RECIPE: Chocolate Sprinkle and Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops

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I made these cake balls for a holiday school bake sale 5 weeks ago, and am just putting them up now. I have grown to love making cake balls for big events where I need to make a lot of something for a lot of people. Usually big potlucks, festivals, parties and fundraisers have a lot of activity going on. Usually the guests don't have both hands and a chair to enjoy what you bring. Cake balls are great for just that. You can even eat these while walking around with one hand.

You can get a lot of cake balls from this recipe. I was able to make about 50 cake pops. As Marie Barone said on Everybody Loves Raymond, "Honey, I am the bake sale!" You show up with 50 of these cake pops sold at around $2 a pop, and you can really raise some good money AND make a lot of tummies happy. I rolled half of these in peppermint candy bits, and I sprinkled the other half with colored sprinkles.

One more note, this cake batter is AMAZING. It is so moist and delicious, and is derived from the cake ball diva herself, You can really eat the cake on its own with a light whipped cream frosting. Conveniently, the recipe makes a massive amount of cake. You will only use a little over 3/4 of the cake in the 15" x 10" pan. So save the other saved rectangle of cake for eating later when you have had a rough day and need chocolate therapy, which happens weekly over here!

Chocolate Sprinkle and Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops


50 or so small cupcake liners
candy/lollipop sticks from a craft store (can use Popsicle or bamboo sticks)
2 bags Wilton milk chocolate candy melts
canola oil (about 2 Tbsp. total)
double boiler
1 1/2 cups broken candy cane bits
decorative sprinkles

Cake Recipe:
nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups good quality unsweetened cocoa
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups water

Frosting for ball mixture:
1 8 oz. square cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. milk


Heat oven to 350˚.  Spray a 15 x 10 inch Pyrex pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with cocoa powder. Set aside.

Mix flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. With a paddle attachment, mix the oil, buttermilk, vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add hot water. Scrape the sides and blend a few minutes more until smooth.

I cut that little piece because I wanted to taste it. It was worth it.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan, and bake for 45 minutes on the middle rack. The cake should spring back to the touch and toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Cut chunks off the cake and crumble finely with your fingers into a large mixing bowl. Cut away leaving a 5"or 6" x 8" strip of cake for eating later. Crumble away with your fingers until a fine texture is in the bowl. I use fingers versus a food processor, because I want the cake texture to still be in the balls. A food processor makes the cake texture too fine for my tastes.

In a small bowl, whip the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and whip some more, adding milk and vanilla as you go. Whip until fluffy and smooth.

Add the frosting into the crumbled cake, mixing with a spatula until the mixture is malleable and able to be shaped. Shape the cake into balls the size of a large walnut. Push a stick at the center sticking up and set, ball down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Keep shaping more, sticking them and adding them to the sheet. When the sheet is filled, store in the freezer. Continue until all the mixture is shaped. Store in the freezer until ready to be dressed up.

Melt the first bag of candy melts in the double boiler with a Tbsp. of oil. Mix until smooth. Dip each frozen ball into the chocolate, coating it completely. Either roll it then in the peppermint bits and set down, or set down directly and sprinkle it with colored sprinkles. Do the same with the 2nd bag of melts as you need it, adding oil to keep things smooth and workable.

Store balls back in the freezer until ready to serve. When ready, place in small cupcake/truffle liners and let them sit out at room temp. 5-10 minutes before serving. Freezer works better than the refrigerator for storing, otherwise they sweat too much in storage and look wet and sloppy when served.

Now go have some chocolate therapy...with or without vodka!

RECIPE & PRODUCT REVIEW: Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball and Milk Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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Santa brought my daughter this really fun toy called The Mega Ice Cream ball. She had her eye on it for a while and I was not sure if the thing really would work. We tried it twice and it worked both times, and the ice cream was really great!

The premise is that your child and siblings or friends roll the ball around back and forth for about 30 minutes. The shaking of it with the freezing ice surrounding it creates ice cream in the central container.

We really have enjoyed this gadget. Here is what I like about it.

It works.
It was affordable.
It gives the kids some exercise.
It keeps them away from the TV.
You get enough ice cream to save in the freezer for later.
Use it outside in the summer or inside as something physical to do in the winter months. Roll it on a carpet.

We tried a couple of recipes and approaches, and we found that the Ben and Jerry's recipe base is a creamier ice cream, being able to be stored in the freezer better. Unfortunately, this is the higher fat version. It is very good, almost like Haagen Dazs. We tried a version with lighter half and half with no eggs, and it was good. But it became icy as we tried to store it for a few days. Here is a picture of the half and half mix so you can see. My daughter still enjoyed it. This was a "hot cocoa" ice cream. using 4 packets of instant hot cocoa inside the half and half.

Hot cocoa with half and half. See the ice? More water, more iciness. Less creamy.

Below is the recipe we made that I highly recommend. It does use egg and full cream, but it is oh so good. Supposedly you can make a sorbet with the ball as well. We will give that a try soon. If you are a mom trying to figure out a way to keep the kids moving and distracted from video games and the TV this winter, this funky ball will help. It helped me!

Milk Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


2 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Hershey's chocolate bars, broken up

A lot of ice
1 1/4 cup kosher salt, plus 1/3 more


In the bottom of the ball, fill with ice and add the salt. Tighten cap with the tightener provided. Turn over and uncap the ice cream receptacle.

In a bowl, whisk the egg until it is foamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking really well after each addition. Add the cream and milk, whisking until well combined. Add the vanilla and whisk again. Pour into the container.

Finely chop the chocolate. Add the chocolate to the container and mix. Put the cap on and tighten with the tightener gently.

Roll the ball around, shaking and tossing and rolling for 15 minutes. We set a timer, tell jokes or take turns playing I spy as we roll back and forth. My daughter came up with wearing mittens as we do this, because the ball gets very cold and hard to handle. When the timer goes off, uncap the ice cream with the tightener, and scrape the sides with a plastic spoon or wooden spoon, mixing the solids with the liquids. Cap tightly again. Turn the ball over and uncap the ice opening. Drain off the water, using the cap to block the ice from falling out. Fill with more ice and add 1/3 cup more salt. Cap tightly again, and shake again for 15 more minutes.

Your ice cream is done! Scrape out the ice cream and store in an air tight container.

Try not to use a hard metal object in the ice cream container, it will scratch. Use plastic, wood or rubber.

RECIPE: Baked Chocolate Panettone French Toast

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OK. I have to kind of pre-apologize for this recipe. I know its close to New Years Resolution time and all, and this recipe is really not on that regime whatsoever. Its decadent and delicious. But it is great for brunch guests for sure, which you still may have between now and New Years Day. This makes great use of left over Chocolate Panettone. We Italians always have a plethora of these holiday sweet breads around the house. Unfortunately, I end up nibbling the left overs a week after opening it, not helping with my will power. So, I decided yesterday, the way I see it, get the eating of the leftovers in one sit down and than you can get back to your diet. This is a great recipe to use it all up.

If you have just the plain panettone versus the chocolate, I would spice things up with some coffee/espresso and cinnamon, or even mixed spices with a little orange juice. Also, I have included a couple recipes for some whipped mascarpone cream you could dollop on top if you wish. We just used syrup but if you wanted to be all fancy with guests, this would be a lovely addition.

Baked Chocolate Panettone French Toast


3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (2% or full fat)
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
3/4 to a whole chocolate covered and/or filled panettone, sliced 1/2" thick
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 cup cocoa powder
Maple syrup for garnish
Hazelnut or Almond Mascarpone Creme (optional)


Preheat oven to 400˚, with a rack in the middle of the oven, and one at the top.

Generously butter 1 or 2 rectangular Pyrex pans, depending on how many slices you have. In a bowl, whisk eggs, condensed milk and regular milk. Add the vanilla and cocoa, whisk some more.

Dip each bread slice in the batter, let drip, than lay in the pan. Continue with all the slices, fitting them snugly in the pan. With the left over batter, divide between two pans, pouring evenly over the slices. With the back of a spoon, push down on the bread so it soaks up the batter, taking care to see if stiff, dry ends need special attention. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, tilting the pan around periodically do the bread absorbs all the liquid.

Bake at 400˚ for about 20 min on the middle rack. Bread will have absorbed all the liquid and beginning to puff up. Raise temp to 425˚, and place pans on the top rack for 3-5 minutes. This will add a crisp, golden color.

Serve warm with maple syrup and if you wish, mascarpone creme.

For the hazelnut mascarpone crème from
1 tablespoon hazelnut cream paste (such as Nutella)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 dash freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip until light and fluffy, serve.

For the almond mascarpone crème

 2 cups mascarpone cheese 
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp. almond extract or Amaretto

Whip until light and fluffy, serve.

CRAFT: Upcycled Easy T-Shirt Scarf

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Here is a great, green craft idea that is fashionable and easy. I found the idea on a wonderful craft blog at I wanted to post this earlier, but I did not want to spoil the surprise to some of my friends and family that were receiving this as a gift for Christmas. If you were purging your closet and getting rid of old, large T-shirts, this is a great way to keep it out of the landfill and make better use out of it. I prefer to use large or extra large shirts. The more squares you can get out of a shirt, the longer the scarf. The longer it is, the more you can have it go around to create the fluffy, textural shape around the neck line. I also like shirts that have some nice graphic accents to them. When the design gets cut up and spread out throughout the scarf, it adds a nice graphic, edgy touch. It also allows the wearer to have better flexibility with what she could wear with it.

I made about 14 of these for Christmas. They are quite easy, especially if you use a rotary cutter and a mat. It creates clean edges on the squares and goes much quicker. If you don't have enough T-shirts in your attic, a local thrift shop will have plenty of large and extra large shirts at a very affordable price. I actually went in the men's section for these and made a lot of earthy-colored scarfs. I wanted to make sure I had enough squares per scarf to make it long enough. Each scarf had about 30-45 squares. The longer, the better.

Here is how I made them:

First, launder the shirt. Cut the side seams right up to the sleeve. Then cut the sleeve off evenly with the seam, as shown here. You want straight edge right up to the top.

Next, use a ruler and a rotary cutter to clean up the edge. Then, using a 4 1/2" square template, line up a ruler and cut a 4 1/2" strip. Keep going until you have the shirt cut up into 4 1/2" strips. Next, line up the template on the 1st strip, and cut vertically until all strips are cut into 4 1/2" squares.

Next, place one square in front of you, right side up, in the shape of a diamond. Be sure you are turning around every other square to be right side up (because they will not be on account of a T shirt being right sides outward.) Place the next square on top of the first, with the bottom tip in the center point of the bottom square, in the shape of a diamond. Pin it in place. Then place the third on top of the last one, bottom point in the center of the last. As you move up, roll the bottom gently upwards. Continue pinning the top upwards and rolling the bottom half as you go until all is done.
You will end up with a pinned roll of squares. 

Under the sewing machine, place the scarf, topmost square outside of the roll, under the foot and unroll the first batch of squares, laying the rest of the roll in your lap. Sweep your hand under the unrolled squares so points lie flat under the scarf. I found points roll under or fly up, so be sure you stop every few unrolled squares so make things lie flat as the squares feed through the machine. I used a straight stitch, but you can experiment with zigzag stitches or other decorative stitches in you wish. As squares feed into the machine, unpin as you go, as squares will unroll nicely out of your lap so that fabric is easy to control. Keep going until all squares are all sewn together.

And there you go! A fun, chic scarf!

RECIPE: Cran-Apple Orange Shortbread Thumbprints

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Are you baking?

I just spent three days straight baking. We Caputo women take it pretty seriously. I take vacation time and hang with the lady folk of our family, baking traditional Italian stuff while listening to carols. It's nice. I started the tradition over 15 years ago so we can force ourselves to slow down and spend time with our mother, and each other. Good times.

Then, on the third day, mamma has some fun. I forgo Christmas carols for some Frightened Rabbit and Joy Formidable, and mix crazy things together like lemon lavender cookies, eggnog drops and coffee cocoa ribbons!

I know...crazy.

Well, last night. I was out of eggs to finish my final batch of cookies, lime cremes. I had shortbread thumbprints with nothing to fill them with. So I turned up the music with my creativity and whipped up these. Lime cremes are now...

Cran-Apple Orange Shortbread Thumbprints



1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks. room temp
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt


1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup applesauce
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. orange marmalade
1 tsp. cornstarch

Powdered sugar for garnish


Preheat oven to 325˚. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla and salt until well whipped and light. Turn mixer on low and add flour until well combined. Shape dough into 1" balls. Set them on a lined cookie sheet 1 1/2 " apart. Use the end of a wooden spoon to make an indentation in the middle of the cookie. pushing it on an angle and around to make the whole a little bigger. Bake 12-15 minutes, switching pans halfway through for even baking. Cookies will be set, but not brown. Let cool for one minute on sheets, then remove onto cooling racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, mix the cranberries with the applesauce, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for five minutes, or until cranberries are softened. Mix the cornstarch with the marmalade. Add it to the cranberry mix, stirring well. Cook until thick and bubbly, 2-3 minutes. Let cool completely. It will gel up and become thick.

Fill cookies with cranberry mixture. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

INFOGRAPHIC TUESDAY: Do Men or Women Achieve Work/Life Balance?

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Well, get prepared to be a little depressed. According to this study, men seem to be happier with better work/life balance. They seem to take more breaks for themselves, make more money and do less housework.

SO, what lesson is this for me?

I am going to take my walks at Starbucks during my workday.

I am going to call a cleaning lady.

I am going to ask for a raise.

The smoking and more sex part is negotiable. The latter is only because I have a sneaky suspicion that a good night's sleep is also very good for work life balance, too.

Enjoy...sort of.

RECIPE: Northeastern Apple Maple Muffins

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I recently finished a school project with my daughter about the Northeastern States. She had to collect a handful of recipes that were representative of those states. She really wanted to make sure she had a handful of maple and apple recipes in her cookbook. And in typical Mother/Daughter style, we could not agree on which muffin recipe to choose. One was a simple traditional recipe from historical sites in the Northeast that she wanted to use. However I found a recipe in a Time-Life series we own about regional cooking that had maple and hazelnuts in it. Of course, it was her project, and she won. But, we had to make something from the cookbook to bring to class. I decided to add maple, milk, apple sauce and extra spices to the recipe-after all, I have a baking reputation to uphold in her class! The recipe my daughter chose was a little too plain for my tastes. This recipe yielded 24-28 medium size muffins.

Northeastern Apple Maple Muffins


3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
26-28 paper cupcake liners
Brown sugar for sprinkling


Place a paper liner in each muffin tin and set aside. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients with a fork (flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder). In another bowl, whisk eggs with milk until lightly beaten. Add oil, apple sauce and maple syrup, and whisk until mixed. Add half the liquid to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Add the rest of the liquid and whisk with either a whisk or fork until just combined. Do not overmix.

With a tablespoon, pour the batter into each liner to about 2/3 full. Sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of each. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until puffy and lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pull out the muffins to put on a cooling rack to cool completely.

CRAFT: A Dragon Cinch Sack-ROAR & CHOMP!

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My daughter has become obsessed with dragons, preferably Asian ones-but she will take any as long as its big, fierce with lots of teeth and scales. Recently, she had to do a book project in which they had to create a bag for the book, and put items in it that relate to the story. We were talking about what her plan was going to be, and of course her book had to do with a white mountain dragon. I laughingly said, "Wouldn't it be fun if the sack looked like a dragon's mouth and it looked like it was eating your hand as you pulled items out to share with the class?" Of course, I should learn from my day job in advertising, never mention anything you don't plan on executing. SO my daughter's eyes lit up and 10 minutes later she and I had a sketch for our "Dragon Bag". It would involve simple sewing, ribbon, notions and some remnant fabric. But in the end, she had a bag she could keep to store other stuff and of course, her teacher loved it.

I am sharing it on the blog because, though our execution was a little rudimentary (my daughter did have to do most of the work-it was her project), I think if a true crafter did a tidier version of this, it would make a pretty nifty gift for a dragon lover anywhere. You could use silks and velvets for an Asian dragon, or fake furs for a furry dragon. You could make different animals with teeth-a fox or alligator? It took a couple hours plus a trip to the craft store, a voila! A sack that could eat anyone's arm off in style.

To follow our dragon sack you will need:
1-2 yards, depending on the size of your bag, of the outer fabric of the dragon. I got mine in the remnant bin.

Same amount of red fabric for the inside of the cinch sack, to look like a mouth

1 square of white felt for teeth and eyes

1 square of stiff glitter felt for the back scales

3-4 yards of "scales", I used tassle fringe trim, but you can get tulle trim, sew felt "scale" shapes in a row to a thin ribbon as "trim", strips of fur or even textured lace

black sharpie

two jewels for eyes

1/2 yard ribbon for the closure-or whatever you bag needs to have enough to cinch close and open

Cut your outer fabric a little bigger than the finished size you want. I wanted mine to be roughly 14" long, so I cut a rectangle of about 15-16". Measure and cut your red fabric the same size.

Use fabric glue or sew the "scales", starting at the bottom of the right side of your outer fabric, overlapping slightly as you go. Leave an open area near the top for eyes and nose, if you wish. Do the same for the other side.

Sew the red fabric to both pieces of the outer fabric with the scales on, right sides together, as if you were sewing a pillow. For each "side", sew all edges except the one at the top. Turn them inside out.

Now, right side together again with white/red pieces, sew all edges except the top.

Roll down the top about 3/4" so you make an area to thread your ribbon, and cut away a white strip so you see a red edge from the outside. Now sew along the bottom of the fold edges on both sides, leaving an open area near the edges so you can thread the ribbon through.

Turn inside out. Now cut your teeth by measuring the length of your felt and the bag, and sketching out your teeth shapes. Cut and use fabric glue to adhere the teeth to the red edge of the mouth. Do the top and bottom. Let dry for 10 minutes. Use a safety pin and pin the edge of your ribbon. This is your "handle" as you thread the ribbon through the top of the bag. Scoot the ribbon through the inside of the seam, pushing the pin through until you get to the side you started at. Pull it out, take off the safety pin, cut access and tie a knot.

Using your marker, cut an almond shape for the eyes, cut and glue. Use a marker to draw irises on the jewels, and glue to the felt shapes in the middle. Let dry.

Cut a large scale shape with triangles from the stiffer felt that will go down the center of the front of the bag. Fold a crease along it about 1/4". This will help to glue and adhere the scales to the bag. Let dry a few minutes.

There! You have your fierce dragon cinch sack!
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