My Cake Decorating Gallery

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NY Times No Knead Bread and Chef John's Potato and Ham Soup

NY Times No Knead Bread and Chef John's Potato and Ham soup - this made for an awesome winter meal, everything tastes better when made from scratch.

For the bread, I thought there was no way it was going to work because I was using "wet hands" instead of flour, as noted in the steamy kitchen blog, but that made the dough look like a goopy mess. When I reread the original recipe from NY times it said flour and that made the dough much less sticky and I was able to somewhat get it to be taut/smooth for the 2nd rise. Then I also learned on steamy kitchen the Le Creuset pot will work in 450 oven but that's not true, within the first few minutes I heard cracking and popping and it was the top and whatever glue was used to help keep the screw in ... so luckily I had a metal top that fits my Creuset... besides those two issues, and the fact that I had a late start preheating and thus baking the bread (so we were starving and desperate for it to be done after just 45 minutes baking), the bread came out awesome. Sure it could've gone 5 more minutes or cooled 10 minutes but we were slicing into it while it was super hot, and it was 99% done (I had checked with the thermometer and it was ~ 204 when I pulled it out). It was delicious and we all ate the whole loaf (Steamy kitchen said it didn't keep well... perhaps I should have tried it out for myself!). I will make this bread again very soon, no doubt about that... if anything to use up the instant yeast and bread flour I now have.

So, if you're making this bread in a le Creuset pot - maybe you need all-in-one piece metal top - nothing with a screw holding a knob on or anything like that.

The soup was absolutely delicious. I used probably double the veggies and meat but kept the liquids the same (and even cut out 1 cup water) because I read it was watery - well my method made it not watery at all, it was thick and delicious after I followed the rest of Chef John's directions. So good. We had some green onions and I sprinkled some cheese and it was kind of like a loaded baked potato soup.. excellent. Made enough for 2 hearty servings and 2 hearty lunches for the next day.

What a great meal!

Click here for the No Knead Bread recipe and method.

Click here for the Chef John Potato and Ham soup on Maybe not the most beautiful photo but it was delicious!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cute Easy Halloween Cookies

Our neighborhood had our first Halloween party which was a great event that I hope we do again each year. On an open day sometime before Halloween, we held an informal "parade" up and down the block with all the children dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Neighbors participated by passing out candy from their driveways (but this is optional if you thinking about staging a Halloween parade), and then we all gathered in our backyards for a bunch of great fall food and games in the beautiful Michigan fall weather. Honestly, any reason to get into Halloween costumes again is a great idea!

I made a delicious mulled cider in the crockpot usinga gallon or two of fresh Michigan apple cider and cinnamon sticks, star anise, and whole cloves, and a sliced orange. This was great for kids but adults as well, as we had awesome choices to spike the mulled cider - you can use anything you have on hand, cinnamon vodka, bourbon, cointreau, spiced rum, ginger liqueur, delicious! Needless to say there wasn't any cider left over. Costco sells the heat-proof paper cups which are very handy for serving hot drinks to a crowd.

I wanted to make a dessert that would be fun for the kids but easy to make, even though I know there's no shortage of sugar during the Halloween season. I just couldn't help myself after looking at all the cute ideas online. We covered peanut butter "Nutter Butter" cookies with white chocolate and put ghostly eyes and "boo" mouths on them. We also made simple chocolate chip cookies with a prominent chocolate chip placed right on top before baking. When you take them out of the oven and the chips are still melty, use a toothpick to draw spider legs coming from the one chocolate chip on top. Simple and cute!

Our party consisted of a potluck and other fun treats I remember having were apple slice dipping station with various dips (caramel, peanut butter, etc) and toppings (sprinkles, nuts, chocolate chips), popcorn, cupcakes, doughnuts, chips, veggies/dip, cheese/crackers, and all your typical yummy snack food. We had several fun games for the kids - bobbing for doughnuts (doughnuts hanging from strings and the kids need to eat them with their hands behind their backs), pinata, yard games like giant jenga, bean bag/corn hole game, hot potato (using a pumpkin), arts and crafts, etc. Your local grocery store has tons of tiny pumpkins that are great for table decorations (and helps keep table cloths down). What a fun party theme, hope you all have a happy halloween in your neighborhood!

Thankfully we had beautiful weather for our event because the last 5 years straight have been cold/rainy on Halloween night! Hope you have a sunny Halloween celebration at your house!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Favorite Pancake Recipe

Our family loves breakfast. Probably the most universally loved meal in this house - who doesn't want a big stack of steamy pancakes with maple syrup dripping down the sides in the morning? When your breakfast (or anytime) cravings are for something sweet, but you are in a pancake funk (using Bisquik or something), try this recipe which has become my favorite pancake recipe. It really only takes a few extra steps past using Bisquik but the payoff is worth it. Plus the kids get a kick out of helping add the extra ingredients.

I found the original recipe on AllRecipes and if you follow those instructions, it is a little tedious and makes a bunch of dirty dishes. I have simplified it (and the results are no less than delicious) for you below. Do you have a favorite pancake or breakfast recipe? Let me know in the comments and we'll try it out! I have tried a few "fancy" waffle recipes and did not find the end product to be worth the hassle, unlike these amazing pancakes.

Perfect Fluffy Pancakes
Adapted from original from

In a 2 cup sized measuring cup, add:
1 1/2 cups milk
4 Tbsp vinegar

It's important to add the vinegar to the milk before doing anything else, let sit for a few minutes - buttermilk will be the result.

Then, plug in your pancake griddle to heat it up.

Meanwhile whisk in a bowl the dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
4 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

4 Tbsp butter in the microwave carefully

After 5 minutes, the buttermilk should be curdled.

Add to the buttermilk mixture:
2 eggs
splash of vanilla

(it should all fit in the 2 cup measuring cup, no need to dirty additional bowls)

Dump the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter.

Mix gently to combine the ingredients but careful not to overdo it.

There you have it - when your griddle is ready to go, either spray on some cooking spray or we always use butter to grease the griddle. Pour over your pancake batter and away you go - delicious pancakes are on their way to a plate near you!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sassy Summer Cocktails using Elderflower Liqueur

My lovely neighbor tipped me off to a hip cocktail ingredient - St. Germain (Elderflower liqueur). She said she loved it with vodka and grapefruit juice in a Bichon Frisè (no, not the white puffy poodle). Yum! Shortly thereafter I was able to find St. Germain (there are also other cheaper brands of elderflower liqueur which are worth checking out) and the floral sweet nectar was immediately a favorite of mine. Now I see St. Germain everywhere - my Kroger carries it, Costco was giving away a mini bottle when you bought a bottle of Bombay - so probably it's not new to everyone else, but I am excited to have found it.

One great use for St. Germain is in a white sangria. I had a few opportunities to make a batch of sangria for a party this summer. Using St. Germain in sangria is a situation, it adds floral punch that really makes the drink special. The first time I made it, it was so good, that I toted a bottle of St Germain all the way around Lake Michigan on a road trip "in case I needed to spring into action and make a batch of sangria." The opportunity did arise and no drops of sangria were left behind. This version of white sangria is called Sangria Flora due to the wonderful addition of elderflower liqueur. You can substitute any fruits that you'd like to try, I'm pretty sure it will be wonderful no matter what you try.

Sangria Flora

1 bottle Pinot Grigio
1 1/2 cups St. Germain/elderflower liqueur
2 peaches, sliced thinly
handful of strawberries, sliced
1 cup raspberries
1 orange halved and sliced thinly

Mix all ingredients together and for bonus flavor: let the flavors marry overnight.
Serve over ice.

My second fabulous must-try cocktail using St. Germain is the Grapefruit Buck. It's kind of like a moscow mule-meets-bichon frisè. We were out on a fabulous fancy dinner at the Capital Grille for our 10 year anniversary when I saw the Grapefruit Buck on their menu. I'm in love with any drink that has ginger and this was described as "Absolute ruby red vodka, elderflower liqueuer, ginger beer, and lime." It was delightfully refreshing, a little spicy and tart, a little sweet - delicious! This was easy to replicate at home and another fabulous drink to put into a copper mule mug (although the pale pink color is perfectly attractive for a glass). I didn't have ruby red vodka so I improvised:

Grapefruit Buck
1 1/2 oz vodka (or gin)
3/4 oz St Germaine 
2 oz grapefruit juice
3 oz ginger beer
squeeze of lime

Enjoy these elderflower delights!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chef John's Caramel Chicken

I haven't found a Chef John recipe that I haven't liked. I had never heard of this dish, but apparently it's a common vietnamese dish, and I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. I loved it so much that I made it the following week as well, so yummy! It's a very sweet dish but the salty tang of the soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar balances it out and it's super yummy, great over rice. It was nice to try something easy and a little different, and it was doable for a weeknight meal for sure.

Definitely watch the video, besides being entertaining, there are some good tips from Chef John about how to make this dish. The second time I made it, I used a little less water, if any, to decrease the time it took for the sauce to reduce.

Chef John's Caramel Chicken on

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kitchen Bliss' Michigan 4-Berry Pie

We love that Achatz Michigan Four Berry Pie that you can get here locally in the metro Detroit area. For Thanksgiving as well as this past Valentine's day, I have worked out my best copy cat version of this delicious combination of cherries, raspberries, strawberries(*) and blueberries.

(*)I have yet to try the exact berry combination that Achatz uses (Michigan tart cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries) but I've done this twice with sweet cherry/rasp/blue and sweet cherry/rasp/blue/strawberries -- try any berry you like and just keep the quantities the same. This won't disappoint! Next time I will try to remember blackberries, not strawberries! Maybe I can add both and top Achatz by having a Michigan 5-Berry Pie.. especially if I could source them all from Michigan (not happening here in the winter time though!)

First, I use my favorite pie crust recipe (because it's easy and delicious) - Fool Proof Pie Crust Recipe. This makes a double pie crust, so just save the other crust for another pie later by popping the extra crust disc in the freezer, then put in the fridge for a day or so before you plan to roll it out. Also, feel free to use a store-bought pie crust - talk about easy!

Next, I use my favorite streusel topping - Mrs. Kostyra's Streusel recipe from Martha Stewart which goes great with a mixed berry tart or pie.

1 cup flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny squares

Mix the streusel ingredients and break up the butter using your hands or a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly and when you squeeze it it kind of keeps shape.

Finally, we have the Cherry Berry Filling -

1 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup tapioca
pinch of salt
2 cups or 1 package of frozen sweet cherries, thawed and drained
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries (or blackberries or more of the previously mentioned berries)
1 teaspoon flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out your pie crust and fold over to carefully place into your pie tin and pat it in and trim edges, crimp edges, however you like your pies to look. I used a fork this time on the edges and I saved extra dough to cut out hearts for the Valentine's day theme. Other times I have just folded the extra dough over to make a thick rustic edge which is delicious.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon sugar in the crust shell and then tap out carefully.

Mix 1 cup sugar and tapioca and pinch of salt together in one bowl.

Rinse/mix all the cherries and berries together and sprinkle with the sugar tapioca mix and carefully stir to combine.

Pour the cherry berry mix into the prepared pie crust and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.

If using extra pie crust scrapes for decorations, roll out into hearts/etc and place on top of the streusel.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees with a square of foil placed loosely on top for 30 minutes. Check throughout baking time to make sure it is not browning too quickly. If pie filling is not bubbling on edges and topping isn't browned enough, remove foil for an additional 10-15 minutes baking time if needed, checking frequently so that the topping doesn't get overly browned.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Brown Butter, Sage and Mushroom Soup

I first found this recipe when eating low carb and looking for new dinner ideas. It is ridiculously good, I made it twice in a row on back to back nights because the second night we were having people over and I couldn't get that soup out of my mind. It's absolutely guest-worthy and if you love your carbs, serve it with some crusty bread (Like the NY Times no-knead rustic bread) and butter on the side or toss in some tiny noodles. Or serve it as a lovely soup course before your dinner. The brown butter and sage -- it's just so delicious. You'll love this easy weeknight soup!

Brown Butter Mushroom Soup with Sage (Low Carb too!)

As seen on the All Day I Dream About Food blog.
6 tbsp butter2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped1 lb mushrooms, sliced4 cups vegetable or chicken stockSalt and pepper to taste1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat until it begins to brown and turns fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage and cook one minute more.Add mushrooms and stir to coat, then saute until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.Stir in stock and bring to a simmer. Cook 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to food processor or blender (I used my stick immersible blender which I love and makes this so easy!). Blend until smooth.Return to pot and stir in cream. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Batman Birthday Cake and DIY No Sew Super Hero Capes

My son was turning 4 and that's the prime age for loving super heroes! He had asked for a Batman birthday party and that's what we did. I got a few batman decorations but mostly the cake and party favors were carrying the theme. The cake was his favorite (confetti) with mousseline buttercream in blue. I ordered some Fondarific black fondant as well as some white (from Amazon) knowing that in 6 weeks my little guy would be turning 2 so it would come in handy again (for a construction themed birthday cake). It was my first time trying Fondarific and I was pleasantly surprised, 1 million times better tasting and behaving than Wilton fondant. Cheaper too - give it a try. I rolled out some black fondant and free-form cut some buildings/city scapes that I layered to make the lower edge of the cake. I also used the black fondant for a larger oval and the bat shape using a batman cookie cutter (I bought this to make batman cookies for his preschool class since he doesn't even like cake, so no cupcakes for him!) 

I made some yellow fondant out of the white fondant and rolled out the "beam of light" and 4 and smaller yellow oval to finish off the batman logo, as well as the Happy Birthday letters. Finally I cut out tiny windows and used water to stick them on to the black buildings before placing the buildings on the cake. It worked out great. This batman cake was pretty easy to decorate! It was the nicest cake I'd made for my 4 yr old because his birthday is close to Christmas and it's just usually such a hectic time with schedules, work and cold/flu season, so I was happy this cake turned out so great. He didn't eat the cake (who knows why he doesn't like cake), but he loved the black fondant buildings calling it 'chocolate'. 

To go along with the theme, I was looking for non-junky party favor ideas which didn't include a bunch of cheap choking hazards from China. I came across do-it-yourself super hero capes here. I went to the fabric store to buy very soft fleece in black, royal blue and turquoise, as well as accent colors of red, yellow and white for the badges and lightning bolts and letters. (The original blog post I was following used felt for the badges but you could see the glue through it so I recommend using fleece.)

I think they turned out great! The only real problem I had was listening to the lady at the fabric cutting counter who told me to get Wonder Under instead of fabric glue. What a stupid mistake.. I followed the directions on the package and it was melting the fleece before it would adhere and ruined a bunch of badges and letters and probably my iron... really annoying when I had plenty to do besides redoing a bunch of this work! I was super ticked at that lady. Anyway, don't use Wonder Under and fleece!

The next thing I should have changed was skip the whole stick-on or glue-on velcro for the neck closures.. those ripped off all the capes after about the first 10 minutes of use. It would've been cheaper and easier to just snip a hole and tie a black ribbon on each side for the super hero to use as a tie for the cape. I ended up redoing that for my two kids' capes.. you could also try buying velcro which requires stitching, but that doesn't follow the "no sew" rules too well. So, I learned from my mistakes but these capes were pretty fun and an unusually cool party favor. Hard to top homemade personalized super hero capes!

I also used extra fleece and elastic bands for attempting to make super hero masks in coordinating colors, as I had forgotten I had already purchased some batman paper masks from the store. They looked cute but perhaps next time I'd use a template as they didn't seem to fit a variety of head sizes (we had ages 2 through 6 at the party) very well. The kids were excited for both masks and the cape in the party favor bags.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Treats - Put it in a Waffle! Apple Waffles

If you're in the mood to splurge and add some fall flair into your breakfast, these apple waffles are delicious! My nearly 4 year old decided he only liked plain waffles and refused to eat these (isn't that annoying), but the little guy gobbled them up and I thought they were great. The Husband wasn't here but he will love these, being an apple dessert lover.

Cinnamon Apple Waffles
adapted from MrBreakfast's Apple Waffles

2 cups flour
3 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
1 large apple, finely diced

Wisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in one bowl. Separate the eggs - eggwhites in your kitchenaid mixer with the whip attachment (or bowl you plan to use for whipping), and the egg yolks in a separate bowl (Yes, I know, three bowls have to get dirty and for that I apologize profusely).

While the mixer is whipping up the eggwhites on high speed (goal is stiff peaks) and your waffle iron is heating up, wisk the egg yolks and add in the milk and stir to combine. Then mix the yolk/milk mixture in with the dry mixture, and don't overmix. Stir in vegetable oil, cinnamon, vanilla and fold in the stiff eggwhites. Carefully stir in the diced apple (I used a large granny smith and it was quite nice having a tart contrast with the sweet maple syrup).

Scoop into your waffle iron (I spray mine first to avoid sticking), and cook until your preference (The Husband likes soft and I like crispy waffles!) Enjoy with pure maple syrup or a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

I hope you enjoy, these were really delicious - they look whole wheat/healthy too but it's just the cinnamon. ;)

Make Ahead Treats for Deer Camp

Well, it's well into the fall season here in Michigan and I have finally broken the long streak of no baking at our house (really have been good over here!) to do a few things this week. I made several things for The Husband to take up to opening day of Deer Camp - a few new recipes which I think turned out great: World's Best Lasagna from AllRecipes.comDutch Apple Pie With Oatmeal Streusel from, Martha Stewart's Muffaletta, and Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos.

For the pie, I tried a new-to-me recipe for Fool Proof Pie Crust and since I only made one pie, I really wonder how it all turned out! I couldn't exactly cut a sliver to test it out before sending it along, haha. If the crust is good, I will use it for a cherry berry pie I plan to make for Thanksgiving.

Most of these things went directly up north with The Husband so I either didn't get a photo or just have a fuzzy snapshot from my phone. For the lasagna, I had a few scraps of the components leftover so I made a tiny one that The Husband and I tried (before popping the main one in the freezer), and it was good! Also for the muffaletta, I made a small one using a sourdough bread bowl (the large one used a large French Boule), so that The Husband and I could share one for lunch before he headed up north. (So the picture of the cut muffaletta is actually the small one!) It was so delicious, I used hot sopressetta, capicola, hard salami, and black forest ham, along with provolone, arugula, and the muffaletta olive spread from Costco (which is utterly delicious by the way!). This is a wonderful make-ahead sandwich for a party or picnic - no mayo so it can sit out, and it is best if it sits in the fridge overnight. Cut into large (or small) wedges before serving. Yum yum yummy yum, and simple!

For the make-ahead breakfast burritos (I didn't realize you could do this with eggs and that they'd taste good after being frozen and reheated!), I just cooked up 1 lb of breakfast sausage, blotted the grease, and then added onions and bell peppers, and then after those were soft, added 10 eggs and scrambled those. Then I warmed 10 burrito sized flour tortillas and rolled up a scoop of filling with shredded cheese in each one, and wrapped with foil. The 10 breakfast burritos  I had a little bit of filling leftover so I made two small fajita sized ones that The Husband and I froze and tried the next morning. With the oven at 350 it really took about 30 minutes for the small ones to heat up, so I would recommend either popping them in well before you need them, or microwaving for a few minutes (Deer Camp doesn't have a microwave so we were testing the oven method). Before eating, top with some salsa! I didn't get a picture but the ziploc bag of 10 foil wrapped burritos is easy to imagine and lots of people have blogged about this using all sorts of add ins like potatoes and rice! Yum! What a nice grab-and-go alternative to all those quick breakfasts that are all sugar and no protein. We will be making these again for sure.