Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coffee and Cream Cupcakes

I love me some coffee with cream but rarely drink it in the summer because well it it hot and so am I.  Here is the next best thing to a steaming cup o'joe.  The cupcakes are coffee flavored and the icing is a nice sweet cream flavor, definitely knock your socks off worthy.

To start preheat your oven to 350.  Cream 1 1/2 sticks UNsalted butter with 1 1/4 cups sugar.  Add 2eggs plus the whites of 1 egg slowly and mix well.  Mix in 2 teaspoons vanilla and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Slowly add 3/4 cup of cool coffee.  Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa.  Mix very well.  Now add 1 3/4 cups flour slowly.  Lastly add 2 tsp baking powder.  This will make 24 cupcakes.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until done.  Do NOT over bake because if these start to burn in the slightest they will taste rancid. 

To make the Sweet Cream Icing start by creaming 3/4 cup UNsalted butter with 1/2 cup Crisco.  Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  Mix in 1 lb (about 4 cups) powdered sugar.  This will get THICK.  Add 1 tablespoon of cream at a time.  I used about 3 tablespoons. 

To finish cupcakes I dropped a dollop of icing on the cupcake.  No spreading, no piping, no fuss.  I wanted part of the cupcake to be seen around the edges.  Let me say that these are too good.  I mean could sit down and eat the how batch good.  These are the ones you make and eat a couple then give away for fear of eating the rest.  So this summer when it is hotter than Hades our there have a "cup"cake of Coffee & Cream. 

Coffee Cupcakes

3/4c UNsalted butter (room temp)
1 1/4c sugar
2 eggs plus whites of 1 egg
2tsp. vanilla
3/4c coffee (cooled)
2tb cocoa
3/4tsp salt
2tsp baking powder
1 3/4c flour.

Cream butter and sugar.  Slowly add eggs and mix well.  Add vanilla and cooled coffee.  Mix in cocoa and baking powder.  Slowly add flour until well mixed.  Spoon into lined cupcake pans and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.  Let Cool.

Sweet Cream Icing

3/4c UNsalted butter (room temp)
1/2c Crisco
1lb. Powdered Sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 tbl cream

Cream butter and Crisco.  Mix in vanilla.  Slowly add powdered sugar until all incorporated.  This will be thick.  Add cream 1 tbl at a time.  Dollop on top of coffee cupcakes.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Chocolate Pie

My husband will eat just about anything I make but if I really want to make him happy I make pie. He loves him some g-o-o-o-o-o p-a-a-a-a-a (good pie). Chocolate Pie is his absolute favorite and if I made it often he would probably turn into one...no, I am serious...he really would!

To start pre-bake your pie crust. You can use the easy stuff that comes already done at the store or you can make your own. Usually I make my own, today I cheated and used the ready made stuff. Remember to prick your crust well or you will have a nuclear mushroom crust in your oven (don't ask how I know this). Once the crust is golden brown and cooling you can start the filling. Basically it is a chocolate pudding filling. Whisk together 3 cups of sugar, 6 tablespoons cocoa, 3 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 cups milk. Once this is mixed put bowl on top of a pot of boiling water (homemade double boiler). Stir mixture until it gets really hot. While this is heating separate the yolks from 4 eggs and beat lightly. Slowly whisk 1 cup of near boiling mixture to the eggs. You are tempering these so add the HOT mixture slowly or you will have scrambled eggs. Once you have added the 1 cup of hot mixture to your eggs you can then add that back into the hot mixture. This is the hard part, ready...mix this mixture every couple of minutes until thick. See hard...I know. Think yogurt thickness. That is what you are aiming for. Once it has reached the desired thickness remove from double boiler and stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons butter. This set is important, probably the most important step...strain your hot chocolate mixture before you pour it into your pie crust. Trust me, you don't want to skip this and realize a little of the eggs scrambled...can we say EWWW! Pour the strained chocolate mixture into your pie crusts and let set a couple hours. Once cool refrigerate. My husband grabs a slice every time he passes the fridge. You could put meringue on top but he like it simple and chocolate. This recipe makes 2 pies and if you value your waist line you will gift one to a neighbor, friend, anyone just so long as it isn't in your house to eat!

Chocolate Pie

Prebake your pie crust and let cool.

3c sugar
6tbsp cocoa
3tbsp flour
3tbsp cornstarch
1tsp salt
4 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
4c milk
2tbsp butter
1tbsp vanilla.

Whisk dry ingredients with 4c milk. Place on a double boiler and heat till just shy of boiling. Add 1c hot mixture to eggs slowly to temper. Once tempered add back to chocolate mixture and cook till thick. Once thick add butter and vanilla. Strain any bits and pour into pie crusts. Let set and store in fridge. Eat piece, groan about how good it is, grab another piece, gobble down, sneak a third piece and hide while eating it, tell yourself it is good for you while eating piece four and five. Hide pieces six and seven from the family and cry while eating piece eight because it is gone, then remember you hide pieces six and seven and inwardly chuckle at your brilliance. Once you have eaten the entire pie, seek a nap, counseling or weight watchers...which ever you think you may need.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Almond Icing

So my birthday is tomorrow and I really wanted to do something different for a birthday cake.  I love making cupcakes, they are super easy and look cute!  I decided to recreate one of my favorite candy bars, an almond joy.  I went with a coconut cupcake and dark chocolate almond icing, why...meh because it sounded good.  *grin*

The cupcakes are from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book.  This was a nice and fluffy cupcake that baked up nicely and was airy, not dense.  Perfect for summer.  I bet this would be smashing with a pineapple icing also.  Kinda Pina Cola type pairing. 

You can find the recipe on her blog here but here is a quick run down on how to do it. 

Cream 3/4 cup butter and 1 1/3 cup sugar.  Add in 2 eggs and 2 egg whites one at a time.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Add 2 teaspoons baking powder.  Shred 1/2 cup packed sweetened coconut in food processor.  Mine was already shredded but I did it till it was smaller pieces.  Add to mixture.  Add 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 of the coconut milk (3/4c unsweetened coconut milk total).  Add remaining 1 cup flour and remaining coconut milk.  Spoon into cupcake tins and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  I got 24 cupcakes from this recipe. 

The icing I made up as I went.  I creamed 1/4 cup Crisco and 1/4 cup butter.  I added 1 cup of cocoa, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract.  Then slowly added 1/3 cup of milk and 2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar.  Because I wanted to make it extra almond/chocolaty I added 1/4 c of Dark Chocolate Almond Butter (found with the peanut butters)

It was yummy with and without so if you don't want to splurge on this you won't be missing out too much. 

To finish the cupcakes I sprinkled toasted coconut on top.  Let me say that it is like the grown up version of an almond joy.  Lite cupcake, rich icing, nut coconut.  All around yummy goodness!

Let's hope these bad boys make it till my birthday tomorrow!

1 3/4c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut (shredded more in food processor)
1 1/4c unsalted butter
1 1/3c sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
3/4c UNsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and salt.  Add baking powder and coconut.  Alternate adding flour and coconut milk.  Spoon into tins and bake at 350 for 20 min. 

Dark Chocolate Almond Icing

1/4c Crisco (shortening)
1/4c unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/3c milk
2 1/2-3c powdered sugar
1/4c dark chocolate almond butter (optional)

Cream shortening and butter.  Add extracts and milk.  Add almond butter.  Add powdered sugar. 

Top cupcakes with toasted coconut.  (To toast put a thin layer on a cookie sheet and place in 450 over.  Stir every 2 minutes till toasted)
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Double Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies

These are deadly, they should be illegal because they are so good!  These are not your grandmother's cookies.  They are rich, decadent and you will not want to share them.  Hide them...hide them well!

To start cream 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon salt to the mix.  Beat in 2 eggs (one at a time).  Then add 6 tablespoons cocoa...yes six, yes I know it is a lot, just do it.  Then add 1 teaspoon baking soda and finally 1 1/2 cups flour.  Then fold in 1 cup butterscotch chips and 1/2 c mini chocolate chips.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet at back at 325 for about 13 minutes.  Move them to a cooling rack and let them cool.  Now when no one is looking sneak a cookie.  Take a bite and die, then get back up and sneak another one.  By the time the cookies are cool there will be no more left so you need to go back to the beginning and start over again. 

Seriously these are so good.  They are a soft, chewy cookie that bursts with chocolate and butterscotch flavors.  Definitely not a boring cookie!

Double Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter (soft)
1c sugar
1 1/2tsp vanilla
1tsp salt
2 eggs
6tbsp cocoa
1tsp baking soda
1 1/2c flour
1c butterscotch chips
1/2c mini chocolate chips

Cream sugar and butter.  Add vanilla and salt.  Mix in 1 egg at a time.  Add cocoa and mix well.  Add flour.  Fold in chips and drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 for 13 minutes.  Move to a cooling rack and eat entire batch. 

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Honey Pecan Banana Bread

When my husband and I first married I could make one thing...banana bread.  No joke, my tuna was horrible, hot dogs were deadly and remind me to tell you about the time I accidentally par-cooked a frozen steak with the pilot light.  It is safe to say that cooking was not the reason Hubby married me.  Banana bread though I could rock!  I have played around with different types since I started making it and this is by far my favorite one.  I love the addition of honey and the delicate crunch of pecans.  This is amazing sliced up or heavenly as french toast.  *groan*  No matter how you eat it you will love it.

Start with a stick of room temperature butter (unsalted) and mix it with 2/3 cup of sugar.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon ginger.  Once this is mixed well add 1 egg and 2-3 tablespoons honey.  I add more because I love honey, if you don't care for it you could omit it but try it once with honey because it adds a wonderful subtle flavor.  Next add 2 medium bananas that are mashed up (I use a potato masher).  *Note, if you bananas are not ripe enough mash them and leave them on the counter for 20 minutes, they will turn mushier.  To all this add 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 cups of flour.  Fold in 1 cup of roughly chopped pecans.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes  Just start checking after 45, mine usually takes about 54 minutes to cook but if it is more humid it may take a tad longer. 

Try to let this cool before slicing and if you are able to wait please email me and tell me how you did it because I am never able to wait.  As soon as my fingers can handle the heat I cut me off a hunk and slather it with honey butter.  The butter and honey melt and make this a true finger lickin' treat!

Honey Pecan Banana Bread

1/4c (1 stick) room temp. butter (unsalted)
2/3c sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2tbsp honey
2 medium bananas (mashed)
1 tsp. baking soda
2c flour
1c chopped pecans.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla.  Add egg and honey.  Mix well.  Mash and mix in bananas.  Add baking soda and flour.  Fold in pecans.  Bake in 1 large or 3 small loaf pans in a 350 oven for 45-60 minutes.  Cool and enjoy!

Honey Butter

1/2 stick room temp butter (salted)
2 tbsp honey

Mix and slather on Honey Pecan Banana Bread.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chocolate Almond Oatmeal Cookies

My grandmother makes these for everything...I mean everything.  My brothers request these for their Christmas gift from her.  Now because I can't leave good enough alone I had to tweak the recipe some.  I love the additions I have made. 

Start with 3 cups of old fashioned oatmeal.  You can use the quick oats but to me they are a little more mushy, the old fashioned seem to hold shape better.  6 tablespoons of cocoa, yes I know it is a lot but trust me this is what makes it Good with a capital G.  1 cup coconut, you can use unsweetened or sweetened, whatever floats your boat.  1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 cup slivered almonds, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Mix all of this is a large bowl and set aside.  In a saucepan mix 2 cups sugar, 1/2 c shortening and 1/2 cup milk.  Mix and bring this to a rolling boil.  Then CAREFULLY pour the boiling mixture over the dry ingredients and stir.  Drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto wax paper.  Let these sit 2-3 hours, then place in an airtight container.  I can not tell you how long these will keep because they never make it more than a few days in our house.  But this recipe makes a ton of them, I make sure to give at least half of them away.  If not then my husband would eat all of them...and I mean all. 

If you want a more chocolaty cookie you can add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the dry mixture.  If you are not a fan of almonds you can either substitute them or remove them all together.  No matter how you mix it up, this is a good, easy cookie.

Chocolate Almond Oatmeal Cookies

3c old fashioned oatmeal
6tb cocoa
1c coconut
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1c slivered almonds

Mix and set aside.

2c sugar
1/2c shortening
1/2c milk

Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients.  Drop by spoonful onto wax paper and let harden for a few hours.  Eat, sigh, enjoy, repeat.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rolled Buttercream Icing

*Edited to add a picture of a finished sugar cookie with rolled icing.  This is one of the plain ones I had left because all the cute ones got eaten.  As you can see the rolled buttercream icing (pink or green) is similar in shape as the cookie and about half the thickness.  How thick you roll it is competely up to you and how much icing you want on the finished cookie.

This is melt in your mouth goodness, forget the M&M's this is what I'm talking about!  I use this icing for my Rolled Sugar Cookies and let me tell you that these are always...I mean always a hit.  I have had people ask if you can use this like fondant on cakes and so far I have not been able to make it work because it is not as stiff as fondant and tears easily when trying to do larger projects but it is perfect for cookies!

So as I stated in my sugar cookie recipe that you want to apply this as soon as the cookies come out of the oven.  This way the icing adheres to the cookie and becomes part of it when it cools.  Just like fondant you can decorate this with royal icing or sprinkles (apply these a couple minutes after you have put the icing on the cookie).  So let's make some icing!

In your mixer you cream 1 cup of Crisco (shortening) and 1 cup of light corn syrup.  Then add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  *Note about almond, it is very strong and a little goes a long way.  If you don't like almond you can replace it with nothing or you could experiment with other extracts.  Lemon is a great one to use for summer.  Once this is mixed slowly add 2lbs of powdered sugar.  Once you add it all your mixing will be begging you to stop.  This is when I turn it all out onto my counter and knead it the rest. Once it is all mixed you can break off sections to color with gel food coloring.  Remember start with a little, you can always add more but you can't always take it away.  That is it, simple, easy and yummy.  Now, just like the sugar cookies you roll this out between two pieces of parchment paper.  Once rolled cut out your shapes using the same cookie cuter that you used for the cookies.  Place parchment on a cookie sheet and chill for 5 minutes.  *It is easier to pick up the cut out icing when it is chilled.  Place cut out icing on fresh from the oven cookie.  Wait a couple minutes and add sprinkles or let cool and decorate with royal icing or leave as is.  How ever you serve em up they will go fast. 

Rolled Buttercream Icing

1c Crisco
1c Light Corn Syrup
1tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2lb powdered sugar

Cream crisco and corn syrup.  Add vanilla and almond.  Slowly add powdered sugar.  Once almost mix, turn out onto counter and knead rest by hand.  Color icing with gel food coloring.  Roll between parchment paper and chill 5 minutes.  Apply icing to fresh from the over cookies.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rolled Sugar Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookies. They are tasty and easy to make but I warn you they can be time consuming but so worth it! I guess I should say they can be as time consuming as you let them. This is a rolled sugar cookie recipe so that means that the final product will be a cookie cut from a cookie cutter. I have never done these as a drop sugar cookie so I have no clue how those would turn out using this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Start with 2 cups (4 sticks) of room temperature unsalted butter. I know there is great debate about salted vs. unsalted. I use unsalted in all my baking, it is easier to add salt then to try to make something taste less salty. Cream the butter and add 2 cups granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. To this add 2-3 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon salt. The beat in 2 eggs one at a time. Add 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Once this is all mixed slowly add 5-6 cups of flour. The amount of flour you use will depend on a lot of things unrelated to cooking. The weather, the time of year, the humidity. I find I use more flour in the summer/humid months than in the winter/drier months. Also rainy days require more flour than sunny days. You want your dough to be not sticky but not dry. I think of it like play-dough that has been left to sit for a couple hours. Kinda crumbly until you work it then it forms a nice ball. Make sense? Once your mixed is about 95% mixed turn it out onto your counter and knead the rest by hand. I think I do this more to save my stand mixer but it also gives me a good feel for the dough. Once mixed divide dough and wrap. Pat dough into a flat disc. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. (Hey, it gives you time to clean up the kitchen!) Once the dough is chilled roll dough out between two pieces of parchment paper. I told you this stuff was amazing, remember this post. Tool Tip Tuesday: Parchment Paper. By rolling your dough between parchment paper you are ensure that the first cookie and last cookie taste the same. Why? Because you are not adding any additional flour to the mix. Okay, once your dough is rolled out (about 1/4 inch thick) use your desired cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet a chill in the freezer for 10 minutes, yes the freeze, don't argue with me, trust me. The reason you chill in the freezer is cut out cookies will spread and loose their shape if at room temperature. So that means the cute little duck you cut out will come out looking like a creature from the black lagoon. By chilling the dough it holds it shape better allowing that duck to remain and cute duck. Bake these babies for 8-10 minutes. It really depends on the size/shape of the cookie. You want the edges to just start to turn golden. These cookies are best when not over cooked. Once the cookies are removed from the over let cool or if you want an easy way to ice them apply a rolled buttercream to the top of the hot cookie. I'll post this sugar coma induced treat tomorrow so check back! These cookies will keep for about week (if they last that long) or can be frozen for three months. Also the uncooked dough can be frozen for three months. This means you could make your dough in June, bake the cookies in September and hand them out a Christmas. WooHoo! Happy Baking!

Recipe: Rolled Sugar Cookies
2c unsalted butter (room temp.)
2c granulated sugar
2tsp vanilla
1tsp almond extract
1tsp salt
2 eggs
3tsp baking powder
5-6c flour

Mix butter and sugar.  Add vanilla, almond and salt.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add baking powder.  Add flour little at a time.  Mix 95% and turn out onto counter.  Knead dough together.  Divide and wrap.  Pat into discs and chill 1 hour.  Roll dough between 2 pieces parchment paper.  Cut cookies and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Chill cookies 10 minutes in freezer.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Apple Crunsp

We are having issues with our computers right now so picutres will be added when the computer stops having a mind of its own.

I love this, I think this is my favorite that I make.  I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never tired of it.  Not to mention it is easy, easy, e-a-s-y.

You need:

7-8 apples, I use a mixture of granny smiths and some soft flesh kind
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cook)
1/2 cup pecans
1 stick of butter

Peel, core and slice your apples.  Mix in white sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and molasses.  Mix till every apple has some yummy goodness on it.  Melt 1/3 of the stick of butter in a cast iron skillet.  Once melted add apples and let simmer.

You can chop the pecans but I don't care about uniform size, I think it adds to the dish if they are different.  So I do a little kitchen therapy here.  Place pecans in baggie, grab rolling pin, think of something bothering you, wack the pecans.  Sigh, now don't you feel better!

Put flour, brown sugar, oats, pecans and remaining 2/3 stick of butter (cut into pieces) into the same bowl the apples were in.  Use a pastry cutter and cut butter into mixture.  You want the butter to be about the size of small peas when you are done.  Turn the burner off and sprinkle topping over the apples.  Place the entire skillet in a 350 oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.  I like my apples softer so I lean towards 45 minutes.  

You can top this with vanilla ice cream but I prefer a drizzle of heavy cream.  It is warm, gooey, crispy, crunchy...it's Apple Crunspy!
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Valentine's Cupcakes

So I know that Valentine's Day was last month but these are too cute, too easy and too tasty to not post.  Plus they could be modified to fit any celebration/holiday and did I mention they were super easy!?! 

To start print out an easy design, where these are for Valentine's Day I am using a heart (creative I know).  Place the printed paper on a flat surface and cover with parchment paper, what you don't have any?  Then you obviously did not read this Tool Tip Tuesday

To make chocolate hearts melt good quality chocolate chips in the microwave.  I used ghirardelli chips because I love how they taste, I think it is a good quality for the price.  Microwave in small increments until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  To create the lacy design you can chose to do this a couple different ways.  You could pour the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle, use a decorating bag with a small opening cut off or use a decorating bag with a tip.  I used the decorating bag with a #3 tip.  *Most of the time I would say you could use a sandwich bag for piping but not in this case.  The chocolate gets too hot and can melt the bag some making the chocolate have a funny taste and I love chocolate too much to do that to it.  Okay, so pour chocolate into bottle/bag (to get the hot chocolate into the bag without burning yourself stand the bag up in a glass and then pour chocolate in) and trace hearts with the melted chocolate.  Then fill in hearts with squiggles that overlap a little, make sure to have the squiggles contact with the sides you traced so that you heart will be structurally sound (never thought you would hear that term with baking did ya).  Let hearts harden (ohh that sounds so cruel). 

I put my completed cupcakes in the cutest little bags but I wanted a base for them to sit on so I got coordinating scrapbook paper.  I measured the base of the bag for length and width, I then added 1 inch to each side so that there would be a 1 inch lip all the way around.  To make it easier to fold the sides up cut a 1 inch square from each of the corners.  Fold sides up and then slide your base into the bags.  I used plain, cheap cello bags. 

To top the bag off I used the coordinating scrapbook paper and cut a piece that was 1 inch wider than the bag measured so my paper measured 5 inches by 3 inches.  I then folded the paper over and attached a sticker with a saying on it, or you can write something, or leave it...completely up to you.  Fold the top of the bag over and place folded paper over it, then punch 2 holes through paper and bag (this is for the ribbon).  

With cupcakes it does not matter how they look if they taste nasty so use what you are comfortable with.  With these I was pressed for time so I used a box mix that I added to.  I add a tablespoon of vanilla and a couple drops of lemon extract to the white cupcakes and I added 1/2 tablespoon vanilla, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the chocolate cupcakes.  Now the icing is a different story, canned icing just does not work well for piping and honestly homemade tastes loads better.  But fret not my pretties, it is simple to make. 

Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup shortening (i.e. Crisco)
1/2 cup UNsalted butter (trust me on this one)(room temp.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar (about 1lb.)
*8-10 tablespoons of water.

Cream shortening and butter, add extracts and water.  Slowly add sugar. 
*The amount of water you add will vary.  You want barely soft peaks to form.  If your icing is too stiff it will tear the cake, too soft and it will not hold its form.   

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temp.)
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup of cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/3 cup water

 Cream butter, add extracts and salt.  Slowly add cocoa.  Mix in water and then slowly add sugar. 
* The amount of water varies but this is a good estimate. There are times I use more and times I use less, again you want soft peaks to form. 

To pipe icing I used a decorator's bag with no tip, I just snipped the end the size I wanted.  You could use a gallon ziploc bag as well for this.  Place hardened hearts on top *giggle* (you would think I was a school girl or something).

To package these I placed a piece of double sided tape on the bottom of the cupcake and placed in the bag.  These are tied closed with a ribbon. 

These make wonderful gifts for teachers or for you child to take to school on their birthday.  These are also great for take home treats at baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, etc.  You can make the cupcakes as plain for fancy as you would like.  These are simple, fast and adorable, not to mention too yummy for words.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Special Marshmallows

I don't know about your kids but mine love marshmallows.  There is just something about that squishy, sweet treat that delights most kids.  But let's face it, they are not "cute" or "adorable", they are a puff of white (or pink if you find the strawberry ones).  Now and then during certain holidays you can find shaped one (snowmen at Christmas) but for the most part they are plain, boring white puffs. 

I have done this for years for a special treat for my girls.  I sneak them into lunch boxes or bowls of cereal occasionally.  They "ohhhhh" and "ahhhhh" at them and gobble them down.  They are super easy to make and turn a plain boring puff into something special.

You are going to need:

Powdered Sugar
Small Cookie Cutter

Step One: Place cookie cutter in powdered sugar
Step Two: Position cookie cutter on top of marshmallow
Step Three: Press cookie cutter gently into marshmallow
Step Four: Slowly remove cutter from marshmallow

 Where you able to get all that?  Need me to do it again?  No, okay.  Seriously these are so easy and turn out so stinking cute!  They look adorable in a mug of hot cocoa or the insides (smaller hearts) made a great addition to a bowl of cereal or peanut butter sandwich.   

In no time at all you can assemble an army of cute marshmallows waiting to be bestowed upon a lucky child (or adult).  They are cute packaged in clear bags tied with a ribbon.  So put down the boring puffs of marshmallows and create something that will have all the kids in the neighborhood begging.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Drab to Fab: Valance Beautification

Here is the tutorial on how to make my no sew, super cute, ridiculously easy valance. (My pictures for this project are less than wonderful, so please look past the ugliness of the quality, thanks a bunch)

You will need:
  • Two valances
  • Scalloped fabric stuff
  • Straight fabric stuff
  • Satin ribbon
  • Satin bows
  • Liquid stitch
(Disclaimer: I am by no way a sewer, I have no clue what things are called or the proper way to do anything so, if you know what something is called and would like to correct me on it feel free.  Just know in my scatter brain mind it will probably get lost with did I brush my hair, why are you wearing your shoe on your head, no you can not sell your sister)

Okay, so to start I cut off 12 inch sections from one of the valances.  I cut from each end so that I would not have to finished off the ends.  Smart thinking, I know. I laid them next to each other (making sure the curtain rod holes lined up and they were both facing the same direction) and glued a strip of black satin ribbon to the front of both, in essence gluing them together with out you being able to know that is what I am doing. 

Once I have done this for both sides of the valance I flipped it over and glued the end pieces of the ribbon to the back, like this. 

I let this dry for about 15 minutes.  I wanted to make sure that the ribbon was attached nicely before I moved on to the beautification of this plain valance. 

Time for its makeover!  I started with the scalloped black fabric thingy I found.  Now for some reason it was scalloped on both sides, why I have no clue but I didn't want it scalloped on both sides so liquid stitch to the rescue again.  I glued the edge down.

Once I had it glued, I let it sit for 15 minutes.  Then I glued the black fabric thingy to the bottom edge of the valance.  I positioned it so that the edge of the valance could not be seen between the edges of the scallops.

Again, let dry for 15 minutes, then attach the other black fabric thingy but I did mine at the top edge, over where the curtain rod would go inside the valance. 

And yup, you guessed it.  Let this sit for 15 minutes to dry.  Once it was dry I flipped it over and glued the ends on the back side.  I forgot to take pictures of this but I am pretty sure you can figure it out.  One suggestion to to make sure your ends are not longer than an inch, it looks better, especially on the bottom edge.

Lastly, I attached the two bows, one on each of the satin ribbons.

I love how it turned out, I don't have a picture of it hung up yet because well, I have not hung it up yet.  I am waiting till we paint.  I spent less than $30 total for this one of a kind valance.  After looking at the finished project I wish I had put a piece of satin ribbon going down the middle of it with a bow, just to break up that huge space but it still look great. 

So there you have it, not one stitch was sewn nor not one finger pricked to make this super cute, ultra easy, deliciously adorable valance.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Curtains Here, Curtains There...

...so many curtain everywhere.  Yet, I could not find a single one I liked to match our bedroom.  Now some might say I am picky and others mights say just use anything but *stomps foot* I am not picky and I don't want just any curtain...I want the perfect curtain.  Well, valance actually but same difference.  What seems to be my down fall is that the one window we have in the master bedroom is not an easily found measurement.  Our window is 58 inches, not too out there but enough that finding a valance or blinds isn't as simple as I would like.  Initially I wanted to put roman shades in the room, white roman shades with a black valance.  Sounds nice right...I thought so until I realized I need to special order the shades at $300...ummm no thanks.  I mean $300 will feed my girls for like 2 minutes!  (joking...kinda)  So fine, I'll settle for plain mini-blinds.  Then I move onto the valance, do you think I can find anything that I like that goes with the rest of the room and will fit a 58 inch window?  I give you two guesses but you will only need one...NO

I looked all over and fell in love with this one but it measures 54 inches and because of the way it is made I cannot use two together.  So after searching, getting mad and searching some more I screamed ENOUGH!  Well not really screamed but it sounded good.  I decided that I would just make something up to go with the room.  I started by picking up a couple of plain black valances at the World (a.k.a. Wally World (a.k.a. Walmart)).  I then hit up the craft stores in search of just the right ribbon...WHAM...that is me running into another wall.  I could not find a single ribbon that I liked that would match my room.  I mean come on, how hard is it to find a black and white floral ribbon (or valance)?  So I kept poking around and found this cute black scalloped material that had white embroidered flowers.  I snatched that up so fast that I am sure the old lady next to me must have thought I was...well different.  No, I don't know what it is called because I don't sew but it is an inch wide and fabric.  I was then able to find another kind that matched it but without the scalloped edges. 

Now that I had the pretty stuff to put on the valance I needed a way to join the two together without it being noticeable...black satin ribbon baby.  I cut one foot sections off each end of one of the valances to attach to the other.  Each valance was 60 inches so I didn't need the full amount of both, just enough to make it look full. 

To assemble...are you ready...I sewed not one single stitch.  Yes, you read the correctly, not one stitch was sewn in the making of this valance.  Amazing, I know.  Hold your applause till the end please. 

Liquid Stitch: a non-sewers dream come true

This stuff was my friend.  We worked, we laughed, we bonded...no literally, I kept gluing my fingers together.  But I was able to create my entire valance using this liquid gold stitch.

More tomorrow on how to assemble this ridiculously easy and adorably cute valance but here is a sneak peak at the finished product. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Family Room Project

We moved into our house in September and have been slowly trying to make this our home. We have more space than we have ever had but at times it can be overwhelming! Take our family room, it is off the kitchen and when we moved in we didn't have furniture to put in there so we have not used it. Not to mention it was built in the 70's and not much has changed in that room. (can we say fake wood paneling) So after the holidays we decided to tackle this room but before we went out and purchased furniture we thought it needed a little updating.

To begin our mini-reno project we first had to tear down the paneling on either side of the fireplace as well as removed the 1x3 that were used as a decorative chair rail. Let me say this was easier said than done. Not only were they nailed up but glued as well. This meant that the drywall underneath was torn and full of hole.

So that requires mudding. Let me say that if you can frost a cake, you can mud a wall. I enjoyed slathering those problem areas with mud and smoothing it out. The part that was less enjoyable was the sanding because no matter how well you put the mud on you need to sand. Luckily I got Rich a set of tools for Christmas that had an electric sander with it. If it was not for that one tool I am pretty sure I would still be in there sanding. Also know that the dust will get EVERYWHERE! I mean this, our house had a fine layer of white dust on everything. So do yourself a favor and don't stress until after this part of the project is done because if you try to keep your house dusted while doing this you will go insane...trust me!

Once we did the mudding/sanding then it was time to call in the troops (a.k.a. our children). We put them to work wiping all the dust off the walls so that we could prime. This started out being a great idea until we realized they were trying to wash the mudd off the walls! I am sure that where Bri was working she actually managed to remove a good portion before we realized what they were doing.

Priming was our next step, let me say this is an important one because if you do not prime then the paint will have an uneven sheen to it because the mud will soak in the paint differently than the walls. By priming the entire room you avoid this situation. But primer stinks! I mean STINKS! We chose to prime on the coldest day of the year, why do I mention this because we had to open the windows (remember it stinks). At one point it was snowing into our family room (because the windows were open).

Now the fun part, chosing and painting the colors. The fireplace is beautiful and we wanted that to be the focal point of the room, especially where it is the first thing you see when you walk into the room. So we decided to do an accent color on either side of the fireplace. We pulled out the orange color that is prominent in the bricks. For the three remaining walls we wanted something neutral that would go with the orange as well as everything else that goes into the room. We decided on a cream that has a very, very, very faint orange undertone to it. The results are wonderful. I am really wishing I had taken a comeplete before shot so that you can see the difference.

We have now moved onto the furniture aspect of this room project. We found a wonderful chair that is a dark brown for an amazing price. So now we are on the hunt for a couch and another chair with ottoman. We are headed out today to brave the sales in hopes of finding the "perfect" couch and chair. More updates to come as we work on this room.

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