1/30/14

Red Velvet Cake Balls for Valentine's Day



Brilliant red centers with a dazzling white almond bark coating, sprinkled with sparkling red sugar crystals.  While beautiful on your dessert table at Christmas time, they are perfect for Valentine's Day as well.  Whether you make them into larger, 3 bite sized balls or smaller one or two bites, they are a hit with children and adults alike.


This is a 're-post' as I've made these many times before, but it seems silly to take new pictures of the same thing every time you make it.  So...  here it is from a previous post.




In addition to the recipe ingredients you will need either Lollipop Sticks (available at cake supply stores, online or hobby stores) or for very small balls, toothpicks work. You will also need 1 pound of vanilla almond bark, also known as candy coating; available in the baking aisle of most grocery and general merchandise stores.  (For those that can't find it, you can also order it online here .)  If you absolutely can't find it and don't have time to wait a couple days for an order, you can use white chocolate chips too, but allow more time for them to set up as almond bark sets up quickly at room temperature.

First the cake.  The 'Red Velvet' cake mixes you see in stores are not true Red Velvet.  The Red Velvet you usually find made in bakeries (like Costco and Sam's and grocery stores)  are usually not true Red Velvet.  One of my 'baking' pet peeves through the years are recipes that are basically just a dismal chocolate cake with red food color and called "Red Velvet".   A true Red Velvet Cake has it's own flavor that comes from the buttermilk and vinegar and vanilla used in it.  It's not a chocolate cake and doesn't taste as such.  The cocoa is used to enhance the brilliant red color but not to flavor.  This is a true Red Velvet and it happens to be my second favorite cake in the universe (I'm a die-hard white vanilla cake fan but Red Velvet is number two on the list!)

Red Velvet Cake

1/2 cup shortening or butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 oz. red food coloring (1 bottle)
3 tablespoon cocoa
2 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vinegar

Grease and flour a 9 X 13″ cake pan. Preheat oven to 350. Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Make a paste with the food coloring and cocoa and add to mixture. Add salt and flour alternately with buttermilk and vanilla. Alternately add soda and vinegar, and don’t over beat. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake approximately 30-35 minutes or until done. Remove from oven. Cool completely. (Since you are not making this into a layer cake, you can let it cool in the pan if you wish.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting

You can use your favorite frosting (that link goes to the *only* frosting I use for Red Velvet)  or here is a basic cream cheese frosting recipe to use, as many like cream cheese frosting with this particular cake.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. box powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat softened butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy.  Set aside.

Crumble the cooled cake completely with your hands or use a food processor and process in 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your appliance.



Mix your frosting recipe into the cake crumbs. Start with about 2 cups of frosting and mix well with a wooden spoon and then, your hands. If it’s a dry mix, add more frosting by quarter cup increments. You want the cake to be the consistency of play dough so it holds together well and forms balls.


Scoop dough out to the size cake ball you want. 30 large or up to 50 or 60 if you are making 1 inch rounds. Roll in your hands until smooth and place each ball on a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size of the cake ball use either a lolly pop stick or toothpick in the top. Place in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours until firm.

Melt the vanilla candy coating (almond bark) according to package directions over low heat or in the microwave. Dip each cake ball into the vanilla and place on parchment paper to set. If you wish you can sprinkle them with desired colored sugar or sprinkles at this point.



Leave on the counter while the candy coating sets. After hard these can be kept in a container as they are as the coating keeps the cake moist. I’ve also froze them for up to a month, and left to thaw on the counter until needed.






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1/22/14

Homemade Personalized Valentine's Day Cookies - for break ups, love, guys, etc.

 
 
 

As a Mom of three kids, I've been making cookies for little ones for about 21 years now.  The thing is, my kids are getting older and going off to college... but they still want cookies of course!

Every year I make red and pink and white 'pretty' cookies but readers who have been around for a couple years have seen me play with the decor a bit.  Like the year my daughter and her boyfriend broke up right before Valentine's Day so I made her cookies with "loser" "geek" and "luv sux" on them, which cheered her up immensely and made her friends laugh.

And remember when I offered to send cookies with my husband to work for all the guys he works with?

Let me repost that one... (cut and pasted from my original post)

"Honey, I've got a ton of cookies... do you want to take some to work?"
"Yeah... I guess I could. I've got a meeting tomorrow morning with my guys.... I could bring some."
I could tell he was a little hesitant.
"I know. They're kind of girly."
"Too bad they don't say 'John Sucks' on them or something...."
"Oh! But they can!"
And? They did.

I did not photograph the 'personalized' cookies using their names for use on the website, but I took some of the others that said lovey dovey phrases like;

Dude U Suck
Oh Crap
Love Sux
LOSER
So Not Cool
GEEK

The personalized cookies said; "John Sux" and "Mike Sux" on them.

I guess when he walked in with the cookies the next morning the guys started to razz my husband and give him a hard time about bringing in little pretty cookies...

"Just read them"

And they did.

And they laughed.
 


This year, have some fun... make some cookies and get creative with your decorating.  Break-ups, divorce, 'manly' cookies, or pretty little dainty ribbons and hearts....  anything goes!















You might be interested in cookie cutters, edible food safe markers, pearls and more;
             




 
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1/21/14

Homemade Pasta - Jalapeno Version made into Homemade Ravioli



This is a repost - but one I've got on my mind!  It starts with a basic homemade pasta recipe I often made into noodles and eat with butter, salt and pepper.  However, sometimes I make it into ravioli.  I've been craving homemade cheese ravioli in jalapeno pasta - perhaps it's the blast of polar air that is hitting us again this week?

You can play around with cheese fillings;  Sometimes I am lazy and simply use a bit of cream cheese.   Usually I like to mix cream cheese, mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese in a bowl and spoon a heaping teaspoon of this mixture onto each pasta square.  If you leave out the jalapeno's and make this a plain pasta, a mixture of cheeses with a touch of minced garlic is yummy!

Play with YOUR food and decide what you like best.  I bought a container of ricotta cheese this past weekend in anticipation of this recipe.  Enjoy.

Jalapeno Pasta

2 1/4 c flour
1 t salt
1-2 t olive oil
3-4 eggs
2 - 5 small jalapenos (depending on how hot-spicy you want your pasta)

In a food processor bowl, place the salt and flour.  Put the top on and while pulsing or running on low, add a teaspoon-ish of oil and start adding eggs.  You probably only need 3 eggs so start with that.  Add your jalapenos.  I used 2 small jalapenos and the dough was so mild even children could eat it without spice.  If you know you like jalapeno's, use more.  Process until the dough forms a ball shape.  If it hasn't gathered itself in a ball by the 3rd egg, you can add another teaspoon of oil or water or use a 4th egg.  Water or additional flour by the teaspoon will give you the texture you need for it to be a ball.

Let it rest 10 minutes.  Then either roll very, very thin with a rolling pin or use a pasta machine.  I use a manual, hand crank pasta machine and starting with number 1, I run it through to a number 4.  You can then cut into thin noodles or use wide sheets to make homemade ravioli.



I roll my dough through a manual pasta machine



You don't need fancy fillings!  Cream cheese does just fine!

Rolling the pasta over the mold to seal the edges


Cooked in boiling water for about 5 minutes and drained

Serve with butter, an alfredo sauce or a marinara sauce - anything goes!
*Note*
For any recipe you find from almost any source, in the last 100 years or so t = teaspoon and T = tablespoon


In some countries, a teaspoon full (also "teaspoonful" or simply "teaspoon") is a unit of volume, especially widely used in cooking recipes and pharmaceutic prescriptions. In English it is abbreviated as t., ts., tsp. or tspn. and never capitalized, as capitals are customarily reserved for the larger tablespoon ("T.", "Tbsp.", "Tbls.", or "Tb.").











You might also be interested in some of the products I use;
         


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1/20/14

A Twist on Taco Pizza... a Taco Ring on a Baking Stone



This is a repost - but one that was on my mind so I did a search for it on my site this morning.  I've been craving Taco Pizza - and that made me think of the Taco Ring version.  A 'twist' on a traditional pizza.  You can change recipes like this so easily to adapt to your own likes and dislikes.  Whether you substitute beef/chicken add black, green olives, jalapeno's, yellow pepper rings, leave off tomatoes, add extra onions...  however you prefer.  I'd even say top it with crushed Doritos.

Reposted - because it's just so yummy I wanted to bring it back to the front of my website as a reminder to make it and make it easy to find.

Image from Taste of Home
Although I'm not a home party person, I've been wrangled into attending a couple in my time (although fewer than the average woman I bet! Ha).  About ten years ago I agreed to go to a friends Pampered Chef party and she served the Southwestern Chicken version of this ring-dish.  It was really delicious and easy to make and I truly liked it - although we've only had it once or twice since then because I never have store bought crescent rolls on hand.

This is the same idea, but it's the Taco Ring version.  When I made this I didn't take a picture so I had to find one online.  Sorry about that!  But I wanted to show you what it looks like.

Use taco meat as the filling and filling typical taco toppings.  It is a spin on 'taco pizza' and is quite good, although a bit messy to serve.  You can also replace the ground beef with cooked and shredded or diced chicken.  Remember, I always say to use a recipe as a guide or an idea and then play with your food! 



Taco Ring

1 lb. ground beef
1 package dry taco seasoning mix
2 T water
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 8-oz cans refrigerated crescent rolls
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 c salsa
3 - 4 c lettuce, shredded
1 tomato, diced
1/4 - 1/3 c chopped onion
1 - 4 oz. can sliced black olives
sour cream and guacamole


Brown and drain the ground beef, add taco seasoning mix and water.  Simmer about 5 minutes.  Unroll the crescent dough; separate into triangles. Arrange triangles in a circle on a pizza pan with the wide ends toward the center of the pan, overlapping each other and the ends pointing out like the rays of the sun.

Spoon the meat mixture evenly onto widest end of each triangle. Bring points of triangles up over filling and tuck under wide ends of dough.  Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.  To the open circle center of the ring place the rest of the ingredients;  lettuce, cheese, diced green pepper, tomato, olives and onions. Top with sour cream and guacamole or serve it along side for people to add their own.






You might be interested in these pizza stones from Amazon;
      




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1/16/14

Easy and Quick Lemon Cake Mix Cookies


This is a re-post... from seven (7) years ago!!!  OMGosh where does the time go??????   Whenever we have a sunny day in the middle of January or February, I start to think spring and light and lemon.




Thinking back to the Mom I was 5 years ago verses the Mom I am today I can only smile. It was certainly easier to keep the house clean, keep everyone on schedule, get everyone to wherever they needed to be, cook, bake, clean and keep up with laundry... when the kids were younger.

I had all three kids in under 5 years. (Just 2 days short of being able to say 'four' years!). But I can honestly say we are far more busy and it's harder to keep up now that the kids are 16, 15 and 11. Still - I see how quickly time is passing us by and the kids will be off to college soon and this is the one shot that I have to raise them the way I believe they should be raised... and cookies are part of that lifestyle.  SO SIMPLE even your 7 year old can make them.




Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

1 package dry lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 c canola oil

Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Scoop or spoon into balls and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. Bake on parchment or ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Let cool 1 minute and remove from pans to cool.

In the meantime prepare a simple glaze;

1 c powdered confection sugar
2 T lemon juice
colored sugar spinkles

Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and drizzle or spoon it on the warm or cool cookies. While the icing is still wet sprinkle with yellow sugar crystals.


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Homemade Won Ton Chips


I don't know what I can say to get you to try making these 'chips' but if you do, you'll probably thank me. So crispy and so good! You only need one ingredient and then oil to fry them. That's it. How can something so simple be so good?

I love these dipped into a cream cheese and banana pepper or cream cheese and jalapeno pepper dip or cheese ball. But they are crazy good dipped in a plum sauce or duck sauce and of course a bit of soy sauce on them isn't bad either!  I don't even salt these or use any seasonings on them.  They don't need it.


Wonton Chips

1 pkg. egg roll wrappers or wonton wrappers
hot oil to cook them in

If you are using wonton wrappers, just cut them in half from tip to tip to form 2 triangles.  If using larger egg roll wrappers, cut in half from corner to corner and continue slicing in halves until you have 8 triangles out of each egg roll square.  Heat your oil to medium high hot - which if you drip a drop of water into the oil it will bubble and spit.  Fry about 8 triangles at a time, flipping both sides til golden and crisp.  Drain on paper towels and serve plain or with a dip or sauce.  If your chips are getting too dark too fast it means your oil is too hot.  Turn it down a bit.  They should take about 30 seconds for each side. 


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1/14/14

We had Mexican Casserole Again - Probably one of our family's top 3 favorite meals


When I go a few days without a photo for a new post, it irks me.  But it usually means I'm making dishes I've posted before.  Or it means I just didn't bother to take a picture of it... ha.  Yesterday was a family favorite I've post a couple times already - our family's favorite - Mexican Casserole!  No need to take 'new' pictures of it.  It looks about the same each time except if you want to imagine sliced black (ripe) olives on it this time.  I added more jalapeno's and made it nice and spicy this time too.  Go ahead and try this one... play with it.  Use more or less of what you and your family like.

Mmmmmexican Lasagna!  A family favorite!

This is a recipe I've been making for years and years...  Here's the deal.  You can make this ground beef.  You can make it with chicken.  I was able to use up leftovers from the freezer for all the chicken in this recipe and it felt like I was getting a 'free' meal since I saved about $8 by not having to purchase chicken breast for this!  If you don't have anything in the freezer or fridge to use up - no worries.   Make this with ground beef, chicken, ground turkey... play with your food!

Mexican Lasagna

1 - 2 lbs. ground beef, chicken, turkey, etc.
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 t seasoned salt
2 cups diced tomatoes (or use canned if you prefer)
1 T jalapeno's, diced fine (optional if your family hates them)
1 T onion (another option!)
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste with 3 empty cans of water OR use 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c sour cream  OR  ricotta or cottage cheese
2 eggs
10 flour tortillas (any style - low carb, etc. is fine too)
2 1/2 - 3 c shredded cheese

Cook the ground beef (if you are using) and drain.  If you are using already cooked beef, chicken, etc. place it in a large pan on the stove top.  When hot, add the taco seasoning, salt, tomatoes, paste and water or tomato sauce, jalapeno's and onions if you are using them.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer about 10 minutes while you mix the sour cream OR ricotta/cottage cheese with the eggs in a bowl.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Spread half the meat mixture in a 9X13 inch pan.  Cut your flour tortilla in half.  Layer about 5 of them over the meat.  Spread half the sour cream or cottage cheese mixture over the tortillas.  Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.  Repeat the layers with the rest of the meat, tortillas, sour cream or cheese mixture and top with the rest of the shredded cheese.  You can now use green olives or black olives on top if your family likes them.

Bake uncovered about 20-30 minutes until golden brown, bubbly and hot.  Let it stand 10 minutes to 'set up' for easier cutting.  You can serve this as is or offer sour cream, guacamole, salsa, etc.




I used cooked, leftover chicken.  But you can make this with ground beef too.

Your flour tortillas become the 'noodles'

Let stand about 10 minutes for easier cutting
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