Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Haystacks or Should I Say Bird's Nests

I saw this pin about a month ago and thought it would be perfect to try for Kathryn's school Easter party. My friend M makes haystacks at Christmas and these are only slightly different and only need a few ingredients.
not pictured is bag of Cadbury Robin's eggs
The pin I used didn't include measurements bit I know I needed to make at least 27 of these. I lined the muffin tins with cupcake liners to make these a bit less messy for the kiddos. I have a Wilton chocolate melter (buy one of these if you don't have one, totally worth the 20 dollars) and threw in one bag of the butterscotch chips. Once the chips were melted I added in a bit of coconut oil (about 1 teaspoon) to thin the butterscotch a bit (you could use Crisco if you don't have coconut oil). I added about 2/3 of the bag of chow mien noodles to a bowl, put in the melted butterscotch and mixed them around until all of the chow mien noodles were covered.
I then spooned the chow mien noodles into the cupcake tins (this part is messy, be prepared). I placed three Cadbury eggs in each nest. I was about 7 nests short so I melted half a bag of butterscotch and mixed in the rest of the noodles to finish making the nests. I put them in the fridge overnight to harden them.
The kids really liked them, I got compliments from K's teachers and luckily two ended up coming home with her. They tasted very good and were super easy. This would be a great for older kids to make but again I recommend using the chocolate melter over having to use a double boiler or regular pan to melt the butterscotch.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Double Post- At Least this One is Tasty

Like I said yesterday, I am trying to catch up on all the Pinterest things I have done in the last few weeks so I am doubling up my posts.

Post 1- St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes: My first one is pretty simple though. Kathryn's school allows parents to bring in homemade items for parties and birthdays and what not so I have had a habit of trying out my Pinterest creations on unsuspecting 4 year olds. Her birthday was on the 13th so I decided I would make some St. Patrick's Day inspired cupcake for her classmates. I had seen ones on Pinterest that used the marshmallows from a box of Lucky Charms to decorate the green colored icing and thought I would give that a shot.

I didn't take a picture of the ingredients but all I used was a box of Betty Crocker yellow cake mix (and all of the ingredients that requires), green Wilton brand gel coloring that comes in the small screw top containers (I got my set of eight colors from Michael's), and a tub and a half of Betty Crocker White frosting (I was pretty liberal with the icing), and one smaller box of Lucky Charms. I followed all the normal cake instructions, adding in the gel icing into the batter with a toothpick (a little went a long way). While that was going on I separated the marshmallows from the cereal. This was probably the most annoying part of the whole process and you need to be sure you have absolutely dry hands.
So if you ever wondered what the marshmallow to cereal ratio is in Lucky Charms, your question has now been answered. Then I colored the icing green with the same gel coloring and used a piping bag and a star tip to make the icing swirls. I thought I could just sprinkle the marshmallows on the top but they didn't stick so I ended up just placing 6-7 marshmallows on each cupcake and then sprinkled on a little green decorative sugar I had left over from Christmas cookies.
Taste wise, these were delicious. The icing and the marshmallows complimented each other and just made the whole cupcake taste awesome. Since her birthday was during Spring Break, the class size was a bit smaller and we came home with some cupcakes. On the second day the marshmallows had gotten soft and started to look a little sad. They tasted fine but had definitely lost their eye appeal. I would make these again but I would wait to put the marshmallows on until right before I served them to keep them from getting all soft. I ended up making 30 cupcakes and only had a very small amount of marshmallows left over (which my husband so graciously offered to eat).

Post 2- Cheese Tortellini (Soup)

As soon as I saw the pin for this one, I was excited to give it a try. I had most of the ingredients and got lucky and got the refrigerated cheese tortellini on sale at Target.
The original recipe can be found here, I changed a few things based on what I had around the house and my attempt to make this a meatless meal (I'll get to that in a minute). You start by throwing in the tortellini, one full box of chicken broth, as much baby spinach as you think looks good (I probably did two decent handfuls), 3/4 a jar of pasta sauce (whatever flavor you have lying around), 1 can of Italian tomatoes (which I didn't have so I used stewed tomatoes and sprinkled on some oregano and garlic flakes to the top), and one box of cream cheese cut into cubes.

Put on the lid and and cook on low for 4-6 hours. I stirred about once every hour to help melt the cream cheese. I usually use crockpot liners but I ran out and the picture below shows why I am such a fan of crockpot liners. It was no crockpot chili in terms of cleanup but I would have much rather had the bag in there than had to scrub the pot.

Now I had intended this to be a no meat meal for a Friday during Lent. I thought I was being an awesome wife of a Catholic and trying something outside our typical Friday Lenten meals. It didn't dawn on me until the tortellini was almost done that I had used CHICKEN stock as a base. I fessed up to the hubs and told him of my meatly accident. We decided to save this for dinner on Saturday and we ended up having fish sticks and french fries for dinner that night.

It turned out super tasty, and might have even tasted better eating in the next day. It was not soupy though, I guess I could have added more broth but honestly this worked just as well as a saucy tortellini meal and I probably won't worry about making it soupy the next time I make it. We ended up eating off of this for a few days and I even put a good sized portion in the freezer to save for a meal later. The original recipe calls for sausage and next time I'll probably make it with meat to try it that way, but it didn't need meat to make it taste good. This is really good and worth adding into any dinner rotation, especially if you can get the tortellini at a good price.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Been away for awhile, but gotten a lot done

So 3rd Trimester pregnancy has been kicking my butt. I hate complaining because I have been very lucky this pregnancy and haven't had any issues major or minor. That being said, insomnia has taken hold and I'm only getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night (and I know it's only gonna get worse). I haven't had the energy to blog, although I have completed a lot of Pinterest projects in the last few weeks. I'll put a few up here on this post and then try to do a few more this week. Once the little man shows up, I know there will be another blogging lull and I don't want all these perfectly good pins to go to waste.

1st Pin of the Post- Simple Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

I had this one pinned for awhile and was waiting to see some chuck roast on sale to try it. The recipe is pretty straight forward and all you need is 3-5 pounds of chuck roast, beef broth, french onion soup, and a can or bottle of beer.
Put the roast in the crockpot, pour in 1 can (or half a box) of beef broth, 1 can of french onion soup, and 1 can/bottle of beer (BL was all that was in the house, feel free to use what you have). Turn the crockpot to low, and cook for 7-8 hours.
After 7 hours on low
The smell was amazing and gave me (and my husband) pretty high expectations for how the roast would taste. The meat was tender when it came out of the crockpot and taste wise was very good. There was a tiny hint of the beer, but honestly if I hadn't known there was beer in the broth, I wouldn't have known that's what I was tasting.
The downside was that this meat was intended to go on hoagie buns with provolone cheese and dipped in the aus jus. Although the meat tasted great and the broth made a great aus ju, the meat was still fairly tough and more along the consistency of pot roast. This made it hard to eat on the bun and you ended up with big  bites of meat or of bun but not a lot of bites of the two together. I would most definitely make this recipe again, but with the intention of eating it like a traditional roast with vegetables, not as a sandwich filler.
2nd Pin of the Post- Banana Oat Cookies or aka Not as Good as You Think They Might Be
I had seen the pin of making "Banana Oat Cookies" (in parenthesis because I don't think they really classify as cookie) with just bananas and oats (and chocolate chips if you want). I figured if these were good I could make them in a weak moment when I wanted cookies but didn't want to consume all the calories. The concept seemed simple enough, mash up some bananas with some oats, mix in a little chocolate, bake it for a little bit and BAM you have a healthy dessert.
I didn't have chocolate chip so I though a little cocoa powder might give it a little extra flavor without adding calories.
Two bananas (medium sized), 1 cup of oats, and 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder into the food processor for about 30 seconds.
The consistency reminded me a lot of my Grandma's no bake cookies and I spooned the batter onto a cookie sheet and into the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.
They came out looking like a drier version of my Grandma's No Bake Cookies, unfortunately that is where the similarities ended. They tasted terrible. You could taste the banana but they were dry, bland, and the consistency was weird. Now I know I didn't use chocolate chips, but I doubt those could have saved these impostor cookies. I had a friend over and even she said they were pretty abysmal. I do have friends who have made these and said they really liked them, so I will only say that they may be an acquired taste. I might try this one more time, when I do have chocolate chips and I might throw in just a bit of peanut butter (or Nutella) for a little extra flavor. This recipe is a "try at your own risk" but I would love to hear from anyone who gives it a try and lets me know about their experience.