Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reindeer Pops: Julie and Shelley Round 2


We are at it again! Julie and I tackled Bakerella's reindeer pops today and it was MUCH easier this time around. It took us an hour and a half...also much quicker than last time. I made the cake while at home for the holidays. Aren't they cute? If you weren't in the holiday spirit...you must be now!


THIS was the secret ingredient. The melts tasted and smelled like Andes Mints! It was the perfect mix for the devils food chocolate cake. AND it added a little Christmas touch.


Here we are posed with the WHOLE group. (Sorry for looking rough...I went running and jumped in the shower before Julie came.) We had to self timer it. We had our supervisor (Savannah the dog) but Lance didn't join is this time around! :)


Until next time...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bakearella's Cupcake Pops: Julie and Shelley in the kitchen





Bakerella makes these look easy, guys. I know Julie agrees with me. Julie and I both like playing in the kitchen (she is 10x more of a chef than I am). We've talked numerous times about getting together to make something fun and themed. We began ambitiously wanting our cupcake pops to turn out fall-like (maybe even turkeys). They ended up with more of a birthday theme!

You will notice we have GREAT photographs of this adventure. THANK YOU LANCE, aka chaeffur, oops-we-forgot-the-wax-paper errand runner, taste tester and photographer extraordinaire! I am pretty sure next time this is mentioned he will find his way hunting somewhere far far away.

And we cannot leave out our supervisor from the stairs so she could get a good view:


And now, cake pops.

1. Bake a cake and let it cool. I've tried making cake balls with the cake a bit warm. You will end up with a mushy mess. I made these cakes the morning of. I really think chocolate cake tastes best with the cream cheese icing. We did a chocolate and a vanilla cake. (I cooked the vanilla to start with leaving out an egg...doubted myself and went back and did chocolate once I had 3 eggs.)


2. Crumble the cake into tiny crumbs. She mentions a food processor but we did just find with our fingers. Keep in mind if you do this with red velvet (which is SO GOOD) you will end up with red fingers if you dont use gloves!


3. Make your cream cheese icing OR grab your store bought package. We used one container and one homemade and they worked exactly the same. Homemade icing is SIMPLE. Here are the ingredients. 1/2 stick of melted butter, softened cream cheese and 1 lb of confectioners suger (or one box). I noticed the store bought has trans fat so for that reason I feel better making my own (even though I am sure it is just as terrible for you)!



4. Mix a little less than a container of cream cheese until the mixture becomes moldable. I forgot to upload this picture. :)

5. These are our very first balls we rolled. You have to get the size right for your cookie cutter. You want them to be large enough to spill over the top but if you get them TOO large they will fall off in your chocolate bark later on. We suggest them be about an inch and a half if you are making our Wilton cookie cutter found at Hobby Lobby:


6. It is important you get them in the freezer for 20 or so minutes. They are MUCH easier to mold if they are cold and not as mushy! We had several trays going at once and swapped them out. We also tried NOT covering them in alumninum foil. They just don't cool as fast. So we suggest you cover them in foil. Then keep yourself busy for a few minutes. Like playing with this. Here is the cute couple while we wait.


7. Take them out of the freezer and shape them using the flower mold. This will create the bottom of the cupcakes to where they are scalloped like. You want enough poof out of the top so when you dip the top, it is equivalent to the bottom proportionately.


7. Take your chocolate bark and put it in a double boiler or zap it in the microwave for 30 second intervals. We learned you can poach the stuff on the double boiler and it ruins the chocolate so I am not opposed to the microwave method! If you do it on the stove. Be patient. We are not. Not at this point 2 hours after we started:


8.Dip the cupcake bottom in the mixture and turn upside down.

Note: You want to stick the popsickle sticks in while wet otherwise it is IMPOSSIBLE!

9. Let sit for about 15 minutes to harden and then do the tops. Add a little bit of vegetable oil for shine and consistency. It makes it more liquid and spreads much better.


It took us awhile to develop a technique. This was our first one. Needless to say, we got better.


This is what happened to the rejects. You don't want to do this too often. These guys are RICH and you will start feeling sick. (Not that I am speaking from experience :)...)


We learned MANY lessons along the way. A few I can think of:

-Practice makes perfect. You need to do these once before you do them for a party. I don't suggest baking 2 cakes, however, for practice. That is, UNLESS you have 4 hours to devote to them on a Saturday evening/night and want around 75 cake pops. (White Plume, expect a surprise on Monday.)

-Don't wait till the week of the actually holiday to buy your holiday themed sprinkles. Thanksgiving might have been 5 days away but the stores have moved onto Christmas. It was amazing to me. These are some of our purchases we needed in order to pull this off:

-Roll your initial balls large. The bigger the better. You want enough "poof" of the top of the cupcake to make it proportionate.

-Alumninum foil really does help the balls freeze faster in the freezer so we suggest you cover them up.

-Making the tops lighter in color creates more contrast and we liked those better.

(Julie, did I forget anything?)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eleanor's Baptism Cake



I was able to make the layers work but it wasn't easy. I shaved off a good bit of the cake and learned that the weight of the cross extremeties caused it to crack. But it was nothing a little cream cheese icing couldn't fix. Sorry this one is blurry. This takes me back to the days when I didn't have my contacts in!)

Here are some shots of the details.


I love this picture because it makes the cake look huge!

So huge, in fact, it didn't occur to me that it might not make it in the frig. It did.....just BARELY!

And NOW time for bed!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roasted Cherry Tomato Rigatoni

This is my absolute favorite pasta....I've been cooking this recipe every other week for a couple months now (that is no exaggeration). Those who know me well, know I HAD an aversion to tomatoes. That is no more. This recipe consists mostly of tomatoes. It's fresh and healthy so when I eat tons of it, I don't feel AS bad.

I wanted to give it (the recipe) justice with pictures and last night I think I did. Did I mention I did this along with the cake decorating? I started when I got home from work and I didn't quit untill 8:30!

Because I am being lazy, here is the recipe straight from my note cards (in the cute little recipe holder given to me by Ashley):





First, rinse off the 2 pints of cherry tomatoes. (I LOVE my collapsible colander...best $8 I ever spent.)


Slice them in half, lenthwise.


Prep your medium onion.


The recipe calls to finely chop. This is code for food processor in my kitchen.


In a skillet on medium heat, add about 4 splashes of olive oil. Add onions and sautee till translucent.


Turn the heat down (to low) and add garlic, allowing it to cook until fragrant and not brown.


Add tomatoes...isn't it pretty?


Season with salt and pepper. Add dried herbs and sugar. Cook down the tomatoes over low heat, stirring occasionally, for ~45 minutes.


Wallah!


Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and pasta. Top with fresh basil if you want (which I never have...I tried to grow my own but the bugs ate more of it than I did).



I strongly suggest topping it with the pecorino cheese and mozerella! This picture doesn't give it justice.

ENJOY and let me know how you like it!

Cake Decorating Round 2

My best friend's baby girl gets baptized this weekend and I wanted soooo bad to try out my cake decorating skills again. It's been awhile since I took the class and I know "practice makes perfect." I haven't done one bit of practicing since the class ended. SO, here is what I came up with...


I brought this to work today for my coworkers to test out. Of all days to bring the cake to work with me, I picked today. We have hurrican Ida above us dumping buckets of rain with wind. I guess you can say it made the day a little bit better to have sweets in the kitchen. The cake is red velvet and the icing is the cream cheese icing Mom makes (tinted pink). I think consensus is to stick with that! The flower icing wasn't the correct consistency so I will work on that again for this weekend. More to come!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tips and Tricks

So one of my friends sent me this today. I definitely want to test some of these hints and tricks out. AND so I don't lose them or forget about them. I am posting them on here.

Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little 'stringy things' off of it. That's how the primates do it.

Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.

Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease Away from the meat while cooking.

To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, Cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert.
Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples.
Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream. Yummm!

Reheat Pizza
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm... This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

Reheating refrigerated bread
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Newspaper weeds away
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

Broken Glass
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.

No More Mosquitoes, place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Squirrel Away!
To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper.
The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

Flexible vacuum
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and ... At DA! ... Static is gone.

Measuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield?
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Reopening envelope
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Conditioner
Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

Goodbye Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

INFO ABOUT CLOTHES DRYERS
The heating unit went out on my dryer! The gentleman that fixes things around the house for us told us that he wanted to show us something and he went over to the dryer and pulled out the lint filter. It was clean... (I always clean the lint from the filter after every load clothes.) He told us that he wanted to show us something; he took the filter over to the sink and ran hot water over it. The lint filter is made of a mesh material . I'm sure you know what your dryer's lint filter looks like. Well ... the hot water just sat on top of the mesh! It didn't go through it at all! He told us that dryer sheets cause a film over that mesh that's what burns out the heating unit. You can't SEE the film, but it's there. It's what is in the dryer sheets to make your clothes soft and static free ... that nice fragrance too. You know how they can feel waxy when you take them out of the box . well this stuff builds up on your clothes and on your lint screen. This is also what causes dryer units to potentially burn your house down with it! He said the best way to keep your dryer working for a very long time (and to keep your electric bill lower) is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at l east e very six months. He said that makes the life of the dryer at least twice as long! How about that!?! Learn something new everyday! I certainly didn't know dryer sheets would do that. So, I thought I'd share!

Note: I went to my dryer and tested my screen by running water on it. The water ran through a little bit but mostly collected all the water in the mesh screen. I washed it with warm soapy water and a nylon brush and I had it done in 30 seconds Then when I rinsed it . the water ran right thru the screen! There wasn't any puddling at all! That repairman knew what he was talking about!