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30 January 2013

Introducing Hooty

No..not that Hooty.  (It's spelled differently - Hooty rather than Hootie.)  No, this Hooty is an owl!

Hooty the Owl

And a rather cute one, if I do say so myself.  Hooty was part of this groovy cake:

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The tie-dye effect on the buttercream was easier to achieve than I expected.  I piped on blobs (really professional word usage there, I know) of green and blue frosting then smoothed it with an offset spatula and bench scraper.  Viola!  Tie-dyed cake!

Hooty isn't the only thing I've been creating lately though.  There's been this motorcycle themed cake:

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Several princess themed confections...cupcakes, a crown and carriage cake, and a long-haired girl trapped in her tower cake (fairy tale reference - can you guess who?).

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Yes, the toppers on the cupcakes were pre-made, but I was pressed for time and they were a perfect complement to the theme.  Don't judge.

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The cakes were finished in buttercream with fondant decorations.  The cupcakes and both cakes traveled to south Texas...but not with me.  I know they arrived in one piece because I've seen photos, but travelling cakes are always stressful; nothing like adding a bit of additional worry!

And, last but not least, this week, several dozen cupcakes for a local P.E.O. group.

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I had ordered fancy scalloped liners to bake the cupcakes in, but with the reliability of our post, they of course didn't arrive in time.  Luckily, the design didn't hinge on the liners; the group's flower is a Marguerite, so the cupcakes were styled to look like the flower (white icing with yellow centers).  The "PEO" toppers were piped from white chocolate then airbrushed with just a hint of gold sheen.  They weren't exactly what I envisioned, but they still looked beautiful.  Improvisation - sometimes it's necessary.

Talk to you soon!

29 January 2013

New & Nifty: Anti-fog Glasses


Do you wear glasses?  Ever get tired of your lenses fogging up every time you open the oven door or stand over a pot of boiling water?  If so, the technology used in Optifog lenses may be a saving grace.  The lenses are specially treated to absorb water and spread the droplets across the lens, keeping them fog-free.

Nifty!
*Not an advertisement, just wanted to share a nifty new product.

22 January 2013

Edible Sparkle


Want to add some extra sparkle to your frosted cupcakes or decorated cookies?  But you want a particular color that you can't find in your local grocery store?  A simple solution - put plain or clear coarse decorating sugar into a small plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid.  Add food coloring one drop at a time, shaking the container vigorously to distribute the color between each drop.  Use less for pastel shades and more for vibrant hues.  (If you use a lot of color and the sugar starts to clump you may need to allow it to air dry prior to using.)  Sprinkle the new, custom colored sugar on your cookies, cupcakes, or cakes.

Mmm...tasty.


17 January 2013

Oops...

I just realized I failed to share with you some cookies I made during December.  Good thing they were winter themed rather than Christmas themed, otherwise you'd be thinking I had lost my marbles.  True, I could have just gone on and not shared them with you, but they are too cute to keep to myself.

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Honestly, how could you not love the penguins and polar bears?  And the snow globes and ice skates?

And, speaking of winter, my kitchen was recently invaded by a plethora of melting snowmen.

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Luckily, I managed to corral them on sheet pans.  You can learn how to make your own here.

If cookies aren't your thing, how about peacock inspired cupcakes?  With chocolate monograms.  That's my kind of dessert - cake, frosting, and chocolate - because sometimes you can't choose just one.  

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The month of love is coming up quickly, so consider these cookies a public service announcement/reminder to help keep you out of the dog house.  Trust me - start planning now; Valentine's Day is on a Thursday this year, you'll forget if you don't.

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Talk to you soon!

15 January 2013

Spice Storage


That decorative spice rack you have sitting right next to the stove - you know, the one with the clear, glass jars?  That's not doing your spices in any favors, and in fact, may be shortening their life-span.  The better bet - storing them in a dry, dark place (i.e. a cupboard or drawer).  If you simply must display your spice collection, invest in steel tins or opaque containers to keep the light away.  And, don't store the spices near the oven or any other heat source or in the refrigerator.  You can keep them in the freezer though.

Mmm...tasty!

11 January 2013

Fresh Friday

Real Food Runner

Katherine over at the Real Food Runner invited me to join her Fresh Friday link-up party!  The idea:  share the 3 things that made your previous week fresh and fantastic.  So, here's my three for this week:


  1. I'm running again!  True my miles are few and my times are long, but I'm officially back to running after having to take over a month off to work on healing a foot injury.  It's like the first drop of rain after a long drought. Upper left photo.
  2. Amazing sunsets.  The ones around here are some of the best I think you could find anywhere (Biased?  Not me.) and I always find myself stopping to enjoy them no matter how many I see - after all, no two are alike.  Upper right photo.
  3. Sharing one of my favorite Bible verses with a friend who was in need of some support and comfort.  Bottom photo.
So, those are three things that made my week fresh and fantastic.  What made your week amazing?  You can share them here, and why not pop over and visit Katherine while you're at it?

Talk to you soon!

10 January 2013

Blonde Bombshells

Could I be referring to photos of blonde hotties?

Or maybe I'm planning to crack a few jokes?

Or maybe I could share tasting tips for an aptly named beer or wine?

Nope, none of the above.  Rather I give you the following recipe - a twist on a traditional blondie bar.  This version contains cranberries and white chocolate chips, so it's almost the perfect little package all rolled into one:  fruit, chocolate, sugar.  Does one really need much more?

Blonde Bombshells
Printable Recipe
Adapted from: Good Housekeeping Brownies:  Favorite Recipes for Blondies, Brownies, & Bars
Prep:  15 minutes
Bake:  20 to 25 minutes @ 350°F
Yield:  24 Blondies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 LB dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp real vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" jelly-roll pan with foil; grease foil.
  2. In a medium bowl, with a wire whisk, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Remove the saucepan from heat; stir in the brown sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time; stir after each addition until well combined.  Stir in flour mixture, white chocolate chips, and cranberries just until blended.  Spread batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from edge comes out almost clean, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.  Do not overbake.  The blondie will seem soft, but will firm up as it cools.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
  5. When cool, lift foil, with blondie, out of pan; peel foil away from sides.  Cut blondie lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces.  Store in an airtight container.
Notes:
*  Add a half cup of coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts), if desired.  Reduce the white chocolate chips to 1 1/2 cups.  Stir the nuts in along with the flour, chips, and cranberries in Step 3.

Happy baking!

08 January 2013

Which Onion Type To Use


The recipe your making lists "onion" in the ingredients, but which type do you use?

Unless the recipe lists a specific type by color or name, opt for a standard yellow onion.  Yellow onions are tasty, cheap, and versatile; and tend to be neither too sharp nor too sweet.

Notes on a few other varieties:
Spanish:  Spanish onions tend to be very large, thought their flavor is similar to yellow onions.  Because this variety is so big, it isn't usually a practical choice for home cooking.  Though if you are hosting a cookout or making an onion blossom, these could be a good choice.
Red:  Red onions tend to be sweeter than yellow onions, and they add a nice pop of color to dishes you use them in, especially salads.
White:  White onions are more pungent (i.e. likely to make you cry as you are cutting them) and have a fuller flavor than yellow onions.  Depending on your taste preference, you can often interchange white and yellow onions without any problem.

Mmm...tasty! 


03 January 2013

The Last Cakes of 2012

Well, we survived 2012.  Though to be honest I hoped you did more than just survive it.  I hope you lived it and had some fun along the way.  I did, and I'm positive that 2013 will be even better.

Since 2012 is kaput, I figured I had better get on the ball and share the final two cakes of the past year with you before too much time went by.  So, here they are!

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A harvesting tractor.  Yes, I know it's the middle of winter and there is no harvesting going on (at least not 'round here), but this particular little boy loves tractors, so I built him one.  From rice krispies.  And put it in a "field" made from buttercream.  The tractor turned out being easier to build than I had originally thought; I did make a few notes to make the going even smoother if I ever tackle one again though.

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And a superhero themed cake for another little boy who was turning 5.  (Just in case you didn't catch that from the picture. Haha!)  The cake was a double barrel (double height) finished in buttercream with sugar sheet cutouts for the name and age.  The mask topper was cut from gumpaste and then hand drawn and colored.

I've got a few days off from the kitchen this week.  Not sure what I'm going to do with all my free time...I'll figure something out though.

Talk to you soon!

01 January 2013

Hats Off


Did you survive New Year's Eve?  Still planning to do a little celebrating today maybe?  If so, try this fun way to serve chips and dip.  Flip over an unused plastic top hat, line it with paper towel, napkins, or a (clean) dish towel, and fill it with chips.  Serve salsa, guacamole, or any other dipping options in martini glasses.

This doesn't have to just be for New Year's though, you could use it for any occasion, as long as you've got a hat to use.  Hmm...maybe pick up a few extra for use throughout the year?

Mmm...tasty!