29 June, 2012

Cinnamon Kissed Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

You may wonder if we ever eat anything else other than confectionery delights after seeing all my posts on my latest treats to share with you!  I can assure you, I love to bake, but I love to give it away.  I eat very little of what I've made...the fun is in watching the faces of others enjoy what I have made.  Here's another one for you that's sure to please.  They are moist and more muffin-like than a dense bread.

Yields 24 Muffins


3 C. of flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 overly ripe bananas (not ones you've ripened in the microwave...really counter ripened! The sugar the bananas make helps.)
3/4 C. white sugar
3/4 C. brown sugar
2 eggs...do not over whisk, just beat lightly
2/3 C. melted butter (substitute a little applesauce for a portion if you want a healthier version)
1/2-1C. chocolate chips (more or less depending on your sweet tooth)
*for topping, think cinnamon toast...mix a little cinnamon with a little sugar and sprinkle on top before baking


1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line muffin tin with papers or grease.
2.  In one bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3.  In another bowl, mash bananas, then add both sugars, whisked egg and melted butter.
4.  Gently pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and begin to fold...don't stir!  And don't go crazy with the folding...only until everything is combined and moistened.  
5.  Add your chocolate chips, give one more fold, and pour into muffin cups.
6.  Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture and put in the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Use a toothpick to test.  Most people OVER bake, thinking they aren't cooked all the way through.  This creates a dry and sometimes burned muffin.  
7.  Enjoy!

19 June, 2012

Chocolate Covered Coconut Macaroons

I've always had a thing for coconut.  The smell of suntan lotions, surfboard wax and tropical drinks.  Something about the smell of coconut sends me to vacation mode, if only for a moment.  Add the sense of taste, and I'm in heaven.  Mounds and Almond Joy candy are my first picks when in the grocery store candy aisle.  And then there's the supreme coconut macaroon.  This past weekend I allowed myself to pay $4 for one macaroon at a Nestle Toll House Cafe.  Yep, $4.  After the moment was gone, I decided I was going to make a tray of them for that $4.

If you're a regular reader, you know I always bend and twist recipes I find, in order to try and make them just a little better...in my opinion. Here's what I came up with for making them yourself at home.  Quick and easy!  Here's what you need:
  • 16 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (you might add more if your mixture is too "runny")
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbs mixture 1/2 heavy whipping cream 1/2 milk (you might need to add more depending on consistency) 
Directions for macaroons:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. (no, parchment paper is NOT waxed paper)
  2. In a medium bowl, mix coconut, condensed milk and vanilla.
  3. In a small bowl, whip egg whites and salt on high until you get medium hard peaks of egg.  Fold the egg white into the coconut.
  4. Drop heaping tablespoon size balls onto the baking tray. They don't need to be perfect balls, I like the look of mounds instead of a ball.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown...watch carefully that they don't burn...lots of sugar in there.
  6. Remove and cool.
Directions for chocolate drizzle:
  1. Stir the chocolate and cream over medium heat until melted smooth.  Remove from heat.
  2. Spoon the chocolate ganache mixture over the tops of the mounds of coconut, allowing the chocolate to ooze down the sides.
  3. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set, keep in refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to serve.

Trista Sutter on Traveling With Kids

It looks like everyone is excited to read about The Bachelorette's Trista Sutter and her travel tips for families!  Have you taken a peek at how she plans for vacations with her kids?  Get some tips and ideas on places to go with your family when traveling this summer!  Head over to Travelingmom.com.

11 June, 2012

Hello Kitty Party For Two

This year, my girls wanted a Hello Kitty party.  Hello Kitty is big over here, featuring a Sanrio store in every mall and Hello Kitty guest appearances quite often.  They didn't really know who Hello Kitty was before coming here, but now, they are in love with her.

It's been a challenge for me to let my creative party planning juices flow over here.  We don't have a Michael's, a JoAnn's, a Target or even a real Dollar Store.  Even tissue paper can be hard to find and expensive if you do (although I now know Paper Chase carries it, 15 AED for 5 sheets...roughly $4.)  I can't go to garage sales and stock up on mismatched shabby chic items, or vintage dessert bowls and cake stands.  And with my kids' birthdays falling in some of the hottest months of the year, June and September, I'm left with indoor options for hosting.  Combine all these elements, and I'm put to the test.  Sadly, for the first time, I was left with hosting a party at a local venue.

*Note to OCD party planners...using a venue means giving up control and not bringing in your own confectionery delights!  Prepare to have something not falling into your exact wishes and desires.

I chose to have the party at the golf club here in town.  They have beautiful green lawns with a full playground for the children to keep busy, we had indoor and outdoor options for entertainment and seating, and someone else would cook, clean and I could relax.  The girls colored Hello Kitty pictures, they played on the trampoline and swings, we had a pinata custom crafted by a local company and plenty of giggles.
The tables and chairs were all decked out in white linens with bubble gum pink satin running down the middle.  White china graced each setting, perfect for a little girls tea party.  I placed a Hello Kitty water bottle at each setting, labeled with the girl's names that I fashioned, as well as a hat and party blower.  A pink lemonade with a pink straw also awaited the girls.  In the center of the girls table, I placed the tissue paper flower bouquet I made using skewers.  On the cake table, I placed individual party favor bags, which I designed after my girls' party dresses and put together, and filled them with Hello Kitty silly bands and Hello Kitty Jelly Belly candy and topped with pinwheels I made as well.  I even made a sign to match the invitation to place above the cake table.  I wish I could have made cake pops and had a pink and white dessert table, but when you use a venue, you typically can't bring in your own food.  However, it really did look sweet and perfect.  I was impressed so far...most of my vision had come together.

But remember that note about being OCD and giving up control?  It was time for lunch to be served. Here, you're dealing with lots of different languages, always trying to make sure you understood what was said, and hoping you have the same interpretation in meanings.  I thought I had relayed my messages about the menu clearly, even providing pictures from my inspiration board for the staff to use as visuals!  However, we ended up with some interesting versions of our food.  Instead of petit peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we had monstrous peanut butter and Jell-O sandwiches!  Instead of yogurt parfaits with fresh fruit, we had yogurt parfaits with jelly...the jelly meant for the sandwiches.  I think a few bites of each were taken by the girls.  But the adults, they laughed, took pictures and thought it was a classic memory.  They even joked that peanut butter and Jell-O sandwiches are going to be all the rage soon!

The cake.  Those of you who know me know I always make my cakes.  But I wasn't allowed to bring in any outside food.  So, in my effort to get exactly what I wanted, I drilled in the fact that I HATE fondant, and I want butter cream ONLY.  I wanted bright red and pale pink with white to match the invitation and my girls' dresses.  Again, I provided a picture from the inspiration board.  Out came the cake, and my face dropped.  My disappointment showed to my guests.  The cake was fondant.  The red was a burnt, deep red (I enhanced the red in the above picture for my pleasure.)  The cake...was frozen.  It wasn't my vision.  Overall, my friends were having fun, regardless of the food and what was supposed to be.  The little girls didn't care.  I was the one who knew what I ordered, not them.  But I was the one who felt the need to disclose the mistakes.  Hostess party foul number one.  Don't show your disappointment.  Chances are, no one even notices but YOU!

My girls?  They LOVED the party.  They profusely thanked me for it.  Other little girls told their moms' that they wanted to have a party like it at the gold club too.  I guess if people talk about it, loved it and want one of their own, you can consider it a success, no matter how much you beat yourself up for the mistakes.  In the car on the way home, I was actually able to truly laugh about it and get over it.  Not easy for me, but the grins on my girls' faces was all that mattered.  Not some crummy old fondant cake.