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White Chocolate Ballerina Cake

January 19, 2013
ballerina cake

Gone are the days of simple dolls and cute bows. Now it’s all about bling and nail polish, dancing, and clothes.
ballerina cake

It’s been ten years since she came into our home and she has grown to be the most incredibly beautiful girl. She is smart, witty and full of life. Currently, she wants to grow up to be a dancing concert pianist who does her own vocals and performs surgery on animals on the side. Oh, she also wants to ride horses as a hobby and tells me often that she will have a stable full of them. While she may have to scale down her dreams just a little, she will be encouraged to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. And you never know, she very well might be the first concert pianist who dances and sings and plays the piano at the same time.

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As a Mom, I want all of her dreams to come true. My job is to encourage her to attain her dreams, pick her up and hold her when she fails, keep her from over extending herself, and make sure she continues to have fun.

ballerina cake

I promised pictures of this  ballerina cake over a month ago, and my guilt has finally gotten the best of me. I love this cake for it’s simplicity. Every other year our children get to have a friend birthday party. The other year it’s a family birthday year. This year was a family party, and when asked what kind of cake she wanted, she requested a bright blue cake with neon pink. And bling. Lot’s of it.

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I’ll admit that cake decorating is not ever going to be something that I excel at. One look at the internet to search for cakes and I feel so inadequate. My kids also dislike fondant, so I can’t make all those gorgeous fondant cakes I see either.

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The secret to the cake is the white chocolate ballerinas. The bling is made possible by edible glitter and the tulle at the bottom makes for a beautiful skirt. Or tutu, if you stretch your imagination.

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The piped on buttercream frosting begins at the top with a light neon blue color that progressively deepens in color the further down the cake you go.
P1010603Each ballerina was hand made with the use of white chocolate, edible glitter, and a template. You could easily replicate this cake and make it look breath takingly beautiful for your own daughter.

Ballerina Cake

3 8″ inch round chocolate cakes, baked and cooled. (I used the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe).

Recipe for white chocolate buttercream frosting. (You will want to double it if piping).

Chefmaster all natural food dye in blue or Chefmaster gel food dye in sky blue.

Piping bag and star tip for decorating.

For Ballerinas:

6 oz white chocolate, melted

1 decorating squeeze bottle

Waxed paper

Ballerina templates, printed and cut out (Do a quick Google search for “ballerina template” or “ballerina clip art.”)

Edible glitter in white

1/4 yard hot pink tulle

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

Adapted from The Royal Cook

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening (I used Spectrum Organics)

3 cups powdered sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Beat the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl for several minutes until it becomes smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar, continuing to beat until mixture is combined. Add the salt, then add the white chocolate and vanilla until mixture is smooth and fluffy.

DIRECTIONS:

To make the ballerinas:

1.  Slide the ballerina templates (or clip art) right side up underneath the wax paper. You will want to make sure that you are able to closely space the ballerinas together without overlapping while you are working.

2. Open the bottle of white glitter and have it close to where you will be working with the chocolate.

3. Melt the white chocolate in 30 second increments in the microwave. Remove mixture from the microwave and stir. Continue to microwave in 15-30 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. Once the chocolate has melted, pour it into the squeeze bottle.

4. With the squeeze bottle, trace the outline of the ballerina first. Fill in the ballerina  with additional white chocolate, smoothing with a toothpick to remove any bubbles that may form. Sprinkle with edible glitter.

5. Allow the ballerinas to harden for one to two hours before placing on cake.

To Make the Cake:

1. Make the frosting according to the directions above. Scoop 1-1 1/2 cups of frosting into three separate small bowls and use the gel colors to stir in desired tint. You will want to have one bowl with a lighter blue color, one with a medium blue color and one with a darker blue color.

2. Assemble the cake, spreading a generous amount of frosting in between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the exterior of the cake so the piping stars will easily adhere to the cake.

3. Scoop the dark layer of frosting into the piping bag. Beginning from the bottom of the cake, pipe a small star onto the cake. Continue to pipe a straight line of stars across the bottom of the cake. Continue up the cake, piping stars until frosting bag needs to be refilled.

4. Scoop the medium colored frosting into the piping bag and continue to pipe onto the cake. Continue piping up the cake until the medium colored frosting has run out. Scoop the light colored frosting into the piping bag and continue piping until the cake is completed.

5. Arrange the hot pink tulle around the bottom of the cake. Press the white chocolate ballerinas lightly into the top of the cake.

Related Links:

Mod Monkey Cake 

Easy Avengers Cake with Carvel Crunchie Center

Cars 2 Cake

Toy Story 3 Cake (My first and ONLY attempt at fondant)

Bobby Flay’s German Chocolate Cake (To.Die.For.)

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Pear Walnut Waffles

January 14, 2013
pear walnut waffles

Be careful what you wish for. My husband found a job which we are so grateful for. The downside? The first two weeks he has been away. He was gone all last week, came home for a quick weekend, and is now off this morning for another week of training. I’m not going to lie– it’s hard. I just feel like I can’t complain. There are so many others who have it much harder than I do, and who handle the work load that I do for a much longer period of time.

I do have to say that I am grateful that the washer decided to break this weekend while HE was washing. I always seem to have the bad luck with appliances and am glad that the appliances decided to give me a break this time. See: Traci’s Appliance Fund and 9 Garbage Disposals in 9 Years.

pear walnut waffles

In all of the hustle and bustle of hauling laundry down to the laundr-o-mat and prepping for the week ahead, I was able to get some time to make some waffles. This recipe is similar to the apple walnut waffles I made a few months ago.

I think I need to add pears to my list of fruits I can’t live without. These waffles are delicious, good and good for you. (I consider that last one a bonus!) Try them out, you’ll love them!

Pear Walnut Waffles

2 cups flour

(I use oat flour, or a mix of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour)

1/4 cup ground flax

1/4 cup sugar (I use coconut)

4 tsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla recommended)

2 cup milk (substitute soy or almond if needed)

1 cup finely diced pears

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, flax, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon) until blended. Slowly add in the eggs, applesauce, yogurt, and milk and continue stirring until mixture becomes blended well. Gently fold in the pears and walnuts until evenly distribute through the mixture.

Cook waffles according to your specific waffle manufacturers instruction. These waffles were tested on a standard 4 inch square waffle maker and made approximately 14 waffles. This recipe has not been tested using a belgian waffle maker.

Related Links:

Apple Walnut Waffles with Cinnamon Syrup by Burnt Apple

Apple Walnut Gallette (NY Times)

Apple Walnut Bread by One Perfect Bite

Apple Walnut Pull Apart Bread by Six Sisters Stuff

I Just Can’t…

January 11, 2013
i just cant

My New Year is off to a slow start. After a Christmas filled with family, goodies and sweets I needed to detox.

I planned for that detox to start–you guessed it, January 1st.

It’s been a little struggle to get back to the diet and exercise routine I had before Christmas.  I could blame it on the weather which has been in the twenties. With ice on the ground and frigid air it’s not the most ideal of running conditions.

I could also blame my decreased exercise on the air quality. January in Utah creates air quality that exceeds the extremely poor air quality found in Beijing. With red flag days, exercising outside is a no go.

The dogs are restless as they miss their afternoon runs. I miss the outdoors and the way I can just get out, run, and plan my route along the way.

Eating is hard too when you feel like all you do is stay inside all day where food is all around you. All the time.

So, this is where my January resolutions have gone…

I just can’t

blame everything on the poor weather, or having to be inside more. By doing that, I’m justifying that it’s okay to adopt bad eating habits again, or to justify my lack of desire for exercise. Once you’ve worked so hard for something, it’s really hard just to give it up knowing how hard you’ll have to work again to get it back.

Here are some things that I found have helped this week:

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Mix Up My Workouts

I’ve lived in Utah quite a few years and can’t believe that I’ve never learned to ski. We took the kids and headed up and out of the smoggy valley to the mountains where we enjoyed a day of learning to ski. It was the perfect thing to get me out of my rut and to feel energized again.

P.S. If you live in Utah, January is Ski and Snowboard Month. You can get a lesson, day lift  pass and ski rental for as low as $39!

Treadmill Mix Up

Running on the treadmill is b-o-r-i-n-g. Add to that the guilt I feel as I’m running and the dogs are laying beside the treadmill looking up at me wishing they were the ones running too. I do tend to mix it up on the treadmill. I found this great site that has three different workouts for the treadmill.

Out With the White

I am really working on throwing out the white sugar. I’m addicted and I am going to work hard this week to not bring it into the house. (If you couldn’t guess, this is last week’s goal AND this coming week’s goal. Didn’t do so well!)  Instead, I’ve started using powdered honey, coconut sugar, honey and raw sugar instead of white sugar.

Think I can do it? I KNOW I can!

Related Links:

Dark Chocolate Thin Mints (Powdered honey, coconut sugar)

No Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Honey or agave)

White Chocolate Strawberry Cookies with Coconut Sugar

Sausage, Eggplant and Feta Penne

January 9, 2013
sausage eggplant penne

There were three words that consistently showed up on my “bad word” list as a child. Fruits, vegetables and new food. Inwardly, I groaned any time my parents would introduce anything new to me–especially if it was a vegetable.

My parents had a habit of feeding a new vegetable to my sister and I in the worst way possible. Steamed or plain. Brussel sprouts? Steamed, no butter, lemon juice, flavorings…just nasty plain ol’ steamed brussel sprouts.

My first taste of eggplant was raw. It was also my last taste of eggplant for a long time.

Always a sucker for a deal, they were on sale for .50 each at the store the other day. I couldn’t overlook the deal.

As a parent, I’ve learned that if I want my kids to like any of the three above mentioned “bad words” I need to trick them. To a point.

Ever have your kid say “I HATE onion powder!! It stinks!” yet they love spaghetti sauce which has plenty of it? I can hear you telling your kid now “but you LOVE spaghetti sauce and it has onion powder!”

It’s kind of the same concept.

My parents didn’t like to trick us, yet they missed one element of trying new foods. If you want your kid to enjoy their first taste of something, you need to make it enjoyable. Kids palates are designed like a computer. If it’s a new food, they must spit it out like poison. By doing so, they can try to establish the alpha role in the family–if for only a few moments until Mom tells them that they can’t leave the table until it’s all gone. But that few seconds of temper tantrums and control in the family? Priceless.

sausage eggplant penne

The kids loved this meal, so I decided to make them an eggplant parmesan sandwich for them today. They balked and groaned and moaned about the “disgusting vegetable” I was making them try.

Note to kids everywhere: Sticking the very tip of your tongue on the outermost corner of the vegetable doesn’t count as “trying it.”

So I casually slipped in that they had already eaten and loved eggplant. A chorus of “yeah rights” followed. I picked out the eggplant from last nights meal to show them. They knew they were had. Each tried a big bite of sandwich and found that they still liked eggplant.

Except for my pre teen. She has to pick a fight about everything, so she said it was gross. We’ve decided until the age of 18 her opinion on anything new may not be able to count since she says the opposite of what everyone else says. So because she said the opposite of what everyone else was saying, essentially she was saying that she liked it to, right? (I need a therapist).

If you’re looking for your family to try a new meal, (or looking for one yourself), you need to try this. It is absolutely delicious and you don’t taste the eggplant at all.

eggplant recipe

Sausage, Eggplant and Feta Penne

Adapted from Cooking Light

3 cups peeled and cubed eggplant

1/2 pound bulk nitrate free pork sausage

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp pepper

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (try fire roasted tomatoes for a unique taste)

10 ounces uncooked pasta (approximately 6 cups cooked) whole wheat penne pasta

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup parsley (fresh or dried is just fine)

In a large pot, cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan, cook the eggplant, sausage and garlic for approximately five minutes until eggplant is tender and sausage is browned.

Add the tomato paste, spices and diced tomatoes and continue stirring and cooking until mixture is heated through. Remove from heat and toss with cheese and parsley. Serve.

*For a more spaghetti like taste, use fresh grated parmesan cheese instead of feta.

Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas by Kalyn’s Kitchen

Eggplant and Pesto Chicken Skillet by Nicole’s Nutrition

Healthy Eggplant Rollatini by Westchester Foodie

Dark Chocolate Thin Mints–A Scharffen Berger Entry

January 7, 2013
thin mint cookie

Today was a great day. My husband has a job and we are so excited about the opportunity it will bring our family. Since I will be spending two weeks alone with the kids while he is off at various training conferences,  Saturday became baking day.

dark chocolate thin mint cookie

I had a few of these left over today, and munched on them during the day. I’ve heard that peppermint suppresses the appetite. I think after half a dozen of these they finally started working. P1010659

These thin mints are gluten free and naturally sweetened. But you wouldn’t know it–at all. If you want to jazz them up, you can sprinkle a little bit of ancho chili powder and sea salt on top. It makes it a little bit fancier looking and helps enhance the flavor of the chocolate. If you like a little bit of heat to your chocolate, it provides a very light hint of it. gourmet thin mint cookieThese cookies WILL not disappoint. They are incredible and are one of my favorite naturally sweetened desserts.

For now, I’m off to take a ski lesson with the kids and husband. I’ve only been snowboarding before (my thought was, one board is easier than two ski’s. See: how my brain works above). I have two goals. To make it back alive and learn to fall gracefully. Last time I went my tailbone and I had a major disagreement.

Dark Chocolate Thin Mints 

Adapted from Naturally Sweet Recipes

For the Cookies:

1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthum gum or baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup coconut sugar*
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa

Peppermint Coating:

2 1/2 cups Scharffen Berger semisweet dark chocolate baking chunks
2 tsp pure peppermint extract

Ganache Filling:

1/4 cup coconut cream (see directions)
1 cup Scharffen Berger semisweet dark chocolate baking chunks
1 tsp pure peppermint extract

Ancho Chili powder (optional)
Sea salt (optional)

To prep: Place a can of full fat (not light) coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the cookies:

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown rice flour, xanthum or baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until fluffy on medium speed. Add the vanilla, milk, and cocoa to the mixing bowl and continue mixing on medium speed until the batter becomes creamy in appearance. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl until the flour mixture is fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer off, and scoop the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for fifteen minutes or in the refrigerator for up to one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 (but no more than 1/4 inch) thickness. Using a two inch round cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on a lightly greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Continue rolling and cutting dough. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8-9 minutes. Remove from oven and place cookies on cooling rack to cool and harden.

While cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate for the coating in a double boiler, on the stove at lowest setting, or in the microwave. Once chocolate is melted, add the peppermint extract and stir until combined. With a fork, dip each cookie into the chocolate and coat entirely. Allow excess chocolate to drip off before placing cookies on parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle the tops (or approximately half) of the dipped cookies with a light dusting of chili powder and sea salt. Allow the chocolate to set completely before assembling into sandwiches.

To make the filling: Open the can of coconut milk and place 1/4 cup of the coconut cream (this is the top part of the coconut milk that separates and floats to the top of the can when refrigerated) in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Once the coconut cream is boiling, remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Continue stirring until chocolate is melted. If milk cools too quickly, you can continue to melt the chocolate for 10 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each session until completely melted. Stir in the peppermint extract. Allow the mixture to cool completely to room temperature. The mixture should be spreadable. If the mixture hardens too much, place in the microwave for 10 seconds then stir to allow mixture to soften. Place approximately 1 teaspoon of ganache in between two cookies, making sure the top of the cookie is one that is topped with the chili powder and sea salt. Lightly press together and allow to set for at least one hour before eating.

These cookies are naturally sweet and gluten free. They always get rave reviews for being such a rich and elegant dessert. For best results, use ancho chili powder, but regular chili powder is fine. The chili powder will only enhance the flavor of the chocolate and provide a slight heat. You can also omit the sea salt and chili powder altogether if desired.

*For the Sugar: You can easily substitute powdered honey to make the cookie less coarse. Powdered honey can be found at health food stores, or by ordering online. If you are in a bind and don’t have coconut sugar or powdered honey, in a pinch you can use powdered sugar.

This recipe was for the Scharffen Berger contest entry. I was not compensated in any way for my entry. 

Related Links:

White Chocolate and Strawberry Cookies with Coconut Sugar by Burnt Apple

Vegan Thin Mints by Chef Chloe

GF Thin Mints by Baking Bites

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” Winter Weather Book Buster Activity

January 5, 2013
diary of a wimpy kid sandwich

January in Utah is not enjoyable. The temperatures can be frigid, and air becomes trapped creating a smoggy, foggy inversion that brings red air alerts and days spent inside.  The kids get tired of being inside very quickly.

Reading and education is important to our family. But making reading and winter time fun? Not fun. They bore very quickly of the same reading tent or PJ themed reading days.

One of my favorite activities with my kids when my kids were in preschool and kindergarten was to connect reading with cooking. Making baked doughnuts after reading Imogene’s Antlers and putting them on a skewer stick to eat, making ants on a log after reading The Ants Go Marching. You name it, we did it. Our kids developed a love for reading and healthy cooking. I wanted to find a way to carry on the excitement of reading not only in their early years, but through the elementary years and beyond as well.

the rowley sandwich

I owe this idea to my son, who just finished reading “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” for the first time now that he is in second grade and reading longer chapter books. He came out one night after reading holding this piece of paper and said, “Mom, we HAVE to make this!”

It’s called “The Rowley.” There was just one problem. Rowley’s sandwich isn’t the healthiest. White bread, pepperoni, and cheese? Oh my! So we cleaned up the sandwich a little bit and helped Rowley out. Now he has lot’s more energy for this:

We LOVED our Rowley sandwiches. The combination was delicious and my son asks for a “Rowley” every night now. Hopefully this will inspire you and your family to read and enjoy a fun and healthy activity together.

the rowley sandwich

eating the rowley sandwich

The Rowley Sandwich

Makes 4 Sandwiches

8 slices whole grain or whole wheat bread (gluten free bread works too)

4 slices reduced fat Swiss cheese*

4 chicken tender pieces

Turkey pepperoni or nitrate free pepperoni*

Lettuce

Barbeque Sauce*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken tenders in a square 8×8 inch pan. Pour 1/4 cup broth in with the chicken and cover with foil. Place in oven and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.

While chicken is cooking, assemble ingredients. We let the kids build their own sandwich according to the picture above. Barbeque sauce and ketchup were put into ramekins with spoons, the pepperoni and cheese were put on the counter, the lettuce rinsed and dried, and the chicken tenders were moved to a plate. Once the chicken tenders were done we let the kids build their sandwiches.

From top to bottom, the layers are as follows: Bread, barbeque sauce, pepperoni, ketchup, (we recommend putting the ketchup on the chicken tender first) swiss cheese then your other slice of bread.

Ta Da! A Rowley Sandwich!!

–Optional chicken cooking methods include grilling or pan cooking.

* Recommendations: Sargento sells reduced fat swiss cheese, Applegate Farms sells nitrate free pepperoni, and Annie’s sells a brand of barbeque sauce free of high fructose corn syrup. If you are looking for a vegan pepperoni, Yves sells a brand.

Chocolate Strawberry Crepes + A Giveaway

January 1, 2013
chocolate strawberry crepes

Is your New Year’s resolution to lose weight? One look at this recipe and you’ll think that your whole resolution will be blown. chocolate strawberry crepes

But that’s not true. I know that one of the hardest things to do is to lose weight and stay healthy while still feeling like you can indulge a little bit.

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Real chocolate, greek yogurt, and whipped coconut milk come together to make one satisfying breakfast. It also doubles as a delicious dessert.
P1010522Get your griddle ready. It’s time to eat!!

happy new year giveaway

And now, the second best part of this blog post. To celebrate the New Year we are having a giveaway!

Several other bloggers and myself are teaming up to make sure that the New Year starts out with a bang. Every participating blogger is giving away a different gift. On our site, we are giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card. You can use it to buy some of the items for your kitchen that Santa didn’t buy you.

We just bought this Pyrex dish set. Or you can purchase this microplane zester. I can’t live without mine. One of the items that we make over and over again are baked mini doughnuts. We used ours so much, it’s time to purchase another pan.  I also love this beginning cake decorating set. I use it all the time and the bag has held up well. I also love the India Tree Natural Vegetable Food Dyes and use them all the time in place of traditional food dyes.

To enter the contest, CLICK HERE NOW!!

Chocolate Strawberry Crepes

Adapted from Skinnytaste

For Crepes:

1 cup white whole wheat flour (can also use unbleached all purpose flour)

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp powdered sugar or powdered honey

1 1/2 cups lowfat milk

2 egg whites

1 egg

1 tsp canola oil

For Filling:

1 1/2 cups strawberry Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Fresh cut strawberries if desired

Whipped coconut milk cream

Chocolate syrup

Preheat griddle pan on medium low. While the pan is heating, prepare the crepe mixture.

In a blender, place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, milk, eggs and oil. Blend until mixture becomes smooth.

Spray hot griddle, than pour approximately 1/4 cup of mixture onto the heated griddle pan. Swirl the pan slightly to allow crepe mixture to become smooth and thin. Cook for approximately one to two minutes until crepe becomes golden brown on the bottom. With a spatula, flip the crepe over and cook for an additional thirty seconds. Remove from heat and keep in a warm oven.

Repeat until all crepes have been made.

To serve the crepes: Down the center of one crepe, place one to two tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Top with several fresh cut strawberries if desired. Fold each crepe over filling. Top with drizzle of chocolate sauce, Greek yogurt, fresh strawberries, and coconut milk whipped cream if desired.

Note: Batter can be refrigerated for up to two days.