Monday, April 14, 2014


It's that time of the month again....Secret Recipe Club.  This time we have been assigned Sids Sea Palm Cooking. I love that she takes pictures as shes going along like we do. She has such a wide variety of foods to pick from but I love Greek food so it was a very easy choice when I saw that she had made Baklava. Baklava has always been on my list of foods to make and I thought it was much harder to make than it actually was. There is no question that phyllo dough can be a little tricky to work with.  I ended up throwing one roll away as it was half frozen and broke everywhere was I was unrolling it.  It's good I had extras in the freezer. Even if the layer ended up not being in one piece brushing the butter the layers made everything come together. The hardest part was waiting 24 hours to eat it.  We only waited about 18 but that was enough for all the syrup to soak into the layers of dough.

1 lb. walnuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 package phyllo dough (16 oz.) thawed
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
10 oz. honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the 3 sticks of butter in the microwave.  Set aside until a little cool.  Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor.  Add sugar and cinnamon and pulse.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Brush the bottom of the pan with some melted butter to start with.  Put phyllo dough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Brush all over with melted butter.  Put another layer down. Do the same with the butter.  Do eight layers total of dough brushing with butter each time.

Put 1/3 of the nut mixture on top of the 8 layers of dough.

Now do another 8 layers of dough again brushing with melted butter in between each layer.  Add another 3rd of the nut mixture and now another 8 layers of the dough with the melted butter. Then add the last of the nut mixture. Top with 8 more layers of dough with the butter.  Now before it bakes you need to cut it into your squares or triangles because it won't work if you cut it after it bakes.  This can be a little messy but make your cuts with a sharp knife carefully.  After its cut into pieces put in the preheated oven and cook for 40 minutes until the top is brown.

While the baklava is cooking in the oven its time to make the syrup.  In a saucepan add 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 tbsp of fresh lemon.  Bring to a boil and then cook for another 10 minutes stirring once in a while to make the mixture into syrup.

Take off the heat and add the honey and vanilla extract to the syrup mixture.

When the baklava comes out of the oven pour over the top making sure to pour the syrup everywhere.

It will look like too much syrup but it will soak in.  Now let it sit overnight on the counter covered with foil so that the syrup gets into all the layers.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giant M & M Easter Cookie

I got the call everyone wants to get from their accountant today.  We are getting money back!  Hooray!!  Now the big question is do we save it or spend it?  I am sure my husband and I will have very different ideas. I made this dessert to celebrate our good news and to get me in the mood for Easter which will be here very soon. My husband is a big Peep fan so he was happy to see this sitting on the kitchen counter when he came home from work.  

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. bag of m and m's
10 peeps in color of your choice
5 tsp fluff marshmallow spread

Spray circular baking pan with PAM.  A pizza pan is perfect.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to a bowl and set aside.  To a mixing bowl add the butter, and sugar and brown sugar and blend until combined.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix.  Add the flour mixture and mix again until everything is combined.

Add in the chocolate chips and M and M's.  Mix together with a spoon or spatula.

Spoon into prepared pan and spread out dough so whole pan is covered and smooth and evenly distributed.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until cookie starts to brown.  Let cookie cool.  Apply Peeps to cookie all around the edge by putting a little bit of fluff marshmallow spread on the bottom of each Peep so it will stick to the cookie.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Sesame Street Birthday Party Ideas

I want to take a break from food and recipes to share with all of you what I worked on for the last few weeks leading up to our son Owen's 1st birthday last month. I chose to go with Sesame Street for his parties and I thought it was a great theme using all primary color decorations and paper products.
We decided to split up our guests and host two parties at our house on back to back weekends which I totally suggest if you have a large crowd and are forced to have the party inside. This made set up and decorating easy since we just kept everything up in between parties. All you need are some balloons, crepe paper and tape to make fun, cheap and easy decorations.

I got a lot of great tips and ideas off of Pinterest like this balloon wall and highchair tray decoration from other bloggers so I wanted to pay it forward. I also had lots of help from some great women on ETSY, without them his party wouldn't have been as fun or creative. Everything I purchased from them was amazing and worth every penny. If you are interested in any of their products please check out the links to their stores below.

Our adult sized Sesame Street character t-shirts are from 80's Tees.

Balloon Wreath for our Front Door:
Two different Sesame Street Onesies for the Birthday Boy:
Milestone Chalkboard
Nicole at Personalized Chalk

Photo Taken By: Tracy Kondrk Photography

Cake Smash Outfit
Elaine at Sew Many Possibilities

Invites, Signs, Banners, Thank You Cards, Water Bottle Labels, Cupcake Toppers, Favor Tag etc... were all digital images sent to me by Kelli and then I printed and cut almost everything out myself. The invitations and thank you cards I had printed at Staples since we needed a ton of them but her personalized Sesame Street package was perfect, her designs saved me lots of time and money.

These Cookie Monster & Elmo cups from Party City were favors for the kiddies.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mini Samoa Bundt Cakes

I made these for Kelly's birthday last week.  The chocolate cake is my favorite chocolate cake recipe from  When you are reading this I will be in Florida at my mom's house enjoying a little sun and warm weather.  I will be back soon though since I can't go too long without giving my two adorable grandchildren hugs and kisses.

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Hershey's cocoa
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1 stick softened butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup caramel sauce (I used Smuckers sundae topping)
3-4 tbsp heavy cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup toasted coconut for sprinkling over top cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a mini bundt pan with PAM cooking spray.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water. The batter will be thin.

Pour 1/4 cup into each mini bundt cake.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean.  Cool cakes in pan for 3 minutes and then turn pan over so they all fall out onto cooling rack.

Keep the oven on and turn up to 425 degrees to toast the coconut.  Watch it so it doesn't burn.  Mix it around as its cooking so it browns evenly.  It should take about 4-5 minutes but be careful with it.

While cakes and coconut are cooling make frosting by mixing all the ingredients until the frosting is the consistency that you would like.

When cakes are cool, put frosting into a piping bag and fill each hole in the mini bundt cakes with the caramel frosting.

Make the ganache by microwaving the heavy cream for a minute and immediately adding the chocolate chips and stirring until it all comes together and the chocolate is shiny.  Drizzle over the cakes and immediately sprinkle with coconut.  This made 20 mini cakes.


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Friday, March 28, 2014

German Chocolate Cookies

It's almost the end of March and warm weather can't come soon enough.  I want the heat off and the windows open.  I want to be able to go outside without a heavy wool jacket on.  I want to wear flip flops and a t-shirt. I want to see tulips and daffodils and crocuses popping up everywhere.

These cookies are adapted from Food network's Sunny Andersen's German Chocolate Cake Cookie.  The topping is the same coconut pecan topping that I used on the mini german chocolate cakes last week.  Both were delicious. The NJ weather says there will be 3 days of rain this weekend so I am sure there will be time for some more baking.

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
2-1/4 cups flour
1/2 sup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda

Coconut Pecan Topping
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted lightly
1 cup coconut, toasted lightly

Chocolate Drizzle
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer blend the butter, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla and eggs.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend until combined.

Drop the dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet 12 cookies per sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from cooking sheet and cool on cooling rack.

To prepare filling add heavy cream, cream of coconut, sugar and egg yolks in a medium saucepan.  Add butter, salt, toasted coconut and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.  Heat cream mixture and cook stirring constantly making sure to scrape the bottom and sides as you stir.  Cook until the mixture begins to thicken and coat spoon.  This takes about 15 minutes.

Pour the hot mixture immediately onto the pecan coconut mixture and stir until the butter has melted.  Cool
completely to room temperature.  The mixture will thicken.

Spread coconut pecan filling on top of each cooled cookie.  

Prepare chocolate drizzle by microwaving heavy cream on high for 1 minute.  Immediately stir in chocolate chips and continue to stir until mixture comes together.

Pour into a sandwich bag and cut the end off to drizzle over cookies or put into a piping bag with a very small tip.


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