Last week, I celebrated my half birthday. While I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be for my birthday in December, I’m determined to make it somewhere warm! (So obviously, Chicago isn’t going to cut it. :-P) In honor of the half and to celebrate the start of warmer temps, I hosted a tropical-themed dinner party for a some close friends. It only seemed fitting to recap a couple recipes from the event for my first Fiesta Friday Blog Party. (Thanks for the invite to participate, Jhuls!)
The full dinner party spread looked like this:
- Appetizers: watermelon, chips & salsa, drunk gummies and fruit glazed meatballs
- Main course: pineapple & ham fried rice, BBQ pulled chicken on Hawaiian rolls and ginger & garlic green beans
- Dessert: double coconut cupcakes and watermelon cookie “slices”
- Drink: tropical ginger punch
I also had a few fun and tropical wearables – leis and party glasses, courtesy of Oriental Trading. (I had to practice restraint when browsing through the Luau section — so many cute and appropriately themed things!)
OK, time to skip to the desserts. The watermelon cookie slices really DID taste like watermelon! (Several friends were convinced I’d melted watermelon Jolly Ranchers into the batter, as they swore that’s what they were reminded of when sampling the cookies.) But the solution to make these cookies was a lot simpler. I turned a box of Betty Crocker Watermelon Cupcake Mix into cake mix cookies, and added some icing and green sugar to create the rind. I used my roommate’s “muffin tops” pan to create the larger cookies, and cut them in half once they’d baked (and had time to cool) to create the slices. (Want to learn how to create cake mix cookies? See my recipe for Strawberry White Chocolate Cookies.)
The Double Coconut Cupcakes were a bit more involved, though I still used a box of cake mix for the base batter. (Hey, I had three other courses to worry about! :-P) Once out of the oven, these cupcakes were super light and spongy. The condensed milk and coconut on top makes them look pretty even without the frosting.
- 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 box white cake mix
- 1 1/4 cups almond coconut milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 4 egg whites
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons almond coconut milk
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small frying pan, cook sweetened coconut flakes over low-medium heat for a few minutes. Stir often and watch carefully, as the flakes will easily burn if left unattended.
2. Mix toasted coconut with condensed milk. In a separate bowl, combine cake mix, milk, vegetable oil and egg whites together using a mixer on low for the first minute and at medium speed for another 2 minutes.
3. Insert liners in muffin tins and fill liners about 3/4ths full with batter. Scoop condensed milk/coconut mixture atop batter on each cupcake.
4. Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
5. While cupcakes are cooling, create frosting by beating butter smooth with a hand mixer. Gradually blend in powdered sugar to form a crumbly mix. Next, add in milk and mix until desired consistency.
6. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle tops with toasted coconut.
This recipe was adapted from Crazy for Crust.
Happy New Year! Right now, it’s ridiculously cold here in Chicago. I mean, it’s Fuh-REE-Zing. In fact, we have sub zero temps outside today. Some locals have dubbed it the land of “CHIberia.” To avoid cabin fever syndrome, I ventured out last night to a birthday party, but aside from that event and a few errands I ran yesterday, I’ve been cooped up inside all weekend. I’ve got my slow cooker simmering away with Chipotle Chicken Soup and a fresh mug of Raspberry Pomegranate tea by my side.
I also made a batch of Cool Whip Cookies, or as I like to call them, “cloud cookies,” because of their light and fluffy taste and texture. This time I opted for the power of PINK. (Click to see the Lemon Cool Whip Cookies here, inspired by this summer’s sunshine. Man, we could use some of that sun now!)
The Makings: (1 batch yields ~2 dozen cookies)
1. In a medium sized bowl, beat together eggs and entire contents of the Cool Whip container. Slowly add in cake mix, until it’s folded into the batter. Chill mixture for 1 hour in the fridge.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and remove chilled dough.
3. Scoop balls of dough – about 1 tablespoon per ball – and roll them in powdered sugar. Place powdered dough balls on a cookie sheet. (Here, I also sprinkled on some pink sugar for an extra pinch of PINK.)
4. Bake cookies for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the bottom and the tops of the cookies are lightly golden.
The return of cold weather also signals the return of pumpkin flavored food (and drink)! My absolute favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving is my dad’s pumpkin pie. Every year, he’s kind enough to make me my own pie; I’m never quite able to get through it on my own, so I end up sharing some with the family a few days later. :-P But still! It’s the idea of having my very own pie that delights me.
Last year at the Renegade Craft Fair, I bought my dad this pie print. It really reminded me of him because he’s a master pie creator and he also used to quote Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. :) His favorite gesture was the “Dr. Evil pinky.”
Okay, back to the pumpkin bread! To create this loaf, you use a pumpkin cookie cutter to cut out pumpkin-shaped slices of bread. You place the cutouts back into the loaf pan and pour the pound cake batter over them. Then everything bakes and the pumpkin surprise inside is revealed once you slice into the pound cake.
- Pumpkin bread mix – 1 box
- Pound cake mix – 1 box
- Eggs – 4
- Canola oil
- Orange food coloring
- Cream cheese icing
- Chopped nuts – I used walnuts for the topping
- Pumpkin cookie cutter
1. Prepare pumpkin bread mix as directed on the package. Stir in food coloring to give the batter more of an orange color. I used drops of red and yellow food coloring to create my orange tint.
2. Pour batter into a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Consult recommended baking times on package and bake for 5-10 minutes less. (The bread will have time to bake again.)
3. Remove loaf from pan and let it cool. Cut into thick slices and then use pumpkin cookie cutter to create pumpkin shapes from slices. (My cookie cutter was too large to use for slices, so I only used about 2/3 of the shape. I marked my end points with masking tape to ensure evenly sized cutouts.)
4. Place cutouts in greased loaf pan and then prepare pound cake mix as directed.
5. Pour pound cake batter atop pumpkin bread slices in loaf pan. Be careful not to overfill the pan. (You will likely have extra pound cake batter remaining.)
6. Bake pound cake as directed. Remove from loaf pan and allow time to cool.
7. Apply cream cheese icing and chopped nuts.
A team potluck event = an excellent reason to bake. :) I wanted to try another cake mix cookie recipe, after having easily made a batch of Lemon Cool Whip Cookies and Strawberry White Chocolate Cookies. Using the same recipe format as the Strawberry White Chocolate batch, I just swapped the cake mix flavor from Strawberry to Betty Crocker’s Triple Chocolate Fudge and the chocolate chips to Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips.
The result was a light and fluffy cookie version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. YUM. The PB chips provided a nice amount of salt to the sweetness of the chocolate. (Plus, the recipe doesn’t call for you to use the whole bag, so you’ll have a few extra PB chips to snack on while you wait. :)) Click here for cake mix cookie recipe instructions. If you’re looking for more PB & Chocolate goodness, try these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins.