Cheesecake with Flower Decorations

1 Apr

Cheesecake with floral decorations and jam filling

I might as well rename this blog “I love cheesecake.”

I can’t help it! Cheesecake is the perfect make-ahead, crowd-pleasing dessert. It doesn’t require frosting and it comes out of the freezer as good as fresh.

Cheesecake with floral decorations and jam filling

For this pink and gold birthday party, I knew I wanted a cheesecake with a plain top (for decorating), but I didn’t want a plain cheesecake. I used my go-to cheesecake recipe, but used this recipe for the filling (minus lemon). It became a lovely new cheesecake to add to my rotation.

The (well-washed) flowers from the garden were such an easy, pretty decoration. Perfect for Easter, a bridal shower or just a dinner party!

Monster Truck Tire Treats

1 Apr

Monster Truck party treat

Monster Truck has to be one of the hardest party themes! I really struggled to come up with something cute for my nephew’s 4th birthday party, and finally settled on these tires. (Thanks, Pinterest!) I used store bought mini donuts and piped melted chocolate in Vs as the treads. Still not “cute,” but pretty fun!

Fruit Pizza

23 Mar

Fruit Pizza

This fruit pizza was an Easter Vigil tradition in the family of my college friend, Trish. It was such a crowd-pleaser that we often had it at other celebrations, as well.

Fruit Pizza

It’s been years since I had it before making it myself, and I liked it even more than I remembered! (I skip all the extra chocolate suace on top). Decorating the “pizza” is a lot of fun, and it definitely has potential for an even more Easter-y, egg-shaped variation. (But I guess I think that about everything round—remember my “Easter” cheese ball?”)

Fruit Pizza

Lamb Cake Inspiration

20 Mar

Lamb Cake

One of my mother-in-law’s annual Easter traditions is a cake in the shape of a lamb. She usually makes her cake in advance, and rather than traditional cake in the mold, she molds layers of ice cream, instead. Unfortunately, a few years ago, the freezer holding her already-completely-decorated lamb cake was accidentally unplugged, and she discovered her melted lamb just before Easter.

Lamb Cake

Lamb Cake

My sis-in-law and I jumped in and made our best replacement lamb (above), learning along the way that there are SO MANY TERRIFYING LAMB CAKES on the internet. I almost can’t recommend that you google it, but you know you want to. Anyway, just wanted to share my cakes from that year and last year (below), in case anyone is looking for a lamb cake that won’t scare the kids at your Easter celebration. My strategy: skip the face, add flowers.

Lamb Cake

Tiny Flower-Shaped Pies

12 Mar

Mini flower-shaped berry pie

If you have a mini muffin tin and a flower cookie cutter, these pies are a super easy and cute spring project!

Mini flower-shaped berry pie

I used store-bought pie crust, rolled and cut out with a cheapie flower cookie cutter (the one that comes in a set like this). Press the dough flowers into a mini muffin tin (skip every other hole so that the petals don’t touch), fill with your favorite pie filling and bake! Watch them carefully — they cook quickly.

Mini flower-shaped berry pie

Mini flower-shaped berry pie

Gold Leaf Easter Eggs

11 Mar

Gold leaf eggs

Of all the many ways I’ve decorated eggs, gold leaf eggs are my favorite! The first time I tried it was with a cardboard box kit from the Easter section (below). Later, after not seeing a similar kit for a few years, I bought a gold-leaf starter kit (like this) and found it to be just as easy. The leaf kit also includes more metallic sheets, justifying the extra cost. Pro tip: let eggs come to room temperature (and stop sweating) before applying leaf!

Gold leaf eggs

Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf Costume

25 Sep

Three Little Pigs costume

Our new, rather unruly, husky gave us the idea for this group Halloween costume: Three Little Pigs and the Big, Bad Wolf.

Big bad wolf dog costume

Cat pig costume

Once again, we turned to felt + cardboard + elastic. The noses are paper towel rolls covered in felt with puff paint nostrils. The ears are hot-glued to old headbands. Everything from the pink shirts to the old bricks to the gingham napkin is something we already owned (critical for those last-minute costumes!).

Three Little Pigs costume

Big bad wolf dog costume

I can’t say that I loved dressing up as a pig for Halloween, but I’m not sure it’s worse than the woman in American Gothic!

Big bad wolf dog costume

Minnie and Mickey Mouse Pumpkins

23 Sep

Minnie and Mickey Mouse painted pumpkin

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

My husband and I, unsurprisingly, both showed up to the pumpkin painting party with Disney ideas. I’ll post his amazing Jack Skellington pumpkin soon.

For Mickey and Minnie, I used acrylic craft paint and the help of painter’s tape to make the center line. I stamped the white polka dots with an unused eraser on the end of a pencil. You know I love those polka dots—see the dotting technique in action on Easter eggs, or another finished pumpkin example with gold dots.

I used scrapbook paper to make the ears, ribbon for the bow and hot glue to hold it all together. The ears were a bit tenuous—perhaps super glue or a pin would have been more secure?

The best part about painted pumpkins (besides the lovely lack of pumpkin guts)? They’ll last all season on your shelf, so it’s not too early to get crafting!

Cat in the Hat Costume (with Thing 1 and Thing 2!)

21 Sep

Cat in the Hat group costume

We have a box of felt in our attic that comes down exactly one day each year: October 30.

Even though Halloween falls on the same day each year, and even though it’s the very last day of the month—with no possibility of sneaking up on us—Greg and I find ourselves in a yearly panic over Halloween costumes. It turns into a late-night, felt-to-the-rescue DIY session on October 30 . . . or sometimes the morning of October 31, if we’re being completely honest.

Cat in the Hat Cat Costume

It’s partially because we know that dressing up a pet is a ridiculous tradition. It’s partially because we don’t want to spend money on said ridiculous tradition. Every year, we consider skipping, and every year we cave at the last minute. Because now that it’s a tradition, we just can’t seem to let it go. (It all began with a dollar store devil costume, bought on a whim, and anyone who has ever met Pixel can certainly understand.)

A few years ago, we threw together this Cat & the Hat group costume. We already had red shirts, so I just printed, cut and taped on Thing 1 and Thing 2 graphics from the interwebs. The cat’s hat is a cardboard cylinder (a breadcrumb container, I believe) covered with felt stripes and attached with elastic (another supply that rarely comes out besides October 30). Same story for the bowtie—felt, hot glue and elastic. In hindsight, a simple piece of cardboard under the bill of the hat would have helped it keep its shape.

Cat in the Hat with Thing 2 Costume

I was so happy with the finished costumes! They were SO easy and so cute! They couldn’t withstand a party, but Pixel hasn’t been getting many invites lately, anyway.

I have at least two other group/pet Halloween costumes from past years (and one doesn’t even involve felt!), so look for those soon!

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