Sunday, August 26, 2007

Off to a Beach Party...

What a beautiful and sunny day it is today and we're just heading out the door to our little niece's Beach Birthday Party. But no need to go empty handed so we'll take a Chocolate Rum Cake for the adults, these fun dice for the kids to play and some stale leftover bread for the birds ;)

For our honeymoon, hubby and I took the most beautiful Royal Caribbean cruise where one of our ports included Grand Cayman Island. During our tour we came across one of the island's specialities: rum cake. That day we brought back 10 cakes to share with our family and a bottle of Tortuga rum. Well, I've never been able to duplicate those cakes exactly but this recipe comes very damn close...

Rum Cake

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 yellow cake mix package (today I used a Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix)
1 instant vanilla pudding mix package (chocolate pudding mix)
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark rum

1 stick butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan (although I didn't have any today). Combine all cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert on serving plate. Prick top with fork.

Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. (this is a lot of glaze for this size of cake so you may want to half the glaze recipe)

Drizzle glaze over top of cake. Use brush or spoon to put extra dripping back on cake. The longer this cakes sits, the better the taste.


Going to parties, I always like to arm myself with a kids game, just in case the children become bored or are to shy to introduce themselves to the others. There's something to be said when both children and the adults are kept entertained- I think it just becomes a better party.

Crazy Dice

I took 2 small square boxes - that were holding sample baby formula in my cupboards and covered them in white wrapping paper. On one dice, I wrote a different activity on each side, such as:

Do the Macarena/chicken dance
Do 5 pushups
Do 10 jumping jacks
Jump as high as you can
Walk holding a ball in between your knees
Do a cartwheel

On the On the other die, I had the following:

Say the alphabet
Count how many letters are in your name
Count from 1-20 backwards
Sing the Head & Shoulders game
Spell your name backwards
Say a nursery rhyme

I tailored my dice for the children attending the party whose ages range from 3-8. Each child then rolls the dice and does the two challenges at the same time, like 5 pushups while saying a nursery rhyme. Next time I'll take empty dice and have the children write in the different activities.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Rainy Saturday...

Thought I'd start the day being very productive and preparing Stuffed Shells for the upcoming busy weeks ahead of us. It's a great freezer dish (thanks to Giada...) and very yummy!

Turkey and Mushroom Stuffed Shells

1 box jumbo pasta shells (approximately 40 shells)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
4 ounces jarred roasted red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon of pimento paste
1 package of mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
½ - 2/3 of (454 g) container ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta on a cookie sheet (to cool down faster).

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, and spray pan with olive oil as it is heating. Add ground turkey and brown, breaking it up to cook evenly. Drain fat from pan. Bringing turkey back to the pan, add pimento pepper, garlic and onions and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Add roasted peppers and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine. (Optional: Run a hand blender through mixture for thinness to better stuff the shells).

Bring all ingredients to room temperature before stuffing the shells (if you want to freeze it).

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a baking dish with 1 cup of tomato sauce. Take a shell and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 1 tablespoon. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full. Drizzle the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen).

Today the shells were served with a spinach salad, thinly sliced red onions, 1/4 cup of mandarin oranges and 1 tbsp of dried cranberries. I like to serve the salad with a light poppyseed dressing on the side so that the dressing can be placed on the salad using the fork prongs.

The rest of the day was rainy and gloomy so hubby and I decided to have "bar food" at home. Made a quick nacho dish (wholegrain Tostitos, diced red peppers, sprinkling of salsa and shredded cheddar cheese - served with some salsa and sour cream on the side). We also had some Buffalo Wings & Buffalo chicken breast strips - a quick seasoning bag that I always have on hand in the cupboard made this a quick dish to prepare.

Introducing Helena...

I was inspired by my fellow nesties and all their blogs that I had to start one of my own. I've titled my blog "At Home with Helena" because I love everything that has to do with a home.

rom the great food, the decorating, the extravagant parties, the romance, to the sound of healthy children running around everywhere....

ere's to a great time ahead!