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