Happiness Project:#73: Birthday Candy Popcorn Balls!

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It’s official. My beautiful Little Girl is now THREE! And although it makes me sad (because every year seems to go by faster), I can’t say enough of how proud I am with who this loving, affectionate, joyful, determined and feisty Little Girl of mine is becoming. Beyond with how she saves me, day in and day out, her unique light of being sparks up around her, no matter where she is or who she’s with. She’s my little firecracker. And yet, in many ways, nothing like me. Which I absolutely adore about her. I have a sneaky suspicion, that this Mischief Maker of mine will move mountains one day. Though she already does such, in my heart.

To celebrate the 3 years that my family & friends have been blessed with her presence, there was (obviously) a grand party in celebration. With Paw Patrol, Bubble Guppies, bubble wands, puppy masks, vanilla cupcakes, sprinkle marshmallow pops and these ridiculously tasty Candy Popcorn Balls! Which were gobbled up, by the kids and adults alike, and raved about as soon as they found their tabletop destination. And are incredibly easy (& wonderfully messy) to create! Because you all know how much I LOVE all things messy! Ha.

Here’s all you need:

1 baking sheet, covered with parchment paper

1 bag of fully popped unsalted, unbuttered popcorn

3 tablespoons salted butter, plus another half cup of softened butter (for greasing your hands)

2 cups mini marshmallows

Your favorite small candies (in this case, my daughter’s favorite candy: M&M’s)

*1 cup crushed pretzels (optional)

Firstly, pop that bag of popcorn. Sift through the bag of popcorn for any unpopped kernels to discard. Pour into a large bowl. Add in the candy and pretzels (if using). Mix well.

To create the marshmallow glue, heat up the 3 tablespoons of butter and marshmallows, in a medium sized pot, over medium-high heat. While the butter and marshmallows are melting, stir them both together, until both are fully melted. Remove from the stovetop.

Pour the marshmallow glue over the bowl of popcorn candy. Using your hands, mix everything very well, so that all of the popcorn is covered and sticky.

Now, the really, REALLY messy part! Which is kinda the best part, in my opinion. Lightly grease both your hands with a dab of the reserved, softened butter. Gently scoop out a small chunk of the well mixed popcorn, and firmly press into a 2 to 3 inch round ball. Place the still warm popcorn ball onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Grease both of your hands again before continuing on to creating the next popcorn ball. Please note: between each popcorn ball, grease your hands well. In order for the balls to keep their shape (& for all of those ingredients to stick together), shaping them in the palms of your buttered hands will essentially bind up the balls good & tight. Repeat this step until you’ve created 24-30 small popcorn balls.

Once all of those balls are created, pop the pan with that 2 dozen or so of them, into the fridge to chill, until ready to serve. And by serve, I really mean, disappear. All you need to do is turn your back for a few minutes and POOF, they’re GONE! Trust me. It’s a fairly satisfying thing to experience.

Much THANKS to my fellow blogger friend, over at Crafty Cooking Mama, for the recipe inspiration! Her Candy Corn Popcorn Balls look PERFECT for Fall parties!

 

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Happiness Project#71: Cheesy Meatballs!

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Another year. Another birthday. And today, my 38th birthday, was surprisingly very special. Most of those who know me well, understand how apathetic I’ve always been about my past birthdays. Yes, turning another year older IS a very momentous occasion, since too many in this war torn, disease fraught world never make it to their next birthday. But considering how creature-of-comfort I am, I’ve rarely felt the desire to do anything out of the ordinary for it. Until today. Because my husband took the day off work to be with my daughter and I. Which made today truly special. Not only did we go to my favorite local cupcakery (where I purchased lovely new wooden cooking utensils), and browsed through this FANTASTIC new hat store (where I found a BEAUTIFUL wide brim sun hat, with a lovely black bow), but we also ventured to one of our favorite playgrounds. To well…play. With an awesome wooden play train and a giant, full-size aircraft and many twirly slides. And even though my lungs and head were screaming at me because of the horrid surrounding trees and flowers that I’m near deathly allergic to, watching my Toddler “command” my husband to ride the train with her and play hide & seek among the many lovely trees, was quite honestly, magical to me. Since the 3 of us being out and about together doesn’t happen very often because of my health. So this birthday, because of it’s abnormal normality, was VERY special. One of which I will always cherish and hold dear. Yes, thanks be for birthdays.

To share in such a happy day for my little family, I decided to whip up this super-easy, super-versatile Cheesey Meatball recipe! Easy because it’s done in a slow cooker! Yes, I DID just say a slow cooker! Rejoice, my friends! Versatile because you can pair this wonderfully mild (but juicy) meatball with just about any dip or sauce of your liking! Truth! Trust me. So who’s ready for some meatball lovin??

1-1/2 pounds hamburger meat, thawed correctly

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion flakes

pinch black pepper

pinch kosher salt

6 full size string cheese logs, cut up in 1 inch square pieces per string cheese log

Firstly, cut up each length of string cheese, into 4 to 5 one inch squares per string cheese. Set aside in a small bowl.

Now the messy (& kinda fun) part. Combine all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and mix together, with your hands, until every ingredient is fully combined. See? Messy. But kinda fun too!

Now roll about 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture into nice sized balls. Once you’ve lined up all of the meatballs, gently press a piece of cheese into the center of each meatball, rolling them up (again) into a slightly larger sized meatball. Make sure that each piece of cheese is fully rolled up into each meatball (so that there is no cheese visible).

Lightly butter or spray the bottom of your slow cooker, before placing each cheesy meatball within it. Depending on the size of your slow cooker, you’ll be able to line up roughly 18-24 meatballs. Slow cook on low heat for 1 hour, turning each meatball over at the half hour mark. Now slow cook on high heat for another hour, until each meatball is a lovely darkened brown, with the cheese center starting to bubble up from within.

And serve warm! On a yummy bed of sticky rice, which is my family’s favorite way to eat. Or dip each meatball in your favorite pasta sauce or cheese dip! Because dinner options are ALWAYS welcome. Especially in a family with toddlers involved. We all know how toddlers can be with dinner, after all. Ha.

To all of my many fellow bloggers and readers, thank you for making this blogging experience of mine a truly happy one. From one birthday to the next! Onwards to another year of babies, baking and books!

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness Project: #53: My Baby Girl’s Favorite Strawberry Frosting!

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It’s official! My sassy, determined, brave, loving, beautiful Baby Girl is now TWO years old! TWO! Hence I have tears of pure joy streaming down my cheeks, as I attempt to write my heart out. Which is not always an easy thing to do, when your heart feels like it’s exploding within your chest and tears are blinding your very sight. But write I shall! Because writing, to me, is truly THAT important. For therapy, sanity and love. Most especially, for love.

Love that began with my Husband, nearly 10 years ago, and was multiplied with the Miracle of my Baby Girl. This Miracle that I reflect on and am immensely grateful for, every morning that I rise, with her smile shining down upon me, and every evening when I close my eyes, with those soft brown Toddler curls dusting my pillow. But how, how do you truly explain this type of forever Love? A love so empowering and so depthless that it becomes the very air that you breathe and beat of ones heart? In all actuality, you can’t. This kind of Love, the Love that only a Mother has, is indescribable. And like no other, in this wide, brimming world of ours. But not necessarily one that I haven’t found a way to express. With words. And recipes. Especially, in recipes.

So to honor the birth of my beautiful Daughter, two years ago, on March 8th at 10:36am, I present to you a frosting that I’ve been working on for over an entire year. This frosting that embodies so much of the beauty, sweetness and uniqueness of my mischievous two year old. My Baby Girl’s Favorite Strawberry Frosting! Who’s ready for some Love??

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 cup pureed fresh strawberries, washed, cored & diced before being pureed

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

On a stand mixer, on medium speed, whip up the softened butter for a few minutes until smooth and shiny.

Dropping the mixer speed down to a lower setting, slowly add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until fully blended.

With the mixer still blending, add in the 1/4 cup of freshly pureed strawberries, mixing until just incorporated.

Add in up to 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, depending on how thin or thick you like the texture of your frosting and beat on high speed for a few minutes, until whipped and nearly doubled in size.

And FROST. On cookies or cupcakes. Or pop in a cup or so of this yummy treat into the fridge (covered) for 15 or so minutes until cooled enough to use as a fruit dip. Yes, I DID just say that you can use this lovely, sweet frosting as a fruit dip! Because strawberries, my friends! Strawberries!

From my Heart to your kitchen & the many tummies of those you love, enjoy!

Happiness Project #35: Pink Lemonade Birthday Cupcakes!

Image“One year ago, on March 8th, at 10:36am, a Miracle changed my life in the best of ways. And at long last, this Warrior heart of mine became whole. Everything I had ever believed to be good and true and beautiful in this world, came in the form of ten little fingers, ten little toes, two rosy cheeks and one button nose. She, who was, and is still this Angel of mine. And every day since then, the brightness of her smile lifts me up, the music of her laughter brings me joy and the warmth of her embrace enwraps my heart in wonder. In ways I could never imagine before, this beautiful, mischievous brown eyed Sweet Pea, gave to me the most precious gift a mortal could ever be blessed with. The gift of Motherhood. The gift of Meaning. The gift of Love. And with every beat of my heart and every fiber of my being, I give thanks for the Miracle of my Baby Girl. She, who is my everything. She, who is my world. Always & Forever.”

Two days ago, my Baby Girl officially became a walking, babbling, contagiously charming Toddler! A Toddler! Something I’m still having a difficult time wrapping my head around! Don’t mind me while I get a little teary eyed at this. Considering that my Sweet Pea is not only my only child but also the light of my life, I was determined to give her the best & yummiest of all 1st birthdays! Which meant showering her with the one thing that I do best; baking. A LOT of baking. Incorporating all of my favorite flavors: chocolate, lemon and vanilla. So after brainstorming a rather exhaustive dessert menu, incorporating HER favorite thing as well, meaning bath-time, I decided that in combination with lemon duck sugar cookies, rainbow cake truffles and chocolate covered strawberries, I wanted to create a special cupcake just for her. A cupcake that represented everything that I love most about my baby girl’s loving, tenacious and incredibly mischievous personality. A cupcake that everyone would love. So what cupcake is it, you ask? A Pink Lemonade Cupcake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting! The perfect blend of sweetness and beauty. The perfect blend of happiness and love. In a baked treat, that is. 

After scouring the internet for recipe suggestions and then botching an entire batch (after following what I had sadly mistaken to be a a good recipe) , I realized that the only way to create perfection was to strip it all down to the basics and do what I had learned most important in Pastry School. Which meant doing it the French way. Which, in my opinion, is truly the best way. So here it is, my friends. My Baby Girl’s Pink Lemonade Birthday Cupcake! From my heart to yours…

*Break out that dusty kitchen scale and set it to measuring it’s weight by grams! You will need it for this one!

180 grams egg whites

320 grams whole milk

1/2 cup pink lemonade powder

400 grams cake flour, sifted (NOT all-purpose flour!)

400 grams granulated sugar

6 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

226 grams unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs whites, milk and pink lemonade powder. Mix. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on a stand mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder & salt and mix with the paddle attachment for 1 to 2 minutes at low speed to blend. Add in the softened butter and 1/3 of the egg white/milk/lemonade mixture. Mix at low speed until the batter gathers together into a moist paste. Beat at medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes to develop structure. *Use a stopwatch or timer for accuracy* Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl. This will guarantee a smoother finished batter.

Beat in the rest of the egg white/milk/lemonade mixture in 3 batches, beating for exactly 20 seconds after each addition. *Use a stopwatch or timer for accuracy* Do not over mix or the batter will deflate and your cupcakes will not rise correctly.

Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly between both cupcake pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, inserting a toothpick, if need be, to check for proper dryness. Do not fret that the top of your cupcakes are not pushed up in the center like a dome. The use of cake flour creates a flat baked surface because of it’s particular density. Cool the cupcakes throughly on a wire rack before frosting.

Ready for some yummy Lemon Frosting? You should be! Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon lemon extract

3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, on a stand mixture, cream the butter for 3 to 4 minutes at medium speed. Drop the mixer speed down to it’s lowest setting and add slowly add in 4 cups of powdered sugar. Once the sugar has been completely incorporated with the butter, beat in the salt, lemon extract and 3 to 4 tablespoons of cream. Whip on high for 3 to 4 minutes until the frosting reaches your preferred texture. If you’re planning on piping on the frosting and the consistency is too soft, cover and chill in the fridge for a few minutes.

Frost, frost, frost away (and maybe add some pink sprinkles on top for a little extra sparkle!)

These adorable duckling cupcake toppers were created by the brilliant T-Cakes Franklin! You can find her on Facebook under T-Cakes Franklin.

So from this Stealthy Kitchen Mama to you & yours, may every day be filled with a little bit of sweetness and a whole lot of love. Birthdays or not.

Happiness Project Recipe #26: Funfetti Birthday Cookies!

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Oh birthdays! For the most part, I’m usually quite apathetic towards birthdays. To me, age is just a number, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t live my life by my age, I live my life by my heart, as corny or sappy as that may sound. So whenever February comes around, turning one year older doesn’t usually inspire an overwhelming need for any unnecessary personal validation. However, there is one thing that I truly love about birthdays. Dessert. Be it in the form of a cake, cookie or cupcake, I MUST have my birthday dessert. Nothing else matters more to me than that one, sugary, bite-full of yummy, blissful sweetness. Seriously, nothing. So to celebrate turning 35, I decided that pudding and sprinkles was exactly what I needed most. And since lately the cookie monster within me has been consuming nearly everything in sight, funfetti cookies seemed perfect for the occasion. And what a fun and easy recipe this is!

3/4 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 (3/4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix

3/4 cup yellow cake mix, dry

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Handful of sprinkles

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

On a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

Add in the cake mix and package of dry, vanilla pudding until well blended.

Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Slowly add in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl to eliminate any lumps from forming in the batter.

Mix in that handful (or two) of sprinkles.

Using either a cookie scoop or rolling by hand, drop 1-1/2 inch dough balls onto a sprayed or Silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes before removing from the oven and cooling on a wire rack.

See? Very quick, easy recipe! Kid friendly too *wink*

 

 

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