Big On Burgers

Warm weather is here that means it’s time to fire up the barbie. What’s more American than hot dogs and hamburgers?

More and more places are creating specialty burgers and it’s catching on. From toppings galore, to specialty flavors, to price tags that are out of this world, the gourmet burger craze is sweeping through America.

Many restaurants have a full page menu that’s dedicated just to hamburgers. It doesn’t end there, there is usually a build-your-own burger on the menu. From numerous cheese options, to a toppings bar that includes peppers, various sauces and the standard lettuce, tomato and pickle, the options are endless.

According to trend watchers, spicy burger compliments are what burger connoisseurs want. Sriracha, poblano, jalapeno and habanero are among the fastest-growing burger ingredients/toppings. In fact, they are more popular than pickles.

IMG_6304Another popular topping making its way onto the scene is specialty ketchup. More and more chefs across the country are making their own ketchup to control flavor. There is of course some debate on this topic. Many say, some things just shouldn’t be replaced.

If your perfect burger matches the lyrics of a popular song (lettuce, tomato, Heinz 57, pickle and french fries) it may be time to change it up. Get creative! Opt for more vegetables/sauces on your burgers. Try barbecue sauce with pickled jalapenos for a sweet and spicy kick.

Burgers are no longer meant to be boring. There is no wrong way to eat one. Many people have even gotten rid of the bun and replaced it with large lettuce leaves.

It’s About Tradition

It doesn’t matter whether you’re eating Italian, Mexican, Asian, or even Polish, it’s about the authenticity of the food. I grew up in a very traditional/ethnic home. I learned the importance of preparing food that is both true to the culture and delicious. While I am no culinary master, I do believe in traditions and authenticity.

My mother was Italian (Sicilian to be exact), and my father Polish. I am not a chef, but I love to cook and I appreciate great made-from-scratch food. Many of my favorite dishes are rooted in my upbringing. I remember incorporating old world family recipes into holiday dinners. Stuffed Cabbage was a side dish at Thanksgiving. Lasagna was served on Christmas Eve. Chrusciki (a sweet, crispy, deep-fried Polish pastry, sprinkled with powdered sugar) was Christmas dessert. Kielbasa (Polish sausage) was an appetizer at Easter, while Cannoli were the dessert.

These table additions made me who I am today. Making or eating Chrusciki always reminds me of my grandmother. I remember rolling out the dough as a little girl, watching her cut it into strips. I would “pinch” the pieces into ribbons before she would fry them. When they were done, I sprinkled the powdered sugar on (the more the better).

It is now my turn to keep the traditions alive, while starting new ones with my family. I may not be a classically trained chef, but my background taught me the importance of authenticity and tradition. Nothing beats the real thing.

Stop the spam

Whether it’s your inbox, your actual mailbox or a blog, spam/junk mail is everywhere. Well I am tired of all the spam and not the kind you eat (though I don’t really care for it either) that gets posted on this blog. When I came up with this concept I had every intention that it was 4 moms, not for anybody to post meaningless ads for stupid products! I must say, STOP THE SPAM!

Hop To It Storybook Cake

So I offered to make a cake for a friend whose daughter was turning one. She wanted a bunny cake and I had never made a bunny, but was up to the challenge. The cake evolved as I was baking it into a bunny in a book. It was surprisingly simple.

I used 3 Dunkin Heinz cake mixes which will feed about 50 people.

The bunny was made from a ball shaped cake pan from Joann Etc. I cut a small part off the bottom to have it lay flat.

The head is 4 pre-made Rice Krispy treats rolled into a ball. The ears are one pre-made Rice Krispy treat each and molded into a floppy ear shape. You could use fondant if you wanted them to stick up straight.

The storybook is the result of two 9×13 sheet cakes.

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Under The Big Top Party

I recently took my daughter to a circus party and it truly was over “The Big Top.”

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This was the “CANDY BAR” with all the fun aspects from the circus. The “CANDY BAR” also acted as the favors table. It included, classic paper popcorn holders, boxes of Animal Crackers for each child, big lolly-pops that every kids HAD to have and my daughter’s favorite were the ring pops. All the candies were placed in glass jars and color coordinated.

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This was “THE BIG TOP,” a circle ring that had different colors of mesh material coming down and hung from the ceiling in front of a red/white striped backdrop.

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Here is the drink table. There was regular and pink lemonade in plastic jars (just like at a state fair) with the birthday boy’s circus labels on them. There were also bottles of water with circus labels and juice boxes. However, because it was so hot out the day of the party, in addition to the table of drinks there were also coolers of regular water below that were easily accessible.

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I really thought this was a creative use of a “BIG TOP” cupcake holder. Individual servings of vegetables were placed in plastic desert cups with a little ranch dressing in the bottom. It was a mess free way to make sure the kids ate something healthy. In the distance you can see “BIG TOP” cupcake holders, fruit was placed in those with a little appetizer fork.

Kids are easily bored and easily distracted so keeping them busy during a party is always key. In addition to a bounce house with a slide, there were classic circus games, like ring tosses onto coca-cola bottles, potato sack races, and bean bag tosses. Prizes were given to each child who participated in the potato sack races.

As for food, this family served hot dogs from the grill, making it the perfect party “UNDER THE BIG TOP.”

Back To Work

So after years of what seemed like full-time freelance work and being able to make my own hours, I accepted a position at an office. It’s been super exciting but very exhausting. I forgot what it was like to work long, set hours. I have a new-found respect for my own mom. At the same time I understand why she did it. I was beginning to lose my identity. I was no longer me, I was just MOM. Now I’m me and also mom.

My Rapunzel Tower Cake

My daughter really wanted a Rapunzel cake for her birthday and after scouring the web I found a cake I loved and to the best of my ability I recreated it. Below are the steps I used to make Rapunzel’s tower.

My inspiration found online: A Tangled Celebration

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I used a bunt cake pan for the base and colored white frosting green, and I used cookie sprinkles to give a little shimmer to the cake.

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This next step was my trial an error. I decided to use donuts for the tower, but the weight was going to break the cake so I decided to use a ramekin in the center for added support.

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This worked great as you can see. I used 5 Chocolate Frosted donuts from Dunkin Donuts, my daughter’s favorite.

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Between each layer I used the left over green frosting which acted a glue, keeping the tower intact.

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I then frosted the donuts with white frosting, and used Nilla Wafers as the rocks and sprinkled candy stars.

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To make the top of the tower I used 2 Dunkin Donuts cinnamon/coffee rolls, 2 sugar cones for the peaks and another cone for the tiled roof, as well as purple sugar for the glittery effect. I did have to cut off part of one cone to make the peak smaller. I frosted the cinnamon rolls with white icing and assembled it on a separate plate. I refrigerated both the tower base and top part overnight.

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About an hour or so before the party I began assembling both pieces and putting the final touches on the cake. My biggest mistake was using chocolate cookie icing for the tower trim and windows. It was too thin and would run down the cake. I kept doing a section putting the cake in the fridge to harden. I would recommend using a much thicker icing. This was the only part of the cake I wasn’t overly happy with, but time restraints didn’t allow for me to change it.

20120530-005354.jpgI finished the cake off with a miniature Rapunzel doll that my daughter could then play with and of course candles. Aside from the cookie icing incident, overall I was very happy with the way the cake turned out, and all the kids loved it.

Had To Share This Great Idea

A Favorite Idea I Found Online for a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Themed Party

Courtesy: M & M Cupcake Tower

One of my favorite things about this project is that you could use store bought cupcakes and attach the faces to them. If you don’t mind baking, make the cupcakes in red, yellow or green paper wrappers to keep with the Mickey’s clubhouse color scheme.

Though the white frosting makes the Mickey & Minnie pop, you could use any color/flavor of frosting. If you wanted to go a little more girly you could use pink/strawberry icing with pink ribbons & pink cupcake wrappers. This would stay true to the new Mickey’s Clubhouse in which Minnie wears a pink dress.

As for the “faces” of the Mickey & Minnie, they are regular sized Oreo cookies. The ears are miniature Oreo’s. The bows are just small tied ribbon and are attached with a dab of extra icing, which acts as a type of “glue.”

Once assembled, the cupcakes are placed on a store bought Mickey’s Clubhouse cupcake stand. This is a great presentation. However, if you didn’t want to buy the stand, try laying them out in the shape of Mickey, just like the Oreo faces.

 

Night Terrors

I know they are not uncommon, and we are not alone in dealing with them, but night terrors are scary for parents. Watching one unfold is horrible. You feel helpless, there’s no way to comfort or help your child and seeing them in such a chaotic state is not something any parent wants to see.

My 4-year old started having night terrors much earlier than most kids, around the age of 2 1/2. Though it’s unclear what causes them, many experts, including our pediatrician agree they could be the result of an erratic sleep schedules or any type of sleep deprivation. This would explain why hers started at 2 1/2, because it coincided with her decision to eliminate a nap. Yes, HER decision. No matter how much I tried, my daughter had a mind of her own and is stubborn and stopped napping well before any of her friends.

Once her body adjusted to not napping, the night terrors subsided for the most part. Now at 4-years of age they really only rear their ugly face when she has a super busy or out of the ordinary day. Basically, these are the days when she becomes overly tired and should take a nap, but refuses and will do everything to avoid it.

In the end that means my husband or I will be up numerous times overnight. She will be screaming, kicking, crying and thrashing about her bed. We always go in to try and comfort her, and to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. We wait it out, until she eventually wake up. I know the experts say not to wake a child who is having a night terror but we’ve found that if we don’t wait until she is awake, she continues to have the night terrors through the night. However, once she is actually up, she tends to fall back asleep very quickly and has no recollection of what just occurred.