Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Karl!

A few months back, my cousin, Claudine, threw out the idea of having a suprise 40th birthday party for her husband, my cousin, Karl.  It was pretty quickly decided that it would be "beer" themed, since Karl does enjoy his brew!  I knew that I had to make my favorite Car Bomb Cupcakes, which I've posted on here a few times.  After that was decided, I searched the interwebs for a good idea for the cake.  I found something fun that I wanted to try, and here are the results.

The cake was made with four 8 inch round cake pans.  I used Martha's One-Bowl Chocolate Cake recipe.  I used her fluffy vanilla icing recipe for the yellow base and her swiss meringue buttercream for the "foam". I covered a foam twist tie in plastic wrap and then fondant and shoved it into the side of the cake. 

The "beer" was made by caramelizing sugar and pouring it over a dowl and twisting.  I will admit that this was the hardest part.  I've never made candy before, and we really burnt the first batch.  Matt helped me figure it out after a lot of googling!

Jack was my baking helper that morning!

I wanted to give the "beer" a golden color to match the Fat Tire Beer that Karl loves so much, and Matt found this gold shimmer sugar in our pantry, and we added a little to the caramel mixture.  I think it added a nice sheen to the the "beer."

There was a lot of talk about how to cut the cake, but my dad figured it out.  My sister in law makes this recipe all the time, and it is always fantastic, so I thought I'd try out that recipe.  It tasted different than hers, but still delicious. 

Holly helped her daddy blow out the candles. 

Happy Birthday, Karl.  We love you!!!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My dad's birthday was on Thursday, and we celebrated on Friday  at my brother Johnny's.  Johnny put out a great spread for dinner, and I thought I'd make a yummy but simple pound cake.  I started with Martha's Classic Pound cake recipe, and added a swirl of raspberry reduction. I need to work on my swirl technique.  I then added some of the reduction on top of the cake and added a simple raspberry flavored glaze on top of that.  It didn't look very pretty, but I thought it tasted great.  Very moist and dense. 

Happy Birthday, Dad.  We love you!!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The Eagles first regular season game was today, and Matt invited his dad and brother over to watch the game.  After searching through some magazines, cookbooks, and blogs, we came up with a menu that sounded delicious but simple.  I'm really enjoying trying out new recipes lately, but Matt also made a request for something I only made a week ago....Cream of Mango Soup.  I didn't snap a pic, but I'm sure you remember it from last week...

Next, Matt found a recipe for Parmesan Potato Skin Chips on  He had me at Parmesan...These were really delicious.  Much lighter than traditional potato skins.

What is a football game without wings?  We decided to try to switch it up a little, and found a recipe for Sweet & Sour Chicken Wings in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine.  Matt said that these were pretty good...I'll take his word for it.

We also wanted to make something as a "main" dish.  Flipping through my cookbooks, I found a recipe for Individual Chicken Potpies from my Newlyweds Cookbook (give to me by our friends, Maureen & Andy, for our engagement.  Funny enough, they had their second little girl today, Hadley Ann!)  The recipe suggests cutting out monograms for the potpies, but I found a cookie cutter in the shape of an Eagle...usually, I make the desserts themed, but today, even the main course was themed!  I was suprised at how easy this was to make.  The recipe actually yeilded six of these, but I froze two for a future dinner for Matt and I...

For dessert, I wanted to use up the Hazelnuts that I had bought the previous week for the Gooey Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakesMartha Stewart's Baking Handbook had a recipe for Hazelnut Chocolate Biscotti.  My father is the king of biscotti making, and I've been nervous to try making my own because I knew they wouldn't be as good as his.   I figured this recipe might be the way to go since they are a different flavor than he usually makes.  As good as these were, they weren't my dad's....

Overall, the meal was delicious, and the Eagles won. 

Finally, I want to say thank you to all of those who serve and have served our country and protect us on a daily basis, epecially...

My brother, Jimmy
My sister-in-law, Abby
My brother-in-law, Louis
My cousin-in-law, Jon
My friend, Mike

Also, to all of the firemen who run in burning buildings when everyone else is running out, especially my father, Chief John McGrath.

We will never forget...9.11.01

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes and Orange Cupcakes

This weekend, we went from having no plans at all to being booked!  We were invited to a BBQ at a friend's house, and I was asked to bring cupcakes.  I wanted to make something different but delicious.  I recieved two new cupcake cookbooks from my godmother for my birthday, and I thought I'd flip through them looking for something interesting. 

I have been craving freshly squeezed and zested citrus lately (if you couldn't tell from my previous post), and when I saw a recipe for Orange Cupcakes with Orange Blossom Buttercream Frosting, I knew I hit the jackpot. 


For some reason the batter seemed to have exploded in the oven.  Not sure why they came out looking so funky.

I used my new Cricut Cutter to cut out little flowers and leaves.  So easy, and I think they came out adorable.  Can you see the little specs of orange zest in the frosting? 

The next recipe jumped off the page when I read the word hazelnut.  I have been craving Nutella lately! 

I wasn't sure where to find hazelnuts, but the very nice guy in Whole Foods helped me find them.  Gotta love the service there, even if the parking lot is ALWAYS a nightmare!

After making the simple batter, you add a dollop of Nutella in the center of the cupcake.

The icing was basically a hazelnut ganache.  So.Freaking.Delicious. I decorated them simply with some chopped hazelnuts. 

The center was very fudgy.  Yum.

I wanted to make a cute presentation for my friends, so I grabbed two Janie & Jack boxes.  They have adorable gift boxes that I try to swipe every time I'm in that store.

I wrapped the boxes with a simple ribbon and added one of my personalized seals.

Mike and Dave's daughter, Abby, enjoyed hers...well at least one bite before she was off to play!

Look at those curls!!

Thanks, Mike and Dave, for a wonderful afternoon!

p.s.  We are also heading up to see Matt's aunt, and Luke's godmother, tomorrow in Long Island, and we are taking the other half a batch.  Two stone :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lunch date....

Matt's Uncle Rich was in this week visiting from Florida, so we invited him for lunch today to meet Luke.  Coincidentally, a friend of his, Sr. Christine, was also in town, so we invited her, too.  It was nice to see them both, and Luke was an angel.  I wanted to make something light but delicious, so I searched through some old cookbooks and blogs and came up with the following menu...

I added some shaved parmesan to this and it was FANTASTIC.  My sister-in-law topped pizza with a similar recipe a few months back, and it was amazing.  Try it.  Immediately.

In an effort to make this a little healthier, I swapped out the sugar for Splenda.  Also, the mangos at the market didn't look quite ripe, so I found a bag of frozen mangos at Trader Joe's.  It actually cut out a lot of time with cutting the mangos myself, and I don't think it affected the flavor at all.  This was sweet and perfect.  In fact, Matt polished off the leftovers as soon as our guests left!  I tried to be fancy and swirl in a cream heart....

This may be one of my favorite recipes.  I LOVE cucumber sandwhiches and stumbled upon this recipe a few years ago.  It is simple and delicious, and if it weren't for the fact that cream cheese and mayo are not the healthiest things in the world, I'd make this every day for lunch! 

Start by scoring a cucumber with a fork.

Then slice them into thin rounds and soak them in water and apple cider vinegar.

Then mix cream cheese, mayo, worcestershire sauce, onion salt, and garlic powder together and spread on whatever bread you like best.  I used a Canadian white bread from Trader Joe's.   The recipe doesn't call for this but I like to add a few shakes of dill weed, then layer on the cucumbers. 

Cut off the crusts then sprinkle with paprika, and you are ready to go.  Yum!

For dessert, I wanted to put out some fruit and cookies to just keep it simple.  I flipped through my Martha Stewart Cookies Cookbook and found these little jems.  They sounded light and summery, and since its the unofficial last weekend of summer, I went for it.   These were suprisingly easy to make.

Something about fresh lime zest that screams summer to me!

No eggs in this recipe, so I felt free to try out the dough :)

Martha had the suggestion of using a roller to help roll out a log from the dough.  I thought she was nuts, but it did work...

After baking for about 13 minutes, you let them cool slightly then toss in confectioners sugar. 

These cookies are named perfectly.  They melt in your mouth! 

Something about a nicely set table that just makes me smile :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Matt!

For Matt's 31st birthday,  I tried out my new Cricut Cake!

This thing is very cool, but it definitely has a learning curve.  It took me awhile to get the hang of it, but I think once I get used to it, I will be able to make some pretty cute things. 

The Saturday before Matt's birthday, we drove to Allentown to visit with his grandfather who is in from Puerto Rico.  Luke got to meet his great grandfather for the first time!  It was a great day, and I made Matt's favorite cake...vanilla cake with vanilla bean frosting.  I'm not sure what I did with the recipe, but the cake was a little dry.  The icing was fantastic, though.  Soooo buttery and smooth! 

The directions for the Cricut say that gumpaste works best, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I think I like it a little better than fondant, but again, I need some practice with it. 

Some of the more intricate designs need to be cut out at larger sizes...

This was Matt's first birthday cake that said, "Daddy." 

He was extremely happy when Luke helped him blow out his candles. 

Happy 31st birthday, Matt.  Luke and I love you so much!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jedi Jack!

Happy 4th Birthday, Jack!

Our godson, Jack, loves himself some Star Wars, which is why he was thrilled when we named our son, Luke.  When Jack walked into the room just a few hours after was Luke was born, the first thing he asked was, "Is he going to be a Jedi?"  Needless to say, his fourth birthday was Star Wars themed.  Again, Matt came up with a pretty neat idea for his cake...a Death Star!  This time, even my dad got involved.  He helped me roll out fondant and even designed the rivets in the bottom of the cake. 

Matt was super excited to buy Jack a Darth Vader helmet.  It actually is a voice changer as well.  Matt had fun saying, "Luke...I am your father!" over and over again.  Unfortunately, with Jack's skinny legs, he ends up looking a little more like
Dark Helmet from Spaceballs. 

Even Luke got in on the action with a teeny tiny Star Wars onesie. 

Happy 4th Birthday, Jedi Jack!  May the Force be with you!!!