March 28th, 2013
I had a great time showing off my fun PEEPS projects on Better Kansas City. To see the video segment, CLICK HERE
For some, PEEPS symbolize Easter, spring, and pure happiness! So whether you love them or hate them, these marshmallow molded sugar coated candies are one of the most popular treats in the United States! Over 4 million are created each day and 1 billion are made every year! Best of all, there is an endless variety of ways you can use them for snacking, baking, and even decorating. Here are my five favorite (super easy) PEEPS projects and the secrets to making them perfect!
1. Secret #1 – when planning to hot glue your PEEPS, “CURE” them. Curing is another way of saying, let the Peeps dry out. As they dry, they harden and are much easier to work with when you are using any type of adhesive. I created two PEEPS TOPIARIES and cured my PEEPS for two weeks. Then, I purchased topiary forms and hot glued the PEEPS directly on them. Just be careful where you start and stop and make sure the seam is in one place, preferably the back. And yes, with a little direction, this can be a great project to do with the kids.
2. Secret #2 – Bunny PEEPS look great Layered! A great tip is to use the paper grass instead of jellybeans or other candies to fill in spaces between layers. It is a lot more affordable and looks great! I created a layered PEEPS CENTERPIECE (pictured above) with a “layered” look that used PEEPS and paper grass. The PEEPS bunnies are perfect for this project, because unlike the doves or chicks, which are rounded, the bunnies are nice and flat. This wonderful shape makes them perfect to layer on cakes, in centerpieces, and even wreaths.
3. Secret #3 – When using for edible projects, make sure the PEEPS are as fresh as possible by embellishing your desserts right before serving them. One of the easiest and most popular projects is a PEEPS CAKE. Simply make your favorite cake in a round pan (or purchase one at the store) and embellish with PEEPS. For many, PEEPS are best when they are soft and fresh, so decorate your cake a few minutes before serving. As many of us know, Peeps harden when they are exposed to air, so the less time they are out of the package, the softer they are.
Another delicious project where I recommend you serve soft PEEPS are these wonderful PEEP-kabobs. They are made with Little Debbie’s Easter marshmallow treats, and chocolate covered marshmallow eggs. If you have some extra time, dip your PEEPS in chocolate and give the PEEPS some drying time so the chocolate can harden. I use the candy chocolates you can buy at any craft supply store that has a baking section. Or check your grocery store, now you can purchase ready-made chocolate dipped PEEPS. Absolutely DELICIOUS!!!
Secret #4 – PEEPS are indestructible! Peeps are famous for their 2 year shelf life and indestructibility. Scientists at Emory University could not dissolve PEEPS in water, sulfuric acid, or sodium hydroxide. What that means for the PEEPS lover is that they can submerge their PEEPS in practically anything without the fear of them being destroyed. I got excited about the possibilities and created this PEEPS TRIFLE – The trifle was super easy. My bottom layer consisted of sugar wafers. I layered the PEEPS around my trifle bowl directly on the wafers. My second layer was Lemon or Lime pudding combined with cool whip. My third layer was cake but I also highly recommend using breakfast waffles, they are less sweet and when saturated with the pudding, are delicious!! My third layer was pudding and cool whip. My fourth layer was more cake (or breakfast waffles). My fifth layer was more pudding. And my final layer was the pink Peeps on top. If you would like a slightly less sinful version, use sugar-free pudding and incorporate the breakfast waffles instead of the cake and sugar wafers. Also, give your Trifle some time in the refrigerator, anywhere from 4 – 24 hours. All the layers have time to “marry” and soak up each other’s goodness.
Another famous dessert for Easter are the PEEPS S’mores. It’s fun to watch the PEEPS morph in the microwave and once you put them in between two graham crackers… well… you best clear the way, because there will be a mad stampede to the dessert table! The PEEPS S’mores are really simple to create. I dipped my PEEPS in chocolate the night before. Right before I served them, I placed one on top of a graham cracker, popped in the microwave for about 15 seconds and watch them do their thing. Once I felt they were ready, I took them out of the microwave and placed another graham cracker on top. It turns out perfect every time!!!
5. Secret #5 – PEEPS are cute when you “stage” them! You may or may not be aware that there are over 60 national contests that take place every year involving PEEPS one way or another. Many of them are Diorama contests. The Dioramas show PEEPS doing all sorts of crazy things (Star Treck scenes, Harry Potter, scenes, etc.) Just google “PEEPS Dioramas” and you will have a plethora of funny things to look at. And if you want to stage your own PEEPS, here are some PEEPS bubble bath cupcakes that take just a few minutes to put together. Your kids will love doing this. Simply make cupcakes and frost them with white icing (or purchase ready made cupcakes at the store with white icing). Put a PEEP on a toothpick and stick the toothpick and peep into the cupcake. Then, open a bag of mini-marshmallows and decorate your heart out. Super simple and incredibly adorable!!
January 27th, 2013
Do you know that A Super Bowl Party is the second biggest eating day of the year, right behind Thanksgiving? But unlike Thanksgiving, Super Bowl parties focus on a menu filled with heart-stopping junkfood and an endless supply of alcohol. It’s no wonder that most people consume their entire day’s caloric intake in just one Superbowl meal.
But as with all parties, your guests expect to be indulged, not put on a diet. And since for some guests, the food may be even more important than the game itself, it’s important not to bring out the tofu sliders and kale chips and instead, make some quick alterations to the indulgent treats your guests have come to love.
I had a chance to show off some healthy Super Bowl party ideas to the folks at Better Kansas City and the best part… these ideas can be incorporated into appetizer menus for ANY party! Below is a photo of myself with one of the wonderful hosts of Better Kansas City, Kelly Jones. Don’t let her glamorous looks fool you, Kelly is a SERIOUS football fan! So, without further delay, here are my top healthy Super Bowl ideas you can easily “sneak” into your party menu!
THE POP-CORN BAR:
As many of you know, pop corn is an amazing snack. It’s fat free, gluten free, and packed with fiber… which you’ll probably need after a night of junk food feasting. Create a “station” where people can fill a cup of pop-corn and offer a variety of pop-corn seasoning. The seasoning can be purchased at most super markets and come in a variety of flavors, such as ranch, pizza, and white cheddar. Or, offer various flavored salts and herbs. For an added treat, incorporate different nuts into the pop-corn bar/station which can be added to their pop-corn mixture. Even a nutty trail-mix filled with dried cherries, cranberries, and roasted seeds will guarantee to score a touch-down with your guests!
These are russian meat filled pies. Now, you can fill them with anything… leans meats, broccoli and cheese, pizza and cheese, and even sweets. They are made with regular store-bought biscuit dough and filled with whatever you choose. And they also happen to look just like footballs. And if you think you need to make them even more authentic, add a seam to the top and the peroshki will look EXACTLY like a football! A great alternative to sliders or even… dare I say… oily pizza. FOR THE FULL RECIPE, CLICK HERE.
SEVEN LAYER DIP
The King of all high calorie dips, the seven layer dip is the ultimate power junk food! It combines multiple layers of unhealthy ingredients into one artery clogging dip! But my alternative not only shaves a number of calories but also looks great when sitting on your buffet.
The number one tip… start with fresh ingredients, such as home-made salsa and guacamole. Then, instead of real sour cream, use greek plain yogurt. It has a similar taste to sour cream, I promise no one will be able to tell. Last but not least, serve the dip in individual cups. The presentation is beautiful and you won’t see your guests doing the ultimate “no-no”… double dipping! And, if you want to receive RAVES all evening, calculate the calorie content of your seven-layer dip in each individual cup. If your guests know that each cup contains 50 calories, they’ll be able to keep track of their calorie intake, which is a huge help for your health and calorie-conscious party goers. Add baked chips (more info. below) and you’ve got a winning combination!
BAKED CHIPS AND FRESH HOME-MADE DIP
Chips and dip are staples of any good party, and super bowl parties are no exception. But instead of surrendering to the fats and calories, make a healthier alternative that everyone will love! Simply purchase flour tortillas at the store and cut them up, brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and your favorite herbs. You’ll have a “gourmet” looking baked chip that is a healthier and even better tasting alternative to the store-bougt ones. Less sodium, less trans fat, and a TON of flavor!
PIGS IN A BLANKET
Last, but certainly not least (in calories or fat) is the ultimate “heart stopping” junk food… Pigs In A Blanket. With enough sodium and trans fat to leave you in an ER, making this snack healthier is not only easy but a health necessity!! When purchasing the sausages, choose the turkey sausages which are a reduced fat version and will cut close to 75% of the fat… yes, 75%! Hillshire Farms makes delicious turkey mini-sausages. The reduction in calories is also significant. For an added benefit, use reduced fat croissants to help this snack be a true winner! Just applying these two easy alterations can significantly reduce the impact on your guests’ waistline!
December 31st, 2012
Here is a delicious Babka cake I made a few days ago. After doing some research on the MANY different varieties and recipes for this fabulous cake, I found the best recipe on Cooks.com. I also played around with a wonderful recipe in one of my cook books but it used shortening as well as asked that you let the dough rise for 6 hours. I hate shortening and am always short on time!
Note to all who are in a time crunch. This would NOT be the bread/cake for you! This is one of those “old school” European recipes where you have to assume that the people who made this, spent the entire day in the kitchen making a plethora of other food for hours and hours! For instance, you have to knead the dough for 1/2 hour by hand and as I mentioned above, let it rise for 6 hours!
So I cheated a little bit. I found a great recipe on cooks.com which used butter and only required that you let the dough rise for about 2 hours. This recipe also asks you to knead the dough, by hand, for 1/2 hour, but I only did it for about 10 minutes.
The above photo was of my successful Babka Cake. The only thing I did differently was that I used Figs instead of raisins. Next time, I’ll use raisins since I think they will make the cake a bit sweeter.
5-6 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cake yeast (or 1 package of active dry yeast)
1/2 cups warm water (104-115°F)
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 lb. butter
3/4 cups golden raisins or 1 package of figs.
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
In a saucepan, heat milk. Add butter and heat until the butter is melted. Pour into a large bowl. Stir in sugar and salt. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
Crumble (or stir) yeast into warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let sit approximately 5 minutes. Add to cooled milk.
Stir in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour and knead dough in bowl (for approximately 1/2 hour if done by hand) until dough no longer sticks to hands. Add raisins and knead into dough.
Note: We used the kneading attachment of an electric mixer for 12 minutes.
Cover with a clean towel and let rise a in warm place, free from draft until doubled (approximately 1 hour).
Punch down dough. Cover and let rise again. Punch down again.
Divide dough in half and put into 2 greased 9×5 inch bread pans or 1 angel food cake pan (without tube) for a large traditional bread.
Mix 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush top of bread with mixture and let rise uncovered in a warm place until doubled.
Bake at 350°F 30-35 minutes for 9×5 inch pans or 40-50 minutes for large pan, or until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
This is a traditional Polish bread recipe that is served during the Easter and Christmas Holidays.
October 15th, 2012
Seriously, how can you not fall in love with this great idea for an appetizer. It’s easy to put together and fun for guests to nibble on. All you need are carrots, parsley, green onion, toothpicks, and hummus.
Then, just slice the carrots, take some parsley leaves and attach them to the carrot with a toothpick. Slide a piece of green onion over the toothpick to have a look of a “stem” and arrange on a bed of hummus. Told ya it was simple!
Thanks to the folks at Disney magazine for inspiring me with this recipe.
September 2nd, 2012
I know, the title of this post is pretty hokey, but I can’t help it, baked banana boats have to be one of my favorite desserts! My 9 year old son told me about the recipe, which he discovered in his “Boy’s Life” magazine. Apparently, this recipe is a camper’s favorite. If you google baked bananas, you’ll get lots of other great ideas on toppings. The added benefit is that I can do this with my boys and they feel like they’ve created something very special. This is a two thumbs up recipe, perfect for anyone at anytime!
1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Slit each banana lengthwise through 1 side of peel, taking care to avoid cutting all the way through banana. Stuff each slit with chocolate chips and marshmallows.
2. Wrap each banana in aluminum foil, place upright on a baking sheet and bake until chocolate and marshmallows have melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Unwrap and serve immediately.
July 29th, 2012
For anyone who’s anxious to serve something with a “twist”, this is a great summer appetizer to impress your guests. Instead of honeydew melon, we used watermelon and instead of feta cheese, which has become ubiquitous when it comes to pairing with watermelon, we used a strong Dutch Gouda. But you can use any cheese you enjoy. Feel free to experiment to find the right combination for you.
4 thin slices of Prosciutto
8 thin slices of Gouda cheese (or a strong gourmet cheese of your choosing. You can use Feta as well)
Balsamic vinegar or a gourmet flavored vinegar
Cube watermelon. Arrange individual cubes on a plate or serving platter. Cut each long slice of Prosciutto in to four pieces. Cut cheese into individual small pieces. Stack cheese and prosciutto on top of watermelon cubes. Sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
July 23rd, 2012
If you are looking for a salad that is easy to make, delicious, and filling, I’ve got one right here! This delicious, sweet, and tangy salad is easy to make and will definitely impress your friends. The smoked chicken is ready-made from the super market. I love the chicken from the rotisserie and it can easily feed 6 – 8 guests. Serve with a delicious herbed buttered bread, such as a Rosemary loaf and you will have very happy guests. The smells and tastes will truly impress!
1 medium smoked chicken (available at any grocery store)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup frozen peas
2 ripe avocados
1 head lettuce
1 bag arugula
To Make Dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp walnut oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh mixed herbs (a mixture of fresh herbs such as parsley, lemon thyme, mint, etc.)
Salt and Pepper
Divide and carve the chicken cutting to make bite sized pieces for the salad. Cover the divided and cut chicken and store in refrigerator.
Put the cranberries in a bowl of water and let stand, covered, for 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, blanche the frozen peas and refresh them under cold water.
Slice or cube the avocados and squeeze lemon juice on them to prevent discoloration.
Combine the lettuce and arugula and toss with avocados and peas. Add the chicken.
Combine all the dressing ingredients and shake well. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake well again until all the ingredients are well blended and taste the way you want.
Drain the cranberries and mix them with the dressing, then pour over salad and serve immediately.
July 14th, 2012
Sure, we’ve all heard and probably eaten Caprese Salads, but this one is a bit different and absolutely incredible. I love serving dishes that we’ve all had before, but with a unique, and of course, delicious twist. This Caprese salad has all the usuals but with the addition of citrus. Plus, try using fresh Cilantro instead of basil. I can’t tell you how wonderful and fresh it tastes. Plus, it is absolutely beautiful! The colors just pop. Make it once and I bet you’ll be hooked!
1 medium onion
4 large oranges
4 medium tomatoes
1 pound buffalo mozzarella cheese
1 bunch Cilantro
6 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel onion and slice it into thin rings. Place in a bowl and squeeze the juice of one orange and one lemon into the bowl. leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Remove the skin and pith from the remaining 3 oranges and slice into six or eight wheels. Remove all seeds.
Slice the tomatoes into 6-8 wheels as well.
Slice the mozzarella cheese into 6-8 wheels
Assemble the salad by alternating the orange, onion, cheese, and tomato.
July 8th, 2012
This is the perfect party recipe! There are many different variations on the web but I tweaked it a bit by using champagne vinegar, it’s available at Target as one of their Archer Farms brands and you can find it next to all the vinegars in their grocery section. I bet if you find some great unique vinegars, it would add to the interest of this recipe. If you choose to use a balsamic vinegar, I’m sure it will taste great too. If you are not a vinegar fan, this appetizer is wonderful without it as well.
1 box Feta Cheese block
1 punch Basil leaves
champagne vinegar (available at Target) or any balsamic vinegar
Simply cut the watermelon into even sized cubes. Cut the feta cheese into thin cubes as well. Prepare basil leaves. To assemble, start with a watermelon cube, add basil leaf, add feta cheese, add another basil leaf, and top with another watermelon cube. You can either eat as is. Or, you can sprinkle with olive oil as well as balsamic vinegar. We found champagne vinegar at target which had an interesting taste.
April 29th, 2012
Photography By Arina Lanis
Big thanks to our Test Kitchen testers — Lena and Kristi
Ahhh, Mother’s Day… I love this holiday! When I was younger and without children, I have to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to this day. I’m ashamed to say that I would send my mom some flowers and call it a day! But after the birth of my children and experiencing the role of a “mom”, I realized that this day is so much more special than I could have ever imagined. I feel blessed to have an incredible mom and privileged to experience the most important role in my life, motherhood! Without a doubt, I have grown to honor and love this holiday.
This year, I decided to come up with some great and easy (of course) recipes that are perfect to enjoy on Mother’s Day (for those of you cooking for your moms) or to all the moms out there looking for recipes which can be enjoyed year round. Our delicious “EASY LEMON CHEESECAKE” is absolutely unforgettable! The “HEART BISCUITS” are super simple and will be a hit at your table. They are great for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or anytime you want to show a little love at the table. The “MINTY PEACH BELLINIS” will be a hit… I promise. This drink is sweet, light, and refreshing! The “HAIL CAESAR APPETIZERS” are always a favorite. Last but not least, the “LAYERED YOGURT CHICKEN SALAD” is a meal in itself! Your guests will love you for feeding them something healthy, filling, and unforgettable. Enjoy!!