Monday, May 7, 2012

Sugar Rush

So this week marks the beginning of the birthday parties for the four Cub Reporters.  My 9-year-old turns 10 this week (holy COW I feel old!), and, as I promised myself, I wouldn't necessarily watch my diet on the days of the Cubs' parties.

Now, I don't know if you've figured this out about me yet, but I am a serious planner.  I mean, I do everything I can to plan out the kids' birthday parties at least a year in advance.  They know this, and they're OK with it.  And they also know that, once they've decided on a theme for the party, it's written in stone.  This gives me a year to think and plan and gather stuff for the party.  And, trust me, after several of the parties we've had, I've needed that year to plan for it.

Also, when I've said that I need at least a year to plan for it, I'm not kidding.  My son's birthday party theme this year is M&Ms.  Several months ago, he informed me that he's decided what theme he wants next year, so that I could start gathering the stuff he wants to be able to do.  My one and only daughter has already planned what she wants not only this year, but also next year.  

I love my Cubs.  They're just awesome.

So, this past weekend, we had my 9yo's birthday party (he doesn't actually turn 10 until later this week).  And it was AWESOME.

First off, we had several different M&M themed games to play.  Because he's really into racing, we couldn't pass up playing M&M Kart on the Wii.  That tournament got a little vicious, but it was so cool.  And while kids were playing this, some were in the boys' room playing the M&M Beach Party Wii game. 

yes, my kids are spoiled.  we have two Wiis.  deal with it.

Anyway, they also played outside on the trampoline, had M&M relay races, and a Guess The Number of M&Ms In This Jar (winner got to take home the jar--much to his mother's chagrine).  Typical games, I know, but they still had fun.  Prizes were Medium-sized bags of M&Ms in a variety of flavors.

As for the food, well...  It was all M&M themed.  And all of it was bad for you.  But I don't care.  :)

To start with, I made the 1-point cupcakes that I told y'all about several months ago.  Then, I put a little mock buttercream on it (recipe to follow), and then covered them in one color of M&Ms.  Yes, this means that I did take the time out to separate what ended up being three large bags of M&Ms into colors.  Only the center one of each cupcake had the "m" showing.  The others were all the blank side.  Hey, I tried to make them look like M&Ms.  They were a hit, though.

Mock Buttercream (Typically, buttercream frosting has Crisco in it.  This one doesn't, so is considerably lighter on the fat content.  I made up for it with the use of the M&Ms...  I got this from epicurious.com)
Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted, sweet cream butter, room temperature (IMPORTANT!!!!  DO NOT MICROWAVE IT!)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (not a typo)
1 1/2 tbsp clear vanilla (although you can use real if you're not worried about keeping this white)

Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine a quarter cup of the milk, the flour, and the vanilla, and whisk until there are no lumps.  Then, start adding in the rest of the milk (WHISK CONSTANTLY!), and cook until it comes to a low boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and--still whisking (it'll feel like your arm is about to fall off)--wait for this to thicken.
  2. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, but keep stirring for another minute or two.  If it's lumpy (and sometimes, I'll admit, it is), pour it through a strainer to get the lumps out.  If you've whisked it fast enough, though, it'll be lump free.  Anyway, set it aside and let it come up to room temperature (about an hour or so).  If you're in a hurry, put it in the refrigerator or the freezer.
  3. Cream the butter on medium speed in a Kitchen-Aid for roughly 3-4 minutes.  It will get very light in color.  Add in the sugar, and bump up the speed to HIGH for another 5 or 6 minutes.  You're looking for the sugar to dissolve into the butter.
  4. Slow the speed of the mixer down to LOW, and SLOWLY pour the milk mixture into the butter.  When it's all in there,  increase the speed to medium and beat it until the frosting is light and fluffy (roughly 3-5 minutes).
  5. It's ready to use at this point!

So, I used this as the frosting for the cupcakes. I have no idea how much it is in terms of calories, but it's got to be lighter than the one with Crisco mixed into it.  Also, it's not as sweet.  Which was a good thing, as the M&Ms most definitely are.

Next on the list of foods I had available is something that I could have died and gone to Heaven a very happy man after I had a lot some.

M&M Chocolate Fudge (I adapted this from one I found on foodbuzz.com.)
Ingredients:
12 ounces semi-sweet Hershey's chocolate chips (DO NOT use milk chocolate chips!!!)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp real vanilla (I used mine that I made with brandy.  Ooooh YUM!)
1 tbsp butter
1 cup mini M&Ms
Extra mini M&Ms to put on top when you're done

Directions:
  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk.  Allow the chocolate chips to melt, but stir it occasionally so they blend together well and the bottom doesn't burn.  
  2. Add the vanilla and the butter, and mix until the butter has disappeared and melted into the chocolate (won't take very long).
  3. Remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes, or your M&Ms will melt too quickly.  When you don't burn yourself when you touch the fudge, you're ready to go on.
  4. Add in the M&Ms, and stir.  It'll be hard, because the fudge has already begun to set.  But that's OK.
  5. Pour the mixture into a 9x9 baking dish that you've prepared by lining with parchment paper.  Spread it out evenly.
  6. Immediately sprinkle your reserved mini M&Ms on top, and press them down into the fudge so that they'll stick.
  7. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator, and let cool completely.
  8. Remove and cut into bite-sized pieces.
The fudge will be dense, yet smooth.  You'll love it.  I guarantee it.  And it is NOT low-cal!!!!

Also on the menu were three different party mixes that I made with M&Ms.  I basically made these up, but I know they're all variations of other party mixes I've made in the past.  No telling where I first saw them.  I also did my best to use the same cereals in all three so that I didn't have to worry about buying nine different types of cereal...

Chubby Hubby Party Mix  (yes, it's a riff on Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but it works.  And it works well!)
Ingredients:
6 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Crispix
1 cup Peanut Butter M&Ms
1 cup Pretzel M&Ms
1 cup dry roasted nuts (any flavor--I used peanuts, but feel free to use whatever you want)
1 lb chocolate chips
2-3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt*

Directions:
  1. In a large microwaveable bowl, mix the cereals and nuts.  Set aside.
  2. In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave the butter (uncovered) on full power for 40 seconds, or until melted.  Stir in salt and sugar.  Pour over the cereal mixture, and stir to make sure it's all evenly coated.
  3. Microwave the cereal mixture at full power for 5-6 minutes, stirring really well every two minutes.
  4. In another microwaveable bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and the canola oil until it's all melted.  Stir every 20 seconds to smooth out the chocolate, as well as prevent burning.  Pour over the cereal mixture, and mix to coat.  Pour out on waxed paper to dry.
  5. When cooled and dry, break apart (if needed), mix in the M&Ms, and place in a party bowl.
  6. Serve and enjoy!
*If you use salted butter, don't use/add in this salt.


Special Dark Party Mix
Ingredients:
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Corn Chex
4 cups popped popcorn
2 cups Dark Chocolate M&Ms
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans*
3/4 cup dark Karo syrup
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 250ºF.  Lightly grease a large roasting pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix up the cereals, popcorn, and pecans.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and mix with the corn syrup and sugar.  Stir until the sugar has melted completely, and the syrup is warm and bubbly.  Pour over the cereal/popcorn/pecan mixture, then using a large wooden spoon, mix to coat everything as evenly as possible, then pour into the roasting pan.
  4. Stirring approximately every 15 minutes, bake for one hour.  Pour out on waxed paper to cool completely, then mix in the M&Ms and place in a party bowl.
  5. Serve and enjoy!
*To toast pecans, simply chop up pecan halves--or use pecan pieces--and put them in a small stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat.  You'll need to stir them occasionally.  When you can smell the warm, nutty scent, they're done.  Pull 'em off the burner RIGHT THEN, otherwise they'll burn and you'll have to start over.  Pecans are expensive, so you don't want to have to do that.


Caramel Joy Party Mix
Ingredients:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Crispix
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/2 tsp real vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 12oz bag plain M&Ms
1 12oz bag coconut M&Ms (optional)

Directions:
  1. In a large microwaveable bowl, mix the cereals.  Set aside.
  2. In a small microwaveable bowl, mix up the brown sugar, butter, and Karo, then microwave--uncovered--for 1 minute at full power (HIGH).  Remove, stir, and microwave again for another minute.  The butter should be melted, and everything should be smooth by now3.  Stir in the vanilla and baking soda.  It will probably foam up a little.  THIS IS NORMAL.  Pour the caramel over the cereal, and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  3. Microwave this on full power (HIGH) 5-6 minutes, stirring every minute.  When the cereal is a warm, golden brown, you're done.  Pour out on waxed paper, and cool completely.
  4. When cooled and dry, break apart (if needed), mix in the M&Ms, and place in a party bowl.
  5. Serve and enjoy!
*If you use salted butter, don't use/add in this salt.


I also made (surprise!  surprise!)  M&M cookies.  I found this recipe at the M&M's website.  It's very, very good!  And each cookie has only 90 calories. Although, they're tiny cookies, as this recipe makes about 50...

Red's Ultimate M&Ms Cookies
Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used my bourbon vanilla)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce package M&M’S® MINIS® Milk Chocolate Candies
3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional--I didn't use them)


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. 
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into butter/sugar mixture. 
  4. Stir in M&M’S® MINIS® Milk Chocolate Candies and nuts, if desired. 
  5. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
  6. Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and centers are still soft. Do not overbake. 
  7. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks.
I also made cookies for the kids to take home using these cookie cutters, and the 20-Second Royal Icing recipe I found on Sugarbelle.  If you want it, go there and get it.  It's perfect, and works every single time I've used it.  And I've used it a lot.  Anyway, I made  those as parting gifts, as well as gave each child a small bag of M&Ms to take with them.  I had several different kinds, so they got to choose which one they wanted to take.

Yes, I was the coolest parent on the planet, according to the kids.  I was a real "winner" of a parent with the parents.  (he said, as his words dripped with sarcasm).

Probably the biggest thing I did for the party was the M&M bar.  My family has always been a big M&M fan, so between our house and my parents' house, we were able to come up with ten different M&M dispensers.  Over the course of the past year, I've been collecting ten different varieties of M&Ms--the white chocolate ones that were available at Halloween, the raspberry ones and the chocolate-covered-cherry ones that were available at Valentine's, the mint ones that were available at St Patrick's Day, the cinnamon ones from Christmas, and the "normal" ones that you can find anywhere anytime:  Plain (they'll always be plain in my book), Peanut, Peanut Butter, Pretzel, and Coconut.  I know that Almond is also available, but they're also difficult to use in a dispenser because of their size.  I lined them up, put a label on each, filled them up, and let the people at them.  The ones to go first were all the special flavors (cinnamon and white chocolate were HUGE hits!).

I still have loads of M&Ms left over.  Perfect for my desk at work, as people visit me just to get their hands on my candy.

All in all, I think the party was a huge success.  There were lots of presents, lots of candy, lots of fun, and lots of children crashing after they came down off their sugar rush.

Hope you have a wonderful day!

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