Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Glazed Funfetti Birthday Donuts

Before I say anything, I have two words about these donuts:  WICKED. GOOD.

Ok, so, these donuts.  I found them a few weeks ago, actually, I made them on Mother's Day for breakfast.  I figured it'd be a fun breakfast for the kids to butter them up for some good behavior since Dave was out of town.  I also figured they'd be easy for me to dissolve in my mouth since my wisdom teeth had only been out for two days at that point.  They were so good, but it was hard to enjoy without being fully able to chew them.

My son's sixth birthday was yesterday and I was feeling so guilty because of the 26 birthdays I have celebrated with my children so far, I have never ever missed one.  I had class last night so I wasn't going to be home for cake. Even though he had a friend party Sunday and we were having whoopie pies before I left for class, I still wanted to do something extra special for my little guy.  I knew that seeing a giant plate of these on the table would make any birthday boy feel special and after a few bites (donuts), I wasn't feeling so guilty anymore.

Besides the obvious tastiness of the donuts, they are baked not fried- Happy Birthday to everyone on that !
Chocolate Glazed Funfetti Donuts:

Oven:  425'
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 TBSP vanilla (~2tsp)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup your favorite sprinkles

1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 TBSP cocoa powder
3 TBSP milk (or more depending how thin you want your glaze to be)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 425'.  Spray your donut pan with non-stick cooking spray.  (I'm usually not a cooking spray fan, but for the donut pan, trust me, it's easier).

2) Cream butter and sugar in bowl of mixer with paddle attachment on medium, until light and fluffy.

3) Separate egg whites into a small bowl.  Add egg whites and vanilla into bowl with butter and sugar. Mix, then scrape down sides.

4) In medium bowl, combine flour, cake flour, and baking powder.  Alternately with the milk, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in two additions.  Scrape down sides.  Add in sprinkles, lightly mix until combined.

5) For easiest method of filling the donut pan, I put the batter into a piping bag with the largest tip opening I have.  You can also put it in a ziploc bag and cut off the corner.  Pipe a small circle of batter into each donut well (1/2 full height-wise).

6) Bake 7-9 minutes (I used a mini donut pan, so I did 7 minutes).  Let cool about 5 minutes.  Remove donuts from pan, regrease, add more batter, and bake some more.

7) While donuts are baking, prepare the glaze, by whisking all ingredients together until smooth.  Dip the top of a warm donut into the glaze.  Sit on a plate or cooling rack and shake on some sprinkles.
Yield:  40 mini donuts

Source:  Sugarcrafter
For a little extra something something, serve the milk in ice cream sundae glasses.  Your kids will not care if you're not home on their bday night for sure!
We heart these donuts!

He could barely wait til I was done taking pictures to eat one:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pokemon Birthday Invitations (DIY Pokemon Cards)

Of course, now that we don't live in Japan anymore, my kids are obsessed with Pokemon.  Hello, it was all over Japan, and we had nothing to do with it for those four and a half years.  Gasp, if they only knew the Pokemon haven that is in Japan.  I love that Pokemon's name is a Japanese way of shortening an english phrase they didn't have a word for- pocket monster- pokemon.  (same for their word for laptop- pasokon (shortened personal computer) and dijikami (digital camera)).  

Anyways, the point is that my son is having a pokemon birthday for his 6th birthday.  I went online and found this awesome website,, where you can upload your own image onto a pokemon card, you can even choose the genre, and fill in your own powers and weaknesses.  I just typed in the info for the party.   

Once you are done filling out the card, you just right click and save it to your computer.  I opened it in power point and pasted four in a document and resized to fit the paper and printed on card stock.  The whole thing took less than ten minutes and my son loved them so much, he didn't want to give them out.  Let's just say I started a revolution, and now I'm making trading cards for all my kids. If you size them right, you can glue them on the back of an existing card and make your own game.
I'm already thinking thank you cards!  You could even make a set of these for one of your kids' friends for a bday gift (if you have stock in printer ink;)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Homemade Cherry Sherbet

Not long ago, I posted about the lime sherbet I made.  Since then, I have been on a sherbet kick- I have made five kinds in the past two weeks!  I'm almost positive that this cherry sherbet is the clear favorite in our house.  I'm not sure that more than one of my kids would actually eat a real cherry, but cook them and mash them and put them in sherbet, and they all ate them!
I went to a farmer's market last weekend to take pictures for my photography club and the cherries are starting to come into season.  Now would be the perfect time to try buying fresh cherries (locally if possible) and make some of this refreshing summer treat.
Cherry Sherbet:

3 cups cherries, stems removed and pitted
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
3 TBSP lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla (or vodka)- I used 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp cherry extract
2/3 cup heavy cream

1) Cook 3 cups pitted cherries, sugar, salt, and 3/4 cup water over medium heat- until it reaches a simmer, about 7 minutes.  I used a flat bottomed whisk and mashed the cherries while they were cooking to help extract more of the juices.  Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the cherry mixture.  Press down on the solids to help extract more juices.  Discard the solids when done.

2)  Add lemon juice and vanilla (and/or vodka- cherry extract). ** This amount of alcohol helps to keep the ice cream smooth, not frosty when it freezes. Cover and place in freezer for about 30 minutes, do not freeze.

3) Whip heavy cream in medium or large bowl until soft peaks form.  Slowly whisk in juice mixture from freezer.

4) Turn ice cream maker on.  While ice cream maker is moving, slowly add mixture into ice cream maker and let it churn until it reaches the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  Place in a covered, air-tight container and store in the freezer.
Adapted from:  Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

This baby was on fire about this sherbet:

Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Organizing Recipes from Magazines

Time to get organized on Tuesdays, I think it's a new thing I'm going to try out.  Why?  Because I love being organized, today is Tuesday, and I really want the boxes and clutter out of my house!!!
Last year, when we were getting packed up from Japan, I found a large collection of magazines I'd saved because I wanted to try a recipe in them.  I never looked at them the whole 4.5 years I had lived there!  I certainly wasn't going to let those magazines bump something of importance out of my shipment.  So, I sat down, went through the magazines and ripped out all the recipes that sounded good to me and recycled the rest of the magazine.

Every summer, when we were on homeleave from Japan, I would clean out the shelves under my parent's kitchen island.  My dad had tons of cooking magazines under there, five or six years worth of Gourmet and some Bon Appetit!  So, after my episode of magazine purging when leaving Japan, I asked my dad if I could do the same to his magazines.  Note, I decided to do this less than a week before I was moving to my new house.  Literally every night, I was pouring through, ripping out recipes, trying to lessen the load I was taking in the moving truck with me.  I think I ended up having to take about 20 magazines with me.  I got a cute little bag and carried it around with me to my daughter's gymnastics and dance classes.  While she danced, I ripped out recipes.  I went from probably 5 feet high of magazines to this:
How good does that feel?  Pretty awesome!

After I ripped out the recipes, I placed them into a folder that I carried around in the bag with me until I was ready to organize them.  When I was done with all the magazines I had at the time, I spent some time organizing the recipes into categories, meal, appetizer or side, dessert, breakfast, tips, breads.  You can organize yours however you want, that's just how I'm doing mine for now.
After school started, I bought a 3-ring binder on clearance at Target, along with binder divider tabs and the clear plastic page covers.  Those were sitting in the office collecting dust for a while.  Finally, when I got my wisdom teeth out, I was forced to sit on the couch for a few days, so what better thing to do when you can't eat, than look at all the recipes you want to try?  I slipped all the recipes into the clear page covers, put them in the binder behind the tab I wanted to categorize them in and voila- a lot less space being taken up in my house and a lot more organized recipes for me!  If I try something and don't like it, I take it out and bye bye.  If a recipe is two pages, slip them in side by side.

Be open minded when you are tearing out recipes because you can always swap out an ingredient that you don't like.  For instance, swap chicken for fish, or... swap strawberries for the rhubarb in this:
In the front of my binder, there is a nice little pocket, where I keep two very important things, paper to write my meal plan for the week on the front (grocery list goes on back) and a wish list for kitchen items I want/need to make some of the recipes.
I have already made many of the recipes in here and in fact, the buttermilk pancake recipe I pulled out of Fine Cooking is by far the best buttermilk pancake recipe I've made- and I've made it three times in the past month alone.

I was talking with my friend about this this past weekend and she said she's been doing it with cookbooks that she doesn't use that often- genius!  Except, there are some you just don't rip up, like Cook's Illustrated, Baked, Pastry Queen.

I'm using the same idea for all my craft stuff that I get from Family Fun magazine and Parents too.

This is a project I've been working on since last summer.  Don't worry, something like this is very easy, I just did it here, there, and every where, and until the end didn't truly devote myself to it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found the recipe for these cookies the day after I got my wisdom teeth out.  I was immediately intrigued by the title, thousand layer- who wouldn't want to try a thousand layer chocolate chip cookie?  Talk about sheer torture, I couldn't make them because I couldn't eat them, so I made a note to myself to make them as soon as I could chew.  The very next weekend, I made my first (and second batch of these cookies).

The recipe is pretty much the same as the toll house recipe, except you use egg yolks only and you layer the dough and smash the chips in.  The extra step of layering the dough had me intimidated for about two days before I finally bit the bullet and made them.  Seriously, the extra step adds very little time and the end result is so good that you won't even mind.  The cookies are crispy on the outside and edges and soft and delicious in the middle.  They taste exactly like the big giant chocolate chip cookies I used to buy from the bakery that used to be in the town where I grew up.

If you've got a party or barbecue to go to this summer, you might consider bringing a batch of these, they are sure to be a hit.  The best part?  You can freeze the cookies once you cut them out and bake them directly from the freezer and your craving hits.
Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Oven:  375'

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6 oz mini chocolate chips- I wouldn't try normal sized chips, I don't think they'd work well here (or you can shred a chocolate bar)

1) With paddle attachment in mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium high until light and fluffy.

2) While butter/sugars are beating, separate eggs, saving the yolks.  After butter is creamed, add in egg yolks and vanilla.  Scape down sides.

3) In separate medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add flour mixture to batter in mixing bowl, mix on low until combined.  Scrape down sides, mix again, then stop mixing. Scrape dough off of paddle.

4) Stretch a piece of plastic wrap on your counter.  Take 1/3 of dough, place it on the plastic wrap and using your hands, form it into a 4X8 rectangle.  Wrap the dough rectangle up in the plastic wrap and set aside.  Repeat the process for the remaining 2/3 of the dough.  Try to keep each rectangle the same size.  Place the three wrapped rectangles in the refrigerator to firm up slightly for 30 minutes.

5) After the dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, remove it and bring it to the counter top.  Lightly flour the counter top, unwrap and place the first rectangle on the floured surface.  Place 1/2 of the chocolate chips on top of the dough rectangle.  Place the second rectangle on top of the chips, then place the remaining 1/2 of the chocolate chips on top of this, and finally, cover the top with the last dough rectangle. You will have a pretty high mound of dough and chips (it's ok if chips fall out, you will collect them later).
6) Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll/pound the dough down to about 1- 1 1/2" thick.  Using a round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out cookies and place them on a plate covered with parchment paper.
Take the dough scraps and smoosh them together (at this point, I abandon the rolling pin and just use my hands).  Form another 1" thick dough piece and cut out more cookies, continue until there is enough dough left to smoosh into the center of the cookie cutter to form the last cookie.
7) Put the cut out cookies in the fridge for 1 hour (lightly covered with plastic wrap).  At this point, you can stick them in the freezer for about thirty minutes to begin freezing, and then transfer them to a freezer safe plastic bag for storage until you are ready to cook them.  (Note:  I have made them from the freezer, from the fridge after 1 hour, and impatiently right away after cutting them out.  I haven't noticed a huge difference in flavor immediately, but the leftovers the second day taste way better from the ones that have been refrigerated for 1 hour before baking.  If you do any type of research online for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, they all seem to stand by refrigerating the dough before cooking to maximize flavor - most are in there at least six hours).

8) After 1 hour, remove cookies from the fridge, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you like (and I do), sprinkle the tops with sea salt.  Bake in 375' oven for 15-20 minutes (until edges are golden and tops start to turn golden.  Try to let them cool before biting in.  If you are baking from the freezer, cook time will be 20-25 minutes, but let the color of the tops be your guide.

Source:  The Newlyweds Cookbook by Sarah Copeland via Tracey's Culinary Adventures
How did I do it?  The first time I made these, Dave was out of town on a business trip.  Since I was using the mixer, I didn't need to be fully paying attention.  I was adding ingredients to the mixer while I was making dinner for the kids.  When the dough was done, I took five minutes while they were drinking their milk to form the rectangles and get them in the fridge.  Then while they were in there for 30 minutes, I served dinner, did the dishes, and cleaned up the table.  While I was pounding out the cookies, a few kids were helping, and the others were reading books.  WHile the cookies were refrigerating for 1 hour, we did baths and jammies, then we got impatient and baked them after 30 minutes.  While they were baking, we read bedtime stories, then we ate them, brushed teeth, and they were off to bed so I could sneak a few more cookies.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

School Year Memory

It's hard for me to believe school is out for summer.  As I started to do when we lived in Japan, I took a photo of the kids on the first and last day of school in the same spot.  Here's what I got this year:
 Even though the next picture was taken on the last day of school, the moods were totally different and no one really wanted their picture taken.
We now have a first grade, second grade, and fourth grader- where does the time go?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homemade Photo Bookmarks

I can't believe it, but today is my son's last day of Kindergarten.  I am in shock that it is already June and that the school year has already zoomed by.  This was not only his first year of Kindergarten, but it was also his teacher's first year teaching.  I thought she did an excellent job and wanted to give her something nice as a thank you.

I saw the idea for these bookmarks online at Pink and Green Mama and Creative Family Moments.  I saw it again in Family Fun magazine, April 2012 issue, it was like a sign that I needed to make them.  For a gift, I thought it would be fun for his teacher to have this bookmark to remember him and also, we attached a gift card for Barnes and Noble.  Who wants a bookmark without a book?

While I was at Barnes and Noble, I checked out their bookmarks, which were upwards of $5 each!  This bookmark cost me 19 cents to make (cost of 1 hour print).  I plan on making a lot more of these for my kids for their own use, and maybe even for Father's Day, who wouldn't love to receive a unique homemade photo bookmark?

Here are some step by step instructions, in case you want to make your own.  Don't skip the tassles, I think they make the bookmark!

Take a photo of your child in a pose like they are hanging on- the morning I did this, my son was less than cooperative, so I didn't get a great pose:
Print it out, cut around the silhouette, laminate the photo, and cut out around the laminated image.  If you don't have a laminator, you can buy sticky laminating sheets, or use clear contact paper.  I had my son write his name and the year on the back before we laminated.  You can play with it for a while too:
1) Wrap embroidery floss around a notecard, about 20 times.
2) Insert another piece of embroidery floss, about 10-12 inches long through the wrapped floss.  I used ten inches because I wanted my tassle a little bit shorter.

3) Tie the ends of the long floss together in a double or triple know.  Trim the ends off.

4) For the wrapped floss, cut through the top of the loop.  Once you remove the notecard, trim the ends of the top of the tassle, so they are even.
5) Using a small piece of embroidery floss, about 4 inches long, loop around the bottom of the tassle and tie into a double knot.  Trim the ends of the floss off.  This will help keep the tassle ends together.

6) Punch a hole in the top of the laminated bookmark.  Pull the end of the floss loop through the hole.

7) Take the top of the tassle and thread it through the floss loop.  Pull tight and now your tassle is attached and your bookmark is complete!

Have fun hanging around all summer, reading!
Peek-a-boo, I can still see you!
Hooray for wonderful teachers!