Mini Martha Camp

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So I am back and I am ready to share what all has been going on around here.  I will start with one of the best.  Pretty much any moveable piece of in this small space went on a little field trip.  I taught a week long cooking and crafting camp at the school I work at.  In my other life, I work at a school, but I am not a teacher... I work in the development office.  There is a reason I emphasize this... While it was one of the most fun things I have ever done, it was also one of the most exhausting.  Partly my fault for trying to cover everything from freshly pureed strawberry lemonade to homemade pasta in one week, but partly because I am not a teacher and while my class started at 9, I popped up everyday around 6 a.m. begging Mr. Hungry to help me haul my supplies up for the day to school because I was just sure I was not going to be prepared (once again, whole new appreciation for teachers).  So a quick and very big thank you for your help Mr. Hungry... I would still be toting around that blasted mixer and food processor if it wasn't for you.

After I pulled myself together each morning and the girls arrived, it was a wonderful 3 hours each day.  So you might be wondering about the Mini Martha?  Well, it was a cooking and crafting camp so I thought what better than to get straight to the source of all cooking and crafting things... Martha Stewart.  Out of all the new experiences I had with these girls, the one thing I had not imagined from this week, was the amount of defending I would have to do of Ms. Martha herself.  Almost daily, I would have a conversation that went something like this:
Camper: Mrs. Taylor, did Martha Stewart go to jail?
Me: um, well.... yes.
Camper: Is she a bad person?
Me: um, well, no.  She didn't necessarily hurt anyone.  um, well, she made a business mistake and got punished. But, she sure has rebounded!

This seemed to be good enough of an answer to satisfy their curiosity and we could move back to cooking.  Note to self: you can be cooking and crafting mogul, but one short stint in the slammer and it will be hard to get that off the top of the list when people hear your name.

Okay, back to the point...

I wanted to share all of our fun cooking adventures with you.  I had 6 fifth graders and 6 sixth graders and they were all amazing little chefs!

Day 1
First things first, we had to make aprons. We took a field trip to the computer lab and learned how to create our monogram in Power Point and then ironed them on to our apron.
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We learned how to make crepes (yes, that is a bunson burner... you have to get creative when you are teaching a cooking camp in a science lab without a kitchen!)
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And then we stuff them with all sorts of goodies and ate them up. (and apparently had our first flour throwing frenzy)
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Day 2
We put together our serious looking chef hats so we good get down to business with different doughs.
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Then, it was on to making fresh pizza dough (and apparently having our 2nd flour throwing frenzy). We mixed and kneaded and waited for it to rise.  Everyone went home with their dough to make a pizza for their families.
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Next up, was homemade pasta.  This ended up being almost everyone's favorite recipe.
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After making the pasta, we ate it all up.  Missed this picture opportunity because I too was enjoying some pasta.
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Day 3
It was time to learn how to make royal icing and perfectly iced sugar cookies. I simplified things by picking up cookies from a local bakery and we worked on icing most of the morning.
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We worked on making tissue paper poms poms to decorate our room.  Friday, we had plans for an end of camp party so we had to get the room looking good for our parents to come and sample.
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We also went back to the computer lab and learned how to make cupcake toppers to adorn cupcakes for upcoming events like Father's Day and Fourth of July.
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Day 4
Today was called "hocolate everything!"  We literally dipped everything from fresh fruit and pretzels to fortune cookies and potato chips in chocolate.
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Day 5
We squeezed out fresh lemon juice and pureed strawberries for our fresh strawberry lemonade.
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Followed by a pineapple fruit tree.
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We continued to get ready for our party and get the table set.
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We made a picture wall of all the things we had made that week so our sweet moms and dads could see that we actually did more than throw flour on each other for 3 hours everyday.
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And finally, we were set for everyone to come in and see our hard work.
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To sum things up, it was one of the most fun things I have ever done. I hope you girls enjoyed it half as much as I did!
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father's day fudge {a.k.a. peanut butter fudge}


Have you ever had anyone tell you that you were so beautiful only to realize years later that you had a uni-brow and unruly frizzy hair? Or have someone insist that you are on a “fun adventure” when you call and request  to be rescued from a freeway in 100 degree heat because you ran out of gas?  These are just two of the thousands of reasons that my dad is so great.  Sure, this was a hard fact to see growing up when he marched in my high school lunch room with his accordion to sing me happy birthday or blast show tunes and shake the car every time he dropped me off in the middle school carpool line.  Well, here I am many years later, chalking all of that up to self-esteem building and realizing I have been blessed beyond belief with the greatest dad.

While my dad doesn’t cook much, I am pretty sure he is the reason I love to do so.  I have decided over the years that I love to cook because I love to eat and I definitely got that from my father. 

It seems like yesterday that I was in lower school eating breakfast with my dad one Saturday.  Someone must have been having oatmeal because the brown sugar was on the table.  We happen to glance at the back of the box and saw a recipe for peanut butter fudge.  We both agreed that it looked like the tastiest fudge we had ever seen, and we just had to try it.  Less than five minutes later, we had come up with exactly what we would be doing for the rest of the afternoon and headed to the grocery store.  And just like that I was hooked on cooking because this was the most amazing fudge I had ever had. 

The funny thing about this recipe is that day I felt like we had been slaving in the kitchen all day and had made an extremely complicated gourmet dish that tasted like absolute heaven; all these years later, it’s about the simplest, quickest one pot dessert you can make (and still unbelievably rich and good).

So thank you dad, for taking the time to clear your schedule and just make fudge.


Almost two years ago, I was given another amazing father, my father-in-law.  Ron is an amazing cook (I’m still waiting for you to guest blog!)  and I have shared some great times with him in his kitchen.  So, Happy Father’s day to you too and hopefully your fudge makes it to Missouri safely!


Peanut Butter Fudge
Adapted from Imperial Brown Sugar
Recipe Notes
If you do not have a candy thermometer, do not let that stop you from making this fudge.  I have made this more than a few times and this is the first time I used a thermometer.  Just make sure and boil it for about 6 minutes and it will be at the right temperature.
12 Imperial Sugar or Dixie Crystals Redi-Measure Light Brown Sugar pouches (3 C)
2/3 C (5-oz can) evaporated milk
1/2 C butter or margarine
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow crème
1 C smooth peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 C miniature marshmallows
1 C roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped
Step by Step
Grease a 9-inch square pan with butter.  Combine brown sugar, milk and butter in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan.  Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Boil to 235 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently (see recipe note about thermometer).  To avoid grainy fudge, don’t scrape mixture from sides of pan.  Remove from heat. 

Add marshmallow crème, peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until smooth.  Stir in miniature marshmallows and peanuts. Pour into greased pan and spread evenly.  Cut into 1-inch squares.  Makes 36 squares.



wizard of oz
I don't think I have ever been able to relate more to this photo.  Okay, so I'm not dead but feeling quite squished.  The past 10 days have been some of the most fun/ hectic that I have had in my scant 25 years of living.  I have quite a bit of kitchen and food related things to share, but literally don't have another moment to spare to put my thoughts out in cyber space right now.

I scrolled by this picture on this darling blog and thought... ah! I can totally relate. She felt the same way on a particular day and I just had to borrow the image.  Now I realize I probably should have put this up last week when my posts got very thin, but I just wanted to report that I am alive and will be back soon!


over the top fudgy brownies


I sometimes find that the best way to sum up a dish, is to quote the people who try it.  In this case, a coworker, Debbie  who will remain anonymous, and I had the following conversation when I brought these to the office for my boss, Allison's birthday.

Coworker: Ashlea, these are sooooo good.
Me: Oh, I'm so glad you like them!
Coworker: No, I don't just like them, I want to put my face in them.

Ha, anyway, needless to say, I think my coworkers liked them.  And Peace Meals named these right... they are definitely over the top, but unbelievably good.  If you or someone you would like to bake for is a chocolate lover, these have got to be on your list.

And the best part... you can really make them your own.  These call for a layer of crushed candy bar in the middle and I chose Snicker.  However, you could make it yours by adding your favorite chocolate candy bar.  Next on my list is trying these with Reese's.

Warning: These are not simple! I like to keep things pretty quick and easy around here and while this is not hard, get ready for a lot of steps and a lot of bowls. If I haven't scared you off, I promise this one is worth it for a special occasion.








Over the Top Fudgy Brownies
Recipe Notes
Like I mentioned above, you may substitute your favorite chocolate candy bar for the Snickers layer as well as your favorite nut for the pecans (or leave them out all together).  This recipe calls for instant espresso powder.  I have passed up many a recipe because I wasn't able to find this, but I located it at Central Market.  You can probably find it at most specialty grocery shops if you don't have a Central Market.  This recipe requires overnight refrigeration.
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
28 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces bitter sweet chocolate
6 eggs
3 tablespoons instant espresso
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all- purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
10 ounces Snickers bar, roughly chopped
Step by Step
This recipe requires overnight refrigeration!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9 by 13 inch metal (not glass) pan with foil, leaving enough foil to hang over the edges of the pan.  Butter and flour the foil; set aside.  In a double boiler (or a large glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water), melt the butter, 16 ounces of the semi sweet chocolate chips and all of the bitter sweet chocolate.  Stir to combine, then allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, espresso, vanilla and sugar.  Starting in small amounts, add the warm chocolate mixture to the egg mixture; allow to cool to room temperature.  In another bowl, sift together 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt; stir into the cooled chocolate-egg mixture until just combined.  In another medium bowl, toss the pecans and the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour; add to the chocolate-egg- flour mixture.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Arrange the candy in a single layer over the batter, making sure the Snickers reaches the edges of the pan.  Top with the remaining batter and smooth.  Bake for 35 minutes; although the brownies will not be firm, do not over bake.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight.  Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil overhang and cut into small squares with a serrated bread knife (if you have one, it will make cutting these easier).  Store in the refrigerator.