Archived entries for other holidays

Elmo Cupcakes!

Elmo is toddler crack.  I’ve never been the biggest fan.  I find his high pitched baby talk annoying of enough but add to that his way of always referring to himself in the 3rd person, and I just want to punch him in his red furry face.  HOWEVER, my daughter, Thora, cannot get enough of him.  I tried, and failed to keep her away from him.  But its pointless.  She LOOOOVES ELMO!  Ok, fine.  At least Elmo is not as bad as Baby Bear.

Saturday was Thora’s second birthday and I decided to make her supremely happy by combining two of her favorite things: cupcakes and Elmo!  I’m not going to take credit for this idea (its been done many times before) but it was a fun project, so I thought I would share my how-to. Everything about these cupcakes are red, from the red velvet cupcakes, to the red royal icing and the red cupcake holders.  Get ready to have red hands for the rest of the week.

Elmo Cupcakes
makes 32

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (1 ounce) red Food Color
  • 2 tsp vanilla

 Royal Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar (optional)
  • 1 ounce red dye for icing

Elmo decorations

  • small marshmallows for eyes
  • black food color or cake gel for eyes
  • orange peanut m&ms for nose
  • oreos for mouth
  • Red food color for icing
  • pastry bag and large star tip

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients and set aside.  Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs one at a time into mixture, beating after each one.  Mix red food dye into milk.  Add milk, sour cream and vanilla, beat into mixture.  Gradually add dry ingredients, beat until mixed.

Place red cupcake holders into pans.  Fill cupcake holders 2/3 way full.  (An ice cream scoop works well for this.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until cupcakes test done.  Allow to cool on wire rack.

Make Royal Icing

Beat egg whites until firm peaks form; about 5 minutes.

Add sugar, tartar and lemon.  Beat.  We want a firm frosting.  You may want to add more sugar or egg white to get the right consistency.  Add red dye to get the color desired.  I used the frosting dye because it is more like a gel and will not add extra moisture to the frosting.  If you are using the liquid dye, you will need extra sugar to make up for the added moisture.  Keep covered until needed.

Assemble Facial Elements

Eyes: Separate a small amount of frosting into a small bowl.  Add black dye and mix.  Apply a small dot of black frosting to the center of marshmallows to create the eye.

Noses: Separate out orange peanut m&ms and set aside.

Mouth: Spin off tops and bottoms of Oreos. Remove cream filling.  Cut mouths in half.  I actually cut them a bit smaller and discarded the excess.

Assemble Cupcakes

Spread a bit of frosting on top of each cupcake as a base layer.  Dip eyes, nose and mouth in frosting and place onto cupcake.

Spoon red frosting into pastry bag with the large star attachment and pipe onto cupcake around facial elements.  Pull away at sides to accentuate Elmo furry face.

DONE!  Now let your kiddos enjoy stuffing their faces with Elmo’s face!

Grandma’s Homemade Baked Beans

No holiday meal is complete without baked beans.  When my Aunt Nancy recently sent me my Grandmother’s recipe, there was no better time to try my hand then Easter dinner.  Luckily, I also had my Great-Grandmother’s bean pot to cook it in!

Grandma’s Baked Beans
makes 10-12 side servings

  • 1 lb dry navy beans
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • quart tomato juice
  • salt to taste

Cover 1 lb of navy beans with water and soak overnight.  The next day, rise beans.  Place in a pot and cover with fresh water and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Boil beans until tender, but not falling apart*, about 30 min.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix boiled beans with sugar, mustard, pepper and diced onions.  Smoked or salt bacon works best. If you are using raw bacon, fry for a few minutes to remove some of fat.  Add chopped bacon and pour tomato juice over beans.  Mix.

Place beans in a ceramic pot or a dutch oven and cover.  Place in oven and bake for 3 hours at 325 degrees.

*If you over cook beans (until they are mushy and falling apart), you can substitute tomato juice for 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce and bake the same as above.

St. Pattie’s Day Treat: Bailey’s Banana Bread

If I’ve learned one thing from the Irish, its to never go without alcohol if you don’t have to.  So, lets celebrate St. Pattie’s day by mixing some delicious Baileys Irish Creme Liqueur with our breakfast banana bread, to create a drunkenly moist treat!


Baileys Banana Bread

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 c. Baileys Irish Creme Liqueur
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the Baileys and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Grease a loaf pan.  We’ll be using a shamrock pan!  Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your pan.  This will help the baked bread to slip out of the pan easier.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 45 minutes – 1 hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool.

Decorate how you choose.  We’re using a delicious cream cheese frosting dyed green for the occasion.

Eat up!  Its so alcoholically delicious.

Hanky Pysanky

Ukrainian eggs are awesome! Growing up, we always looked forward to Easter, but not for the candy. My Mom always made a big deal about decorating the Easter eggs . We tried the Ukranian technique a couple times but we could never get ours to have the crisp lines or sophisticated designs you see in pictures. Ours always looked like they had been made by a three year old with a severe hand tremor. We did have lots of fun blowing the egg insides out of the shell through two tiny holes poked at the ends to keep our eggs from rotting.

Although the process of making these eggs is time consuming, they come in all shapes and sizes and are so beautiful to look at!

St. Patricks Day Grub, Corned Beef and Cabbage

A mandatory Chicago statute requires each citizen to spend the weekend of St. Patrick’s day stinking drunk. We’re not ones to break any laws here, so true to form, this past Saturday was spent in all day drinking binge downing all manner of green beer and Irish whiskey. Sunday awoke with a bit of a headache and an inability to think straight. Luckily for us, the traditional St. Patty’s day meal of corned beef and cabbage is so easy to make, you don’t need to think much. The Irish have made sure their holiday meal is perfect for those cooks who have a beer magnate in their hand and no control over their right arm. You just throw everything in a pot and boil it together. Yums.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

  • 1 4-5 lb corned beef brisket
  • 4-5 potatoes, cut into approx. 2-3″ pieces
  • 3-4 carrots, cut into approx. 2″ pieces
  • 1 cabbage
  • water

Place your corned beef in a large soup pot. Cover with water until completely submerged. Usually the corned beef you buy from the store comes with a seasonings packet, which you can just add in. If for some reason yours doesn’t, just add 4 or 5 bay leaves and peppercorns and a bit of coriander seed to the water.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, add the potatoes and carrots. Allow to cook for 20 more minutes.

Test potatoes. When slightly cooked but not completely soft, add cabbage. Just set cabbage on top so they are mostly sticking out of water. When we place the lid back on the pot, the cabbage will be steamed by the heat of the pot.

If you don’t have enough room in the pot for the cabbage, check your corned beef. If its done, you can take it out and set it aside and finish cooking the vegetables alone. Place the lid back on the pot and allow to cook for 15-20 more minutes or until the cabbage is steamed and the potatoes and carrots are cooked.

Too hung over to style the food. Doesn’t matter anyway because this isn’t stylish food, but good peasant grub.

Slice the corned beef and side with a dollop of mustard. Smear butter all over boiled vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve and eat. Meat and potatoes is the perfect meal for when you’re overhung. You can’t get more Irish then this!

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