Easy and Super Delicious: Spiced Nuts

Happy New Year! Excuse the Christmas packaging, but I’m a little late on posting this. Couldn’t let it slip by though – this would be a delicious addition to your party tables tonight. They’re quick, easy and fall right in line with everybody’s mindset of staving off sweets after the holiday over-indulgences. You can make these for the party or package them up to give to your friends to start off the new year. Enjoy!

Spiced Nuts (adapted from the recipe found at JaxHouse.com)

Ingredients
  • 1 large egg white
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 40 oz. mixed nuts (I bought in bulk at my local Sprouts market)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 300°.
  2. Beat the egg white until nice and foamy. Mix in all spices. Add nuts and stir to coat.
  3. Bake nuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, pull ’em out and give ’em a stir.
  5. Reduce heat to 250° and bake for another 20 minutes
  6. Let nuts cool completely and store for up to two weeks.
Notes: It was recommended to double this recipe and use 40 oz. of mixed nuts and 40 oz. of cashews. I have to second that recommendation. Cashews rule!
Packaging: The sky is the limit! Use treat bags, brown paper bags or mason jars! I found these clear cylinder containers from my local Cake Supply Store. Similar containers can be found here.
Advertisements

Sweet Treats: Cookie Butter Truffles

photo(11)I had the honor and privilege of manning my uber-talented friend’s boutique, Fox & Moon Clothing, on Sunday while she took some much needed time off to enjoy a music festival. I decided to promote a little treat as a “free gift with purchase” as an incentive to bring new peeps into the shop (Actually, it was just an excuse to get back in the kitchen and make something fun, since this summer has been so insane). I had limited time and funds available for the project, so when I came across this Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Truffle recipe, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I ended up tweaking the recipe a teensy bit, and I used milk chocolate instead ’cause I think it tasted better (you can absolutely use dark chocolate if you wish). I like to make them a little smaller so they end up as a perfect one-bite kind of treat. You should totally make some.


photo(7)Cookie Butter Truffles (a variation on Pint Sized Baker‘s recipe)

Three ingredients:

  • 2 cups Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies
  • 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter
  • Milk Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Throw the cookies in your food processor or blender and grind ’em up until they’ve turned into crumbs. Set aside. Take another handful or two, grind coarsely and reserve for the truffle toppings.
  2. Mix cookie crumbs and cookie butter together in a medium sized bowl until they’re combined. (Use your hands and really get in there to mix it) Texture should be grainy, but able to form a ball and hold. If ball won’t hold, add a tad more cookie butter.
  3. Lay the balls out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Put them in the fridge or freezer to let them set up.
  4. Once balls feel firm (but not rock hard), melt chocolate and dip the balls. Return dipped balls to lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
  5. Wait for chocolate to cool and harden. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Anybody can make these little guys. Anybody.

Heads up: If you’ve never tried cookie butter, don’t expect cookie dough. Big difference. Cookie butter tastes like gingerbread, and its made with European style biscuits, so it’s not like chocolate chip cookie dough at all. It’s important to make that clear.

Once you get over that, you will love cookie butter! Mixed with the cat cookies, you get a crunchier more textured filling inside than you would with a usual truffle. Throw those babies in some mini cupcake/candy liners, and you’ll complete the sweet, confectionery look!

Crafty: Baby Shower Cupcakes + Favor Boxes

IMG_6946

I had the privilege of making cupcakes and favor boxes for a baby shower yesterday —one of my very favorite kind of projects! The hosts chose a “little man”/necktie theme, and wanted cupcakes for both the party and to take home as favors. When they told me baby-to-be’s name was going to be Lincoln and they wanted to incorporate an Abraham Lincoln quote into the favors, I was inspired!

IMG_6950

The boxes were pretty simple. I bought individual kraft brown cupcake boxes and inserts from a local cake supply store, designed the artwork for the quote for on the back, the two circles on the sides and the tie for the front, and printed on kraft brown cardstock. I was able to tuck the top of the tie into the closure tab of the cupcake box on the front.

IMG_6960

I just used the various scrapbook papers I had available for the cupcake toppers — the hosts requested blue, lime green, yellow and orange — and cut little neckties. I used my 1-in. scalloped circle punch to use as a backing and tape to a toothpick.

IMG_6964 IMG_6967

All in all, pretty simple stuff — I do love a baby party!

IMG_6973

Party: Turning Two


Last year, I threw my daughter a birthday party large enough to rival most weddings. It was fun, I made a ton of “retro cherry” themed desserts, and everyone was impressed — but I was exhausted. I didn’t get to talk to many of my family or friends, and I felt like I couldn’t really focus on my daughter. So this year, I resolved to scale back, simplify and throw a small party with the family to celebrate her turning two years old. I did succeed in reducing the size of the party, but of course, I couldn’t resist making a giant birthday cake and some special “2” shaped cookies, even though it was just going to be a “simple” party.

It all started when I found a 2-shaped cookie cutter online. I knew I wanted to make a 2 for the top of her cake, and I decided while I was at it, I’d ask my dad to teach me how to decorate with royal icing. My parents made 150 bride and 150 groom sugar cookies for my wedding favors, so it’s safe to say they’ve got experience under their belts. I enjoyed working with them both on these!

What I was most excited about was making my 1st birthday cake. I found this amazing recipe for Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting, and I decided to pair it with lemon cake. Let me tell you this: I’ll never use another frosting recipe in my life. It was fluffy, light  and tasted amazing. I really wanted the cake to have a homemade feel to it, so I iced it somewhat messily and used jumbo-sized confetti sprinkles to decorate with.

My dad had a great idea to use the royal icing as “glue” to attach two toothpicks on the back of the cookie I wanted to use as the cake topper. I used my 1-in. craft punch to cut circles out of scrapbook paper for the top, and I used some jumbo letter stickers to spell out my daughters name. It was sweet, tasty and made my little girl smile, so I consider it a huge success!

Sweet Treats: Cocoa Mochi with Nutella inside!

A very special momma friend of mine is about to have another baby, and this very special momma happens to love mochi. So when the opportunity came up to make favors for her baby shower, I just knew that I had to make it.

I’ll tell you right now: Making mochi is NOT EASY. I don’t care how many blog posts on the world wide web tell you how simple it is, I spent the better part of the week trying to make these work. My inspiration came from here, and after I saw those gorgeous balls of pink + green, I immediately pictured them as a tasty treat in honor of a darling new baby. But wow – that recipe did not work for me. Despite following all the instructions, my mochi came out of the microwave looking like the inside of a cement truck.


Thank goodness I found this Cocoa Mochi recipe on the side of the Sweet Rice Flour box! After my failed attempt, I decided to give the Mochiko box recipe a shot. Boy, am I glad I did! It turned out exactly the way it was supposed to, and it tasted so good! But the cocoa mochi wasn’t exactly the best wrapper for the traditional red bean paste I had planned on filling my original mochi with … so I started thinking about alternate fillings. I had some peanut butter in the fridge, and that worked GREAT (Imagine an Asian twist on a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Amazing, right?) and then I sliced a banana, and that was delicious as well! But I needed to make these the night before, and I knew the bananas wouldn’t hold up so well, and I was hesitant of peanut butter since there’s been a recent recall and didn’t want to cause any distress. As soon as the Nutella came to mind, I knew that was the answer!


I wish I could claim the brilliant of idea of this pairing as my very own, but upon googling it, I found tons of Nutella + Cocoa Mochi combinations. (Whatevs. I’m still a total genius in my own mind.) I did find a brilliant suggestion online to stick the Nutella in the freezer first, and if you decide to try making this mochi – definitely freeze the Nutella. I used a melon baller to make small scoops, and then I put them in the freezer for about an hour. This made wrapping the filling SO MUCH EASIER (Don’t worry, the Nutella doesn’t stay frozen and hard forever. It’s still creamy, gooey and delicious inside upon first bite).

Prepare your Nutella filling first. Then get started on making your mochi.
(Click here for Koda Farms’ Easy Cocoa Mochi recipe)

Okay — here is where I had to stray from the instructions a little bit:

  1. Use a Silpat mat instead of a baking pan. Seriously. The mat makes this much easier. Borrow one from a friend. Put it on your wedding registry. Or, just buy one (you’ll love it). I’m totally not joking. The Silpat mat was what finally helped me pull these off.
  2. Generously douse 1/3 of the mat with extra sweet rice flour or cornstarch (Have a ton more to the side to keep replenishing the mat with flour/cornstarch, too). Reserve the remaining area of the mat to pour the steaming hot mochi onto once this stuff comes out of the microwave. Pour it out directly onto the mat, and try and smooth it out as best you can with a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray. Be careful — it is so hot! Let it cool just enough so you can touch it, and then sprinkle the top of the mixture lightly with cocoa powder.
  3. Let the mochi sit for a bit. Then, after testing to make sure it won’t scald the palm of your hand, start peeling and tearing small pieces from the glob of mochi on the mat to work with.

Here’s the next tip: Use a ton of flour or cornstarch to always keep your hands powdered with. Yep, still not joking. You need to have your hands powdered at all times, cause this stuff is sticky … and messy … and will get into every crevice possible if you don’t have your hands powdered. I would rub my hands on the powdered part of the mat before I touched a new piece of mochi every time. Trust me. It’s all about the powder.

To roll the mochi:

  1. Tear a small piece from the glob on your mat, and manipulate in your hand until you’ve got a small pancake looking piece in your palm.
  2. Put a scoop of the chilled Nutella in the center of the mochi.
  3. Wrap the edges around the Nutella until it’s covered. Then, roll and pinch until the Nutella scoop is concealed and you’ve got a nice ball. Place the ball in a mini cupcake wrapper to make it extra special.

Tip: It doesn’t hurt to dust with more flour/cornstarch after you’ve got the filling covered up and you’re working it into a ball. I think the flour makes it look more delicate, and to be honest – the cocoa mochi is brown, and sorta thick … you want these treats to look appetizing and you don’t want them being mistaken for something else that is thick and brown (just saying). Also, I made mine on the smaller side since the flavor combination is pretty rich … just a bite sized ball of heaven that tastes like chocolate with Nutella inside is all you need. Think of these as a take on delicious chocolatey hazelnut Japanese truffles and size accordingly.

After they were finished, I wrapped two pieces inside a treat bag, and attached a little tag I made that said, “Yay for Babies and Mochi!” I kept the bags in an airtight container in the fridge overnight, and they were ready for the party the next day.

I got rave reviews, and most importantly — this very special momma was very happy!

Sweet Treats: Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups + My 1st Cheesecake

One of my favorite mommy friends is expecting baby #2, and I decided that this baby deserved a party, no matter how prepared his/her parents were! I say “his/her” because this baby has a very patient momma who has the ability to actually wait to find out the sex of the baby until it’s born — can you believe that?!? So, baby’s name is “Smüdgie” for now (yes, the umlaut is very necessary) until his/her birth day.

No party is a party without favors, so I got to work deciding on what sweet treats I’d be making for the guests. I came across this genius recipe for Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. The tiny little no-bake candies worked perfectly for my concept of “a smidge of something sweet for Smüdgie”. (Big thanks to Iowa Girl Eats for the idea and tutorial)

For packaging, I used different shades of scrapbook paper to fit the width of a treat bag, made little flags for the cups with toothpicks, and attached one of my custom made tags. Everyone got two sweet little cups in their bag to take home!

You also can’t have a party without cake, and at the mom-to-be’s request, she wanted a cheesecake with a fresh berry topping. I’d never made a cheesecake before, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to try! Guess what? It’s totally easy. The fanciest part about it is using a springform pan.


After researching 1,000,000 recipes, from Martha’s to Ina Garten’s, I decided to use an old classic — this one. Scoff if you must, but it was the real deal.

I used a 10.5″ pan, rather than a 9″ one, so I increased the graham cracker crust recipe by an additional cup of crumbs, 1/4 c. butter, and 1 tsp. sugar to ensure optimal buttery graham cracker crust goodness. I also put the crust in the oven for about 10 mins. first, then let it cool before I added the filling and baked it. The next morning, I trimmed the edge with blueberries, sliced strawberries and layered them, and saved room in the middle for more blueberries. I was proud of how it turned out!

Now, I just have to wait for Smüdgie to get here!

Party: A Retro Cherry Birthday!

This post is sooo tardy, but it’s a week later and we’re still recovering from our daughter’s 1st birthday party! Of course, it was a lot of fun, but a huge reason it was so special was because of all the loving preparation that went into things from both sides of the family! This post is to honor all of the handmade and homemade special details of our birthday party for the little miss!

#1: Go-ims

Go-ims are traditional decorative “towers” that are usually trimmed with hard candies and/or beans for a Korean 1st Birthday Party (dol). My husband and my mother-in-law lovingly spent days and hours working on these for the party! They used white beans, black beans, kidney beans, red/white/pink chocolate spree, black m&m’s and mentos to decorate all 3 of the go-ims. My husband designed all 3 of them first – he found an awesome tiger template to use in honor of being born during the year of the tiger, and he then he put together a retro-looking one with Ruby’s name and starbursts. Finally, he mapped out a patterned design with all red, pink & white candies to look more pop-ish and modern.

Hard at work!

As you can see, each individual candy and/or bean was glued to the paper towel roll (which was covered with poster board to make it smooth) one at a time. Patience and determination prevailed! I wish we had remembered to take a picture of the back of the tiger go-im: My daughter’s birthdate (11-02-10) was on the back.

This is the only pic we have where you can see part of it – but it looked great!

The go-ims were beautiful, and we’ll always have memories of special bonding time during the time these were made. I love this one of Ruby with her Halmoni (grandma) on the day of her party:

#2: Cherry cookies

Aside from incorporating some of the traditional Korean Dol traditions, I wanted the party to have a “retro cherry” theme. I saw a birthday party online that was a big inspiration, and it had these perfect cookies with cherries on top that I was dying to re-create (with my own spin on them of course). Since my parents are known for their masterful baking skills (they made 150 bride cookies and 150 groom cookies for favors at our wedding!), I asked if they’d help me out. Mom baked 48 sugar cookies and whipped up a batch of her own buttercream fondant, and Dad set out to cut out leaves and cherries to decorate each cookie.

This was at the beginning when he was using royal icing to “glue” the fondant base to the top of each cookie.

Moving on to adding the duo of cherry pieces …

Then, he took the extra leaves that were left over to cut stems for each cherry (he’s meticulous!). It really made them look all that more polished … and they tasted as good as they looked!

I can’t thank my parents enough for this … there’s no way I could’ve pulled off this impressive array of cherry-themed treats without them!!!
Red Velvet cupcakes with a cherry-on-top:

Mini-Cherry Cheesecakes and Chocolate Cake Balls:

The entire spread in all of its glory!

#3 Favor jars filled with Cherry Sours

I had been saving baby food jars for awhile in hopes of using them somehow and decided to use them for favors at the party. Pretty simple, but made with love nonetheless. What can I say, I’m a stickler for a theme …

#4 Ruby’s Retro Tunes Playlist

Since the actual process of burning CDs seems so wasteful these days with folks using MP3 players and all, we decided to ditch the actual CD and just post our compilation for download (You can download the playlist here, if you want). The mix is simply songs that make Ruby smile, with a retro slant (of course!).