Friday, June 1, 2018

Strawberry Lemonade Ice Cream Cake

I created a new ice cream cake for our last Fun Run meeting a week ago. We have been meeting once every month since January and in previous years we always had coffee and treats at the final meeting. I think they forgot about that since I was the only one that brought anything. Totally fine since I had to use up more ice cream!

My latest ice cream cake creation has me using fresh strawberries, lemon goodies, and 1 1/2 tubs of vanilla ice cream. It's been a very warm Spring and I couldn't think of a more perfect ice cream cake to make. I have lemon and vanilla layers below and end with strawberry on top. I had plenty of lemon stuff to give it that tang and sour goodness so I had no need of any fresh lemons. It had just the right amount of lemon flavor in it. The strawberry flavor was not as strong but definitely present. I prefer more lemon than strawberry anyway and the cake as a whole wasn't overly sweet. I loved this balance but feel free to tweak it if you prefer more strawberry with just a tint of lemon.

Strawberry Lemonade Ice Cream Cake

1 box Meyer lemon cake with glaze (baked according to the box)
1/3 box of crushed lemon oreos cookies
1/2 jar of Trader Joe's lemon curd
1 1/2 tubs Tillamook vanilla ice cream
20 fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup whipping cream, cold
1 tsp gelatin, 4 tsp water
1 tsp strawberry flavor oil
sprinkles (optional)

Cook and reduce strawberries until it thickens. Cool then store it in the fridge.

Bake lemon cake, cool and drizzle 1/2 of lemon glaze onto the cake. Slice cake in half horizontally so it's not so thick. Line the pan you baked the cake in with new parchment or aluminum foil before assembling. This makes it easy to remove the cake later.

Start the cake by laying 1/2 of the cake onto the parchment paper. Then add 1/2 a tub of vanilla ice cream. Top with a layer of crushed lemon oreos and spread on 1/2 a jar of lemon curd. Top with the other half of the cake. Spread on 1/2 a tub of vanilla ice cream. Place the cake back in the freezer for a few hours.

Mix the remaining 1/2 of the lemon glaze from the cake into the cooked strawberries. That should sweeten it just a bit and give it a slight lemony flavor. Mix 1/2 of the strawberry mixture into 1/2 a tub of vanilla ice cream to make strawberry ice cream. Spread this onto the cake and freeze for a couple of hours. Puree the rest of the strawberry mixture. Drizzle some of this puree onto the cake. Freeze. Add 4 tsp of water to 1 tsp of gelatin, mix and then microwave for 30 seconds. Mix until it's dissolved. Whip the cold whipping cream until soft peaks appear and add 1-2 tbsp of sugar. Add the gelatin and whip. Add a squirt of strawberry flavored oil. Add a drop of red food coloring and whip. Pipe the stabilized whipped cream onto the cake, staying away from the edges. Add sprinkles if you wish. Freeze for a couple of hours.

When presenting, slice off the uneven edge all around the cake and then remove the cake from the parchment paper. The cake is gorgeous when you reveal all the layers inside like this :) Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Soccer Rice Krispie Treats

I love rice krispies. Even though they are ridiculously sweet. I don't know of any kid that doesn't like them. I especially love them because they are the easiest and fastest treats to make.

I'm tired these days. From mommying around and from working for the school PTSA. For my son's last soccer game of the Spring season, I needed something to make that was easy, good and of course cute and creative. I came across an image I found online of a treat with a soccer sticker on the bag that looked like it was part of the treat. The treat inside had green sprinkles on top of white icing that made it look a bit like grass. I love the idea! Especially, because soccer balls are hard to draw and make into food as I discovered the last time I made a soccer treat.

For our last soccer game, I made and gave out these soccer rice krispie treats to all the 12 players on the team. I made the coach another giant chocolate chip cookie. With two soccer seasons a year and the same coach and team every time, I'm starting to run out of soccer coach gift ideas! Lol.

Sadly, my cookie broke when I tried putting it into a grocery bag for transport:(

I used my favorite brown butter rice krispie recipe but with extra half-melted mini marshmallows inside and I dumped in some sprinkles too to make them like confetti. I'm still trying to use up all those extra sprinkles from the volunteer ice cream social! Then for the top, I just used green and yellow candy melts. When I finished dipping them into melted candies, I used a toothpick to draw out some grass. You need to do this when the candy melts are nearly dried. But don't wait until they fully dry! You'll know once you test it!

I bought these soccer stickers from Michaels and the package was exactly 12 soccer balls! Perfect. I think they were the perfect touch on the packaged treats! I love them but I honestly don't think the kids cared. Lol. I watched some of them and they tore the things open and just popped them into their mouths like hungry ghosts. Did they even notice the stickers on them? Did they see the grass I painstakingly marked with the toothpick? Did they even know what they were eating?? Who knows. And who cares but me. I still loved them :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

School Volunteer Ice Cream Social

This past weekend, I organized and hosted an ice cream social for our school volunteers. It was the first one of its kind that's funded and given by the school PTSA. As a volunteer coordinator this year, I have been trying to push for an appreciation event for all our volunteers since the beginning of the school year. The teachers have countless appreciation events that the PTSA organizes for them and they are showered with gifts throughout the year but we never did much for our volunteers. Plus, the teachers get paid and we offer our time for free. I mean teachers are great but so are volunteers and I saw that we needed to do much more for them. By showing volunteers that we value them, not only will we help recruit new volunteers and retain volunteers, but we will also inspire and encourage existing volunteers to do more.

It's not like we were getting nothing. There is always a volunteer breakfast at the end of the year that is hosted by the teachers but only a select few of us get an invitation. The volunteers that have a presence at the school usually get invited but many of our volunteers work from home behind the scenes. I'm one of them! And no, last year I was never invited even though I put over 300 hours of volunteer work towards the school. That's just not right. Instead of getting mad at the PTSA, I decided to make things right by being a volunteer coordinator this year.

Last week was National Volunteer Week and April is National Volunteer Month. In celebration of this and to show appreciation towards our PTSA, we had an ice cream social. And it was a success! I am so relieved the volunteer ice cream social is now over. It wasn't actually a lot of work because it was just ice cream. Everyone kind of expected me to do something after pitching so many appreciation ideas but after a few failed attempts at getting a budget approval, I didn't really want anything to do with it anymore. I was also busy with other stuff too. But then they started asking me about it and so I felt I had to do something. The ice cream social for our volunteers during National Volunteer Month was easily approved. Even if we didn't have something to celebrate, a social for volunteers was important for volunteers to get to know one another. The work and cost was minimal and we couldn't have been luckier with the weather. The event was held at the school playground and field to keep it nearby and to save costs on renting a venue.

I made a poster. Actually I made many posters. That's kind of my thing lately. I'm the poster/flyer lady. After this event, I'll probably be known as the ice cream lady. They are already asking me to do it for the next school next year. The boundary changes in our neighborhood is sending us to a new school next year. And yesterday, they were trying to recruit me for VP of Volunteers on the board. I sort of said no. I think I need a break.

The event was a hit for everyone who made it out but my estimates were really off. I proposed a budget based on attendance for 200 people and I pre-bought ice cream in advance when they were on sale. If all our volunteers came out with the their family, that could have easily been more than 400. I took a risk but only half my estimate RSVPed yes to the invite. Of that, only about 70% actually showed up. What! I did not expect that one. So we had leftover ice cream. A LOT of leftover ice cream. I don't think I can return them so I'm just going to eat them all over the next several months and get fat. Ha!

114 people replied yes to my invite. I brought along 15 tubs of ice cream, expecting extra people to show up because of the nice weather. I recruited three parent volunteers to help scoop ice cream, trying to stay away from board members. If anyone needs a break, it would be the board members! However, one of my good friends insisted on helping and she's on the board so she was the exception:) The other volunteer coordinator was also present to lend us a canopy tent and to help at the greeting table and help set up. Yes, we had a greeting table for an informal check-in where volunteers could get name tags. The idea was for them to write their name, along with a program or event that they helped with at the school.

We also had three kids help with sundae toppings. My son, my friend's daughter, and my son's friend, who was also the child of one of our ice cream scoopers. The kids of all the adult volunteers were actually very helpful in setting up too and were even fighting over turns with the toppings stations. I really wanted to involve the kids to help give relief to more parent volunteers. Let's not forget this was a volunteer appreciation event as well.

Here was what I brought along to the ice cream event:

9 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
3 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
1 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

42 oz Crushed Oreos
1 tub (7lb 8 oz) Chocolate Syrup
10+ oz Colored Sprinkles
2 bags mini marshmallows (10 oz coloured, 10 oz white)
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

160 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

What I should have brought instead:

5 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Vanilla Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Chocolate Ice Cream
2 tubs (1.75 Qt each) - Strawberry Ice Cream
2 box of 12 single fruit popsicle sticks (dairy-free)

20 oz Crushed Oreos
1 small bottle Chocolate Syrup
5 oz Colored Sprinkles
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 jar Cherries in Syrup (containing over 100 cherries)

80 small water bottles (8 oz each)
4 bags of ice (7 lbs each)

As you can see, I totally overdid it! Lol. But this is the first time we did this so now we know. The idea was to give each person a generous 6 oz ice cream serving in a cup. That is like 2 big scoops of ice cream. Unfortunately, we started off serving smaller scoops but I didn't notice since I was so busy with the setup of the sundae topping table. Half way through the event, I told our volunteers to offer up to 3 scoops and we allowed people to come back for seconds and even third servings! Lol. The event was only 1 hour long but the ice creams were already starting to melt.

Here are a few tips I would give to those who are thinking about doing an ice cream social:
  • Expect only about 80% of the RSVPs to actually show up & even those that show up may not want any ice cream
  • Be generous on the ice creams and toppings. It's hard to run out.
  • Don't pre-purchase ice cream until you have a good idea of the numbers.
  • Ice cream sundaes are great but even the non-dairy people wanted popsicles. Easier to have?
  • Buy an extra bag of ice or two. That may help keep the ice cream colder.
  • When there is no lineup, put the ice cream back in the coolers.
  • 1 hour for the social is plenty! Any longer and there will be a big melty mess.
  • Here was one of my favorite resource page:

It took me a few weeks here and there to research, organize, design the posters, search and shop for bargains and supplies. The cost of the event was only about $139, which included the cost of about $20 for posters. I made the posters with the idea that they could be reused year after year. So more cost savings down the road. Because I'm a skilled bargain hunter, I was able to buy a lot more and choose better quality ice cream and present everything in a more professional manner. We served Tillamook ice cream people! We were essentially able to give people pretty awesome sundaes at the cost of around $1.55 per person. Since we had so many leftover supplies, we could have served even more people and that would have brought the cost down even more. My goal was to keep it at no more than $2 per person so I'm quite happy with the final calculation. I'm a bit disappointed with the turn out but overall, I think the event was a success. And the weather was fantastic!  Yay:)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Ultimate Valentine Cupcakes

I am a Room Parent for my 9 year old son's class. As a Room Parent, I plan, prepare and some times host the class parties for Halloween, Valentine's, and the Year-End celebration. This involves researching ideas online for fun food creations and finding suitable craft projects or games for the age group in the class. Everything planned needs to be achievable in around 1 hour and has to be within the class party budget of roughly $50 per party. We are very fortunately at our school this year because our generous PTSA is giving every class up to $150 to spend on class parties for the year, which works out to be $50 per party. We buy what we need and then we reimburse for it. Since I make a lot of my own stuff from scratch, that is more than enough.

I have been a Room Parent since my son started school. Big surprise! I do spend a lot of time on it but I enjoy it. And it's only three times a year so it's not that tiring. *cough, cough* I love coming up with cool foods but the crafts are equally fun to work with too. To save time, I usually do a lot of prep work at home like pre-punching circles, pre-cutting triangles, and pre-painting sticks. And that was exactly what I did for our recent Valentine party! I can't do everything for them so the kids did have to cut out their own ears, eyes, glue, and write messages on the back of their craft. I think the cool part about the fox craft was that they could attach magnets to the back and put it up on their fridge.

Forget the craft, the showstopper at the party were the cupcakes though. But maybe it's because I love to eat sweets so much. I don't know. I made sure we served the cupcakes last. I had other healthier food servings like fruit cups and little cucumber bread bites to serve first. Another one of our awesome Room Parents made a fresh batch of strawberry watermelon lemonade as well. The kids in this class are truly spoiled!

Cara cara oranges, bananas, strawberries.

So about those cupcakes! Well, they weren't just cupcakes. They were cupcakes, cookies, and candies all in one. Why the heck not? I made my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and whipped up an extra large batch of swiss meringue buttercream. The cookies and XOX gummies were from Trader Joe's. And I'm so glad I bought them when they first arrived at the store. They sold out pretty fast! At first, I thought all the decorations were too much but now I think they were great. Because they're on top of the cupcakes, I was able to make sure everyone received the same thing and it was stuck on so nothing shifted during the travel to school. And they're kind of cute, no?

I was going to stop here. But then decided to keep going.

And just like that, we're down to one more party to do before school is over! I can do this people.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday Party: Book Themed Cake - Part 4

It was a great party. Great because we pulled it off without too many glitches and I wasn't even that stressed out on the party day. That is largely thanks to my husband and family for helping out while I concentrated on the kid's activities. I may have planned the whole party by my myself but I had a party crew to help me execute it. I knew exactly what I wanted so I just had to demonstrate and then they took over. Volia!

We provided lots of entertainment, good food, and I absolutely loved the Harry Potter decorations. The kids even took home a cool loot bag. But I'm very impressed and pleased that my husband and other family members thought to take a lot of pictures at the party. It's not always the case but this year we had tons of photos. That made the day even better!

Oh yeah, and the cake turned out alright. Lol. The themed birthday cake is one of the main attractions of a birthday party. I actually only get to make themed cakes once or twice a year. The last themed cake I made was a year ago for my son's 8th birthday party. I know I don't make them often anymore so there was a little part of me that wasn't quite sure I could pull it off. When it came time to make a fresh batch of fondant, I hacked at it a bit and it felt a little stiff to me. It was definitely different and it was challenging to roll out. Jeez, I should just follow the recipe! Aargh.

I found a great tutorial online on how to create the Harry Potter book cake and I more or less followed that. I watched it a day or two before making the cake but I probably should have reviewed it before making the cake because I forgot about some of the features. Oops. I probably only used half the fondant they used in the tutorial. I did not have any fondant under the cake. I figured I could slide just bits of fondant on the sides and make it look like it was underneath and I was right! I hate using so much fondant because it's so sweet and everyone in my family complains about that, including me. However, when fondant is rolled super thin, it's so hard to handle. Duh.

I wished I took more pictures of my cake as I was making it but my hands were sticky with fondant and covered in cornstarch and food color. No one was around for me to ask for a photo. Believe me when I tell you that I had serious doubts this cake was going to look good. The cake itself was fine and would be delicious since it was cooked perfectly. My fondant was too thin (I never learn!) and it was so difficult to place on the cake. It cracked and ripped in so many places and I tried to lift it to move it, which was a big mistake. The better solution I found was just to slide it since the icing below is slippery. So it looked pretty messed up. At that point I thought this was going to be a disaster.

As time went by, the appearance of it improved. I was in total repair and fix mode for an hour or so. I started to patch more things up and I strategically placed design pieces to cover a lot of the flaws. It still had cracks in the end but it was alright because it was meant to look like an old book. I had to fix an entire section by removing a corner and then putting new fondant on it. It was a risky move but it really helped make things look better. Then came the dusting, painting then labeling. So after several hours, I was finally happy with it and could dismiss myself to bed. Good grief!

Left side: The goal. Right side: What I actually achieved.

I had to buy some black color powder to make my cake. But that was it! I'm so glad I was able to create my cake with everything else I had at home. The golden snitch is a cake ball wrapped in fondant. The wand is all fondant. I really wanted the cake to be 100% edible and the idea of using toothpicks for the wings sounded like a bad idea for me. My fondant would have never held. So it wasn't how I imagined it (it never is!) but I got it done! All things considered, I think it was a success. I'm done for another year! :)

Check how thin that fondant is!

We all had Harry Potter themed clothes on. Because we're a dorky family, yo :P

Friday, December 1, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday Party: The Loot Bag - Part 3

There's no better way to end a great birthday party than to go home with a cool souvenir or loot bag. Kids birthday parties are super awesome.

We invited just a small group of kids to my son's 9th birthday party. Six kids were invited and five were able to make it. That's all my husband can handle at our house. The nice thing about such a small group is that we could give each of them nicer things in their loot bag.

Here were the things I decided to put in their loot bags:
  • Homemade wand
  • Plastic cauldron container and broom pen (bought)
  • Spell sheet
  • Small chocolate bar (Dementor chocolate)
  • Jelly beans (Bertie Bott's every flavour beans)

I went to Michaels with my son and got him to pick out the jewels to attach to the wands we were going to make for him and his friends. For his own wand, he picked the marble piece and he drew me a picture of exactly what he wanted his wand to look like. Lol.

The wands were so easy to make and they looked fabulous. I finished them off with a label and some twine. If Computer Science doesn't work out for me when I get my Green Card I may just start up my own etsy shop and sell wands. Lol.

I bought a wax candle and stamp ages ago and never had the chance to use it until now. It just all came to me lately. Loved that! I wanted to include something else in the cauldron instead of just the pen and I didn't want it to be more food. The spell sheet was perfect and it would give the kids a little something to remember the party by.

The small chocolate bars are from Trader Joe's. I bought some that were all milk chocolate and some were milk chocolate with rice krispies. The cool labels I found online and I just had to resize them to fit my chocolates.

The jelly beans were also from Trader Joe's. I had to photoshop the design and package the beans and the whole treat took me the longest time to prepare. As a result, I actually have a total separate blog post on it and wanted to make the Bertie Bott's every flavour beans label available as a download on my site. For personal use please!

I drew glasses and a scar on a large kraft bag and then printed off a thank you label I found online for the other side of the bag. I placed everything into the bag except for the wands since we had to use the wands for activities during the party.

And that's my Harry Potter party loot bag. I loved it and I think the kids loved it. Hopefully, I am able to give others some cool ideas too:) And that makes all the work worth while.

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