OCTOBER 2017: Party Like A Pineapple

SO… WHAT HAPPENED TO SEPTEMBER

Oh, September…. it is my birthday month so of course I love it.  It is also the start of the school year and the kiddos go back to having a routine which I personally can’t wait for.  We have pumpkin lattes and mochas and pumpkin or apple everything popping up before our eyes. The weather gets cooler and the leaves start to change. It really is a very lovely month.

But let’s face it.  That month also can really kick you down and keep beating on you until you just scream “UNCLE”.  We had a wedding, fall baseball, my birthday, school starting, school meetings, cheer practice increased to two times a week, and living water (confirmation) & Sunday school started up.

Then there is the paper work and back to school mayhem (homework and bug projects).  We had tons of forms to be filled out because somehow the schools have forgotten who our children are over the summer and of course school pictures.  Money was flowing out of this household like nobody’s business.

Work was also super crazy this month not to mention all of the natural disasters with all the hurricanes and earth quakes.  I was just really thrown for a loop.  So much so that I didn’t even get to make my own birthday cake.   September’s post was going to be all about that cake.  Didn’t happen. Sorry self.

I will make it up to you. I promise…..

 

WHAT’S UP FOR OCTOBER

So my lovely daughter’s birthday is right away at the beginning of October – this year not surprisingly – I totally forgot that fact within the September chaos.  That resulted in me ordering all of her party stuff late and getting invitations out only one week before the party. *GASP* – that is so unlike me.  I was mortified.

This year, she was turning thirteen. Yep. She was becoming a teenager.  She had planned the theme of her birthday party weeks before, maybe even months for all I know.  She wanted a Hawaiian luau to celebrate this rite of passage…. Interesting….IMG_2576 (2)

FALL LUAU

Well, it isn’t exactly the season for a “luau” but I did find some leftover stuff at party city that would fit the bill for invites and decorations.

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Next up was to figure out the menu. She knew that she wanted meatballs, cheesy potatoes, and bacon wrapped pineapple.

LUAU MENU

Our Luau menu contained some things I think you’d find at a Luau but mostly it was stuff that my daughter loves and wanted to have.

Gluten Free Meatballs in chili/grape sauce

Pulled Pork with BBQ and Sweet Mustard Sauce (From Sweet Baby Rays which is always gluten free!!)

Au Gratin Potatoes (recipe from the Pioneer Woman)

Bacon wrapped pineapple

Chips (for those who did not want the potatoes.  I cannot relate to those people.)

Fruit kebobs

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Deviled eggs (family favorite!)

Olives/dill pickles

Sweet Treats:

Candied Fruit Kebobs

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Cake & ice cream

It was a delicious meal and was pretty easy to pull together.  I also found this cute chalkboard during graduation season at Target this year.  I thought it made a pretty awesome menu board…. maybe my next project should be a fancy writing course??

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WHAT ABOUT THE CAKE!

This particular kid doesn’t have a preference for ‘flavor’ of cake but when I asked her what she wanted, she kept saying, “pineapple”.

Was that pineapple flavored or pineapple shape?  She said both. Well, alrighty then.

I tried to make a pineapple upside down bundt cake loosely based on a chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake I make but it did not work out.  It was way too sweet – even though it looked great!  I was going to use that for my September post – but didn’t get any pictures of it before we tore into it at our September girl scout meeting.

Then I turned to a pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting that I saw on Pinterest but she wouldn’t agree to it unless she got to taste it first. I have raised culinary snobs I tell you.

Since we didn’t have time to try that cake out before the party I decided to go with the good ‘ol yellow cake recipe in the first gluten free on a shoestring cookbook (which by the way, has been completely redone and is on pre-order right now!!!) . I made three 9″ rounds.  Thankfully the recipe makes exactly one 9″ round, so I just made the recipe three times instead of tripling it and trying to divide it out.  I made three because I wanted the height for the look of a pineapple.

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For the filling I made good old chocolate buttercream from the recipe on the Lauren’s Latest blog.  It is so easy to make and it truly is delicious.

When the cakes were completely cooled, I stacked and layered them with the chocolate buttercream.  I made one and a half batches of the gold buttercream.  I will warn you this was barely enough and there was a spot on the cake (in the back of course) that was a little on the iffy side because I sort of had to fudge with the decoration.  In the end it worked out but if you want to be ultra safe, I’d make two full batches of buttercream and dye it all at once.  I was afraid to make anymore for my cake because I wasn’t sure if I could match the exact color.

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Before I started frosting the outside, I had to make the pineapple topper.  I cut a pineapple in pretty big chunks off the side.  Even though I would use this pineapple for the bacon wrapped pineapple for the party, what I was really after here was the core and the top.  I just kept whittling the pineapple down until I had a thin but sturdy core that was still attached to the pineapple.

I then carved a hole in the middle of the top layer, through the three layers of cake big enough so the core of the pineapple would fit in, so the top would sit right on top of the cake.

Once the hole is complete you can frost the outside.  Since this was a BIG cake and I was going to use a large star tip, I did a crumb coat layer with the gold frosting.  It took a bit more than I was anticipating in order to smooth everything out.  This is where I would recommend making a two full batches of buttercream and coloring it all together so you’ll be safe and have enough. I know I said it earlier – but trust me here – it’s important!

Then I pretty much just started piping the stars all over the cake. I was very careful around the edge of the cake at the top to cover all of the cake underneath and at the bottom I did an extra big star around the border.  Other than that – it’s a star free for all so have some fun with it!IMG_2578 (2)

Everything turned out really well and we had a great time.  In fact, we “partied like pineapples”!!!!

 

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August 2017: Gluten Free Blueberry White Chocolate Scones

IS IT A BISCUIT? OR A SCONE? OR WHAT?

So if you’re like me and you love watching baking TV shows, then you’ve certainly seen “The Great British Baking Show” on PBS before.  I love watching this for so many reasons and I’m totally going to convert one of their recipes into gluten free but the one thing that gets me the most is how they use the word “BISCUIT”.  Is it a cookie? or a biscuit? or scone?  To the British it is all THREE (and probably more…)!!!

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I AM CALLING IT….

Today, I’m calling it a scone and it’s not even a fancy one.  Here in the US, a lot of us do drop biscuits so this scone is a take on a simple drop biscuit recipe that I had success in converting to gluten free (we’ll see that recipe soon) and I thought, “hmmm… I wonder if I could make this into a scone?”

Why did I think that other than the fact that I need more gluten free scones in my life…. well recently I had a gluten free blueberry white chocolate scone from a local gluten free bakery. It was just ok and that was a sad day around here. I just do not understand why people settle for subpar gluten free baked goods when we don’t have to with a little imagination!

Finally… after the original biscuit recipe was so easy to convert and to manipulate, I just went there in my head and started thinking how to make this a scone… I mean a scone is really just a sweet biscuit, my friends, am I right?

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THE ORIGINAL RECIPE

I found the original recipe from the Our Best Bites blog.  They claimed they had a biscuit recipe with just two ingredients? I totally did NOT believe it but there it was all in it’s glory and the ingredients were: Flour and cream.

You read that right.  Just good ‘ol self rising flour and cream (with a dash of salt). I couldn’t believe it and of course had to make it gluten free immediately.  IT turned out so well, that I just kept going with and aren’t we all glad because now I have brought you these super quick little guys.

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CONVERSION PROCESS

First, I had to figure out what made self rising flour special – Hello google.  Self rising flour is basically a blend of flour and baking powder. Now this makes sense.  Of course biscuits would need baking powder – DUH!

How do I make this gluten free?  Well it was fairly easy.  I had to determine how much of the gluten free flour I would replace with baking powder.  It took some configuring but I finally settled on a good mix.

After that, I needed to throw in the white chocolate chips and blueberries.  This was also a bit of trial and error but it was a yummy one to have.  The first few times, I used tons of white chocolate chips and put extra ones on top and I left the original oven temp.  This resulted in some burnt scones (that were still edible and happy mistakes that my family and I enjoyed!).

As I mentioned above another little hiccup was the oven temp. I kept using the same one in the original recipe and this sweet conversion did not like it. So I lowered the temp and cooked it longer… and this worked!

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LOOKS LIKE A HOT MESS

These scones are by far not very pretty (the burnt ones were even less pretty). I get that but truly they are so delicious.  I tried a few things to make them appear more appetizing and they worked to an extent, but blueberries will be blue and they like to bleed all over the place with their happiness.

If you toss the blueberries in some GF flour before mixing them in, they will look less blue overall but in the end we just don’t care.  We just want to eat them all day long.

THE GLUTEN FREE RECIPE

Easy Gluten Free Blueberry White Chocolate Scones

adapted from Our Best Bites

Makes 6 scones

Ingredients:

  • 5.5 ounces gluten free flour (I used cup4cup because it’s awesome in pastries.)
  • .5 ounce GF baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 ounce granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces (weighed) heavy cream plus more for brushing on the tops
  • 3 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 3 ounces wild blueberries (all blue berries work but the wild ones are small and really mix in well)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
  3. Weigh all of the dry ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well.
  4. Weigh the heavy cream in a glass and pour in.
  5. Mix well making sure all dry ingredients are mixed in.
  6. Stir in white chocolate chips and blueberries.
  7. With a spoon or scoop, make 6 drop scones onto the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Brush cream on top of all of the scones very liberally.  This will help activate the baking powder.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and there are no visible raw biscuit pieces.

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July 2017: Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

ABOUT LEVAIN BAKERY

So…. I had never heard of this place and I’ve even been to New York City before (only once though). I obviously didn’t do my research before that trip because this is a place that I would have 100% visited prior to going gluten free so I could partake in all the beautiful cookies and baked goods that they make.

Recently, someone that I follow on Instagram (@sara_ourbestbites) took her family to the big apple and this was a must on their “to do” list.  She posted all of the cookies that they purchased and I have to say folks, it made me drool.  These cookies are extremely large and soft.  It’s almost like they wanted the middle to be cookie dough…. but not.  It’s super hard to explain but I do know that they try to intentionally under bake them so the center is gooey.

Levain Bakery was created by two women who ran a lot and need extra calories to keep them going (SAY WHAT!?!?!?!).  So they set out to create the greatest chocolate chip cookie ever.  Once they did they said, “heck we should open a bakery and sell these guys!” and the rest was history.  You can visit their site at levainbakery.com and order their gluten filled versions that will be shipped directly to your door.

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LET’S MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE

Of course when I saw these delicious, ooey – gooey cookies on Instagram I just had to figure out how to make them gluten free.  I mean, why do we have to miss out? I have to say, it actually was pretty easy to find a recipe to convert.  Regulating my oven on the other hand wasn’t so great but more about that later.

Of course Levain doesn’t publish their recipe online though if you go to YouTube you can find a video of the owners making a batch (which is sort of helpful and a lot entertaining).  They show all of the ingredients but do not go into detail.  That left me to my pal Pinterest.

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FINDING A LEVAIN COPY CAT RECIPE

I fired up my trusty sidekick, Pinterest, and started searching for Levain copy cat cookie recipes.  There were a ton out there and they covered the flavor gamut (OMG = dark chocolate peanut butter chip!!!) but I wanted to stick to the original chocolate chip walnut. Of course every recipe I found was full of gluten but that’s ok,  I just need a tiny bit of a starting point in order to convert the recipe over to a gluten free one.

I settled on a recipe from the blog A Bountiful Kitchen.  This lady seemed just as excited as I was into recreating these buddies and her original recipe contains tons of details & tips that you must go read before starting: A Bountiful Kitchen Levain Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

The best tip on the blog noted above is that if you want to sub out the walnuts you must replace it with something else or the recipe WILL flop.  I only tested it with the walnuts included in the recipe so if you decide to take them out… you are on your own – please try her tips to make it work.  I will not be responsible for how they turn out.  I’m glad we had this talk.

One last thing before we jump into the recipe…. these cookies are GIGANTIC.  They are meant to be that way.  The hand model in the picture below on the left is my lovely twelve year old daughter. Granted she does have small-ish hands but seriously, HUGE cookies are coming your way if you decide to make this recipe!  I put a picture of my not so small hand (on the right) with a cookie in it next to her picture so you can at least get a gist of the size of these things….  You will not be disappointed if you make some and you can probably feed your entire neighborhood with one batch!

THE GLUTEN FREE LEVAIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE WALNUT RECIPE

Adapted from the recipe on the blog A Bountiful Kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter cut into tablespoons (I always use salted!!)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 385g gluten free flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 cups walnut halves coarse chopped (I like them a bit smaller than halves)
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

 

*I used cup4cup for this recipe because it is more like cake flour than other gluten free flours.

Instructions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees and set rack in middle of oven.
  2. Place butter into bowl of your stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment turn it on low.
  3. Add the sugars and beat butter until smooth on medium speed. Mix until the butter pieces are completely blended with the sugar and is no longer visible in pieces.
  4. Add the eggs and beat on medium just until incorporated with butter and sugars.
  5. Turn the mixer off. Add the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the dry ingredients on low until everything is mixed together.
  6. Pour the walnuts into the batter all at once. Mix them in on low (alternative is to hand mix these in).
  7. Pour the chocolate chips into the batter and mix them in on low (alternative is the hand mix these in.)
  8. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Use your hands to shape cookies. Do not use a cookie or ice cream scoop. The cookies are meant to be roughly shaped. Do not flatten the dough.  I also place a few extra chocolate chips on the top so that it looks good and I say more chocolate chips the better!
  9. Bake 4 cookies per pan, for 10 minutes or so…. **
  10. The cookies are done when the top is a bit golden and the bottom is also golden.
  11. Do not over bake. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

**This is where it gets interesting for me because the blog recipe I used to convert over to gluten free had instructions for regular ovens and convection ovens.  I have a convection oven (I’m pretty sure anyway) but when I baked them at the lower time period noted in the original blog recipe – they were not done.  When I baked them at the longer time, they definitely were a lot browner and less gooey, so I stuck with 10 minutes.  I also tried to chill some of the dough before baking and I didn’t really see that it made any difference in this recipe.

 

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June 2017: Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

HELLO SUMMER!

So June should be all about strawberries & cream or ice cream or something cool and refreshing but nope – I have chocolate and peanut butter on the brain. Don’t ask.

Though it is not a typical treat for this time of year, the cravings actually came in handy because this is a NO BAKE recipe (YAY!).  I mean who wants to turn on the oven in our sweltering heat – which by the way is already in the 90’s with lots of humidity (BOO!) in good ‘ol Minnie-soh-tah. So this was a total win for me.

As you can see by the picture below, these bars have a super creamy chocolate top and then the main bar part is a super pleasant crunchy but not hard peanut butter bar. It actually is a total oxymoron because it’s soft and crunchy all at the same time – they are the BEST!

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It also was easy enough that my daughter could help which was also nice because she is becoming very interested in the kitchen and learning how to cook and bake is a life long skill that everyone can use to their advantage.  Thank you to the Food Network for sparking this in her!!

RECIPE CONVERSION DECISION

Well, one night while I was surfing Pinterest desperately trying to find gluten free chocolate peanut butter bars this recipe popped up from The Girl Who Ate Everything blog.  It definitely was not gluten free but it was quick and easy so score – I pinned it to my 2017 conversion board.

After a quick glance further at the ingredients I knew that this one would be very easy to convert.  The only items not gluten free where the pretzels and Ritz crackers.

ALL ABOUT THOSE CRACKERS

If you follow me on Facebook at The Sasse Chronicles you have seen that recently I shared that Lance came out with a full size gluten free Ritz type cracker!! ALLELUIA!

They taste absolutely as close to a Ritz cracker that we are ever going to get gluten free because I tried to make some from scratch and they were a complete and utter fail.  I was so happy to see these guys on the shelves recently.

A note about the recipe:  Please crush the crackers FIRST before you measure them. I used a mini food processor so I didn’t have to dirty the big one. Worked great!

AND….. I apologize for this crappy picture. I actually searched online for an official pic but could not find one.  These crackers are that new!  I found them at my local Target store.

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THEN CAME THE PRETZELS

The other non-gluten free item was the pretzels. Now, there are sooooo many wonderful gluten free pretzel options on the market today from Snyder, Glutino, and Aldi but we had these little guys laying around needing to be used so I crushed these babies up and they worked out great!

I also crushed these guys using the mini food processor before I measured them for the recipe.

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HERE’S THE RECIPE

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Adapted from this recipe on the blog by The Girl Who Ate Everything

INGREDIENTS:

For the Bars:

  • 3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1 Cup crushed gluten free pretzels
  • 1 Cup crushed gluten free Lance baked original crackers
  • 1 1/2 Cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 Cup crunchy peanut butter

For the Chocolate Topping:

  • 1/4 Cup of Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cup of Chocolate Chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil very carefully so that all of it is covered and some hang over the sides. I used two sheets to accomplish this.
  2. In medium bowl combine melted butter, crushed gluten free pretzels, crushed gluten free Lance Original crackers, powdered sugar, and crunchy peanut butter.
  3. Press bar mixture into the bottom of the foil lined baking dish. (It will look like it will no way cover the entire bottom and still be a bar – but it does!!!)
  4. In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips and ¼ cup peanut butter in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stirring in between intervals so the chocolate does not seize.
  5. Once the chocolate/peanut butter mixture is ready, pour over the bar layer in the pan and spread evenly.
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chocolate has set before cutting into squares.

NOTES: When ready to cut the bars, simply lift the entire bar out of the pan by the edges of the tin foil.  You can then proceed to cut the bars into desired pieces.  They are good both cold and room temp!

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May 2017: Cherry Chip Cake with Russian Piping Tips

YOU WIN SOME YOU LOSE SOME

This month, was definitely a FAIL.  I followed the recipe but I think I forgot some of my mainstay gluten free baking tips and the cake did not turn out.  It was dense folks – like super dense.

Even my son said, “Mom, this cake is hard – but the frosting is AWESOME!”

WHAT DID I DO WRONG?

First off, I was being super silly and thinking that I could replace gluten free flour with regular flour on a 1:1 basis. Nope- not the case folks.

I also used a really high starch content flour and made cake flour out of it (added MORE starch). I think this is really what made it fail.

Lastly, I didn’t whip the batter enough. Normally, with gluten free products you need to whip that batter a TON with a kitchen aid mixer to activate the xanthan gum or guar gum and I didn’t do this.

From a non-gluten free stand point, I didn’t follow the recipe and didn’t use  8inch round baking pans because I do not have them – I used 9inch rounds.  I’m not sure if this was an issue but it was different from the recipe.

Bummer.

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WHAT WENT WELL?

Well as my son mentioned earlier – the frosting was pretty awesome.

I made this super easy chocolate buttercream for the filling because it is easy and no fuss – PLUS – it tastes really great.

I also used my simple buttercream recipe for the outside and the flowers.

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ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO TELL US?

Yep. I got these new Russian flower tips.  These tips are supposed to create perfect flowers (roses, tulips, etc..) with one squeeze and a twist.  It is tougher than it looks folks and that was after several hours watching it being done on YouTube.

The first try was an epic fail because my frostings were way too loose. I like to use cream and make super fluffy and yummy frosting. Well you need the complete opposite in order to make these flowers (Note to self: use stiff frosting for flowers).  I did not want to add anymore powdered sugar because then it gets just really too sweet for me.  So to solve this I put the frosting in the fridge to firm up a bit and I did get some nice flowers but not exactly what I was looking for.  They almost looked more like a rubber stamped image then a flower.

Lastly, I waited until too late in the day and my lighting was bad. I also decided to fiddle around with my camera and I don’t think that worked out for me either. I’m not posting any of those pics – because they are B-A-D. Ugh.

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MAMA SAID THERE WOULD BE DAYS LIKE THIS

Yes, she did. Oh boy. Honestly a lot more could have gone wrong than what did but in the end, a heck of a lot really went wrong this month. You know what though? That’s ok.

These days on social media all you see and hear about is how great everyone’s lives are going – blah, blah, blah.  The reality is, is that not everything is perfect and not everything turns out the first time around – AND THAT’S OK!!!

Failure to me is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and to have the resiliency to try again and move forward.  So it’s all good…..

P.S. It was also my husband’s birthday cake – thankfully he doesn’t eat cake so I didn’t get any unsolicited feedback from him about this… LOL!

P.P.S. Also if you are interested here is the link to the original recipe I tried to convert. I feel like I have to give it one more try.. so stay tuned!

April 2017: Ninja Party!

SQUEEKING IT OUT TO THE END

It’s the very  last day of April and I’m just getting this blog post together!  It’s been a whirlwind month for us with cheer tryouts, our 15th anniversary with a trip to New Orleans and of course our little guy turned 8!  Eight is GREAT!

THE PARTY THEME

So I’m one of those nerdy Mom’s who likes to throw parties with a “theme”. I mean it makes things so much easier to throw it all together if you have a cohesive ending in sight.

I asked the little guy to come up with what he wanted this year and I think he said ‘qixels’ which is a bunch of these little square plastic things that fuse together with water.  It reminded me too much of his lego party so I said, “pick again.’

Well, we were both stumped for a while and then I realized that this year he has really gotten into Tae Kwon Do.  He is currently on his green belt and loving it. I mentioned this theme to him and he was onboard 100%!

PINTEREST HERE I COME!

With the theme in hand, I immediately opened up Pinterest and started to search for Tae Kwon Do parties.  I quickly learned that there was more posts around Ninjas and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came to this type of theme.  That’s ok though – I’m adaptable!!

I pinned a bunch of stuff to get the creative juices going and this, my friends, is what unfolded…..

FIRST OFF THE KID PARTY

To keep with the theme and just because it was so dang cool we had it at Conquer Ninja Warrior.  It’s pretty much a training facility for those athletic types who want to try their luck at the new phenome TV program called American Ninja Warrior.  If you haven’t seen this show it’s totally worth watching.  It is an awesome obstacle course which requires speed, balance, strength, and a lot of skill.

The facility we went to also throws kid parties I’m assuming to keep the lights on!!!Everyone had a good time!

THE FAMILY PARTY CAME NEXT

We always do a separate family party and this is where the theme gets kicked into high gear.  I found these really great invitations and thank you notes that were Ninja inspired and ultimately, they were just really cool. I used them for both parties actually since it all worked so well together.

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THE DECORATIONS

Sometimes I go all out on decorations but since this was a busy month both at work and with our activities schedule, I just pulled out a few pretty standard ones.

I made a birthday banner by finding an Asian letter set on Pinterest and copying it to scale (FREE HAND!!!) onto the white banner squares with a black sharpie.  I then cut black and red squares out of cardstock to mount them on.  I found a thick ribbon that I could use to staple the card stock onto so it looked like a sort of old fashioned Asian banner.  The banner idea came right from Pinterest and I made it my own adding my visual and artistic flare.

I also made an “8 is Great” sign with the same letter set and made some origami ninja stars.  I stopped after six because these origami stars were very difficult to make and for some reason it didn’t dawn on me to make eight.  They also didn’t make a picture. *sigh* Mom brain – what do I say?

We hung large white lanterns (on sale from target from a while ago) and small black & red lanterns (from amazon) from the lights over the island where the buffet was and over the table in the kitchen.  I purchased ninja theme table cloths from the same place that I got the invitations/thank you notes.

Lastly, we had ninja plates and napkins.  Also from the same place that got all our money for the rest of the ninja loot.  I love to be coordinated like this.  Yes, I’m weird.

THE NINJA PARTY FOOD

Normally, this is an area where I just cannot get it together.  I mean some people have little signs all made up with cool names and things.  I think I was on my “A” game only once in order to do that. Once.

So this year, two things happened:  The Candy Sushi & the Ninja Sword Fruit Kebabs. I got a picture of one of these things. Mom brain, again? 40’s fog? who knows….

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The candy sushi was super easy to make.  I purchased gluten free pre-made rice krispie bars from Aldi.  They are amazingly naturally gluten free because they do not use barley malt in their rice cereal!! YAHOO!  We cut each bar in half after unwrapping them.

The next step is to open SEVERAL boxes of Swedish fish – not knowing that you would never in a million years use them all.   You place one fish on each of the bars.

Lastly, you unroll sticky gooey fruit roll ups – no wonder dentists hate this stuff – it is sooo sticky! I cut them into strips so that they would wrap around the fish and the bar and adhere on the underside. I did pull them a bit so they would stretch and keep it all together nice and tight.

Amazingly, the kids really enjoyed helping with this part – they thought it was super fun and of course devoured about 2lbs of left over Swedish fish!

HERE COMES THE CAKE

I had to leave this fabulous cake to the end. It really was a masterpiece and I really am enjoying baking and decorating gluten free cakes more and more each year.

Of course I found this design on Pinterest and thought – “YES. This one I can handle.” – because let me tell you, there are Ninja cake masterpieces out there that really must require a cake ninja to create….. way outta my league…. sheesh.

This design is basically a Tae Kwon Do robe with a black belt.  I made a 9×13 gluten free & vegan marble cake (recipes from Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats). I let it cool and then I cut it in half so I could fill it with buttercream.

After that I frosted the cake with white buttercream for the uniform shirt.  The day before I made homemade marshmallow fondant (because the other stuff that you can purchase is soooo gross and I refuse to eat it – the marshmallow kind is very yummy and edible).  I dyed some of it red and some of it black while leaving most of it white.

From here I molded the collar of the uniform shirt and the black belt in the same fashion – carefully placing them on the cake, pressing them into the buttercream so they would stick.  I put a all triangle of black inside the collar so you could tell the depth of it.  Lastly, I molded a team symbol for the tunic. This not any team symbol that I know of – I just made that bad boy up – a red circle and a hand made ninja star molded out of black.

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I’m not the best piper so I had my daughter assist by cutting out ‘Happy Birthday’ from red fondant and we put that on the side of the cake so it didn’t detract from the overall uniform look.

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It was a yummy cake and it actually was a lot easier to make then I thought.

8 IS GREAT!!!

 

March 2017: Gluten Free Lemonade Cookies

 GIRL SCOUT COOKIES, GET YOUR GIRL SCOUT COOKIES

Right now in MN we are in full swing Girl Scout Cookie season and we are a girl scouting family.  We’ve had stacks of cases of all kinds of cookies in our entry way since mid-February.

Usually this isn’t a big deal, because my son really isn’t into cookies (yay!).  I am into the cookies though and sometimes it’s hard to not just saunter over to the stash and open a box of your favorite kind.  This year, I’ve been pretty darn decent about it but my son came up to me one day and said, “Mom, I want a lemonade.”  Of course I knew he wasn’t talking about a cool drink but the yellow lemony girl scout cookie.

I told him “sure! no problem!” I knew my very favorite blogger, Nicole Hunn, over at gluten free on a shoestring has a recipe for gluten free lemonades. I’ve never actually  made them and they look gorgeous.

It wasn’t what I was looking for though, so I needed to start thinking about what I did want out of this cookie.

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Above Photo: Lemonade Girl Scout Cookie from ABC Bakers

MY FAVORITE SUGAR COOKIE

I love soft sugar cookies with fluffy frosting.  They are my favorite and we make them every Christmas and sometimes other times of the year just for fun.  They are just like those cookies in every grocery store that are just so wonderful and full of sugary goodness.

Again, Nicole (the goddess of gluten free baking) on her gluten free blog has the perfect recipe for this classic sugar cookie.  I’ve made it a bunch of times, it always turns out, and it’s delicious.

Then the wheels started turning.  How can I turn THIS sugar cookie into a lemony dream come true?

THE CONCEPT REALIZED

Basically, what I did was I took both of the recipes listed above and merged them into heavenly goodness that just melts in your mouth but gives you that intense lemon flavor.  I equate the final cookie to a lemon bar in a cookie.  It was awesome.

I actually think that the cookie just alone is a great lemon cookie.  I had one a few minutes out of the oven and I can’t even describe the fantastic moment that was.  It was warm and lemony. It’s not a gooey cookie but it was so delightful.

The lemon frosting could probably also be used for another recipe in which you need lemon frosting. It’s that good.  Both of my kids took shots of the lemon frosting straight from the piping bag (after I was done with the cookies of course) into their mouths (and yes – we are weird like that).

The only significant difference was that I used True Lemon’s Lemonade packets and not the granular lemon packets.  I mean I was making “lemonades” right? It seemed appropriate.

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THE VERDICT

Now the kids, had different reactions to the cookies – I’ve created culinary monsters people, I really have.

My gluten free kid: He said the cookies were good but maybe I could leave the lemon out of the cookie part and just leave the lemon in the frosting.  He ate the whole thing anyway.

My non-gluten free kid: She said it was just way too lemony.  She didn’t like the cookie or the frosting really. It was just too strong for her but she finished her half of a cookie as well.

My neighbors and the friends that I gave the cookies to said they were good and personally, I really thought they were super awesome. Then again, I really love lemon flavored things and I like it to really taste like lemon. I don’t want a yellow baked item that says it’s lemon because of the color and then you taste it and it’s not even close to tasting like lemons.

My husband took the remaining cookies to work and he said they were gone in a flash!

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THE GLUTEN FREE LEMONADE COOKIE RECIPE

Recipe adapted from Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies and Gluten Free Lemonades Girl Scout Cookies Copy Cat Recipes

COOKIE RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups (280g) gluten free flour with xanthan gum included (I used Cup4Cup)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (if not in the flour blend)
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (22 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temp)
  • 8 teaspoons butter (softened at room temp)
  • juice of one small lemon
  • zest of one small lemon
  • 3 packets of True Lemon’s Lemonade

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix the butter, egg, lemon juice & zest, and packets of lemonade in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well.
  5. The dough will be very soft and moist.
  6. On a floured surface, roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin until it is 1/3 inches thick.
  7. Use desired round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.
  8. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet that has been covered with unbleached parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cookies are turning slightly brown.
  10. Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet upon coming out of the oven.
  11. Cool completely on a wire rack.

 

FROSTING RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS

Ingredients:

  • 8 Tablespoons of softened butter
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 packets of True Lemon’s Lemonade
  • juice of one small lemon
  • zest of one small lemon
  • 2 1/2 Cups of powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons meringue powder

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the butter, salt, lemonade, and the lemon juice & zest together in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar & meringue powder.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Add the heavy cream and let the mixer whip the frosting.

 

FROSTING THE COOKIES

  1. Put the frosting into a piping bag that has a large circular tip.
  2. Pipe the frosting on the cooled sugar cookies in a circular fashion.
  3. With a wet finger or small knife, smooth out the piping lines.
  4. Add decorations to the top if desired(I used large coarse sugar).

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