Coconut Cheesecake and Cookie Nests

18 Mar

Coconut cheesecake and nests

As previously stated here, here, here, here, here and here, I love a good cheesecake. Not only is cheese my “love language” (making cheesecake my favorite dessert), the very fact that cheesecake freezes beautifully makes it a welcome addition to nearly every holiday or party I host. Something I can check off months in advance? Yes, please.

I tried and loved a new recipe for this cheesecake. I skipped the strawberry topping and instead spread a thin layer of whipped cream on top (1.5 cups cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar). Not only did this make a smooth, pretty surface for my decoration, but it was delicious. I might add a whipped top to all my cheesecakes from now on! And one last recipe change—I didn’t want to buy coconut rum, so I replaced it with 1/8 cup regular rum and 1/8 cup leftover cream of coconut.

I served the coconut cheesecake with both chocolate sauce and berry compote on the side, and while delicious with both, it was great on its own. I probably won’t bother with the toppings next time.

Coconut Cheesecake and Nests

Now for the super cute nests on top. Because they’re cookies, they could easily be placed on any type of cake, cupcake or cheesecake, or served solo. The recipe makes plenty, so I had a platter of cookie nests on the side. The solo cookies weren’t as good as the cheesecake, but very kid-friendly.

The recipe is from the back of the M&Ms bag, and my only modifications were to use fewer M&Ms (just 3 per nest) and to melt some chocolate chips for the center of the nests to act as glue. I have no idea how the M&Ms would stay put otherwise.

Coconut & M&Ms Bird’s Nest Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&M’s Chocolate Eggs

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread coconut on non-greased cookie sheet. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until it turns light golden, about 25 minutes (Edit: this is crazy too long. Watch carefully, stir often, don’t be surprised if it’s done before 10.)

2. Remove coconut from cookie sheet and set aside.

3. Increase oven temperature to 350°F. In large bowl, add butter and sugar and whip until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.

4. In medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Blend into creamed mixture.

5. Form dough into 1-1/4-inch balls. Roll heavily into toasted coconut.

6. Place coconut cookies 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make indentation with thumb in center of each cookie. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Remove cookies and cool completely. Fill indentations with M&M’s Chocolate Eggs.

Coconut Nests

Eggs in a Basket Casserole

17 Mar

Eggs in a Basket Casserole

I made this bacon and egg casserole for last year’s Easter brunch, and it was the perfect combination of festive and flavorful. I love that it can be made ahead AND made *half* vegetarian.

At the recommendation of reviewers, I boiled the potato cubes for five minutes before adding. To make half of our casserole vegetarian, I skipped the bacon fat for cooking and greasing, and I (obviously) left the bacon out of one half. But, let it be known, BOTH sides were delicious!

Easter Candy Bark

19 Feb

Easter candy bark

I saw these ingenious cookie-cutter candy bark pieces on the Etsy blog and had to create my own. Even though I attempted something very similar to the original, I love the endless possibilities! With slight modifications, I’ve also made peppermint Christmas bark and dark chocolate Valentine’s Day bark. Shamrocks with green melts and candy pieces, anyone?

Easter candy bark

The limiting factor is definitely the number of cookie cutters, but these harden quickly in the freezer!

Easter candy bark

P.S. In the years since I’ve updated Seakettle, I’ve had millions of post-worthy moments: backyard parties, holiday desserts, homemade gifts. I’ve also re-created a number of previous blog projects and come to realize just how much I depend on my Seakettle notes, links and photos! So I’ve decided to throw up a bunch of old and random posts, for my future self’s sake! They will likely lack the story-telling and in-depth instructions, but they’ll get the ideas out there and maintain this site as a reference.

Easter candy bark

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

31 Mar

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

I have a definite preference for bringing pretty foods to parties and potlucks; I never contribute meat, for example, and have mostly avoided green salads. Even though my dishes are generally well received, I figure I can only get away with donut pops and sugar cookies so many times, right? Because of this, I’m always excited to find beautiful savory foods (bonus points if they’re holiday-themed).

After seeing many vibrant, frosted, sprinkle-y (three things I love!) Easter egg breads gone terribly crazy wrong, I was happy to find a few chic examples. After seeing this wreath, I fell in love with the robin’s egg idea and set about recreating it.

Easter egg bread wreath

I dyed my (uncooked) eggs turquoise with food coloring. Rather than brown paint, I decided to add flecks of gold, and I splatter painted the eggs with non-toxic paint. Then I lightly coated the colored eggs in oil—it supposedly helps prevent color splotchiness from condensation on the eggs.

Adding gold flecks to Easter eggs

After decorating the eggs, I found a highly reviewed recipe and went for it! Creating the wreath shape looked impossible (and I was nervous), but I can assure you that it’s easier to do it than it is to read how to do it. The dough is also nice and flexible with plenty of room for error and adjustment.

Easter Egg Bread Wreath
Adapted, only slightly, from

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
6 dyed eggs, brought to room temperature

1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast; stir well.

2. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.

3. Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly.

4. Add two of the eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well.

5. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.

6. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

7. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.

8. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

9. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

10. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

11. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick.

Rolling dough

Rolled dough

12. Set the two rolls of dough parallel to each other, slightly offset (this will help hide the ends later). Criss-cross the pieces to form a loosely braided ring, leaving gaps for the colored eggs.

Making a bread wreath

Making a bread wreath

13. Seal the ends of each roll together and tuck under the other roll, if possible.

Hiding the ends

Dough wreath

Hiding the ends

Dough wreath

14. Transfer the dough to a greased baking sheet.

15. Slide eggs in matching orientation (wide end of egg, pointy end of egg followed by wide end of egg, pointy end of egg etc.) into slots and reshape dough as needed.

Ready to rise again

Ready to rise again

16. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place and to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

17. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

18. Lightly beat remaining egg and brush a coat over risen dough.

Brushing with egg

19. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.

The finished wreath will be quite large—larger than I had anticipated and larger than any of my platters! I ended up liking the round look of a pizza stone for serving, though a large cutting board or even the cookie sheet would work, as well.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Easter egg bread wreath

Bottle Cap Wreath Ornament

22 Mar

Bottle cap wreath ornament

To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday last summer, my family headed to Denver in search of mountains and beer. (And don’t worry, we definitely found both.) Great Divide, the maker of my dad’s favorite beer, is there along with a whole host of other awesome craft breweries.

I’ve never been crazy about bottle cap crafts (so many ugly ideas!), so I was surprised to find cute ornament ideas online. I gathered up the caps from several breweries we visited in Colorado, and later made this wreath as a souvenir and Christmas gift for my dad.

I didn’t get a photo of the back before giving it away, unfortunately, but it’s pretty basic. I cut a circle wreath shape out of card stock, and then I hot-glued the bottle caps to the card stock. I made sure to get a little glue on the sides, in-between each bottle cap, as well. The card stock just adds a little extra surface area for the thin caps to stick to and helps support the ribbon. If you have enough bottle caps, it would look prettier and be sturdier if you repeated the process on the back, making the ornament double-sided. I didn’t have enough caps, but was happy with just a one-sided version, after I cleaned up the stray hot glue on the back.

This ornament would look great with all matching bottle caps, especially if they have a cool pattern or are a Christmas-y color. Start collecting now, and you’ll have plennnnty of time to put these together for the holidays!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

Christmas card 2014

I’m not sure if it was the 4:30 am wakeup time, leaving my family in STL, the flights and late luggage or the fact that we’re still wrapping presents, but today hasn’t actually felt like Christmas to me! Maybe tomorrow, after lots of sleep, cocoa and Christmas music! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with our annual Christmas card collage. Thank you for reading Seakettle this year!

Photo locations (clockwise from upper left):
Los Angeles, CA (UCLA gala)
Zion National Park, UT
Carlsbad, CA
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Las Vegas, NV
Zion National Park, UT
Santa Monica, CA

Beer Bread Kit

9 Dec

Beer Bread Mix

I don’t know about you, but I love thinking about, shopping for, and making gifts for Christmas. Even though there’s always (way, way) too much to do, I really look forward to this crazy time of year!

Beer Bread Mix

We gave out these beer bread kits a couple Christmases ago, inspired by a store-bought version. Just mix up the dry ingredients (which you’ll already have on hand), bottle them, attach the directions and give with a bottle of beer (or not). The bread is delicious and so easy for the recipient to make!

Beer Bread Mix

Supplies (for one mix):
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cardstock and string or ribbon
Large glass bottle

I’ve had great luck finding the right size bottles at thrift stores, but TJMaxx-type stores typically have an assortment, or you can buy bottles for $4 at IKEA.

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using a funnel, gradually pour the ingredients into a bottle. Tap the bottle frequently, encouraging the mix to settle, until all ingredients fit. Seal.

2. Make tags with instructions for the recipient. For tags like mine, first print a pattern on the back of paper. (I used Elli’s striped gift wrap, but there are tons of free printables out there, including lots more on the Elli blog.) Then flip your paper over and print my tag template on the other side. Cut one out, punch a hole and tie it on!

Beer Bread Mix

These are easy gifts to customize, too — want to give a more substantial gift? Give the recipient their favorite six-pack. Traveling by plane and can’t bring liquids? Tie an interesting bottle opener around the neck of the dry ingredients. Whether you’re giving one mix or twenty, you can still make them personal — something that I absolutely love!

Stamped Quote on Wood

23 Nov

Stamped wood slice with moss and marble

I have always loved this quote (always, as in, since it started popping up all over on t-shirts and tacky Pinterest inspirational images). And while I was most certainly not familiar with John Muir before moving to California, I’m now so grateful for all the work he did, especially in preserving one of the most beautiful places ever — Yosemite National Park.

This quote seemed perfect for my brother, a person rather uninterested in the outdoors who then moved to Portland (away from the bugs and oppressive humidity) and suddenly loved climbing mountain peaks.

Stamped quote on wood

Once I had a sanded piece of wood in hand, this project was incredibly easy. (And once I decided not to worry about boring things like straight lines.) I used an alphabet stamp set that I got several years ago at Michael’s for $1 and some ink I had on hand. Any basic stamping supplies will do.

I set the stamps on the wood to choose an approximate layout.


I often rubberband letters together when using my tiny stamps, and sometimes turn one backwards to serve as a blank spot when one of the letters is repeated (since I only have one of each letter to work with). It actually works better with words that are shorter than mountains (more like mount), and isn’t really necessary when doing something as free form as this project ended up being. Still, it’s something to keep in mind for projects that require more precision.


I finished the project with a sawtooth hanger hot-glued to the back. You can also see from the dark spot in the center that this wood hasn’t quite dried out, so it’s likely to crack a bit more along the way.

Type on wood

I intended to finish this gift for my brother while he still lived in Portland, but ended up being rather late (oops!) and he’s now across the country. Hopefully it’s a nice reminder of all those Pacific Northwest mountain adventures, and maybe even encouragement to travel west! (Come visit, Jason!)

Samoas Cheesecake

6 Nov


Since the days I went door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies (that miserable time when my shy self was pitted against my competitive, must-sell-the-most-in-my-troop self), I have loved Samoas Girl Scout cookies. (Or whatever you call them wherever you live. You know, the best ones, with the chocolate and caramel and toasted coconut.) So, when a couple back-to-back events called for baked goods, I decided to take what I loved in Samoas and combine it with my true dessert love—cheesecake—and make this cookie-inspired treat.

Samoas Cheesecake  |  Seakettle

You should know by now that Greg is the cheesecake expert in our house. He knows how much I love them, so he mastered all the tricks for making them and hasn’t looked back. His own recipe for turtle cheesecake is quite possibly my favorite dessert of all time. This recipe is merely a modified version of his masterpiece. Thanks, Greg!

Though this recipe has many components and a long cooling time, it isn’t actually hard to make. Trust me—try this when your next off-season Girl Scout cookie craving hits. It’s amazing!


25 Oreos (generic brand is fine)
2 tablespoons melted butter

14 oz individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
5 oz evaporated milk
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs (room temperature)

7 1/2 oz individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces dark chocolate (2/3 cup chips)

1/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 teaspoons light corn syrup


Cheesecake, Filling & Crust
1. Food process the Oreos into a fine powder.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Lightly toast all 3 1/2 cups of coconut at 350 degrees on a baking sheet (< 10 min), stirring frequently. 4. Remove coconut from oven. 5. Add a pan (e.g., 13 x 9) of water on the bottom rack of the oven and leave at 350 degrees. 6. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan. 7. Mix melted butter with Oreo crumbs and press in the bottom of the springform pan and 1 1/2" up the sides, set aside. 8. In a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the caramels in the evaporated milk. Stir until smooth. 9. Mix 2 cups of toasted coconut in with the melted caramels and pour evenly over the Oreo crust. 10. In a bowl, combine the cheese, sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth, scraping down the bowl several times. 11. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. 12. Pour the cheesecake batter over the layer of caramel and coconut. 13. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until barely set. 14. When barely set, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside to cool as close to room temperature as possible in the oven. 15. Chill overnight (or at least 8 hours) in the refrigerator. Coconut Topping
1. Heat the caramels, milk and salt in a double boiler, or in a small metal bowl or saucepan set over a larger saucepan of simmering water, until the caramels are fully melted.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and combine 3/4 of the caramel with the remaining toasted coconut in a large bowl.

3. Spread the remaining 1/4 caramel over the top of the cooled cheesecake.

4. Spread the caramel-coconut mixture on top of the caramel.

Ganache Stripes
1. Bring 1/4 cup of heavy cream to a boil and remove from heat.

2. Stir in 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate until smooth.

3. Stir in 3 teaspoons of corn syrup.

4. Cool slightly.

Once the ganache has set enough to pipe, finish the cheesecake with lines of ganache topping. For evenly spaced lines, I set wooden skewers lightly on top of the coconut topping to act as guides. With a ganache-filled pastry bag, I piped lines of chocolate across the top. If you’re in a hurry, just drizzle the chocolate over the top—it will still be beautiful and delicious!

Mini Sailboats

11 Jul

DIY sailboats  |

This project is from last fall, but it’s so perfectly summer. We designed and built these wooden sailboats with colorful paper sails to decorate the pool in the background of my sister-in-law’s nautical baby shower. Now, as we approach yet another hot and sunny weekend, swimming pools and boating are both on my mind!

DIY sailboats  |

The supplies were modest — old 2×4′s, branches trimmed from a backyard tree and leftover scrapbook paper — but the results were so sweet! Spread throughout the pool (with anchors fashioned from random metal objects), the dozen or so sailboats brought charm to the otherwise undecorated swimming pool. Now several of the boats decorate the shelves of our nephew’s nautical nursery!

Wood and Paper Sailboat

1 9″ length of a 2×4, preferably reclaimed or distressed
1 12″ x 12″ two-sided sheet of scrapbook paper
2 thin branches at least 12″ long (or a thin dowel)
Hot glue
Wood glue
Optional: staple gun, fishing line and weight

1. Make two angled cuts on the 2×4 to give it a sharp point on one end.

2. Barely cut off the remaining two corners of the 2×4 to form the back of boat.

3. If desired, round the cut corners using a sander.

4. Drill a hole 3/4 of an inch deep into the top of the 2×4 about a third of the way from the front of the boat. The hole should be just wider than the width of one of the branches.

Wooden Sailboat

5. Cut the scrapbook paper into a large triangle, 9 1/2 inches tall and 9 inches. We didn’t want the mast in the center of the sail so rather than make a symmetric triangle, we put the mast off-centered, about 3 inches from the front edge of the sail.

6. Cut one branch to be 9 3/4 inches long and the other 10 3/4 inches long.

7. Hot glue the branches to each side of the paper sail, with the excess wood sticking out below the bottom of the sail.

Scrapbook Paper Sail

8. Put a little wood glue into the hole and insert the longer branch into the boat.

Wood and Paper Sailboat

9. If you want to keep the boat from drifting, tie some fishing line to a heavy object and staple it (via staple gun) to the bottom of the boat. The weight will serve as an anchor and keep the boat from drifting too far.

Enjoy the season of pool parties and BBQs!