Graduation Candy Toppers for Cupcakes

Livia’s kindergarten class has a fun task going on for the last month of school.  Each day they pop a balloon to see what special thing is going to happen the following day of class.  This is to celebrate their upcoming graduation and that step into becoming a 1st grader.  Balloons contained things like a mystery reader, bubble gum, and a beach party.

I volunteered for “special snack” day.  There were quite a few ideas from Pinterest that I wanted to make and plan to in future.  You might like some of these for your young kids:

The witch hat idea got me thinking.  Let’s turn those into graduation caps to make it theme appropriate.  These are so easy to do so any “non crafty” mommies (and daddies) can do them.  They also are rather cheap costing less than $10 depending on your grocery store prices and if you add them to cupcakes like I did.

Ingredients for the Candy Graduation Caps

  • Rolos
  • Bahlsen Choco Leibniz cookies cut into squares (I wanted a cookie for mine.  You can use square chocolates or anything else edible that is square really.)
  • Tube frosting (I used white)
  • Decorating tip (I made sure to use a small tip so I can pipe on the tassel)

How to assemble:

  1. Unwrap your Rolos and turn them upside down.  The bottom of the hat should be the widest part of the candy.
  2. Cut your cookies into a square shape (if needed)
  3. Pipe your icing onto the top of the Rolo.  Make sure to put enough that it will actually stick to the cookie.  I know that the tops of Rolos have a slight indent so too little icing won’t act as your glue.
  4. Attach the bottom of your cookie to the top of the Rolo.  For the Bahlsen cookies, you know which is the bottom because it’s not covered by chocolate.
  5. Pipe a tassel onto the top of the cookie
  6. Refrigerate to help the icing dry

You can be done here if you want or you can use these as cupcake toppers like I did.  The cupcake isn’t important.  I ended up just using my box of backup Funfetti and vanilla icing.  Normally I would be hunting down a fun recipe on Pinterest but I didn’t have time.

My daughter was thrilled when she saw these so I’m sure whatever you choose will be best!

I’d love to hear what folks use for the top part of the hat if anybody happens to use this idea or has done one in the past!

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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Kitchen


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TwD: Pizza Rustica

I should title this “The Post That Almost Didn’t Happen”.  It’s been a crazy week in the household with it being my youngest’s birthday and all.  I didn’t think I’d have a chance to make this recipe this week… but Pizza Rustica (“Baking with Julia”, Recipe hosted at Capital Region Dining and The Place They Call Home) really did save the day on Sunday.

When I have company, I don’t like cooking run of the mill things.  I like trying new recipes and the TwD goodies have always been good for that.  So what’s better for a sunday dinner after watching a hockey game?  Pizza pie.

As always, I started off baking with doubts.  I didn’t know if the recipe would turn out okay.  I don’t have a food processor and my blender broke… and being that I didn’t know what “pulse” speed was on anything until the last week or so, I have no idea how changing equipment will impact recipes.

The crust is fabulously easy to make.  As you can see in the picture, my strips across the top broke.  I didn’t have enough for them so I stretched them pretty thin.  Nobody cared, though, when it was all said in done.  In fact, nobody would have noticed if I didn’t say anything.

The crust itself was sweet and not too thick which we all liked.  (Although, I’m sure Dan would like it to be a thick crust next time since it’s Chicago soul cries out for thick crusts and deep dishes.)

For the filling, I winged it a bit.  I used the ricotta it called for; however, the prosciutto was way too expensive and I just didn’t want to pay for it.  I used turkey pepperoni since my kids are a pepperoni pizza eater.  I also added sauce to the bottom of the crust and drizzled over the top once the cheese went in.  This made it more appealing to Noelle and definitely more convincing for her to try it.

I did use the ricotta but used a mixed “Italian cheese” bag that was on sale at giant eagle for the rest.  It was one of those week where I had to pick my pennies and mix and match.  And that’s okay!  The spirit of the recipe was there, and we all know that recipes are out there to be inspirations and to be tweaked.

We loved this recipe.  I can see this as something we’ll make every so often on a Sunday especially because Noelle loved it.  She’s my picky eater so when I can find dinner food she’ll eat that isn’t a chicken nugget or bagel bite, you add it to your recipe box.  I was actually amazed she ate it.  I’m not a huge fan of ricotta cheese myself so I didn’t think she’d like it.  I was wrong!  Who knows?  Maybe I can get her to eat lasagna next?  Haha.


Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Tuesdays With Dorie


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TwD: Irish Soda Bread

You know a recipe is successful when you’ve made it three times in rapid succession.  Have buttermilk you need to get rid of?  Sure, let’s make some Soda Bread.  This recipe even made it’s way to Chicago in my suitcase this past weekend.  (I had 2 cups of buttermilk left and time to kill before my flight.)

Ripe for St. Patrick’s Day, this week was the Irish Soda Bread recipe in the “Baking with Julia” cookbook.  I had never heard of Soda Bread before… yeah, I’m that far in a hole sometimes.  Attempt number 2 at some type of bread was easy, simple and fun.  Both my girls helped make this bread and Noelle brought some to her teacher (who is proud Irish) in the form of soda bread biscuits.

You can find the recipe on page 214 or on these sites (our hosts for the week):

  • My Culinary Mission (I am trying her twist and adding Gruyère next time and 100% agree with her that this is a great beginner recipe for kids.)
  • Chocolate Moosey (The name of this blog just makes me hungry… check out her delicious pictures for this recipe to be even more hungry.)

You only need four ingredients for this:  buttermilk, flour, salt and baking soda.  Chances are: you already have at least 3 of these in your kitchen!

The first round of this bread we were making to bring to my cousin’s birthday party.  Both girls dearly wanted to help so we split up duties.  One got to help measure and one got to pour everything into the mixing bowl.  I had to laugh when we poured the buttermilk.  Noelle was a bit grossed out that it looked liked “rotten milk”.  ;)

Livia made sure that Noelle joined us in our culinary club and painted Noelle’s face with flour (see our Rugelach post for Livia’s face painting).  The dough mixes nicely with a bread hook (my kitchenaid is so happy it’s being used regularly after all these years).

The first time I made it, the dough wasn’t as sticky as the recipe said it would be.  The third time I made it, the dough was extremely sticky so I floured my counter really well so I could knead it.  (I forgot to take off my rings so I’m pretty sure there is some soda bread stuck to it somewhere.)

This recipe was great for teaching Noelle knife safety and making her a little more comfortable around them.  I supervised her using a bread knife to cut the X across the top of the bread.

This only takes 50 minutes to bake so it’s great if you need some quick bread to take somewhere or to have with dinner.

As I mentioned, we ended up making this 3 times.  Here’s what we learned each time:

  • Attempt 1 – Made the original recipe for a birthday party.  The loaf was devoured within three hours.  We saw what happened as well with an uneven X.  It wasn’t a big deal but you can see a difference.  (My first picture above is of attempt 1)
  • Attempt 2 – I split this dough into a smaller loaf and into four biscuits.  I put the biscuits in the muffin pan and just kept my eye on them until they were golden at the tops.  The biscuits were a little hard in the crust but delicious.  The loaf I took to work and brought some Tastefully Simple Spinach Herb Dip.  Success there as well.
  • Attempt 3 – This loaf survived an plane trip.  I wrapped it in a damp towel and then in a plastic bag.  It was a tad bit damp when we took it out of the wrappings in Chicago; however, it stayed moist for the next 24 hours before it was eaten.  It was baked on Friday and brought to Dan’s parents house for dinner on St. Patty’s Day.  There was no hardening as mentioned in the recipe… so I’m wondering if traveling so long in the damp towel helped that situation?

This is something I am going to make time and time again.  It’s definitely a go-to.



Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Tuesdays With Dorie



TwD: Rugelach

TwD:  Rugelach

Rugelach?  What is a rugelach?  Oh, you mean the type of cookie I generally would pass on the cookie tray because it contains two of my least favorite things in desserts:

  • Fruit filling
  • Cooked fruit

But you know what?  There is no skipping on a dessert because of my own food biases.  (I did one of those “there is no crying in baseball” Tom Hanks voices in my head.)

The recipe I am going to be talking about is hosted at these TwD sites this week:

My baking helper this week is Livia, my five year old.  (Noelle didn’t want to partake in something she won’t eat… and she was also more interested in watching the first season of Might Morphin Power Rangers she found on Netflix.  Green Ranger 4 Life!  Come on 80s/90s children… you know you watched some Power Rangers back in the day.  Ladies, you know you had a crush on either the Red Ranger or Green/White Ranger.  #AmIRight)

I will make this rugelach even if it looks like a disaster this evening as they’re chilling.  Well, only two of them do. The first two I did with the recipe from “Baking with Julia” I misread one of the directions and completely overfilled them.  I quickly figured out the mistake but there was no going back.  I’m pretty sure I lost half the filling on my counter.  I found it pretty comical that my counters almost looks like a bakery horror story.  (I’m sure they’re not that bad, but I tend to paint myself a colorful story in my head while I’m working on things.)

One of our fellow TwD bakers from “Baking is my Zen” posted a rugelach tutorial that she had done last year.  I followed the recipe in the book I had and also used hers picture guide for reference from time to time.  I also love having Laurie at the tips of my digital finger tips (text) when I’m having a baking-911 moment.  (Okay more like a baking-455.5 since my questions are rather tame and don’t involve burning down my house or destroying a recipe totally.)

Baking War PaintLivia (my 5-year old) helped me out with this recipe. She was super excited about it because she’s really loving the idea of creating things with mommy.  At one point we had painted on each other’s faces with flour like war paint with her telling me, “Mommy, remember baking isn’t fun unless you’re making a mess.”

Lesson 1:  Remind the children that you have to remember you have to clean the fun mess when you’re done.  Haha.

Liv is starting to understand more what measurements mean, how we read them, and how to find her ingredients list when we are looking for something.  Sadly, I have to admit, these are things I wouldn’t have thought to teach her had I not joined TwD.  Eventually I would have, but joining this baking club has made this all routine and given us projects to look forward to.  Anywho.

Making the dough into rectangles for chilling was pretty easy for us.  Liv made one and I made one.  Since there was practice with our last recipe (the tartlets), Liv basically knew what to do as well.

We’ll see how this one turns out tomorrow with Livia and I bake it.  I’d like them to work enough so I have some homemade cookies to donate to the Friday Fish Fry.  And if they don’t, that’s okay.  Liv and I had a blast working on them.  End of Day 1.

Ingredients used:  The book let’s you have a pick of ingredients so we chose prune lekvar, mixed dried berries (Sunkist), and the nuts were 3 cups of whatever oven bags I had left in the cabinet (walnuts, pecans and almonds).  I also added vanilla to the dough as mentioned in the tutorial I linked to above.  It sounded interesting.

All Liv talked about Monday was wanting to bake the rugelach.  She didn’t want to go to school so she could bake.  (We baked them after dinner.)  The rolls chilled up nicely, we got our cinnamon/sugar mixture ready, I sliced up the rolls for her… and then Livia took over.  Once I put the egg wash on (she had a bit of trouble brushing it), Liv took over.  She would NOT let me put the final coating on them.  Once I showed her how to place them on the baking sheets, I was done.  I tried to help and she let me know she was the boss.  Haha!  Go on girl!  I am not going to stop you!

Mom did the baking, of course.  I left the light on the oven so she could watch them.

The first two (over stuffed) rolls really did look like it took the baking massacre into the oven.  Beginners:  You can quickly see what happens when you overfill the rolls.  That is a mistake that won’t be made twice. You can see my rugelach war zone over there on the right.  It made me laugh.

The other two that were rolled properly turned out quite nice.  So it was a learning lesson.

End Result/Verdict:

These will get made again.

  • I did manage to salvage half of the overfilled ones and took them to work.  The guys at the office thought they were the best things EVER.  They are still asking for more.
  • Noelle liked the crust so I might use that recipe for something.
  • I liked these without the chopped berries.  (It’s the cooked fruit thing with me.)
  • Livia thought they were amazing and took her share to snack and lunch with her.
  • We mailed some to Dan so I know I can successfully mail pastries and that they lasted a few days in an air-tight container.
  • The rest went to the fish fry and they were a success.

Can’t wait for our next baking adventure!  Irish Soda Bread.





Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Tuesdays With Dorie



TwD: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

Before we begin, I didn’t even know what a tartlet pan (let alone a tartlet) was before opening this book.  Needless to say, I bought one.  (I love  I’ve also discovered that I cannot spell tartlet right.  Autocorrect always wants to turn it into “target” so that’s my reminder to fix it.

Week 2 did turn into a family baking project again.  Noelle wasn’t into it quite as much as last week but Liv pulled up a chair and wanted to know everything.

The first part of this recipe was probably the most fun for the kids.  Livia and Noelle helped measure the ingredients for the Chocolate Dough (Page 373 in the “Baking with Julia” book) and absolutely LOVED being able to mix the ingredients with their hands.  (Of course, we had a reminder of why we need to wash our hands and cooking surfaces.)  Noelle was allowed to use a butter knife to cut up the butter as well.  I thought she’d scoff at the task but she did it pretty well and had no complaints.

I have to admit I had a lot of doubts about myself and if I was doing things right during this recipe.

My first moment of doubt was with the dough.  After reading the recipe and other baker’s notes, I know it was supposed to be crumbly.  Yet when I made it, it just seemed too crumbly.  I’m such a newb that I really doubted that I did that right.  I really could feel my stress bubble rise like I messed the whole thing up.  I tend to stress myself out about stupid things and have grown to recognize when this happens generally.  So I had a pep talk as soon as I put the crust in to chill.

There is absolutely nothing about this project that I need to stress over.  Screwing up is part of life otherwise you never learn anything.  Besides, at that point, I didn’t know if I had screwed up or not.

First life lesson:  Even if I bake something and it doesn’t succeed, I am going to be teaching the girls something about life.  Not everything we do is going to turn out how we like it or want it.  If we’re afraid to try because we’re afraid to fail, we’re going to get nowhere.

(See you don’t just get baking with me, you get life adventures!  How exciting!) (I’m also mildly sarcastic.  So to lighten the mood, have a funny picture.)

(Seems appropriate for Valentines Day – which is when I’m writing this original post.)


Livia wanted to put the crusts and set them in the pans.  They didn’t end up the most even things, but that’s okay.  Liv was way too proud of her work and there was absolutely no way I was going to redo it.  (I might have tried a little bit while she was in the other room checking out a bit of Phineus and Ferb… but not too much.  Just enough to get the filling in later.)

Now, actually making the filling was easier… my only doubt was the thickness of the eggs.  I’m not sure if I beat them long enough, but they turned out fine so I think I did okay!

Livia enjoying the making of the filling.  She did a lot of reading of the ingredients and Noelle was very interested in taste testing the chocolate this week.  Her reaction to bittersweet chocolate made me chuckle.

They may not be the most attractive tartlets, but they were tasty tartlets!  Both girls were quite happy with our Sunday dessert and can’t wait to tell their class what they did on the weekend at school.  Next time I try this, I think I am going to make a non-chocolate dough because it was a bit too much for me.  Noelle liked it better with whipped cream but even Miss Sweet Tooth couldn’t get through one completely.

We refrigerated them and ate them for dessert this evening.  I actually think I like it better today because you can pick it up and eat it like a cookie.  :-)


Well, that’s how week 2 went. I learned a thing or two about trusting myself more with baking and that it should be fun whether I do well or not.  At the end of the day, the kids were happy… and really, that is what counts.  They’re not going to remember if crusts were even or if crusts were crumbly.  They are going to remember that when they were kids they helped mom make desserts on Sundays.

I’m not sure if I’ll be joining the TwD ladies on next week’s adventure yet or not.  We’ll be in Chicago for 4 days and I don’t think my boyfriend has much as far as baking goes in his house.  He’s a bachelor.  Can’t fault him!  He’s already trying to mentally spec out how we’re fitting all of my kitchen stuff into his kitchen space when we move there.  :-)


You can find this week’s recipe at the following TwD sites:


Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Thoughts, Tuesdays With Dorie


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Valentine’s Day Fun

I heart Pinterest.  It fuels my creativity when my creativity fails me.

(If you’ve never heard of Pinterest, it’s an online pin board.  You can browse what others find and post and add your own.  It’s also one of those sites I only find worth staying on if you actually try things.  I make it my goal to try things once a week.)

Hot Chocolate with Love.

To start my Valentines adventures with the kids, I made some whipped cream hearts for hot chocolate… Okay, so I didn’t freeze mine long enough… but the idea was cute.  The kids loved them and want me to make them again.  Since I have left over whipped cream, it will happen this week sometime.  (Of course, Noelle doesn’t like hot chocolate… so hers were just in chocolate milk… or cooled down hot chocolate… which is just watery chocolate.

  • Pinterest
  • Original Blog (I believe that is where this picture came from.  I really WISH my hearts looked as good.)

Valentine’s Garden.  

This evening I’m making “strawberry lemonade” cupcakes for Liv’s kindergarten class.  (And I have a feeling these may end up as inappropriate breakfast treat for both girls.)

I made this with strawberry cake and lemon icing.  The icing was made pink with neon food coloring.  Once iced, I rolled them in pink sprinkles.  Put a heart shaped lolly through the middle and some kind of leaf.  I used the gummy leaves that you find at the store for lack of time to make chocolate molded ones.  I think they’re super cute and hope the kids love them!  (The picture to the left is my cupcake army.)

Cookie cutters!  These are a must for special kid fun.  I found a set of all different heart sizes at Walmart so tonight I’m pre-cutting frozen waffles and pancakes into hearts.  Yeah, sorry guys.  I don’t have time to cook from scratch in the morning!  It’s the thought that counts, right?  I doubt the kids will remember they’re frozen.  Or I hope not.  I’m also cutting strawberry slices in the shape of strawberries for Livia.  (If I have time, I’ll do it with bananas for Noelle in the morning.)

And that’s that!

My two cents:  Don’t want for Valentine’s Day to do these things.  Get cookie cutters and make little surprises all year long.  People should feel loved every day and little surprises help them to remember that whether it’s a note in the lunch box or a sandwich randomly shaped like a dinosaur.  (Found dinosaur sandwich cutters at Giant Eagle awhile ago.)

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Kitchen


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TwD: White Loaves

I have yet to figure out why baking intimidates me like it does.  I have no problem picking up and driving across the country if I wanted to (okay the furthest I’ve randomly driven was 8 hours… but you get the point)…. but having to make bread from scratch freaks me out.

But I guess that’s why I’m doing Tuesdays with Dorie… step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with something new.

I’ve never made bread from scratch (unless you count some really crappy banana bread like my oldest child reminded me of…).  Hey I forgot my mixer even had a bread hook that I lost years ago… Poor mixer.  It needs love.  It only gets used about three times a year.

So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and since I’d rather be holed up in my house than going to a Super Bowl party, we’re going to attempt this venture.  (For anybody with the “Baking with Julia” cookbook it’s pages 81-82 and check out the TwD site for more info about the group and the recipe.)

Noelle is ready

So I’m in my kitchen starting to pull out the supplies and ingredients needed and Noelle (my 8yr old) comes into the kitchen and asks me what I’m doing.  Noelle rarely takes interest in what I’m cooking aside from making sure I’m cooking her Bagel Bites or chicken nuggets instead of cranberry chicken that the rest of us will eat.  I told her I was making bread and she asked if she can help me.  I’m not exactly proud of my first answer.  I told her something like “I’ve never done this before so how about if I don’t screw it up you can make it with me next time.”  Of course after the words came out of my mouth my internal self kicked my internal

shins.  Noelle was taking interest in something I was doing.  It doesn’t happen all the time as I’m sure most parents know.  And Noelle taking interest in something food related doesn’t happen much either.

So for week 1, this is a family project and that is a better reward for me than whatever the outcome is.  I’ve taught her the difference between “the white stuff in the kitchen” (salt, flour, and sugar) and what the “big T” and “tsp” mean on my spoons.  It’s also helping me get her to practice reading aloud.  It’s a skill Noelle is self-conscious about and she didn’t realize she was practicing (which I am a fan of).

For some reason I imagined making bread to be difficult.  It really wasn’t so I know I’ll be doing this again.  The kids were fascinated with the concept of bread rising and folding dough.  I don’t think they had ever used a rolling pin outside of play dough.

Outcome:  The bread came out edible.  Haha, no, this one was a success.  We had one loaf at home and my coworkers devoured the other loaf at work.  I was afraid that the bread was too dense but was assure that is how it should be.

White Loaves will be made again.  I successfully completed week 1.  I’m kind of proud of myself.

You can find the recipe here, but I suggest buying the book and baking along!

White Loaves



Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Tuesdays With Dorie


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I like making achievable goals.  What’s the point of making a New Years resolution you can’t keep?

2012 has three goals:

  1. Read more books (I’ve already read 33% as much as I did last year)
  2. Maintain a healthy relationship with Dan & with my children (Sounds easy?  Life and relationships never are… especially when Dan is about 400 mile away for now)
  3. Find a productive hobby and learn it… for real this time.

I decided since I learned to cook (mostly) and absolutely LOVE experimenting with new flavors that I need to challenge myself.  As my usually wiser-than-me friend (Laurie) reminded me, baking is about precision.  That’s one reason I like cooking.  I can pick random junk from my kitchen and see what happens when I marinade chicken in it.  75% of the time it works.  Baking will be a challenge.  I am not a precise individual.  It goes against my very nature.  And I’m sure I’m over dramatizing it.  I’ll blame that one on my 8-yr old diva penguin that makes everything a drama.

So 2012 begins my lessons in baking as part of Tuesdays with Dorie.

Hey, I’m sure my boyfriend won’t complain.  Dan’s qualification for whether or not he can eat something is that it’s “edible.”  I still haven’t figured out the guidelines of things being edible yet.  (We’ve got it down to two classifications:  “edible and would eat again” and “edible and wouldn’t eat again under the same recipe”.)  But I figure this hobby is win-win all around.

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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Thoughts