Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shindiglet: Battle of the Batter

Shindiglet - Like a grand shindig, only a much smaller to-do. There are times, when even a small group of people getting together creates an occasion for celebrating with a theme. And if it is within my power, I always try to make that happen.

An across-the-miles triple throwdown baking challenge, for me, is such an occasion.

Over the past few years, my bestie, Toni, and I have exchanged recipes. A couple of times we've even tried new recipes at the same time and compared notes. That was fun. But recently, Toni kicked it up a notch, posting a challenge on facebook... challenging me, and another gal, Toni-Lynn, to a baking THROWDOWN! What was the objective? Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. None of us had made them before, but we all exuded confidence. Check out our game faces:


What followed was some bakers' smack talk. After a few days of that, we separately conducted our baking experiment, using different recipes, of our own choosing. As the three of us live in three different states, we couldn't actually judge the recipes side by side. We would have to be the judge of our own creations, with input from friends and family all-too-ready-and-willing to sample the end product. :)

Here's how it went down for me.

I started with just a few ingredients: 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 3 oz. milk chocolate, butter, cocoa, egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar.

I melted the chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler.

The egg whites were beaten together with the cream of tartar and sugar.

I folded the egg whites into the chocolate.

And then scooped the batter into the buttered and sugared muffin tins.

After about seven minutes, they came out of the oven like this:

They look good, don't they?!
Turned out onto a plate, aside a scoop of coconut ice cream, and dusted with cocoa powder, it looks like this:

Anticipating the molten chocolate that makes this dish "lava cake", I cut it open and mmmmmmm.........

Look how my youngest is eating it up!

OK, so I would love to just leave it at that and feel all proud of myself, but....

I kinda cheated.

I'll come clean.

My lava cakes ended up being not-so-molten. I'd describe them more like chocolate mousse cakes. Still completely delicious. And rich. And dangerous... because I couldn't stop eating after just one. Here's what it really looked like inside:

And my secret molten-ator?

Hey, living a stone's throw from Hershey, PA makes it all okay. :)

Be sure to check out Toni's and Toni's re-cap of this chocolate lava cake triple throwdown!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What will you Fuzzoodle?

Wow, it has been a while since I've written a post! What better reason to dust off the Shin-dig-it blog than to write about the latest shindig: A Fuzzoodles Fiesta!
Every guest to our Fuzzoodles Fiesta wanted to know: What is a Fuzzoodle? Before House Partypalooza sent me this product to experiment with, I didn't know what a Fuzzoodle was either. Fuzzy Noodles = Fuzzoodles. A simple, back-to-basics, creative product from Giddy Up! (think Blendy Pens, Surprise Ink, Water Wow...) that takes the classic pipe cleaner (or chenilles to you florists out there) to a whole new level. They are bendable like pipe cleaners, but these are so fluffy! And the kits come with accessories such as eyes, feet, noses, and mouths.

Before going into further detail about this product, I would like to talk about the theme development of this party. The Fuzzoodles were obviously the start of the show, but this was no ordinary party - it was a FIESTA! Not the most obvious choice for a fall party, but who doesn't love a fiesta, I want to know!? I used Punchbowl for my party planning and invitations. I love planning my parties using Punchbowl. The designs are top-notch and the options are so easy to use. My guests electronically received a realistic sealed envelope:
This envelope, once opened, revealed the invitation:
To decorate the party area, I set up a table for the food and covered it with a southwestern blanket. Guests munched on tortilla chips with salsa and queso, cocoa roasted almonds, and pizza. For dessert, we had fiesta cookies. Water and juice pouches refreshed the kids, while the adults enjoyed a sparkling blood orange beverage. The fuzzoodles and accessories were loaded into the brims of two sombreros in the center of the work table.
As soon as the guests arrived, the kids enjoyed figuring out just how the fuzzoodles worked. Each creation triggered new ideas, as the creatures developed into even more elaborate inventions.
I saw bracelets, glasses, headbands, door knob cozies, critters, and acrobats... yes, acrobats! The creative juices were flowing, and weren't just limited to the kids. The adults couldn't resist trying their hand at twisting life into the supplies. I seriously could not have predicted how much fun it would be to have a party around these fuzzoodles.

The festivities lasted about two hours, with the adults completing a survey at the end to evaluate the Fuzzoodles Fiesta experience. I was thrilled to be able to give away a $10 gift card to Toys R Us, which House Partypalooza provided, to a randomly selected guest!

You can find Fuzzoodles at many stores as well as online. Amazon has this large kit and Toys R Us also carries Fuzzoodles in store and online.

In exchange for House Partypalooza sending me this product, I agreed to invite other parents and children to my house for a product demonstration. I was able to keep the items our guests didn't take with them. The words and opinions in this review are 100% my own.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine's Day Ladies' Tea - Invitation Reminder & Menu

The tea party is just five days away, and I'm in crunch mode!

I've got the rest of my week all mapped out with to-do's. So far today, I have managed to accomplish about 2/3 of today's list, and should still be able to finish it before the day is over. I finally decided to reveal the theme to my guests in the hopes that they'll want to fully participate. Here is the reminder/reveal email that I sent today:

Check it out, man!

The time period that those righteous brothers hit the charts with "That Lovin' Feelin'" was the mid-60's. So, if you're bold enough, dig out your go-go boots and miniskirts, or your bell bottoms and tie-dye garb, and we'll see you at the commune to celebrate love as inspired by the cultural events of the American 1960's!

Make love, not war.
Make tea, not love.

No, you don't *have* to come in costume. But at least be prepared with a hep catch phrase, or two. :)

I was at the grocery store today to get the ingredients for the food I'll start making over the next few days. I had to leave some items on my grocery list until later in the week so that they would be as fresh as possible. I am pretty pleased with the menu, which is as follows:

Fair Trade Organic Tea

Pita Chips (to munch on upon arrival)

Cheese Fondue (with bread and apples for dipping)

Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad and 3 dressings (homemade Green Goddess, Ranch, and Creamy French)

Chicken Salad Sandwiches and Ham & Cheese Dandy Sandwiches

Devilled eggs

Chocolate Intrigue Bundt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Tang based fruit salad

Cookies - Heart’s Delight & Two-Tone Cookie Slices for guests to bag and take home

Yesterday, I received the two place setting of china that I needed since my party size seems to grow each year. I'm still waiting for a book that I bought on eBay that I planned to use as a prize. I just hope it gets here in time! Up next on my list is to finalize the two games we'll be playing at the party. Oh, and more cleaning (the never ending chore!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Valentine's Day Ladies' Tea - More Theme Discussion

I've learned that sometimes you just need to step away from your party planning and just see how things shake out when you sit back down to resume planning. Last week, I was about to panic over my theme plans not gelling for the tea party next month. Fortunately, I had other commitments that forced me to put the party planning on the back burner, and when I came back to things this week, I found that some new perspective and thoughts I'd filed away really came together in a way that made me very happy.

I am now in possession of a Valentine's Day Tea Party theme inspired by cultural references of the American 1960s! Remember my angst over trying to develop the theme title That Lovin' Feelin' after I so hastily chose it to get the invitations out on time? Well, that Righteous Brothers' song topped the charts in 1965. Party game inspiration? It was in 1962 that "The Match Game" premiered on network television. I poured over footage of those old episodes on youtube and that really helped to frame the whole theme out in my mind. My menu will be inspired by the fare of the decade as transcribed by cookbooks of that period. Fondue, anyone? Now that these areas have been decided, I can design the rest of the party elements, such as party favors, with much more ease. And for the first time, I might be able to pull off an outfit that befits the theme, breaking from my tired, old habit of just wearing red or pink. Thrift shops, here I come!

There is one more thing that has fallen into place regarding the invitations. I had designed the invitation using Punchbowl before the date was set, and once I settled on the date, I hastily went in and sent the invitation without much revision. It wasn't until later that I remembered the functionality that allows you to edit the verbiage of the RSVP section. When designing, I had arbitrarily selected the "British" preset, where Abso-bloody-lutely = Yes, Pardon? = Not Responded, and Not My Cup of Tea = No. Well, it didn't take me long, once I had the sixties in mind for the theme development, to make a connection to the British Invasion phenomenon. Whew! That works. Granted, I could have created my own RSVP verbiage and been a little more Beatles or rock and roll oriented, but remember, this connection was realized after-the-fact, so I'm relieved at least. And I can almost pretend that I did it on purpose. *wink*

I do still have a lot of little details to work out, but the task is so much less daunting. I'm excited, though, as I've entered that phase of the party planning where I get to research and learn some new things. I've come to realize that really getting into the theme development is just my excuse to go exploring on the information superhighway (does anybody even call it that anymore??). I'm no longer a student in a formal house of education, but I do still enjoy learning a thing or two. Much of the information I glean in the party theme preparation will not be used at the party, but some of it will appear in the form of subtle references, or tidbits interspersed in party conversation. And besides, it makes me happy.

See how it is coming together?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Valentine's Day Ladies' Tea - Theme Discussion

OK. Confession time. When I designed and sent my invitations, I was going with a musical theme. I envisioned miniature musical instruments and scrolls made from sheets of music for the decor. And when trying to compose (see what I did there? :) ) the menu, I... well... I got stuck. Opting to skip that for the moment and move on to planning the games, I... well... I got stuck again. I wrestled with the idea of adapting a classroom music lesson to suit grown-ups, and could only find games using songs of the sort of Baa Baa Black Sheep. That just would not do. The clouds rumbled about my mind for some time before the realization began to dawn that I would probably need to change my party's theme.

But how could I do that since the invitations were already sent? "That Lovin' Feeling" clearly indicated the musical theme, did it not? Hmm... perhaps not really, after all. Perhaps I could focus on the year the Righteous Brothers song topped the charts. I immediately began thinking about a malt shop and golden oldies, and while looking it up on wikipedia, I was educated that this song is from the 1960s, not the 1950s. What do I know?

Alright then. So the song is associated with 1965. What else was going on in the world in 1965 that I could work with? Some good stuff and some not-so-pleasant stuff. Dang. What about the entire decade? Counter-culture, social revolution. Hmm... brownies (of the non-magical variety) would be a must on the menu! But I'm a little bit afraid of the games that might be derived from that theme.

But, really, why not just focus on the song itself? It's a great and memorable song after all. I, for one, have it forever ingrained in my memory from the movie Top Gun. Wow! OK, so now I want to center this party around Top Gun! Can I do that?

See how I torture myself over theme development? I should have just planned it out well before sending the invitations, but it really snuck up on me this year, and I had little time to spare to get the invitations out on time. And I'm still stuck on theme development. Maybe I should go back to the whole musical theme I had originally envisioned. *sigh*