Thursday, August 20, 2009

Birthdays On My Mind

With only a few weeks left in August, the "Bers" are soon upon us - SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER & DecemBER which means lots of birthdays!

Or should I say "BERthdays"?!? :)

The first one being my oldest daughter who will be turning 6 in SeptemBER. I just can't believe it already! How did that happen?? 6 years old and starting First Grade in a few weeks. It's almost too much to handle.

This one is my little party girl. She loves fancy dresses, party shoes (aka black patent leather) and BIG birthday parties. I think it's what she lives for all year long. She especially loves the cake!! Don't get me wrong, I know the presents are high up there along with the goodie bags, but really, she LOVES the cake. Her parties are usually themed around what kind of cake she wants. Fortunately for her, I LOVE cake decorating so it's just as fun for me as it is for her. I'll give you a recap of the past 5 years...

1 year birthday - this was mostly for our friends since she didn't really have her own friends at this point. This was also BEFORE I got into cake decorating but I still wanted to make my own cake.

first bdayparty 0912-19

first bdayparty 0912-11

I made it from scratch using my cousin Sarahi's Tres Leches recipe and homemade whipped cream icing. I practiced with the recipe probably around 3 times before the party to try and get it right. It's a really great cake. Remind me to post the recipe sometime. As you can see, this one was more for taste than visuals.

Sometime between her first and second birthday, I was getting a little stir crazy, so a couple of my friends and I who were also first time moms decided to take a Wilton cake decorating class at Michael's. It was really just a way to get out of the house one night a week. It probably wouldn't have mattered what we did, but this turned out to be really fun anyway. The class ended at 9 but we always ended up talking in the parking lot a few extra hours. It was our time to "catch up" uninterrupted.

2nd birthday - my decorating skills definitely improved. This year she was really into butterflies and the color blue, hence the blue butterfly birthday cake.


I used a butterfly cake pan from Wilton with buttercream icing.

I also made a separate cake on her actual birthday. I was reading a book about portrait cakes so I wanted to try one.


3rd birthday - this was when major princess obsession kicked in along with dressing up...ALL THE TIME!!! Her favorite princess was Sleeping Beauty. We even "invited" her to come to the party. For a hefty fee, of course.


To this day, my daughter still believes it was the "real" Sleeping Beauty that came over. Too cute. You're probably wondering why she's wearing a Snow White dress when her fav was Sleeping Beauty. Yeah, we couldn't figure that one out either.

Well, here's the cake...


I LOVE this one! I think it's my all time favorite cake that I've ever made. It happened to be her best party also.

4th birthday - The whole princess thing died down and now she was into rainbows. She also started to love to swim so we combined the two and had a rainbow pool party. This was pretty easy for me since it was all outdoors. Didn't have to worry about cleaning my house, which in itself was a treat for me.

This cake was just ok.



At this point baby girl #2 was a toddler which means not much time for anything except running after a toddler. Need I say more.

5th birthday - this was a really fun party partly because it was also out of the house. It was also super easy because it was at one of those bounce house places. The kids had a great time. I highly recommend it. Now, the cake didn't really go with the bounce house theme. This year she wanted a bubblegum cake. I normally don't allow her to chew gum but since it was her birthday I thought I'd throw her a bone. I was originally going to do a bubblegum machine cake but at the last minute decided to do a Candyland cake. Things were going along really well until BOTH girls decided they wanted to "help". I much prefer to do my cakes on my own, but as soon as they saw all the candy, I knew I (and the cake) didn't have a chance. This is how it turned out:

Candyland Cake - 1


For some strange reason, this is the most viewed cake on my Flickr account. I think that's so funny. If you want to see other cakes I have made, click here.

6th birthday - well, we didn't get to that one yet but the theme this year is Barbie!! I have a design in mind that if I can pull off BY MYSELF, I think will be really great.

I'll keep you posted on that one.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Remember all those peppers I picked at Lawrence Farms this past weekend?

peppers & squash-1

My first recipe was for the sausage and peppers. My next one is for Picadillo - pronounced "pee-kah-dee-oh".


I used a recipe from the Food Network which you can get here.

Sorry guys but I didn't think to photgraph this one until I was all done!


So get the step by step on FN.

I served the picadillo along with rice, and I sliced and roasted the yellow squash that I also picked at the farm. It tasted really good! This picadillo can also be used to make quesadillas. Your family will think you made something completely different and it will only take you minutes to make!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sausage & Peppers

Yesterday I wrote about our adventure picking our own fruit & veggies this past weekend at Lawrence Farms. I had all these green peppers sitting on the counter begging to be cooked. (I used the yellow squash in another recipe)

peppers & squash-2

As my mind was pondering what to make with these green lovelies, my ITALIAN hubbs comes in and makes a request. Can you guess what it was? What would any full fledged Italian guy want? You guessed it - Sausage & Peppers!! I guess it wouldn't be too hard to guess if you already read the title of this post.

So, here goes...

Since no one in my family besides me likes spicy food, I used sweet Italian sausage. Fortunately I had a package in my freezer and didn't have to go out to get some. One package had six links in it so that was perfect. I put them on a sheet pan in the oven set to 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

I used 4 green peppers because green was all I had. If you have red or orange or yellow, go for it! Anything will do. I also had a large yellow onion so I sliced them all up and put them in a pan with olive oil.

peppers & onions - 3

You can see how crunchy the vegetables look. The peppers are bright green and the onions are very white at this point.

peppers & onions - 2

Next I chopped up about 4 cloves of garlic.


I LOVE garlic so the more the merrier for me. Adjust it to however much you like. They go into the pan as well.

Let this mixture cook for a while but don't let it brown. (you can add some salt and pepper at this point) They'll start to get soft and change color. See how the peppers aren't bright green anymore and the onions aren't as white - they are more translucent now.

peppers & onions-1

While they cooked a bit longer, I took out the sausages. They look pretty good...


until I turned them over and noticed I scorched the poor things!


That's what happens when you try to do a million things at once. Not a problem though. This can be rectified. Since they were only burnt on the bottom, I sliced off the burnt part. Shhh - no one will ever know.


Then I sliced up the sausage - I like to slice it on an angle.


in they go, into the pan

sausage & peppers - 5

I had some leftover sauce that I made a couple of days ago so I put in about a cup. At least that's what it looked like when I poured it in. I didn't actually measure it.

sausage & peppers - 4

I just have to stray a minute to say I HOPE you guys are making your own sauce!! It is so super easy and tastes so much better than the jarred stuff. I'll have to write about that soon so you'll see how easy it is. So, for this ONE TIME ONLY if you don't have homemade sauce, I'll let you slide. Use the jarred stuff if you must.

OK, I'm back. I also put in about a 1/4 cup white wine - again no measuring and also because that's what I had in my fridge. I would have preferred it to be red, and a bit more, but what can I do?!? That's what I had.

Mix it up and it should look like this...

sausage & peppers - 3

It was still a bit thick so I added in some chicken stock. I didn't have any homemade and this I actually do use from a box, but I will ONLY use Kitchen Basics. It's the one in the yellow box. I probably used about another 1/4 cup. Now cover it and let it continue to cook.

Along with the sausage and peppers, I was making pasta, so I allowed the s&p to cook while I waited for the water to boil for my pasta, and while the pasta cooked - so maybe that was another 20 minutes.

It was smelling good in here!!! Everything was done!!

sausage & peppers - 2

Except one thing was missing. The bread! Where's the bread?!?

Calm down, will you!! It's on it's way. The hubbs went out to get some while I was cooking.

I don't know if I can wait too long.

sausage & peppers - 1

If you are ever interested in picking your own produce, go to and select a state to find places near you.

Sausage & Peppers Recipe

1 package Italian sausages - sweet, hot or both
4 bell peppers sliced (red, green yellow, orange or all)
1 large onion sliced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup pasta sauce
1/4 cup wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the sausage on a sheet pan in the oven for 20 minutes at 375 degrees
Drizzle a saute pan with olive oil and cook the peppers, onions and garlic until soft
Add salt and pepper
When the sausages are done, slice them up and add to the vegetable mixture
Add the sauce, wine and chicken stock
Cover and cook for another 20 minutes on low heat
Serve with pasta...and BREAD!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pick a Peck of Peppers and Peaches

Every Saturday I try to find a fun activity that we can do as a family. Yes, just like every other mom, Event Coordinator is also added to my list of titles. This past Saturday, we drove upstate to go fruit and veggie picking. It was supposed to take an hour and 25 minutes but with traffic and bathroom breaks it took about 2. Needless to say, my girls were wigging out! They went through all the snacks I packed so once that was done, they were bored and restless. Why do I always forget to pack toys for the car?? When will I ever learn?!?

Just in time before major meltdowns, we finally get there. It's called Lawrence Farms Orchards - up in Newburgh, NY.


First things first - wagon and ice cream.


Hmmm, I thought we were here to pick fruit. Don't know if it was the ice cream or just finally being set free, but their moods definitely changed. I had happy kids again.

Although I am a complete Total City Girl, I really do like coming up to the mountains. When I was a kid we spent our summers in the Catskills (with every other NY Jew) at the bungalow colonies. That's a whole other story for another time. Let me just stick to produce here.

This place was really cute - a country store


great views,


a lake,



some animals





The goats even have their own treehouse!


Apparently last weekend the best things to pick were peppers, squash, peaches, plums and apricots.

Our first stop was for peppers.


How many green peppers does one family need? My girls apparently didn't think of that. They were just having too much fun. Picking here, picking there, picking picking everywhere!!


Even the hubbs got into the act.


Why is it that the baby ends up carrying everything??


That's what you get for being the youngest and having a bossy older sister. I'm sure my sister had her share of these experiences. Oh, but wait. I'm not bossy.


Then my sister and her family finally show up. My brother-in-law and I coordinated the night before. So, uh, why were they so far behind us?? Oh yeah, that's right - he didn't think to take the directions with him. Smart thinking.

By this time my kids are starving and fortunately they have a mom that does think of food so of course I packed lunch. They have picnic tables behind the store so there was plenty of room to eat our lunch. I packed plenty of food.

Apparently it looked so good,


the farm dog decided to help himself to my daughter's sandwich!

He just snatched it right off the table right where she was sitting. I kind of lost my appetite at that point. Did I ever mention I'm not an animal person? I'm especially not a pet person. Don't even get me started on cats!!

OK - now we can get back to picking.

My nephew jumps in the wagon with the girls and we're off.


But which way to go??


Peppers to the left


peaches to the right


looks like peaches won.

Woops - a casualty


The trees are tagged with yellow or white ribbon so you know where to pick.

I saw this kind in the market the other day.


I think it's called a disc peach (or maybe I'm just making that up). Anyone know the real name?

I left them for a while to go get some yellow squash.

After we finished picking, we headed off to the Little Village - a section on the farm with all little types of houses - perfect playhouses for the kids.


We were smart enough to save this part for last. Otherwise we would have been there all day.

There was a church,


a barn,


firehouse, ice cream shop, school house, and a bunch of others I can't remember - probably about 10 in all.

One of the houses had a cluster of sunflowers, but I was drawn to this one.




My sister loves sunflowers. She was happy.

Well all that playing just knocked those kids out.

Time for a lollipop break!


We ended up leaving with about $12 worth of produce and a bunch of worn out kids. All in all, a good day.

I'm haunted by peppers though. We'll be eating peppers all week.

First up - sausage & peppers recipe. Stay tuned!

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