Wednesday, December 29, 2010

King for a Day

Remember when you were a kid and your birthday would come around and you would be so excited? It was your birthday, the whole day was about you, your day, no one else's, you were the king. AAAhhhhhh, the glory of it all!

My favorite part of my birthday was, I bet you all are thinking I am going to say the gifts, right? WRONG!!! It was the cake. I love birthday cakes. I really do. More often than not, my mom would make our birthday cakes. It was usually a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and if you were lucky, you would get those sugar letters that would spell out Happy Birthday on the top. My mom was good at these cakes and I loved them. She would put them into her Tupperware cake holder. I think I may still have it somewhere around here. That cake holder still reminds me of birthday cakes.

I do remember a birthday party where my mom ordered a cake for me from Fleckenstien's Bakery, the best whipped cream frosting anywhere, and it was decorated with Strawberry Shortcake on the top. It was gorgeous! If I remember correctly it was a round layered cake, so it was tall, and it had a beautifully drawn, none of those crappy sugar transfers they have nowadays, Strawberry Shortcake on the top. The gel drawing was just perfect and it was super cute. Just what any little girl in the 80's would have wanted and I just loved it. LOVED IT! It came time to sing and cut the cake. Song, check. Candles blown out, check. Everyone crowded around the dining room table waiting for their slice of heaven, check. My mom getting ready to slice the cake, wait, not so fast, no check. At that moment, my mom did something that remains burned in my memory to this day. My mother, on my birthday, during my excitement, my day,  took that huge knife and plunged it into Strawberry Shortcakes heart. Now, I know you are thinking that she was just cutting the cake. NO, this was no normal let's cut the cake. This was a full on slaying. You would have thought she just stabbed my best friend. Instant tears and screaming. What did she do??? How could she do that??? Well, my mother not only did that, she laughed too! Her laughter only enraged me more. More crying and now came anger. I was mad, no, I was pissed. 

I look back at things like this in my life and think, she was teaching me a lesson. What a lesson that was. My mom totally thought that would be funny, little did she know that it broke my heart. The lesson I learned on that day was that I will never do that to my kids, even though I have already done some things to them that they will someday think were a lesson much like this.

This lesson brings me to Logen's 5th Birthday cupcakes. My birthday is in the summer, so I never had the opportunity to bring treats to school on my birthday. I admit, I feel a little cheated, but I'm over it. Logen had to bring treats to celebrate his birthday with his class. Normal treat days the teachers ask that you bring in a snack, that is relatively clean, and drinks for the class, but on your birthday treat day you are allowed to bring in cupcakes or something of the sort. Messes are allowed on your birthday. You are the king remember?

Any 5 year old boy's dream cakes.
Logen, true to himself, chooses worm cupcakes. Not warm, noooooo, you read it right, worm cupcakes. Since he was so excited to be the birthday treat friend, remember king for a day, and my internal scaring still left from the slaying that Strawberry Shortcake took in the mid 80's, I made worm cupcakes.

Here is what I did:
1 Chocolate Box Cake-Logen's request
1 Can of Chocolate Frosting-Logen's request
1/2 a package of Oreo cookies
Gummi Worms
1 drinking straw

Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the box.

Remove them from the pans and let them completely cool.

Dirty dirty dirt cakes, just perfect for worms.
Grind up the oreo's really fine in a food processor. This is what makes the dirt for the worms.

Frost each cupcake, immediately sprinkling each one with the oreo dirt. Now, don't frost them all and then put dirt on them all. That will NOT work because the frosting on the first ones will be dry by the time you get to the dirt. Do them one at a time. Frost one, dirt. Frost the next, dirt and so on.

Once they are all frosted and covered in the dirt, take your straw and poke a hole into the top of the cupcake where you would like to have a worm crawling out, pull out the straw and stick in the worm. Repeat for all worms. We did two for each cake, but there easily could have been three.

That's it! Done! Worm Cupcakes.
Slightly time consuming, but the smile on my boy's face let me know that he really felt like he was the king for that day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Frosting Shortage Reported in Frankfort

Frosting shortage reported in Frankfort.
Family denies any involvement.
Christmas, in all of its hectic glory, is my favorite time of the year. I love it, all of it, starting right from the day after Thanksgiving, where we have traditionally been cutting down our own tree since I can remember getting a tree. My dad would pack us up into the car, usually bundled up in our snow suits, boots, gloves, the whole nine yards, and we would make the trip to Wilmington. Tannenberry Tree farm our destination, giddy with excitement for the start of the Christmas season. What kid doesn't love the anticipation of Christmas and the hopes of the tree flying off the roof of the car on the way home? I know I secretly prayed for it to happen many a time. Please, please let it fly off, just this once, just so I can see what will happen. It almost happened once, shifting from side to side, flapping in the wind. We pulled over and my dad really got it tied down. Damn, no flying tree this year and we were sooooo close.  I remember another year, it could easily have been the year after the close call, where my dad tied the tree onto the roof so good that we couldn't open the doors to get in the car. Yes, he tied the rope through the windows before we got in. It was awesome. I sit here giggling to myself with this wonderful memory of all of us climbing into the car through the hatch back. Thank God for hatch backs! Another one I will never forget is when he got the car stuck in the mud, got out to push and put my sister, yes, my little sister in charge of giving it gas when he said to. (I am in full hysterics right now typing.) I must ask, what grown man puts a maybe 10 or 12 year old in charge of giving a stuck in the mud car gas? Yes, my father. Needless to say, he said gas and she gunned it. Imagine (hysterical tears laughing and typing) my father, pushing with all his might, my sister in the front seat with the petal to the metal, one final word, mud. Yes, mud flew off the spinning tires with such force that my father was covered head to toe in pure mud. This scene in my memory puts any comedy movie to shame. I just need to take this moment and thank my dad for all of these wonderful Christmas tree hunting memories that I will absolutely cherish forever. Dad, since you don't have a computer and most likely will never own one, you will probably never read this, but thank you. Thank you for this wonderful tradition that I now share with my own children. Hopefully someday they too will have these memories to cherish forever.

We would bring our tree home with such excitement and show it to my mom and she would say how nice it was and then we would put it up in the tree stand that she has had since childhood. I secretly, well not so secretly now, pray that she passes that thing down to me someday. We would put all of our ornaments on that tree. Tons of them. I loved it. The gaudier the better. Imagine that, me liking gaudy. Hmmm. Back to the Christmas stories. There are so many things I remember from my childhood about Christmas.

The caroling mice that my great aunts made, that hung from the curling ribbon my mom tied to them, to the box from Philly that they would send, packed with the BEST cookies ever and the hand knitted gifts, many of which my children now use and wear, and other trinkets. The arrival of that box on our doorstep was such an excitement and even though we would get to eat the cookies right away, we always had to wait until Christmas morning to open the gifts they sent.

The smell of the log cabin incense burner, the plastic holly wreath, the decorations hanging in the half wall, the fantastic hand knitted stockings, that I wish I had for my family now, that came from my aunts in Philly, the train that my mom had from under her childhood Christmas tree, you could put in tablets to make smoke from the engine and the log car would actually throw the logs, the way it would spark when it went off the track and the burning electric smell the conductor handles would make when it was getting hot, the lights my mom would hang in our windows, the manger we would set up on the round table in the corner, just everything! I loved it all and still do. Call me sentimental, but what better time than Christmas for sentimental feelings?

I want my children to have these same wonderful memories of all of the fun and excitement and wonder of Christmas, which leads me to baking. I still remember getting to smash the potato chips for the potato chip cookies or helping stir in chocolate chips and begging for dough, so I thought it would be nice to decorate cookies with my kids.

Take that Martha!
I am going to admit to the truth right now. I am not even going to try and pass these cookies off as mine because they are not. I bought them. Yes, me, the baker, bought cookies to decorate. Now, before anyone gets all up on their high horse, they did need to be baked, which I did wonderfully. I am a firm believer that if you put them on the tray and put them in the oven, then by God, you made them.  The hard part was just done for me. You know the rolling and cutting out of the dough. Yeah, that is a step I will admit that I HATE! So when I was shopping and saw these wonderful little cut outs it was like a glorious light came down from heaven and in the spirit of Christmas, the angels sang. AAAAAHHHHHH! There they were, so I bought them, put them on the cookie sheets and baked them and I don't feel one ounce of guilt about it, so there.

Here is what we did:
Little Taste Tester hard at work.

So much frosting,
so little time.
Construction Zone
Jasen after I told him he
wasn't doing it right.
Proud of his
hard work.
Who needs spirit fingers
when you have sprinkle
Its got me... the frosting...
...I can't fight it... yourselves!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gettin Dippy Wit It

Christmas is a time for dips. Everyone loves a good dip and when you find a new dip, you just have to have it and the recipe.

This got me thinking. Yes I had time for thinking this morning, you know, in between getting breakfast, clothes for gymnastics and a cup of coffee for myself. GASP, something for myself! Anyway, I should warn you my best ideas usually come to me when I am in the bathroom. Yeah I know, gross, but for a mommy of two wild kids, that 30 seconds in the bathroom, usually less due to banging on the door, is my quiet time. Sad, but true. Back to my idea, dips.

My grand idea this morning is to post my favorite dips. The ones I love and the ones that others call, email and text to get the recipes for. Now we can all get dippy wit it!

Buffalo Chicken Dip-I make this all the time because men scarf it and it is so simple!
2-10oz. cans of chunk chicken, drained
2-8oz. packs of cream cheese (Thank you God for cream cheese) soft
1 cup of Ranch Dressing
3/4 cup of Louisiana Hot Sauce, now, if you like it zippier, do a full cup, if you aren't the zippy dip type, do 1/2 cup or less. This is what brings the heat to this dip, so play with it to fit your tastes!
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar, I like the skinny shreds, they melt better

Heat the chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat. Break up the chunks of chicken while cooking. Stir in cream cheese until melted and creamy, then add the ranch dressing and keep stirring until it is well mixed. Mix in half of the shredded cheddar and mix until that melts too. THAT'S IT! Believe it or not, that is it! Transfer dip to a mini crock pot or to a microwave safe dish and top with remaining shredded cheddar. Serve with celery sticks or tortilla chips. It's awesome. Jasen's favorite!

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
The beginning of
a Pink Christmas.

I know this isn't a dip, but it is an appetizer and it is damn good. This recipe comes to us from Auntie Janice, the jello queen. Boy, I hope she made these for today's pink Christmas.

1 pound of bacon
2 cans of whole water chestnuts
2/3 cup of ketchup
1 cup of sugar

Wrap half a piece of bacon around each water chestnut and stab with a toothpick to hold it all together. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake one hour at 325. Drain off the grease and reline pan with foil.

To make the sauce, mix the ketchup and sugar, well. Spoon the sauce over each piece and place back onto the cookie sheet. Be careful not to get the sauce all over the toothpicks. Bake 30 more minutes and eat hot. YUM! These are another huge crowd pleaser. If you are smart, you will save some for yourself before you put them out for your guests or you won't get any.

Vidalia Onion Dip
2 cups of mayo, I use the only one I use, ever, Helman's1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese, if you can find an Italian blend of shredded cheese, get that, it's better
1 large Vidalia Onion, coarsely chopped, or if you have already gotten the Vidalia Chop Wizard, like I keep telling you too, use the big squares

Mix all ingredients together. Spread into a 8" baking dish. Bake 30 minutes at 375, until hot and golden. Serve with crackers. Again, could it get any easier. When you have to bring something to a party, offer this. They will love it.

Popper Dip
Dena just called for this one. Here you go popper fans.
2 packages of soft cream cheese
4oz of diced jalapenos
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar
1 cup of mayo
4oz. chopped green chilies
1 loaf of sour dough bread

Combine everything. Really people, the only way I could make this easier for you is for me to do it and bring it to your house and the answer is no, I will not be there to bring it, so just do it.
Hollow out the bread like a bowl, fill with the dip and bake at 350 for 30 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Blue Cheese Ball
2 packages of soft cream cheese
1 cup of crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup of minced onion
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
couple shakes of garlic powder, NOT garlic salt

Stir all ingredients. Is anyone seeing a trend here? Quick and easy, just like me.
Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, form into a ball. Serve with crackers.

LoraAnn's Cheese Ball
I got this one from a lady at work that brings this in as a treat for the office and word travels fast and if you are not in there quick, you don't get any dip.

2 packages of soft cream cheese
2 Tbs minced onion, can be the dried kind
4 Tbs Miracle Whip, NOT mayo, for once, not mayo
2 pkgs of Budding beef, diced up fine
You can also add a couple shakes of garlic powder and a LITTLE Worcestershire sauce too.

Mix everything at once. Serve with crackers or chips.