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!