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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Celebratory Cake Pops!

Cake Pops are the latest and greatest trend and the perfect sweet treat for any kind of celebration!  I made these candy coated treats for our friend's cocktail party last night. 

We had a great time meeting new people, enjoyed fun finger food and the view from their place was stunning! 

There are hundreds of recipes for cake pops and even more ways to decorate and style them.  Here's what I chose . . .

This is my foolproof method slightly adapted from Bakerella. . . You should definitely experiment with your favorite flavors and combinations.  There's no right or wrong when it comes to this sugary confection!


  • 1 box cake mix or your own from scratch recipe (cook as directed on box for 9 X 13 cake)
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.).  I made my own, using this recipe
  • 1 container of chocolate candy coating/candy melts (I use the kind for chocolate covered strawberries)
  • Sprinkles, sanding sugar, mini candies
  • wax paper
  • lollipop sticks

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 16oz  frosting. I did this in a mixer - it gets super messy if you use your hands!
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on wax paper. You should get around 50.
4. Insert lillipop stick and chill for several hours.  I have made these a few times and I suggest putting them in the freezer for 30 minutes vs. the fridge.
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm.  Do a few at a time so that they stay cold!
7. Cover with sprinkles, sanding sugar, mini candies - whatever your heart desires!
8. Set on wax paper until the chocolate hardens.
9. Optional: Decorate the sticks with ribbon or bows for an extra deliciously stylish look!

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sweet Strawberry Almond Bars

Last night, we met our dear friend's sweet baby Revanth. . . what better way to mark the occasion than with a sweet treat?!

Running with the theme of simple, stylish desserts; this one is another 4 Ingredient Wonder!


1/2 Roll Pre-prepared Sugar Cookie Dough (take the short cut; I did!  If you make your own cookie dough, you'll need about 8 oz. to cover an 8x8 dish)
1/2 Cup Seedless Strawberry Preserves (Use any flavor you'd like.  Raspberry, Orange, it all sounds amazing!)
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
Note to self: add a little almond or vanilla extract to the cookie dough for an extra rich flavor!


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Break up Cookie Dough and press into the bottom of an 8x8 Glass Baking Dish, pressing it to an even thickness on the bottom of the pan. (I lined mine with some parchment paper for easy removal before slicing)

Bake for 14-17 minutes until golden brown.

In a small sauce pan, whisk Preserves and cornstarch until it reaches a boil.  Turn heat off.

Lightly toast sliced almonds in a small pan to develop flavor (3-4 minutes)

Remove Cookie Dough from oven and spread Preserves  to just shy of the edges.  Sprinkle almonds and press in lightly.

Let this set for 1 hour prior to slicing in to 16 squares.  Serve at Room Temperature

Press the cookie dough into an even layer

Spread preserves and top with toasted almonds while still in the baking dish

Cut, Serve and Enjoy!

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quesidilla Pie

I promised Aditya a new dish for dinner and the day got away from me, as it often does!  The original name of the recipe is Impossibly Easy Quesdilla Pie and it certainly lives up to its name.

Betty Crocker to the rescue!  5 ingredients plus garnish and took less than 5 minutes to put together.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.  My notes in orange.

  • 1 can (4.5 ounces) Old El Paso® chopped green chiles, well drained (I had an 8 oz. can on hand and used the whole thing - it wasn't too much at all.  In fact, I think 4.5 oz would not give enough of that chile flavor)
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro (I omitted this)
  • 3/4 cup Original Bisquick® mix (Reduced fat worked out well)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2% and it was still fluffy and great)
  • 3 eggs
  • Scallions for garnish
  • Reduced Fat Sour Cream for garnish
  • Your favorite Salsa
  1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Grease 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle chilies, cheese and cilantro in pie plate.
  2. Stir remaining ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes.
  4. Garnish with sour cream, salsa and chopped scallions or chives.

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sauteed Broccolini

This is a quick and easy way to dress up broccolini or even broccoli for that matter.  Cut the butter in half to make it a little "healthier".  The tang from the garlic and lemon juice makes this side dish feel a little fancier.  Blanching them helped retain their beautiful, vibrant green color and left it with a nice bite.  No mushy veggies here!

Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lemon, zested (I didn't have fresh lemon, so no zest, I imagine it would kick up the volume!)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used the pre minced kind with a bit of the oil it's packed in)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used bottled, but fresh would be so much better!!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Blanch the broccolini in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the lemon zest and garlic and stir. Drain the broccolini and add it to the garlic mixture and heat for 2 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, red pepper, and toss well before serving.

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables and one my husband is actually happy to eat (bonus!)  I usually roast it, but we had some friends from out of town come over for dinner and I wanted to dress it up a bit.  So naturally I turned to The Barefoot Contessa and whipped up her cheesy cauliflower gratin.  The result. . .crispy topping, cheesy filling and soft, creamy cauliflower underneath it all. 

I would add a bit more spice the next time around. . . but all in all, it was a great side dish for a cold, winter evening with friends.

Original recipe from Ina Garten can be found here.  My additions in orange.


  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk  (I used 1 cup 2% milk and 1 cup whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used pecorino romano becuase I had it on hand)
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used whole wheat bread crumbs. .  . panko would be delicoius as well)
  • I would suggest adding 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper to the milk mixture to give it a little kick

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, red pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.  Let it rest for a few minutes before serving so that everything can firm up a bit.

Prior to baking. . . I added a smidge extra cheese on top. . . why not?!

Golden Brown, Bubbly and Delicious!

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Sinful Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes with a Sweet Glaze

I had a few girlfriends over last weekend to make Valentine's Day cards for the Chidren's Hospital and local Nursing Home.  We had a great time and made 120 cards! 

Every crafter needs a break, and these cupcakes were the perfect sweet treat for a bunch of sweet girls!

The glaze is tooth achingly sweet, so I wouldn't recommend licking the spoon. . . but taking a bite of everything together was super delish.

I follwed a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis found here.  My notes in pink!

  • 1 box vanilla cake mix or your favorite from scratch recipe
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries (I used closer to 2/3rds for an extra strawberry kick)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar


Special equipment: 1 muffin tin, pastry bag with small tip

Make the cupcakes according to package instructions. Lightly grease the muffin tin and fill the batter almost to the rim of each muffin cup. Bake according to package directions and let cool. (I used paper liners instead of spraying the muffin tin and filled each cup 2/3rds full)

In a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese, thawed strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cooled cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. You know you've filled it too much if the top splits. . . Continue with the remaining cupcakes.  If you don't have a pastry bag with tip, you can always cut the cupcake in half and spread the filling or cut a piece out of the center and fill. 

In a small saucepan bring the 1/2 cup sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium bowl combine the vanilla syrup with the confectioner's sugar. Stir until smooth. Working quickly, use a rubber spatula spread the icing on the top of the cupcakes. If the icing begins to firm up, place in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up again.  I added a drop of pink food coloring gel (NOT liquid) to give it that Valentine's Pink look! 

The glaze hardens pretty quickly.  I stored these in the fridge and took them out 1 hour prior to serving.

Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Caprese Pesto Margherita Bites

I've been getting a lot of coupons from Pillsbury lately and I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's easier to just buy their dough! 

These little Caprese Bites are easy and stylish which is always a winning combination in my book!

I made 2 variations on the recipe below and both were equally delicious!  The second version uses Grands Flaky biscuits.  Separate each biscuit into 2 pieces so that you end up with 20 rounds.  Fill with pesto, mozzerella and bake 14 minutes.  Top with diced tomato.  I'll post picutres of the second version soon!

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury.  How to Video 
My additions in orange

  • 1 container (8 oz) fresh mozzarella ciliegine cheese (24 cherry-size balls) Drain really well and pat dry with a paper towel
  • 1 can (11 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated original breadsticks (12 breadsticks) Keep refrigerated until ready to use
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 24 frilled toothpicks
  • 24 grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 24 fresh basil leaves I totally forgot the basil and they still tasted great.  I think a little basil confetti would have looked pretty on the platter. . . next time!

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Drain cheese balls; pat dry with paper towels.
  • On work surface, unroll dough; separate into 12 breadsticks. Cut each breadstick in half crosswise; press each half into 3x2-inch rectangle.
  • Spread rounded 1/4 teaspoon of the pesto lengthwise down center of each dough rectangle. Place 1 cheese ball on each rectangle. Carefully stretch dough around cheese; pinch edges to seal completely. Place seam sides down in muffin cups. Brush with oil (I sprayed them with Olive Oil flavored Pam) ; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (I used some pecorino romano since I had it on hand)
  • Bake 14 to 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan. With each toothpick, spear tomato and basil leaf; insert into cheese ball. Serve warm
  • I used a less pesto than listed on the recipe
    All rolled up!  Place these seam side down into the mini muffin tin.
    All lined up and ready to bake.  Some cheese and pesto may ooze out.  Don't worry, they will harden after cooled.
    Browned and Ooey Gooey Delicousness
    These bites are best served warm.  Keep them at a low temperature in the oven and skewer them right before serving so that the tomato stays cool and in tact.
    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

Zucchini Pancakes

We've been on a big brunch kick lately and these zucchini pancakes are a good alternative to potato pancakes.  They aren't quite as crispy, but they definitely have good flavor and pair well with a spicy sauce.

I saw Ina make these and you know I love everything she makes, so I headed to the grocery store for zucchini!

Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa


  • 2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)

  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion

  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

  • Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

    Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of flour.)

    Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

    I top these with sea salt as soon as they come out of the pan and serve with a spicy tomato sauce for that extra tang!

    For a little variation - stuff these with a bit of goat cheese.  Put down a tablespoon of batter, crumble a bit of goat cheese and then top with another teaspoon to tablespoon of batter.  It is ooey, gooey delicious!

    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!


    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Baked Mini Donuts!

    I'm a sucker for mini-desserts and mini baked donuts have been on my to-do list for sometime. . . Grandma and Grandpa bought me the cutest donut baking pan and we whipped up a batch yesterday.  They turned out to be something between a cakey donut and the traditional type.  Either way, they are super delish and super stylish indeed!

    Nutella and Sprinkles

    There are many recipes for baked donuts online and in the interest of getting these ready quickly for a mid-afternoon snack, I chose a recipe that didn't require yeast.  The result was a more dense, cakey type donut which was conducive to soaking up the tangerine glaze.

    So fun!
    I used a small ice cream scoop to fill these and pushed the dough around with a  spatula.  I would fill them slightly less next time around, which would probably yield 3-4 more donuts!

    You can find the original recipe here: My Culinary Journal.  I made just a few adjustments below in pink:

    Ingredients :

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tub (150 gm ) plain yogurt (I used a little more than 5 oz. of greek yogurt that I diluted a bit with water since it tends to be thicker than regular yogurt)
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Method :
    1. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
    2. Combine the egg, yogurt, oil, lemon juice and vanilla and mix well.
    3. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
    4. Coat the tube pans with nonstick cooking spray 
    5. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
    6. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
    Tangerine Glaze and Powdered Sugar

    Chocolate Banana Creme and Sprinkles!

    Drizzle with your favorite glaze, chocolate spread, nutella etc. etc.  The possibilities are endless!  I whipped up a quick tangerine glaze with the juice of 1/4th of a tangerine and about 1/3-1/2 cup of powdered sugar.  The remaining donuts were generously covered with nutella and banana chocolate creme

    Getting ready to frost and glaze
    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Mini Cheesecake Cups

    As most of you know, I'm a big fan of playing "Would you Rather". . . in a dessert verion of  the game. . . I always end up choosing Cheesecake as the one dessert i'd eat for the rest of my life over any other!

    Here's a little recipe for mini cheesecakes using nilla wafers for the crust.   I'm a sucker for mini-desserts. . . these are quick and easy and look super cute on a tray.  They can be topped with fruit or chocolate you love. . . you really can't go wrong!

    Recipe adapted from (my additions in pink!)

    • 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (I use the low fat version)
    • 3/4 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tseaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • Nabisco Nilla wafers
    • Cherry pie topping (any other canned fruit topping you'd like)
    • Fresh Fruit for topping
    • Chopped Chocolate for topping
    • Optional - Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top
    Top with anything that sounds good!  I used cherry pie filling on 1/2 and chocolate chips on the other 1/2

    Beat all wet ingredients well until smooth. Put a Nabisco Nilla wafer in each cupcake baking cup. Makes 18-20 individual cheesecakes. Fill cupcake baking cup about 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 17 minutes. Top each individual cheesecake with a spoonful of cherry pie topping or any other fruit when cool.  Thara's tip: store the cheesecakes in the muffin tin inside the fridge so that they set up and are sturdy!

    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Pesto, Sundried Tomato, Feta and Walnut Palmiers

    Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa is my ABSOLUTE favorite!  I could watch her show all day long. . . I overlook the fact that most of her recipes call for two sticks of butter, because she calls it out herself and she's just so darn lovable!  I love how she loves to cook and bake for Jeffrey and all of her friends in the Hamptons.  It's on my bucket list to meet The Contessa herself. . . I was THIS CLOSE when she came to Dallas for a book signing a few months ago, but I sorely underestimated the swarms of fans that descended down upon The NorthPark MallThe line was wrapped around a dozen times and extended out to the freeway!    Guess we'll just have to plan a trip to the Hamptons!!!

    Ina's Savory Palmier recipe below. . . I put my own spin on it primarily based on my love of Feta CheeseThis was another dish served at our recent appetizer and dessert party.  So good, that I made them again for Christmas Dinner and for New Years Brunch with a spicy Indian filling.  Crispy on the outside, warm and a bit soft on the inside with big, bold flavors. . . Once you master the art of palmier folding, the options are endless! 

    Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa.  My additions in pink!

    • 1 package frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted
    • 1/2 cup prepared pesto, store bought or homemade (I used a combination of 1/4 cup basil pesto and 1/4 cup sun dried tomato pest0 and upped the quantity from 1/4 total for 2 sheets to per sheet for more flavor)
    • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used feta because that's all I had and it tasted great!)
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained (I only had the kind not in oil, so  chopped some up and let them sit in olive oil for 15 minutes - that softened them up a bit)
    • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (lightly toasted, chopped walnuts matched up well with the pesto and feta combo I made- feel free to add more if you like a little extra crunch - I did! )
    • Kosher salt


    Lightly flour a board and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin until it's 9 1/2 by 11 1/2-inches. Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sundried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. (I left this out as the pesto, tomatos and feta are already pretty salty)

    Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center. Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch. Fold one side over the other and press lightly. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes. (prepare one sheet at a time, keeping the second one in the fridge so that it stays cold, which will make it easier to work with)

    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry in 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (I used a silpat and they slid right off). Bake for 14-16 minutes minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

    Vegetarian Friendly S'mores - AT LAST!!!

    Growing up vegetarian wasn't always easy, and learning that some of your favorite treats contained gelatin was disappointing to say the least!  Present Day, there are so many vegetarian friendly options, that kids and adults alike don't have to miss out anymore on super sweet treats like s'mores!

    It is sugar laden indeed and not natural by any means, but Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff gives us an opportunity to enjoy s'mores gelatin free and it tastes pretty darn good right out of the container!

    4 Ingredients + A Toaster Oven is all it takes

    • Graham Crackers
    • Nutella
    • Ripe Banana
    • Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff


    Peel banana and slice into 1/4" slices diagonally.  Split Graham Crackers into square shapes and arrange in pairs.  Spread 1 teaspoon of nutella on half and 1 tablespoon of fluff on the other half. 

    Places topped squares face side up in the toaster oven/oven and bake for 1.5-2 minutes. . . nutella and fluff will be hot and easy to spread.  Top with 2 slices of banana and squish shut (yes, squish is actually the technical term used!)

    Serve IMMEDIATELY and make as many batches as your oven will hold!!!

    Happy Cooking and Happy Styling!

    My little brother-in-law gives it 2 thumbs up!