Baking with Children: Creating a Bunny Cake

I love having helpers in the kitchen! Sometimes the end result is far different from my original expectation! This bunny cake is a prime example!

A couple of years ago, I enlisted the nieces to help me make the annual bunny cake. They were ages 4 and 5, approximately. They were enchanted with sprinkles, obviously!

We had a grand time in grandma’s kitchen mixing up the cake batter and baking it in a 9×13 pan. We used a box mix and followed the package instructions. But the most fun was decorating the cake.

We used a basic white icing for our background. Spread it as smoothly as we could with the help of the girls! Then, using a tube of decorating gel, we outlined the profile of a bunny head. The girls had brought one of their coloring books which gave me a nice pattern to copy. Then the fun began!

We had an assortment of colored sugar sprinkles at our disposal. After much debate and discussion, we divided the six colors evenly between the two girls, so they each had three containers to work with. With a generous hand, they added the sprinkles to the important features: ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Ta-daa! You can see the end result in the photo.

I don’t mind saying, the cake tasted just fine, if you didn’t mind an occasional crunch of sugar sprinkles!

The important part of this afternoon in the kitchen wasn’t so much our creation of a masterpiece worthy of a TV cooking show as it was to spend the time together and involving the kids. They enjoyed themselves and grandpa was greatly entertained by the entire process!

My suggestion to you, gather the kids around and dig in! Sprinkles, food coloring and flour clean up easily enough and the memories created in the process are priceless!

 

Cooking With All Things Trader Joe’s ~ Review

Trader Joe’s is an amazing grocery store. This is the type of place that makes grocery shopping an experience instead of a chore.

The cookbook, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati adds substance to the adventure of Trader Joe’s. The premise of this cookbook is that all ingredients for all the recipes can be purchased at Trader Joe’s. Talk about one-stop shopping! The authors present simple recipes that take the fuss out of cooking.

Ingredient Names

One feature of the book is that the ingredient lists define items that are “generic” from ones that are “specific”. What that means is that lettuce will be spelled with a lower case letter. If the ingredient is specific to Trader Joe’s the ingredient name is capitalized: Eggplant Garlic Spread. This feature helps cooks with formatting the shopping list. If you plan to do your shopping at several stores, you will know at a glance which items you absolutely need to purchase at Trader Joe’s and which items can be picked up at any grocery.

Photos

Another appreciated feature of this cook book: photos. The authors have a photo of every recipe included in the book. This allows cooks to see what the end result should look like. Nothing worse than following directions in a recipe and hoping the end result you get is what you should have gotten!

The author’s make a point in their introduction to tell the reader that all photos are of real food. They did not follow the practice of many food stylists and doctor the items in the photos…. using alternate products to represent food items. The photos in this cookbook are true representations of the menu items. In fact, the authors claim to have eaten the food after the pictures were taken!

Recipes

Most of the recipes are geared around a select few ingredients, which defines Convenience Cooking. The recipe on page 63 for Black Bean and Ricotta-Stuffed Portabellas requires only five ingredients. Most recipes also have only a few steps in the preparation and cooking instructions.

An international flair can be found in this cookbook. Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Southern, and German recipes appear frequently throughout the book. If a cook were to use this book on a regular basis, they would be assured of a wide variety of cuisine. No chance of falling into boring patterns there.

Irish Parliament Bean Soup Adventure

The Story

As you may have read in my previous post, I was trying a new to me recipe this week. Irish Parliament Bean Soup from Meg O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Melbourne, Florida. They offer this delicious soup on their menu for the traditional price of 18 cents. If you are in Melbourne, I’d suggest you stop by Meg’s for lunch, dinner, drinks, or whatever. You can’t miss!

The recipe for this soup was something I’ve been watching for ever since our visit about five years ago. Recently, I did a search for it and found what one person claims is the original recipe. Now, since I know that not everything you read on the Internet isn’t necessarily true, I took that claim with the proverbial pinch of salt.

The Adventure

I gathered the ingredients and this last weekend decided to test the recipe. It was pretty easy finding most of the ingredients required. Nearly every grocery store I know carries dried beans, carrots, celery and onions. Finding a ham bone was a little bit of a challenge. The first shopping trip resulted in no ham bone. Why? Because I forgot to write it on my list!

On my next trip, I remembered to write it down, but the store where I usually shop didn’t have any in the meat case. Since it was late, I didn’t ask the butcher if there was a ham bone hiding in the back cooler.

During the third trip out, I was able to locate a package of ham hocks. Now, although ham hocks are similar, they are not exactly: ham bone. By this time, I’d decided that a substitution would work just fine. In fact, I decided the ham hocks looked like they would work very nicely! And honestly, they did.

I was also surprised at the difficulty I had locating bay leaves in my local stores. I checked several of the grocery stores for bay leaves on those many trips. If they had bay leaves in stock, I wasn’t able to read the label to find them. Which is possible, considering my eyesight. I did find some bay leaves at a drug-store-department-store-grocery-store establishment.

The Recipe

You can find the recipe in it’s original format here. I followed the recipe to the letter and started on Saturday morning chopping up the carrots, celery and onions. I was working on the other weekend recipe for roast beef and it’s a time save to chop all the veggies at the same time. I figure that while I’m in the chopping mood, get all the dicing out of the way! That way I only have to clean up once!

Dried beans are quite nutritious and economical, but they take a little planning for preparation. Most recipes I’ve found that call for dried beans require that the beans are soaked overnight. Saturday I placed the two pounds of beans in my pan and added the water for soaking. When I saw the beans in my pan, I thought: That’s a lot of beans.

Sunday I pulled out my crock pot and began the steps to complete the recipe. One gallon of water was called for. I did a little cooking math and translated 1 gallon to 4 quarts, which at 4 cups to a quart is 16 cups. WHAT! 16 cups of water, I started counting. And filled my crock pot. Literally, the crock pot was full and I hadn’t added *any* additional ingredients. I decided it would be wise to use the second crock pot also. Count out 8 cups of water into the second crock pot. I divided the remaining ingredients in half, placing some in each crock pot and set the temperature to low.

The Lesson Learned

When you obtain a recipe from a restaurant, consider the portions they are working with. Most chefs have to feed a crowd each night and therefore the recipes they use tend to make large quantities. This is in our favor when as customers, we don’t have to wait for the soup to cook (90 minutes) or hear the waiter say “sorry, we’re out”.  However, at home, we generally are cooking for four or six people. The next time I make this recipe, I’ll be dividing the ingredient quantities in half.

Since my family wasn’t going to eat two full crock pots of soup and freezing that much would definitely keep me set for soup lunches until 2014, I needed to find a way to share the soup. I took one crock pot full of bean soup into the office and asked my coworkers to sample it. The consensus from my taste testers: Very Yummy Indeed.

I did end up freezing a good sized portion of soup. And I’m eating bean soup for lunch every day this week.

 

Download a copy of the recipe in PDF format to your computer for Free by clicking here.