Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cooking Up a Party: POW! Pop Art Super Heroes

Cookie by Oh Sugar! Events
For his 5th birthday, the Kid chose a Super Hero theme. Being a fan of modern art, my inspiration for the party came from the work of Roy Lichtenstein and his graphic comic book style. Ben-day dots are a prominent feature of his work so I knew we'd all being seeing spots at this party.

The color scheme of red and yellow was lifted from the invitations and we threw in a little blue to complete the primary color palette. It was a simple party this year, held at a local gym, so food was minimal - Pop! corn, cupcakes, and some Hero H2O. I can't resist making a statement cake to go along with cupcakes, so the Kid's party had one of those as well - dark chocolate cake with cherry filling and vanilla buttercream.

For favors, we gave each of our guests a Super Hero kit including a cookie (also used for the cake topper, made by Angela of Oh Sugar! Events), a Secret Identity Concealing mask, power-up Super Hero cuffs, and a Pow! t-shirt to complete the super look. We had a handful of little ones in attendance as well and were happy to have some adorable DC Super Heroes Color, Shapes, & More board books to share with them for celebrating the Kid's birthday with us.

Invitations - Pear Tree Greetings
Cupcake picks, water labels, and goodie bag cards - bSquared Designs
Cookies - Oh Sugar! Events
Superhero masks and cuffs - made by the Mom from a pattern found at AmbrosiaGirl.com
Party favor gable boxes and paper goods - Oriental Trading
The Kid's party t-shirt - Flyduds
Cake and cupcakes - made by the Mom

Disclosure: Given the trend of blogging for comps, I feel obliged to tell you that I received nothing in the way of compensation for this post from the vendors we used for the party or anyone else. I'm sharing their information with you here of my own volition, all products were bought and paid for by me. I just love what these folks do and want to share my party planning finds with you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cooking Up A Story: The Gingerbread Boy

For our last Cooking Up A Story post for 2012 we chose The Gingerbread Boy, retold and illustrated by Richard Egielski. In it, Egielski brings the story of the gingerbread boy to the big city - New York City to be exact. A childless couple makes a cookie boy to love but he jumps right off the pan and into an adventure that takes him past many of New York's landmarks and right into Central Park. He meets a few of the locals along the way but his story comes to a shocking end when...well, I won't spoil it for you.

After reading this book, we had to make gingerbread men, of course. For ours we decided to amp up the ginger flavor, multiplying it by three. That's right - three kinds of ginger are used in this recipe and the result is a ginger lover's dream.

This recipe also uses an ingredient I picked up while we were in Australia, something that I had long read about (being a tried and true Anglophile) but never actually tasted - Treacle. Similar to molasses, treacle has a deep flavor to match it's color and is traditionally used in making gingerbread but it's okay to substitute molasses. I also used coconut sugar - not something you would traditionally find in gingerbread, but something I was interested in trying as it is a less processed sugar - but you could easily substitute brown sugar instead.

Triple G Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2/3 cup treacle
2/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon candied ginger, macerated with the back of a spoon or in a mortar 
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
Flour for dusting

In a small saucepan, bring the treacle and coconut sugar to a low simmer. Stir in the gingers and the cinnamon before slowly adding the butter, allowing each piece to melt before adding another. Once all the butter has been incorporated, remove the saucepan from the heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg and then add a small amount of the treacle mixture, whisking to temper the eggs. Once the eggs are tempered, add them to the treacle mixture and stir. Pour this mixture into the bowl of a stand mixture. Add the baking soda and salt and begin mixing, gradually adding the flours until the mixture make a smooth, moist dough.

Scrape the dough out onto a generously floured clean surface and knead it slightly. Shape into two discs and refrigerate for at least two hours.

When you are ready to make your cookies, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up slightly before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You don't need to space these too far apart as they really don't spread out. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before decorating.

We used melted white chocolate and really liked how it complemented the spiciness of the ginger. You could also use royal icing or a stiff buttercream to decorate. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kiss Kringles: Cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

Just about every year since we've been married, the Dad and I have hosted a cookie exchange and cocktail hour for our friends during the holiday season. It usually happens sometime after Thanksgiving but before the December jollity really starts rolling. This year, between home improvements and holiday travel expenses, a big party was just not in the cards. I was still able to get my cookie exchange on through The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, though! In it's second year, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap matches up bloggers with three fellow food blogging cookie lovers for a cookie swap of global proportions. And this year, they partnered with Cookies for Kids' Cancer to raise money for kids' cancer research so I knew I wanted to be on board. OXO® is matching all of the donations made by the cookie swappers to help make a big difference for this organization - thanks OXO®!

For my contribution, I decided to combine two of my favorite flavors - mint and chocolate - and make use of some seasonal candy that I know we all have lying around. I'm not going to lie to you - this is not one of my healthiest recipes. It's got sugar and it's got food coloring (from the candy canes) but for a once a year splurge, it's pretty modest. Anyway, I hope my cookie swap partners enjoyed them as much as the Kid and I enjoyed making (and eating) them!

Kiss Kringles
makes 4 to 5 dozen
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup candy cane powder (see this post to learn more)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
powdered sugar
4 to 5 dozen unwrapped chocolate Kisses

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. When it's light and fluffy, add the candy cane powder and the eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well to combine. Add the baking powder and salt along with the whole wheat pastry flour and mix for about 30 seconds to 1 minute before scraping down the sides of the bowl again. Then begin slowly adding your all-purpose flour. With the mixer running, add flour until the dough reaches a stiff but not dry consistency. How much flour you add will depend on the size of your eggs and the humidity of the day so just keep an eye on the dough, stopping the mixer once in awhile to check the consistency.
Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper. Roll dough into 1 inch or smaller balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Bake for about 9 minutes.
Remove cookies from oven and press one Kiss into each while they are still warm. You could also use some other seasonal candy like these Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints I found.
Allow the cookies to cool entirely before packaging if you're giving them away. Or you can eat them while they are warm and the chocolate is all melty - yum!
And so to Eat*Drink*Cleveland, Cook The Story, La Aguacate, and all of you, the Kid and I wish you a very merry holiday season!
And thanks to Lauren of KeepItSweetDesserts.com for the tasty Salted Brown Butter M&M cookies and to Felice of Blogchickabowow.com for the amazing Rosemary Lemon Shortbread cookies!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Kids Cook Monday: Gifts from the Kitchen

If you're a mom or dad of a school-age child, then you likely have a teacher or two on your gift list this holiday season. The Kid's teachers are pretty remarkable and we wanted to let them know how much we appreciate them all year, so there's no time like the present to make good with the gift-giving. This year, I wanted the Kid to get in on the act by making some simple home-made treats. These are easy for even the youngest of kids to make and give and they don't require a lot of time or ingredients.

Chocolate Dipped Spoons and Graham Crackers
makes as many as you need or want

Chocolate chips
White chocolate chips
Candy cane crumbles and powder
Bamboo spoons (here's a good source)
Graham crackers

The process is simple - you have things to dip and things to dip them into. Then add a drizzle or a sprinkle.

Start by getting all your dippers together - bamboo spoons, graham crackers, pretzel rods, what have you. If you think it would taste good dipped in chocolate, then go for it!

Melt your chocolate chips in the microwave (in 30 second bursts, stirring between each until just melted) or in the double boiler.

For spoons, dip them in chocolate first and allow the excess to drip off over the bowl before sprinkling with candy canes that have been processed in your food processor (or place the candy canes in a plastic bag and let your kid smash them with a mallet).

Place the dipped and sprinkled spoons on a sheet of parchment paper to harden. These make an excellent gift for the coffee or hot cocoa lover - just stir them into your favorite cup for a chocolate and peppermint flavor burst!

For graham crackers, we found it was easier to spoon over the chocolate to get an even coating that wasn't too thick. Then you can sprinkle on candy cane bits or drizzle with white chocolate. We use a squeeze for our white chocolate drizzles but you could easily use a spoon. Allow these to harden on parchment paper as well before packaging in plastic bags.

I used pretty blue kitchen twine to tie them up before arranging them in a sweet coffee cup and adding a gift card. The perfect gift for the Kid's favorite teachers.

For other easy to make, easy to give ideas for preschoolers check out these recipes from our blog:
Hot Cocoa Mix
Pumpkin Ginger Tea Bread
Harvest Granola
Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

{Sponsored Giveaway} Connecting for the Holidays

This is a sponsored post. NetZero has provided me with a free HotSpot device to try out for the purposes of this review and is sponsoring the products and services in this giveaway. The opinions here are my own.

Back in the old days when I was a single girl, living in NYC and working on my graduate degree, times were lean. Economical living was the name of the game and this often meant making do or going without. As a student, one thing I simply couldn't go without was an internet connection. NetZero was my answer for staying connected while staying under budget.

Now, it's been years since I've used NetZero as an internet provider but when they contacted me about their new wireless 4G internet service, I was intrigued. You see, as a food blogger and freelance writer, I spend a lot of time on the internet - researching recipe ideas, having meetings via Skype and staying connected with my friends and family across the globe - and as a mom, I'm often on the go when I'm doing that.

Enter NetZero's new 4G wireless HotSpot™. This little device, literally the size of my palm, helps me stay connected - when I'm at home and on the go. It's broadband and it's super fast  - and just like in the old days, NetZero is super affordable. I can take it with me to the Kid's classes and playdates or even just to the backyard, to enjoy a little time outside and still get my work done. You can visit their website at http://www.netzero.net/ to find out more. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook to ask questions and learn more.

The nice folks at NetZero want to give one of you a chance to check out their new product so we're giving away $300 in products and services from NetZero on the blog this week. Want to win*? It's as simple as 1-2-3:

Mandatory Entry (you must complete all three steps to enter - the contest closes December 9*):

  1. Visit http://www.netzero.net/ and come back to tell me what you learned. Be sure to include your email address in your comment so that I can contact you if you win!
  2. Follow NetZero on Twitter @NetZero_4G
  3. Tweet the following: "Enter to win $300 in @NetZero_4G products/services on @thekidcancook http://thekidcancook.blogspot.com/2012/12/sponsored-giveaway-connecting-for.html #NetZero4G"
We have our winner! Random.org has chosen entry 2 by Mary Helen as our winner. The winner has 48 hours to contact me with their contact information before another winner is chosen.

*This giveaway is sponsored by NetZero and was organized through MomItForward. The giveaway is open to residents of the continental United States only. NetZero 4G wireless HotSpot™ services may not be available in all areas - check their website to find out where. The product and services will be shipped directly from the sponsor and the winner's contact information will be shared with them to do so. This giveaway ends at 11:59 pm Central on Sunday, December 9 and the winner will be chosen at random via Random.org. The winner will be announced after December 9 and will have 48 hours to contact me with their information before another winner is chosen. The Kid Can Cook is not liable for undelivered or damaged prizes. I have been provided with free products and services to host this giveaway.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cooking Up a Story: The Elf on the Shelf

For the past couple of years, a special visitor from the North Pole has helped our family celebrate the winter holiday season. When he first arrived, X named him 'Banana Gack' and the name stuck. He arrives on the night of Thanksgiving and greets us bright and early on the morning after this festive holiday. Each night he travels back to the North Pole. In previous years, we've had fun trying to guess where in the house he would pop up next but this year! Oh this year, he has been bringing messages directly from the head elf, Santa himself.

The second morning after he arrived, we found him playing with the Kid's 'Barrel Full of Monkeys' game with a suggestion to have a family game night.

Then we found him decked out in one of my (ahem) festive holiday necklaces, with a message to get busy and string up the Christmas lights outside.

Earlier this week, we found him in my mixer with the suggestion to have Breakfast for Dinner.

And this morning, he was seated in front of a holiday candle, trying to toast a marshmallow - with the directive to make some s'Mores after dinner. I like the way this elf thinks and so does the Kid.

I have it on good authority that he'll be delivering a new missive from the Big Guy in the Red Suit every day. Here's a spoiler of what he has in store for us this year (including some great and simple ways to give back during the holiday season - such a clever old elf!):

  • A friendly reminder to get a tree and decorate it
  • Grab a hot chocolate on the way home from school
  • Make cookies for the Kid's teachers
  • Make cards for the grandparents
  • Pick out coloring books and crayons for kids at Dell's Children's Hospital and donate to Amber's Angels
  • Buy a toy to donate to Toys for Tots
  • Donate a coat to Coats for Kids
  • Take an evening stroll around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights
  • Visit the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park
  • Bake some muffins for the staff at the Kid's school
  • Meet the Dad for lunch during the week
  • Make silly Christmas hats
  • Have a Christmas music dance party
  • Sing carols before bedtime
  • Wrap up for some stargazing in the backyard
  • Make and send a card for a wounded veteran through Holiday Mail for Heroes
  • Have a Christmas movie night
  • Put together a care package for active troops and send it through Operation Gratitude
  • Bake cookies - Santa comes tonight!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Cookie Kick-off: Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles

Hate to say it but the bird was barely cold before we were unpacking the holiday decor at our house this Thanksgiving weekend. The Kid loves this time of year, and to be honest, his parents do too.

Unfortunately, along with the beautiful lights that brighten our holidays, there comes quite a few sugary and not-so-healthy treats. So to combat that and still have the fun of holiday baking, the Kid and I made a batch of the perennial holiday cookie - The Snickerdoodle - but this time, we used whole wheat pastry flour and about half as much sugar as you normally would. The result - a "healthier" (if only just) take on a Christmas cookie classic.

It's also our entry in the Hodgson Mill "Have a Grain Holiday" recipe contest.  They provided the whole wheat pastry flour and their "Better for Bread" flour that we used to make these. As part of the contest, they've asked us to share about the Baker’s Holiday Gift Pack Sweepstakes and a link to the coupon good for $1 off any 5 lb. bag of Hodgson Mill flour (http://bit.ly/1Coupon). 

Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles
makes about 2 dozen

1/2 cup (or one stick) unsalted organic butter (softened)
1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash salt

For the cinnamon sugar coating:
2 tablespoons raw organic sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, and egg. Mix until dough forms and then cool in the fridge for 30 minutes (or place in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes if you're in a hurry).

While the dough is chilling, combine the sugar and cinnamon to create coating. We put ours in a clean covered plastic container (the kind you get in the bulk section) - this made it super easy for the Kid to coat each cookie.

Before you take the chilled dough out to prepare the cookies, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Once the dough has chilled, create small balls of dough, coat each with the cinnamon sugar and then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Using the smooth bottom of a drinking glass, press each cookie ball into a disk.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are just barely done (you don't want to overcook these!).

Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly before enjoying with a glass of milk. These are best stored in the fridge for up to a week.