American Flag-Inspired Cupcakes and Cookies

Hostess gifts idea:  Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. Wrap them in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

DIY Hostess gift idea: Bring dessert on a dish the hostess can keep. I bought these funky melamine dishes from SEED387. Wrap them in cellophane for a pretty presentation.

Hon, you know what I like about a holiday besides spending time with family and friends?

 The built-in theme!

One of my daughters and I had fun taking the American flag colors to the extreme.  We baked red, white and blue sugar cookies and cupcakes.  Click here for sugar cookie and Royal Icing recipes.  My daughter decorated with flags while I tried my hand at tie dye effects. I used a toothpick to “drag” two or three icing colors from the center out, then swirled with the toothpick to create a tie dye look.

Patriotic Cookies

Patriotic Cookies.

Tie Dye effect.

Tie Dye effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing.

Coloring on cookies.

Coloring on cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baking Day continued with red, white and blue cupcakes. 

We were inspired by Ziploc Bag’s Patriotic Piped Tri-Colored Cupcakes, but they turned out to be more challenging than they looked.  So, we abandoned our pastry bags and spooned the colored batter into baking cups.  The result?  Still patriotic, fun and delicious.

*Tip:  Wear plastic gloves because colored batter is messy and stains.

1.  Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

1. Start with boxed cake mix. Separate batter into three bowls.

2.  Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl vanilla.

2. Add red food coloring to one bowl of batter and blue to another, leaving the third bowl plain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3.  Transfer three bowls of batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored strips.

3. Spoon batter into three pastry bags (or Ziploc bags) OR skip this step and spoon colored batter into baking cups one at a time in colored stripes.

 

 

4.  Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags at all.

4. Seal pastry bags or Ziploc bags OR skip this step if not using bags.

 

 

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5.  Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

5. Tape bags together so batter can be piped at once OR skip this step.

 

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

Tri-colored cupcakes after baking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

6. Frost and decorate cupcakes. We used store-bought icing.

American Flag Fun!

American Flag Fun!

Stuffed Green Peppers

Stuffed Green Peppers

Stuffed Green Peppers

It all started with salad.

I was shopping for salad ingredients when bright green peppers caught my eye. I hadn’t cooked Stuffed Green Peppers in awhile and I don’t know why.  They’re easy to make, delicious and healthy. If you’re a vegetarian, substitute a beef alternative and I bet this dish will still be delish.  Next time, I might add more spices and golden raisins.  There was enough rice to serve as a side.  So yummy!

1. Cook rice and gather ingredients.

1. Cook rice and gather ingredients.

2. Cut and seed green peppers.

2. Cut and seed green peppers.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Mix ground beef (or beef substitute), egg, parsley and 2 T tomato sauce.

3. Mix ground beef (or beef substitute), egg, parsley and 2 T tomato sauce.

4. Stuff peppers with ground beef mixture.

4. Stuff peppers with ground beef mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Combine tomato sauce, wine, water and oregano.

5. Combine tomato sauce, wine, water and oregano.

6. Pour tomato sauce mixture over peppers.   Bake.

6. Pour tomato sauce mixture over peppers.
Bake.

 

 

Out of the oven.

Out of the oven.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Ingredients:

1 lb green peppers (I used 4), cut and seeded (pepper body is abt 3/4 & top is

1 lb lean ground beef (or beef substitute)

1 egg

1/2 cup cooked rice (I used brown rice)

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

3 Tablespoons dry red wine

1/2 teaspoon oregano, optional

1 cup water

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a baking dish, place green peppers, cut side up.

3.  Mix together ground beef, egg, rice, parsley and 2 Tablespoons tomato sauce.

4.  Stuff peppers with ground beef mixture.

5.  Combine remaining tomato sauce, water, wine and oregano and pour over peppers.

6.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour

 

Father’s Day in Pictures

My dad with "Baby A"

My dad with “Baby A”

Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day means family time.  Thanks to these dads for making a difference in my and my children’s lives.

Need Cool Ideas for Father’s Day?  My article was published in Highlights this week.

Have a great day, hon.

My son and Grandpa.

My son and my dad.

Hubby and son.

Hubby and our son.

Hubby and son.

Hubby and our son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family patriarch.

Family patriarch with his grandkids.

Another great dad.

Another great dad (and uncle.)

My uncle, aunt and Plus One.

My uncle, aunt and Plus One.

Hubby, my brother and niece and nephew.

Hubby, my brother and niece and nephew.

Hubby and our Plus One.

This is one of my favorite photos of Hubby!

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake c/o Ina Garten

Coconut Cake c/o Ina Garten

Satisfy your Sweettooth

I can’t take credit for baking this, but I can for eating it! One of my daughters found this recipe in Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.  I’m not usually a big fan of cream cheese icing (chocolate icing is another matter), but this icing was the perfect complement to the buttery, vanilla cake and coconut shavings. Guess what I’m in the mood for now?

Coconut Cake

Ingredients:

3/4 pounds (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing pans

2 cups granulated sugar

5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pans

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup milk

4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Icing Ingredients:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted

6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, then line them with parchment paper.  Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

2.  Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes,  until light yellow and fluffy. Crack eggs into a separate bowl one at a time, adding to butter/sugar mixture one at a time.  Mixing on medium speed also add vanilla and almond extracts.  If mixture looks curdled, don’t be concerned.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine (recipe says to sift together, but I don’t usually sift) flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  With mixer on low speed, alternately add dry ingredients and milk to batter in three parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

4.  Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife.  Bake in center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester (we use toothpicks) comes out clean.  Cool on baking racks for 30 minutes, then turn cakes out onto baking racks to finish cooling.

5.  Icing:  Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer again, combine cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed.  Add confectioner’s sugar and mix until just smooth (don’t whip!).

6.  To assemble, place one layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with icing.  Place second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides.  To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides.  Serve at room temperature.

Tip:  To make in advance, bake cakes and wrap well.  Refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Ice cakes before serving and serve at room temperature.

Want a piece?

Want a piece?

 

Bear Scare and Fox Fear

Such a silly girl!

I saw the bear.  

Or maybe he was only ONE of the bears that have been roaming my suburban New Jersey town. Either way, a big, black blur shot across my path while running in the South Mountain Reservation. My dog, Lucy, saw him first. That’s why she was straining at her leash.

At first, my brain said, “Big, black dog.  Very big.” I whipped my head around expecting to see a leash-weilding dog owner yelling, “Fido, get back here!” The man running in front of me turned around to face me. Did you see the bear?he asked. Oh, it wasn’t a dog!

Wow. So exciting! We both looked into the woods. The blur was gone. In seconds.

The young male bear (or bears) have been playing cat and mouse with the police. Some people are panicked; some are amused. Someone has started a Twitter account posing as the bear. I’m in the camp of, “Poor thing(s), they’re just trying to stake out their own territories.” Maybe I’m naive.   know bears can be dangerous, but I’m just not concerned.  Maybe because our suburban bear isn’t a mama.

Speaking of mamas, Hubby once found himself the object of a mama bear’s attention. In the middle of a golf course, looking up after planting a tee, a mama bear and her two cubs stood 30 feet away, staring him down. Hubby slowly walked backwards towards the golf cart, keeping an eye on the bears without looking actually looking at them. He said he took out the longest club in his golf bag. He and his golfing buddy decided to “keep the cart between us and them.”

The mama bear snorted and grunted, ambled to the edge of the course and scaled a tree faster than a monkey. Her cubs followed. Once the bears were hanging out in the upper branches, Hubby and his partner felt safe golfing. Not only did they discover why the course is named “Black Bear Golf Course,” they came away with good advice:  “Don’t ever climb a tree to escape a bear.”

As of two weeks ago, there are new “predators” in our town–foxes. Predator is in quotes because the only ones who should fear foxes are rodents, rabbits and birds. I don’t know if a fox would attack a small dog or cat, but otherwise sensible people are posting fox sightings daily. They are creating a FP (or Fairytale Panic)! The image of the fox as a villain may be deeply entrenched, but really!  If we didn’t have foxes, there would be so many bunnies, they’d start building bunny condos on top of their warrens. I have nothing against bunnies, by the way–and Watership Down in one of my all-time favorite books–but 1)this is the circle of life and 2)the foxes are doing what foxes do.

So, hats off to the bear who ran past me.

Maybe he was in a rush to get back to his cottage where he heard a girl named Goldilocks had eaten his porridge!

Lucy and Tucker cooling off in the Rahway River.

Lucy and Tucker cooling off in the Rahway River.

DIY Garden Clogs

DIY Garden Clogs

DIY Garden Clogs

I was about to throw away a pair of broken rainboots when “Garden Clogs” popped into my head. Hon, this is probably the easiest DIY project ever!

I keep my recycled rainboots by the door. Not only are they great for gardening, they’re handy for grabbing the morning paper, wearing in the rain and walking the dog. If they get muddy, I just rinse them off.  Voila–they’re good as new!

You’ll need:

–broken rainboots

–scissors

–optional:  Sharpie and ruler

Instructions:

Cut broken rainboots below their break.  If you want to get fancy, measure and mark where to cut.  I didn’t.

Broken rainboots, front view.

Broken rainboots, front view.

Broken rainboots, back view.

Broken rainboots, back view.

Cut boots below the break.

Cut boots below the break.

IMG_7577IMG_7569IMG_7579

 

 

 

 

Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade Potato Chips.

Homemade Potato Chips.

Grilling Season’s Here!

I don’t like potato chips. Plain, I mean. If they’re covered in sour cream & onion or salt & vinegar flavoring, then I could munch away until I practically pay someone to remove them from my sight! So, I have no idea why homemade potato chips entered my “dinner brain” and wouldn’t go away until I made them.  These were delicious! For those friends of mine (you know who  you are) worried about cooking in oil/”it’s not good for you”/”why would I promote these as healthy,” CHILLAX!

I promise not to make these more than a few times the whole summer.

The only flavoring on these is a bit of salt.

I believe when a recipe has less ingredients than fingers on a hand, and those ingredients are not made of chemicals, then the result can be called healthy or a healthy alternative.

So there!

1.  Peel potatoes and set up food processor with slicing disk.

1. Peel potatoes and set up food processor with slicing disk.

 

2.  Slice potatoes.

2. Slice potatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Add potato slices to preheated olive oil.

3. Add potato slices to preheated olive oil.

4.  Fry potato slices until golden.  Drain on paper towels after removing from frying pan.

4. Fry potato slices until golden. Drain on paper towels after removing from frying pan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serve.

Serve.

Homemade Potato Chips

Ingredients:

Potatoes–I used Russet potatoes, quantity depends on how many people you are serving and size of potatoes, I used 4 medium potatoes for 3 people.

Olive Oil–for frying, the oil was so clean that I collected it to use again.

Salt–to taste

Other Spices–optional

Directions:

1.  Peel potatoes and slice in a food processor.

2.  Heat olive oil in pan until its hot.

3.  Fry potatoes in oil until golden brown, turning to cook both sides.

4.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle salt to taste.  (If using other spices, sprinkle now.)

5.  Serve and enjoy!

Memorial Day 2015

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Memorial Day 2015

This is a post from 2013 with a few additions.

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One of the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools in Manhattan.

One of the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools in Manhattan. 

In 2005, my brother took my almost twelve-year old son to Washington D.C.  I came across these photos of their day together.  My son is in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for the United Stated Army while he studies at a university.

the Capital

United States Capitol

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Statue

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Statue

military helicopter

military helicopter

My son with proud dad and sister.

Proud dad and sister at an Army function.

Me and my son.

2015:  Me and my son.

Highlights Parents Memorial Day Ideas

Me, Hubby and two daughters. Lucy looks winded from our walk along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Me, Hubby and two daughters. Lucy looks winded from our walk along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Top Ten (plus One) Ideas of What to Do Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is coming up and I have ideas of what to do.  Eleven, in fact.  Here’s a link to  my 1st article published in Highlights Parents online magazine titled 11 Crazy-Fun Ideas to Make Memorial Day Weekend Special.

Have a nice holiday, hon!

Delicious Fish Dish (and Tartar Sauce)

Baked Cod with Steamed Green Beans.

Baked Cod with Steamed Green Beans.

We recently had dinner at Chez Oskar in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I ordered fluke baked with rice and veggies in parchment paper. The dish was so delicious, I tried to replicate it at home. Hon, this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe, which means there aren’t exact measurements. The good news:  you don’t need exact quantities to make this healthy Delicious Fish Dish.

Happy cooking!

Step 1.  Wash fish and pat dry.

1. Wash fish and pat dry.

2.  Gather ingredients:  rice, sauteed veggies, spices, parchment paper.

2. Gather ingredients: rice, sauteed veggies, spices, parchment paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Line glass baking dish with large pieced of parchment paper. Spread rice and veggies on top.

3. Line glass baking dish with large piece of parchment paper. Spread rice and veggies on top.

4. Lay fish on top of rice and veggies.

4. Lay fish on top of rice and veggies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Add a bit of butter, a few capfuls of lemon juice, maybe some white wine and parsley.

5. Add a bit of butter, a few capfuls of lemon juice, maybe some white wine and parsley.

6. Wrap fish in parchment paper.  Bake

6. Wrap fish in parchment paper. Bake.

7. Carefully open parchment, allowing steam to escape.

7. Carefully open parchment paper, allowing steam to escape.

Serve fish directly from parchment paper.

8. Serve fish directly from parchment paper.

Delicious Fish Dish

Ingredients:

Fish Fillet–I used a little under 2 pounds of cod in the dish above.  I might try this with tilapia and sea bass, but I’m not sure about flounder or sole which are much thinner.

Rice and Veggies–Cooked rice and steamed or sauteed vegetables. (any rice and whatever veggies you think will go with the fish)

Spices–salt, pepper, ground Sage, Herbs de Provence, parsley or spices you like.

Lemon Juice, Butter and White Wine–I didn’t use white wine in the dish above, but next time I will.

Parchment Paper–enough to wrap fish in

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  (Start at 400 degrees if fish is thick, like cod, tilapia or sea bass, lowering to 350 after about 15 minutes. If fish is thin, bake at 350 degrees F the whole time.)

1.  Pre-cook rice, and steam or saute vegetables.

2.  Wash fish fillet and pat dry.

3.  Line a glass baking pan with parchment paper, making sure the piece you use is big enough to fold over the fish.

4.  Spread rice and veggies on top of parchment paper, sprinkling with desired spices.

5.  Lay fish over rice and veggies.  Sprinkle remaining spices, small scoops of butter (about 1-2 teaspoons a scoop), a few capfuls of lemon juice, and white wine (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup) on top of fish.

6.  Fold parchment paper up and over fish lengthwise, then fold ends.

7.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Lower oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about another 20 to 25 minutes.  Check fish for done-ness and bake longer if necessary.

8.  When done baking, open parchment paper carefully to let steam escape.  Fish will be very hot. Serve directly from parchment paper.

Note:  I started cod at 400 degrees because it’s thick. If you use a thinner fish, then I recommend baking it at 350 degrees F the whole time.)

Tartar Sauce

Here’s how I make quick and easy Tartar Sauce:

Combine approximately 4 Tablespoons of mayonnaise with  2-3 Tablespoons relish, Sprinkle paprika.  Mix and serve.  (Yield–about 2)