Thursday, March 13, 2014

Minecraft Cake

I love making creative cakes for my kids.  Minecraft is the 'Thing' right now, so I knew my 7 year old would really enjoy this cake as part of his birthday celebration.  I searched Pinterest for Minecraft cakes and saw ones similar to this posted.  I liked it because it was easy and effective. 

I made all the elements of the cake the night before the party. The base layer of the cake is blue Jell-O.  I made it according to their Jigglers recipe (mix packet with 2 1/2 Cups boiling hot water, place in pan - or in this case casserole baker - in fridge to set).
Separately, I made the Rice Krispie Squares and the Chocolate cake.  The day of the party I put everything together.  It came together quickly. 

1. Slide a knife through the Jell-O to cut into squares - everything about Minecraft is block-y.  The Jell-O is the water.

2. Cut the cake into same size squares - my cake cut into 16 good sized cake pieces. 

3. Frost each square of the cake with green frosting as you place it out.  I placed the cake pieces right on top of the Jell-O.  The cake is the land.  Some of the pieces of cake layers on top of each other to give it that building look of Minecraft.

4. Cut the Rice Krispie Squares into the same size as the Jell-O and Cake squares.  Lay those down as the sand of the beach.

5.  We added to the look of the cake with 2 Minecraft figures (Steve and a Creeper) and their accessories.  Some people who have done a similar cake did use foldable downloads to make their figures with.  The figures were part of our son's birthday present from us. 

Top view of the Minecraft cake ready to go to the party.
It may be simple, but my son and his friend loved it!  They thought it was so cool - and tasty too!

My son looking on as we sang Happy birthday to him.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Penguin Cupcakes!

My sweet daughter turned 4 in January.  We had a penguin party to celebrate!  Instead of cake we had cupcakes.  These little cupcakes were so cute and fairly easy to assemble.  I made a white cupcake and frosted the top with vanilla icing as the base.  For the penguins I used:
 ...Oreos, chocolate chips and Sunkist fruit snacks.  I opened the little packages of fruit snacks and took out all the orange ones.  My kids snacked on the rest.
 I carefully opened up the Oreos, putting aside the cookie only part for later.  The icing part became the face base.

I cut the fruit snacks into 3 pieces each.  One piece became the beak.  The eyes were chocolate chips.
I carefully broke the cookie piece of the oreo in 2, these became the wings.  The trickiest part was making sure the pieces stayed sticking up.  I used a knife to cut a slit to stick the pieces in, this worked.  The remaining cut fruit snack pieces became the feet.  I placed all the cupcakes on a foil lined tray and then sprinkled powdered sugar over everything to make it look like snow.  Very cute and the kids loved them!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole - Gluten Free!

This was a Thanksgiving gamble.  I wanted to add another veggie dish to our menus - following my Auntie's example of Thanksgivings past and I happened to have sweet potatoes on hand.  The recipe I found was not originally gluten free, I made my own adaptations to make it work for us.  If our guest's reaction was any indication, this was a success.  She had seconds and raved about it so much that I gave her the recipe.  She has since made it for a dinner party and looks forward to making it again.
  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup coconut sugar  - (you could use brown sugar, I'm just on a coconut sugar kick right now)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter.
  •  
  • Topping
  •  1/2 cup coconut sugar - or brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans - I didn't have any on hand, so I used slivered almonds in its place, it worked!

Preparation:

Combine first 6 ingredients. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish. Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.
Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Delicious Gluten Free Stuffing!

When I was first considering eating gluten free last summer one of my biggest concerns was - what about Thanksgiving?  You see, I LOVE StoveTop Stuffing.  Like the kind of love that I would make a box of it and eat just that if I wanted to.  I just couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving meal without it.  But I put those feelings aside as it wasn't Thanksgiving yet and we discovered that my husband has a serious intolerance to gluten so we continued to pursue our gluten-free diet.  And it's been good. I can honestly say I don't miss bread most of the time and I am snacking a lot less than I used to.   And then October crept up on us and I realised I had my first gluten free Thanksgiving meal to prepare.  Most of the meal wasn't an issue, turkey and a pile of veggies (I follow my Auntie Sue's rule of thumb when it comes to serving veggies at a holiday meal - make sure there are lots!), my gravy I already figured out with corn starch instead of flour...it really was just the pies and the stuffing I wanted to make work.

Here's how the stuffing played out - it was absolutely delicious.  We had dinner guests who had never eaten a gluten free bread (to their knowledge before) - one of which only likes box stuffing, not homemade and they loved it!  I loved it too.  I made my bread from scratch, but I'm sure you could use a store made gluten free bread to make this work.

First - the Bread

I used Elana Amsterdam's Scrumptious Sandwich Bread recipe from her Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.  I will admit when I first mixed this batter I had my doubts.  (My gluten free bread baking experience has been hit and miss).  But this recipe really worked and it was quite quick and easy for a bread.  Do yourself a favor and put this book on your cookbook want list.  It is a really great little Gluten Free cookbook.

Here's the bread recipe:

3/4 Cup creamy roasted almond butter at room temperature
4 large eggs
1/4 blanched almond flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground flax meal

Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Prepare a 7x3 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, mix the almond butter until smooth (she suggests a handheld mixer, I used my Kitchenaid mixer).  Blend in the eggs.  In a medium bowl combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt, baking soda and flax meal.  Blend the almond flour mixutre into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes on the the bottom rack of the oven, until a knife inserted into the rack of the loaf comes out clean.  Let the bread cool in the pan for 1 hour, then serve.

Second - preparing the bread cubes

I let my bread cool while I was at church.  When I returned to it, I removed it from the pan and sliced it into bread cubes.  I put the cubes into a large bowl.  Meanwhile, I melted about a 1/4 cup of butter, adding a tsp of garlic powder into it.   I poured the melted garlic butter mixture over the bread cubes, coating all the cubes.  I spread the cubes onto two baking sheets and put them into an oven set to 225*F.  Let them bake to dry out (about an hour, but keep checking).  You could skip the make your own bread step and start here with store made gluten free bread.

Third - the Stuffing!

This stuffing recipe would be good with both regular bread and a gluten free bread.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • all of your bread cubes (or 10 cups of bread cubes)
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350* F.  Melt butter in a large pan. Saute onions, salt, sage, and thyme for 5 minutes on medium heat, until onions are soft. Turn off heat. Add bread cubes and gently stir them into the onion mixture. Slowly pour chicken broth over the bread cubes folding everything carefully so the bread cubes do not break apart too much. In a small bowl, gently whisk the egg and add it to the stuffing mix. Continue to fold everything until the egg is incorporated. Scoop uncooked stuffing into a medium casserole dish and bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until nice and toasty on top.
*I would have added some celery if I had it - 2 or 3 stalks chopped up well, cooked in with the onion and herb mixture.

So there you go - proof that you can have a gluten-free Thanksgiving supper that with a delicious gluten-free stuffing.  Looking forward to my Christmas meal now :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Going Gluten Free?

My husband gave up gluten about 2 months ago.  He has been battling reflux and some digestive issues for years and though I don't think he's full out celiac, I was curious if he had gluten sensitivity.  He rolled his eyes a bit but decided to give it a go.  Remarkably his reflux symptoms started to go away.  He heard about the book Wheat Belly and ordered it (and the accompanying cookbook).  He had doubts about reading the actual book after learning the gist of it in the cookbook introduction, but became hooked on the book.  Many of my quiet evening became interrupted by, "Kris, you gotta hear this..." I was curious and started to do a little wheat free research myself. 
We drove to Halifax a couple of weeks ago and I brought along the Wheat Belly book for myself.  Somewhere between my bagel at Salisbury at noon and pulling into the hotel parking lot at 3 I decided to go for it, like right then and there.  I find if I think about it too much and plan for a diet change I take too long to actually do it.  I didn't want to think about my last bagel or my last pasta.  Fortunately my introduction to gluten free eating was a fantastic one.  My husband found this fabulous restaurant in Dartmouth called The Wooden Monkey which specialized in whole foods type of eating.  It was delicious.  Two weeks later I haven't looked back.  I don't find it particularly difficult to eat without wheat.  The thing that surprises me most is that I'm simply not hungry.  I'm not always wanting to reach for a snack to tide me over until the next meal.  I'm still on the fence about if I'm going gluten free or just wheat free (there is a difference).  I'm also trying to not eat any gluten-free products that are full of processed fillers.  It is a very different way of looking at food.  Fortunately, there is a resurgence of popularity of eating "real" food.  More and more I want to cut out processed foods and sugars too.  I hope as this next phase of our cooking life enfolds that I can find some really great recipes to share with you.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Movie Popcorn Birthday Cake!

My son had a movie themed birthday for his 9th birthday party.  What better to accompany a movie party than a bowl of popcorn looking cake?  This turned out to be super easy and the kids just loved it.  This cake was 3 layers tall.  The bottom two layers I made in 9 inch round cake pans and the top layer was baked in a pie plate, a little shallower, but slightly wider to give it a bit of a bowl effect.
I frosted the layers with a little chocolate icing to stick them together.
Using a serrated knife to cut the rounded top off the layers.

Frosting the cake with vanilla frosting.  I did two layers of frosting.  The first layer gets a little crummy.  I let it set in the fridge before adding a second vanilla frosting layer.
Letting the first layer set in the fridge.
Meanwhile, my kids and I started to work on the popcorn top.  We took mini marshmallows and squished them together with our fingers in 3s to make it look like popcorn.
I mixed a little sugar with a few drops of yellow food coloring (mixing well) to make the "butter".
We then mixed the marshmallows and yellow sugar together.
The cake with its second layer of frosting on.
I unrolled Strawberry Fruit by the Foot and used my pizza cutter to cut the right size strips to make the striped bowl sides.
We then took Nibs and circled them around the top.  We placed the "popcorn" marshmallows all over the top of the cake until it looked full.  I sprinkled a bit more of the yellow sugar on top to give it that real buttery look.  Yes, you can see I used Betty Crocker's pre-made icing for my cake.  I often do as it just makes it easier. 
I then kept the cake in the fridge to keep it nice and firm until it was time for the party.  I usually make my cake a day ahead of time to give me plenty of time to set up for the party, not worrying about the cake too.
My son (in the middle) with a couple of friends at the party.  They thought the cake was pretty cool, and tasty too.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fibre 1 Almond & Cluster Delight Cereal!



 I was very delighted to have the opportunity to try out Fibre 1 Almond & Cluster Delight Cereal from General Mills. It is one of 8 new products from General Mills this summer!

I have been a fan of Fibre 1 cereal for a few years now.  My husband first discovered it in as a tasty way to increase our fibre intake but not lose out on flavor.  This new cereal is in my opinion their best yet.  It has the yummy sweetness of granola, but without the high fat.  Knowing that I am getting 40% of my daily recommended intake of fibre at breakfast is a great bonus.  I would love to make this my new daily cereal.

I wasn't the only one to try out this new cereal.  My 3 year old daughter wanted some too and she loved it.  We ate it for a week solid in the mornings and I got a disappointed "Awww" from her the first morning that the box was empty and there wasn't any more to be had.

Fortunately, this box is not the end of it and you can try it out for free too.  The folks at General Mills are offering a  free one-day coupon, redeemable in stores on July 16th. You can get your own copy at the Life Made Delicious site on Facebook.
And that's not all...
You can get more coupons for more new General Mills products that will be redeemable on certain dates in July.  
The July 16th Coupon will be redeemable for either one box of Fibre 1 Almond & Cluster Cereal (which I highly recommend trying, I'm so looking forward to having more of this) OR one box of Honey Nut Cheerios Hearty Oat Crunch.

The July 23rd coupon is redeemable for Nature Valley, Fibre 1 bars, Golden Grahams OR Cinnamon Toast Crunch treats! 

I've already got both dates marked on my calendar so I'm sure not to miss out.  

Like I mentioned earlier, I tried Fibre 1 Almond & Cluster Cereal out for one week.  I really feel as though it helped me kickstart off my summer goal of health and fitness.  This is a cereal that is good to eat and tasty at the same time.  I've tried many, many good for you cereals in the past that remind me of, well, eating cardboard.  Not this one, this one was truly tasty.  It was filling too.  I know that almonds are treat that helps to keep you full through to your next meal.  The week that I was eating this cereal, I didn't really want anything to eat at work at break.  I was still satisfied from breakfast.  
I can also imagine me packing a container of this to eat dry as a snack to munch on.  I think my kids will love it too.  I have to admit that I did keep it away from my boys and just let my little girl have a taste with me, so I could enjoy it a little longer.  But this is the kind of cereal and snack that they would love.  Nice to know that healthy doesn't mean tasteless :
“Disclosure – I am participating in the Fibre 1 Almond & Cluster Delight Cereal blogger campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of General Mills. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.”