Jess Creativ Treasures

Cakes and cupcakes are all the rage at any given celebration we host since I love playing with icing and swirls and sprinkles, but this summer I put down the piping bag filled with buttercream to allow the work of my talented girlfriend, Jess, take the stage!

When we were celebrating Bradley prior to his leaving for Boot Camp, I was looking for something different and fun to add to the day.  I mean we all love sweets, but sometimes buttercream is just too much and not everyone is a fan of fondant.  While brainstorming ideas, I happened to catch a post from Jess in my social media and it clicked…

Cookies!

We needed gorgeous, fun, colorful and themed cookies for the perfect addition to our party!

I have long admired Jess’s handiwork…. Y’all, she is so talented! Decorative cookies take a A LOT of patience and quite a bit of time; each one is a work of art. These aren’t your everyday cookies from the Publix bakery, no, these are special and made with care. From baby showers to my US Marine, Jess does a wonderful job making sure your cookies are not only delicious but the perfect centerpiece for your dessert buffet!

I can assure you these cookies are fantastic and delicious as they were completely wiped out in a matter of minutes!

And if these beautiful & intricately decorated USMC cookies don’t convince you cookies are the perfect decorative dessert, check out a few more of Jess’s fabulous treats!

If you’re interested in cookies for your next event, Jess will meet you in metro Atlanta, but she has shipped before as well! Check out her Facebook page … Jess Creative Treasures … for more information or to order cookies for your next event!!

Late Summer at Pollo Tropical

It seems more and more families are looking for healthier options when dinning out while traveling or after a late day of sports. I know when we chose to dine out I really research healthier options because that is super important to my own family!

Fortunately we live in an area where several healthier options are available, including the inconspicuous Pollo Tropical; an upscale fast food option.

Last week I was invited to try a few new menu options as well as taste some of their original eats from this unique brand.

What makes Pollo Tropical different from other fast food restaurants?

** How about no freezers in the restaurant?! Everything is brought in fresh; prepped and prepared fresh in house daily.

**Pollo Tropical serves chicken that is natural; in other words, no hormones or antibiotics have been injected into their chicken as it was raised.

**The chicken is marinated in their special citrus marinade overnight and grilled fresh (never frozen) & right where you can watch.

** Recipes are traditional made with fresh ingredients daily, including the sauces on the sauce bar.

**Pollo Tropical prides itself in not using trans fats in their foods, and because everything is prepared fresh in-house there are a lot less unnatural preservatives in your food!

While known for their citrus marinated grilled chicken, Pollo Tropical has added Pollo Bites; fresh marinated chicken, dipped and battered in-house then fried in canola oil. These for perfect for those kiddos that love their chicken nuggets!

Also new to the menu are a couple of different chicken sandwiches. The chicken BLT with spicy chipotle ranch is so delicious!

For lighter fare, the bacon-shrimp salad served with dressing hits the spot. The shrimp is also marinated in the citrus marinade and then boiled.

The pulled pork sandwich with guava bbq sauce is such a treat. And I learned that in the Miami area this sandwich is served with a Cuban bbq sauce.

Originally founded in 1988 the Pollo Tropical chain has grown to 140 restaurants throughout Florida and up into the metro Atlanta area. This makes it really convenient for my southeastern friends when they hit the road for vacation!!

Check it out!

Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin

We’ve never been parents that crammed a million things into summer break.  Quite honestly the school year is busy enough and we are all craving the break during June and July.  Sure we might go swimming, take a short vacation, and for a while they all attended a week of Bible camp, but summer “break” is called a break or vacation for a reason!

One of the most relaxing things about summer are the lazy afternoons and evenings that have allowed us to slow down. I suppose I will have to adjust to this year round with the children all grown (wow that seems odd to say), but there is something very enjoyable about taking time to cook supper each night. No deadlines, no running in from practices, no where to be; it’s a wife and mom’s dream!

Cherry Balsamic Pork

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Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Yesterday morning I planned to prepare a pork tenderloin for our evening meal. Most of the day was spent wondering how to prepare it. There was the grilling option, but a ferocious band of thunderstorms was headed our way and fighting to keep charcoal lit around rain was not my idea of fun. The crockpot option is always a good one, but when you’re carefully eating only at mealtimes, smelling supper cook all day makes one want to eat all day. There are at least a thousand ways to roast a tenderloin, but my tastebuds were screaming for something seasonal and unique.

This particular pork tenderloin was purchased locally and not in the grocery store, so after looking through the refrigerator I found just the flavors needed! Taking fresh cherries, yummy Georgia Vidalia onions, fresh garlic and balsamic vinegar I went to work preparing supper.

cherries and sweet onions

Searing the tenderloin in olive oil after tucking a few fresh cloves of garlic inside, it went straight from the stovetop to the oven thanks to using a cast iron skillet. With the tenderloin being long and thin, it doesn’t take long to cook. Dry pork is horrible, so pay attention when cooking it. Internal temperature should be around 145° and then allow to rest a few minutes.

Once the pork was cooked and removed from the pan, the pan and juices went on the stove top on medium heat. I added an entire sliced onion, cherries that had been pitted and a little fresh rosemary from the back porch. After a few minutes of sautéing the two together to soften balsamic vinegar was added to the mix. Stirring often, this mixture was allowed to reduce and thicken for a sweet and textured sauce for the pork tenderloin.

Click Balsamic Cherry Pork Tenderloin to print off the full and very easy recipe.

Balsamic Cherry Tenderloin summer supper

Serve with fresh green beans and a salad for a completely seasonal supper everyone will enjoy!

Summer supper alfresco

Tell me dear readers, what do you enjoy most about these summer days?

Velvety White Chocolate Cake

Despite all the baking going on in the house this summer I’ve actually lost 10 pounds and several inches since Bradley left for boot camp last month. The patriotic cupcakes shared earlier this week were delivered to the local police department so that they didn’t stay in the house after Audley, Madeline and my niece ate a couple.  But, when you whip up something like this cake we carried to South Carolina as we visited two of our kiddos over the weekend, it’s really hard to say “no” to sweets!

WhiteChocolate Cake

 

Making a cake from scratch is not that difficult. A little more time consuming maybe, but really not as hard as people would have you think. My problem with taking the time to bake is there are actually people out there who will complain about the dense layers of homemade flavor, and say they prefer a box mix!

Really?!

You have got to be kidding me!

Nonetheless, I will continue to scratch bake when time allows, and if someone doesn’t like it, it’s their loss. They should probably have their taste buds checked and shop the outer rims of the grocery stores for real food more often!

Velvety White Chocolate Cake

For my white chocolate cake you need a good quality cake flour (I love King Arthur’s brand), sugar, baking powder & salt for your dry ingredients. For your wet ingredients you will need egg whites ( separate your own, don’t use prepackaged liquid eggs), vanilla; grass-fed, fat-filled, real butter, and whole milk. You will also need 8 ounces of quality white chocolate …. I prefer Ghirardelli brand.

Scratch Cake Ingredients

The better quality products you use, the better tasting your cake will be!

You also want to have a flour sifter on hand to use when measuring your flour. You will be able to tell a difference in the density of your cake if you do (or don’t) sift the flour.

If you’ve never used one, it’s not difficult; promise! You just place flour into the gadget and shake or sift into a measuring bowl the amount your recipe calls for.

You’ll also need two bowls (one for wet ingredients; one for dry), measuring spoons and of course a mixer. You will need a bowl to melt your white chocolate in as well.

Prepare to 8-inch cake pans by spraying with Bakers Joy or another cake release product and preheat your oven to 350°.

White Velvet cake

After you have baked your layers, allow them to cool on a cooling rack,  The edges may be crispy (my favorite part to eat), but carefully level each layer with a cake leveler.  You can find a good one at Hobby Lobby for under $10.  Its worth keeping on hand if you like to bake.

The cream cheese icing recipe I shared earlier this week would be perfect to frost this cake, but since this cake was traveling I used a decorators buttercream that would hold.  Click here for the full and printable Velvety White Chocolate Cake recipe and here for the Cream Cheese Icing recipe.

 

White Chocolate Cake with Sprinkles

An easy way to decorate your cake would be to add a colorful holiday sprinkle mix over the top.  Fresh summer berries would also be a delightful addition!  Strawberries especially compliment the flavor of a white chocolate cake!

Sliced White Chocolate Cake

 So tell me, which do you prefer… A box cake or a fresh baked scratch cake?

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