Wednesday, January 11
Like most parents, I come up short in lots of ways. But there is one thing I am committed to as a mom that I have yet to fail on: birthday cakes. (I probably should knock on wood after making such a bold statement!) I blame my own mother for this obsession, thanks to the truly memorable birthday cakes she made for me as a child. Each year I let the kids choose whatever they want for their cake and then I tackle it. So far I’ve had pretty good success and I love sharing the cakes with you so you can make them, too!
Anna had her birthday last month and requested a hamburger birthday cake. (This girl has a thing for cakes that look like savory foods, apparently.) It was her “family year,” which means no party, just a fun night with the fam. Rogue One came out on her birthday, so we went and saw the movie together. She could pick anywhere to go out to eat but decided to do takeout hamburgers and come home to eat in the living room while watching old Gilmore girls episodes. Naturally a hamburger birthday cake was in order!
Anna and I did some searching on Pinterest and found a lot of ugly hamburger cakes as well as a lot of cakes that were just too much work. But then one caught our eye on a blog called Gluesticks. The mom had used unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cakes to make the bun and hamburger patty. Genius!
Here is how I made the cake and a few notes for you if you decide to tackle this project yourself. (Click here for the Gluesticks instructions. She piped frosting for most of the decorating, but I hate washing frosting tips so took a little bit of a different approach.)
- Make 2 yellow cake rounds and 1 chocolate cake round, all the same size, for the bun and hamburger.
- For the lettuce: toss shredded coconut in the green liquid food coloring. Tip: I didn’t let the “lettuce” hang off the edges enough, wish I had concentrated more coconut to hang over the edges so you could see the lettuce better.
- For the mayonnaise: Use white buttercream frosting in between layers 1 and 2 and layers 2 and 3, frosting out to the edge so you can see the “mayo.”
- For the veggies and cheese: Either use marzipan or white rolled fondant. Separate and make a few different colors – red, green and yellow-orange. Roll the fondant/marzipan flat then cut into the shapes you need. I cut triangles freehand with a knife in the yellow fondant for the cheese. I used a medium-sized, smooth-edge round cookie cutter for the tomatoes. I used a small-sized, ripple-edged round cookie cutter for the pickles.
- For the seeds: Pipe white frosting on top for the seeds!
- I recommend using smaller round cake pans. I used my 9-inch cake pans and, well, it was SO MUCH CAKE. Plus I think the dome would have held better if the cake had been smaller. Bottom line: 9 inches was too big, 8 inches probably would have felt too big, too. However, those sizes will work for sure if that’s all you have or if you do in fact need a lot of cake. Otherwise, go with smaller cake pans!
- Make sure you grease and flower the pans REALLY WELL and use parchment paper on the bottom. My cake ended up sticking to the pan a little too much on the edges in some parts. Those parts did not look pretty and I had to hide them in the back.
- Do not use cake strips for this cake, at least for the yellow cake rounds. You want the yellow cake to dome so that the top resembles a hamburger bun. Two quick notes: First, you will still want to level one of the yellow layers and the chocolate layer since they will be stacked. Just the top yellow layer should have a dome. Second, my cakes did dome in the oven but for some reason settled down flat after cooling – I think it was the homemade cake recipe I used. I think boxed cake mix may work better in this instance. If your cake does go flat, I recommend putting more frosting between the 2nd and 3rd layers, concentrated in the middle to make the top layer “poof” up a bit more like a bun. (I didn’t do that and you can see that my bun looks flat.)
Click here for my cake decorating post with TONS of tips for making and decorating cute cakes. That post also includes the buttercream recipe I used.
Happy hamburger birthday cake making!
Sunday, January 8
Happy 2nd Week of January! Last week went great with my menu and I am starting this year off right in the kitchen. I’m actually excited about cooking again, which makes me so happy! Here’s what’s cooking this week…
– Barbecue Chicken Salad
– Cora’s Mexican Ground Beef Tacos
– Stuffed Shells
– Eat out night
– Pancakes, Eggs and Smoothies
You know the drill! This blog would be nearly as helpful without you all sharing your menus each week, too! Please tell us in the comments what you have cooking this week!
For a while I wrote a fun series of posts on Babble called “3 Kids, A Mom & a Kitchen.” For one of the article the girls and I made a super tasty Barbecue Chicken Salad recipe. I just clicked through to link to that recipe for today’s weekly menu and discovered that Babble did a website update, which means the captions that had the recipe included are missing! So, I’m reposting the recipe here, for posterity’s sake. Well, actually, mostly for my sake so I can have the recipe handy. 😉
This is one of those recipes that’s not really a recipe – no measurements necessary and feel free to add or omit ingredients at will. I pretty much stole the idea for this salad from a restaurant called Croutons. Enjoy!Barbecue Chicken SaladAdapted from a dish served at a restaurant called CroutonsAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- Grilled chicken breast
- Barbecue sauce
- Romaine lettuce, chopped
- Shredded cheese, cheddar or mozzarella
- Canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- Canned corn
- Chopped tomato
- Cornbread croutons (if I can find these at the store I toast cubed cornbread in the oven until crispy)
- Chopped Granny Smith Apples
- Ranch dressing
- Shred grilled chicken and toss in barbecue sauce to coat.
- Toss everything together and serve with ranch dressing. Voila!
- No set amount for ingredients - plan for about ½ chicken breast per person and adjust ingredients as necessary for the size of the salad!
Sunday, January 1
Happy New Year!
Today I’m combining the weekly menu with my annual New Years Resolution post because they are closely related. Let’s talk about the resolution first then get on to the weekly menus, shall we?
Every year I choose a resolution that helps our family to Eat Well and Heal the Planet. For 2017 my environmentally-friendly kitchen resolution is to, quite simply, cook more. And while the goal itself may seem simple, the reasoning behind it is more complex.
This will be my eighth year where my New Year’s resolution is focused on how my behavior in the kitchen impacts the environment. These past seven years have been awesome and the resolutions have truly helped me become more conscious than ever about how my food choices impact Mother Earth. It’s been a transformative process for me and I hope my journey has had a positive impact on others, too.
Last year our family’s food-environment resolution was to Waste Less Food. I started a compost bin, which is still going strong, and we’ve tried really hard to, well, waste less food! One of my biggest takeaways last year was that eating out was our family’s biggest source of food waste. Not only did more food get thrown away when eating out, but there was so much more garbage per person with takeout containers and the like. This is contributing factor #1 to this year’s resolution to cook more.
I don’t want to jump on the whole “2016 was the worst” bandwagon, but I will tell you that, for personal reasons, 2016 was at times quite challenging and I cooked less this year than I have in probably a decade. I was dealing with SI joint dysfunction for much of the year, and then I had a crazy car accident in November, just as the holidays got going. Plus, you know, life is busy. Work, kids, etc, etc, etc…we all know how it goes. As a result, this year found me in the kitchen far less than usual. Making dinner became a source of stress and something I thought I didn’t have time for. By the end of the year, my decreased levels of cooking have really had me down. The last two weeks I’ve been cooking a lot more. I visited our weekly farmer’s market for the first time. I’ve thought a lot about my relationship to food and what it means to me. This is contributing factor #2 to this year’s resolution…so let’s talk about the resolution itself!
I want to cook more! I want to feed my family better. I want to feed myself better. I want to care about my food again. I want to enjoy the cooking process. I want to be inspired by food rather than stressed by it. I want to go to my local farmer’s market and be inspired by the local, seasonal ingredients I find each week. And I want to help the environment – the best way I can do that in the kitchen is to simply COOK MORE.
So, that’s the goal! Less eating out. More cooking. More getting back to the love of food and savoring the time it takes to prepare it.
Are you with me? Are you already there? Share your tips if you are! And, in case you missed it, I wrote an article for Mom2.com in October where I shared my friends’ tips for cooking dinner every day, even when life gets crazy. There is some good stuff in there, I highly recommend you check it out!
And now my first menu of 2017! Note: we are still going to eat out, but I’m limiting it to once a week! I will continue to post menus every weekend and hope you all will continue to share yours in the comments! I am beyond grateful for the interaction we have here on the blog and your menus are a true inspiration week after week!
– Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches
– Green Salad Topped with Grilled Chicken
– Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
– Eat out night
– Roasted Vegetable Egg Scrambles and Smoothies
Your turn! Please share your menu in the comments…simple, fancy, whatever! And if you have any thoughts about this year’s resolution, please share those as well! Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!
Wednesday, December 28
Happy holidays, friends! This week’s menu is pretty much non-existent! 😉 I’m just relishing the holidays/leftovers/never knowing what we’re doing each day! But come this Sunday things are going to get REAL in the menu planning department. Brace yourselves!
If you did happen to plan a menu this week, please share in the comments as usual!
Tuesday, December 20
Hello friends! December is just charging right along, isn’t it? Here is our menu for the week, which includes Christmas! Yay!
– Dinner at Legoland! 🙂
– Carnitas tacos
– Leftover carnitas
– Chicken Pot Pie (using leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer!)
– Leftover chicken pot pie
– Chinese Takeout, our Christmas Eve tradition!
As usual please share your own dinner plans for the week! And Happy Holidays!
* Cookie recipes pictured:
Thursday, December 15
Here’s the thing with today’s rice crispy treats. When you look at them they look like normal, everyday, boring rice crispy treats. And then you take a bite. And you’re like, “What am I eating!?!?” You’re eating sea salt and brown butter rice crispy treats, that’s what. And they are so good.
I discovered this recipe thanks to my friend Nikki, who is also the reason that the SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake is in all of our lives. We went camping with Nikki and her family this summer and she brought these for dessert on the beach. As soon as I took a bite I knew she had done something different with the recipe. Sure enough brown butter was involved. And lots of it. The original recipe that Nikki uses is from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe cookbook. I have adapted it and my version is below. (You can see the original recipe on Epicurious.) I use vanilla bean paste to get that wonderful vanilla bean look and flavor but without messing with the pods, which I never have on hand anyway. I also added coarse sea salt to the mix because coarse sea salt always makes everything more delicious.
By the way, if you don’t really like rice crispy treats then I don’t think these are going to miraculously change your opinion. They are still rice crispy treats after all…but they have a really wonderful salty-sweet flavor and I myself can’t get enough of them! Enjoy!Sea Salt and Brown Butter Rice Crispy TreatsPrep timeTotal timeAdapted from Joanne Chang's "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe"Author: Jane MaynardServes: 32Ingredients
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) salted butter
- Generous ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus a bit more for sprinkling
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 2 10-ounce bags large marshmallows
- 10 cups rice crispy cereal
NotesMakes 32 1½" x 2" squares.3.4.3177
- Spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with oil and set aside.
- Heat a very large pot over medium heat on the stovetop. While pot is heating, gather all of your ingredients so they are ready to go.
- Cut butter into squares and add to heated pan. Cook, stirring regulary, for about 7-10 minutes until the butter has browned. For the first 5 minutes or so there will be a white foamy layer on top, then that will start to disappear, then the butter will start to bubble and foam up again. The butter will brown sometime after this happens. It will look light brown below the foam and have a lovely nutty aroma. Be sure to cook until butter just turns brown (you have to really look because the foam on top can obstruct your view. It is helpful to cook the butter in a light-colored pan so it's easier to see the color of the butter.)
- As soon as the butter has browned, reduce the heat to low and stir in the salt and vanilla paste. Mix well then add the marshmallows, cooking over low heat and stirring constantly until all of the marshmallows have melted and you have a smooth mixture.
- Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the stove. Add the rice crispy cereal and stir well to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
- Using wet hands, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.
- Sprinkle the top with just a bit of sea salt.
- Let cool 1 hour before cutting. Store in an airtight container.
Tuesday, December 13
Are you feeling neglected? Well, that’s because you are. But I still love you!
Oh my goodness, friends. Life is kicking my butt. I am barely getting meal plans together at this point, hence the late posting! I want to thank you loyal menu sharers in particular for commenting each week with your menus – they are truly so helpful and inspirational!
Okay, here is my quick and dirty menu for this week…which will probably totally not happen but at least I’m trying!
– Corner Bakery Cafe…again. (Free kids meals rule!)
– French Toast
– Beef Stroganoff (from Costco)
– Glazed Carrots
– Birthday dinner! We are going to see Rogue One and then Birthday Girl #1 has requested takeout burgers eaten in the living room watching Gilmore Girls. Her birthday cake will look like a hamburger.
– Birthday party! We’re doing pizza takeout to fuel a fun-filled sleepover for Birthday Girl #2 of the week!
– Honestly, no clue what we’ll eat on Sunday. I just need to survive two birthdays first and then think about that!
Wish me luck on surviving the next week! And, as usual, please share your dinner plans in the comments!
Tuesday, December 6
Oh man, I am the worst lately! But I have a good reason for not getting my weekly meal plan together yet this week…I spent Sunday and Monday cooking up a second Thanksgiving feast for the year! So, you know, I was arm deep in pie crust and mashed potatoes, making it difficult to type on a computer. Anyway, my menu this week reflects most people’s menus the week of Thanksgiving, something for which I am very grateful!
– Thanksgiving Feast!
– Classic Mashed Potatoes
– Classic Stuffing
– Crescent Rolls
– Cranberry Slush
– Cranberry Sauce
– Sweet Potato Souffle
-Pies: Pumpkin, Crumble Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Pie
– Thanksgiving leftovers
– Thanksgiving leftovers
– Turkey Soup with Rice
– Christmas party!
– Another Christmas party!
– Leftovers or breakfast of eat out, whatever makes the most sense!
Hopefully you all haven’t given up on me and are still there to post menus! Post away! And have a wonderful week!
Tuesday, November 29
Happy Giving Tuesday! I am just loving that this day grows more and more each year! Before we get to this week’s menu (um, how is it Tuesday already? ACK!), I just wanted to share this with you…
Isn’t that goat cute? And the little hands holding him up are pretty cute, too! This goat is part of the Goat Squad and the kids and I will be taking pictures of him later today to share on social media to support Heifer International. Last year I traveled to Malawi to meet Heifer farmers and to witness the transformative effect Heifer has had, not only on individual lives but on families and entire villages. If you’re looking to join in on the #GoatSquadGoals Giving Tuesday fun, you can donate to Heifer here. I’ve seen first hand the good your money will do. In fact, it’s not just “good” it’s AMZING. If you want to specifically target your funds to go to the people of Malawi, click here.
In the spirit of Giving Tuesday and Thanksgiving, I am feeling especially grateful that I get to plan my family’s menu for the week, even though I am late! Sorry there is no fancy printable menu and shopping list this week. We’re lucky I’m getting anything planned at all!
– Ate out at Corner Bakery Cafe (seriously, the free kid’s meals…our whole family ate for $15 and it was great food. I’m hooked!)
– I’m gonna be honest, we’re going to eat at Luna Grill…more free kid’s meals and I haven’t gotten to the store yet since our trip!
– Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches
– Fruit and carrots
– Caprese Paninis
– Breakfast for dinner: waffles and smoothies
– Thanksgiving dinner! We had an amazing feast with our family in Utah, but we are wishing we had leftovers of our own here at home! I am cooking different Thanksgiving foods all week so that it will be easy to pull together on Saturday.
Your turn! Please share your menus for the week, even though we’re a few days later than normal!