Happy Birthday!

Today is my baby brother's 26th birthday.  I've thought a lot about what I would write about him for this post, but the only thing you need to know is that Larry is the best brother a girl could ever have.


Larry has taught me how to have fun...


...and how to be adventurous.


He has taught me to be who I am,...


...and he has taught me that "there is nothing worth sharing like the love that lets us share our name."


Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!  I love you so much!


For his birthday this year, I wanted to give Larry his two favorite cakes - his kid-favorite, funfetti, and his grown-up favorite, carrot cake. 

I used half-pint Mason jars.  Did you know they are oven safe?  I prepared the cake batters and poured about 1/4 cup batter into each of the jars.  I set the jars in a cake pan and baked them for approximately 25 minutes.


After the jars cooled, I piped the frosting on top of the cakes.  I closed them up with the lids and froze them over night.  I mailed them the next day.


Funfetti Cake

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg whites to the bowl and beat until combined.  Add the vanilla and almond extract and mix until incorporated.  Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Fold in the sprinkles with a spatula.

Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with crumbs (no batter), approximately 25 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan approximately 20 minutes.  Then remove from pans and place on cooling rack.  Frost cooled cakes as desired.

Source:  Annie's Eats


Quick and Rich Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients: (I halved this recipe for the cake recipe above.)

2 Tablespoons heavy cream (I used 2% milk.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves.  Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds.  Reduce the speed to medium-low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes.  Beat in the cream mixture.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, 4 to 8 minutes.

Source:  America's Test Kitchen Cookbook




I'm biased.  I know!  But pinot noirs, especially those from Willamette Valley, have a special place in my heart.  It may have something to do with the fact that both of my brothers make wine in this region of Oregon.  

Here's a recommendation.  Northwest Wines makes a pinot noir called Kudos.  It's affordable and delicious.  If you can find it in this area of the country, give it a try.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it.  And if you don't enjoy it, give me a call.  I'll help you finish off the bottle.  ;-)




Chicken Enchilada Roll-Ups


I recently made these chicken enchilada roll-ups.  They're a great party food because they can be eaten in 2-3 bites and require no utensils.  They're not messy, keep well in the refrigerator, and can be served cold or at room temperature.  They have a great flavor, but are not spicy.  Give these a try for your next party.

Chicken Enchilada Roll-Ups


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of Monterrey Jack and cheddar.)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used less.)
Salt, to taste
Handful of cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained well (Rotel)
4-6 eight inch tortillas


Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper.  Cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Combine all remaining ingredients (except tortillas) in a large bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Once the chicken is cool, cut or shred and add to mixture.  Stir well to incorporate.

Spread a thin layer of the mixture over the tortilla, leaving a border around the edge of the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla up tightly into a spiral.  Place the rolled tortilla on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into 1-1 1/2 inch thick segments.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve chilled or at room temperature. 


Source:  Annie's Eats


Stuffed Strawberries

My dear friend, Kathleen, is eight months pregnant with her first child.  Several of her friends, including myself, hosted a baby shower to celebrate this exciting time in her life.


Instead of the typical shower games, each guest painted a onesie for Kathleen to take home.  The guests were very creative and had a lot of fun.


Can you guess which one is mine?  Of course!  It's the one with the cupcake...

Amy made the cupcakes and sugar cookie favors...



Amy also made an adorable diaper cake...


I made stuffed strawberries for the party.  They're easy to make with only a few ingredients, but they are delicious.  The stuffed strawberries were a big hit. 


Stuffed Strawberries


1 pint fresh strawberries
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons orange liqueur (I used 1 Tablespoon of Cointreau, and it tasted wonderful.)

Cut green tops off strawberries.  Stand upright on the cut side.  Make an X cut at the tip 3/4 of the way down towards the bottom of each strawberry.  Beat together cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, and liqueur together until well-blended.  Place into piping bag with star tip.  Pipe filling into each strawberry and serve on a platter.

Source:  Allrecipes.com, as seen on Annie's Eats.



Copycat Applebee's Fiesta Lime Chicken

Jim Bob and I enjoy a guilty pleasure at Applebee's, the Fiesta Lime Chicken.  This dish is a grilled southwest-flavored chicken breast topped with mexi-ranch and topped with jack-cheddar cheese.  But at 1,250 calories and the high cost of eating out, I decided to look for a recipe I could make at home.  This version is a perfect copycat.  You can even find tortilla strips like these in the grocery store near the salad toppings.

When I grill, broil, or bake chicken, I like to use a meat mallet to flatten the chicken.  The picture below shows a boneless, skinless chicken breast before I flattened it. 


The picture below shows what the chicken breast looked like after I used the meat mallet.  I prefer to flatten chicken especially when I will be grilling it because it gives the entire chicken breast an even thickness.  If you flatten chicken, you'll need a meat mallet with a flat side or you can use the bottom of a heavy frying pan.  Place the chicken breast in between two pieces of Saran wrap.  Begin in the middle or thickest part of the chicken breast.  With even blows, pound the chicken until it has an even thickness.  I prefer it to be about a quarter of an inch thick. 


Fiesta Lime Chicken


1 cup water
1/3 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tequila
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Mexi-Ranch Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons chunky salsa
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon Cajun blackening spice
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
Tortilla chips, crumbled


Whisk all ingredients for marinade, coat chicken in mixture, cover, and marinate for at least two hours.
Whisk together ingredients for mexi-ranch.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Grill the marinated chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Discard marinade.
Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet.  Coat the top of each chicken breast with the mexi-ranch sauce.  Sprinkle crumbled cheese on top of chicken.  Place under broiler for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted.  To serve, place crumbled tortilla chips on the plate.  Place chicken breast on top of the chips.

Source:  CD Kitchen



Apple Pie

Several years ago, my dear friend Kimberly bought me an apple corer/peeler/slicer for my birthday.  I opened my gift and had absolutely no idea what it was.  Now, I can say that my apple corer/peeler/slicer is one of my favorite kitchen tools.  If you make apple desserts with any frequency, you should definitely invest in one of these contraptions. 


I know I sound like an infomercial, but they are so simple to use.  Just push the apple onto the prongs, and turn the handle.  Your apple will be peeled, cored, and sliced with just a few turns.  It will look like this...


This holiday season, I used my apple corer/peeler/slicer to make an apple pie.  I used a Publix brand frozen crust (don't judge me) and Pioneer Woman's recipe for her Scrumptious Apple Pie.  It was delicious!  Also, it's important to use Granny Smith apples.  The combination of the tart apples with the sweet caramel is wonderful!  You must try this recipe. 


Scrumptious Apple Pie


1 whole pie crust
6-7 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples 
1/2 whole (juice of) lemon
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 jar caramel topping


In bowl, mix peeled apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set aside.  For crumb topping, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, then add in brown sugar, flour, oats, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  

Add apples to prepared pie shell and top with crumb topping.  Note:  My pie was a giant mound.  I had to press the topping into the apples in order to get it to stay put, but don't worry.  The apples bake down quite a bit, so it will look fine after it bakes.  Cover crust edges with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Remove foil from crust and put back in the oven.  Bake an additional 30 minutes.  Chop pecans.  When 5 minutes remain on cooking time, sprinkle pecans on top of the pie and finish baking.  

Remove the pie from the oven and top with caramel topping.  Use as much or as little as you want, but don't skip this ingredient.  It is vital!  Allow to cool slightly before serving.  

Source:  Pioneer Woman  
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