Thursday, May 22, 2014

LEGO BIRTHDAY PARTY - recipes, review and ideas!

My baby is now 8. 8! Where has time gone? Yesterday I swear he was a newborn who hated the stroller and loved being held...all the time. Or at most a sweet 4-year old with amazing dimples and a sweet personality to match. But today, I have to accept he is 8. A very determined, shall we say stubborn, little boy who is still sweet...most of the time...when he is not fighting with his older sister. He loves helping me in the kitchen and is very willing to try new things. He also loves building things with his Dad using the tools in his own tool box any chance he gets. He aspires to become a Mountain Man or open an animal rescue centre (Hope for Wildlife has influenced this kid!). I'm a little worried that if I blink he will be heading off to university!

But right now, let's focus on 8. His birthday theme this year is LEGO. I decided to hire a company that offers LEGO parties called Brick 4 Kidz. Deciding factors on hiring them:
  • my son loves LEGO
  • they entertain ten 8 year olds boys for 90 minutes!
  • the kids make a motorized LEGO machine (centrifuge) and then battle it out to see which machine is supreme
  • racing cars are also constructed and raced and other activities
  • the kids also made a mini LEGO figurine that they can take home...and race them on zip lines!
So basically, all I had to do was take care of the food and cake. This made for a very easy decision!
My son had definite ideas on how he wanted his cake to look.

The LEGO leader showed up 15 minutes before the start of the party to bring in the LEGO (they bring everything) and accessories. I wasn't certain that she'd be able to handle all the boy power in the room because she looked too sweet and too young! But she kept everyone in line and on track! The boys had an absolutely fabulous time. From my point of view, it was the lowest stress party we have ever had....I was able to take pics and even sit and have a coffee while the kids had a blast with the LEGO leader. I highly recommend them for boy and girl parties (why should boys have all the fun?!)
The kids made motorized creations and then battled them against each other!

Oh, the birthday boy also received a special t-shirt (included in the party price) and all the kids signed it.
All of the kids signed the back of the birthday shirt.

Another great thing about a LEGO party is the ease of going with the theme at a relatively low cost! Every dollar/discount store has solid color table cloths, bowls, streamers, cutlery, loot bags, balloons, plates etc in LEGO colours.
Dollar Store finds and cutlery/napkin holders built by the birthday boy and his sister.

I splurged on silicone ice cube trays in the shape of LEGO blocks and the LEGO man.
The LEGO man can be found on the LEGO site but I had to order the brick version from eBay. With these trays we made candy blocks/men and coloured ice cubes for drinks.
Lego men and bricks made from Wilton candy melts.
These were my first try at the making the bricks - I should have tapped them harder while the
candy was still warm to get rid of the air bubbles.
Ice cubes blocks made from fruit juice.
On the LEGO site I found mini figurine lego key chains on sale for $1.50 Cdn! I added a few other non-lego items plus the figurine each child built into the loot bags (which were LEGO colored, of course!)
My kids have a tonne of LEGO blocks thanks to their now adult cousins and their Dad and  uncle's childhood sets. So we were able to build a napkin holder, and cutlery holders. We also used many of their mini figurines on the cake to hold the candles.


The cake itself is a dairy free/egg free chocolate cake. We actually don't have any dietary restrictions - I make it because it is incredibly moist and delicious.

I made three cakes and cut a bit off of two of them to make two steps to place the mini figurines.

The icing is my go to vanilla icing - it seems less sweet than other icing sugar based icings.

My son decided on how the blocks/LEGO men were put on the cake. Really it was one of the least stressful/least amount of work birthday cakes I've done lately.

Check out my Pinterest board for more LEGO party ideas.

Wacky Woo Chocolate Cake

To replicate this cake - you will have to make this cake 3 times! It freezes well so you could make them over a day or two and freeze them until needed. Between our LEGO cake we had a thin layer of icing and then a layer of seedless raspberry jam. We also cut off about 1-1.5 inch of the 2nd and 3rd layers so the figurines could be placed easily.

Makes 1 9 inch round cake.

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
5 tbsp shortening, melted
1 cup warm water


  1. Preheat 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
  3. Make 3 medium sized holes in the dry mixture.
  4. Pour the vanilla in one hole. Do not mix.
  5. Pour the vinegar in another hole. Do not mix.
  6. Pour the shortening in the third. Do not mix.
  7. Pour water over the top.
  8. Now mix.
  9. Prepare pan by greasing/flouring it .
  10. Bake for approximately 40 - 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Icing Ingredients
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c milk
pinch of salt


  1. Beat butter until very smooth and creamy.
  2. Slowly add icing sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Incorporate vanilla and salt.
  4. Slowly add milk and slowly beat until beautifully smooth and fluffy. (5 minutes)
  5. If colouring, separate out into bowls and add desired colours.

Makes enough for this three layer cake with a little bit left over.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Watermelon Raspberry Lemon Refresher

What an amazing few days of great weather! We managed to finally put in our vegetable garden - tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, squash and peppers. It's not a very big garden but the kids love helping to plant everything and when (and if) all of the veggies grow they love picking them. There is simply no better way to get kids to try new veggies than growing them in your own backyard. They also realize the hard work it takes to grow them, and that things just don't magically appear in the grocery store! Best of all they learn that homegrown veggies usually taste 100x better than what we buy from chain stores.

With the heat of the weekend and all of the kids' hard work, we had to find a way to quench their thirst with a special drink and this watermelon refresher was perfect...especially since we served it in the the melon after taking out all of the juicy watermelon bits! A perfect end to a hard day and the perfect beginning to summer!


1 mini watermelon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (or strawberries)
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup ice cubes


  1. Cut off a tiny bit of the bottom of the mini watermelon. Just  enough so it sits evenly on a surface. Do nt cut into the fleshy part of the melon!
  2. Cut an inch or 2 off the top of the watermelon.
  3. Scoop out the inside flesh of the watermelon and set aside.
  4. Add the scooped out watermelon, lemon juice, frozen or fresh fruit, yogurt and ice cubes to a blender or nutribullet.
  5. Blend to desired consistency.
  6. Pour back into the watermelon.
  7. Add straw. Enjoy!
If you find it a bit tart you could add a tablespoon of honey.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Top Ten Chocolate Chip Recipes!

Did you know it's National Chocolate Chip Day in the US? Even though we're Canadian I thought we'd help celebrate!

Here's a round up of Within the Kitchen's favorite chocolate chip recipes! Just click on the title to go to the recipe link. 

1. The Chipper! Oh so decadent!

Sinful Pudding:

And finally, if you want to know more about the history of the chocolate chip cookie read this piece from the New Yorker!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Indonesian Blackout Chicken
During a wind storm a couple of months ago, we were sitting in the living room enjoying a little peace while the kids were playing quietly upstairs (i.e. they weren't fighting, bickering or asking us for things). Suddenly, outside our window, sparks were flying, loud "pops" were sounding and then nothing but darkness. The kids came running downstairs asking why fireworks were going off down the street. Turns out a very large and very old tree couldn't stand up to the strong winds and decided to go out with a bang - it fell across a street, taking a power pole with it and crushing a car for good measure. Thankfully, even though it's a busy corner, no one was hurt. Power, however, would be out for the night and the next morning.

Luckily, we had planned to BBQ our dinner. I know you're thinking "why would you plan on grilling in a wind and rain storm?" We BBQ all year round and, yes, in any weather (and by we, I mean my husband). This recipe was adapted from Saveur. The original recipe makes skewers but we bypass that and use whole thighs and cut up breasts.

That night, thanks to the power outage, we had a fun dinner by candle light and we dubbed the dish "Blackout Chicken." The kids LOVE this chicken because it's full of flavour but not spicy. In fact, it's now in our regular rotation.

Serves 6.


1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp tumeric
2 tsp salt
2 stalks lemon grass, chopped
1 head garlic, separated and peeled (at least 5 cloves)
6 mediums shallots
2 larges pieces if ginger (about 8-10 inches in total), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp ground fennel or 2- 3 tbsp fresh fennel
1 tsp ground curry

5-6 lbs chicken thighs or breasts or combo.


  1. Blend everything except chicken in a food processor until a thick but relatively smooth paste is formed.
  2. If using breast, cut them in half or about the same size as a medium thigh. Using a smooth sided mallet or cast iron pan flatten the chicken pieces so they are all the same approximate thickness. This will help the chicken cook at the same rate.
  3. Place the chicken in a bowl or ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Massage the marinade into the chicken so every nook and crevice gets its fair share.
  4. Seal or cover the chicken and marinade for 2-6 hours.
  5. Heat your grill to medium-high. Once hot, place chicken and cook for 5-9 minutes per side until chicken reaches 165 degrees F and juices run clear and bits of the chicken are charred).
  6. Place on serving dish and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with rice and your favorite vegetables.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Tortillas

These tortilla chips are so easy! In fact, they are perfect when you and your kids want to do something together in the kitchen. With a little guidance from you with the cutting and oven handling, you can have a great time together, bake something healthier than the average chip and then eat it together!

All you have to do is pick your favorite tortilla – white, whole wheat, cheese, spinach, tomato …the varieties are endless and add your favorite spices…salt, pepper, garlic, curry, paprika or cinnamon and sugar for a sweet treat.

Today, we used to varieties of tortillas – both white but one was made by Indian Life and the other by Dempster’s. The Indian version had a bit more fat in the tortilla and we found that it came out flakier when baked vs the regular Dempster’s variety. Both were great, just a little different!

Portion control is easier with these snacks than when confronted with an entire bad of chips because you can make as many or as few as you want. And, of course, since you bake them with just spices and a spray of cooking oil they are healthier than regular chips too!

Note: If you want to make your own cinnamon sugar to have on hand just mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tbsp of sugar (you can add a bit more if you like it extra cinnamony) and store it.

You may want to go a little lighter on the cinnamon/sugar
than my daughter did!


4-10+ tortillas (depending on how many you want to make)
1/4 c cinnamon sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut tortillas into desired shapes/sizes or just use a pizza cutter to cut up like a pie.
  3. Spray large baking pan with a baking spray such as Pam or brush with a small amount of vegetable oil.
  4. Place tortillas on pan.
  5. Spray/brush tortillas with more spray/oil.
  6. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar or other desired seasonings/herbs.
  7. Bake for 7-9 minutes (depends on your oven and the size of your tortillas), until golden.
  8. Remove from oven and cool.
  9. Repeat if you have more tortillas!
  10. Store in air tight container. They should last at least a week or more.