DIY Mason Jar Cake

DIY Jar Cake_3

Mason Jars – the new DIY it item brought to you by Pinterest. I’ll admit it; I love them. They’re the most versatile DIY item out there. You can put almost anything in a mason jar, pretty it up with ribbon, burlap or twine and impress a crowd.

I’ve been known to use mason jars for plenty of projects, including the Salad Bar I pulled together for a bridal shower last month, and baked smores in a jar. This week, I wanted to try something a little more DIY… enter Mason Jar Chocolate Cake.

Let me start by saying, not everything turns out the way you expect it to – even for me. Sometimes, it really is an experiment and if it turns out I feature it on the blog.

I learned a few lessons during this experiment:

1) It never turns out the way you imagine it will

2) Don’t buy mason jars that don’t have measuring markers

3) Cake rises – a lot

I ended up making 4 mason jar cakes, each of which rose to a different level. I then came to the conclusion that even though the jars didn’t have measuring markers, about half way full of unbaked cake mix would be just about right [especially for frosting-lovers]

DIY Chocolate Cake baked in a Jar

DIY Jar cake_All

Materials

  • Quart-sized Mason Jars
  • Rimmed Baking Sheet
  • Cake Mix + Eggs, Water and Veggie Oil
  • Cooking Spray
  • Frosting
  • Sprinkles
  • Piping Bag + Frosting Tip of your choice

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Make sure you wash and dry the jars thoroughly, especially if they haven’t been used before

Spray the inside of the jars with cooking spray

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, water and oil according to the boxed directions

Fill the jars about half way with cake mix, wiping down the inside of the jar and place on the rimmed baking sheet

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake is cooked through

Remove the jars from the oven and allow to cool fully before frosting

Fill your piping bag with frosting and begin frosting each jar – top with sprinkles

Decorate and Serve!

 

Chicken Pot Pie Topped with Biscuits

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s that time, when the mornings and evenings get cooler, when we can’t figure out whether to wear a bulky sweater or a light jacket, when pumpkins are everywhere and people are happy because it’s early fall. Lucky me, I wake up for my day job before the sun comes up, which means I’m constantly debating whether or not I should be wearing a wool coat to work; only to realize that when I leave around 3:30pm that it’s a lovely 75 degrees and I’m overdressed for the heat.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago that I wore my black leather riding boots to work. It was 48 degrees that morning and I had a feeling despite the cold temperatures, my office would be chilly as well… I was right. Lucky for me, I keep a cozy blanket at my desk.

Cold weather goes hand in hand with warm, cozy foods, like soups and stews and … chicken pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie_3

Chicken Pot Pie Topped with Biscuits Recipe

Ingredients

1 can [8 count] Reduced Fat Pillsbury Grand Biscuits
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Reduced Fat Whipping Cream
1 small Onion, chopped
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 can Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Fat Free Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 cup frozen Hashed Browned Potatoes [keep them frozen]
1 bag Frozen Vegetables
1 can Mushrooms, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Sage, chopped
Salt, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F
In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions until translucent
Add the hashed browns and sauté for 5-7 minutes, then remove from the skillet and set aside
In a medium pot, melt the unsalted butter and slowly whisk in the flour until it becomes clumpy
Add the cream of mushroom soup, whipping cream and chicken stock, stirring well and bring to a boil [if the mixture is too runny, add more flour]
In the meantime, mix together the frozen vegetables, mushrooms, celery, sage and salt in a large bowl
Pour the vegetable mix into the skillet and heat until the celery is soft, about 5 minutes
Mix in the onions and hash browns and then add the cheddar cheese
Once the creamy mixture is boiled, pour it over the heated vegetables and mix until coated
If using an oven-safe skillet place the skillet in the oven and bake for 18 minutes, if not, then transfer the mixture to a large baking dish and bake
Remove the skillet from the oven and top with the biscuits and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the biscuits are browned
Serve warm

Servings: 8

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Homemade Apple Pie

Apple Pie_2

Nothing screams early fall like apple pie, and apple picking of course! Nany and I have started a yearly apple-picking tradition where we pick a random weekend in September and head out to the apple orchard. Once we’ve collected more than enough apples, we drag them back to her house to create a mouth-watering dessert –with the help of her mom of course– for everyone to eat after lunch. This year, we took a special guest with us, we’ll call her Zee, and we had a fabulous time. Of the three of us, she was the one who wasn’t afraid to climb into, yes into, the trees to pick out the very best apples.

Once we got back, Nany’s mom made us an amazing brunch with none other than my favorite food, falafel. I’ll have to get her recipe and try it out sometime.

After lunch, we got to baking. Our dessert of choice this year was apple pie, with a lattice top. I admit it, we took a little shortcut by using Pillsbury pie crusts. But that’s only because we ran out of time and were more concerned with trying to perfect the lattice top than making pie crust from scratch. I really believe that when you cook, not everything has to be completely homemade for it to be delicious. Sometimes, shortcuts are needed.

Nany, Zee and I watched and re-watched this video on how to create a lattice-top and it took the three of us to get it right. The end result was perfection.

 

Apple Pie

Homemade Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients

1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts
8-9 Small Green Apples
2 cups Light Brown Sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
½ of a whole Nutmeg, grated
1 Egg White
2 teaspoons Corn Starch

Directions

Peel, pit, and slice the apples
Place the apples in a medium-sized pot, add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, then heat on high
After 10 minutes, turn the heat down to low
In a small bowl mix together the corn starch with 2-3 teaspoons water
Pour the corn starch over the apples and boil on medium-low for 5 minutes
Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 425 F
Once the apples have cooled, begin by unrolling one of the crusts into a deep pie dish and pressing firmly into the bottom
Spoon the apples onto the crust. You can fill the pie as much as you’d like. The thicker, the better
If you choose to do a lattice top, follow the instructions in the above video, otherwise, unroll the second crust on top of the apples and cut small openings with a sharp knife and press the edges together
Brush the crust with egg wash [ 1 egg white mixed with water]
To prevent burning the edges, cover the outer edges of the crust with aluminum foil and remove after 20 minutes of baking
Bake for a total of 45 minutes
Serve with vanilla ice cream

 

Servings: 8-10

 

Photos from our apple picking adventure

 

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Baking Themed Bridal Shower

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One of my closest friends, Fiza, is getting married in a couple weeks. As part of our obligatory best friend duties—and our undying love for her of course, the TTC and I hosted her bridal shower. It was one of my favorites to pull together because the theme was so different from anything I’ve done in the past. Fiza is an undercover baker. I’ve mentioned in previous posts, that she needs to open up her own bakery. Her love of baking led me to pull together a full baking-themed bridal shower.

So how exactly do you pull off a baking-themed bridal shower? Let me show you …

 

Centerpieces

Pot Arrangement Colander Arrangement Foodprocessor Arrangement

DSC_0291

To tie in the baking theme to the entire shower, I used everyday kitchen items and appliances as centerpieces. This was the first time I used wet foam, as well as made my own arrangements. The fun part was picking out what flowers I thought looked good together in each of the centerpieces. The not so fun part, making sure I got all the stems into the wet foam so the flowers wouldn’t die on me.

I picked up a few dozen roses from Costco [$19.99 per bouquet], as well as the baby’s breath and greenery, all for a very reasonable price.

I’m not a florist, and after making these arrangements, I have a newfound respect for florists.

 

Materials

  • Wet Floral Foam
  • Kitchen Appliances [I used a small colander, pot, food processor, blender and bunt pan]
  • Assorted Flowers [light pink, fuchsia and white roses; white and pink carnations]
  • Heavy-duty Scissors, for cutting the stems

 

Directions

First figure out how much floral foam you will need for each appliance/kitchen tool and cut the floral foam to fit

Next, soak the floral foam in lukewarm water. To do this, fill a large bucket with water, carefully place the foam on top. As the foam absorbs the water, it will begin sinking. DO NOT push the foam all the way down, allow it to slowly sink on it’s own. Once the foam is fully emerged in water, it’s ready to use.

Arrange your flowers to your liking. Don’t be afraid to mix together colors and types of flowers.

When you’re ready to assemble your centerpiece, choose your appliance/tool and place the floral foam inside.

Cut the stems off the flower arrangement to fit the height of your centerpiece.

Carefully place the arrangement in the foam. Make sure all your stems have poked through the foam – if not, they will begin wilting.

Repeat for the remaining appliances/tools.

 

Cupcake Dress Cake

DIY Cupcake Dress

It’s all about presentation, presentation and shortcuts. For the dress-cake, I used boxed cake and canned frosting [I just didn't have enough time to make cupcakes from scratch].

 

Materials

  • 2 Boxes Strawberry Cake Mix
  • 4 14 oz Cans White Fluffy Frosting
  • Piping Bag
  • Cupcake Liners
  • Flowers [for the belt]
  • Boxed Cupcake mix and canned frosting
  • 1 inch open star Frosting Tip
  • 1 plastic table cover in the color of your choice
  • 1 Large Cardboard Poster Board [$1 at the dollar store]

Directions

Bake the cake mix as directed in the cupcake liners

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting

In the meantime, wrap your poster board with the table cover to create a sleek base

Arrange your cupcakes on the wrapped board in the shape of a dress. I used about 61 cupcakes to fill the entire board

Assemble your piping bag and frosting tip and fill the piping bag by spooning in frosting

Carefully frost the cupcakes by creating a flower-like design

To do this, simply start in the middle and work your way out by making a large swirl

Once you’ve frosted the cupcakes, cut the ends off 4 roses and place them in between the narrowest part of your dress, creating a belt

 

Donut Rings

 

Donut Rings

The easiest, and cutest addition to the dessert table was the donut “rings.” Make sure when you’ve assembled the rings, you place them on a display allowing the full shape of the rings to show.

For the diamond template and instructions visit Evite.

 

Photo Backdrop

DIY Photo Booth

No party of complete without a photo backdrop. For Fiza’s bridal shower, I used our core colors: pink, fuchsia, white and a touch of teal.

Materials

  • Streamers in white, teal, pink and fuchsia
  • Packing Tape
  • Scissors
  • Props

 

Directions

I suggest you find a space on the floor where no one will bother you

Cut a long strip of packing tape and place on the ground, sticky-side up. You’ll use this to hold down the individual pieces of steamer

Decide, before you stick, how you want to alternate the colors. I did fuchsia, baby pink, white and a hint of teal.

Cut each streamer to the length desired and stick them to the tape. Continue alternating colors until you’ve reached the end of your packing tape strip.

Add another long piece of packing tape, this time sticky-side down on top of the first layer and the row of streamers. This way, you’ve made it easier to move the backdrop to your desired location and also easier to tape up to the wall.

Once you’ve taped the backdrop to the wall, put all your props on a table for easy access during the party.

 

Salad Bar

DIY Salad Bar

This was one of my favorites to pull together. The most time-consuming part of the salad bar was filling the jars and arranging them on the table.

 

Materials

  • 4 2 Quart Mason Jars
  • 2 1 Quart Mason Jars
  • 12 ½ Quart Mason Jars
  • 1 6-cup Muffin Tray
  • Salad Ingredients, I used:
    • Mixed Greens
    • Baby Spinach
    • Grilled Chicken Slices
    • Shrimp
    • Marinated Artichoke
    • Pitted Olives
    • Shredded Carrots
    • Corn Kernels
    • Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
    • Feta Cheese
    • Sliced Cucumbers
    • Sliced Red and Yellow Peppers
    • Chopped Red Onions
    • Chopped beets
    • Chopped Mushrooms
    • Chick Peas
  • Add-ons, I used:
    • Craisins
    • La Choy
    • Sliced Salted Almonds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Chopped Turkey Bacon
    • Sprouts

 

Directions

Make sure to run the jars through the dishwasher before use, especially if you’re using them for the first time

Fill the large 2-quart jars with mixed greens and baby spinach

Fill the 1 quart jars with the meats; chicken and shrimp

Fill the ½ quart jars with the other salad ingredients

The add-ons go into the 6-cup muffin pan

Be sure to include tongs for the greens and spoons for the other veggies

 

 

Favors

Favors

To tie in the whole baking theme, we gave out mason jars with cookie mix in it and labeled them with chalkboard stickers that read: “Love is sweet”

Materials

  • 12 ½ Quart Mason jars
  • 2 boxes Chocolate Cake Mix
  • White, milk and dark chocolate
  • Chalkboard stickers
  • Chalk

 

Directions

Fill each mason jar in the following order:

¾ cup Cake Mix

¼ Cup Dark chocolate Chips

¼ cup White Chocolate Chips

¼ cup Milk Chocolate Chips

 

Place the chalkboard sticker on the front of the jar

Using chalk, write “Love is Sweet” on the sticker

Be sure to include instructions for baking:

Pour contents of the jar into a medium bowl

Add 1 egg and 1/4 cup oil

Mix together until the batter thickens

Refrigerate for 45 minutes

Drop spoonfuls of the the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet

Bake for 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees

 

We had some other baking-inspired elements, including marriage advice on wooden spoons, a display apron that was gifted to the bride, and a banner above the dessert table that read “Love is Sweet.”

 

Dessert Table

Grilled Salmon Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Grilled Salmon Salad

Summer is almost over. I spend all winter waiting for summer and it just flies by in the blink of an eye. This year, I didn’t even get a chance at proper beach time. The one weekend I dedicated to working on my tan and being lazy on a beach chair was ruined by summer rain. So bad, that we left early making it a less than enjoyable weekend, to say the least. I have other things to say about that particular weekend, but I’ll keep that to myself.

So with summer slipping away, I want to take advantage of the week or so I have left before Labor Day weekend [the weekend that officially marks the end of summer, with pools closing despite the temperatures probably hitting the 90s]. I’m determined to make it back out to the beach — and it’s going to be a great time. I’m also going to grill up as much as I can, and eat as many fresh summer fruits and salads that I can get my hands on.

Grilled Salmon Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

1 cup Baby Spinach
1 cup Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 large Tomato, chopped
1/2 large Green pepper, chopped
2 Yellow Potatoes
2 Salmon Filets
1/4 cup Croutons
1/2 small Red onion, sliced
1 Avocado, sliced
Goat Cheese
Lemon Pepper, to taste [ or mix fresh lemon juice with fresh cracked pepper and salt]
 
For the dressing: Light Ranch dressing + Boar’s Head Chipotle Spread
 

Directions

Begin by grilling the salmon. Heat your favorite indoor grill [ I have a cruisinart]
Rub the salmon filets with lemon pepper and place on the grill, cook for about 15 minutes until flaky
In the meantime, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Remove and cut into cubes, set aside
Make the dressing by mixing together 2:1 light ranch to chipotle spread
In a large bowl mix together the spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, green pepper and croutons
Add in the dressing and toss until coated
Spoon the salad into individual dishes
Top with sliced avocado, goat cheese and salmon
 
 
Servings: 2
 
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Grilled Stuffed Snapper

Grilled Fish

The best grilled fish I’ve had was in Sydney, Australia at an upscale restaurant on the harbor. It was a beautiful September evening in 2012 and I was enjoying a low-key dinner with my cousin and his beautiful wife. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was on a docking strip with a couple other outdoor restaurants. Not only was the weather amazing (September there is really like early spring to us), but the food was amazing. It also happened to be that I had the best oysters of my life there as well.

Back to the grilled fish, my cousin recommended the grilled Barramundi, an Asian sea bass. I had never heard of Barramundi before, but I was assured it would be delicious. The Barramundi did not disappoint. Served whole on a large plate, it looked and tasted good. Since then, I’ve been craving grilled whole fish on and off, but haven’t had the courage to try it out at home, until recently.

 

Grilled Fish_2

Grilled Stuffed Snapper Recipe

Ingredients

6 Red Snappers, head and tail attached, cleaned and cut open length-wise [your local fish market will do that for you]
2 tablespoons Flour
2 Red Onions, halved and sliced
3 Lemons, sliced + zest from 1 lemon
1 cup Basil Leaves
1 tablespoon salt
Fish Spice [2 tablespoons Cumin, 2 teaspoons Coriander, 1 teaspoon Chili Powder, 1 teaspoon Cardamom]
Olive Oil, for brushing

Directions

Start up your charcoal grill
Prepare the fish by filling a deep plastic bin with warm water and the four and washing the fish inside and out, pat dry and set aside
Stuff the fish with lemon slices, red onion and basil leaves
Mix together the lemon zest and salt
Brush each fish with olive oil, then sprinkle the lemon zest mix and scover the fish in spices
Flip and repeat
The fish is now ready to be grilled
Loosely wrap each fish separately in aluminum foil
Grill for 10-15 minutes on each side, only flipping once, until the meat is flaky
Serve warm

 

Servings: 6

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