Monday, February 28, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

Once upon a time, there was a couple who we shall call " The Cutest Couple In The World." The Cutest couple in the world loved to eat out. Their favorite restaurant was called "That Chinese Restaurant In The Mall." And everytime TCCITW would go to TCRITM, Mr. Husband would order wonton soup and beef and broccoli. Mrs. Wife didn't like to be boring, so every time she would try something new. One time it was sweet and sour chicken (because how can sweet and sour chicken be bad?!) and another it would be cashew chicken. Most times Mrs. Wife enjoyed her lovely dish, while Mr. Husband smugly ate up all his beef and broccoli (for he knew that this was a delicious and reliable dish.) And every time. TCCITW would happily lick their ice cream off their plate (from their very yummy fried ice cream balls) and say, "Wow, that was amazing." Well one day, the moons were not aligned correctly, and Mr. Husband decided to veer from his normal science of ordering. Instead of ordering the usual wonton soup with beef and broccoli, he decided to tear a page out of Mrs. Wife's book, and order something new. Hot and sour soup. Oh dear. Although the name sounds like Hot and Sour Soup would be something delicious, it is in fact, a bowl of hot ketchup, thinned out with water.* Poor Mr. Husband. Oh how Mr. Husband despises anything with ketchup in it. Mrs. Wife, being the sweetheart that she is, valiantly switched her bowl of steaming, delicious won ton soup, and bravely ate the hot and sour soup, bite after ketchupy bite. And they all lived happily ever after.**
*Literary license may have been used.
** And Mr. Husband remembered that there was a very good reason why you should always order the same exact thing every time you order out- it will never disappoint
This leads us to the fact that every year (well the past two years) Big D requests a strawberry shortcake for his birthday, no more, no less. 

Happy Birthday Big D! You know you are awesome!

Judy's Strawberry Shortcake

Recipe has been removed by author. For more information on this cake please see ordering information here

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pretzel Dogs

These are a really cute change from the usual boring hot dogs. The pretzel dough is a basic soft pretzel dough, and you can have lots of fun playing around with it: Cheese Pretzels, Pretzel Bites etc. You can freeze formed pretzels raw, and then dip them (frozen) into the baking soda solution when you are ready to bake them. 

  • Prezel Dogs
    • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
    • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup bread flour*
    • 2 cups hot water 
    • 2 tablespoons baking soda
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt

(12 hot dogs)

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.
Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8 inch square pan. After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope and wrap around hot dog, tucking the end under. Dip into the baking soda solution and shake off excess water. Place on parchment covered cookie sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.Brush with egg and sprinkle on salt. Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. 
* I used all regular flour and it was fine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How are you feeling today?

This was hands down the funnest activity I ever did with my kids on a vacation day. My kids spent close to three hours creating animals, muppets and Picasso styled people. For anyone who knows my Three Little Monkeys, you will know that this is nothing short of a miracle.  
This is a great activity for a snow day or vacation day- all you need is a batch of sugar cookies, royal icing, lollipop sticks (optional) and lots of candies. (Because if all else fails you can just eat the candy!) Food markers are fun if you have them, but not necessary. You can really use your imagination here, and its fun to see the things that the kids come up with. 

Rolled Sugar Cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond or lemon extract (optional)

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour or overnight. Or if you are like me, and decide last minute to make cookies, you can flatten the dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for about a half hour.
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter or large glass. Gently insert a lollipop stick into the side of each cookie. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

For sugar cookies that keep their sharp shape, it helps to freeze the cookies after you shape them. When I make sugar cookies, I have a cycle of cookie sheets going from the table > to the freezer > to the oven. The first pan should freeze for about 15 minutes before baking, and then you can start the cycle from there.  If you freeze the cookies, they need to bake for 8 minutes, not 6.

Royal Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites, beaten

  • In a bowl, sift together confectioners' sugar and cream of tartar. Using electric mixer, beat in 2 beaten egg whites for about 5 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.

To Decorate:
We divided the recipe for royal icing into 4 colors. ( I iced the cookies the night before so that they would be dry for the kids to decorate on top of the icing.) Place a sandwich size ziploc bag inside a large glass, and fold the sides of the bag over the top of the glass. Fill each bag with desired amount of icing, and food coloring. Zip close and hand it over to the nearest Monkey to squish (carefully) until the color is even. Twist the top of the bag to force the icing down to the corner. Snip off a really small corner, and start decorating!
We used leftover white and black fondant for the eyes, but you can really use anything- sprinkles, laffy taffy, candy buttons etc. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Butter Garlic Tilapia

Anyone who knows the CantStopBaking family personally, knows that Big D hates fish. Like really, really hates fish. Its actually interesting, I think there is a fish hating gene in his family, but I digress. One time, we were at someone's house enjoying a lovely light meal, with bagels and a salad. The salad had these peculiar little black things in it, but since Big D and I are huge salad eaters, it didn't really matter. NOT.  Big D piled up the salad on his plate and took a huge bite. As you may have guessed, those mysterious black things were anchovies. I thought he was going to be sick at the table. It wasn't so pleasant at the time, but makes a great story. And of course the moral of the story (because ya know all my stories have morals) is to always taste something if there is an unknown substance inside, before piling it on your plate. Anyways, why the fish story? Well Big D just started night school ( GO BIG D!!) so that leaves me once a week all by my lonesome for supper. Well not really, Z-Monkey offered to eat supper with me so I won't be by myself, but I think he might have ulterior motives (as in a later bedtime). But you get my point. Some people may think that this is a bad thing, but I say quite the opposite. Big D and I grew up on two different continents when it comes to food tastes, so now I get to make whatever I like once a week. And I happen to love fish. So after that long introduction, here is Butter Garlic Tilapia. (The recipe is for 1 serving, but you can adjust it accordingly.)

Butter Garlic Tilapia
1-2 boneless tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
garlic powder
dried parsley

Heat up a large frying pan and melt the butter inside. On a seperate plate, drizzle the tilapia with the lemon juice, garlic powder and salt. Add the tilapia to the pan and sear on high for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the fish flakes easily. Garnish with parsley.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Cake of My Dreams

Sometimes I get this picture in my head of a cake to make, and I can't get it out of my head. Its really annoying. Just ask Big D. Anyways, my husband's alma mater makes this annual weekend retreat for all its alumni. So when we got the invitation, somehow this idea popped into my head that I should make a cake. Yes, a cake! Not just a cake, but a four tier cake! Who puts these ideas in my head?! Anyways, this idea just wouldn't leave, and it wasn't just sitting there- it was getting bigger, and clearer, with lots of details. Gold ribbons! Colors to match their website! Cut out of the school logo! Did I mention four tiers?! Once I started dreaming about this cake, I realized things were getting serious. Meanwhile, Big D is muttering in the background "Why can't you just make brownies??" Anyways, the only way to get rid of these pesky ideas is to follow through with them. And thats just what I did....

I tried to base the design of the cake on their website:

The pictures of the cake don't show the color well due to poor lighting. The actual color is more of a reddish burgundy, than a brown. I never realized that burgundy is such a difficult color to make. My mother pointed out to me afterwards that the website is maroon not burgundy, and that might have been part of the problem. I found my journey to burgundy quite humorous:
I started off with Wilton Burgundy food coloring. There must have been a label misprint, because that turned the fondant bubble gum pink. So I added lots of cocoa (I didn't have any brown food coloring, otherwise I would have used that.) Still too pink, so I added red. Getting close, but not quite. So I added black, which helped bring it to the right shade, but still too pinky, so I added some blue. I got a beautiful shade of burgundy, but I knew it just didn't match the website (it would have been clearer had I had the sense to realize the website is maroon, not burgundy- grrrrr!) So my brain did this little equation- if red+green=brown, then if something is too pinky, add green to make it more brown. And voila, it worked! 
I know its not the exact same shade, but its close enough.
 And you just got a scary sneak peak at what goes through my head while I bake.
But seriously, next time I would listen to my gut feeling, and start off with brown, and add a little red. I was planning on doing that in the first place, but got distracted by the Wilton food coloring....

Now, some points to deter myself next time a crazy idea pops into my head:

*There are 8 recipes of chocolate cake here. Like 16 cups of sugar, 16 eggs, 6 cups of cocoa etc.
*The supplies alone costed over $50. Obviously this cake was a present to the school, but I still found that mind-boggling.
* I wanted to weigh the cake and then post that the cake weighed a million pounds and then everyone would gasp and be in shock. The cake was so heavy that me and my husband had to carry it together- and Big D is super strong. So when I got on the scale together with the cake, it weighed so much that the scale just read "error." 
It was heavy, trust me on this.
* The cake took over 12 hours to bake, decorate and assemble.

Hmm...take that, you crazy idea!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


That would be pronounced Mu-ZON-ya. Meat+Lasagna=Masagna. 
Ah, the beauty of four year old logic.

Meat Lasagna Rolls
12 whole lasagna noodles
2 pounds ground meat- any variety or combination (turkey,chicken, beef etc.)
1 29 ounce can tomato sauce
1 large onion,diced
1 green pepper,diced
2 cloves garlic,sliced
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2-1 teaspoon garlic powder

Fill a 9x13 disposable pan with about 3 inches of water. Place directly on the stove and bring to a low boil. Add the noodles and cook for less than five minutes- just until the noodles are pliable. Drain. In a large saucepan, saute the onion, pepper and garlic in oil, until soft. Add the tomato sauce, sugar, lemon juice and garlic powder. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Spread a lasagna noodle on a large plate. Pat down some of the ground meat. I found it easier to roll some of the meat into a sausage shape, and then pat it flat onto the noodle. Gently roll up the noodle, and place seam side down in the 9x13 pan. Repeat with all the noodles, until the meat is finished. Pour sauce over the rolls, and cover with foil. Bake at 375° for about an hour. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Black Hat

A little background: When a Jewish boy becomes 13, he celebrates his Bar Mitzvah, which usually consists of a party, a nice meal, or a bit of both. According to Judaism, this is when he is considered an "adult" and responsible for his actions. Its Jewish tradition that at this point he begins to wear a black hat that looks something like this. 

 Sooooo... here's is my really cool cake order I got for a Bar Mitzvah party...

The hat...
The "bow"...
The Pinches...
Top view:

Thanks LK for always believing in me-even when you hear all the crazy behind-the-scenes stories!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hash Browns

 Z-Monkey generally comes home from school like a grizzly bear. Literally. Until there is some yummy food settled in his growling tummy, its not very pretty. So on a day that I was planning on making baked chicken, and baked hash browns, I had a cake in the oven, and a half hour till Z-Monkey was due home. Aaaah! I only have one oven, so I had to think of a solution fast - in 30 minutes basically. Being that necessity is the mother of all invention, I quickly switched dinner to fried chicken and fried hash browns. Its a good thing I did, since otherwise I would have never discovered the goodness of fried hash browns! I used the leftover oil from frying the chicken, so I am sure that added some flavor, but either way, they were amazing. And yes, Z-Monkey agreed, and reverted back to his usual puppy dog self. All's well, ends well!

Hash Browns
8 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sugar

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the potatoes. Cook for about 8 minutes, until you can poke them with a fork, but not too soft. ( Can you use the word al dente for potatoes?) Drain the water, and add the spices. Note: The measurements that I put down are estimates. Usually I give a few shakes, taste, and shake some more. Stir the potatoes gently. Heat the oil in a large skillet,and saute the onions until translucent. Add the potatoes, and stir gently, until the potatoes are heated through. 
( For a lower fat version, use 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, and after combining the potatoes, onions and spices, pour into a 9x13 pan. Cover and bake at 400° for about an hour. 
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