaining. All the recipes use ready-found ingredients and are pretty easy and delicious.
I tried this chicken taquitos recipe last week. I used leftover chicken that we had grilled the night before. 
It made for a quick and easy dinner- my kids loved it (especially dipped in ranch dressing). I did make a couple changes to the recipe (noted in red below).
Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Recipe by

1/3 C (3 oz) cream cheese (I used sour cream)
1/4 C green salsa
1T fresh lime juice
1/2 t cumin
1 t chili powder (I omitted)
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t granulated garlic
3 T chopped cilantro
2 T sliced green onions (I omitted)

2 C shredded cooked chicken
1 C grated pepperjack cheese (I used mild cheddar)

small corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, cumin, onion powder and granulated garlic. Stir to combine and then add cilantro. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.
Work with a few tortillas at a time and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It helps to place them between damp paper towels. Usually 20-30 seconds will do it. If you find yours are cracking when you roll them or come unrolled right away, just try heating them longer and try the paper towel thing.

Place 2-3 T of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges.

Then roll it up as tight as you can.

Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or an oil mister and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Haunted House Cake II

A cake for Bayler, who turned 6. My second haunted house cake (the first one is here)- the birthday boy wanted something similar, only he wanted a blue house. The bottom part of the house is vanilla cake with chocolate filling and the top is banana cake with vanilla filling. My favorite banana cake recipe is below.
Happy Halloween!!

Mr Banana Legs
adapted from CakeLove by Warren Brown

One 12-cup bundt cake, two 9-inch-round cakes



  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, 10 ounces (2 cups)
  • Salt, ½ teaspoon
  • Baking soda, ¼ teaspoon
  • nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon


  • Very ripe peeled bananas, 6 ounces (3 bananas), mashed
  • Whole milk, ¾ cup
  • Vanilla extract, 1½ teaspoons


  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, 6 ounces (1½ sticks)
  • granulated sugar, 21 ounces (2¾ cups),
  • Eggs (large), 4
  • Egg yolks (large), 3
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and line pans with parchment.
Sift the flour into a bowl. Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. 
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture should look white, fluffy, and aerated.
With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolks, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next.
Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure.
Spread in prepared pans and bake 30 minutes until golden and cake tester comes out clean.
Cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes, before removing from the pan. Use a small offset spatula to loosen the cake from the rim of the pan. Carefully invert each pan onto a flat surface to remove the layers. Remove the parchment from the bottom of each cake and wrap the cake tightly in plastic. Assembling a layer cake is easier if the cake is cold, so refrigerate the layers overnight or for up to 5 days before frosting.