Brunching at the Baby Doll Store

So, we didn’t get to American Girl store during the summer for a meal. As you know, if you follow this blog, our summer was jam packed. But, we did get to American Girl store this past weekend. And, we went for brunch which is something that the girls and I haven’t done before! It was a fun time. We spent the morning shopping (baby girl had some birthday money saved up) and eating with my mom, my sister and my niece. Girls day!

(Big girl took this picture……and then she started planning her birthday……oh boy……)

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The list thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.
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Bargain Baking

One of my favorite things about shopping after the holidays are over is that you can frequently get a great deal on mixes for baked goods simply because they are holiday flavors.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I love pumpkin bread any time of the year.  And, I am always willing to try a new fun flavor of waffle mix.

I do enjoy trying new mixes but I do have an important rule that I make myself follow when shopping after holiday (any holiday) sales for baking mixes.  The price of the mix needs to be less than what the price would be if I bought the ingredients separately.  That pumpkin bread mix makes two full loaves and is really heavy because of the can of pumpkin in the box.  This was a good deal.  The scone and waffles mixes were purchased for just a couple bucks each.  Also, great deals.

Mmmmmm…..holiday food after the holiday…..

Mmmmmm…..holiday food after the holiday…..

Do you buy holiday mixes? What are your favorites?

Monkey Bread!

As can be see from past postings, when I get an idea in my head I can be very stubborn. On Christmas Day, I started planning our food for New Year’s Day brunch. For some reason, monkey bread popped into my head. It’s been years since I had monkey bread and I never actually made it. My mom would make it from time to time when we were younger and I remember it being insanely delicious. I also remember we would call it monkey brains.

Monkey brains. It doesn’t sound very appetizing. However, monkey bread? That doesn’t actually sound very delicious either.

Bread made out of monkeys? Bread made for monkeys? No. Store bought biscuits covered in sugar and cinnamon. I guess that that is too long of a name.

I found a recipe on Food Network and I thought that I would give it a try.  You can find the recipe here if you want to try this one as well.  And, I recommend that you give it a try.  It’s super easy and ends up being simply delicious.  Bread.  Sugar.  Cinnamon.  Brown sugar.  Butter.  How could it not be delicious?

Can't. Resist. .....Must. Eat. More.

Nothing to Trifle With….Or, New Year’s Trifle

My mom would make a trifle every year for brunch on New Year’s Day.  This is a tradition that I have stuck to for my own New Year’s brunch.  This year’s trifle was a bit different, however.  One of the reasons that I love trifle is that it is so incredibly easy.  You can essentially make a trifle by adding in whatever flavors you want.

To make a big bowl of trifle:

Gather your ingredients.  Cake, pudding, juice, preserves, almonds.  Usually, my mom uses sponge cake for her trifle.  In years past, I have bought either a sponge cake or a pound cake from the store.  This year, there was neither sponge cake nor pound cake to be had so I purchased an angel food cake.  Ryan said that this was his favorite trifle thus far because of the angel food cake.  So, don’t be afraid to experiment to find what you like the best.

1) Cut the cake in half going across.  Spread jam or preserves on the top of the bottom piece.  Be sure to spread a thick layer.  The preserves add a lot of great flavor to your trifle.  I used raspberry preserves but again, you could use whatever you have on hand or whatever flavor you like the best.  Put the top half back on.  Essentially you are frosting the middle of the cake with jam or preserves.

2) Cut the cake into chunks and place in the bottom of a pretty bowl.  It is important to use a pretty glass or clear plastic bowl since this ends up being such a pretty dessert full of yummy layers.

3) Sprinkle the cake chunks with some orange juice.  You could also use an alcoholic beverage like sherry, rum, or brandy.

4) Top this with pudding.  My mom always used french vanilla pudding, however, I couldn’t find that at the store this year so I just used regular vanilla pudding.

5) At this point, you can add some fresh whipped cream to the top. (I skipped that this year.)

6) Top with some toasted almonds.  I recommend not skipping this step as the almonds add a nice crunchy texture to a mostly mushy dessert.  However, you don’t have to use almonds.  You can use whatever nuts you have on hand.  Perhaps a handful of crushed cookies might be nice, too.

7) Eat and enjoy!

This trifle is not going to last very long......

Holiday Desserts Round Four – Cheater’s Croquembouche

Whenever I have seen a croquembouche, I have thought to myself “Man, that sure looks like a lot of work.”  But they are always very elegant and fun looking.  I’m sure that all of the work is worthwhile.  I found two recipes that I might try at some point in my life.  There is a yummy recipe from Martha Stewart and one from Food Network recipe from Gale Gand.

I wanted something fun for our New Year’s Day Brunch and wanted something with a little bit of drama.  I thought that a croquembouche might be a nice touch, but I really didn’t want to put in all  of that effort.  OK.  Call me lazy.  Go ahead.  Lazy is a name that I will always answer to.  An episode of Katie Brown Workshop gave me the answer to my dilemma.  Make a croquembouche without actually making a croquembouche.

Remember when all of the television sets went digital?  And you had to buy a new antenna for any tv that wasn’t connected to a cable box?  Well, since the move to digital, the television in the bedroom only consistently gets Fox or PBS.  Thankfully, PBS has the Create Channel and it was on this channel that I discovered the Katie Brown Workshop.  Katie Brown is kind of like the simpler-I-could-do-that version of Martha Stewart.  And on a recent episode, she made a croquembouche that wasn’t.

I decided to give it a try.  You can find the recipe on her website here.  Essentially, after wrapping a styrofoam cone in parchment paper,  you stab toothpicks onto styrofoam and then stab a donut onto that toothpick.

It was really easy to put together.  However, although it is kind of fun it actually looks kind of silly.  I guess this is one of those things that you can’t actually duplicate without actually making the real thing.

Bacon cinnamon rolls…..oh….my…..goodness……

As 2009 quickly came to a close, I decided that there was only one way to ring in 2010.  Food.  Not just any food.  I was determined to have the most delicious breakfast for dinner that I could make (with Ryan’s assistance, of course).  It all started when I saw this recipe.  Bacon cinnamon rolls.  How could that not be insanely delicious?  (p.s. I love CakeSpy’s website.  I read it everyday and I currently own two of her small watercolor paintings)

I knew that the bacon cinnamon rolls were going to be on the menu.  For the rest of the meal, I was thinking of snack-type foods.  For as long as I can remember, breakfast/lunch/snacks on New Years Day have been what we in my family refer to as “grazing.”  Eat a little bit all day.  Take a nap.  Eat some more.  Watch the parade.  Take another nap.  Watch some football.  Eat some more.  Take a nap.

I made a fruit salad that turned out really well.  Apples, grapefruit, oranges, coconut.  Be sure to add the juice from all of the citrus fruits.  After it has had time to rest in the refrigerator for a couple hours, it is incredibly refreshing and delicious.  We had some creamy cheese and a baguette that we had planned on eating with dinner on New Year’s Eve but never got around to eating.  That was ok by me.  Mmmmmmmm.  Cheese.

The bacon cinnamon rolls turned out incredibly delicious.  The next time that I make them (and there will definitely be a next time) I will make them in a cake pan instead of the cookie sheet pan that the biscuit dough container recommended.  The biscuits had way too much space and spread out a lot instead of staying nice and tall.  I might also try them with some different bacon types.  Some applewood smoked bacon might be tasty with the cinnamon rolls.  There could be an entire morning of testing different bacon types.  And what a great morning that would be.