Date Night

I heard once before that your spouse should come before the kids. But after having 2 kids, I realize how difficult it is to put your partner first. Little ones are just so needy and it’s easy to think that your significant other doesn’t need your immediate attention.

But sometimes I ask myself, that if we constantly put the kids first and then they grow up and leave for college, will we still know each other after the kids have left?¬† So we’ve tried to make it a point to make some time for each other, whether it be staying home and watching a movie after the kids go to bed, OR actually get dressed nicely, put on some makeup and go out somewhere when one of our parents are available to babysit.

We got that opportunity last night! For my restaurant review, go here.

It also helps to just go out and not be stuck in the house as a reminder that you are more that just parents. Break out that smokey eye, those hoops earrings, and that leather jacket that you spent an arm and a leg on cuz parents, you deserve it! Also… date night is just not complete without going to Target after ūüėČ

Standing Cake Pops

Well, this week is our company’s Christmas party and I decided to make cake pops as my contribution to the potluck we are having! I decided to do standing cake pops because they are just so much easier to make than the perfectly circular ones that look like a lollipop. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make that process easier? Comment below and I can share your blog here also!

Ok so if you’re lucky enough to have a few hours in your hands, this project is for you! ;-). But what is nice about this is, there’s also built in waiting times, so you don’t have to do all the steps at once. If you need to… ¬†say… care for your child, or if you need to give them a bath and put them to bed, then luckily there are parts here that are not too time sensitive.

This post will have lots of pictures so that you can follow along! Here we go!

Let’s start with what you will need for this baby!

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Ok, cake mix (any kind, I got Duncan Hines Red velvet because I like red velvet and it was on sale! Woot!), cake icing (I got a 17 oz cream cheese icing – also Duncan Hines), eggs, water, vegetable oil. That’s for the cake part.

For the rest, you need, candy melts, lollipop sticks, shortening (i have Crisco), and anything else you would like to add like sprinkles and other designs if you want to make it all complicated and stuff ;-).

I also found it helpful to have aluminum foil, parchment paper, a small narrow container for dipping, candy wraps, and twist ties. These are all optional of course, but made it much more simple and efficient for me… get it? simple and efficient? simplefficient? no? ok! Moving on then! =)

The first thing you do is follow the direction in the cake box and make that cake based on those directions.

Tip #1: use aluminum foil to line your pan so the cake will pop right out after it’s done!

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After the cake is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Tip#2: for the cake to get cooler faster, pop that baby out of the hot pan! Good thing you used that aluminum foil lining! ūüėČ

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As seen in the second picture above, I used a knife to cut off some of the hard edges of the cake. This will help you not have lumps in your cake pops. Once it cools down, cut the cake into pieces and put it in a large bowl. The pieces don’t have to be even or neat because the next step is to smash that cake into a pulp. If you feel (yes, feel, use your hands and not a mixing tool) any large dry pieces that you can’t smash, take it out of the bowl and discard.

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Now it’s time to add the icing. This is so that you are able to form cake balls to turn into cake pops later. I’ve read to use half of the icing. I found that I used a little bit more than half because the balls wouldn’t form when I just used half. Go ahead and start with half of the icing and then add more if you find that you can’t roll the cake into round circles. When you’ve found the right consistency, roll the cake into 1 inch circles, or you can even do 1.5 inch if you want. It’s up to you on how large or small you want to make your cake pops. Then put them into a pan that is lined with parchment paper.

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I found that I was able to make 26 – 1 inch circles, plus 16 – 1.5 inched circles with 1 cake mix.

Now time to start putting the lollipop sticks on! To make the sticks stick better, use some of the candy melts to help it adhere to the cake balls. I used a small amount of the candy melts, popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds, mixed it, and then another 30 seconds, and it was liquid enough for me to dip the lollipop sticks into it. After dipping the sticks into the candy melt, stick the lollipop stick right onto the cake ball about half way through. You can see that the candy melt will spread out a little, creating a larger area for the cake to adhere to the lollipop stick.

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After you have finished this part, stick the whole tray into the fridge for about an hour (or more if you need more time to do other stuff). Note that any of the steps above isn’t really time sensitive except for taking the cake out of the oven when it’s ready. The chocolate candy melt can also harden if you take a break between the last step. Just pop the candy melts back into the microwave if need be.

After about an hour, the cake balls and the candy melt will have adhered nicely so that the cake will not fall off of the lollipop stick when you’re dipping the cake pop. This next step is time sensitive because you want to make sure you’re not wasting any of the chocolate candy melts. Time to melt the candy melts!

Tip #3, Add shortening to the candy melts so that the melted chocolate will be smooth and not gunky. I didn’t use shortening the first time I made cake pops, and it looked like a hot mess! The shortening also helps melt the chocolate a lot faster and gives it a glistening look ūüėČ

To melt the candy melts, boil water in a pan, put a bowl that is safe to heat stuff in on top of the pan, and set the heat to low. Put 1-2 tablespoons of shortening into the bowl and mix it until it melts – (it will turn clear and watery). Add the candy melts (in this case, I used the rest of the melts in the bag). Mix until it melts. You can add more candy melts (if you have extra) if you find that the melted chocolate isn’t thick enough. It is up to you how you want it to be. The more liquid-y it is, the more you will see the cake inside the cake pop. (** Use oven mitts when handling the bowl, it could get hot hot hot!)

Since this is or a Christmas party, I wanted to add a pop of green color to my candy melts, so i added some green candy melts (from another bag) into the white chocolate. The white chocolate candy melts also had little tiny sprinkles in them so it was cool to still see them when it turned green! =)

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Ok, once your candy is all melted, take out the uncoated cake pops from the fridge so you can dip dip dip! I transferred the melted chocolate into a slightly tall narrower container for easier dipping. You can also use a small glass of water or anything with a little depth in it so you can skip the rolling of the cake pop in the chocolate and just dip it. So dip that baby in and then tap the excess off the cake pop. To smooth it out, roll the lollipop stick in your hands while tapping the excess chocolate off.

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If you want to get all fancy-shmancy, you can even add some sprinkles on the cake pop before setting it back onto the parchment paper.

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After you’ve finished dipping all the cake pops, put it back in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so to let the chocolate set. Then voila! ¬†You are done!

Unless you want to put each one in a little baggy to make it look more professional! ūüėČ So take those babies out of the fridge after it’s set and go ahead put each one in a baggy. Nothing says classy more than silver twisty ties!.. Am I right? no? ok! Moving on =)

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Ok! you’re really done after that!

Hope you enjoyed this loooooong but simple? explanation of how I made standing cake pops!

Here’s some close up photos if you want them =)

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Happy Baking!! =)

Blue Apron

Is it worth it? Maybe…

So my husband and I decided¬†to get a little more adventurous with our cooking. Thanks to a friend of his, we were able to try a 1 week free trial of Blue Apron. Basically, it’s a company that will send you a certain amount of meals a week, with all the ingredients (fresh produce, spices, meat, and the like) already all measured out, ready for you to chop and cook. Along with the ingredients are the recipes, with pictures included so you can follow along and make slightly fancier meals. I believe there is a 2 Person plan (3 meals per week) and a Family plan (2 or 4 meals per week). The 2 person plan is $59.94 (so about $10 per person per meal), and the Family plan which is apparently for 4 people, goes for $138.84 for 4 meals/week (20 $8.67 per person per meal), or $69.92 for 2 meals per week ($8.74 per person per meal). We are using the 2 person plan. Before I get to the recipes that we tried, people wanted to know if it’s “worth it.” I think the answer is “yes” and “no,” depending on what you usually do during the week. Price-wise, I think that it’s worth it if you go out every night, or at least go out a lot, and spend at least $10 on each person. However, if you tend to go grocery shopping and cook mostly, then I think that the price may not be worth it. My husband¬†also stated that he was satisfied after each meal, but he was not substantially “full.” So if you like to be “full-full,” then maybe this isn’t for you. On the other hand, I was pretty full after each meal, so take that however way you want ;-).

Quality time wise, my husband¬†and I planned to cook together and make this something like an activity/hobby for us to do. However, it’s really hard to cook together with a toddler¬†running around like a crazy woman yelling “more! more! more” or “mommy! mommy! mommy!” She does sleep by 7:00- 7:30, but we try to have our cooking done before then because we are just too tired to cook after putting her to bed. Anyway, I think that it’s kind of nice to follow a new recipe together and just kind of cook together, so quality time-wise, it may be worth it. Adding to that, is that once you sign up, you can see the menu a week or two ahead of time, and if it’s something you’re really not interested in, you can opt to not get anything those weeks, and they won’t charge you for that week. So that’s always nice to have that option.

       

Anyway, on to our adventure. The first thing we tried was the “Seared Pork with smashed potatoes and sauteed spinach”. This was a pretty easy recipe to follow and quite easy to get the ingredients at a regular grocery store. I was able to do this by myself while the hubs¬†entertained our toddler. We waited to finish the last part of the recipe (cooking the spinach) until after we put¬†her¬†to bed so that we could eat it in peace and it worked out pretty well! The portion size was not too big, but it was definitely enough for me. We both thought that this meal was delicious and would definitely try again with larger portions. The pork roast they provided was a really good cut. I wasn’t sure if it was the way we cooked it, or the quality of the meat that made it taste really good but the hubs¬†thinks it was the quality of the meat. If it was, then we can attest that Blue Apron gives great quality meat then.

    

The next night, we tried the “Pan-seared Cod with curried basmati rice, snow peas, and mint”. Someone¬†enjoyed this one because the carbs made it heartier. He also loved the curry rice that went along with the cod. For this meal, we tagged-teamed. Since we both got home a little earlier than usual, I was able to chop up all the veggies/produce/spices before we got out toddler from the sitter. Then after we picked her up, he¬†cooked everything while it was my turn to entertain her. We were even able to eat together as a family since we were done cooking before her¬†bedtime. Our little one tried the rice and veggies, but we were greedy and ate the cod by ourselves. ;-). She didn’t seem to mind. See pictures below ūüėČ The produce for this dish can also be found easily in grocery stores, but the blend of spices they provided may be a little harder to find. This dish tasted pretty good. I forgot to add salt and pepper to the rice while cooking it, so the rice was a little bland, but the veggies and the cod turned out pretty well.

     

The last dish we tried, we put off until the weekend. Along with our toddler, we also had our niece and nephew with us over the weekend so we didn’t start cooking the dish until after we fed all the kiddos their dinner. So while she slept, and my niece and nephew ate popsicles and watched TV, we cooked our last meal, “Turkey Steam Buns with quick cucumber-radish kimchi”.¬† The ingredients for this dish can probably be found easily in asian markets, but may be harder to find in a regular grocery store. This was a pretty easy dish to cook, but completely impossible for me to put together. So our dish didn’t exactly look like the picture but oh well. It was kind of a korean-american fusion dish with the pseudo-kimchi toppings. But it was pretty good. I was full after eating two, so the hubs was only too happy to eat my last one. I think he was full after that, but I must mention that he did have a cheeseburger from McDonalds and 3 pieces of chicken nuggets before it. What can I say? The man can throw it down when it comes to food. =)

          

All in all, I think that it was kind of nice preparing food that we haven’t tried before. And because the recipe is set and all the ingredients are given, it’s kind of nice to cook a semi-fancy meal without worrying about what to cook and what to buy at the grocery store. Since there is that option of saying no to some weeks, we’ve decided to maybe try it once a month, or twice if we see recipes we would just love to try another week. Not really sure if it’s worth it price-wise, but since the hubs and I are foodies, it was nice to have a few date nights in the comforts of our own home =).