Tag Archives: homemade

Valentine’s Homemade Brownie Truffles

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and one of the most special gifts you can give is homemade!  These brownie truffles are extremely easy and super fun to decorate.  Create a beautiful variety, uniquely decorated with just a handful of supplies.

Valentine Chocolate Edible Gifts


The easy part is using a box of brownie mix baked following the instructions on the box.  The brownies filled a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.  Once removed from the oven, slightly cool, then crumble into a bowl to cool completely.  Create uniform 1 inch balls (easiest using a cookie scoop) and place in an air-tight container until ready to decorate.

Dip each brownie ball into melting chocolates:

There are a few different ways to melt chocolate, but I prefer the double boiler method.  Boil 1 inch of water in a large sauce pan, placing a larger heat proof bowl on top of the saucepan.  This technique prevents the chocolate from scorching.  Once the water is simmering, place the chocolates in the bowl on top and stir until melted.  Note to add 1 teaspoon of Crisco to create a smooth finish.  Roll each brownie ball in the chocolate removing with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or foil.  A few truffles were decorated with sprinkles or sanding sugars immediately.

I started with a 1/2 cup of white chocolate melting wafers to decorate a quarter of brownie balls.  Then added milk chocolate wafers to the same bowl and mixed with the remaining white chocolate. 

Decoration ideas:

Any leftover chocolate?  Don’t toss it…pipe mini chocolate hearts onto wax paper and let them cool completely.  They will easily peel off to use as decorations.

The undecorated chocolate covered balls were enhanced with glaze.  Starting with plain white glaze – 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon of corn syrup and 1-2 tablespoons of milk.  Mix until a thick, smooth consistency.  Pipe a few, drizzle a few, add a drop of red food coloring to create pink…have fun!

SweetStackers chocolate truffle  storage
SweetStackers homemade Valentine truffles

Once the decorations have set, the truffles should be place in an air-tight container.  Each truffle could be placed in mini cupcake liner to separate.  Give a beautiful gift showing off your little works of art using a pretty container!  This red tin with a clear see-thru lid is perfect!

Sweet Stackers Edible Gift Valentines

Sweet StackersTM is a versatile system used to store and transport layers of baked goods in any container!   The product was designed to maximize food storage space preventing cookies and desserts from sticking together and protecting the topping, decorations or icing.  Visit sweetstackers.com for more information about our product.  Sweet Stackers can be found on our Etsy shop.

Sweet Stackers Valentine Chocolate Gift

Muffin Tin French Toast and Raspberry Syrup

Good morning!  Wouldn’t you like to wake up to this homemade breakfast?

I love muffin tin recipes because they bake quickly and make cute individual portions….especially for kids!  This is a delicious recipe for the weekend, but next time I am going to make an extra batch of muffin tin French toast and refrigerate it.  Then zap it in the microwave to heat through for a quick homemade breakfast before the kids head off to school!  (Plus the syrup made enough for another batch of French toast.)

Muffin Tin Frech Toast Raspberry Syrup

Muffin Tin French Toast

adapted from the book Muffin Tin Chef by Matt Kadey

  • 6 sliced whole-grain bread
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Raspberry Syrup

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (or any choice of berry)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt together.  Stir in the bread cubes and let sit for 5 minutes to absorb.

Preheat the oven for 350°.  In a small sauce pan, combine the berries, maple syrup and cinnamon over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in the cornstarch and simmer for 1 minute.  The syrup should start to thicken.

Divide the bread cubes in a 12-count muffin tin.  Bake for approximately 22 minutes, until they are golden on top and the egg has set.

Serve warm with the berry syrup on top.

Refrigerate the leftover syrup.



Freshly Squeezed Lemonade

My dream is to have a lemon tree someday!

There is nothing more summer than a refreshing glass of lemonade.  Maybe this is a silly post to some people, but I have never made freshly squeezed lemonade before.  On occasion, I have resorted to buying the powdered or frozen forms of lemonade.  Never again, because it is so easy to make your own!

Freshly Squeezed Lemonade

Freshly Squeezed Lemonade

  • 1 cup of lemon juice (approximately 6 lemons, squeezed)
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • Pitcher full of water

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water.  Heat until the sugar dissolves (do not boil).

In a large pitcher, add the lemon juice and simple syrup.  Then completely fill the pitcher with more water and ice.  Everyone’s taste buds are different, so you could add more simple syrup if you need it sweeter or more lemon juice if you need it more tart.

Note: to cut back on sugar, I dissolved ½ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. 

I infused the lemonade with a couple of ripped leaves of basil in my glass and a garnish on top.  I am sure you could do this with other herbs too!

What do you add to your lemonade?



Disney Frozen Birthday Party

Hope you enjoy my recap of planning a Disney Frozen Theme Birthday Party – including an ice castle cake, snowflake cookies, party favors, “Pin the nose on Olaf” game and a grand Anna & Elsa pull string pinata!

As the girls arrived, I set up a table for them to pick a party hat and decorate it.  I had provided the hats, markers, gem stickers, foam snowflake stickers, shiny ribbon, hold punches, etc.  This is a good way for the kids to mingle and jump right in to an activity while we wait for everyone to arrive.

Decorating Frozen Birthday Hats

All of the kids sat together to eat lunch.  I had 10 kids total and used our kid’s table and coffee table together which was the perfect height and size.  The tables were covered with a plastic blue tablecloth.

After lunch, all of the kids lined up to play “Pin the nose on Olaf”.  If you have seen the Disney Frozen movie, Olaf is the snowman that Elsa created.  I found a picture online and sketched a kid-sized Olaf on two sheets of posted board.  Truly, you do not need to be an artist to do this!  I outlined him with black marker and painted the stick arms, hair and eye brows brown.  The only feature I didn’t draw was his orange carrot nose.  Using orange construction paper, I cut carrot noses for each child to stick onto the poster.  During the game, we spun each child around with a blind fold on and directed them toward Olaf.  I think the kids really got a kick out of him!  The winner was the child who pinned the nose the closest to where is should appear.

Olaf Game

After having singing to the birthday girl and eating the Disney Frozen Ice Castle Cake.  We did the Elsa & Anna pull string piñata.  I had the girls form a circle around it and gave each girl a try at pulling one of the strings.  It worked pretty good.  One string opened the box and the goodies fell out (with a bit of assistance).  All of the kids scurried to gather a bag full of treats.  Here is how I created the homemade Frozen piñata:

Disney Frozen Pinata

I used two family-sized cereal boxes.  One box was slightly bigger that the other, so I used the larger one of the bottom.  The bottom box was closed and the top open, then the other cereal box open on both the top and bottom was inserted slightly inside and taped together with duct tape.  Leave an opening in the top of the box so it can be filled later.

Once the boxes are secured, I covered it with Papier-mâché.  Papier-mâché is newsprint bound with glue (combination of flour and a small amount of water).  I filled a bowl with about 2 cups of flour and stirred in small amounts of water until the consistency was like Elmer’s white glue.  Cover the floor or table where you will work with plastic.  Strips of newsprint are dipped in the paste to cover both sides, removing the excess glue and then placed around the entire structure.  The papier-mâché needs to dry over night.

Frozen Pull String Pinata

When the structure is completely dry, I used white crepe paper (party streamers) to wrap around the structure.  Cutting slits along one edge of the crepe paper and tacking each piece in place as it is wound around.  The slits will give it a ruffled effect.

Frozen Handmade Pull String Pinata

Online, I found an image of Elsa and Anna (the two sisters from Disney’s Frozen movie).  I enlarged the images and printed them on two sheets of paper (taping the images together).  Elsa was glued to one side of the piñata and Anna was glued to the other side.

Homemade Pull String Pinata - Frozen

Now for the fun part – engineering the pull string piñata.  I made a slit in the flap of the bottom of the box and inserted one string through the slit, taping it to the inside.  The box was taped shut using a heavy duty tape, just enough to hold the heavy goodies, but not too good so that it won’t open when pulled.  I tested it to make sure it would work.  Once the box bottom was secured in place, I taped many strings to the bottom of the box and then camouflaged the strings using more white crepe paper.

Two holes were punctured in the top sides of the box and the treats were filled inside.  The piñata was ready to hang in place!

For the party favors, I found these cute little blue buckets and filled them with a few goodies including: rock candy (looks like ice!), watercolor paints, hair accessories, bubbles and lip balm and glittery nail polish.


Also baked a batch of snowflake sugar cookies.  Each were individually packaged and sent home as a party favor for all.

SweetStackers Snowflake Cookies

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Birthday Party

My youngest daughter requested a Daniel Tiger birthday cake for her 3rd Birthday.  She loves the TV show on PBS, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  It is the next generation of characters from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood that I grew up with.  I will admit that I even get nostalgic watching it.

I wanted to recreate the neighborhood trolley…

Daniel Tiger's Birthday Party

The Daniel Tiger figurines were purchased at Toys R Us.  Thought they would be cute to set up next to the trolley cake.  After the birthday party, the birthday girl could play with her figures.

A loaf pan turned out to be the perfect shape and size to make a trolley cake.  I baked two separate box mixes using Betty Crocker’s yellow cake mix and a devil’s food cake mix.  For each loaf cake, I filled the pan about ¾ full and baked them for approximately 45 minutes, until a toothpick came out clean.  With the remaining batter, I filled a muffin tin to make a few cupcakes.

Once the cakes cooled, they were stacked one above the other with a Homemade Creamy Blueberry Filling in the middle.  (I also filled the cupcakes with this filling – so good!)  Using homemade French Vanilla Icing (see recipe below), the cake was iced white around the sides.  Reserving a small amount to dye yellow and the remaining red for the roof.  I used Twizzlers candy ropes to trim the trolley and piped yellow icing to create the seats.  Just like the neighborhood trolley on the TV show!

My daughter was so excited about her cake and kept taking peeks in the fridge.  She also enjoyed the tiger plates that I found at the dollar store along with bright-colored mylar balloons.  So cute!

Happy Birthday kiddo!  Hope this made her day special.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Trolley Birthday Cake

French Vanilla Icing

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup Crisco shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup milk (plus a little more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and shortening on high-speed.  Gradually add the sugar.  In a small pan, heat the milk until scalded (stir constantly to prevent it from burning).  Reduce the speed of the mixer and pour a couple of tablespoons of milk into the mixture, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed.  Return the pan of milk to the heat again and repeat the process.  The key is to melt and remove the grit from the sugar.  This takes patience!  If the milk is used up, I will add a few more tablespoons of milk to the pan and repeat the process.  The icing will be creamy and grit free!

Creamy Blueberry Filled Cupcakes

If you are looking for a light, creamy, not “too sweet” cupcake filled with a fruity surprise, then this cupcake is for you!

My baby turned 3 and we celebrated her day with cupcakes!  She absolutely loves blueberries, so I wanted to incorporate blueberries into her birthday cake and cupcakes.  I developed this creamy blueberry filling because I wanted a filling that retained some fresh whole blueberries.  Everyone was pleasantly surprised when they took a bite, revealing the creamy blueberry filling.  The fresh whipped cream frosting complimented the cupcakes nicely.

Whipcream and Blueberry Filling Birthday Cupcakes

Fresh Blueberry Cream Filling

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring blueberries, water and sugar to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.  Some berries will split open and a sauce will form.  Add heavy cream and whisk in cornstarch one tablespoon at a time.  Whisk constantly for approximately 8 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool.  Chill before filling a cake or cupcakes.

Creamy Blueberry Filling Birthday Cupcakes

A cupcake plunger make it easy to uniformly scoop out the center of each cupcake.  Replacing it with a dollop of filling.

Hope you enjoyed!

Valentine Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand.  So instead buying a box of chocolates, why not surprise the special people in your life with homemade chocolate truffles?

Heart Shaped Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Truffles or homemade chocolates sound like it would be intimidating or difficult to make.  They are actually very easy, quick and only require a handful of ingredients.  This recipe used semi-sweet chocolate chips, cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar.  They can easily be rolled into balls or shaped using a small cookie cutter.  Truffle balls can be rolled in sprinkles, cocoa, chopped nuts or shredded coconut. Using a 1 inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, the chocolate truffle mixture could easily be pressed into a heart shape.  Decorative sprinkles can be placed on top, pressing down lightly and the chocolate heart can easily be removed from the molded shape.

Heart Shaped Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

These chocolate truffles should be stored in the refrigerator to set and later stored in an air-tight container.  Instead of fighting with curly parchment paper or trying to squeeze large cookie sheets in your refrigerator, homemade chocolates can be placed on reusable plastic trays made to fit an air-tight container you already own.  Sweet Stackers can separate and layer the chocolates in multiple layers in one container.  They create a working surface that can be easily lifted and placed in your container.  One step, without transferring from parchment lined cookie sheets to a container.  Plus this helps prevent them from sticking, melting together or messing the decorations.

homemade truffle dividers

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

In a small mixing bowl cream softened cream cheese using an electric mixer.  Reduce mixer speed and gradually add confectioners sugar.  In the meanwhile, melt chocolate chips using a microwave or a double boiler (a heat proof bowl placed over simmering water).  Add melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture.  The mixture will be stiff and easy to work with.

Scoop the chocolate using a melon baller or small ice-cream scoop to ensure uniform size.  Shape the chocolate into balls and immediately roll in sprinkles, cocoa, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.

Truffle mixture can also be molded into shapes using a mini cookie cutter, coating in sprinkles.

Chocolate truffles should be refrigerated.

Valentine Dessert Truffles

Share the love and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hearty Homemade Chili

Snow Again!?  That seems to be a common theme this ENTIRE winter.  The perfect dish to warm ya up is a hearty bowl of hot chili!

Chili is so versatile and most of the staples should be stocked in your pantry.  This time I even added a couple of ingredients and the brown sugar sweetened it up to entice my children.  If you don’t need to worry about young palates, then feel free to add some heat with hot peppers.  So get creative and fill up a big cup of chili to warm up this winter!

Hearty Homemade Chili

Hearty Homemade Chili

(double for a crowd)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 5 slices of turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1 – 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, diced onion, etc.

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Sautee the onion, green pepper and garlic until softened.  Add the bacon until it becomes crispy.  Add the ground beef until browned and cooked through.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Garnish with suggested toppings and serve piping hot in a bowl or cup.

What are you favorite toppings on chili?

Edible Gifts for the Holidays

If you are looking for the perfect gift, why not go with something homemade and edible?  Homemade gifts are special, thoughtful, made-from-the-heart and do not have to be difficult to make.  Edible gifts will definitely impress your friend and family.  Don’t forget to package them in pretty containers or boxes wrapped with beautiful ribbon!

Edible Dessert Gift Box

Sweet Stackers are reusable, stackable trays that separate and protect your sweet treats without them sticking together.  Christmas cookies can be safely stored in multiple layers.  They are ideal for cookies that have a jelly filling on top or icing that you don’t want smudged.  Not only will they help you neatly store bakery in your container, they can also separate the sweet treats that you are giving as gifts.  Mix and match your treats without a sticky mess; cookies on one layer, brittle or bark on a different layer and chocolates or truffles on another layer.

Sweet Stackers Edible Gifts Sweet Stackers - Reusable Trays 9" Pie Box and Sweet Stackers Sweet Stackers Stackable Trays

These pumpkin shaped spritz cookies turned out super cute decorated with “Sparkle Gel”.  Imagine that possibilities for spritz Christmas cookies?  These were packaged in a 9″x9″ pie box and separated with 8″x8″ Sweet Stackers trays.  Wouldn’t these sweet treats make a thoughtful hostess gift or an easy way to transport dessert to Thanksgiving dinner.

Let’s revisit some of my favorite PartyKitchen cookies and sweet treats that could make a delicious homemade gift for that special someone!

Egg Nog Cookies

Reindeer Peanut Butter Cookies

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies


Merry Berry Peanut Butter Cookies

Cherry Chocolate Kisses

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

What type of homemade edible gifts are you planning to make this season?

Acorn Squash Ricotta Tart

Simply Savory are two words to describe this tart made with Acorn Squash, Caramelized Onions and Ricotta Cheese.

Winter Squash Tart

It is the season for winter squash and there are so many different ways to prepare them.  This rustic tart is perfect for fall!  Wouldn’t it even make an impressive side dish on the table for Thanksgiving dinner?

The tasty, crumbly crust was easy to make and only used a handful of ingredients.  Using a food processor, the dough came together and was in my fridge within a couple of minutes – tops!

In the past, I have been turned off from buying winter squash because they can be difficult to handle, peel and cut when raw.  Today, I softened the squash by piercing it 4- 5 times, then placing it in the microwave for about 7 minutes.  The outside of the squash was slightly softened , which made it much easier to cut in half lengthwise.  Once it was halved, the seeds and strings were removed.  The squash could be sliced further and the skin removed.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse 2 times to mix the ingredients.  While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil and water into the flour mixture.  The dough will start to form a crumble.  Remove and knead the dough together.  Form a disk and wrap it in parchment or wax paper.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Tart Filling:
1 acorn squash (or any winter squash)
1  red onion; thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 lemon squeezed
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
fresh thyme, salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Cut squash into large diced pieces.  In a large mixing bowl, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet in one layer.  Toss the sliced onion in the remaining olive oil and place next to the squash.  Salt and pepper the squash and onions.  Bake for 25 minutes.

While waiting, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon and thyme in a small bowl.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and press into a round 9″ tart pan.  Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough.  Once the squash and onions have been caramelized, remove from the oven, reduce the heat to 400°.  Place the squash and onion on top of the ricotta mixture.  Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

Bake in a 400° for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Rustic Squash and Carmelized Onion Tart