Tag Archives: party

Decorated Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread cookies are THE Classic Christmas Cookie!  The aroma fills the house to create the mood of the holidays.  Simple decorations turn these delicious cookies into something festive and beautiful!  Plus, let the kids get excited and decorate the classic shaped Gingerbread Men.

Sweet Stackers decorated cookie storage

Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup molasses
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cream the butter and sugar together at high mixer speed.  Gradually add the molasses, eggs and vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg together.  Measure 5 cups even cups of flour.  Reduce the mixer speed and gradually add the flour mixture.  Divide the dough into three portions, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

Roll cold dough to about 1/4 inch thick, cut into shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper).  Bake 6 – 8 minutes.  Larger cookies may take longer.  Cool on a rack and decorate.

The glaze used to decorate (1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract).

Sweet Stackers decorated gingerbread cookies.

Store your decorated cookies in an air-tight container.  Sweet Stackers layer your beautiful decorated cookies to keep them looking beautiful!  The trays and risers are reusable and insert into a variety of containers you may already own.  Decorate your cookies right on the trays and lower them into your container – a great way to save space on your crowded kitchen countertops!  Plus, it makes it easy to transport “hard to transport” cookies, like jam filled or decorated cookies, to a holiday party and keeps them looking great!

layer decorated cookies sweet stackers

Rubbermaid’s 1 gallon Take Alongs container is pictured with Sweet Stackers 7.75 x 11 inch tray set.  Get three layers of decorated cookies in this container!

Visit sweetstackers.com to learn more about this handy product!
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Tomato Harvest Bruschetta

Loving my veggie garden this year because with all of the rain – comes a huge harvest of tomatoes!  For Labor Day weekend, I made a few different recipes using tomatoes.  Bruschetta was at the top of my list!  So easy to make and you don’t need plum tomatoes.  I used the large juicy big boy-type tomatoes!

Tomato Harvest Bruschetta appetizer

Slice a baguette thin and place on a cookie sheet in one layer.  Place under a hot broiler for just a minute or two until they start to brown.  Flip to the other side and repeat.

When they come out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil and rub the top surface with a sliced garlic clove.

Toasted Baguette

Using 3 or 4 large tomatoes, slice a tomato side ways (so that the top half of the tomato has the vine) and squeeze the juice and seeds over the kitchen sink.  Repeat with the bottom half to remove seeds.

Dice the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, S&P to taste.

Fresh basil!  Pull 10-12 fresh basil leaves, roll them up together and slice thin.  Add to the tomato mixture and stir.

Scoop the tomato mixture on each toasted baguette slice.

SweetStackers food storage tray inserts

A fresh tomato appetizer perfect for late summer.  Ready to serve or transport to a party!

Sweet Stackers Food Storage trays appetizer

Sweet Stackers are reusable, stackable trays that insert into a container your already own.  The classic Tupperware 9×9 inch container and 8×8 inch Sweet Stackers tray set is pictured.   Two layers of bruschetta in one container without a soggy mess.  Ready to transport to a party or picnic!

sweetstackers.com

or

Sweet Stackers Etsy Shop

Star Spangled Tartlets

Happy Independence Day!

This is the perfect dessert to take to your 4th of July parties or BBQs!  The little tartlets are star-shaped and filled with red cherry filling and blueberry filling.  Very patriotic!  Sweet Stackers made it easy to store the bite-sized desserts stacked and in one container without messing the tops.  They are ready to transport to a party!

Homemade Blueberry Filled Tartlets

The tartlets were very easy to put together because they were made from refrigerated pie crust.  Preheat the oven to 350º.  Rollout the dough.  Using a 2.5 inch star cookie cutter, the star-shaped dough pieces were gently pressed into a lightly greased mini-muffin tin and baked for 7-8 minutes.  Remove the little tartlet cups to cool.

Star Shaped Pie Tartlets

The tartlets can be filled with any flavor pie filling.  But, to keep with the patriotic holiday, I wanted to alternate red and blue filling.  I actually had some cherry pie filling on hand and I filled half of the tartlet cups with a little dollop of cherry.  Then I made a batch of homemade blueberry filling.

Blueberry Pie Filling

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TB corn starch
  • 2 TB butter

Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat to cool.

 

Once the remaining tartlets were filled, the following cream cheese filling was piped on top.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter , softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Using an electric mixer, on high, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy.  Lower the speed and add vanilla, then gradually add the sugar.

SweetStackers Star Spangled Tartlets

 

Sweet Stackers are a handy way to store bite-sized desserts and cookies in one container to maximize the container space.  The stackable trays convert your food storage container into multi-level.  Tartlets fit perfectly in two layers in a 3″ deep container without messing the filling or having them stick together.  Visit sweetstackers.com for more details on the product, sizes available and where to purchase them.  Great thing is that they are reusable and ready to use for your next summer party!

Hope you enjoy the holiday with your family & friends!

Fairy House Birthday Cake

The spring fairies must be visiting my garden!  The flowers are blooming and my daughter has been busy building fairy houses in our yard.  She just turned 7 and to celebrate, I wanted to make a fairy house cake for her party.

A few years ago, I bought a beautiful story book called Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane.  It was about a little girl who went into the forest on an east coast island to build fairy houses made only out of natural things.  My daughter enjoys the idea so, that we still go on walks to collect sticks, bark, rocks and even seashells on vacation.  You may not collect anything living.  She then builds these cute little homes for the fairies, tucked into hidden places in our gardens.  I thought it would be very fitting if she had a fairy house cake for her birthday!

Chocolate Fairy House Cake

The idea was to make the cake look like a tree stump fairy house.  It had 4 layers of chocolate cake, two 9″ layers of dark chocolate boxed cake mix and two 9″ layers of german chocolate cake mix.  The layers were alternated light and dark to add interest when you cut into it.

The chocolate ganache frosting was very simple to make.  I was inspired by a recipe from Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman).

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 24 ounces bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat the heavy cream until very hot (not boiling) and add the chocolate chips.  Stir over heat until completely melted.  The mixture will turn smooth deep chocolate color.  Remove from heat and pour into an electric mixer bowl.  Refrigerate until completely cooled, but do not let harden.  After 2 hours, the bottom of the bowl was just slightly warm to the touch.  I added the vanilla and started to beat the chocolate using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Tree Stump Fairy House Birthday Cake Detail

The chocolate ganache frosting filled between each 9″ chocolate cake layer and the sides of the cake.  I covered the sides of the cake and then stroked from the bottom up to create the look of bark.  The door and windows were a graham cracker, cut with a knife to shape.  They were trimmed with a tube of orange decorative cake icing.  The vines were piped using a tube of green decorative cake icing.  The edible sugar flowers were packaged by Wilton.

Butterscotch Pudding Chocolate Ganache Fairy House Cake

To vary the color of the top of the cake, I made a box of butterscotch pudding and spread this over the top of the cake to look like the inner part of a tree.  The fairy figurine that adorned the top of the cake was purchased at a local craft store.  A piece of wax paper was placed down underneath to separate her from the cake.  The fairy figure will make a neat keepsake on my daughter’s bedroom shelf after her party.  The springy butterfly party plates napkins matched perfectly!

Happy Birthday!  Stop growing so fast!!

 

Double-Lemon Cheesecake Bars

There is something about spring that brings on a cravings for lemon!

These Double-Lemon Cheesecake Bars were perfect for an adult Easter dessert.  Double lemon because the cheesecake had a hint of lemon and topped with a lemon glaze.  Delish!  Cut into individual portions, stacked, stored and ready to transport to a party without a mess using Sweet Stackers.

Hope you had a nice Easter and enjoy this recipe!

SweetStackers Double Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Double-Lemon Cheesecake Bars

  • 2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice, divided
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs, 1 separated
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ cup water

Preheat oven to 325° and line a 9×13 inch pan with foil.  Mix wafer crumbs and butter.  Press into the bottom of the pan and bake 10 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, flour, lemon zest, 2 TB lemon juice and vanilla with mixer until blended.  Add 1 egg white (reserve the egg yolk for later use) and 3 whole eggs, adding one at a time while beating.

Pour batter over crust.  Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool 1 hour.  Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Glaze:  Mix cornstarch and remaining sugar in saucepan, gradually stir in water and remaining lemon juice.  Bring just to boil, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir until clear and thickened.  Lightly beat reserved egg yolk and stir in 2 TB hot cornstarch mixture.  Return to remaining  mixture in saucepan.  Cook and stir 1 minute or until thickened.  Cool.

Spoon glaze over cheesecake.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  Use foil handles to remove cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve.

 

 

 

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.

IMG_3502

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

SweetStackers Snowflake Cookies

Disney Frozen – Ice Castle Cake

Here in Chicago, the snow is FINALLY starting to melt and I think the spell that was cast by Queen Elsa has been broken.  The Disney Frozen movie has made quite an impression on my young girls.  A few months ago, my daughter knew she wanted this theme for her 5th birthday party.  My daughter favorite character from the movie was Elsa, the Ice Queen.  She built her own ice castle and here is the edible version that I created.

Frozen Ice Castle Birthday Cake

The towers come to a sharp point and I used ice cream sugar cones and thin pretzel rods.  The tip of the ice cream cones were cut, so the pretzel rod would sit tightly in the top.  One tower was trimmed off a bit to make it shorter.  I dipped them in white chocolate candy melts, sprinkled them with blue sugar and added a few snowflake sprinkles here and there.  I also dipped some small pretzel twists to create a balcony.

Frozen Ice Castle Cake Towers

I made two layers of cake using a 12″ round pan and two layers using a 6″ round pan.  Alternating yellow cake mix and devil’s food.  Will admit, I love Betty Crocker’s boxed cake mixes!   I think I had used 4 box mixes, since I was alternating flavors – made a few cupcakes and had a lot of leftover cake.  One cupcake came in handy because it elevated the tallest tower perfectly!

Like I said, I love to use boxed cake mixes because they always turn out moist and delicious.  However, I DO like to make homemade icing and filling.  This cake was frosted using a French Vanilla Icing, which I posted before.  It holds up great for constructing a towering cake!  The homemade filling was delicious and easy – love it because it is not too sweet.

Strawberry Cream Filling

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed and diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring strawberries, water and sugar to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until a sauce forms.  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.

The cake was pretty simple to assemble.  I alternated the cake layers starting with chocolate, than yellow and they were each separated by the Strawberry Cream Filling.  The entire cake was iced with the French Vanilla Icing.  The chocolate covered cones were placed on top using an upside-down cupcake to elevate the back tower.  In front of the 6 inch layers, I placed a Disney Elsa figurine surrounded by the chocolate dipped pretzels which created her balcony.  Then placed a few snowflake sprinkles around the sides of the cake and sprinkled white sugar sprinkles on top like glistening snow.

The birthday girl’s eyes lit up with a smile from ear to ear when she opened the refrigerator in the morning!  She sure was happy and super excited about her party.  More party ideas to come…stay tuned!

Frozen Birthday – Snowflake Sugar Cookies

There is a Frozen Birthday Party brewing in our house, so keep posted for more to come!  My daughter is turning 5 and we are throwing her a kid’s birthday party at home.  She picked the theme from Disney’s Frozen for her party.  I was actually very excited because this would be very easy to pull off.  The ideas were flowing, despite party supplies don’t exist yet for this party theme.  I was able to start executing my plans by making these beautiful snowflake sugar cookies a few days ahead of the party.  The key to soft, fresh and beautiful decorated cookies is storing them properly!

Frozen Birthday Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400°.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Sift the flour and baking powder together and gradually add to the butter mixture.  Divide dough into two balls.  Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut using cookie cutters.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 6-7 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.  Transfer immediately to a cookie rack to cool.

Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container or decorate.

The icing recipe is so simple.  I combine about 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar to approximately 2-3 tablespoons of milk.  Stirring until a get a shiny thick icing (if not coming together, then add 1 additional tablespoon of milk).  Thick enough so the icing will not run and thin enough that it can be piped.  Add a drop or two of  desired food coloring and stir.

SweetStackers Cookie Storage

The piping was very simplistic, consisting of dots and lines.  Before the icing sets, I placed a snowflake shaped sprinkle in the center.  On a few others, I sprinkled some silver crystal sugars.  There were about 5 different patterns made.

Once the icing just starts to set, I transfer the cookies to an air-tight container to keep the cookies soft and fresh!  I don’t like the taste and crunch when the cookies are set out to dry for long periods of time (like overnight).  Sweet Stackers – stackable trays insert into a long, 3 inch deep, air-tight container.  Using a container that was approximately 9×12 inches, I was able to store 36 cookies, in 3 layers (without them touching).  Sweet Stackers are reusable and yet an inexpensive solution to storing cookies, dessert bars and even appetizers without a mess.  Stop by the product website sweetstackers.com to find out more or shop on Etsy or Amazon.

SweetStackers Snowflake Cookies

The morning of the party, I transferred each cookie to a small clear bag.  Each guest could bring home a sweet “Frozen” treat and I even added one to each party favor bucket.

 

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!

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?