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28 August 2012

Stop the Dust


Flour dust, powdered sugar dust - when you're mixing up a delicious recipe, it never fails that you find a thin film of the stuff on your counters.  Maybe even your floors if you really got into it (read turned the mixer up too high, too quickly...oh yeah, it happens).

An easy way to cut some of the dust?  If you're using a stand mixer, dampen a kitchen towel or several paper towels (leave them strung together), then drape over the top of the mixer and the mixing bowl.  Viola!  Instant dust catcher.

Mmm...tasty!

25 August 2012

Cookies & Creme Popcorn

Taa-dah!  As promised, I give you the recipe for Cookies & Creme Popcorn.

And, yes, there really are only three ingredients!

Cookies & Creme Popcorn
Very slightly adapted from Chef In Training
Yield:  Approx 9 cups

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Ingredients:
  • 8 cups plain, popped popcorn
  • 24 Oreos, crushed
  • 24 oz white vanilla almond bark
Preparation:
  1. Place popcorn in a very large bowl or spread on two parchment lined baking sheets.
  2. Melt the almond bark according to package directions, then drizzle the melted almond bark over the popcorn.
  3. Immediately sprinkle the crushed Oreos over the popcorn.
  4. Toss or stir the popcorn gently to evenly distribute the cookie pieces and almond bark.
  5. Allow to cool until almond bark has hardened.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.
Notes:
* Make perfectly popped popcorn using this method.
* Crush the Oreos as finely as you'd like.  I left mine with some fairly large chunks...just cause I like it that way!

Happy popping!

23 August 2012

A Great Thing About Living In A Small(ish) Town

No...it's not the fact that if I don't know what I'm doing, everyone else does.  That's always good times, but it's not the "great thing" to which I'm referring today.

Nope, today I'm referring to the sense of community and the willingness to extend a helping hand that you really only seem to be able to find in small(ish) towns.  For example, this past weekend, a silent auction was held to raise funds for a community member in need of specialized mobility equipment.  And, I got to be a part of it!

My donation to the cause was a basket full of sweet goodies.  Here it is all wrapped up and ready to go.

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It included an assortment of yummies.  Everything from sugar cookies (both chocolate and traditional), to cookies and creme popcorn, to cake balls, to pie pops.

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Cookies and Creme Popcorn
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Yes, those are flamingo cookies!
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Pie Pops
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Cake Balls
The pie pops were a fun project, though if you attempt them, I would recommend using a filling that doesn't contain whole fruit.  It just works out better that way...trust me!

I also made some cake batter sprinkle bark that I had originally planned to include in the basket, but it was melting at room temperature.  Obviously, it didn't make the cut.   

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And, full disclosure, it didn't really taste like cake (batter or otherwise), proof positive since my sister commented, "Your chunks of chocolate were tasty."  Good to know it wasn't just me who was less than impressed...  So, no cake batter flavor; back to the drawing board with this one.

Did you realize school is back in session or it will be soon, depending on your locale?  And, that also means school athletics are as well.  I made these cheerleader themed cookies for a local squad that was headed to competition.  (I forgot to take photos before I bagged the cookies.  Slacker, I know.)

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Along with the cookies, popcorn, and pie (Oh My! See what I did there?), I've also got a few cakes to share with you.

Oh yes, there's cake...there's always cake.

Like this blinged out, 50th birthday cake.  The logo is edible, but the "bling" and topper are not.

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And, this cake that embraces what is probably every hunter's dream shot.

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And, this cake for a recently enlisted Marine.

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And...(last one, promise) this cake for all of those 4-wheel/ATV enthusiasts out there.  The ATVs were plastic toys, but I bet you'll never guess what the trees were made from.  Give up?  Sugar ice cream cones and grape stems.  Bazinga!

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Check back this weekend for the cookies and creme popcorn recipe.  It sounds strange, but is oddly delicious.  And it's SUPER easy to put together.

Talk to you soon!
P.S.  Thanks to MP, Pax, and Kater for shopping for the bling!

21 August 2012

New & Nifty: Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices


I love using fresh herbs and spices in my cooking, but all too often I only need a small amount and end up throwing out the leftover bunches that have languished in my fridge too long.  So imagine my delight when I came across the line of Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices in my local mega mart.  Here's a shot of the packaging:

I tried out the cilantro in this recipe, and it worked wonderfully.  It tasted like fresh chopped cilantro and it will keep in my fridge for up to 3 months!  True, it is a bit pricier than buying the fresh cilantro, but it saves the prep time and has a much longer shelf life.  And, for herbs or spices that are more expensive when buying fresh, the price difference shrinks considerably.

Gourmet Garden has an entire line of herbs and spices - everything from cilantro to lemon grass to a Moroccan blend.  You can check out their website here.

Mmm...tasty!
Gourmet Garden didn't ask me to endorse their product; they don't even know who I am.  Just wanted to share the nifty find!

16 August 2012

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos


It's been a while since I shared a recipe with you!  So, today, I give you this deliciousness I came across on Pinterest.

Yes...I've been sucked into the Pinterest craze.  Don't judge; I've actually found some great inspiration for cake and life in general, and, obviously, some yummy recipes to try.

What do I love about this recipe?  Let me count the ways:
  1. It's simple to put together (read - no crazy ingredients)
  2. It's ready in about 30 minutes with minimal fuss
  3. It's got a Mexican flare, which is one of my favorite food profiles
  4. And, did I mention, it's scrumptious!
This recipe is from Nick Evans' recent cookbook Cornerstone Cooking; and if the rest of the recipes are anything like this one, I'm going to have to pick a copy up, or at least put it on my Christmas wish list.  It might be a fairly useful cookbook to have on the shelf!

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
Adapted From:  Cornerstone Cooking
Yield: approximately 8 tacos (serves 4)
Prep:  10 minutes
Ready In:  30 minutes

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Ingredients:
  • 2 cups black beans, canned or cooked
    • If using canned, rinse before using
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced 
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 6 to 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated
  • Corn tortillas
  • Olive Oil
  • Salsa, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Sliced avocado or guacamole dip, for serving
Preparation:
  1. In a medium bowl, add the beans, red onion, cilantro, and spices, then lightly mash ingredients together.
  2. In a large, non-stick skillet (or on a large griddle), add a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  3. Add one to two corn tortillas (or as many as will comfortably fit in the skillet/griddle without overlapping) and let them heat in the oil for a few seconds.  Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of each of the tortillas.  Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  4. Using a spatula, carefully fold each tortilla over so it forms a shell.  Press down lightly on the folded tortilla(s) so it holds it shape.
  5. As the first tacos cook, move them to the sides of the pan and start additional tacos, if space allows.  
  6. Cook each taco for about 3 minutes per side or until they are nicely browned and crispy.
  7. Serve tacos with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole or avocado.  Or any other toppings you prefer!
Notes:
  • Corn tortillas are very resilient to heat and very flexible once warmed up; don't worry about burning them.  Just be sure to cook them on each side long enough to get them really crispy.
  • Depending on the size of your skillet or griddle, you can likely cook 3 or more tacos at once.
  • When flipping the tacos, use a spatula and flip the taco towards the fold so the filling doesn't fall out. 
Happy cooking!

15 August 2012

Birdies, Blooms, and Bows

I got to make sugar cookies last week!  And, they weren't Christmas themed!

Nope, they were brightly colored blossom and birds.  Who would have thought I would be so excited to make sugar cookies.  Remind me of this come December when I'm up to my neck in Christmas cookies...mmmk?

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The blossom cookies were loosely inspired by the Izze Beverage logo; I love their sparkling pomegranate juice, bummer that I can't find it in any of my local stores.  Anywho...the birds I made using an orchid cutter from one of gumpaste cutter sets.  Simple and super cute!

And, we may be in a significant and continuing drought around these parts, but I can always make flowers bloom; gumpaste flowers anyway.

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Who wouldn't love to get a cake that looks like a pretty package, complete with a puffy red bow?

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In this case it was a "gift" for a wedding shower, so the tag read "Showers of Happiness," and since the bride's chosen wedding colors were black, white, and red, the decorative piping was done in black buttercream.

Talk to you soon!
Izze Beverage doesn't know who I am, no endorsement implied.  Just love their stuff!

14 August 2012

Catch the Drips


There are few things better than a popsicle during the hot summer months.  But sometimes, theses frozen treats tend to melt faster than you can possibly eat them.  The solution to serving these goodies without the mess?  Press each pop stick through a cupcake liner; it'll catch the drips.

Mmm...tasty!


08 August 2012

It's a Girl's World

There's plenty of flowers...

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Pearls and black feather boas...

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Lollipops and brightly colored bows...

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And, of course, tea parties...

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But, even if the girls rule today's post, we can't completely leave the boys out.  So, for them, a camouflaged, hunting themed cake.  Though I do know plenty of females who would be perfectly pleased with this cake as well...

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Talk to you soon!

07 August 2012

Grill Clean-up


It's grilling season!  An easy way to give your grill a quick clean:  after you are finished grilling, but while the grill is still hot, hold a ball of crumpled foil with tongs and use it to scrub the grates.  Viola!  A cleaner grill with minimal effort!

One note:  this will only remove the newest layer or two of buildup, so if your grill is particularly in need of a cleaning, you may have to take a more drastic approach.

Mmm...tasty!



01 August 2012

Ants & Anniversaries

And a couple of other things too.  But you'll have to wait to find out what they are because I like to keep you in suspense like that.  Hehe!

But, to start us off - who doesn't love a nice slice of fresh watermelon during these long, hot summer days?  True, this slice is made from cake, but the ants seem happy to be a part of it.

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Bet you can't guess what flavor of cake this one was...red velvet, of course!  The ants and seeds were made from fondant, but everything else was buttercream.  I used Wilton Air Mist for the pink/red flesh of the melon because I ran out of my regular red airbrush color.  The Wilton mist was an adventure, but it worked out okay in the end.  Oh, and I used regular green airbrush color painted directly onto the buttercream to achieve the darker green stripes.

A golden anniversary!  That's 50 years, just in case you're wondering.  Kinda gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn't it? 

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I used Fondarific fondant on this cake, but for the price I paid for it, I was sorely, sorely disappointed in the way it performed.  I had two buckets of the stuff, same color, same flavor, but two completely different textures!  One was so bad it was pretty much unusable.  Boo!  I probably would have gotten better results using a different brand or making my own, so I doubt I'll be using Fondarific again.

Sorry for my little rant there.  I'm good now.  As for the rest of the cake, the ribbons were gold fabric, the piping was white royal icing, and the topper was one the client ordered and had personalized.  It was a a beautiful topper, but didn't photograph well since it was clear acrylic, so just trust me on that one, mmmkay?

Or how about this "dino-mite" cake?

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I had a lot of fun with this one, even if my attempts at making dinosaurs were less than stellar.  So un-amazing actually that I ended up using plastic dinos rather than ones made from edible material.  The volcano was made from rice krispies covered in fondant; the lava was made using thinned royal icing.

And, last for today, an elegant engagement cake.

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The bottom tier was covered in individual feathers (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment); it was a pretty effect, though it didn't photograph well.  And those black "pearls," those are actually black sixlets, also know as candy coated chocolates, that I found in the wedding aisle at the craft store.  Turns out they make a plethora of colors...always good to know for future reference!

Talk to you soon!