Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas

My four year old started preschool last year and we all loved it so much we decided she’d go again this year. They go twice a week for a few hours. She’s thriving there. She loves her teachers and her friends. The best part, according to her, is when she gets to be in charge of bringing the snacks. They rotate through all the kids so that everyone gets a chance. My little monkey’s day falls on the Wednesday before Halloween. This month they are also doing colors, one for each day of the week, and of course, this week was orange! In my effort to provide healthy snacks whenever possible, I decided we’d make quesadilla jack-o-lanterns! Orange cheese, carrot sticks, and orange juice should give the kids plenty of orange to think about as they nourish their little bodies. Lemme walk you through how to make these cuties.

Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas
~Cut pumpkin shapes out of flour tortillas.~

Hang on to the scrap pieces. You can lightly spray them with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 400 degrees F for 5-7 minutes, watching closely. Remove them if they start to burn. Then you have another snack for the next day! Dip them in this yummy hummus for a nutritious treat.

Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas
~Cut out pumpkin faces. Monkey helped me by telling me what to carve.~
Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas
~Add cheese and microwave for 30 seconds or…~
Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas
~Toast until the cheese is melted. Let them sit until cooled.~
Snacktime! Halloween Quesadillas
~We added crunchy carrots to each bag. Orange you glad?~

Happy Halloween everyone! And happy snacking!

~Veronica

Marshmallow Fondant Elmo Birthday Cake & Treats

1385689_10153291375265134_124857747_nAuthor: Cassie Stevens

I had a lot of fun with this project..it consumed me for three days. I have a one year old daughter so EVERYTHING takes longer (not complaining). On day one I made the fondant. This is the first time I have ever made it myself.  I had worked with fondant before, but it always came in the store already on the cake then I decorated it.  I was a little nervous about making my own fondant because I have seen how it can tear apart so easily. I did a ton of research on the internet, watching video tutorials, reading recipes, and tips on making and working with fondant. Now, after making this recipe I can honestly say fondant is not hard at all. I had nothing to be nervous about. This recipe is my new favorite go-to fondant recipe, and it was very tasty too.  I had heard quite a few times that store bought fondant was very yucky (except Duff’s of course).  So I set out on the quest to make an conquer my own.

I have recently been given a large collection of cake decorating supplies by a very kind Aunt of mine.  She had taken a cake decorating class and gave me everything including the course books. Well, she couldn’t have given it all to a better person. I have been using everything since I received it all. I keep going through all the stuff and find myself saying “Man! I have everything, how nice”.  I came across a hand written marshmallow fondant recipe in her book that was very similar to those that I found on the internets, and this is what worked for me.

Marshmallow Fondant Recipe

16 ounces mini marshmallows

4 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 lbs confectioners sugar

I put the marshmallows in a microwave safe container and heated them for about two minutes or more, just until they are puffed and melted. Grease a wooden spoon, add vanilla, water, and half of the sugar and mix well. Mixture will start to harden as you mix and add more sugar. You want to mix well before you add more sugar you want it to become a stiff ball, then turn it out onto a greased and powder sugared surface (not too much grease).  Grease your hands.  Knead and work in the remaining sugar. Your consistency should be pliable without tearing or sticking to anything ( it’s easier than it seams trust me).  When rolling out fondant; sprinkle surface with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick.

Fondant is very versatile, it can be molded and shaped or it can be rolled and cut. It is almost like play-doh.  I really enjoyed working with it. It really brought out the artistic side of myself that I haven’ t seen or felt in a while.  Next, I dyed the fondant several different colors; red, blue, green, yellow, orange, black, and I left the rest white.  I used Wilton’s cake decorating gel colorings.  I also made sure I used gloves when mixing the dye (so my hands wouldn’t stain) and change gloves with each new color.  That was all I could get done on day one. I felt accomplished after conquering my new feat. I was very excited and couldn’t wait to start on the project again the next day.  Now, it’s family time. Daddy’s home. Time to play! Time for dinner, bath time, play time, then bed time, and everything else in between in our routine of things every night. Tomorrow is another day..

536242_715569668471803_928950740_nCookie Monster Cupcakes

YAY! I’m so ready for day two, I dreamt of Elmo dancing and singing in my head. The fun has begun. Time to roll out and cut out Elmo. I did a quick sketch up of the cake layouts before I started the project and it was approved. So, I already had a print out I found off the internets that I really liked and re-sized it so it would fit on the cake appropriately. I sprinkled powdered sugar over the top of the fondant so the paper wouldn’t stick and cut out Elmo. Then cut out the white and black for his eyes and mouth, and an orange oval for his nose. Elmo is a very easy character to make. I set the assembled and outlined in black Elmo on a sheet pan lined with parchment.

The Sesame Street sign was next. I did that all freehand. No stencils on that one. Easy, again. I did Wesson’s name and the yellow outline in icing.  So, I just set the green fondant sign on the sheet pan with the rest of the pieces ready for assembly. I placed all that stuff in the fridge for a while to harden up.  Fondant will soften as you work with it (the warmer it gets).  Next was baking the cakes. Red Velvet. I cheated and used a box cake mix. Don’t judge me, it was faster. If I had the time I would have. I recently made an awesome red velvet cake from scratch for another friends birthday party. I really liked that recipe too, but that’s another blog post (when I have the time). LOL

I made a two layer cake a smash cake and about 36 cupcakes. Whew…time to let them cool…

1398377_10151997949268013_1918761838_oElmo Cupcakes too!

After the cakes cooled it was time for assembly. I iced the cake and rolled out the fondant about a quarter of an inch thick . I then draped it over the cake and pressed it all around the edges. Cut off the excess, then assembled all the rest of the cake. One cake done.

Time to get started on the cupcakes. Did I mention I really enjoyed this project? Ha  ha. Even though my hand kept wanting to give out from all the piping I did, I had a lot of fun with everything. I did cookie monster first. Added the googly eyes and the half a cookie, or in some cases just some crumbs. I ran out of store bought eyes after about ten cupcakes. So I decided to try to make my own. I rolled out the white fondant and cut out little eyes with the back of a large icing tip, then piped the black on the eyes.  Easy, again.

Time for Elmo cupcakes! YAY! The whole time I was singing with my daughter the theme song to Elmo’s world, and of course it got stuck in my head. Then I begun to despise the stupid song, as much as I love Elmo and all, anything on repeat can get annoying. Ha ha.

I started with the black smile directly on the cupcake, then I piped around the rest of the cupcake to make his fur. I added the fondant eyes, and piped the nose on with orange icing I mixed up.  The cupcakes are done Whew…Now it’s family time. Daddy’s home. Time to play. Time for dinner, bath time, play time, then bed time, and everything else in between in our routine of things every night. Tomorrow is another day.. I will finish the smash cake.

The day of the party! Crunch day…Time to go over everything and make sure it was all up to my standards. The party wasn’t going to start until the afternoon so, I still had plenty of time to finish the little smash cake. I Iced it with buttercream icing, then decorated it with a face of Elmo. Very cute! YAY! All done.

1172545_10151997950263013_331493212_oThe Birthday Boy and his Momma! Precious moments….

I spent the next hour and a half making an Elmo face card cut out of construction paper, with a written excerpt from Mamma’s favorite children’s book.

Baby’s got eyes, ears, and a nose…

A tummy and legs and ten little toes…

Oh, what a sweet baby!

Good enough to eat baby…

Sweep me off my feet baby…

❤ it!

1378587_10153294484345134_790512369_nSmash Cake… it got smashed pretty bad.

Creamy Autumn Pumpkin Soup

SAM_2073Roasted pumpkin seed garnish for a Creamy Pumpkin Soup…

Author: Cassie Stevens

I love this time of year! The colors are vibrant and warm! The seasons are changing. The weather is getting colder. I welcome the Fall with whisk in hand. I love it so much I named my daughter Autumn. I embrace this time of year and try to enjoy it as much as possible. The smell of roasted root vegetables, baked apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and open fires intrigues my soul. The need to get cozy and warm under a blanket on those cool nights your outside under the stars. As Winter approaches… I waited for this time all year, pumpkin everything.

csg-Landscapes143-GreatSmokyMountains-NorthCarolinaMy mountains dressed in their Fall colors, the Great Smoky Mountains, TN.

Every year for about the past ten years – with an exception to the year I was pregnant with my daughter – I have gone on a pumpkin baking frenzy.  I LOVE pumpkin!! as much as Bubba loves shrimp. Yeah that’s me…

gump pumpkinHa! Ha! Ha! I love it! Pumpkin everything…

I had not tried pumpkin in a soup; until now. I make pumpkin fudge, and pumpkin pie every year. Pumpkin fudge is one of my favorites, but this soup is now on my every years pumpkin to-do list.  This is a great soup. It’s sweet and savory with a creamy texture. I really enjoyed. I really think you will too.

SAM_1976Getting ready to gut a pumpkin…

Pumpkins are beautiful, and they are good for you too! You can do just about anything with a pumpkin. You can turn them into dinner, a dessert, a drink, a candy, carve them up for decorations, or use them as target practice. Enemy Pumpkins!!

SAM_1981Seeded pumpkin quarters…

I love roasting pumpkins. The whole house smells great, and I start feeling all warm and fuzzy (and its not from the moonshine). I have always used pie pumpkins for all my recipes. I was told by someone, somewhere that they were the best for baking. The smaller the pumpkin the creamier the texture, the larger the pumpkin the more fibrous the texture (makes sense). I never realized how many different types of pumpkins there are, until my recent research. I am definitely going to try a few other varieties out to turn into something even more amazing.

SAM_1985Scraping the guts out with a spoon…

I will try to post all my pumpkin recipes and endeavors that I make this year. I really want to dive deeper into the realm of everything pumpkin this year, and possibly can some pumpkin puree for the early part of next year.

SAM_1992Roasted garlic and pepper pumpkin seeds…

One of the best parts of the pumpkin are the roasted seeds. I make them as many different ways as I can. Olive oil and salt, garlic pepper, lemon sage, and even a spicy Cajun seasoning. My one year old daughter loves to eat pumpkin seeds too.

SAM_2009Pure pumpkin puree…

Sweet and delicious pumpkin puree, in its purest form. No salt, or anything  just a little water. Ready for whatever comes its way. Now, this is what I made my wonderful soup from. I have about four cups here in my mason jar. You can put this in the fridge and use it anytime over the next couple of days. I used only two cups (half) in the soup.

SAM_2059Sweatin’ the onions…

Finely dice half an onion and about four cloves of garlic. I really like my garlic so i use a lot. Put half a stick of butter in your skillet and add 2 teaspoons brown sugar, dash of salt and pepper, and cook onions until translucent.  This will start to smell wonderful, enjoy it!

SAM_2060Add 2 1/4 cups of vegetable, chicken, or bone broth and bring to a boil…

SAM_2062Mmmmm the soup is coming together…almost done…

Add pumpkin puree and one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk and bring back to a boil. Let this boil for about ten minutes or so.  Take off heat and place an immersion blender in your pot and blend, or place in a regular stand blender and blend until smooth. You are mostly trying to get rid of the chunks of onion in it. So, if it suites you better you can skip this process.  After blended, or not, cook again for about twenty or thirty minutes. It will reduce and thicken a little. I added heavy whipping cream, and roasted pumpkin seeds to my bowl as a garnish. My husband is lactose intolerant so if I can keep the dairy out I try.

SAM_2063Pumpkin soup….

Doesn’t that look so delicious. I still had a couple of chunks of onion in it, but I didn’t mind at all.  The cream added a delectable texture that was perfect.  My daughter couldn’t get enough of this soup and neither could I.  We both ate until we just couldn’t anymore. I put hers in a sippy cup with a straw, and it went fast. She is such a good eater! I have never had a problem with her not wanting to eat her vegetables (it’s more the fruit she shuns away from).

SAM_2077So there it is, before it was gone…

Pumpkin Soup Recipe:

2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or other broth you wish)

1/2 onion finely chopped

1/2 stick butter

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Prep:

Melt butter in skillet, add onion, garlic, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add broth and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Add pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk and bring back to a boil for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and blend with hand blender.  Return to heat, let cook until soup reduces and thickens slightly. Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve and garnish with cream and roasted pumpkin seeds or whatever else you wish. Enjoy!

~ Cassie Stevens

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Creme

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Creme

Soup warms the soul. It’s just what I need when the weather starts to change, as fall starts to creep back. It’s crunching leaves, crisp breezes, and harvest.

I needed a recipe for the tons of butternut squash I just processed. Soup called to me, and this was the one! I just sort of threw things together, tasting as I went. This is the recipe I ended up with, loosely based on a recipe I once made long ago (but I can’t remember who to give credit to). It’s sweet and savory, smooth and satisfying. Enjoy!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Creme

Soup Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, seeded, cooked, and mashed – without skins

1 onion, chopped

1 – 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 tablespoon coconut/olive oil

2-4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

up to 1 teaspoon curry powder

sea salt and pepper to taste

Coconut Creme Ingredients:

1/2 can of organic coconut milk (I use this one*)

1/2 cup vanilla or plain yogurt

Method:

Soup: Cook butternut squash by preferred method. Scoop squash meat out of skins, mash and set aside. In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and apples and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples and onions are soft. Add curry powder and butternut squash puree. Cook for another 5 minutes to blend flavors. Blend the soup with an immersion hand blender or in batches in a conventional blender. add sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with toppings.

Coconut Creme: Hand mix or blend coconut milk and yogurt together. Drizzle over warm soup to bring this delicious dish to the next level!

Optional additional toppings: Roasted nuts (walnuts pictured), toasted coconut flakes, chives (pictured), seasoned croutons or chunks of hearty (slightly) stale bread, fried shallots or leeks, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, shredded apple… anything that offers this smooth soup a bit of a crunch will help with the texture.

*I receive no compensation for sharing links to products or pages. I just want to help you know what to look for when you’re out shopping, especially in this instance. Coconut milk also comes in a carton. What I used here is a canned coconut milk. It’s thicker and tastes a bit less sweet.

I hope you enjoy this delicious soup. Let us know what you topped yours with!

~Veronica

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

SAM_2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!!

Author: Cassie Stevens

The best part of making cookies is the cookie dough, and let me tell you it was hard to keep myself from eating all of it. They baked up to be fantastic cookies too. My husband’s favorite cookie is the peanut butter cookie, and mine (if I had to choose) would be the chocolate chip cookie. So this cookie is the best of both worlds for us. Soft, and lightly chewy with a gush of ooey gooey chocolate with every bite.   HEAVEN!!!

SAM_2016Cookie dough coated in sugar. What a tease!!

This recipe was amazing. I will be saving this one for the heirloom cookbook for my family for sure. I made two and a half dozen cookies from this recipe, which only filled my cookie jar half full.  Of course, I had to try them as soon as they were done baking to make sure they were still amazing, and they were. So about two dozen made it into the cookie jar.

SAM_2023Cookies just chillin’ out…

So here is what you need:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup white granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter softened (1 stick)

1 large egg ( at room temp)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Tbsp whole milk

1/2 tsp Baking soda

3/4 tsp Baking Powder

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup chocolate chips

SAM_2054Tools of the trade…the cookie scoop…

Here is what to do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Next add the sugars and mix well. Beat in the large egg then add the vanilla extract and milk then set aside. Sift flour and baking powders together and add to wet mix. Mix well then gently mix in chocolate chips. Scoop into balls and roll in sugar and place 12 to a baking sheet. Gently press down cookie balls with a fork diagonally and place in oven. Bake at 350 for ten to twelve minutes. cookies might appear to be undone but trust me they are done. Let cool on a wire rack. ENJOY!!

SAM_2031This is what a great cookie looks like! YUM!!