Happy Birthday Norm: Birthday Cake for Dogs and Humans

Norman turns nine this week. After his cancer scare last month and the surgery that followed, we are celebrating his life and health more than ever. This birthday cake is edible for dogs and humans, so it is perfect for spoiling our furry friend.

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I scoured the web for dog-friendly cake ideas and ended up combining a couple of recipes to come up with this. It’s quick and easy. My older daughter had a great time helping bake it.

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Full disclosure: It wasn’t my favorite cake in the world, but it wasn’t terrible. Norman, actually a fussy eater most of the time, devoured his serving. My daughter thought it was so cool that she and her dog brother could eat the same cake.

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I loved this green striped number candle by Papyrus that I found at Safeway. My daughter helped Norman blow out his candle and said she made a wish for him. Later, she revealed the wish: “I hope Norman gets a princess.” I think he has more princesses around than he can handle.

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Recipe:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (plus more for frosting the cake)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg

 

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour and baking soda.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir with a spatula until combined.
  • Place in a greased 9-inch pan.
  • Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 30 minutes and frost with peanut butter.
  • Serve to dogs and humans alike!

Christmas Spirit and A Delicious Chocolate Cake

Normally I am a proponent of holding off on decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but this past weekend I started looking at our busy schedule for the next few weeks. That led to hauling the decorations up from the basement, putting everything up, and baking this delicious cake featured in the gorgeous winter issue of Magnolia Journal. The girls even napped to Christmas music while I scurried about cleaning up glitter and cocoa powder.

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Three years old might be the most magical age when it comes to enthusiasm for the holidays. I want to bottle every moment with my oldest daughter. OK, maybe not the occasional tantrum, but you get my drift.

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We put the tree in the dining room this year, mainly because my youngest daughter just started crawling so finding a safe spot in the living room proved to be a challenge. However, I really like it in this spot. It is great to enjoy it during dinner, and it happens to be in front of a window that faces the street.

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The magic of the holidays is in the air. The time between Halloween and New Year’s goes so quickly and seems to fly even faster now that I have two children of my own. I’m trying to focus on work-life balance as much as possible so I don’t miss the special times attending my daughter’s Thanksgiving lunch at preschool and helping with the church Christmas program.

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The recipe for this delicious cake is below. It would make a great treat to share as a holiday gift or to serve at upcoming gatherings. Hint: It doesn’t hurt to pair it with a dry red wine.

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Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups water

 

  • Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Let the butter and eggs stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. Add cocoa powder. Shake and tilt pan to generously coat the bottom, sides, and tube. Shake out any excess cocoa powder.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, microwave unsweetened chocolate 1 to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add both sugars. Beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat until combined.
  • Alternately add flour mixture and the water to the chocolate mixture. Beat on low after each addition until just combined. Pour into pan, spreading evenly.
  • Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Sift powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder over the cake.

Halloween Fruit Dip

I love this easy and delicious fruit dip that can be dyed for any festivity. Of course I have been doing orange lately for my little goblin.

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It’s just one softened brick of cream cheese beaten together with one 7-ounce container of marshmallow cream. Then dye the dip according to your food coloring instructions.

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Serve with your favorite fruit.

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It’s the perfect snack for a girl watching college football with her daddy.

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Slow Cooker Andouille Corn Chowder

Chilly October days call for hearty soups that can simmer all day. Corn chowder with Andouille sausage is one of my favorites. The Andouille adds a bit of spice, but the creamy base tones it down. My three-year-old said “It’s a little spicy, but not too spicy.”

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I slice the Andouille into about one-inch cubes because I like the chowder to be chunky, yet want the pieces bit-sized. Slow cooker meals are a great way for kids to help because they can throw in ingredients without risk of a hot stove or splatters.

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Everything gets combined in the slow cooker for this tasty soup. Then the only thing left to do is cut up some bread, sprinkle the soup with a bit of shredded cheese, and serve. This is so hearty and satisfying. The leftovers are great, too!

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Recipe:

  • Heat a diced medium-size onion in a little butter until tender.
  • Combine 3 cups chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half, a bag of frozen corn, 2-3 cups of diced potatoes (I peeled mine because I used russets), and a diced Andouille sausage in a slow cooker.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. I also threw in a bay leaf.
  • Cook on high for 3 hours or low for at least 6 hours until potatoes are tender.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/2 cup of half-and-half and add it to the soup.
  • Allow to cook for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Garnish with cheese and serve!

Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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Lamb with Tzatziki

On a lovely summer night what could be better than grilling and dining on the deck? Last night the hubby and I made lamb with tzatziki sauce. It was simple and delicious.

We started by marinating a small rack of lamb (16 very small chops) for about an hour in the marinade listed below. This was the perfect amount of food for us with a small bed of couscous, but could easily serve four people with a couple more side dishes. Tabbouleh or roasted potatoes would be great!

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Marinade: Combine a teaspoon of chopped garlic, two tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper, a tablespoon fresh thyme, and three tablespoons olive oil in a food processor just until blended. Then pour into a plastic bag and add the individual chops. Marinate about an hour.

Grilling the lamb: Grill the lamb chops over direct heat at 450 degrees for about three minutes on each side.

Tzatziki: Whisk together one cup of Greek yogurt, three tablespoons vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, salad pepper, and a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint. Drizzle over meat or use as dip.

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Pizza Night

Homemade pizza night is a favorite in our house. My two-year-old, husband, and I all love it, and the only side dish required is a simple lettuce salad.

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When I have fresh basil on-hand like this gorgeous stuff from my herb garden, it becomes the star of the show. There are tons of great pizza dough recipes out there, but I often just grab a couple of pre-made crusts at the grocery store. Pillsbury canned pizza crust is also good.

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I usually involve my daughter in topping the pizzas, but last night she had better things to do like playing in her new sandbox.

When it comes to topping pizzas, the possibilities are endless, but here are three of my favorites:

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Margherita Artichoke (shown here): I spread about a cup of tomato sauce on my crust and cover with shredded mozzarella and artichoke hearts (I buy the kind packed in oil in a jar.) This time I threw some pepperoni on, too, per my hubby’s request. I bake for 12 minutes before topping with lots of fresh basil and baking for an additional minute to slightly wilt the basil. Fresh basil is a must!

Pear, Caramelized Onion, and Gouda: Instead of pizza sauce, I drizzle the crust with plenty of olive oil. I slice two pears very thinly along with one small red onion and sauté all in a skillet with yet more olive oil just for a few minutes. I layer the crust with thin slices of Gouda and then top with the pears and onions before baking about 12 minutes.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Goat Cheese: Again, I drizzle the crust with olive oil and sprinkle on a little shredded mozzarella to hold things together. I layer on thin slices of prosciutto and crumble on  goat cheese. I bake it for about 12 minutes and then pile on a lot of fresh arugula.

Helpful Hint: We prefer a crispier crust in our house so I always bake the crust for a couple minutes before topping it regardless of if I’m using homemade dough, canned, or a pre-made crust.

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