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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tiki party mix

For B's birthday, I decided I'd throw together a little impromptu tiki party on our roof deck.  Although it wasn't really that impromptu -- I had put A LOT of thought into almost every detail.  Pineapples, palm trees, and flamingos adorned most everything, and the color theme was mainly pink, yellow, and green to reflect those things. Matching sprinkles.  Pineapple and shark ceramic glasses (but no actual tiki glasses...go figure!).  Ok, so maybe more casual than impromptu. Poor word choice, Julie!

I let my creative juices flow in terms of decor (floating flamingo drink holders, leis, and mini beach balls) and desserts/baking (pina colada marshmallows, pineapple and palm tree chocolate lollipops), and let my trusty friend Trader Joe do most of the catering (I went with tropical/Polynesian themed foods -- coconut shrimp, scallion pancakes, mini meatballs, chicken lemongrass spring rolls, edamame, shrimp toasts -- but ended up serving only about half of those things). B, my resident bartender extraordinaire, mixed up his signature pineapple and mezcal cocktail, among others!  One more place I let my creativity shine through?  This tropical themed snack mix!

I have to say, sometimes I impress myself!  I went with traditional tropical and Polynesian flavors - coconut, mango, pineapple, macadamia, and banana (I was thinking about adding in some sesame sticks for a salty component, but decided to leave them out). Talk about addictive!  I'm so glad I made a huge batch!!

Tiki Snack Mix
A JulieBakes Original!


1/2 cup roasted coconut chips
1/2 cup banana chips
1 cup dried baby sweet pineapple (unsweetened), cut into 1/4s (larger rings cut into 1/6s)
1/4 cup lightly sweetened coconut strips, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup dried unsweetened mango, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup roasted macadamia nuts (I used unsalted, but salted would be good, too.).


Cut dried fruit into the sizes mentioned above.
Add them all to a gallon sized zip lock bag.
Shake up until well mixed.

Add to the serving bowl of your choice (I used a plastic coconut drink holder to keep with the theme).
Extra snack mix (if there should even be any), can be stored in the ziplock bag.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Birthday chocolate lollipops

Festive treats are always fun, especially for birthdays.  And sprinkles?  They're definitely festive!

So, while scrolling through my (wayyyyyy too many) photos on my phone earlier today, I came across a screenshot from just over a year ago (I tend to take a screenshot when I see something interesting that I want to make or go back to at a later date).  It was for a chocolate and sprinkle lollipop that I just thought was adorable.  So when I had leftover chocolate and lollipop sticks in the apartment later on, I knew I had to test these out!  

I had so much fun making these.  I used about six different sprinkles (mostly sprinkle mixtures I had bought, plus some rainbow regular and nonpareil sprinkles). And when I had made them in milk chocolate but was having too much fun to stop there, I went on and made them in white chocolate, too!

These would be really fun to make for different holidays, using specific colors or themed sprinkles....looks like I may have my work cut out for me!

Chocolate and Sprinkle Lollipops
Adapted from a photo I saw from SugarHero


Chocolate wafers, such as Wilton or Mercken's
A variety of sprinkles

Other tools needed:

Wax paper
Lollipop sticks
Piping bags


Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 30 second increments, mixing between each.
Make sure not to burn the chocolate.
Let the chocolate cool slightly so it's not too hot to the touch.

Place wax paper onto a flat baking sheet with a lip.
Lay lollipop sticks on the wax paper about 4 inches apart.

Spoon the chocolate in to a piping bag.
Snip off the end so that only a very small hole is there.

Working quickly, start piping chocolate over the end of the lollipop stick.
Start making circles going away from the end of the stick, but making sure that when completing the circles you make it touch the chocolate you piped at the beginning.
Once you're done piping the lollipop, immediately sprinkle the sprinkles over the wet chocolate, before it cools.

Then, move on to the next lollipop.
Repeat the stages above before making the next lollipop.

Once all the lollipops are made, place the tray into the fridge and allow the chocolate to harden.

S'mores graham cracker toffee

I'm a big fan of the saying "man plans, and g-d laughs."  It's very much the story of my life.  Like take for instance B's work schedule.  Turns out he has to travel for work this week -- and he has to leave NYC the evening of my birthday.  No worries though - we'll celebrate a day or two later when he's back and well-rested!

But I digress...back to my birthday. With a pretty stressful past week and a half, my birthday really snuck up on me this year!!  Which means I've been pretty delinquent on the "birthday treats."  But fret not - while B was busy prepping for work this weekend, I got busy in the kitchen!

I started with an easy but super tasty looking treat -- S'mores "Crack" Graham Cracker Toffee.  It's a riff on the saltine "crack" that people make (and I've been dying to make, but haven't gotten around to it yet), and very similar to the matzah candy that my mom and I make for Passover every year.  Except these have graham crackers and mini marshmallows!

I made sure to cut these into small (about one inch) squares because they're super rich answer...but in the best way possible!!

S'mores Graham Cracker Toffee
From Something Swanky


Approximately 1 sleeve graham crackers (I used closer to 1.5 sleeves), enough to cover the pan in one layer
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (I used light)
2 cups milk chocolate candy bar pieces, chopped (I used good-quality milk chocolate chips)
1 cup marshmallow bits for topping
Graham crackers crumbs, for topping


Preheat the oven to 400F.
Prepare a 10.5" by 15.5" jelly roll pan by lining it with parchment paper.
Be sure to crease the edges so that it lays flat.
Place the graham crackers on top on one layer, don't worry if there are any gaps between them.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high hear.
Mix in the brown sugar.
Bring to a boil (it should definitely be bubbling around the edge, you should not have to wonder if it's boiling).
Set a timer for 3 minutes.
Allow to boil without stirring.
After 3 minutes, remove it from the heat immediately.

Pour the mixture over the crackers.
Use a spatula to gently spread the toffee over the crackers (it's OK if they get displaced a little, but try to keep them as flat as possible).

Bake for 6 minutes.
Remove from the oven.
Sprinkle the chocolate pieces on top.
Return to the oven for 1 minute.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly across the toffee with a spatula (my mini offset spatula was the best for this).
Sprinkle marshmallow bits and graham cracker crumbs on top.
Let the pan cool to room temperature for a few minutes before placing it in the fridge.
Chill for about 30 minutes, until hardened.

Break apart to serve (I used a sharp knife to cut it into squares).
Store chilled for best taste and texture.

Tip from Something Swanky: "for easier cutting/breaking, remove toffee from the refrigerator after 10 minutes (it should be partially cooled -- the chocolate should be hardened enough that it won't be disturbed by cutting, and soft enough that it's easy to cut) and cut the toffee into small squares.  Return to the refrigerator to finish cooling and harden completely."