Monday, May 18, 2015

Cupcake Bouquet

We were so lucky to be able to celebrate our grand-daughter's birthday with her during a recent visit. When I asked her what kind of a cake she would like, she requested "a flower cake." I found myself thinking of cakes that my mother made me when I was a little girl. They were lovely works of art. One of her decorating tricks was cutting jellied candies into different shapes to create flower petals, and I thought that might be a fun way to create flowers for Miss K. I bought multi-flavored fruit slice candies at the dollar store. We used two packages for this bouquet:

Instead of one large cake, Delys and I decided to create a cupcake bouquet. There are a bazillion tutorials out there--none of which we read--so I won't try to give you step by step instructions here. I'll just give you a flavor for what we learned and then suggest that you actually read at least one of the bazillion tutorials. I think doing that would have saved us some time and mistakes.

We chose a cute flower pot that I already had for our base. I bought a styrofoam ball to fit on top which we hot glued to the top of the pot for stability:

With the help of two of my favorite cooks, I baked the cupcakes and frosted them with buttercream frosting. (Royal frosting would probably have been better for holding the flower petals in place, but we cared more about taste than artistry.) Using kitchen shears, I cut the fruit slices into smaller pieces and then started creating flowers. We learned from sad experience that it's a good idea to let your cupcakes sit for awhile after they are decorated to allow the frosting to harden and "glue" your petals firmly into place:

We initially tried plastic picks to attach the cupcakes to the ball, but we found that heavy duty wooden toothpicks worked better. Delys used one to spear through the bottom of the cupcake and then into the ball. She stuck two more toothpicks into the ball under each cupcake to hold it more firmly in place. We placed a flower at the top of the ball in the center and then worked down from there:

Once we reached the mid-point of the ball and gravity began to work against us, we quit using cupcakes and began to fill in with tissue paper. I used white tissue with tiny, colored speckles between the flowers. I just cut small squares and pushed them into the gaps with a pencil:

Then I cut squares of yellow tissue and stuck a dab of hot glue in the center of each square before I pushed it into place around the bottom of the bouquet. And here it is:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Perfect Chicken Seasoning

So I'm not historically that girl who makes her own seasonings. I don't care how "quick and easy" your taco seasoning recipe is; it certainly isn't as quick and easy and tearing open those little taco seasoning packets, n'est pas?

Yet I've joined the dark side and regularly have a shaker on hand of my very own, pre-assembled, Perfect Chicken Seasoning. And by "very own," I really mean that I got it from another blog which has unfortunately been MIA for over a year now! Should the Crayon Recipe Box blog ever resurface, I want to give a shout out for this mix, because it's awesome. Now, I normally mix up a big batch to have on hand and sprinkle generously on chicken breasts to add to a number of recipes. Our favorite is Lemon Angel Hair with Chicken and Spinach, but we also add chicken strips to marinara sauce for chicken spaghetti (except never with actual spaghetti noodles, because Jeffrey has some angst towards that particular pasta). They also taste wonderful in chicken quesadillas. Mmm-mmm.

But I digress. The point I was going to make is that if you want to make a lot or a little, it's pretty easy as the spice ratio is one to one to one to one to one. Also, although I left in the pan-searing part of the instructions, in the interest of full disclosure, let me admit that I often feel pressed for time and put the coated chicken straight into a baking dish minus the browning. It still works and still tastes delicious. Yet if you have the time, the extra steps on the stove help give the chicken a subtle, seasony-crust on the outside and tender, soft interior.

Perfect Chicken 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbl olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix generous teaspoons of all the spices in a bowl. Dip both sides of each chicken breast into the mixture for a generous coat. If you're feeling really super and thorough, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on med-high heat. Once hot, brown the chicken for 2 minutes on each side. Place oven-safe skillet in oven (or transfer chicken to a baking dish) and bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken from oven and rest on cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing or serving.