Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dark Chocolate & Cherry Oatmeal (Lactation) Cookies

Don't be scared by the word lactation.  There is no breastmilk in these cookies and if you aren't nursing, I promise they won't make you start producing milk.  Josh and Jake have both happily eaten these and I'm still the only one who can nurse Luke, though I wish they could at 3 in the morning.

I originally set out to make some lactation cookies because I saw a slight dip in my milk supply and honestly, I'll take any excuse to make cookies.  The good news is, these are actually just really delicious cookies with a happy bonus that they help boost lactation so you can make up a batch for your family and no one will be the wiser.

I found this recipe for lactation cookies but decided to make mine a little more satisfying by changing the chocolate chips to chopped dark chocolate and adding in some dried sweet cherries, yum!  I also used white whole wheat flour to make them healthy.  In case you didn't know, if you use whole wheat flour and antioxidant rich dark chocolate your cookies are practically health food.  Just ignore the sugar and butter part.  My logic works, just go with it. ;)

Start out like most cookie recipes, by creaming together some butter and sugar (equal parts white and brown).

Beat in a couple of eggs and some vanilla.  Then add in some flax you have had sitting in water for a few minutes.  Add some flour, baking soda, and salt to your butter mixture and mix it all together.  The original recipe called for sifting the dry ingredients together first but I was baby wearing (and I'm lazy) so I just dumped it all in.  I'm not sure how they would have been if I sifted them but I didn't notice any ill effects from skipping that step.

Chop up some dark chocolate and some dried sweet cherries.  (These would be really good with tart cherries too if you prefer the contrast of sweet and tart.)  Then add those in along with 3 whopping cups of oats (not quick oats).  Stir it all together and you are ready to go.

Scoop the cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  Leave on cookie sheet for about 2 more minutes and then finish cooling on a cooling rack.

This makes a LOT of cookies, like almost 5 dozen.  So... I only baked up a little less than 2 dozen.  Look at that delicious melty chocolate with those rich dark cherries nestled inside these chewy oatmeal lovelies.

I froze the rest of the dough by scooping it out onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Once the dough was frozen I transferred them to a container.  Now whenever my supply starts to dip, or I just want a really delicious oatmeal cookie, I can pull a couple out of the freezer and have freshly baked cookies in under 15 minutes with no dishes.  Yay!

For any of you nursing mamas out there, do you have any other tricks for boosting your supply?

Dark Chocolate & Cherry Oatmeal (Lactation) Cookies
Adapted from Noel Trujillo's Lactation Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 4 tbls. water
  • 2 tbls. flax meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup  brewer's yeast
  • 3 cups oats
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup dried cherries, chopped
  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. In a small bowl combine the water and flax meal and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add in eggs and beat until combined.
  5. Pour in flax and water mixture and vanilla and beat well.
  6. Add in flour, baking soda, salt, and brewer's yeast and mix until combined. 
  7. Stir in oats, chocolate, and cherries.  The dough will be very sticky.
  8. Use a cookie scoop to scoop dough about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. 
  9. Let cool on cookie sheet for about 2 minutes then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
I'm linking up with  Thrifty Thursday, Pin Junkie, Best of the Weekend, Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Mix It Up Monday, Inspiration Monday, Mad Skills Party, Busy MondayMonday Funday, Two Cup Tuesdays Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesdays, Wednesday Whatsits, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Create It Thursday, and Moonlight & Mason Jars.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bacon & Chicken Skillet Mac and Cheese

If you've been reading my blog, you can probably tell that I really LOVE cheese.  I also follow the adage that bacon makes everything better so when I saw this bacon cheddar at Trader Joe's the other day, I had to buy it.

Since the weather has finally cooled off, I immediately knew what I wanted to make with it, bacon mac and cheese.  Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.  It combines pasta (my first love) with cheese.  Add in a little bacon and you have heaven on a plate.  Because a girl can't live on pasta and cheese alone, I added in some rotisserie chicken.

Start out by cooking up a pound of pasta (keep it al dente) and grating up a bunch of cheese.  The bacon cheddar is pretty mild so I decided to add in a little sharp cheddar as well to bump up the flavor.  I used about 2/3 bacon cheddar and 1/3 sharp cheddar. 

In a large oven-safe skillet melt some butter, then whisk in an equal amount of flour and some dry mustard and cook for about 3 minutes, or until it turns golden.  Whisk in the milk (I used skim) and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until it thickens a little bit.

Add in the sharp cheddar and all but a cup of the bacon cheddar, whisking until it is melted.  Stir in a little white pepper. I also added some Emeril's Original Essence to amplify the smoky flavor from the bacon cheddar.

Put the pasta and chicken in the skillet and stir until it is all coated.  Sprinkle the top with about 1/2 a cup of panko breadcrumbs and the reserved cup of bacon cheddar.

Then put that cheesy goodness under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the panko topping is slightly golden.

Bacon & Chicken Skillet Mac and Cheese
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 3 tbls. butter
  • 3 tbls. flour
  • 2 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 10 oz. bacon cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. Emeril's Original Essence (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup panko
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.  Set aside.
  2. In a large, oven-safe skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add in flour and dried mustard and whisk until light golden in color, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and continue to cook for about 3 more minutes or until it starts to thicken slightly, then add in the white pepper and Emeril's Essence if using.
  4. Stir in the sharp cheddar and all but 1 cup of the bacon cheddar until melted.  
  5. Add chicken and pasta to the skillet and stir until the cheese sauce has coated it all.
  6. Top with remaining bacon cheddar and panko.
  7. Put under broiler for about 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the panko is slightly golden.

I'm linking up with Retro Repin, Mix It Up Monday, Inspiration Monday, Mad Skills Party, Busy MondayMonday Funday, Two Cup Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Made By Me, Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Pin It Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Pin JunkieCreate It Thursday, Best of the Weekend, Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, and Strut Your Stuff Saturday.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Bars

If you've been reading my blog for the past few months then you know that I had to give up peanut butter for the last few months of my pregnancy.  For some of you that may not sound like much of a hardship, but for me it was really, really hard.

Now that peanut butter can be a part of my life again, I knew I wanted to make something over-the-top peanut buttery to celebrate.  These bars were inspired by the Pioneer Woman's Knock You Naked Brownies.  Instead of making brownies, I made my favorite peanut butter cookie dough.

Once the dough is mixed up, spread half of it in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake it for 10 minutes at 375.  Then set it aside.

To maximize the peanut butter flavor I combined peanut butter with an equal amount of salted caramel and melted it in the microwave until it was pourable.  I used the Trader Joe's fleur de sel caramel sauce.  You can make your own caramel or use any good caramel, but don't use the caramel flavored ice cream topping.  It's too thin.  All I can say about this peanut butter caramel is DO THIS!  Greatest. Idea. Ever.

Pour the peanut butter caramel over the par-baked cookie dough and spread it around leaving a small amount around the edge with no caramel to keep it easy to get out of the pan.  Then sprinkle on about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Take the other half of the cookie dough and use your hands to flatten it out and put it all over the top.  I just did a little bit at a time and pieced it together like a puzzle.  If it doesn't completely cover, don't worry about it.  The dough will spread out when it bakes.

Put it back in the oven and continue to bake for about 20 minutes more.  Then put the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.  These are very gooey so if you don't let them cool you will need a spoon to scoop them out (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

These peanut butter chocolate chip and peanut butter caramel cookie bars may be a mouthful to say, but they are an over-the-top, rich, peanut buttery treat.  You will definitely want a glass of milk with these.  They were everything I had been missing and really hit the spot.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Bars

For the cookie dough:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  2 eggs
  • 1 tbls. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
For the center layer:
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup salted caramel  
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 and spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Beat butter and peanut butter in stand mixer (or use a bowl and hand mixer if you don't have one) on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the sugars and baking soda and beat until combined, scraping the bowl if needed.
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
  5. Beat in the flour and the salt. (I wrapped my bowl with plastic wrap to minimize mess.)
  6. Scrape the bowl and give it one more mix by hand, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.  Then set aside.
  8. Put the 3/4 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for about 30 seconds.  Add the salted caramel to the partly melted peanut butter and microwave another 30 seconds.  Stir it together really well then pour over the par-baked cookie dough layer spreading it around without going all the way to the edge.
  9. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the peanut butter caramel.
  10. Flatten out the other half of the cookie dough and lay it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips trying to cover as much of it as you can.  
  11. Bake 20 minutes.  Then cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
I'm linking up with Thrifty ThursdayPin Junkie, Get Him Fed Friday, Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekend, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Inspiration Monday, Create Link Inspire, Mad Skills Party Two Cup Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Made By Me, Whimsy Wednesday, Wake Up Wednesday, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Pin It Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, and Create It Thursday.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Quick Turkey Bolognese

Do you ever get in a dinner rut where you make the same things week after week?  This was one of those recipes for me a few years ago until I decided to start trying new recipes on a regular basis.  It was a great decision because I've discovered tons of great recipes, but I sort of forgot about the recipes that used to be our favorites.  Now that we have a new baby, I find myself returning to those old recipes that I can make without even thinking about it (since I'm pretty sleep deprived and my brain isn't fully functional right now). 

This recipe for quick turkey bolognese is one of those old favorites.  It is perfect for a busy mama because it is easy to throw together and gives you homemade sauce taste without hours of cook time.

Start out by browning your turkey and onions in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  When the turkey is cooked through, drain any fat from the pan.

While the turkey is browning, put the diced carrots in a small microwave-safe bowl with about 1/4 cup of water.  Cover it and cook on high for 6 minutes.  Using fresh carrots instead of frozen will add to the home-cooked taste and par-cooking them in the microwave allows you to cut down on the simmer time for the sauce.

To the browned turkey and onions, add in some garlic, the par-cooked carrots, a can of crushed tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano), a little red wine, some Italian herbs (basil, oregano, & thyme), salt and pepper, and if you're feeling spicy a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Turn the heat down to low so that the sauce is just simmering and then start a pot of water for your pasta.  Your sauce will continue to simmer, with you stirring occasionally, while your pasta cooks according to the instructions on the package.

About two minutes before your pasta is ready to be drained stir about a tablespoon of veal demi-glace into the sauce.  I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma.  If you don't have any, the sauce will still be good, but I highly recommend picking some up.  It really adds great depth of flavor and makes this sauce taste like it simmered for much longer than it really did.

Top with fresh Parmesan and enjoy!

Quick Turkey Bolognese
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 20 oz. ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbls. veal demi glace (optional)
  • Parmesan 
  1. Place the diced carrots and 1/4 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and microwave on high for five to six minutes.
  2. While the carrots cook, brown the ground turkey and onion in a deep skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  When the turkey is cooked through, drain any fat and return to the heat.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients except the demi glace and Parmesan.  Stir to combine and reduce heat to low.  
  4. Simmer while bringing pasta water to boil and cooking the pasta, stirring sauce occasionally.
  5. Two minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, stir veal demi glace into the sauce.
  6. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan

I'm linking up with Tasty Tuesdays, Two Cup Tuesdays, Create, Link, Inspire, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesdays, Moonlight & Mason Jars, Pin It Thursday, Thrifty Thursday Create It Thursday, Link Party Palooza, Best of the Weekend, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, and Inspiration Monday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Black Bottom Cupcakes, AKA Chocolate Cupcakes With Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Tops

I've never been a big fan of frosting.  I just think it's too sugary.  I know that sounds strange coming from me considering I have a huge sweet tooth but I just don't really like it.  Give me ganache any day but the big pile of frosting on top of a cupcake just doesn't do it for me.  This makes me great to be at a party with because I will scrape my frosting off and plop it right on your plate if you like.

These cupcakes are perfect for me because they don't need frosting.  They are a moist chocolate cupcake with a delicious chocolate chip studded cheesecake like top.  My mom used to make these when I was growing up and they are a recipe that always gets rave reviews.  I hadn't made them in a really long time but shortly before Luke was born, a girlfriend of mine watched Jake along with her 3 kids so that Josh and I could get in one last fancy date before baby boy arrived and I wanted to reward her.  She really loves these so I decided they would be the perfect treat to help her survive a night with four kids ages 5 and under.

They come together really quickly and are super easy, though they do make a little bit more dishes since you are making the chocolate bottom and the cheesecake top.  They are totally worth it though, and that's saying something because you know how I like to minimize dishes.

Start out by pulling a brick of cream cheese (I used reduced fat) out of the fridge and put it in the bowl of your mixer.  Then leave it there to soften while you make the chocolate base.

In a bowl combine some flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  I use a whisk because cocoa powder tends to be so clumpy.  Then make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, stir together some water, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla.  Then pour the wet ingredients into the well in your dry ingredients.

Mix it all together until it is nice and combined.  Then set it aside.

To the cream cheese in your mixer bowl, add some sugar and an egg.  Cream it all together.  Then stir in some chocolate chips.  Mmm, mmm, mmm!

Put some paper liners in your muffin tin and then fill them up about halfway with your chocolate batter.  My miniature sous-chef did the filling so ours got a little bit overfilled.

Then put a generous dollop of the cheesecake batter on top.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes and enjoy.

We got 14 cupcakes out of this, so in addition to my muffin tin I used 2 silicone muffin cups on a cookie sheet.  If you fill yours a little less full you will get more, if you eat more of the cake batter (the chocolate is egg free so safe for kiddos and pregnant mamas) you will get a couple less.  Either way, you will be in cupcake heaven.   My mom says these freeze well but I can't speak from experience because they never last long enough to freeze in my house.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
 Makes about 14 cupcakes

Cheesecake Layer:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 egg  
  1. Cream together cream cheese, sugar, and egg.  Stir in chocolate chips.
Chocolate Cake Layer:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 tbls. oil
  • 1 tbls. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup water 
  1. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center.
  2. Mix together oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water.  Pour wet ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients and mix together until combined. 
  3. Fill muffin cups 1/2 full with chocolate batter.
  4. Put a generous dollop of cheesecake batter on top.
  5. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
I'm linking up with Thrifty ThursdayPin Junkie, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Show Stopper Saturday, Best of the Weekend, Inspiration Monday, Marvelous Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Tasty Tuesdays, Two Cup Tuesdays, Create, Link, Inspire, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesdays, Pin It Thursday, and Moonlight & Mason Jars, and Create It Thursday.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I Wore - Pooch Hiding Leggings

I haven't felt good enough about my post-partum body to do a style post, but then I got these leggings from Old Navy and I had to share them with all of my internet friends.  If you've had a baby (ever) or have eaten one too many scoops of ice cream, then you are probably familiar with the dreaded pooch.  Even though I stayed in much better shape this time around my stomach was stretched out with a baby and it was cruel enough so kind as to remember how to stay stretched out, so I have a serious pooch right now.

I don't want to wear maternity jeans, but my hips haven't gone back enough yet for me to even think about pulling on my pre-pregnancy jeans.  This doesn't leave a lot of options for getting dressed.  I love leggings but they don't exactly do anything to hide the extra weight and pooch I'm carrying around right now.  At least that is what I thought until I found these ponte leggings at Old Navy.  I ordered them because they are ponte, which means they are thicker than a cotton legging and thus leave no chance of booty showing through.

The amazing bonus I discovered when I first tried them on.  Because of the placement and width of the waistband they are miraculous at sucking the pooch in and keeping it there without creating a giant muffin top or making my stomach hurt.  WHAT!?!?! They are a miracle of modern leggings at an unbelievably reasonable price.

These pictures were taken at exactly 5 weeks post-partum and while I obviously have a ways to go my pooch is pretty much invisible (if you disagree please don't disillusion me).  I paired it with my favorite boyfriend tee from Target.  I loved these pre-pregnancy and then sized up to wear them throughout my pregnancy.  Now, the ones I wore during my pregnancy are still perfect because they are loose over the pooch and the neckline has enough stretch that I can pull it down and to the side to nurse.  I hate having to pull shirts up to nurse because then I risk someone seeing my less than toned midsection and if I'm being honest, I am definitely vain enough that I don't want anyone seeing that.

To pull it all together into some semblance of an outfit I added this tan open cardigan and a black scarf.  I'm obviously not wearing any crazy jewelry right now because, um, I have a newborn.  My comfortable leopard flats added a little bit of interest and I was ready to go out into the world without the yoga pants I've been living in, but just as comfortably.

By the way, sorry for the squinty pictures, it was really bright out.  Does anyone else have any great post-partum or nursing style tips to share?

Cardigan - Limited - old
Leggings - Old Navy - on sale for $19
T-shirt - Target -  $9
Flats - Payless - no longer available in leopard but other options $29.99

I'm linking up with Style Sessions, Pleated Poppy, and I Feel Pretty.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna

Christmas Eve with my in-laws means pizza.  I'm not sure how the tradition got started, but every year they go out for pizza at Chi-Chi's and the ladies tend to order pasta.  Since we had a newborn this year, they came to us and picked up pizzas.  I wanted to have pasta but needed something make-ahead because you never know when you will be able to cook.  I knew lasagna was the perfect solution but I had a small challenge.  My father-in-law doesn't eat any vegetables and my niece has recently become a vegetarian so we really needed two lasagnas.  For the vegetarian lasagna I wanted to use butternut squash because my niece really likes it and she was my target audience.  I came across this great recipe from How Sweet Eats and then added in some spinach because I always like to have a green vegetable.  I also left off the sage because I heard it can decrease your milk supply and I'm nursing.  This was A-MA-ZING!  That being said, there was a puddle of grease on top and on the bottom when I cut into it, so I set about making a few changes to try to avoid that when I made it again.  I reduced the amount of butter and replaced a third of the mascarpone with some part-skim ricotta.   All I can say is YUM!

Start out by roasting some butternut squash.  I just bought the bag of pre-cubed butternut squash from Trader Joe's because I don't have time to peel and cut a butternut squash.  Put the squash on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Drizzle it with olive oil and then sprinkle on some salt, pepper, and a little ground nutmeg.  Bake it at 400 for 25-30 minutes, then mash it.  You don't need to make a puree, chunks are perfectly delicious.

To make the cheese mixture, thinly slice a shallot and mince a few cloves of garlic.  Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium and add in the shallots and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes swirling your pan every 30 seconds or so.

Take about a third of a bag of frozen chopped spinach, defrost it in the microwave, and press out as much liquid as you can.  Then in a medium bowl, combine the spinach with some parmesan, ricotta, room temperature mascarpone, the butter, shallot, and garlic mixture, and some salt and pepper.

Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan (this is plenty for my little family but you can easily double this and bake it in a 9 x 13 pan) with cooking spray.  Take a little of the cheese and spinach mixture and spread it around the bottom of the pan.

Lay two no-bake lasagna noodles on top of the cheese and spinach mixture.  Spread half of the mashed squash on top of the lasagna noodles then spread half of the remaining cheese and spinach mixture on top of that.

Sprinkle on some grated parmesan and some mozzarella.  Repeat the layers one more time with the remaining squash, cheese and spinach mixture, parmesan, and mozzarella.

At this point, I recommend refrigerating it overnight so the flavors can marry and the no-boil noodles come out softer.  You can bake it right away if you want but making it ahead is so convenient.

If you made it ahead, about 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the lasagna, remove it from the fridge.   Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.  (As you can see, I did have a little bit of grease on the top this time too, but I just blotted it off with a paper towel.)

Let it sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into it and serving.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna
  • 12 oz. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg 
  • 4 no boil lasagna noodles
  • 8 oz. mascarpone, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups grated parmesan
  • about 5 oz. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tbls. butter
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Put squash on baking sheet and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg.  Stir to coat.  Bake for about 30 minutes then mash squash and set aside.  If baking lasagna immediately, reduce oven temperature to 350.
  3. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallot and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so.
  4. To make the spinach and cheese mixture, defrost the spinach and press out as much moisture as you can.  
  5. In a medium bowl combine the defrosted spinach, mascarpone, ricotta, 3/4 cup of the parmesan, salt and pepper, and the butter, shallot, and garlic mixture.
  6. Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray and spread about 1/4 cup of the spinach and cheese mixture on the bottom.  Top with 2 no-boil lasagna noodles.
  7. Spread half of the butternut squash over the noodles and then spread half of the remaining spinach and cheese mixture on top of that.
  8. Sprinkle on 1/4 cup of parmesan and half of the mozzarella.
  9. Repeat your layers one more time: noodles, squash, spinach and cheese mixture, parmesan, and mozzarella.
  10. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.  *If making ahead, refrigerate overnight.  Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before baking.

I'm linking up with Pin It Thursday, Create It Thursday, Moonlight & Mason JarsThrifty Thursday, Pin Junkie, Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Inspiration Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Create, Link, Inspire, Two Cup Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays, Wonderfully Creative Wednesdays, and Whimsy Wednesdays.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Superman Birthday Banner & A Free Cut File

Jake's birthday party is coming up this weekend.  As I mentioned when I posted about the comic book letters I made, he decided on a Superman party.  After debating between all of the amazing ideas I found on Pinterest, I finally decided that I wanted to make Jake's birthday banner with letters representative of the Superman symbol.  I was inspired by this banner by Carli at dimpleprints.

I wanted the font to be a little bit different so I set to work.  First I googled and found some fonts that made Superman style letters but the edges were kind of jagged so I realized I was going to have to start from scratch.  I sat down with my Silhouette Studio software and started the tedious process of making each letter.  Basically I made the outline of the emblem, added the letter and then resized and erased edges to make the outline of the red and the letter all one piece.  I also took the outer edge of my letter emblem, separated it out and used that to make the yellow piece.

Then it was time to set my Cameo to work cutting out the letters and yellow pieces from 12 x 12 cardstock.  Once I had everything cut out I carefully glued the red letter pieces on top of the yellow emblems.  I used the Tombow Mono Adhesive for this because I didn't want to risk the rippling you sometimes get with a liquid adhesive.  I wasn't perfectly lined up on all of them so I took my scissors and carefully trimmed any yellow that was showing outside of the red on the edges.

Once I had all of my letters I needed to attach them.  I simply used my hole punch to punch holes on either side of each letter and then threaded a blue grosgrain ribbon through them to connect them all.

Now, because we are friends, I don't want you to spend hours creating this banner like I did, so I'm going to give you my Silhouette files.  I haven't shared Silhouette files before so if this doesn't work, let me know and I will email them directly to you.

Superman Birthday Banner Letters: H A P P Y B
Superman Birthday Banner Letters: I R T H D Y
Superman Birthday Banner Letters: A 5th J A K E (this is the name and age I needed but I included this one anyway since it has another A for birthday and in case you wanted to play around with it)
Superman Birthday Banner Background (for the yellow part of the letters)

I'm linking up with Mad Skills Party, Create Link Inspire, Whimsy Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesdays, Wonderfully Creative WednesdaysMade By Me, Moonlight and Mason Jars, Pin It Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Create It Thursday Pin Junkie,  Link Party Palooza, Show Stopper Saturday, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Inspiration Monday, Mix It Up Monday, and Create, Link, Inspire.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Boston Cream Pie

My birthday was on Monday and Josh's was Tuesday.  Because our birthdays are back to back we take turns picking the cake we will have that year because we definitely don't need two birthday cakes in our house.  This year was Josh's turn and he always picks Boston Cream Pie.  If you aren't familiar with this dessert, it isn't a pie at all.  It is actually a yellow cake with a custard filling and a ganache on top.  Over the years I have tried many different recipes and have been let down by at least one component of each of them.  I finally found one that works and the best part of all is that it is sort of a cheater recipe.

I use a boxed cake mix and doctored vanilla pudding for the custard filling.  The only part that is truly from scratch is the ganache which only has two ingredients.  I was able to make this cake on a day when I was running on hardly any sleep and I had my 5-year-old and my VERY fussy 3-week-old on my own, so don't be intimidated by the number of components.  It is very easy.

I like to use the vanilla cake mix from Trader Joe's.  It has little flecks of vanilla bean throughout and never turns out dry.  It looks and tastes like a from scratch cake even though it is really from a box.  Mix up the batter according to the directions on the box, but then pour them into two springform pans and bake for about 30 minutes.

I was distracted by the previously mentioned fussy baby so I forgot to use my baking strips.  This meant that my cake layers weren't perfectly flat.  Luckily, once you layer on the custard and the ganache, no one cares.  If you haven't seen these bake even strips before, they are amazing!  They are more than worth their price, plus you can use a coupon at Michael's or Joann's to get them for even less.  You soak them in water, wrap them around your cake pans before baking, and voila, perfectly flat cake layers. (Obviously this is an example of a cake baked without them.)

Once the cakes are cooled, put one on the serving plate, then put the springform pan side back around it.  This will keep your custard filling and ganache topping in place while it sets.

While your cakes are cooling, mix up the custard layer.  In a bowl, beat a package of instant vanilla pudding with some milk and some extra vanilla with a hand mixer for a couple of minutes.  Then stick it in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Once it is nice and thick spread it over the cake layer inside the springform pan sides. Personally, I would double the custard layer but this wasn't my birthday cake and Josh likes it as is.   *Update: After eating the cake this time, Josh has finally agreed with me that while it is great as is, double custard would be even better.

Then carefully put the second cake layer on top and stick it in the fridge. 

Now for the ganache. Chop up some dark or semisweet chocolate.  I used Trader Joe's dark pound plus bar.  If you want to, you can use chocolate chips but it won't come out as smooth because of the stabilizers in the chocolate chips.

In a small pan, heat some heavy cream over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges.  Don't let it boil.  Once you see those little bubbles, take it off the heat, add in your delicious chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and completely combined with the cream.

Take your cake out of the fridge and pour the ganache on top, being sure to leave the springform sides on.  Put the whole thing back in the fridge until the ganache has set.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to serve it, take it out of the fridge.  Then carefully remove the springform sides (you may need to use a hot knife around the edges) and you are ready to go.  Cutting the cake with a hot knife will make it cut more smoothly.

This cake is so wonderful because it satisfies so many cravings.  It's the perfect combination of vanilla cake, creamy custard, and rich chocolate ganache.  Delicious!!

Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Sandra Lee's Boston Creme Cupcakes

For the cake layers:
  • 1 box vanilla cake mix and ingredients it calls for; mine needed:
    • 1 stick butter melted
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 eggs
For the custard layer: (I recommend doubling the custard layer because it is my favorite part.)
  • 1 3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 1/4 cups cold milk (whatever you have, I used skim)
  • 1 tbls. vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
For the ganache:
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 9 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (you can substitute with semisweet chocolate chips but the ganache won't be as smooth)
  1. Mix the cake according to package instructions and pour into 2 springform cake pans sprayed with baking spray.
  2. Bake at 350 for about 25-35 minutes (until the cakes come away from the edges of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed).
  3. Cool cakes completely out of the pans.
  4. Place one cake layer on your serving plate, then put the sides of one springform pan back around it.
  5. While the cakes cool use a hand mixer to beat the pudding mix, milk, and  vanilla paste for about 2 minutes, or until it is starting to thicken.  Then refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  6. Use a spatula to spread the custard over the bottom cake layer then put it back in the fridge.
  7. Put the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat, add in the chopped chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated.
  9. Remove the cake from the fridge.  Carefully place the second cake layer on top of the custard.  Then pour the ganache over the top, spreading it to the edges with a spatula if needed.
  10. Refrigerate until ganache is set (at least an hour).  This can be made the day before.  Once the ganache has cooled cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.
  11. Remove from the fridge about 20-30 minutes before serving.  I recommend using a hot knife to cut.
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