Friday Faves

Happy, happy Friday! Aside from a glorious 80-degree Saturday last weekend, if hasn’t felt much like summer in Seattle yet – but that’s ok because the forecast for this weekend is sunny and 82, and up to 90 by Tuesday! So we might even have a sunny 4th of July!

{wine and cheese at  Boat Street Cafe}


{faux iced latte, for mornings when I really can’t get out of bed}

{new personalized stationery from the Anthro sale}

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{view of the solstice sunset from my rooftop}


{super moon – between the clouds and my iPhone camera, this doesn’t really do it justice}

Wishing everyone a warm and relaxing weekend! xoxo

Smitten Kitchen’s Cherry-Almond Galette

There’s just something about cherries and summer, right? Like when you see them at the market, you just can’t not buy them. These local Ranier cherries were on “sale” at my little market, although even on sale they somehow ended up costing $14 ~ so I decided that meant I had to do something fun with them (or rather, with what remained after I ate a good portion of them immediately after purchasing).

I bought a cherry pitter last summer in the hopes of making a sour cherry pie – but alas, sour cherries are hard/impossible to find these days, so my pitter sadly went unused. As I was flipping through my Smitten Kitchen cookbook the other night, however, looking for some new ideas to help a girlfriend throw a dinner party, I stumbled upon this and realized that I had literally all of the ingredients already in my fridge/freezer/pantry – and that never happens.   Needless to say, I didn’t find any dinner party inspiration – sorry Krista! – but I had found an excuse to use my cherry pitter.

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Almond frangipane, yum.

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I’ve had a single pie crust taking up space in my freezer since this experiment back in March, so as much as I love making crust from scratch, this seemed like a great excuse to get rid of it (and also explains why the crust in the photos above looks so perfect). The most time consuming part was pitting the cherries – which technically you don’t even have to do (a lot of what you read says leaving the pits in really helps with the flavor, if not with reducing your dinner guests’ risk of choking). Everything else took about five minutes.

It looked prettier before than after.

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I thought I’d get clever and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds before I baked the galette – but they didn’t get brown and toasty like I imagined they would, so next time I’ll toast them separately and then sprinkle them on top after the galette comes out of the oven – and extra to sprinkle on top of the (absolutely necessary) ice cream.

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This was delicious warm from the oven, but I have it on good authority that its pretty good cold as well. If you like the idea of a galette (so much easier than a pie!) but want a healthier option, I’m going to try this version next (and if you don’t already read Sprouted Kitchen, you should – I love Hugh’s photos and the way Sara writes, as well as the recipes).

Almond and Sweet Cherry Galette, from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Pastry: Smitten Kitchen’s favorite pastry recipe here (you only need half of it for this galette), or your favorite pastry recipe (or store-bought, like me).

Filling:

1/3 cup sliced, slivered, or coarsely chopped almonds, blanched if you can get them (almond meal worked for me)
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg white
1 pound sweet cherries, any variety or a mix of varieties

To Finish:

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used sugar in the raw)
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Ice cream and/or toasted slivered almonds, to top

Make pastry: the dough should be refrigerated for at least an hour before you use it in this recipe.

Make filling: finely grind almonds and flour in a food processor (if you use almond meal, you can just use a bowl and a spoon – and it just dawned on me that you could probably omit the flour). Mix in sugar, butter, and extract, then egg white. Blend until smooth. Cover and chill until needed.

Prepare galette: preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the almond filling evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Scatter the cherries on top. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit; the center will be open. Whisk egg yolk with water, brush crust with egg wash mixture and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake galette until the filling is puffed and the crust is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes, rotating front to back halfway through for even browning.  Cool, and serve with dusted powdered sugar, ice cream, and toasted slivered almonds.

Birthday Pasta with Chèvre, Asparagus, and Lemon

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It’s my baby sister’s birthday on Wednesday, so over the weekend I asked her if she wanted to pick a blog topic/recipe for the week in honor of her special day. She responded “Well, my favorite things that you make are: short ribs, squash mac and cheese, tomato soup with crostini, and shredded brussels sprouts. But my favorite food is chèvre, I cannot get enough of it…..maybe you could just do a goat cheese post?” (That’s a verbatim text message, by the way).

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I suppose I could, but that seems like a lot of goat cheese….and this pasta dish looked easy and delicious – and a lot more seasonally appropriate than any of the other options she listed. Only six ingredients, and it takes less than 20 minutes, truly.  Someday I’ll do my Junior League Cookbook’s fried goat cheese salad, though, because it’s also amazing.  And maybe the tomato soup in August, when we have tomatoes fresh off the vine.

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I always forget how much I love asparagus. Tip for trimming: just snap off the bottom with your fingers, and whatever snaps off is the part you don’t want to eat. You probably already know this, but I didn’t until recently so I’m telling you just in case.

Fun fact about tarragon – it smells amazing.

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Just stir the goat cheese into the olive oil, lemon zest (I added juice from half of the zested lemon as well), tarragon, and a little pasta water. Any un-blended chunks of cheese will melt once tossed with the hot pasta.

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I used whole wheat pasta just to make myself feel a little healthier, and it actually turned out delicious with the chèvre (IMHO).

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Lemon and Asparagus, from Bon Apetit by way of Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
1 pound fusilli (or pasta of your choosing, fusilli works nicely because it’s similar in size to the asparagus pieces, and there’s lots of little crevices for the cheese to stick to)
1 pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces (I actually think you could use less pasta and more asparagus, but that’s just me)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel (Smitten Kitchen tells you to add some juice, too)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus sprigs for garnish
1 5 to 5 1/2-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese (I used a peppercorn-flavored log for a little extra flavor)

Preparation
1. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, (heavily) salted water until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes (or 2-3 minutes less than package directions). Add asparagus and cook until pasta is tender but still firm to bite, about 2-3 minutes longer.
2. Meanwhile, combine oil, lemon peel (and juice if using), and chopped tarragon in large bowl. Coarsely crumble in goat cheese.
3. Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add hot pasta, asparagus, and 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid to bowl with cheese mixture. Toss to coat, adding more reserved liquid if dry. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to shallow platter. Garnish with tarragon sprigs. I added parmesan here, too, because I like to add parm to everything – but this dish really doesn’t need it.

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Pairs nicely with a crisp glass of rosé, although really, what doesn’t? Happy Birthday Ab!

Friday Faves

Oh hey, Friday. Here you are again already – thank goodness.

So we already know I’m pretty into my bangles (see, e.g., here, here, and here). I got the orange “A” for my sister for her bday, and had to get one for myself as well – love the initials! Bracelets in all letters and colors here. Happy Birthday Sissy!

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My “summer citrus” trio – grass (no longer available online), canary, and curry.

My coworker brought these into the office this week – they’re like a York Peppermint Patty, only way more delicious – and made with just honey, pure dark chocolate, and peppermint oil. Honestly, what did people do before Trader Joe’s?

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I’m not usually one for framed quotes, but I bought this on a whim a few weeks ago after stumbling onto this darling print shop through a style blog I follow. Who can’t use a little more Audrey in her life? The rose was a gift from my adorable four year old neighbor, Victoria.

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Wine tasting at my new favorite Willamette Valley winery, Four Graces. Its hard to beat sitting on a deck with your friends in the sun, sipping an Oregon pinot and looking out the amazing views (photo below from my other new favorite Willamette Valley winery) – you might find me here a lot this summer.

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Wishing you all a sunny and relaxing weekend – and maybe a glass of rosé, if that’s your thing. xoxo

Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté {and a new source for recipe inspiration}

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I’ve been on a roll lately with grocery shopping on Sunday nights and then prepping lots of healthy meals and snacks for the week (this is exciting because there are times where I can go for weeks without setting foot in a grocery store, and end up eating most meals at Starbucks and/or the wine bar in my building). No matter how exhausted I am after a busy weekend, it’s so worth it to drag myself to the grocery store – I love waking up on Monday knowing that I have everything I need for my green smoothie, a lunch already packed, and dinner when I come home – so I’m that much less likely to go to happy hour (or at least, less likely to order a pizza at happy hour).

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My cousin Clare sent me this recipe on Friday, along with the suggestion to sign up for kitchendaily.com. They send you an email with recipe ideas every morning, and you can customize your account so that the recipes are based on your food preferences/dietary needs/number of people you’re cooking for. Perfect for those of us who are always on the lookout for fun new recipes or inspiration.

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I modified the recipe a little – I have a hard time buying regular tomatoes these days, when grape tomatoes are so much easier to cut (or to pop into your mouth).

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Yum, cheese. This might be a little more than the recipe called for.

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Onions and garlic. If you were my friend Scott, now is the time where you would comment on my knife skills (or lack thereof). But in my defense, I was trying to hurry to get dinner on the table.

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I had to switch from my frying pan to a soup pot, which I think means I need to get a larger saute pan soon – this should be a one-dish meal.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Saute, from Kitchen Daily – their version here

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed well, or 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a couple handfuls grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve on top of pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, or any grain you like – I used barley, and then just stirred the leftover barley into the leftover beans and veggies for easy one-pot leftovers.

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Nutrition Information:

195 calories (54 calories from fat)
6 g fat (2 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated)
600 mg sodium
25 g carbs
11 g protein
8 g fiber
5 mg cholesterol

Friday Faves

So I just did a quick count, and it turns out this is my 13th Friday Faves post. That means I’ve come up with 65 things to be excited about in the last few months – the better you know me, the more you realize that’s a pretty big accomplishment for my sometimes-not-quite-so-excited little self. And they haven’t all been pictures of my Glassybaby or J.Crew sale finds, even!

Tomato plants on display at Met Market – I would kill for more sun on my deck (or better yet, a full-sun backyard) so I could plant a “salsa garden” like Martha Stewart.

I’ve been cooking a lot of freezer meals for my grandparents – baking mac and cheese in muffin tins is a fun alternative to a normal casserole dish, as you can just pop them out, wrap them in foil, and stick pre-portioned meals into the freezer – easier to store and to use. For bigger portions/appetites, this “jumbo” tin works great. I used this recipe (healthy-ish and always a big hit), but you could do anything you like. If anyone has any good ideas for freezer meals – I have a lot of new moms to bring dinner to as well as Grandma and Grandpa – I would love to hear them in the comments.

So, this is happening. I’m officially a Game of Thrones nerd. Please no one talk to me or try to put anything on my social calendar for awhile – I’ve got something like 5,000 pages to get through.

Has everyone discovered Rent the Runway yet? I wore this Nanette Lepore pink and purple party dress and House of Harlow bangle to my brother and soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s “fiesta” couples’ shower last weekend and both were big hits. And on Sunday morning, I just shoved them into a pre-paid envelope and dropped them off at UPS. So easy and so fun!

For anyone who has ever wondered if you can mix vodka and champagne: the answer is yes. Maybe this was already obvious to you, but I had never thought of it. This fun cocktail (I wish I could remember the name – something mure?) was vodka, champagne, blackberry liquor and lime – it’s like a high-end version of the beer-vodka-crystal light concoction we used to make in college, except served in a champagne flute rather than a cooler.  Delicious and classy – is it time for happy hour yet?

So, that’s 61-65. And now we’re that much closer to 5 pm (or whenever your weekend officially starts – I hope its sooner).  Wishing you all a fabulous Friday and a sunny weekend !

Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa and Avocado-Lime Crema (and belated Hawaii pics!)

Beach Walk along the Kohala Coast

Beach Walk along the Kohala Coast

So, I almost don’t want to write this post, because I’m afraid it’s going to make you all just way too jealous. It’s making the present me jealous of the six weeks ago me, even. But after a number of requests for a fish taco recipe for summer, I decided to torture us all. Plus my phone is about out of storage and I don’t really understand “the cloud,” so I needed to get these pictures uploaded.

The thing about being invited on a first class trip to Kona is, you have to earn your keep. I had so much fun trying to think of tropical, island-y dinners on the nights that I got to cook – fish tacos are quick, easy, and always a crowd pleaser. And I wish I could put mango salsa on everything.

Mango Salsa (proportions all approximate and to taste):

Two ripe mangos, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime

Toss all ingredients together – and then try not to eat it all before dinner, on chips or with a spoon.

Avocado-Lime Crema:

One cup greek yogurt or light sour cream
One avodado, mashed
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime – more or less, depending upon how juicy the lime is and how thick or thin you want your sauce
Salt to taste

Mash the avocado into the yogurt or sour cream until well blended, add lime juice and cilantro and stir until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

You can season your fish with a rub, or even just salt and pepper. I used Mahi Mahi, but you could use halibut, snapper, or any mild fish you like. Grill it on the barbecue (or bake in the oven, if you’re grill-less) and then flake it.

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Serve flaked fish with warmed corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, mango salsa and crema. And a mint-lime-cucumber cocktail – if you’re on vacation, or just in vacation mode.

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Other fun meals we had:

I grilled fresh pineapple slices and mini bell peppers one night as a side for teriyaki chicken – yum

Gazpacho for lunch at the Fairmont – nothing like being in a bathing suit all week to inspire you to eat light!

Amazing dinner at the Four Seasons – strawberry vodka cocktail, beets with goat cheese, salad with fresh island greens, and Mahi Mahi on sweet corn. Disregard above about eating light.

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Homemade Maui purple sweet potato fries

Poke salad with pumpkin crisps for one last lunch at the Fairmont – one can only cook so much whilst vacationing

And a few more pics, just for fun – don’t say I didn’t warn you:

Why can’t we all be on that boat right now?

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Beachfront lounging at the Four Seasons

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Windy day on the golf course

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Wedding on the beach

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Happy hour with the girls

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Favorite pool ever

Tiki torches and nightcaps in the backyard

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Hike outside of Havi town – proof we didn’t just lay by the pool and drink all week

Kohala sunset

Until next time, Kona.  Aloha and mahalo.

Friday Faves

Hello, Friday!! I had a whirlwind of a week, and am heading into what promises to be a whirlwind of a weekend….can all of you West Coasters believe this weather we’ve been having? It’s almost too good to be true – and makes being at work such a challenge. June is the month I really wish I had looked more into teaching. Some highlights from the past seven days, despite being chained to my desk for the majority of that time:

I’ve been really into my summer brights and neons lately. This J.Crew clutch was a bday gift from my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law last year, mani is JulepAvery.” Some other summer clutches I love:

  • Invitation clutch in cork from J. Crew – so beachy and fun
  • Milly for Banana Republic – I actually love this whole Milly line – although I don’t love that my 40% off coupons don’t work for her stuff.
  • Grayson by Linea Pelle – I adore the bright orange, and the studs.

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Remember my goal of accessorizing more? It’s a lot easier now that the J. Crew Factory store is online. (I know it has been for awhile now, but in case anyone is way behind). Similar necklace here, tons more fun jewelry here.

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I discovered this moisturizer/sunscreen/foundation in my mom’s bathroom, of all places. I usually need a heavier foundation due to my melasma, but somehow this product provides plenty of coverage while staying light and non-greasy….plus everyone tells me I look tan. When I went to buy my own, the woman at the Chanel counter seemed confused, and told me its typically for older women, due to the “firming” and “smoothing” features – but hello, who can’t use a little help even at 29? (wink).  And it’s a built-in sunscreen – win win! The coordinating eye cream is also worth the investment.  Chanel counter = dangerous.

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My new cocktail for the summer: Skinny Girl Cucumber Vodka, soda, lime juice, muddled cucumber and mint. Garnish with cucumber slices, mint leaves, lime wedges, and/or fun pink striped straws.  Delicious, refreshing, and low cal!

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I had a few girlfriends over on Tuesday night to say goodbye to my friend Wendy, who is moving to San Diego at the end of the month (sob!). She picked the worst time of year to leave Seattle – it’s been gorgeous every day this week, and we were able to sit out on the deck until 10 pm. I was so excited to be able to serve bubbles from my new West Elm gold-rimmed champagne flutes, and on a fun gold-rimmed pink tray I picked up in Kona (please note the coordinating napkins).

TGIF, friends!! I hope everyone’s weekend includes lots of sunshine, sunscreen, cocktails and neon! XOXO

How To: Cake Pops

Way back in my early/mid-20s, I used to get really excited about wedding and baby showers. I would spend hours picking out invitations, working on menus, trying to think up creative new themes, etc. These days, when I usually have at least one or two a month (more and more as wedding season amps up), I pretty much have them down to a science – I only get excited to try new things when they’re for people I really love. My friend Molly is one of those people, so when her sister asked me to bring cake pops to her bridal shower last month, I did what any normal person would do: signed up for a cake pop making class.

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I took the class with my friend (and cake/cookie/now cake pop decorating guru) Kristen, and we had SO MUCH FUN. The woman who taught it runs her own little catering company, which she founded after quitting Corporate America one day and enrolling in pastry school (i.e. what I dream about doing every day).  If you’re interested in taking her class in Seattle, or if you want to hire her to make your cake pops for you (turns out they’re actually pretty hard), her info can be found here.

If you want to make your own without the class, hopefully this “tutorial” will help you.  You will need:

1. Cake (any kind you like)
2. Frosting (any kind you like)
3. Ice cream/cookie scoop
4. Cake pop sticks (available at Michaels/Joanne Fabrics, Sur la Table, and often at specialty grocery stores)
5. Good quality, tempered melting chocolate (available at specialty baking shops) – tempered chocolate will dry harder and shinier than untempered chocolate
6. Sprinkles and other cake pop decorations, including colored candy melts if desired
7. Truffle papers or mini cupcake papers, for the “ball down, stick up” version (optional)
8. Styrofoam or floral foam cube, wrapping paper or fabric, and ribbon to make a display stand for the “ball up, stick down” version (optional)

1.  Our teacher had the cakes pre-baked for us, and I believe a 9 x 13 cake makes about 18-24 pops, depending upon a variety of factors such as size of cake balls, amount of frosting you mix in, how much of the crust you cut off, density of the cake, etc. So, make a cake (just a boxed mix to start with is fine, you can always fancy it up later), and get some frosting ready (homemade or Betty Crocker).

2.  “Crumb” the cake – cut off the sides and bottom if you want (not necessary, but then there are no “crispy bits” in your cake balls) and tear the cake into tiny pieces, and then crumbs.  You’ll need to really grind the cake with your fingertips until its all tiny, fine crumbs, so depending on who will be eating your cake pops you may want to wear gloves.

3.  Once the cake is finely crumbed, begin to add frosting slowly – you can always add more frosting, but its usually harder to add more cake. Mix/knead, using your hands, until the cake/frosting mixture is the texture of play dough.

4.  Scoop cake into balls using a golf-ball sized ice cream/cookie scoop. Chill for 20-30 minutes if time allows (not necessary but I think it helps).

5.  Roll the balls between your palms until as perfectly round as possible. Chill again.

6.  Melt chocolate either in the microwave, or in a double boiler over simmering water (be careful not to burn the chocolate). Dip cake pop sticks in melted chocolate, then insert the sticks into chilled balls. If you are making your cake pops “stick up, ball down” – like in the photo at the top – you can insert the stick entirely through the ball. If you are making your pops “ball up, stick down” – like the ones in the picture below, or the ones you see at Starbucks – only insert the stick about 3/4 of the way into the ball. You may need to use your hands to gently reshape the balls a bit at this point. Chill again – the colder the cake balls are, the better they’ll hold up once dipped.

7.  Dip cake ball end in chocolate. It’s important to do this pretty gently, or the cake ball could fall off the stick. Gently shake excess chocolate off the ball, and set down to dry. This is where it’s a lot easier to make the “stick up” version, as its easier to let them dry with the ball down. With the “ball up” version, you’ll need to hold the cake pop horizontally over the bowl of chocolate and spin it so that the chocolate dries evenly and without drips (see photo at the bottom left below for evidence of dried drips).

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You can decorate the pops any way you like – chocolate drizzle, sprinkles, sanding sugar, candy flowers, etc. If you want to do the chocolate drizzle, let the first layer of chocolate dry and then pipe a drizzled layer on using a frosting bag. It can be cute to first dip the balls in white chocolate, and then drizzle with dark, or vice versa.

If you go the “ball up, stick down” route, you can make a display stand out of a styrofoam or floral foam cube. Just cover it with a cute fabric or wrapping paper and measure out holes for the sticks evenly. Molly’s wedding colors are aqua and orange so I incorporated those colors (I’m sure hers are more subdued versions) into both the cake pop decorations and the display stands.  Note:  I made about three dozen pops, and only 16 ended up being “ball up.”   It’s harder than it looks!  (Also I would recommend not starting a project like this later than 10 pm).

Just a couple adorable pics from my coffee date yesterday.  I mean honestly, who doesn’t love a cake pop?