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Friday, September 30, 2011

Healthier Cupcake Home run!

Thumbs Up Vanilla Cupcakes
.....No refined flour or granulated sugar

Well this attempt at making a healthier cupcake was a hit with my "tasters"!  The kids said things like, "they taste like a Krispy Kreme Donut"! and "two thousand thumbs up mom!".  This was a modified recipe from another of Alicia Silverstone's Vegan recipes in her Kind Diet cookbook.  Mine aren't Vegan once the frosting hit the top, but that isn't my objective.  I really just want to limit chemicals, GMO ingredients, refined sugars and increase fiber and protein in my baking.  I spoke of "layers" to these things in my last post, and really this isn't the top tier of what can be done....but again, I am considering several recipes for specific audiences and compromises.  

Below are what they looked like out of the oven.....

Here is my modified version of the recipe:

Healthier Vanilla Cupcakes      350  15 min for the tiny cuppies,  adjust for larger ones

2/3 C organic almond milk
1 t organic apple cider vinegar
(these two ingredients are combined first off and allowed to set for a few minutes until the mixture bubbles a little......don't ask me why, that was in the initial recipe and I figured it was to create a kind of buttermilk affect...I like the idea of the apple cider vinegar in it anyway, so I kept it)
1/2 c organic agave nectar 
1/3 c grape seed oil (you certainly could substitute a safflower or other)
2 t pure vanilla extract
1- 1/3  cup organic, non bleached white-wheat flour 
1 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking SODA (non aluminum added)
pinch of fine sea salt

mix the milk and the vinegar in the bowl first, allow to set while you gather other ingredients.  Add all the wet to the mix, begin to mix..combine all your dry ingredients and add until mixed.  Pour into cupcakes liners and bake. 

My frosting was a mix of organic low fat cream cheese, some organic confectioner's sugar and 3 T of organic skim powdered milk to increase the protein/sugar ratio even higher.  The little pumpkins were make with my  rollable cream cheese frosting with a green sprinkle as the stem.  Which by the way I picked out of an assorted bottle of sprinkles! haha  My goal is to try and lose the confectioner's sugar in making frosting and I have a few ideas on the horizon.....those are coming soon. 

Here's how the kids got to take them to school in their lunches today!

Well,  I need to get prepared for a few new parties I have planned here on the horizon....I have had back surgery this month and am still on orders to "take it easy" so I am gonna have to do things on a much smaller scale than normal,  but still plan on pouring on some creativity, so visit again for whatever inspiration I can come up with next!  Thanks for viewing.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First attempt!

Let's at least try! 

So I am trying to come up with ways to make healthier choices in my life and for my kids.  In this effort, I have become determined to try and explore some recipes avoiding bleached out refined flours and sugars as much as possible and to try and keep chemicals, preservatives and genetically modified foods out of the mix.  I even purchased some natural food color made from vegetables. 

I have poured over several healthy style cookbooks and made myself a list of cookie, cupcake and frosting recipes to work with,  make substitutions for and see what I can come up with.  Basically, what I realized is, there are gonna be "layers" to how much compromise I  may need to take for a specific look, event or even considering a specific audience.  There are some super great, totally healthy drop cookie recipes full of fiber and protein and  yummy whole grain spice cupcakes that are on the top of the charts packed with whole grains and organic natural sweeteners, but for the "decorated sugar cookie" thing I am famous for out here in these parts.....I am really still
 just working on it!  

These cutie little pumpkins are my first attempt at avoiding refined sugars and flours in the cookie recipe.  Of course any rollable frosting you can decorate with is where the compromise has to come in.  Store bought fondant is basically high fructose corn syrup---hands down.  But of course it gives us the prettiest and easiest results.  There are gonna be times I gotta cave and use it!  Here for this experimental batch though, I chose my rollable cream cheese frosting with  organic low fat cream cheese and organic confectioner's sugar.  (fyi the low fat didn't work as well as the regular)

The verdict on the cookie recipe.....ahh didn't get the highest of thumbs up from my "testers".   I had chosen to use some garbanzo bean flour to increase the protein in the cookie, and really it left an after that goes bye bye for the "sugar cookie" experiment.  But, I did use some other  organic whole grain flours and organic brown rice syrup, and I think there may be a way I can keep those in the next trial batch.  Instead of butter, I chose an organic coconut oil.  And even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it isn't getting the bad results as animal saturated fats on how our body processes it.  These of course are just my findings in my readings and research.  I will post the recipe below that I tried out just for you to see what I did use.  It is a modified version of a vegan recipe I found in Alicia Silverstone's book

Rollable SHORTBREAD Cookies   350  10 min
(Alicia Silverstone’s  recipe modified)
1 c pastry flour, I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour with garbanzo bean flour
1 c  organic, non bromated, non bleached white wheat flour
1 c organic  brown rice flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c "Olivio" extra virgin Coconut Spread
2/3 c organic brown rice syrup
2 t pure vanilla
1 t fine sea salt
put wet ingredients in mixer, combine and add in dry, make dough into ball, chill, roll, cut and bake. 

In the end, the garbanzo bean flour in the gluten free all purpose flour held an after taste so I wouldn't use that again in a "sugar cookie",  but would still consider it for some other things that have many more layers of spices and flavors.   I also would substitute something else for the coconut oil, since that too held a strong flavor presence.  I am going to try the Earth Balance organic spread next.

SO attempt number ONE!  They weren't "horrible" and I really enjoyed them BEFORE I added the frosting,  just because I personally didn't want  to eat the sugar in the frosting.  SO I bake on.......

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Take It Outside!

Let's Go Outside!
During the height of my party planning business,  RSVP's,  I was commissioned to plan a birthday celebration at the host's house.  Since their yard was so spacious and scenic, I brought our indoor outdoor and  I set up a lovely atmosphere that had a sense of nature and the space around it, but still had enough intimacy that family and friends could mingle and enjoy the time together.  Our host insisted on the understated without a lot of fanfare so I chose some elements found in nature like rocks, greenery, water and lanterns placed about that really gave off a nice touch of glow as it darkened outside.  

These umbrellas were a Costco find and stood alone on beautiful natural (and very heavy!)  marble stands.  I placed them in between table areas to tie the space together and allow the full use of the top of the tables.
This simple gazebo was an inexpensive find at Big Lots for under $50.  It has proven itself for many a gathering time and time again.  You may have seen it's skeleton take shape at my indoor wine party draped with white sheers.  I have even used the poles draped with sheers and florals for a romantic bench seating area alongside the dance floor at an outdoor wedding.  I have also hung sheers as side panels to create an intimate outdoor lunch space with the tables underneath.  Some "twisty ties" and a little creativity can really get you far! 

Inside the tent I hung this very versatile candelabra with tiny glass lanterns and candles.  I set the ring with some natural greenery to play off of the outdoor theme.  I have put grapes in this at my  indoor wine party,  pumpkins in this......oh so many things.  It can set as a table centerpiece if the the chain is removed and then candles placed on the perimeter of the circle.  I love to reinvent and reuse the things I already have!
These glass vases are my most used most versatile element of event styling!  I purchased a case from the dollar store and then some varying sizes from Big Lots that matched the design well.  You will see them  reappear in almost all of my parties.  I have covered them in matching wrapping paper as a centerpiece, have filled with with food coloring and water to add punch of color to a table,  and used them as floral vases, wrapped ribbon around them and even submerged a stack of golf balls in them for the Father's Day tablescape! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Healthy Pie? yes!

No bake, No Sugar, No Flour.... 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I have revamped, and tested out a peanut butter and chocolate pie with rave reviews!  There are no refined sugars or flour.  And guess what is has veggies in it too!  
 (just trust me, will ya?)
 It's full of protein, calcium and healthy nuts.  A wonderful creamy treat you can feel good about.  Give it a try!! 

1 Cup Walnuts (preservative free....NOT Diamond Brand)
2 C organic skim milk (or organic no sugar added almond or coconut milk)
1/4 C (NON genetically modified! )  corn starch
1/3 C pure maple syrup
1/4 sea salt (fine)
1 large organic free range Egg
1 large organic free range Egg white
1 T pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic baby food squash, sweet potato, pumpkin or white bean puree (just trust me on this!!)
1/2 C organic natural creamy peanut butter
 (the less oily kind is better)
1 T pure honey
1T organic dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa powder
chopped nuts or shaved dark chocolate for garnish (optional)
In a food processor or with a hand chopper, chop your almonds to a mealy consistency and line your pie pan to create a crusty no carb no bake no sugar base.  (Nuts are a good source of Omega and healthy oils we need for metabolism and good moods!)
In a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat, whisk together the milk product, cornstarch, maple syrup, salt, baby food puree of your choice, (you are adding nutrients, fiber and protein that will only add me! I used a pureed white bean and sweet potato mix),  egg, egg white and vanilla.  Allow the mixture to begin to thicken like pudding, whisking occasionally to avoid lumps.  Turn off from heat when boil bubbles begin to form and mixture thickens and is about the consistency of a pudding mix.
While saucepan mix is heating, In a separate bowl, measure out your 1/2 cup of peanut butter, soften in microwave for 30 seconds and add honey, stir well.  When stove mixture has thickened, then pour half of the warm saucepan mixture over peanut butter and honey and combine until smooth.  Set aside.  
Move quickly so this doesn’t begin to harden yet. 
Add the tablespoon of cocoa powder to the saucepan of remaining warm mixture and mix that well.  
Pour the first layer of chocolate mix onto your crushed walnuts in pie pan.  Then pour over the warm peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate layer.  MMM smell that!  
Add your garnish on top if desired.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 4 hrs or overnight.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ushering In a New Era.

Revamp: refurbishrecondition, rehabilitate, overhaul, make over; upgrade,
 refitre-equip; remodel, refashion, redesign,
 restyle, give something a facelift, rehab.

My life has been revamped.  Here over the last few years, I have lost 50 lbs, had two back surgeries, taken to a more holistic lifestyle, opened up my life with with yoga and exercise and organic and whole food eating.  Really, I am passionate about it all and feel better than ever. 

I needed to come up with some ways to incorporate my own essence of being a party planner, a confection maker and generally living out the passions of my life in celebration and design with all life's little details.  Here now, I am going to try and marry all these parts of me and usher in this new era.  I want to try to revamp recipes, change and make substitutions for unhealthy packaged, processed foods, bleached out flours and sugars and replace party and confection choices to continue to celebrate family, friends, gatherings and holidays with all the flair I love!

So follow with me here on my blog as I start to try out some new products and recipes and new healthier ways to bring it all together.  I am excited about all the new possibilities and sharing them with you.  

Today I start with my first attempt at redoing my sugar cookie recipe.  I switched out bleached white flour for a try at the whole grain gluten free flour, chose a less refined organic sugar and tried out a  healthy vegan buttery spread.  Still as I am working on some ideas for healthier frostings,  I chose to add a bit of organic dark chocolate to finish off.  Really there are so many ways I am going to try and stream line this recipe for different diet needs and am looking for organic and healthier ways to add color and flair.  But just enjoy some inspiration to begin starting the process of revamping some of your party and confections choices.  Below are the cookies I make for Valentine's Day and used some pretty packaging to dress them up.  Oh there's so much more to stick with me!  It's gonna be a journey!  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Halloween Cupcake Ideas

Brainstorming Cupcakes! 

In an attempt to just play around and get some Halloween treat ideas, I had done some test designs on a few batches of cupcakes in random liners and sizes and frostings.  I have used my rolled buttercream on some, homemade marshmallow fondant on others and the store bought frosting hand dipped method you can see here on my blog.  In the end, I liked the hand dipped toppers with cute additions the best.  But everyone liked trying them out too!  Really it was all just practice for me to try and find what I thought I might like. The pictures aren't fancy or all set up, but thought maybe you'd like to share in the evolution of all these ideas.......

 The lower pictures here are dipped into melted store bought frosting and then topped off with a little Halloween flair.  Really, it is a quick method, tastes great, gives a smooth finish and the ways to decorate them are endless!  I have since started collecting fun Halloween sprinkles and candy toppers too, it makes it so easy and  such a fun thing for the kids to help out on too.  My new goals are to try and find ways to create a healthier cupcake with less sugar but still find ways to add the detail of celebration to them.  So get ready for some new inspirations coming soon!  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Party Fun Can Be Healthy Too!

Fun Vegetable and Cheese Trays

For  Halloween last year, my daughter and I thought it would be fun to use these plastic pumpkin decorating kits to make some cute  and healthy veggie and cheese tray decorations.  We used peppers for the veggies, but certainly oranges and apples would be fun for a fruit platter!

I cut carrots with my Pampered Chef veggie cutter.

I used cookie cutters to add Halloween shapes.  I made good use of the cheese scraps for the cheese burger sliders on the buffet.  I made the eyes above with the small end of a large piping tip.  It is helpful to push out the cheese dots to unclog the tip with a toothpick as you work.

See the whole party here

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Halloween HOW TO: Goblin Hand Punch Bowl

Halloween Goblin Hand Punch Bowl

I purchased the plastic (no powder) gloves at Dollar Tree and rinsed it out.  I added a few drops of green food coloring to the the lemonade I wanted to use for the night of the party so water wouldn't dilute the drink.  Fill the glove about 3/4 of the way and then seal with some wrapper clips.  I used two and they were very tight.  I lay flat in the freezer making sure no fingers were crimped so the icy tips would not break easily.

I served the lemonade very cold so it wouldn't melt the hand quickly and added it last minute right as the party was starting.  Below you can see I put a spooky glow to the bowl by adding a light under the punch bowl  that I sat in a slightly larger container.  I used my iron pot, resembling a witches cauldron.  Any LCD light will work, I happen to have one that changed colors for a wonderful affect!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Easy Ghost Cake

Easy Anyone Can do
Halloween Ghost Cake

Anyone can make this fun festive ghost cake.  Here I stacked two vanilla round cakes, one 10" and one 6",  each torted with raspberry fill.  I frosted with store bought whipped frosting making easy random peaks. I skewered the store bought marshmallow ghosts with wooden grill skewers and placed them randomly over the cake, whipping up a little more frosting to hide the skewers.  Adding a few pumpkin marshmallow treats to the bottom edge added some fun color.  It's a fun project to try with the kids!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Halloween Tote Bag

Fun Halloween Tote or Trick or Treat Bag

I thought it would be fun to make some totes or trick or treat bags for my kids, their friends and the kids in the neighborhood for the Halloween season.  Every Halloween it is such a fun surprise for me to see the kids come to my door  trick or treating and recognize the bag!  
With their names on it, it is a dead give away of who they are!  :)
  It is a super simple tote  design with just ribbon as the accent and handle.  I used some internet down load clip art  and inexpensive iron adhesive transfers for the pictures.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gluten Free Cake

My New Favorite Cupcake Mix

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cake Mix is my new favorite quick, easy and healthier choice for fun and creative cupcakes.  

They come out moist and even though they aren't made with wheat flour, the chocolate taste
is yummy enough to please the kids!

I decorated this batch for fall with my Rollable Cream Cheese Frosting and cut out cute pumpkin shapes from cookie cutters
to surprise the kids with a fun after school snack.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Black and White....and PINK!

Black and White and PINK Cake

I always love this color combination. While recently organizing my party and confection pictures, I realize I have so many creations with this color combo.   Really I just have such an affinity for it,  and maybe that is why this is one of my all time fav cakes I have made.  I was especially proud of my polka dot fondant ribbon.  This cake  just makes me smile.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lady Bug, Lady Bug!

Lady bugs!  

My youngest daughter loves lady bugs, so for her birthday she picked out a lady bug theme and I made a big tray full of these charming little cupcakes to bring to her class.  They were such a hit with the kids and really so easy.  The antennae are flower stamens from floral making and are not edible so I left those off of the ones I sent to the children.  I posted this pic to my Flickr account and of all my confection creations these, for some reason,  have the most hits I could ever have imagined.  They had close to 14,000 hits! 

I thought it would be nice to add some other little lady bug things we made.  Here are cute little tags for packaging and a fun little tote bag my daughter helped design and sew with me.  Except for the iron ons, she made it all herself!  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Campin' Out...back yard style!

Campin' Out!

My oldest daughter was turning 15 and the birthday celebration was right around the corner.  She really just wanted to hang out with her teen friends this year and stay up late sharing stories and listening to music.  Together we came up with this great idea to put a tent in the back yard and have all the girls pile in for some over night fun.

The first thing I like to do when styling a party, is collect all the things I already have to get inspiration and try to come up with a plan.  I got all the kids to search the house and bring to the table anything that reminded them of camping!  We found fishy table cloths, metal lanterns, an old picnic basket and my youngest daughter contributed her little seedling of a pine tree she has been nurturing.

An old family iron pot with a bird's nest bowl holder and twig theme spoon were a creative
way to display chips and dip

Hamburgs and hot dogs were served up hot from the grill with the fixins on the side

What could be better than s'mores for the fire and how about this
 funny little fish cake covered in fondant?