Halloween Happenings and Fun Food to Celebrate

Halloween is a fun holiday around our house. It usually involves at least one elaborate cardboard costume for my son — this year is no different. (Follow me over on Instagram where I’ll be posting a few photos tonight.) And, I usually bake some sweet treats to mark the occasion.

candy corn cupcakeA couple of years ago I made these cupcakes with the most delicious white chocolate icing (recipe here). Just add a few candy corns and they turned into a great Halloween cupcake.

Halloween cakeThis guy is getting a ton of attention on the site right now. He’s Mr. Popular. I like to call him Mr. Easy — it’s a great last-minute cake. I made this one year when my husband’s boss and his family were coming over for dinner the weekend before Halloween. I needed a dessert, but didn’t have tons of time. This was a big hit and is a real winner. Click over to see the inside (and how to make it)– it’s as cute as the outside.

alien birthday cakeAnd, then there’s this sweet guy. I didn’t make him for Halloween, but he’s perfect for the occasion. One year my son wanted an orange cake and this is what I came up with. He’s truly one of, if not THE, favorite cake I’ve ever made. Check out how I made him.

How ever you celebrate, I hope you have a fun and safe evening!

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of BalancingMotherhood.com. Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.
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Blueberry Pancake Muffins and Joy the Baker’s Cookbook

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post.
Delicous blueberry pancake muffin recipeThis post is a double whammy of deliciousness. I’ve got a beautiful blueberry pancake muffin — yes, you read that right — a pancake muffin. The deliciousness of this little guy is almost unbearable. And, I’m going to tell you about Joy the Baker’s new cookbook, Homemade Decadence.

Homemade Decadence by Joy the BakerThis cookbook is amazing. I got it in the mail and cradled it like a baby, carrying it with me all around the house. I’d take a peek at a few pages, then tuck it under my arm and go to the next room where I’d read a bit more. I couldn’t put it down. I put little sticky notes on the recipes I want to make.

Joy the Baker apple pie from Homemade DecadenceBut what to make first?

There’s the apple pie recipe with, are you ready?, cheddar-bacon crust. I WILL be making this. I can almost taste the flavor of the bacon and cheddar against the apple filling. It’s going to be amazing.

Joy the Bake Confetti CookiesThen there are these sweet, colorful vanilla bean confetti cookies. My kids will love these.

But, I was hungry now and decided to make her blueberry pancake muffins. We’re on a muffin kick at my house and these sounded perfect.

Blueberry pancake muffins I made these the same day I made the homemade granola bars so I’ve got some extra ingredients in this shot, but these muffins are easy to make. Super moist, just like a pancake, but well, in the shape of a muffin.

blueberry pancake muffinThen comes the glaze. Maple syrup heated with a bit of lemon juice until it thickens. It cools like a wonderful sugary glaze on top of the muffins, and seeps into the core while it’s still hot, giving the maple flavor throughout the entire muffin.

blueberry pancake muffinOne last shot of the glaze. My son took this one, “from the perspective of the muffin,” he said. And, yeah, that’s me in my Depeche Mode T-shirt.

Joy Wilson, that’s Joy the Baker to us, writes that these muffins will “keep for up to 2 days.” Two days? I thought this was a bit extreme, but it doesn’t matter because they will be eaten before the time expires. Trust me on this one.

Blueberry Pancake Muffins

Adapted from Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson, AKA joythebaker.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 blueberries
  • Glaze
  • 3/4 maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients: milk, egg, egg yolk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  3. Add melted, but cooled, butter and stir to combine.
  4. In separate bowl: whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the wet ingredient mixture to the dry ingredient mixture and stir gently.
  5. Fold in blueberries.
  6. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups.
  7. Bake until tops are golden, about 18 minutes.
  8. While muffins are in the oven, make the maple glaze: in saucepan over low heat, stir maple syrup and lemon juice, bringing to a simmer. Cook like this, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.
  9. Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools, but don't let it cool too much or it will be difficult to spread.
  10. When the muffins are done, poke holes with toothpick and spoon glaze over the top of the muffin. Be careful not to pour a glaze that is too thin on the muffins otherwise it will run down the side of the muffin liner and make quite a mess! Just monitor the glaze carefully while it's cooling, until the desired thickness is reached.
http://www.balancingmotherhood.com/2014/10/28/blueberry-pancake-muffins-and-joy-the-bakers-cookbook/

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program. Affiliate links are used in this post. Opinions are my own.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of BalancingMotherhood.com. Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.
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Last week I told you about Food Blog Forum that was held in Asheville, NC and promised to show The Biltmore House today. Not only and I talking about The Biltmore House, but we’re going behind-the-scenes!

As part of the conference, I got a special backstage tour of The Biltmore House. Not only did we get to dine at Biltmore, and sample treats from the various restaurants, but we got go in rooms usually roped off to the public. And, we were allowed to take photos. This excited me as much as the tour.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCHere she is — from atop the hill where we dined one night. Just look at that view. Can you even image living there? It’s so Downton Abbey!

The Biltmore House Asheville NCAnd, what about the views?

The Biltmore House Asheville NC
Everywhere you turn, there are majestic, long range mountain views.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCThe breakfast room. Formal, yet so much smaller than the dining room. Get this — single house members (and I think guests) we “required” to eat breakfast in the breakfast room. If you were married, you could eat in your room.

I just started watching Downton Abbey and when Lady Mary got married she takes this to heart and stops having breakfast downstairs. So, it must be true!

The Biltmore House Asheville NCTea time! This is served in one of the side sitting rooms.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCThe dining room is as impressive as it seems. All the red chairs lined up waiting for guests. There is a small table in this room for when the family is not entertaining (top right). They were able to still eat formally, without having to use the large table.

The library at The Biltmore House Asheville NCAh, the library. It’s quite the book collection: 10,800 in all.

The library at The Biltmore House Asheville NCThere is a small balcony on the second level to get to the books up high.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCHere’s the kitchen. Love those copper pots. This is a pretty large room — they needed it to in order to cook everything for their large dinner parties.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCThis is a menu book for dinner one night.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCDownstairs is where the servants did much of their work to maintain The Biltmore House. This is one of the tables downstairs where they dined.

biltmore_meYeah, that’s me, up on the deck where the Vanderbilts must have sit watching the sunset. From now on you can call me Lady Alicia.

The Biltmore House Asheville NCI can’t help but also share two more photos: this is food. Look how beautiful it is. This was one of the samples we had. Delish.

Food Blog Forum at The Biltmore HouseOh, and I always save the best for last: dessert. These chocolate cakes were divine.

Disclosure: My tour was part of the Food Blog Forum conference. I have not been compensated for this post. No way, no how.

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Homemade Granola Bars

homemade granola bars: the perfect healthy snack
If you would have told me just a year ago that I’d be making my own granola bars I’d have said you were off your rocker. Seriously, make granola bars? Yet, here I am telling you today that indeed I do make these delicious homemade treats from scratch. And, I have to say, it’s really not that hard and doesn’t take that long. The reward of eating something you made is totally worth the effort on this one.

Truth be told, I got sick and tired of buying boxes of individually wrapped granola bars only for them to disappear in a few days. We were eating them all the time. Have you seen those things? They are either 1. totally expensive or 2. tiny, tiny bars — and in some cases, both! Be gone store-bought granola bars.  Enter this fabulous recipe that any home cook can manage.

homemade granola bars | a simple and healthy treat
There are only a few ingredients. This is a great opportunity to use organic, but go with what you have to get you started.

homemade granola bars: the perfect healthy snack
You mix the dry ingredients together. This batch I added raisins.

granola1
I just use my hands to mix it all together. Easy-peasy.

mixing the honey
Mix the wet ingredients. Use a whisk to get it mixed together until it forms one liquid. Then mix the dry and wet ingredients. You may want a spoon for this. Mix until all the oats are completely coated with the honey mixture.

homemade granola bars | a simple and healthy treat
Drop it on a sheet pan that has sides. I used a 9×13 and just pressed it down until it was even. They are about an inch thick.

Next, bake away. Keep your eye on the oven — you know it best. Don’t let these babies burn, but do let them cook long enough.

homemade granola bars | a simple and healthy treat
After they are done cooling in the pan, cut them into individual bars. Sometimes I cut traditional bars, other times I cut squares. I like to change things up sometimes.

The best part about this recipe is that you can use the base recipe and add different ingredients to it like dried cranberries or cherries, almonds, or other types of chocolate chips.

Many of my bars break during the cutting process, but I just crumble them up and use them as toppings in cereal and yogurt. Nothing is wasted with these babies.

Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from Weelicious.com

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (or other treat like dried fruit)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. Line 9x13 baking sheet (with sides) with parchment paper or a silpat liner
  3. Combine dry ingredients: oats, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and salt
  4. In separate bowl combine the wet ingredients: oil, honey, and vanilla
  5. Pout the combined honey mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir until oats are well coated and honey mixture is evenly distributed
  6. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet, pressing down to achieve evenness
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes (and not longer), then cut into desired shape
http://www.balancingmotherhood.com/2014/10/23/homemade-granola-bars/

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Foodie Paradise: Food Blog Forum

Two months ago I went to the Food Blog Forum, an amazing conference for food bloggers that was being held in my hometown of Asheville, NC. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since — all the things I learned. The wonderful people I met. And the food. There was exquisite and amazing food. Truly a foodie paradise. Here’s just a taste from my few days of paradise.

Food Blog Forum Highland Brewing EventWe were treated to a food tasting lunch at Highland Brewing where they had restaurants from around Asheville talking about their menus. Each table had a different sample. Every single table was amazing, and just simply too many to mention all of them here. Simply know that Asheville is a foodie town that doesn’t disappoint.

Top left is from Biscuit Head. It’s a fried chicken biscuit with sriracha slaw (you could eat just the slaw and walk away satisfied) and topped with nothing less than a piece of bacon. This is one of the most amazing breakfast spots in all of Asheville. It’s true that the biscuits are the size of cat heads. Everything I’ve ever had from there has been divine.

Next, are ribs from the place President Obama made famous with his more-then-once stop at 12 Bones. You must try their jalapeno cheese grits. Amazing. Just slightly spicy, but mild from the cheese. They are my favorite part about 12 Bones. Visitors take note: 12 Bones is only open for lunch. I know! It’s a crime, really. And, their River Arts District (near downtown) location is only open for lunch on the weekday. So, if you are visiting Asheville during a weekend and you insist on a 12 Bones stop, you can go to their south-side location for lunch on Saturday. Both restaurants are closed on Sunday.

They also had local vendors like the honey display from The Asheville Bee Charmer. So much of what we learned during the Food Blog Forum was about local food. Asheville is a great town for it.

And, of course, since it was at a brewery they were showcasing some of Highland’s craft beers. They were served in the cutest miniature beer glasses.

Food Blog Forum salted honey caramelsI saved my favorite for last in this part: salted honey caramels from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It’s really hard to describe these amazing chocolates. Maybe it’s best to just tell you that I ate 3 of them, and I wanted more. I tried one and immediately went back for another. They are soft and chewy and are packed with rich caramel flavor. The sea salt is the perfect combination that throws the taste over the top. I had to get one more, you know, for the road — before the bus took us to our next stop. The Chocolate Lounge is a must stop on any trip to Asheville. Local tip: there is usually a long line out the door so plan ahead — it’s well worth the wait! Oh, and you must, must, must try one of their liquid truffles. It’s tiny, but share it with a friend because it’s so decadent that a few sips and you’ll die and go to Heaven. Amen.
Food Blog Forum Hickory Nut Gap FarmNext was a tour of the Hickory Nut Gap Farm. It’s a local farm that offers grass-feed and antibiotic-free beef and other meats. We hoofed it up the hill to meet the lady cows who were having their afternoon stroll.Food Blog Forum Looking Glass CreameryAnd, then we stopped at a local creamery, Looking Glass Creamery. They make cheese and caramel. Inside this barn is where the magic happens.

Food Blog Forum Looking Glass CreameryAfter a lovely tour, the bus came back to bring us back to the hotel. At the last second, I jumped back into the creamery and bought this cheese. Look at how creamy, and gooey it is. It’s perfectly lovely. We sampled this and I couldn’t get enough. Kind of like the salted caramels from earlier in the day. I had to remind myself this was a sample. You don’t pig out on samples. So, I purchased a $10 block of this cheese and brought it home to share with those less fortunate souls who weren’t invited to this creamery tour (i.e. my husband). The cheese is aptly named, Elllington. It’s sophisticated, dreamy, and memorable.

Next Friday I’ll take you behind the scenes of The Biltmore House. We had the pleasure of being hosted by Biltmore and got quite the royal treatment.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of BalancingMotherhood.com. Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.
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