Foolproof Funfetti Birthday Cake

Soooo, we’ve got a two-year-old now!!  How bizarre is that?!  I can totally relate to the saying, “The days a long and the years are short,” because that’s how the last two years have felt.  Parenthood brings you lows and the highest of highs.  It’s truly amazing how full your heart feels from raising a little one, and celebrating Gia’s birthday definitely made me feel all of the things!

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t turn into an emotional mess over Gia turning two this weekend.  The biggest thing I felt though was pride.  Pride over the little person she’s becoming, pride in myself for being the best mom I can be, and pride in my husband for showing me time and again why marrying him was the best decision ever.

This year for Gia’s birthday I knew I didn’t want a huge bash like we had for her first birthday party.  Number one, it’s just a lot of work to do.  Number two, at eight months pregnant there isn’t as much energy left to be the hostess with the mostess.  Therefore, Craig and I agreed that inviting our immediate family who lived in the area would be the best way to celebrate.  We kept it easy and very summery by having a BBQ that included Craig’s tri-tip, grilled veggies, watermelon and my potato salad.  (My potato salad is damn good and so simple, so I might have to share that with you too!)  No birthday is complete without cake, and this year that meant a homemade funfetti Elmo cake.

About a month ago I decided to recipe test before making the cake for Gia’s special day, and I’m really glad I did!  Initially I found a recipe from Food52 for funfetti that I tried out.  To my surprise, it was an overly oily cake.  I was really disappointed because I own two cookbooks by Food52 that are excellent, so I figured this recipe would work out fine.  Wrong!  I mentioned the cake mishap to my mom and she said she had a recipe from one of her cookbooks for a foolproof funfetti cake.  Of course I made her send it to me and I tried it out right away.  Let’s just say that my husband, friends and neighbors were please that I had decided to recipe test cakes.  Thank goodness all this test cake off my hands, or else I might have eaten my weight in cake leading up to Gia’s birthday.  Pregnant lady problems can be very stereotypical at times!

I was really happy with how my cake turned out and was even happier with the cute cake topper I ordered from Etsy.  For those who asked if I would share the recipe for the cake, here it is:

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Like I mentioned before, this is not my own recipe and I believe it came from “Great American Cakes.”  To make the cake my own, I dyed the frosting a dusty pink and used rainbow sprinkles to cover the sides of the cake from top to bottom.  The three layers made it feel decadent and special, while still remaining light and delicious.  It was a hit with the birthday girl and my entire family.  Craig’s dad and mine even went back for a second helping!  That’s always a compliment in my book.

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Overall, Gia’s second birthday party was perfect (although it wasn’t without a good two-year-old tantrum).  Like most toddlers, she’s spoiled beyond belief and loved to no end.  I’m pretty sure she felt like the rockstar that we all think she is.  As much as I don’t want the years to fly by, I can’t wait to do it again for her next year.  Making my daughter’s birthday cake is a privilege and something that I will continue to do over the years, just like my mom did for me.

I hope you all enjoy the recipe as much as we did!

xo

Recipe Sharing Is Caring: Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Until the age of approximately nine years old, I had no idea that mac and cheese came in a box. Now, there’s nothing wrong with boxed mac and cheese – I give my daughter Annie’s organic macaroni on nights I don’t feel inspired or want to have a food war.

What I’m getting at is that I grew up eating really good food because my mom was a chef for George Lucas (and that’s just the tip of the cooking iceberg with her). You’d think that being exposed to elevated cooking from a young age that I’d have this natural cooking ability…..

Yes and no. I’m far more recipe oriented than any legitimate chef who can easily combine flavors and make things on the fly. That’s part of the reason why I love to bake, because it always needs to be precise.

When I’m on top of things during the week with meal planning, I have recipes and ingredients ready for certain nights of the week. I rely a lot on leftovers so I can send my husband to work with good food to fuel him for his workday.

I’ve been asked to share this Moroccan inspired dish by multiple Instagram followers, so here we go!

What will surprise you most (or not!) is that it’s a simple slow cooker meal that’s bursting with flavor. Even better yet, my daughter Gia LOVED it! I know all little kiddos have different taste buds, but it has the potential to be a very kid friendly dish for an adventurous eater.

If you’re tired and uninspired when it comes to dinners, this recipe is a lifesaver. I hope you guys enjoy the ease of this dish as much as I do!

Happy slow cooking!

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried prunes, halved
  • 1/2 pitted green olives
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In slow cooker, combine the chicken, carrots, onion, prunes, olives, garlic, flour, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on low for six hours.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle with cilantro or nuts (optional) and serve with lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • I chose to serve the dish over couscous.  Perfect pairing, in my opinion!

Recipe from Skinny Taste

Xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key.  I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee.  My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago.  Let’s just say, things have changed and he needs his coffee almost as much as I do!  These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous.  My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast.  Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with.  They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez.  I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly.  There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with.  Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee.  (I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez.  Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways.  Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time.  We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station.  Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day.  My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day.  My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day.  Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did!  Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well.  You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Oatmeal-Zucchini Muffin Cups

Last week I ordered Kristin Cavallari’s new cookbook, “True Roots.” As soon as it arrived I started flipping through it and made a grocery list so I could try some of the recipes right away. This is my usual m.o. when I get a new cookbook. I must have made close to five of her recipes already – all of them have been good! According to her Intro in the cookbook, she partnered with her long time chef who started working for her family after the birth of one of her children. I think it’s really refreshing that she’s not claiming to be some culinary expert, just someone passionate about making healthful food for herself and her family.

I shared a photo of the Oatmeal-Zucchini Muffin Cups from her cookbook on my Instagram stories and got multiple requests to post it on my blog. For those not wanting to by the cookbook, I’d seriously suggest rethinking that. It’s got a great variety of food and is very kid-friendly, for those of you cooking for big and little mouths. If you’re still not convinced, don’t worry, the recipe will be here for your using pleasure!

Here’s a shot of the recipe from the actual cookbook. It makes 12 very hearty muffins. So far, everyone in my house likes them so I’m sure you will too.

For those interested in ordering the cookbook, I purchased mine on the ever so wonderful Amazon. It’s already a #1 Bestseller!

Anyone else remember Kristin Cavallari’s “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” days? I’m pretty sure we would have viewing parties my freshman year of college in the common area of our dorms. Oh man! Haha!

Another great cookbook that I’ve yet to make anything from is “The Minimalist Kitchen.” The photos in this book are eye catching and the recipes are simple and clean. I can’t wait to dig in and make some things after I’m done with my “True Roots” binge.

Hope you guys enjoy! Let me know what your favorite recipes are from each, or how you’ve tweaked them to make them your own!

Xo