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Mini Sweet Potato Pies (with Brandy Whipped Cream)

Sweet potatoes are one of my all time favorite foods. Considering myself a southerner now, I guess there are some things I take for granted - like Sweet Potato Pie.  When a friend asked me for a suggestion of what her contribution to her family's annual Christmas brunch should be, I said "How about sweet potato pie?"  She told me she had never had sweet potato pie.  {CLUTCH THE PEARLS} She also told me that her family leans toward bite sized items that they set up and nibble on throughout the day.  I had to help her out... Here is the recipe I gave her:

3 cups warm mashed sweet potatoes - I prefer to bake the potatoes.  Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet or foil and bake for about 45 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.  I tend to overbake (almost burn) the potatoes because I find the longer they cook, the sweeter they become.

3 eggs
3/4 cup - 1 cup brown sugar - this will really depend on how sweet the potatoes are, so start with 3/4 cup sugar. If you feel like you need more sugar, you can add more brown sugar or white sugar. (just make it as sweet as you want)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- since you are going to make brandy whipped cream, go ahead and use 2 tsp brandy instead of vanilla if you want.

Peel sweet potatoes while they are still hot, then mix with hand mixer
For those of you who are not sweet potato aficionados, let me share a secret. The WORST Sweet Potato pie is one that is stringy (full of the tiny strings that are visible in sweet potatoes). As a young wannabe chef, my mother taught me a great trick to rid your potatoes of those strings. Use a regular hand mixture to initially mash up the sweet potatoes. You can see in the picture above the strings on the beaters. Run your finger along the beater to see what I am referring to. DO NOT put those strings back into your mashed sweet potatoes. Rinse the beaters and start mixing again with clean beaters. Yes, you will feel like you are wasting a bit of valuable sweet potato, but it's worth it to have a smooth pie!!

Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, and spices into the mashed potatoes. Add the cream and stir well. (if you feel you need more spices, add more... use your judgement)
I will admit. For this recipe, I cheated and used refrigerated pie crust. {No harm, No foul}
Roll the pie crust out so that it is pretty thin (about 1/4 inch thick). Use a circle cookie cutter big enough for the circle to line a mini cupcake pan. If you are using a non stick pan, you should be ok just putting the pie crust in the pan. If it is not a nonstick pan, spray very lightly with nonstick cooking spray like PAM.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the potato mixture into pie crusts and if any of the mixture drips on the exposed crust, wipe it off or it will burn the crust. Since these are so small, check them at about 25 minutes. Pies may puff up, but don't worry about that, they will flatten when done. keep an eye on the exposed crust. Use that as your judge of if the pies are done. Remove pies when the crust in nicely browned.
Let pies cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from and allow to continue to cool on a wire rack.

Whip together the whipped cream and top the pies right before you get ready to serve them.

A tip for making whipped cream. place the beaters and the (metal) bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before whipping the cream. It helps when everything is cold (the bowl, the beaters, and the cream)
I got this whipped cream recipe from Bon Appetit - It is easy and delicious.
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Using an electric mixer, beat whipping cream, brandy, and sugar in large bowl until soft peaks form. cover and chill up to 6 hours.
Top each pie with the brandy whipped cream and a little sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!!!

Red Velvet Everything

Red Velvet anything is the hottest thing smoking these days.  Here are a few pics of the Red Velvet whoopie pies and the Red Velvet mini donuts I made a few weeks ago. I won't bore you with my recipe, but let's just say, my red velvet is always a hit, be it cake, cupcakes, donuts, whoopie pies, or even waffles.  If you really want the recipe, leave me a comment and let me know.

To place an order for Red Velvet ANYTHING in the Chicagoland area, visit Cakegirl's Kitchen or give us a call at 678-644-0567

Heath Cookies

I am no cookie queen, but with the office cookie exchange a couple of days away, I was convinced that I could make an awesome cookie using only items I already had on hand in my pantry. In addition to the normal kitchen staples (flour, sugar, butter) I had a half bag of mini chocolate chips, some pecans, some Heath Bar toffee pieces on hand...The Heath Cookie was born.  Here is the recipe:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup Heath toffee pieces
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Using a stand mixer with the mixing paddle attached, cream together softened butter and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt - mix into butter mixture. Add remaining ingredients.  Mix until well blended.  You may have to use a spoon or a spatula to mix once you get all of the chips and nuts in the bowl.

Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a quality cookie sheet (no flimsy pans) with parchment paper.  Using a small ice cream scoop, drop cookies onto cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between cookies on each side.  When the cookies begin to cook, you do not want them to touch each other.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Watch for the edges to brown.  Do not let them get too brown and overcook.

Immediately remove the cookies from the pan, and allow them to cool on a wire rack.  Once the cookie are cool, place in an airtight container.

These cookies will have crisp edges and a chewy center.  They are not overwhelming chocolate, perfectly sweet, and just the right amount nutty.  They go great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.


Candy Coated Pretzel Rods

I received a very specific request... Tell me how to make Chocolate Covered Pretzels so that I can give them away as gifts to my coworkers.  Great idea.  Chocolate covered pretzels are easy, inexpensive to make, and quite tasty.
Here is my technique.  You only need a few simple items - pretzel rods, candy coating, toppings, and plastic pretzel bags.

I have tried several different candy coating, but I like to use Vanilla Candiquik.  You can get it in most grocery stores in the aisle where chocolate chips and other baking supplies are sold.  If your store does not carry Candiquik, they will have a product called Almond Bark.  The two items are very similar and can be used interchangeably.  I usually use Snyder's of Hanover Pretzel Rods.  They are always fresh with a minimum number of broken pretzels int he bag.One 16oz package of candy coating will cover two bags of pretzel rods.  Here are a few ideas for toppings, but be creative - you can top off these pretzels with just about anything you'd like.  Some toppings I have used in the past include rainbow sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and nerds. Pretzel bags can be purchased at Walmart or Michael's.  They are in the section with the Wilton cake making supplies.

Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper.  

The easiest way to melt the coating is to place the entire block of Vanilla or Chocolate coating in a large glass bowl.  Microwave on high for one minute.  Gently stir the coating, then continue to microwave in 30 second increments until the candy begins to soften.  After each 30 second time frame, stir the candy coating. 

*You are not looking to completely melt the coating in the microwave.  As the chocolate heats up, the continuous stirring will help the chocolate to become smooth.
*Keep all liquids away from your candy coating.  If any liquid gets into your candy coating, it will seize up and not be useable.  This is very important to know.

Once the coating is smooth, pour some of it into a tall drinking glass. Using a tall drinking glass will make it easy to dip the pretzels and remelt the candy coating as it cools and hardens.  Dip one pretzel rod 3/4 of the way into the coating and be patient. Lift the pretzel and give the excess coating a few moments to run off back into the glass.  Wait about 30 seconds, then holding the pretzel over one of the prepared pans sprinkle with your topping.
*If you are using a "heavy" topping like mini chocolate chips, allow the pretzel to firm up just a bit before sprinkling with the chocolate chips or they may fall off.
*If you are having problems with the topping sticking to the chocolate, you can sit the pretzel down, then sprinkle your topping over each pretzel.  

Allow the pretzels to sit for about 15 minutes.  They will firm up quite quickly.  Once you are finished coating all of your pretzels, put one or two in each pretzel bag and tie the top with curling ribbon or a twist tie.  Here are a few photos of some candy coated pretzels that I have prepared.

I Can Do That...

Today, I had an epiphany.  The purpose of  this blog is to inspire your creativity, it's not to provide step by step instructions to create.  I usually don't follow instructions and I don't think you should either.  Even when I post full recipes, I encourage you to make them your own.  Flip the script. Rock the boat. I try to take pictures to document my processes, but sometimes I forget.  I attempt to take pictures of the final product... but sometimes, I don't get perfect shots.  I will post projects I have worked on and I will share the source of my inspiration. Inspiration which comes to me in varied forms.  I am on Pinterest, yes.  I follow a lot of blogs yes, but most of all,  I think A LOT.  I get input from my friends and I get absorbed in what I am working on.  I can see a common everyday item and think... yeah, I can make THAT into something.

If you have been following the blog since it's inception, you know that my focus over the past few months has been my daughter's 9th birthday party. The theme of the party was a Carnival.  If she EVER forgets this party, that means she has serious amnesia because the party was above and beyond any expectations a nine year old should have for a party.  Let me share some of my ambitious creations.

The number one item that started it all was this... I felt like I could make a Ferris Wheel Cupcake Display out of a bike rim.  I didn't know how, but I knew I could do it.  I googled it, searched Pinterest, but I could not find anyone that had done it.  I bought a bike rim for $10 that I found on Craig's List and I painted it.  At least I had started... then I looked at it for weeks.  I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to the guy at Lowe's that was patient enough to believe in my vision and walk around the store with me for over 30 minutes, helping make my spotty vision a reality. Here is how it turned out:
I did not have a blueprint or a plan, this project was truly organic, taking form bit by bit.  I used a round base, screwed in a 2x4, nailed the rim to the base, used wire to secure the pieces of metal that would hold the cupcakes to the rim, painted everything, and circled the whole thing with a strand of Christmas lights.  Originally I wanted it to spin, but I was content with the final outcome.  I think it came out pretty good for someone who is not a builder!!!

I drink a lot of bottled water.  I know, not the best thing as far as the environment goes, but I do.  My brand of choice is Blu Italy from Trader Joes.  The water comes in lemon, lime, and plain.  Not only is it good tasting at a good price, but I love the way the bottles look.  I thought using these bottles would be great for a ring toss game.  About 75 empty bottles later, a cardboard potato chip "pallet" that I swiped from my local Sam's Club, a bottle of Aleene's Quick Dry Tacky Glue, and a bag of ring toss rings and I had an awesome Ring Toss game.  Since I do not drink many of the plain flavor, there were only 5 blue bottle tops.  If a kid got a ring on the blue bottle top, they got a prize.

I was a bit disappointed when I was told that the place where I was holding the Carnival Party did not allow PiƱatas.  I needed an alternative.  I remembered I had seen a few Punch Out Game tutorials online that I knew I could remix and make my own.  Having recently relocated, I had a wardrobe box that I thought would work out perfectly, and it did.  I cut 9 holes in each side of the box and taped paper bags with small gifts (whistles, dollar bills, party horns) behind each hole.  Although it was a bit awkward taping the paper bags inside, it turned out great and the kids loved it.  I rented a Plinko game and numbered the sides of the box.  Whichever number the Plinko chip landed on, the child was able to punch out a circle from that side.


One day while on Pinterest, I came across the instructions for mini marquee letters. I was smitten with the project, and who would not want to see their name up in lights?  I wasn't committed to the idea though.  Not until my blogging partner over at A Candid Love Met Creativity encouraged my madness.  "You can do it!" she said.  And then I was all in.  This is one project that takes commitment.  I didn't complete it all in one day. I did it over a period of a few weeks working bit by bit.  I was very happy with the final product.  I tweaked the original instructions by adding some flashing lights and placing the whole thing inside of a cardboard box to contain the wires and to make it easy to transport.  This will now be a permanent fixture in my daughter's room.  
I hope my projects inspire you to step out of norm of just following step by step instructions.  When you see something you like, just tell yourself, "I CAN DO THAT!"
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