Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the cake that flopped

Remember these delicious whoopie pies?

Well...I had a brilliant idea.  Miss Pebbles first birthday was coming up, and I thought - what better than a Whoopie Pie birthday?  Instead of a smash cake, she and all of her little friends could eat individual whoopie pies.  The birthday invite would say, "Whoopie!  Pebbles is turning one!"  And for the adults, I had the most brilliant idea of all...

I would make a massive, adult-sized whoopie pie - three layers of chocolate and two layers of luscious marshmallow filling covered in a rich chocolate ganache.  Sounds delicious doesn't it?

Well, it was delicious!  The problem was that it didn't look quite like I had planned.

The chocolate cakes baked up perfectly.  The marshmallow filling and ganache were delicious.  But combining them all together proved to be possibly the biggest mess in culinary history.

The marshmallow filling so was fluffy and the cake so light that the top layer of cake just fell apart.  Without a firmer foundation, it cracked like the ancient ruins of Greece.  I thought the chocolate ganache would hide the, no.  It just made them more pronounced.

By the end of the party, the top layer of the cake had completely split.  Each piece was sliding off the marshmallow like a tectonic plate on lava.  My tablecloth was covered in one ooey-gooey mess!

Even in the time it took for us to take photos, two sections of the cake had fallen off the stand and onto the table.

Fortunately, you can't judge a cake by its structural soundness.  Oooey-gooey chocolate and marshmallows equals absolute deliciousness.  Everyone loved it, and we've been enjoying the leftovers ever since...I've gained 3 pounds in 2 weeks!

As for Miss Pebbles, I'd say she had a good birthday. :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

slow cooking all year 'round - review and giveaway

Scroll down to bottom of post to enter giveaway...

It's time for yet another Gooseberry Patch Early Bird Review, and I think you are going to love this one.  Why?  Because it's all about slow cookers!  Ever since I got my first slow cooker in college, I've been on the hunt for good recipes.  Slow cookers are wonderful if you know what your doing, but I've also made some of the worst food ever in them!  Fortunately, Gooseberry Patch has come to the rescue with a new slow cooking cookbook, and the recipes are fantastic.
Slow Cooking All Year Round has four chapters - one for every season!  You'll find breakfasts, mains, sides, desserts, and even a snack mix.  And of course, there's always those amazing Gooseberry Patch tips at the bottom of each page.  Since many of the tips are slow cooker related, you are bound to learn something new.  I sure did.  For instance, did you know that if there's too much liquid in your slow cooker after you're done cooking your meal, all you need to do is tilt the lid and turn it on to the high setting.  Soon, the liquid will evaporate!  Awesome tip, compliments of page 200. :)

Once again, we picked a recipe from each chapter to try out and share with you.  Here they are, each given its own "reward"!
Easiest One-Pot Meal
Easy Chicken a la King from the chapter "Warming Winter Dishes"

This was so, so easy.  You don't even have to cook the chicken first...just dump everything in and turn it on!  I loved that it was a meat-and-veggie dish in one pot.  All I had to do was make the rice!  We added a little extra peas by accident, but the result was still delicious.  This is a great option for a busy mom on a busy day!
The. Best. Broccoli-Cheese. Soup. EVER.
Tea Room Broccoli-Cheese Soup from the chapter "Simply Speedy Springtime"

Okay, seriously...this is the BEST broccoli cheese soup I've ever had.  Unfortunately Cookie Bandit didn't get to have any.  I ate it all.  (Sheepishly hanging my head now.)  But it was just so good I couldn't help it.  It takes simple ingredients, makes a full 8 servings, and is good enough to feed your company.  Even Pebbles ate it up!  And it only took 5 minutes to prepare.  You can bet I'll be serving this the next time I have some friends over for a crafting day. 
Most like Dessert
Down-on-the-Farm Breakfast Cobbler from the chapter "Slow and Easy Summer"

This is one of my new favorite breakfast discoveries.  Apples topped with granola, cinnamon, sugar, and butter and then cooked to perfection?  It's like eating dessert for breakfast!  I will admit, this is one recipe that you have to play with a bit.  The first time I made it, I cooked it overnight on low and ended up with burned mush.  Fortunately, I tried it again, cooking it on high for just 3 hours - perfect!  You've got to figure out the configuration that works best for your slow cooker (mine apparently was too hot for overnight cooking), but once you do, you'll never want anything else for breakfast again.

Most Awesome
  Creamy Corn Pudding from the chapter "Hearty Harvest Favorites"

Cookie Bandit came up with the award for this recipe.  He just couldn't get enough of it!  We both really love cornbread, so it was no surprise that we loved this corn pudding.  However, I couldn't get over just how good it was.  The ingredient list includes cream cheese and nutmeg, both of which added a delightful complexity to the flavor.  This would make the perfect accompaniment to just about any meal - I'm sure we'll be having it pretty often around here.

I asked Cookie Bandit which recipe I should share with you...can you guess what he picked?  :)

Corn pudding!!!  I'm bummed that we didn't get a better picture of it.  Honestly, we ate it too quickly!

To make, blend the cream cheese, eggs, and sugar in a bowl.  Stir in dry corn muffin mix, frozen corn, creamed corn, milk, butter, seasoned salt, and nutmeg.  


 Pour everything into a greased slow cooker.

Then cook on high for 3-4 hours.  The edges should be pulling away, and the middle should be fairly set.  It's like cornbread...only better.

Creamy Corn Pudding
from Gooseberry Patch's Slow Cooking All Year Round

  • 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 1/2 oz. package corn muffin mix
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 16 oz. can creamed corn
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 t. seasoned salt
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg

Lightly grease a slow cooker.  In a bowl, blend cream cheese, eggs, and sugar.  Stir in dry muffin mix and remaining ingredients; mix well.  Transfer mixture to a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours.  Serves 8.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

winter chicken stew with cornmeal dumplings

Our weather has been like a yo-yo.  In one week, we went from 75 degrees to 40 degrees and then back to 70 degrees.  It's nuts!  No wonder everyone I know is getting sick.

I don't care if I'm wearing short sleeves and's still winter in my books.  So, I'm still going to make stew.  And I'm using winter veggies (cause that's what's on sale).  I'm a stick-in-the-mud.

Seriously, though, this stew is delicious and budget friendly.  Miss Pebbles just LOVED it.  It's always a happy day when the kiddos like eating something nutritious!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Begin by combining your winter veggies in a large slow cooker.  I chopped up parsnips, celery, onion, and acorn squash.  I also tossed in a handful of baby carrots.  So colorful!

Add enough chicken broth to cover the veggies (about 6-8 cups).  Top with precooked, shredded chicken and seasonings.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

For the dumplings, combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls.  Mix together until just moistened.

Drop by tablespoons over stew.  Cover again and cook on high an additional 30 minutes.

Serve stew topped with dumplings.  It makes a delicious meal no matter the weather!

Winter Chicken Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

For the stew:
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 parsnips, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1-2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 t. rosemary

Combine vegetables in a large slow cooker.  Top with chicken.  Pour chicken broth over top until it just covers (about 6-8 cups).  Add seasonings.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.  Drop dumpling batter by tablespoons over stew; cover and cook on high an additional 30 minutes.  Serves 6.

For the dumplings:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. milk
  • 2 T. oil

Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until just moistened.
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