Healthy Cupcakes Take TODAY Show’s Top Prize!

Sue Walter TODAY Show

Can you believe it?? My “Too Good to Be Healthy” Black Bottom Cupcakes landed me on the TODAY Show last Thursday, as a finalist in Joy Bauer’s contest. AND -we won! (We, as in the cupcakes and me, and also as in shared honors with the nervous contestant #1 who fainted right before we went on air.)

Since everyone’s been asking me what the experience was like (and what was in that prize basket?), I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes highlights.

The real stars of the day!

The real stars of the day!

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“Too Good to Be Healthy” Black Bottom Cupcakes

Lighter black bottom cupcake

Can you have your cupcake and eat it too? With these lightened up, nutrition-enhanced beauties, the answer is yes! You don’t have to tell anyone that you cut back on the sugar, or that you swapped out all the oil for fat-free Greek yogurt and puréed prunes. Just don’t do as I did and eat 3 cupcakes in one sitting; that kind of works against the whole “eating healthy” idea. Continue reading

Holiday Open House 2013

Mini gingerbread cupcakes

For those who couldn’t make my Blog Holiday Open House earlier this month, here’s a little taste of what you missed.

This year’s theme was “Christmas in Paris” – I thought having a theme would help focus the menu and provide décor inspiration. Some of my menu items were legit French (i.e., gougères, or cheese puffs), but most were French-inspired/French-ish. I had fun creating a French Christmas theme board on Pinterest – a great way to organize ideas for a party.

Oui -those are little Eiffel Towers on my apron.

Oui -those are little Eiffel Towers on my apron.

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Blackberry Crumble Bars

blackberry crumble bar

With school back in session and the days getting cooler, summer’s becoming a distant memory. The good news is that this also signals the beginning of baking season (for me, anyway).  With the warm, tart taste of summer’s wild blackberries still lingering in our heads, I thought these blackberry/oatmeal/walnut crumble bars would make the perfect back-to-school treat. Summer sandwiched between layers of fall.

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No-Bake Grasshopper Pie

No-Bake Grasshopper Pie

Sure – red, white and blue flag cakes are really cute and patriotic, but there’s an easier summer dessert that will get just as many ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd: No-Bake Grasshopper Pie.  In summer, sometimes simple is best. Especially if simple involves mint chocolate chip ice cream. And Oreos.  Continue reading

No Yolk: Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta “Eggs”

April Fool's Panna Cotta Egg

Old-world panna cotta is experiencing a renaissance these days, and for good reason. This no-bake, gluten-free dessert is a giggly blank canvas for seasonal flavors and embellishments, from rhubarb compote to gingerbread crumbles. Sounds fancy, but panna cotta is really just barely-sweetened Jell-O made with cream (or milk or Greek yogurt) instead of water. Since it must be made ahead (in order to set up in the fridge), panna cotta perfect for entertaining. Busy restaurants love it for this reason as well.

Back in 1999, when I was voted one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs, I began experimenting with all kinds of different flavorings, shapes and toppings for panna cotta.

That's me - front row, second from the right.

That’s me – front row, second from the right.

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Quick-n-Easy Cookie Pops

Oreo Cookie Pops

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – an especially fun and goodie-filled holiday for kids, as well as for women with creative, generous, romantic spouses . . .

While expressing love with a Valentine’s card is always appropriate, a little homemade treat can make the sentiment even sweeter. These Oreo cookie pops look fancy and festive, but can be assembled and decorated in less than half an hour. Sweet mother of shortcuts!

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S’mores Bars

When chocolate cravings hit, they hit hard. One of the (many many) great things about having kids is that it gives you an excuse to make ridiculously indulgent treats like these S’mores Bars. “They’re for the kids!” you say to anyone raising an eyebrow, or to yourself, as you polish off an entire row.

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Ice Cream Sand-Witch

Has this ever happened to you?

You duck into the grocery store for one thing (something you need for a recipe and/or forgot from the last visit to the store). Once in the store you start thinking about other things you need, and soon you have a cart full of stuff. (And of course you didn’t bring your reusable bags in from the car because you were only supposed to be getting one thing.) All this, and by the time you get home you realize you forgot the one thing you went to the store for in the first place.

This just happened to me today, and not for the first time.  I think I should coin it “Grocery Store ADD”, and shopping lists are the only way to cure it. Unfortunately, I didn’t bother making a list because I was only supposed to be getting one thing – gruyère cheese for my cauliflower gratin. The cheese never made it home. Before I could get to the cheese aisle, I had to pass some Halloween displays and the ice cream aisle end cap display. This is what got me derailed:

I’d never noticed this product before, and instantly I had an idea that got me all excited (and forgetful, apparently).  The wheels were turning.

With a few store-bought products and the vanilla ice cream I had at home, I could quickly whip up some ice cream witches’ hats for after school snacks. By cutting down the cones, the portion of ice cream becomes just right for kids (or, ahem, moms).

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Deca-dent

This seems impossible, but my baby girl turns 10 today.  A whole decade – whoosh! I know this time warp happens to all parents, but I still feel blindsided. Luckily there is a tiny bit of leftover birthday cake from this weekend’s festivities to console me.

Initially I had big plans for a Cake Boss-esque masterpiece – maybe a fondant-covered purse cake or something appropriately bling-y for a 10-year-old girl. But then I came to my senses! There was no way that was going to happen this weekend between soccer practices, soccer games and Grandma Jean’s 80th birthday celebration. So on to Plan B: this candy-embellished cake made a big impact and took less than 20 minutes to decorate, including the homemade frosting. Whether making a cake or savoring childhood, every minute counts.

10 years ago . . .

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