Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Cookies!

We went to a Halloween party last week and I brought along these goodies. It's been a LONG time since I've made cookies just for fun, and these were such a nice treat. Plus chocolate cutouts are one of my favorites! I'm happy that I sampled one during the decorating process, because they were gone quickly once arriving at the party!

These designs were all inspired by other cookie artists - the pumpkins from Sweet Sugarbelle (I'll do them without the outline next time!) and the ghosts and skeletons are from Make Me Cake Me. I would never have attempted skeletons before seeing these - so easy and cute!! I already had the tulip cutter on hand from the first time I made ghosts. (Ugh, so spotty! And terrible eyes! On second thought, don't look at that link!) Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Homemade Potstickers!

I don't often post savory recipes, because I think that every recipe needs to have a photo, but I stink at photographing food, especially dinner food, because I don't have time to stage ... I'm hungry! So apologies for the lame photos, but I wanted to post this recipe because I was proud of myself for making something that seems complicated, but is really pretty easy. 

I did some searching to find a good recipe to adapt. I was really nervous about using raw meat, because the cooking time is so short, but no worries! These cooked up so quickly and well done. I found a recipe that was most similar to what I was looking for and made some adjustments:

Chicken Potstickers

1 pound ground chicken
1 cup shredded cabbage (already had on hand from another meal this week!)*
1/4 tsp pepper**
1 egg
2 cloves minced garlic
4 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
40 wonton wrappers

Mix all ingredients together. Scoop (mini scoop!) into center of wonton wrapper. Rub water around the edges of the wrapper and join the corners to meet in the center, sealing all edges. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment and refrigerate covered until ready to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add small amount of canola oil to pan. Once oil is hot, add the dumplings and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water to the pan, cover and turn the heat down low. Cook until water is almost all gone, about 10 minutes.

*I thought these were a little short on veggies ... I'd also add a finely chopped red pepper next time.
**I had also originally added salt ... they don't need it, soy sauce makes them plenty salty.

The recipe makes about 40 dumplings ... I cooked half for dinner and froze the rest. (Freeze on cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to a freezer bag. Thaw before cooking.)

(And here's another pic so you can see the yummy browned bit on the bottom!) 

On the night I made these, Jeff was working until 8 pm. I thought I'd make the kids their own early dinner, and he and I would have these together later in the evening. But something amazing happened while assembling ... all three kids wanted to know what I was making, and two requested to have them with their dinner, as well! So I make a small batch to serve along with their hot dogs and mac & cheese - and they actually liked them! Next time, I'll serve them to everyone with rice (save some plain for the pickies) and a veggie on the side. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Brownie Bars

Pull up a chair and a glass of milk, peanut butter lovers! These are SO good. The original poster gave them the unfortunate name of "brookies" - half brownie, half cookie. (And seriously, I have to learn how to style / photograph food as nicely some day. Gorgeous!) I made a couple of changes to the recipe - butter instead of Crisco, milk chocolate chips instead of mini pb cups. And even though there are two parts to the dessert, these still come together quickly - they take no longer than cookies that would have to be scooped or shaped. Spreading the top layer could be tricky ... I used my mini scoop to cover the brownie batter with rows of the cookie dough and then used my fingers to gently smooth it together.

These were fantastic. I took them out of the oven when they were starting to get brown on top, but because they are so thick, they stayed slightly undercooked in the center ... gooey and amazing! They did not last long at our house. Definitely a keeper! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Artist Cookies

These were made for our little friend's seventh birthday party. The party was held at an art studio where all the guests got a mini art lesson and painted a picture to take home. This mom always finds the neatest places to have her kids' parties!

The birthday girl is quite an artist - I'm routinely blown away by the detail of her work! She and Clark are the same age, and this girl was drawing landscapes when Clark was barely putting a stick face together. 

I really enjoyed making these - I love colorful cookies, but the icing bleed stresses me out. (See blue in the palette above, ugh.) I made the palettes with Sweet Sugarbelle's tip, and the brushes are a carrot base with a rose blossom top.

The painting cookies were fun, and these frame cookies also would have been a great party favor (didn't think of this until it was too late - maybe for Dora's birthday!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

I'm always collecting recipes, and sometimes I sit on them for a long time, while others need to be made right away! This is one that couldn't wait for long - it sounded and looked too good. It's a doctored-up cake mix, similar to the caramel brownies that we love, but this time with a peanut butter twist.

(Huh. Quick edit: this is Hotcakes history being made! I just searched back through the blog for the caramel brownie link, and guess what? These bars are a rerun! I had no idea!)

Okay! So, turns out, I've made these before. Apparently, they weren't memorable enough the first time around to have stuck in my brain. But still very sweet and very good. I guess if I'm starting to repeat myself, it's time to tackle the folder of recipes collected long ago. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Silhouette Fun!

So, as mentioned before, I got a Silhouette cutter this summer. And I've been enjoying finding new things to make with it. This is a card that I made for my cousin's wedding. I went a little crazy with the shapes, but it was fun to put together. I used this card as inspiration ... by the way, the Silhouette America Pinterest board is a great place to find ideas!

To make the mini hearts, I lined up strips of scrapbook paper left over from our anniversary party. (Oh yeah, we had an anniversary party this summer. It totally rocked.)

I purchased outlines for the banners, though the shape would have been easy enough to make.

The strings were faux-taped on the back of the card. Hard to see from the pic, but the "tape" strips have torn edges on the short sides.

I also used the strips to "tape" a name tag to the front of the envelope.

Final product with coordinating envelope insert!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Baking Monday – Caramel Apple Muffins

It's apple time! I love picking apples, but our fall schedule has been so busy, we haven't had a chance to all go together. I picked by myself this year for the first time ever. It was such a gorgeous day, it was hard to be sad, but I really missed my mini helpers. We're almost out of the first batch, so maybe we can fit in one more visit to the farm next weekend before they're gone.

I was waiting to make this recipe until I had farm apples, because this seemed like such a perfect fall recipe. Butter, apples, caramel, cinnamon ... how can you go wrong?

I did these as minis so there would be more to go around, plus I had some fall-ish mini wrappers to use up. One recipe made four dozen mini muffins. (I recently asked out loud the difference between muffins and cupcakes, and Dora's answer? "Frosting.") Best eaten fresh, but as the original poster pointed out, they can easily be quickly warmed in the microwave until gooey on days 2-3. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Winning at Parenting (This Week, at Least)

Clark has been saving money for an iPod touch for over a year. He finally reached his goal, and we went to Five Below to get him a case for it. The price was right, but turns out that if you are not into polka dots, purple sparkles, or owls, it's challenging to find just the right one. We ended up coming home with plain black. Later that day, I was browsing the Silhouette blog and got the idea to doctor up the boring case myself! 

Plants vs. Zombies being his current favorite, I found a good b&w image online, then traced and cut out of white vinyl. I wasn't sure how it would do with the details, but it worked beautifully! I had trouble with the eyeballs - had to do those separately, but overall was thrilled with how it turned out! 

Now I'm looking up and down for other things around the house to embellish. Fun!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Neon Birthday Party Fun!

Jeff and I have conflicting opinions on birthday party favors ... he thinks they are unnecessary, but I think it's fun to give a little something to guests as a thank you. I DO dislike when the kids get junky stuff ... about 90% of stuff they get at parties and events goes right back out of the house. So when we do favors, I really try to give things that kids (and parents!) would be happy to have and use. 

However ... sometimes it's easy to get carried away! Like when Dora says she wants to find neon favors for her half-birthday party. Then we go to Five Below where there are SO many cute neon things to choose from ... AND she has a mom who is more than excited to tap into her 80's adolescence for inspiration!

The final assortment ... nail polish, bracelets, hair accessories and mini duck tape.

I was very tempted to get one of these stretchy braided bracelets for myself. I would have LOVED this in middle school!

Neon pony holders ... always useful ...

Okay, I admit, the tape was a total impulse purchase at the register. Very hard to resist!

Though I used it to tape name tags onto the cute neon party bags, also found at Five Below. I had also picked up neon office labels at Target and brought some pre-cut chipboard and scissors for the kids to make neon sticker bookmarks during down time at the party for another take-away. So fun!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Baking Monday – Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Really, you can't go wrong with Mrs. Fields ... everything I've made from that cookie book has been terrific.

These cookies get a swirly pattern from adding melted chocolate to the dough as the very last step. I cut the butter down to 1.5 sticks and replaced half of the milk chocolate chips with peanut butter chips.

Plain peanut butter cookies are kind of blah IMHO, so I loved the chippy addition to these. Super peanut-butter yum! This recipe would halve easily, but why would you want to? Makes about 60 cookies.

Mrs. Fields Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1.5 sticks butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

• Preheat oven to 300.
• Melt chocolate chips, set aside to cool.
• Mix sugars and butter until well combined.
• Add peanut butter and mix until smooth.
• Add eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined.
• Add flour, baking soda and salt, mix until combined.
• Stir in chips.
• Pour in melted chocolate and mix partially with a spoon until marbleized.
• Drop in 1 tbsp mounds and bake for 20 minutes, until set but still soft.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hotcakes Word Cloud

So not surprised that "peanut" and "butter" are two of the most often used words. I like all the fakey words that ranked, too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Theo's Video Game Birthday

Plus ... my new toy!

We had a party with our family and friends last week to celebrate Jeff and Theo's birthday. Theo made a trip to a local retro-arcade with a few friends one day after school as a birthday treat, so I decided to use the outing as inspiration for favors and decor at the party. I made wrappers for Hershey bars and ...

... teething biscuits for the little ones. See those Space Invader aliens up above? Those were made with my new favorite toy!! I've been electronic cutting everything I can think of, it's so fun!!

Theo chose ice cream bars and cookies for dessert ... they're pixels, can't you tell! #easiestcookiesever.

He and his friends had a GREAT time at the arcade. They played for an hour and we all went to Sonic for dinner afterwards. Theo has asked me about a dozen times when they can all do it again.

Oh, I also sent cookies into the classroom on his actual birthday (it's his last year for school birthday treats!) and he requested the same recipe as last year. However, he didn't want to do Star Wars two years in a row, so he chose the message cookie cutters this time ... and the message, of course.

I think we'll be having a lot more fun with these cutters as the kids get older!