Cars Cake Pops

Pit Stop?

I was a little skeptical when a our friend Roschelle proposed this idea for her son’s birthday.

But I have to admit, they turned out pretty cute!

To make the road-like cake pops, I coated the pops like normal, only stuck them upside-down on a silpat to make a flat top, like this:

Then dipped the flat parts in brown candy melts:

Then used a yellow candy melt pen to draw on the dashed yellow lines to make it a road.  Roschelle had found these Cards “squinkies” (not edible) that I attached to the pops with the candy melt pen.  Ka-chow!

Mater is my personal favorite:
Mater: I’ll have some of that there pistachio ice cream.
Sushi Chef:   No, no. Wasabi.
Mater: Oh, same old, Same old, what’s up with you?


One year ago: Friendly’s Fried Chicken and Lamb Shank Sliders
Two years ago: Instant Pancake Mix and Coq au vin


Gnocchi with Spinach and Butternut Squash

Most of the time when I make a vegetarian dinner, my husband responds with “It’s good, but it would be better with bacon.”

This meal was no exception.

Only this time, he was right.

(shhhh, don’t tell!)

We swapped the kale out for some spinach, added a few slices of bacon, and whoa.  Still relatively healthy, super satisfying, and easy to throw together on a weeknight.  Need I say more?

No?  ok then.

One year ago: Sausage and Pesto Pizza and Three Cheese Hot Artichoke Dip
Two years ago: Thyme Potatoes au Gratin and Chocolate Eclair cake

gnocchi with Spinach and Butternut Squash
adapted from Food Network Magazine

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh chopped sage (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
3 big handfuls of baby spinach
16 oz package potato gnocchi
3/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add bacon and cook until browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat from pan.

Add the squash and cook, stilling frequently, until softened and starting to brown, around 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.

Add chicken stock to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Add spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes.  Add the gnocchi, stirring to coat.

Cover pan and cook until gnocchi is just tender, about 5 minutes.  Uncover and stir in 1/4 cup of cheese.

If desired, transfer to casserole dish.  Top with remaining cheese and transfer to the broiler.  Cook until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.


Wheat Beer Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Two of my husband’s more favorite things in the world.  Beer and cupcakes.  Really, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to put the two together.

You might be skeptical, but look how well Guinness and cupcakes go together.  Brilliant.

Could a wheat beer be any less brilliant?

The answer is no.  It’s just as brilliant.

The original recipe calls for Blue Moon or Corona (easy would be equally as delicious).  I happened to have Easy Street Wheat in the fridge (gotta support the local brews!).  Worked just as brilliantly as Blue Moon or Corona would have.  I imagine whatever your favorite citius-y beer is, it would work just fine.

One year ago: Chicken and Pineapple Quesadillas and Tequila Lime Chicken
Two years ago: Pasta Bolognase, Blackberry Cobbler, and Broccoli Sausage Pasta

Wheat Beer Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Miss Make and  Sweet Tooth

for the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder (high altitude folks, reduce to 3/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, at room temp
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 cup wheat beer of your choice (I used O’dell’s Easy Street Wheat), plus more for brushing tops
1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add orange zest and vanilla.  Scrape down sides well.

Combine milk and beer in large measuring cup.  Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with beer mixture.  Increase speed to medium high and beat well for 30 seconds.

Scoop batter into cupcake liners (filling 2/3 full).  Bake for 16-18 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

While cupcakes are still warm, poke holes in tops of cupcakes with a toothpick.  Brush tops with additional beer.  Cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 orange
orange slices, for garnish

Combine cream cheese and butter in bowl of electric mixer.  Beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides.

Gradually add powdered sugar while beating on low speed.  Add orange juice and zest.  Beat well to combine.

Spread or pipe (I used a 1M tip) on cooled cupcakes, top with orange slices.


Brown Butter Irish Soda Bread


This isn’t exactly the most traditional Irish soda bread.  The real classic stuff has currants in it, is a little sweeter, and still oh-so-delicious.

But when I saw this soda bread recipe, I knew I had to try it.  And since the March theme for What’s Baking is “baking for St. Patrick’s Day,” I knew I had a good excuse to make it.  🙂


Soda bread has a very different texture that traditional yeasted bread – it’s a little denser, a little chewier.  Goes fabulously with soups, stews, roasts, chili – good hearty food that you’re likely to find in Ireland.  Smeared with a little salted butter and I could almost close my eyes and pretend like I was back in the green country itself.

For the rest of the What’s Baking roundup, check out Blissfully Delicious at the end of the month!  and just wait for April – yours truly is going to make things particuarly challenging for everyone!!

One year ago: ice cream cone cake pops
Two years ago: my basic burger recipe and classic oven fries

Brown Butter Soda Bread
courtesy of Epicurious, as seen on The Curvy Carrot

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 3/4 buttermilk
1 egg white, beaten

Peaheat oven to 375, place rack in middle of oven.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

Melt butt erin a small sauce pan over medium heat, ans swirl it around until it turns golden brown (2-3 minutes after melted).  Remove from heat.

Combine flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt and black pepper in a large bowl, mix well with a whisk.  Pour in buttermilk and browned butter and stir until moistened.  Don’t over mix.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead gently until mixed together.  Divide dough in half, shape each into a ball and flatten slightly.  Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle addition black pepper and fresh rosemary on top.  Using a sharp knife, cut a deep X into the top of each round.

Bake until deep golden brown, about 45 minutes (or until tester comes out clean).  Cook on racks another 30 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temp.



Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting


This is another recipe you’ve kind of seen before.  I made these cupcakes for my honey last year for his birthday.  But I wasn’t thrilled with how the chocolate frosting turned out.

But when I saw the recipe for this frosting, I knew it would be perfect.

As I’ve mentioned before, cream cheese frosting is always my favorite – it’s not nearly as sweet as most buttercream frosting.  A chocolate version certainly didn’t disappoint.

I actually have a quality control department when it comes to my frosting.  Her name is Erin.  Every cupcake of mine (or anyone else’s, likely) she’s ever eaten, she licks all the frosting off first.  It’s always her favorite part.  So whenever I make a new cupcake, I always look to Erin and make sure she’s eating all the frosting first.  Then I know I got it right 🙂

One year ago: Perfect Party Cookies and The Perfect Mac and Cheese
Two years ago: Roasted Ratatouille Pasta

For the cupcake and filling recipe, see here

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from How Sweet It Is, as seen on A Bitchin Kitchen

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp of milk, as needed

Add butter and cream cheese to bowl of stand mixer.  Beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides and add vanilla.  On low speed, gradually add powdered sugar.  Mix in cocoa powder.  Add milk 1 tsp at a time if frosting if too thick.


Roasted Broccoli

If you’ve been around PLFF a while, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen this recipe.  Shoot, this isn’t even the second time you’ve seen this recipe.  But the first time, there was no picture.  The second time, there was a really bad picture.

So this may be the third time this recipe has been posted, but I’m pretty sure it will be the last.  Not that it will be the last time we eat it.  AT ALL.  I make this recipe typically once a week.  It’s hands down my go-to side dish.  Winter, spring, summer or fall.  It goes with everything.  And it’s freaking fabulous.  Anyone who thinks they don’t like broccoli just hasn’t had it roasted.

So when we needed a side for our elk tenderloin for my 24×24 event, adding the roasted broccoli was kind of a no-brainer.

Feel like you’re in a veggie rut?  Can’t get the kids to eat their veggies?  Look no further.

Favorite veggie side dish, hands down.

One year ago: salsa verde chicken and dumplings and sports cake pops
Two years ago: tortilla pie and caramel pie

Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Ina Garten

2-3 medium heads of broccoli, cut into florets
4 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Spread cut broccoli and garlic on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, season liberally with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until broccoli bas browned.

Remove from the oven, zest lemon over top of broccoli.  Toss with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


Butternut Squash Risotto


Risotto never gets old.  Whether it’s more of a classic risotto or something crazy like this, I could eat risotto everyday without it getting old.

But when my friend Christine made this risotto the last time we came over for dinner, I knew it was love.

This risotto has those layers of flavor that TV chef judges are always talking about.  The flavors have depth, warmth, and it’s just damn good.

This risotto is a tad time consuming.  Not generally for your weeknight dinner.  The squash has to be roasted and pureed, the onions have to be caramelized all before anything even gets started.  So save this one for the weekend.  But it’s so worth it.  And have people over when you make it. Because 1. it makes enough for an army, and 2. this is the kind of dish that show people you love them.  It takes time, care, and a little caressing to get it just right.  And when you eat it, you can feel at that time and love.  Sounds cheesy, but it’s so true.

One year ago: The Indulge Salad
Two years ago: Amish Friendship bread and starter

Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted from William Sonoma

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
olive oil
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
2 cups Arborio rice
2 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450.  Place cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Roast for approximately 20 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove from oven, let cool.  Puree in food processor or with handheld blender.  Transfer to medium saucepan and add chicken stock, whisking to combine.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet with high sides over medium low heat.  Add onions, stirring to coat in oil.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until dark brown and caramelized, approximately 20 minutes.

Add rice to pan with onions.  Stir until rice is coated and nearly translucent, about 3 minutes.  Stir in sage and rosemary.  Add wine and stir until wine is absorbed.

Add the simmering stock one ladle-ful at a time, stirring constantly after each addition.  Wait until stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more, stirring frequently to develop the starch.  By last ladle-ful, rice should have cooked 20-25 minutes (high altitude folks, this is more like 30-35).  Stir in parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.


Roasted Elk Tenderloin (or Pork, Beef, Venison, etc)

When preparing to roast our elk tenderloin for the 24×24 event, I knew wanted something flavorful, but nothing that everywhelmed the amazing flavor of the elk meat. Elk meat is incredibly rich – it’s lean like venison, but more tender and less game-y.  Imagine a richer version of beef.

And because elk is incredibly lean, you have to add some kind of fat to it when cooking it.  Whether that’s a pat of butter to melt over your steaks fresh off the grill, a little extra olive oil in your marinade or in the pan for searing, or my favorite – wrapping it in bacon.

But before wrapping, I lathered our elk up with a generous rub of olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and minced garlic:

Then wrapped in good, thick sliced bacon.  Next time, I’ll actually wrap the bacon more closely together – as good as the tenderloing was, I think it would have stayed juicier if wrapped completely.

Then stuck it in the oven at a high temp until we were all salivating from the smell.

Some of our other favorite recipes we’ve successfully used our elk in:
Swedish Meatballs
Tacos using homemade taco seasoning
Fajitas using homemade taco seasoning (just add a little lime juice for fajitas!)
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Grilled Gyros
Game Day Chili

A few other tips for cooking with game like elk:
– Ground meat works great in dishes that are cooked for a long time, like chili and bolognase.  But that doesn’t mean the round steaks or flank steaks would be good in the crockpot.  Because they aren’t.  Totally dries the meat out.  I don’t recommend it.
– Anytime you’re cooking a steak-like piece of meat (chop, steak, flank steak, etc): give it a good hard sear (very high temp), cook it hard and fast, and to medium done-ness at the most. I don’t care if you’re typically a medium-well or well-done kind of person, your elk will be incredibly dry and practically inedible if you try to cook it to well done.
– let it rest.  Longer than you would beef.  If your elk juices bleed out, you’ll be very sad and won’t want to eat your beautiful piece of meat.  Let rest a good 5+ minutes.  Bigger pieces of meat let rest a good 10 minutes to lock those juices back in.  On a similar note, learn to test your meat without cutting into it.  Learn to test done-ness just by touching it.  Use a meat thermometer at most.  But don’t stick it in several times, you’ll lose your juices.

One year ago: Blueberry Muffins
Two years ago: Arancini

Roasted Tenderloin
a PLFF original recipe

1 lb tenderloin (pork, beef, elk, vension)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 slices of bacon

Preheat oven to 500.  Trim any silver skin from tenderloin(s).

Combine ingredients for rub.  Rub thoroughly over meat.  Wrap in bacon, securing with toothpicks if needed.  Place on baking sheet or pan that’s been coated with cooking spray.

Roast for 10 minutes, then turn.  Roast an addition 10 minutes or until internal temp reaches 140.  (will have to add time for larger terderloins like beef).  Remove form oven and cover with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes (temperature should rise to 145).  Remove bacon and slice.  Serve immediately.




Foodbuzz 24×24: Eating our way through the Elkerator

In October 2011, my husband was out of town.  In the middle of Saturday afternoon, I get the type of phone call that can only be responded to with pure panic.

“Honey – start looking on Craigslist for a freezer.  I shot an elk.  A big one.”

Since the 222lbs of elk meat arrived on our door step, we’ve had to learn on the fly in the do’s and don’ts of preparing game.  Because let me tell you, there isn’t much help out there.  Sure, you’ll find a venison recipe or two on the internet, but A. This isn’t venison, and B. it left a lot of be desired in terms of variety.

So now that we’ve got a handle on what we’re doing and learned a few things (mostly through trial and error), we decided it’s time to have a few friends over and make the crowning jewel of our elk haul – the tenderloin.  And when Foodbuzz asked for submissions to their monthly 24×24 event, I knew we had a dinner party *just* unique enough for the occasion.

So I smothered our elk tenderloin in garlic and rosemary and wrapped the entire thing in bacon to roast in the oven.

Paired it with my new favorite risotto – Butternut Squash Risotto (Thank you Christine for this recipe!!!)

And my always-favorite roasted broccoli

And finished with my husband’s favorite Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes.

for a ridiculously hearty, heart-warming, soul-satisfying kind of meal. And to go with our meal – lots and lots of red wine.

I have reader’s ask me all the time about the different kinds of wine I like.  I do like my wine.  And I talk about wine a lot.

In fact, the hubby and I have taken several wine classes through one of our favorite wine restaurants.  It’s actually spoiled us quite a bit.  I used to be completely satisfied with a bottle of Yellow Tail.  Now, not so much.

Once your palate learns to discern good wine, the cheap stuff just taste incredibly acidic.

Which stinks, because now I’m incapable of buying uber cheap wine.  Damn.

But, we do have some of our favorite that still won’t break the bank. Today we’ll talk red wines.  Eventually I’ll do a post about my favorite whites too.

We first discovered this wine when we were at the Artisan restaurant in Snowmass, CO for the Snowmass Culinary Festival.  Local folks, you NEED to come to this festival – very budget friendly, SO much fun.  We’re going again this summer!

Anyway.  The tasting menu we had at the Artisan was to die for.  I still have dreams about that lamb.  And as good as the food was, the wine pairings were even better.  Paired with that delicious lamb was a this Spanish Rioja from Marques del Riscal that I immediately tried to find back in town.  I can get it for around $20, which makes it a perfect “everyday special occasion” kind of wine.  Is our wine rack full of this stuff?  Not quite.  But it’s definitely our go-to for any kind of special(er) occasion – birthdays, anniversary, a gift for a wine lover, etc.  It’s deep and earthy, yet fruity, and I knew it would pair fabulously with our elk (and would with any red meat).

For the more budget-conscious nights, we absolutely love almost anything from McManis: their Cabernet Sauvignon, the Syrah, the Petit Syrah, and even the Pinot Noir.  Several of their wines are rated for being “best value” and shown up on lists in Bon Appetit and Food and Wine on several “best wines under $10” lists.  And I can see why.  Each easily tastes like a $10-$15 wine, easily.  Yet I can get it for around $7-$8.  This is the stuff we stock our wine rack with.  I went with the Cabernet and the Petit Syrah for our elk dinner.

Stay tuned all week long for the recipes from our dinner party, more of our favorite elk recipes, general game-preparation tips, and even pictures of the ever-popular Elkerator. Ever seen what 222lbs of elk meat looks like?  Well you will this week!  And I’ll even throw in some pictures of my proud honey with his elk – you can see how big of a boy this elk really was.

Thank you Foodbuzz for highlighting our event!

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies


It’s not unusual for me to be a little behind on trends.  Call me skeptical, I take a lot of convincing.  I swear I was the last person on the planet to buy a pair of skinny jeans and riding boots.

Now you’re lucky if you’ll see me in anything but my skinny jeans and riding boots.

I felt the same way when these cookies started circling the blogosphere.  I thought to myself, “hmm, those sounds good, but surely they can’t be AS good, right?”

Then when they popped up for the 57th time in my Google Reader, I figured it was time to give them a go.  And with the What’s Baking theme as “baking with Valentine’s Day colors,” I figured it would be a perfect time for pink frosting and sprinkles.

Consider me converted.

To say these are *just* like the Lofthouse ones you can buy in the store doesn’t doo them justice.  I don’t want my cookies to taste store-bought.

These cookies taste as good as the Lofthouse ones probably do right before they get packaged.

They are soft and chewy.  The frosting is sugar-y enough that it makes you feel like a kid again.  Even if you’re like me and don’t typically care for sugary frostings.  All of that kindly goes away when you take a bite of these cookies.

They are that good.  They really are.  Trust the skeptic in me that’s currently fantasizing about eating more cookies. And wearing skinny jeans and riding boots.

One year ago: Pappardelle Campagnolo
Two years ago:  N’Awlins BBQ shrimp

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
adapted from Hostess with the Mostess, as seen on Annie’s Eats
yields 2 dozen large or 4 dozen small cookies

for the cookies:
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp vanilla extract

for the frosting:
5 cups confectioners sugar (powedered sugar)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
7-8 tbsp milk (plus more, as needed)
food coloring in color of your choice
sprinkles, as desired

For the cookies:
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt, whisking to blend well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium high speed until soft and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down sides.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.

With mixer on low speed, gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated and evenly mixed.  Cover and chill dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

To make large cookies, scoop a scan quarter cup of dough and roll into a ball.  For smaller cookies (which I did), scopp dough using a 1 1/2 tbsp cookie scoop and roll into a ball.  Flatten balls slightly and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (10 for small, 12 for large) or until just set.  COokies will not brown.  Let cool on baking sheets for several minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

for the frosting:
Place confectioners sugar in a medium bowl.  Add melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and gently whisk until smooth.  Add additional milk if necessary, 1 tsp at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Tint with food coloring of your choice.  Use an offset spatula to frost cookies, adding sprinkles immediately if desired.  Store in an airtight container.