Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spray paint makes it better

I've got a plethora of glass hurricane candle holders.  Short, tall, crackled, clear...but some have silver metal on them and some have black.  It's kinda hard to explain, so here's a couple of pictures

See?  I wanted to use the hurricanes to make an autumn themed centerpiece for our table, but was not happy with the fact that they weren't matching.  The solution?


I took the black metal and gave it a good spray, then headed to Michael's to get some candles, pinecones, and berry spray thingers.  Spent about 12 bucks total.  Here's the finished product.

Better, no?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These are so yummy!  Like a cross between a brownie and a cookie.  Could you ask for more?  Maybe just a glass of milk.  :)  I followed the recipe except I had to smoosh my cookies into disks instead of balls because my initial batch of cookie balls didn't flatten out.  After I smooshed them, the cooked up great!  Here's the recipe...


4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter
8 ounces (225 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup (110 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted


In a stainless steel bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) At this point beat in the vanilla extract and then stir in the melted chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape into balls (3-4 hours or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the confectioners sugar in a shallow bowl. With lightly greased hands, roll a small amount of chilled dough to form a 1 inch (2.5 cm) ball. Place the ball of dough into the confectioners sugar and roll the ball in the sugar until it is completely coated and no chocolate shows through. Gently lift the sugar-covered ball, tapping off excess sugar, and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue forming cookies, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on baking sheets. (If you find the dough getting too soft for rolling into balls, return to the refrigerator and let chill until firm.)

Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or just until the edges are slightly firm but the centers are still soft. (For moist chewy cookies do not over bake. Over baking these cookies will cause them to be dry.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Perfect Cheesecake

I love this cheesecake!  It's nice and creamy, and just perfectly firm.  It's delicious on its own or top it with whatever you like to kick it up a notch.  I chose cherries because that's the hub's favorite!  Definitely use a springform pan for this one, preferrably one with an 8" diameter.  That will ensure that you get a nice, tall cheesecake that looks like it came from a restaurant.  Here's the recipe!

1 cup finely ground graham crackers (one sleeve of crackers run through the food processor should work)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
Boiling water, for roasting pan


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap exterior of a 8-inch springform pan (including base) in a triple layer of foil; set aside.
2.  Stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom of pan and up the sides. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
3.  Put cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a slow, steady stream. Add salt and vanilla; mix until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until just combined (do not overmix). Pour cream cheese filling over crust.
4.  Set cake pan inside a large, shallow roasting pan. Transfer to oven. Carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until cake is set but slightly wobbly in the center, 60 to 70 minutes.  Then turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in for another 30 minutes.
5.  Transfer cake pan to rack; let cake cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, 6 hours or overnight. Before unmolding, run a knife around edge of cake.

Here's the finished cheesecake!
Notice the crack?  Putting the boiling water in the pan around the baking cheesecake is supposed to prevent this, but it still cracked anyway.  But who cares....cherries to the rescue!
Mmmmm, much better.  :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie Cookies with Orange Glaze

I don't like pumpkin.  Sorry, but I just don't.  This time of year all the seasonal food items are coming out...pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin bagels.  We even tried pumpkin italian ice the other night which only confirmed my disdain for pumpkin.  Ew!   My hatred of pumpkin does make me feel a little left out on the Fall food fun.  Sure, I can have hot apple cider, but that's about it.  So when I saw this recipe  on the Food Network the other day, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out.  This is a good cookie,  notably because of it's spicy flavor.  It has more of a cakey consistency and is even better the next day.

Here is the recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweet potato puree
1 cup chopped pecans
Orange Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and adjust racks to the middle position. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.
Using a hand held mixer cream together the butter, granulated sugar and the brown sugar until light and fluffy and the volume has increased. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Stir in the sweet potato puree and blend until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients in increments and combine well. Stir in the pecans.
Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges and they spring back from the touch, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely on the cookie sheets before glazing.

For the glaze:
Combine the confectioners' sugar, orange juice, and vanilla in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies and let harden for 1 hour before serving.
Cook's Note: If you need to thin the glaze, add more orange juice. If you need to thicken it, add more confectioners' sugar.

And now my completed cookies are ready for their closeup!  Mmmmm!  :)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to use tappits to make perfect letters for your cakes.

Ever seen a cake with letters like these?

Well, they are quite easy to make.  The secret to achieving such perfect letters is tappits.  Tappits???  I'll give you a moment to scratch your heads...........yes, tappits.  Tappits are like teeny tiny little cookie cutters that you use on gum paste.  Once you cut the letters you can apply them to cakes, cupcakes, cookies, or any kid of dessert, really.  They are a great way to communicate on your cakes without having to learn how to pipe letters with icing.  Ok, I admit it, I stink at piping, so tappits are a godsend!  Let's start with an EXTREME CLOSE UP!

Here is a breakdown of the items you will need to make some letters with your nifty tappits.  Click on each of the items if you'd like to buy them and try it out.

1 Tappit set
1 Nonstick fondant mat
1 Fondant rolling pin - small
1 Craft Knife (used only for food)
Gum Paste colored to your liking
Shortening - preferably high ratio shortening

Step 1 - Roll out a small strip of gumpaste in a long oval shape.  Smear a little shortening on your mat so the gumpaste won't stick.  You'll want this to be pretty thin.  I'd say about a 16th of an inch.

Step 2 - Use the long rectangle tappit (it will come with your set) to cut, well, a long rectangle!
Step 3 - Lift the rectangle cutter and peel away any excess

Step 4 - Choose your letter and press the tappit down (perpendicular) into the gum paste

Step 5 - Carefully lift the tappit off of the gum paste

Step 6 - Repeat with all of the letters that you will need for your creation

Step 7 - Carefully Peel away the excess gum paste from around your snazzy letters.  Be Patient and gentle!

Step 8 - Using a craft knife, remove any pieces that didn't come up in step 7, like the inside of your P's A's and O's

Final step - It is best to not touch your letters and let them dry hard.  Overnight is best, but an hour will work...just be very gentle with the letters as they might bend or stretch when not totally hardened.  Lift the letters off of your mat with a craft knife and apply to your cake.  Voila!

Try it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blog Stace Likes - Young House Love

I can't begin to tell you how much I love this blog!  This was actually one of the first DIY blogs that I followed on blogger and it kicked off an obsession with blogs of this genre.  Young House Love is written by a husband and wife team who bought an old house and remodeled it themselves - top to bottom.  It has some great tips and before and after pics.  Take a look!  --> Young House Love

Monday, October 4, 2010

Where the heck have you been for the last month???

Last week we returned home for an over month long hiatus from Florida. We've gotten a ton of questions from friends and family about what the heck we were doing, so I thought I'd put them all to rest in this blog entry called "Where the heck have you been for the last month???"

Question #1:  Where in the world did you go??
Answer:  First we went to Wisconsin for about 4 weeks.  Then it was on to Philly, Baltimore, and NYC before returning home.

Question #2:  Why did you leave?
Answer:  Ryan's grandma passed away and we went to Wisconsin to help out with cleaning out her house so it could be sold.  We went to the northeast at the end because that was a previously planned vacation. 

Question #3:  You must work for a pretty sweet company to get a month off!
Answer:  Well yes, and no.  We actually worked from home while we were in Wisconsin.  The only days that we took off were for bereavement right at the beginning and for our planned Northeast vacation right at the end 6 days total.

Question #4:  Wow, I bet you guys got sick of each other working in the same room day in and day out.
Answer:  Nope! :)

Question #5:  What else did you do while you were gone?
Answer:  See photo tour below...

While in Wisconsin, Ryan inherited his Grandpa's old Lionel train set.  We immediately set up a little round track in the basement and watched the trains go round and round and round.  Once we get a house of our own, Ryan will make it his mission to have a sweet train display that we can break out during the holidays.

 We also took in a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau field - my first time!  Cheers!
After our month long visit to Wisconsin, we headed to Philly for my bro-in-law's surprise 40th birthday party.  Check out the cool sidewalk chalk that the kiddies did.
 My sister went all out...even got a tent and caterer!
Next it was on to Baltimore for a day trip to visit some friends and take in the sights.  I got to make a pilgrimage to Charm City Cakes, which is the setting for the TV show Ace of Cakes.  You can only go in by appointment, so we just did a "drive by and hop out of the car" photo op. 
See that glass building?  That's the Baltimore Aquarium.  We toured the whole place and it was fantastic!  Afterward we took a stroll around the inner harbor where I took this photo. 

The next day we headed for an overnight trip to NYC to see the new play "Lombardi".   It is based on the life of legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi.  Vince was the coach of the Green Bay Packers back in the day.  Gee...I wonder why Ryan wanted to see it.... 

We also paid a visit to Serendipity 3, our favorite place in NYC to get dessert.   This place was made famous in the movie Serendipity with John Cusak and Kate Beckinsale.  Here I am with their speciality -  frozen hot chocolate.  Mmmmmm!
And now we're back in Orlando!  I'm looking forward to fall and doing some cakes and DIY projects soon.  :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Banner!

I made a new blog banner in photoshop tonight with a little help from these templates...
Delicious Scraps-->
Pixels & Ice Cream-->

I love free stuff!  I also love how you can whip something up in photoshop without having any graphic design expertise.  Just get a little help from your digital friends.  It's kind of like a rap song...just take a bunch of someone else's material and slap it together to make it your own.  hehe
Here is the finished product.

Miami Dolphins Birthday Cake

This past weekend we went to Philly for my brother-in-law's 40th birthday party and I got to make the cake!  My sister and I e-mailed back and forth until we came up with a design that we both liked.  Here's what we came up with...

A few weeks ago I started on the dolphins logos, number 40, and the footballs shooting from the cake.  The pic has footballs and helmets, but the helmets turned out to not be doable.  I hand-cut all of these items from gumpaste that I colored to match the miami dolphins colors.  To make it look perfect, I print out a template on regular printer paper.  Then I cut that template out with an exacto knife, and finally laid that template over some rolled out gum paste and cut!  I start from the bottom and apply layers of different colors to that.  Here's one of the dolphins logos in the middle of the process...

And here are all of the gumpaste items (minus the footballs) once I finished them...

They dry hard, so you can apply wires to the back of them (with more gumpaste) and make them stand up on the cake or shoot out.  Like this!
That's the first of the final cake shots.  Here are the rest...