C is for Cookie

by karoline on January 29, 2015

cookie monster cupcakesI CANNOT believe my little girl is 3 already.  There is nothing like a birthday to remind you that, “the days are long, but the years are short.”  Last February, shortly after her Tea for Two party, O decided that she wanted a cookie monster party for her 3rd birthday.  Much to the surprise of many of my friends, she adamantly stuck with her request for the whole year, and we did indeed have a very successful cookie monster party.

pink monster cupcake

The girl is still OBSESSED with pink.  So, when it became clear that her cookie monster party was going to be a “blue” party, she got a bit distressed.  Our compromise was that she could have her very own, special, PINK monster cupcake, but all of the other details were going to match our furry blue friend.

cookie monster dessert buffet

In addition to cupcakes, we made a variety of cookies to send home as favors: chocolate chip cookies that were baked instead with blue M&Ms, spritz cookies with blue sprinkles, Aunt Carol’s famous oatmeal raisin cookies with blue sprinkles, and O’s favorite – “C is for Cookie” iced shortbread cookies.

cookie monster balloon wreath

One of the ways I was able to tighten the budget on this party was to reuse items from past parties.  This balloon wreath was originally from my friend, Kelsea’s, sprinkle.  I simply removed the “It’s a Boy!” ribbons and added cookies and monsters.

cookie banner

I already had these blue papers on hand from my mom’s “When I’m 64” banner.  I was even able to use some of the pre-cut pendants.  To match the cookie theme, I found this free printable cookie and used it many places throughout the party.

cookie guess

This was one of the 3 games we had.  I was shocked when my brother guessed the exact number correctly!

cookie toss game

Once again, I converted our bean bag game into a party game.  I jokingly called this one “Toss your Cookies!”  It was a blast.  2 of the partygoers had 3 shootouts to determine a winner.  In the end, we were anxious for cake, and they both ended up getting prizes.

pin the cookie

Pin the cookie was equally as adorable, but some of the younger revelers were hesitant to put on a bandana.

custom cookie monster stickers

Etsy was again a part of my undoing, as I could not resist little details like these custom stickers on the favor bags.

As much as it pained me not to order the blue cookie monster tutu set, I was able to restrain myself and go with a blue party dress and cookie monster barrettes (again from Etsy).  The birthday girl was thrilled, and she got exactly what she “NEEDED” to complete her collections.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

For more great party ideas, check out my board on Pinterest.


first birthday cupcakesA little while back, I proclaimed to be done with baking until after we have settled into the chaos of being parents to 2 wild and crazy girls, but my friend Brandy (of made me such a great offer that I couldn’t refuse.  She is the ideal baking “client” as she made very few specific requests.  She wanted cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles.  Done.

rainbow cupcakes

After seeing how cute these rainbow sprinkles could be on O’s special cupcake at Melissa’s wedding shower, I decided they were a good starting place.  And what better to go with rainbow sprinkles than rainbow wrappers.  These were delicious, adorable and seriously one of the easiest baking projects I have done in quite a while.  It was exactly the kind of project I needed to take my mind of the drab, dreary winter but not over exert myself at this point in my pregnancy with only a week left before the big Cookie Monster Bash.

rainbow cupcakes

This type of wrapper is the most basic: not customizable, available for instant download (thus eliminating the need to plan very far ahead), and the most affordable.  I found this one on as usual in the FabulousPartyDesigns shop.

birthday cupcakes

As usual, O was chomping at the bit to get at these cupcakes long before we even made it to the party.  Her current method of consumption involves licking only the frosting, as if it were an ice cream cone, and discarding the cake.  A girl after my own heart.  Who needs the cake?  (I’ve been playing around with filters on photos that I have taken with my phone.  My iphone 4 is so outdated that the pictures rarely turn out well, especially when shot indoors in a low light situation.  Filters can save a pretty sub-par pic.)

smash cake

One of my favorite ways to show O that I love her is to cook or bake something just for her.  It is something intrinsically maternal, and Brandy feels the same way about motherhood.  She made this simple smash cake, and we coordinated perfectly without even discussing it!  Baby C was so delicate in the destruction of her treat, focusing only on the frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  She was uber calm, as she went about this sensory experience, so calm, in fact, that she was not at all disturbed when her big brother climbed into her chair to give her a hand.  She smeared the frosting sweetly on his face and hers until they finally decided that they had had enough.  LOVE.


It’s the most wonderful (busy) time of year

by karoline on December 17, 2014

cashew turtles

With a bun in the oven and a high-maintenance toddler, things have been even busier this holiday season than they have in years past.  That said, next year promises to be even busier!  Instead of making proper posts on all that we have been up to, I’ve chosen a few of the highlights and put them together.  Above, is a very inviting photo of cashew turtles that I shot for the Boston Globe.  Since I had so many leftover packaged caramels from apple orchard season, I decided to try the author’s suggested method of melting them down and adding a bit of cream.  It worked like a dream and could not have been easier.

peppermint bark

I also had the pleasure of shooting this very yummy version of peppermint bark.  The salty pretzels buried in the milk chocolate layer make them irresistible.

homemade paint

Illness and the 3-day potty training method (SUCCESS!) left O and I trapped in the house for a whole week in November.  We made good use of our time, crafting away.  One of her favorite projects was the homemade paint.  We used this simple recipe from Imagination Tree.  The only comment I’d make is that the paint quantity was quite large, and it does not hold well for long periods of time.  So, in the interest of saving resources, I’d cut the recipe in half.

homemade paint

We also could have used slightly less food coloring, but I wanted to guarantee that our colors would overshadow the blue tint from the dish soap.


O has a compulsive habit of peeling crayons.  We put that habit to good use when we decided to gather up the broken ones and melt them into new fun shapes.  The only silicone molds I had on hand were for caneles, but they worked perfectly.  For tips on how to make your own, check out this link.

hello kitty cupcakes

I have made quite a few birthday treats for O’s friend, Rachel.  This year, she went with a Hello Kitty theme (again), but I kept it simple.  Vanilla cupcakes with my standard buttercream and a store bought decoration we all I could muster.  The end of the second trimester is hitting me hard, and this mama needs to be off her feet a little.  Still, the kids (especially O) enjoyed them.

Bonne et sante bars

I’m closing out the year with as many work projects as possible – have to earn some money to make room for baby and plan for whatever might come of a “maternity leave”. These bonne et sante bars will run in the Globe in January, and are chock full of healthful ingredients like chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, cranberries and much much more.

Happy cooking and crafting to you all during this magical season.  Stay tuned for pics of our TWO pink bedrooms.


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Fish cupcakes

by karoline on October 26, 2014

fish cupcakesAlong the way of our journey with infertility, I met a truly special person.  Sara, the former leader of my RESOLVE infertility support group, became an instant lifesaver for me.  We first bonded over the fact that we both were able to successfully conceive and deliver a healthy baby girl but then really struggled to give our little girls a sibling.  Sara held my hand through all of the uncertainty, answered my questions via email, text, and the occasional hysterical phone call.   She always offered a kind an encouraging word, all the while fighting her own battle.  When we at last arrived at our first IVF cycle, Sara assured me it was less scary and overwhelming than it really seemed.  She remembered each and every time I had an appointment, sending a quick text on the morning of to say “good luck”, “fingers crossed” or just a “let me know how things go.  i’m thinking of you.”  I was amazed that someone could find the time to be so selfless and caring as to be so truly on the ball regarding somebody else’s cycle.  Heck, my own husband couldn’t even keep up with all the appointments.  Every woman going through IVF should have a Sara.  And I hope to someday be able to pay it forward to one of our fellow infertility sisters.

I’m happy to report that Sara is only 1 month shy of delivering her second child, a BOY!  Her kids will be almost the exact same number of years apart as mine will be.  When Sara asked me if she could buy cupcakes from me for her daughter’s birthday, I promptly told her no but offered to do them for free.  It was really the least I could do for her, given what an amazing friend she has been to me throughout the past year.

fish cupcakes

Since Sara is about ready to pop. the party was a small, casual gathering of family members.  She didn’t really have a theme but mentioned that her daughter likes fish and that they plan to take her to the Shedd Aquarium next week.  I saw these cupcakes on Pinterest a long time ago and have been looking for a reason to make them ever since.  They are simple and silly yet cute, fun and delicious.

School of Fish Cupcakes

Above is the photo from which I modeled my own cupcakes.  Pretty close, right?  (Excuse my poor photography.  We were running behind so I didn’t have enough time to properly compose a shot.  Instead, I just snapped a few with my phone.  Either way, you get the idea.)

fish cupcakes

I hear the cupcakes were a success, and the birthday girl was quite pleased.  Can’t wait for the arrival of Sara’s little one.  She is truly a deserving mother.


Celebrating 60 years together

by karoline on October 23, 2014

60th anniversary10 years ago, I flew down to St. Louis with my then boyfriend to meet his entire family.  We had only been dating about 5 months, but things were serious already.  My first encounter with the Anschutz/ Goodnick clan would be at the 50th anniversary celebration for B’s grandparents.  At the time, I was fresh out of culinary school and working 2 jobs: one as a baker at Julius Meinl (an Austrian coffee shop in Chicago) and the other as the fish cook at the very fancy Ambria (a Spanish/ French fusion restaurant that has sadly since been retired).  The cake for this celebration was purchased from a local shop and transported to the event — unassembled —  in the trunk of B’s mom’s car.  Of course, the layers slid around and crashed together, leaving them less than desirable upon arrival.  My MIL looked to me to fix the disaster.  She handed me a rubber spatula and a can of Pillsbury frosting.  With rookie baking skills and no stores open in their tiny town, there was little I could do.  I was humiliated.  She ended up slapping some baby’s breath in front of the damage and calling it a day, but I was scarred.  I was supposed to be a baker.  Why couldn’t I have fixed the cake?

elegant anniversary cake

Fast forward 10 years, and B and I have been happily married for 8.5 years ourselves.  I no longer feel the need to impress the clan, who are now part of my family.  We have a crazy intense toddler and one on the way.  And, we live a 5-hour drive from the location of the 60th anniversary celebration.  But, I just couldn’t help myself.  I had to volunteer to make the cake for the party.  10 years of embarrassment would be remedied with fancy cake for the 60th.  Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way.  Life was crazy leading up to our trip down south & I am TIRED.  I stressed big time about the cake surviving transport all the way down there.  Still, I assembled the cake, packed the car carefully, and drove like a nun with precious cargo.  We made it in one piece without even a scuff.  When I saw the flowers that were intended to dress up a very plain cake and hide the imperfections, I cringed.  The roses were huge and would have looked best on a cake 4 times the size of mine.  With no other choice, I pouted and sulked — I’m blaming the pregnancy hormones — and sent B to the store to find better flowers.  Of course, we weren’t in the teeny town of Staunton this time, and there were stores actually open, but our options were quite limited.  I did what I could with a slew of white daisies and sat down lamenting the fact that I could not have a drink to take the edge off.

IMGP3806 (2)

Still, the cake was a hit.  Everybody loved the super smooth buttercream and the extra sweet raspberry filling.  (Few party guests opted for slices of the store bought birthday cake that accompanied mine on the dessert table.)  And, what really matters here anyway?  Two people got the chance to celebrate 60 years of life together with their family and friends.  They were surrounded by their 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.  I’d say that’s what counts.  How many of us will even be lucky enough to make it to 60 years together?  B’s grandparents were young when they married (one barely 20 and the other in her teens), not like modern couples who wait till their late 20s or even 30s to tie the knot.  Just living that long — and not killing each other — is reason enough to celebrate.  Congratulations, Carol and Dean.  I know I am sure grateful for your time together since without it, I wouldn’t have that sweet, sweet O or my awesome hubby.


Corey’s 1st birthday (lion smash cake)

by karoline on October 17, 2014

lion smash cakeMy college roommate is still one of my favorite people in the whole world.  So, when her son turned one, I was eager to make his smash cake.  Corey’s mom selected a jungle theme for the party, and I sent her a bunch of photos on Pinterest so she could pick out a style that she liked.  This is the one she chose:

Lion Birthday Cake by cakeheaven1, via Flickr

I came pretty close, right?  Well, we won’t see it on “Nailed it” anyway.  (She also favored this lion cake, but I wanted to try out a new style.)

first birthday

As a general rule, we should probably stop singing “Happy Birthday” to one year olds.  They don’t seem to enjoy it very much.

smash cake

Corey recovered nicely and after a few minutes snuggling with his mama, he was more than ready to dig into his very own cake.

smash cake

He REALLY got into it (not like this birthday girl).

smash cake

Seriously, I don’t think I have ever seen a more enthusiastic smasher (though this birthday boy came close and my own O did a pretty destructive job at her smash cake photo session).

smash cake

He was even giving out high-fives to his cousins, who wanted in on the mess!

smash cake destruction

That was one enthusiastic kid!  It was worth every second of my efforts to see this little/ not-so-little guy attack that cake.  Congrats to his mommy and daddy on surviving the first year and raising such an incredible boy!


What’s cooking…

October 4, 2014

As a food stylist who works from home, people often wonder about what it is that I do for a living.  It is easiest conceptualized in photos.  I cook and bake in my own kitchen, in the process creating an extraordinary mess, and then attempt to make it look appetizing and beautiful in a photo. […]

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

October 4, 2014

Ben made the usual request for his birthday, this year…anything with coconut.  Lately, though, he has requested chocolate along with his coconut.  A few years back, prior to the chocolate requests, I went with a simple white cake and the obligatory coconut.  Then, he requested German chocolate.  I obliged, and disguised it in the form […]

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Beach ball cookies

September 22, 2014

Our good friend, E, turned 2 this week and had a fabulous party at The Water Works indoor water park in Schaumburg.  Since pizza, cake and ice cream were included with the party, I offered to bring some beach ball cookies as party favors. I thought these would be easy peasy, but it turned out […]

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