Friday, September 26
Okay, so there’s a lot of “mom stuff” I don’t do. I’m not crafty. I don’t make baby food from scratch. I am a terrible gardener. The list goes on and ON. But I do absolutely love making my kids’ birthday cakes. Every year they tell me what they want and I figure out a way to make it happen! For Owen’s 3rd birthday he requested Ripslinger from the movie Planes, or as Owen put it, “the green bad guy plane.” I was a little nervous but I pulled it off! The best part was Owen loved it and today he’s asked multiple times to see pictures of the cake. (That splash sound you hear is me turning into a puddle on the floor.)
This cake was one of the easier ones I’ve done, so I have to share the step-by-step with you. Here’s how to make an airplane birthday cake!
- Bake a 9″x13″ standard cake. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (which you can find in this linked post) and it made for a nice tall cake, which gave the plane more height. I doubled the frosting recipe in that same post, which gave me enough frosting for the crumb coat and final coat with a bit left over.
- After you bake the cake, freeze it. Once it’s frozen, make one cut as shown in the diagram below, then flip one of the pieces so it lines up with the other piece perfectly when you stack them.
- The fat end of the triangle you created is the front of the plane – the smaller end is the back of the plane. Shape the front to round it off. Once the cake was done, I wished I had also angled the back end of the plane down a bit so that the entire plan had an upward slant towards the front of the plane, instead of just parallel to the ground (know what I mean?). Feel free to play with the shape or just keep it super simple like I did.
- I used one of the pieces of cake I cut off the front when shaping the nose of the plane to create the cockpit on top.
- Frost between the layers, and then follow the directions in my cake-making guide post for frosting (freezing cake, crumb coat, etc.) The beauty of this cake is you only need ONE COLOR OF FROSTING! Save a bit of white for the window, but other than that you can just make all the frosting one color.
- For the wings and things, I used cardstock! Just cut them into the shape you like and then stick the shaped wings and things right into the cake. You can get colored cardstock or just color white cardstock with a permament marker the color you want he wings to be. (Since I was making Ripslinger, I also made the flames out of cardstock colored with permanent markers and stuck them to the side using frosting as glue.) Don’t worry, no marker transferred to the frosting anywhere!
- The propellors were 2 popsicle sticks colored with black Sharpee marker, broken in half and then stuck in the front. I should have put a black circle of frosting or a Junior Mint on the front in the middle of the propellors. I didn’t, but you can!
- White frosting and black piped frosting made the window in the cockpit, and chocolate chips, stuck pointy side in, served as the eyes.
Show and tell time! I just have one quick share today. I put together a really fun post for Babble of CRAZY stuff my friends’ kids have eaten. It’s pretty awesome. Be sure to click through and check it out!
As usual, feel free to share anything you like in the comments, it’s show and tell after all!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:01 pm 7 Comments
Categories: birthday cakes, kids, Kitchen Tips, sweet things Tags: airplane birthday cake, birthday cake decorating, birthday cakes, cake decorating, friday show and tell, kids birthday cakes |
Tuesday, September 23
In case you’ve been wondering what it takes to make a perfect barbecue chicken pizza, well, today is your lucky day.
So, what does it take? If you’ve eaten at pretty much any pizzeria that serves good barbecue chicken pizza, you probably already know the answer: cilantro. Also, mixing gouda cheese in with the mozzarella is pretty much your ticket to pizza heaven.
Also #2…can we go back to the whole naan-bread-as-pizza-crust trick I recently discovered? I am completely and totally addicted and have been making pizza like it’s going out of style. Nothing beats my homemade crust (detailed post coming one day soon, I promise!), but, seriously, the naan bread thing is KILLER.
Without further ado, the non-recipe recipe for PERFECT barbecue chicken pizza. Enjoy!
Perfect Barbecue Chicken PizzaPrep timeCook timeTotal timeCilantro is the key to truly killer barbecue chicken. Also, gouda. You're welcome.Author: Jane MaynardIngredients
- Good barbecue sauce (I use one a sweet BBQ sauce for flavor contrast)
- Grilled chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Thinly-sliced red onion
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Shredded gouda cheese
- Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- Spread pizza crust with barbecue sauce. Scatter chicken and red onion evenly then top with mozzarella and gouda cheeses.
- Cook pizza until cheese is melted and bubbly. After taking out of the oven, sprinkle with fresh cilantro.
Tuesday, September 16
My mother-in-law Pat claims she’s not a good cook, but I wholeheartedly beg to differ. Some of my very best cooking tricks, tips and recipes have come from her. And some of my favorite non-recipe “recipes” come from her. Pat has a knack for making easy-to-prep food taste really good.
Today I’m sharing one of those non-recipe recipes. It is seriously beyond easy with only 3 ingredients. The recipe is a little old school, i.e. there is canned cream-of-whatever soup involved. I rarely buy canned soups, but I certainly do for this chicken recipe! The chicken comes out so tender and juicy, and the stuffing cooks perfectly, soft and yummy where it touches the chicken with a nice crunch around the outside.
Tuesday, September 9
A few months ago I was thinking that naan bread would make a good crust for quick pizzas. I wrote it on my “to try” list and then ignored the list all summer. Then, this week, I picked up the America’s Test Kitchen magazine “6 Ingredient Recipes” (which is on newsstands now until October 20 and it’s great!) and guess what they had as one of the recipes? Naan pizza! I decided to finally get my act together and give it a try.
This past Sunday I was planning to make homemade pizza. I have really perfected the pizza-making process (not to brag or anything) and was looking forward to having pizza for dinner. (Here is my crust recipe – I will also be doing a full post about making homemade pizza soon, so keep an eye out.) But Sunday ended up being really busy as well as ridiculously hot. I simply didn’t feel like turning my oven on at 550º F for 2-3 hours. So, I broke out the naan bread and fired up the grill!
Naan bread works perfectly as a pizza crust. Following the technique below, it gets nice and crispy on the bottom but still has some chew, and it’s just so quick and easy! Making the naan pizzas on the grill worked beautifully, but I also cooked one in the oven and that worked great, too. If I had to choose I would go with the grill, but you can’t lose either way!
Naan pizzas are also a great lunch option – I made one for myself yesterday in the toaster oven and it was quick and painless!
For the record, I love my homemade crust more. But these naan pizzas are still pretty amazing and are perfect for when you need a good homemade pizza cheat!
Pizza flavors pictured: Barbecue Chicken (BBQ sauce, chicken, cheese and cilantro tossed on after cooking) and Honey Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion
Wednesday, September 3
Confession: I’m not that into fruit pies, cobblers or crisps. I mean, they’re okay but not my first choice. Nate, on the other hand, goes weak in the knees over a good apple crisp and loves those other fruity desserts almost as much. That’s really saying something because he rarely goes weak in the knees over food. This is just another of the many ways in which he and I are complete opposites! (Shout-out to the ever wise Paula Abdul.)
But there are a few fruity desserts that I can get on board with. This Apple Bavarian Torte is one of them. The recipe has been hiding on my blog since Day One, but I have never written a post about it or photographed it for you. Honestly, I’m usually making this torte late the night before Thanksgiving so photographing has never been an option!
Since autumn is in the air I decided it was a good time to finally give this apple recipe the attention it deserves. It is SO GOOD. Even this apple dessert hater loves it.
A friend named Sarah gave me this recipe nearly 15 years ago. (Sarah is also the one who gave me the pizza crust recipe that I still use to this day. I sure am glad I met Sarah!) Sarah got this apple Bavarian torte recipe at a Pampered Chef party and that’s about all I know about it. Well, besides the fact that it’s amazing.
Tuesday, August 5
The last night we were in New Hampshire this summer we were planning to build a fire and make s’mores. But then we got lazy and didn’t feel like doing the whole fire thing. But we did still feel like doing the whole s’more thing, especially since we had amazing chocolate bark and homemade coconut marshmallows from the Granite State Candy Shoppe that needed to be s’morified stat.
I was suggesting that maybe we just microwave a few s’mores. This does not make for the very best s’mores in the world but the technique works when you find yourself in a s’more emergency, which I’m sure happens all the time. My sister-in-law Hannah, however, suddenly had a stroke of genius, and that genius was quickly named the S’Morrito (she’s good with words like that). The grill was still fired up from dinner and she figured wrapping s’mores up in foil (s’mores that look like burritos…s’morritos…get it?) and throwing them on the grill should work pretty well. It actually worked great.
Not only is this a great way to make s’mores, but it’s an especially great way to serve s’mores at a party. Here’s what I recommend:
- Set up a s’mores bar, complete with graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, as well as a bunch of pieces of aluminum foil and a Sharpee marker.
- Everyone then makes their own s’mores, wraps the uncooked s’mores in foil and puts their initials on the foil with the marker.
- Put all of the completed s’morritos on the grill and, voila, s’mores everyone can enjoy at the same time!
As for the taste, I’m sure some of you have questions. Yes, s’morritos taste good. Yes, the warmed graham cracker is actually totally and completely wonderful. Yes, the marshmallow gets a little browned on the edges even in the foil. Yes, your s’mores will be totally gooey but who cares because they’re supposed to be. Yes, the marshmallow and chocolate heat very evenly. Yes, I may never make s’mores the old way again. (Fair warning: the s’mores are hot and super gooey when you first take them off the grill. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes, they become less so.)S'Morritos!Prep timeCook timeTotal timeS'Mores on the Grill - a great way to serve s'mores to a crowd!Author: Jane MaynardRecipe type: DessertIngredients
- Graham crackers
- Chocolate of your choice (I've stopped buying Hershey's bars and we use Dove chocolates now - it's just that much better. And, if you really want to go gourmet, buy some super fancy chocolate like we did in NH. It's kind of amazing.)
- Heat grill on low. (If you want to try this in your oven, go for around 400º F)
- Place graham cracker on the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Layer with chocolate then marshmallow then another graham cracker. Wrap carefully so you don't break the crackers inside.
- Place on grill chocolate side UP, close grill lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Open grill, flip s'morritos then cook for another 2-3 more minutes. (Experiment with the time based on how hot your individual grill gets.)
- Remove from grill, unwrap and dig in.
- The s'morritos are especially gooey when it comes to s'mores since everything is warm and melted. You can dig in right away, but you've been warned. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes, they may be a bit more manageable. If you decide to eat them hot off the grill, be sure to lift them out of the foil by lifting from the bottom so as to avoid squishing all the good stuff out before you even take a bite!
Sunday, July 20
Hello! We are home from vacation and I am getting back into the cooking groove! After such a long break I am actually really looking forward to it.
Before we get to this week’s dinner plans, I need to tell you about the dinner that Nate and I had last night. Today is our 15th wedding anniversary (TIME FLIES! Happy anniversary, Nate!). Last night Veladora at the Rancho Valencia hotel in Rancho Santa Fe hosted us for dinner to celebrate. There are no words for how wonderful our evening was, but I’m going to give it a try! (Seriously, in the time it took for us to drive off the hotel property we must have said, “That dinner was awesome!” twenty times.) First of all, the food. Ahhh, the food. Nate ordered prime rib cap and I was treated to scallops. Both dishes were unreal. The rib cap was a beautiful cut of meat cooked to perfection, and my scallops were paired with three different corn sides that complemented the scallops beautifully. All of the food we had was wonderful, right down to the 18-year old balsamic vinegar for dipping the focaccia. Chef Matt came out to meet us at the end of our meal and it was so interesting talking with him about the food, how the menu is developed and modified with the seasons, as well as his own career path. Beyond the food, the serving staff was stellar and the restaurant itself was beautiful. The best part was that, despite the high caliber of the restaurant, we felt comfortable and relaxed, thanks to both the setting and the staff. Oh, and they gave us a little gift on the way out the door that was, of course, a tasty treat. It was truly the perfect way to celebrate our latest life milestone. Thank you, Veladora, for a night we will not soon forget.
Despite the fact that I pretty much don’t want to eat any other food ever after Veladora, real life dictates that I still have to feed my family. So, back to the weekly menu!
– Caprese salad with crusty bread
– Stewed green beans
– Taco night
– Grammy’s Orange Chicken
– Rice and veggie
– Takeout night
– Chicken on the grill
– Corn on the cob and watermelon
– Spinach and strawberry salad
Big THANKS to all of you who continued posting menus the last few weeks while I took a break. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!
As usual, please share your menu for the week! Plain or fancy, we want to see it all!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:39 pm 20 Comments
Categories: fab faves, way gourmet, weekly menus Tags: dinner plans, free printable, meal plan, menu plan, PRINTABLE MEAL PLAN, rancho valencia, restaurants, shopping list, veladora, weekly menu, weekly menu planning |
Wednesday, July 9
I’ve mentioned my wonderful neighbor Ari a few times. She is from Mexico and gives me tips for cooking Mexican food that make my life happy. The latest is a recipe for salsa that she got from one of her aunts the last time they visited family in Mexico.
Ari and I were sitting by the pool and she said, “My aunt made some salsa. It’s my favorite. And it’s soooo easy.” She then told me how to make this magical salsa. I asked her to repeat it a few times and then, of course, emailed her later to ask her to write it down. This is basically what happens every time she shares a recipe with me – I make her repeat it a million times and then have to call her and/or email her multiple times before I get it down. Don’t you wish I was your neighbor?
Okay, so, for real, this salsa is easy, simple and delicious! It has a rich, smoky flavor and the perfect amount of heat (well, at least I think it’s perfect). Most of the kids didn’t try it because they were scared it would be too spicy, but my brave little Anna dug in. She described the salsa as hot and then proceeded to tell us how she has a “sensible tongue.” It was so cute. In terms of “hotness,” I would consider this a hot salsa. Depending on the heat of your particular serranos and what your final proportion of tomatoes to chiles is will determine exactly how hot it ends up being, but, even with those variations, it’s a spicy salsa. My dad, my sister-in-law and I ate almost all of it in one sitting. I can’t wait to make this salsa for Nate when we get home from traveling!
I’m sure you could add onions and garlic and cilantro and yummy stuff like that. But, honestly, the beauty of this recipe is its simplicity, so just go with it!
Serrano SalsaPrep timeCook timeTotal timeMy friend Ari shared this recipe with me - her aunt made it for her in Mexico. Enjoy!Author: Ari Serra's AuntServes: 1 cupIngredients
- 3 tomatoes (my tomatoes were a little smaller than normal, so I used about 9 tomatoes)
- 3 chiles serranos
- salt, to taste
- Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut-side down in a pan. (I used a non-stick pan and would recommend that.)
- Cut off the stems of the serrano chiles and place them whole in the pan with the tomatoes (no cutting or seeding necessary!).
- Cook the tomatoes and chiles over high heat to burn them. Ari said about 3-4 minutes per side, but I think it took mine more like 5-10 minutes per side. You will see little brown and black spots on the tomatoes and chiles when they are ready to come off the heat. You cut the tomatoes in half and put them on a pan with the chiles (chiles are complete with seeds). The tomato skins will also start to peel off.
- Remove from heat, put everything in the pan in a blender and blend well. Season with salt to taste, probably about ¼ - ½ teaspoon.
- As Ari said, "Habemus salsa!"
Posted by Jane Maynard at 5:32 am 8 Comments
Categories: featured recipes, Recipes, side dishes, simple side dishes Tags: chiles serranos, mexican food, salsa, serrano peppers, tomato recipes, tomatoes |
Tuesday, June 17
A few weeks ago my parents were staying at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach (the same hotel we stayed at a few years ago and LOVED). My mom was a head honcho for a work meeting they were holding at the hotel, so the Hyatt delivered a cheese and charcuterie tray to the room as a gift. Lucky for my mom we were all there to help her eat it! (Don’t worry, we left her a few bites.)
On the tray was a jar of sweet tomato jam. Between the six of us, the jar was empty by the end of our snacking and, ever since that day, I’ve been thinking about that tomato jam. Then my friend Gaby mentioned on social media that she was going to do a bruschetta bar for a party, which I then decided to do for my lip sync battle party last Friday night, giving me the perfect excuse to finally try a sweet tomato jam recipe myself.
Not to brag, but the tomato jam I made was just as good as what we had at the Hyatt. And thank goodness since I pretty much constantly crave it now.
The recipe is really simple but oh-so-scrumptious. The only labor-intensive part of the process is prepping the tomatoes, which isn’t hard, just a little time consuming. But it is WORTH IT. And, for those of you into canning, tomato jam can be canned, although you may want to follow the original recipe on Epicurious that has twice as much sugar and, therefore is more conducive to preserving. (Thanks to commenter Alice and my friend Aimee for input on this!)
So, what is tomato jam good for anyway? Everything! It’s a great topping for bread and pairs beautifully with all kinds of cheeses. It’s also a great condiment for just about anything – sandwiches, burgers, whatever your heart desires! It’s sweet but with a savory flavor to it. It’s basically pure deliciousness.
I found the recipe on Epicurious but cut waaaaaaaay back on the sugar. My jam was still super sweet so I can’t even imagine what their recipe would taste like!
Tomato JamPrep timeCook timeTotal timeAdapted from EpicuriousAuthor: Jane MaynardRecipe type: AppetizerServes: 2 cupsIngredients
- 4 pounds plum or heirloom tomatoes (I used a variety of heirlooms, all different colors!)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika if you have it)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make an ice bath in a separate bowl and set to the side. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water in batches, boiling for about 1 minute. Remove tomatoes from the boiling water and place directly in the ice bath. Remove the skins by hand right in the ice water, leaving the skins in the water. I would empty the ice water bowl between batches. By removing the skins in the ice water bowl you cut down on some serious messiness in the kitchen!
- Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, seed them, then chop into pieces.
- Place chopped tomatoes in a large pot. Mix with sugar and stir well. And let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Bring tomatoes and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper and parika and cook until thickened, about 10-15 more minutes.
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. Pictured: The Heritage Small Bowl and the Cool Montecito Tapas Plate. I am as addicted to my Q Squared Dishes as I am to this tomato jam, by the way!
Wednesday, June 11
This past March, Julie from the food blog The Little Kitchen shared a recipe for flank steak with chimichurri butter. As soon as I saw her post I knew I had to make it. In fact, if I remember correctly, I made it for dinner that very night! (PS: Julie is super sweet and cute and I want to take her home in my pocket. And also make her cook dinner for me. Do you mind, Julie?)
So, Julie’s recipe is wonderful. The marinade was perfect and the chimichurri butter was delish! Be warned – the herbed butter packs a lot of flavor, a little bit goes a long way! Please visit Julie’s site to get the recipe for the marinade and for the chimichurri butter. You will not be disappointed.
I used Julie’s recipe for the chimchurri butter to top the steak. I didn’t have the Land O’ Lakes butter/olive oil mixture she made it with, so I used half butter and half olive oil and it came out great!
Today I wanted to highlight the technique Julie used for cooking the flank steak because the steak came out perfectly and the texture was amazing. I know summer has started and we’re all itching to use the grill, but you don’t need the grill for this recipe, which means you can make it any time of year! You do need a grill pan, however. If you don’t have a non-stick grill pan, I recommend it. I love mine and use it all the time to grill chicken!
So, the flank steak. This technique is pretty much foolproof! I just wish I had taken photos of the steak after I cut it so you could see the beautiful color inside, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was gorgeous!Cooking Flank SteakPrep timeCook timeTotal timeI learned this technique from Julie at The Little Kitchen.Author: Jane MaynardIngredients
- Marinated Beef Flank Steak
- Olive or vegetable oil
- Grill pan
- Marinate the flank steak at room temperature for about half an hour before cooking. If necessary, cut the steak in half so that the pieces fit in your grill pan. Use your favorite marinade! I loved the marinade that Julie used and shared on The Little Kitchen. Scrumptious!
- Heat the grill pan on medium high for about 5 minutes.
- Drizzle the pan with a swig or two of olive or vegetable oil and rotate pan to spread the oil around.
- Add steak to the pan, sort of moving the steak around for a few seconds at the beginning to spread the oil evenly beneath the surface of the steak.
- Cook on each side for about 3 minutes. Then, cook on each side for 1 more minute per side.
- Remove from pan and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Cut steak into slices, against the grain, and serve!