Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break and Apple Crisp

Monday was the first day of Spring Break.  This is what we woke up to:

The boy was less than thrilled.

So we made an apple crisp.  It didn't feel like a pink lemonade cupcake kind of day.

Since our apple crisp was unplanned, all we had in the house were Fuji apples, which really aren't the best for baking.  I nuked them for a couple minutes to soften them up first. My absolute favorite baking apples are Winesap.  But we can only get those at the local fruit farm, and they're not ripe until the end of the season.  So we have a while (about six months) until we can get them. :-(

We used the Pioneer Woman's fruit crisp recipe. Because it's yummy. I do make a few alterations. It's who I am.  I use 5 (at least) cups of fruit.  2 Tbs of cornstarch, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, and, depending on the fruit, less to much less sugar.

See all the cinnamon?

Yeah, well, it turns out I had the "spoon" part of the lid open instead of the "sprinkle" part of the lid.  My generous sprinkling of cinnamon was about three tablespoons.  I did manage to remove most of it.  I also forgot to cut back on the sugar in the fruit (I really need to be better about making notes on seasonal recipes...I forget from season to season what works).  The topping I don't adjust, except to add cinnamon. The crisp came out a little sweet, but it was still good.

The girl kept calling it her pie.  It was cute.  Especially since I made chicken pot pie that night, and she insisted that we had two pies for dinner.

Well, the snow is mostly gone today, but I don't hold out much hope for a warm, sunny spring break.  At least what's left of it.

But since Easter is almost here, hot cross buns are next on the agenda. Woohoo!

That's all for now.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wrestling Ring Cake

My coworker asked me to make a cake for her son's birthday.  Apparently he's quite the wresting fan.  She wanted a wrestling ring, so this is what I came up with.

Nothing fancy.  She had some toys action figures she was going to put in it.  I hear he loved it.

That's all for now.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Operation Cookie Takeover!

One of the ladies over at, Tasha, is presently deployed in Afghanistan.  One day she posted to the forum and asked if anyone would be willing to send some cookies to her to pass out to her troops (I'm paraphrasing, bear with me).  Anyhoo, the response was quite favorable. Some members were going to send supplies so Tasha could do a cookie decorating demonstration. Many others were going to send cookies for the troops.   At first the goal was 1000 cookies.  People started referring to it, jokingly, as Operation Cookie Takeover.

Then one of the other ladies set up a Facebook page.  At last count there were over 11,000 cookies pledged.  Pretty cool, huh?  They're going to have media exposure, a cookie decorating contest and enough cookies to had out to troops in all of the outlying areas.  Cookie people are awesome!

Anyway, I just shipped mine.  I went with an Hawaiian theme, in patriotic colors, of course!


Flip flops and hyacinths...

Hawaiian shirts (thanks to Sweet Sugarbelle)...


...and all 50 cookies crammed into a box for shipping!

I certainly hope they make it all the way to Afghanistan in one piece. They are pretty heavily swathed in bubble wrap.  I shook the box and nothing moved, so hopefully they're good.

Well, that's all for now.


Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Cookies!

Here they are!  My very first EVER set of St. Patrick's Day cookies.

Why the first ever?  I don't know.  It's not really a holiday we celebrate, even though Hubby is mostly Irish by descent.

Anyhoo, I will be linking this post up to LilaLoa's photography challenge.  Those of you who frequent this blog know how I feel about photography.  But in order to participate in the challenge, I CHARGED MY REAL CAMERA!!!! I know, right?  Actual photographers will probably take issue with my calling my little Olympus point-and-shoot a real camera. But it has settings.  That I can change.  Thereby making it more real than the camera in my iPhone, which is what I normally use to take pictures.

Like this picture right here:

Please note the yellow cast (which pervades most of the pictures in this blog).  Classic iPhone-in-my-kitchen.  The pics, by the way, are templates I used for the cookies.  I made the templates with card stock and an X-Acto knife.  The pots o' gold cookies are circles and I made a template so the pots would all be the same.  I don't have a KopyKake.  Sometimes I think I need one, but I'm not quite there yet.  With these cookies, I was very nearly there.  The other template was to keep the arches on the rainbows semi-uniform.  'Cause I can't draw a straight line.  Or a curved line. It's unfortunate, really.

I also made shamrocks, but they didn't require a template.

And I drew on the cookies with an edible marker before I piped:

The rainbows are a circle cut in half with a wonky flower inset.  I thought about cutting out the void under the rainbow, but then I thought they looked too fragile. Besides, everyone likes more cookie in their cookie, right?

So, what do you think?  Still not an awesome photo, but much better.  I went outside.  Funny story there.  I made these cookies over the weekend.  And then it rained.  And then it snowed (just some flurries, no biggie).  And then it was overcast.  So, here it is on Friday, and the sun came out enough to get a picture.

Some of the pots of gold I added dots for gold pieces.  That took a long time, since they had to dry a little between sets of dots so they didn't run together.  Then I painted them with gold sheen airbrush color.  With a paintbrush.  I'm afraid of airbrushes.

I probably could have kept the rainbows neater if I'd let the colors dry between each arc, but I really wanted the wet-on-wet- look for these.  I think the clouds look like a wonky flower, though.  Maybe next time a normal flower will do.  If there is a next time.  I spent HOURS mixing icing colors. Or at least it seemed like hours.

One third of the shamrocks I left plain, one third I covered with green sanding sugar and the final third I sprinkled with emerald disco dust.

Can you tell which is sugar and which is disco dust?  I <3 disco dust.  I don't care if some people think it's evil.

Anyway, that's it for the St. Paddy's Day cookies.  Cookies for Operation Cookie Takeover will be coming soon!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Minecraft Birthday Cake

This year, the boy wanted a Minecraft-themed birthday cake. And since I aim to please, he got one.

We had the party at my brother's house.  He's got a lot more natural light than I do.  See how the picture isn't yellow?  He's also got more space, which is the main reason we had the party there, not just for the natural light.

I really don't get the whole Minecraft craze.  But it's sweeping our part of the nation.  All the kids at school are playing it.  All the kids at martial arts class are playing it.  All the kids at my SIL's homeschool co-op are playing it.  I'm baffled.

Anyhoo, Minecraft is incredibly pixellated.  I explained to the boy, that while I love him dearly, I don't have that kind of time.  So his cake was not going to be crafted of six million individually cut squares of fondant.  Being the rational young man that he is, he went with it.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Minecraft phenomena, the top tier is a Creeper, the middle tier is a bundle of TNT, and the bottom tier is a cake.  Yes, you can make cake while playing Minecraft. I even put the red squares on top, even though you can't see them due to the TNT.  I wanted the boy to know his momma loves him and strives for accuracy.  Just not pixels.

The cake was a little sloppy, I was in a hurry.  But he liked it.

We really didn't have enough people at the party to eat that much cake. I didn't even unstack it until it was time to drive home.  (The birthday boy is the epic ninja on the left, btw.)  Top tier vanilla, second tier strawberry-lemon and bottom tier cookies and cream.  (If you live nearby and you want cake, call me. I can hook you up.)

It was a good time.  We ate lots of chicken and dumplings and cake while hanging out with family and friends.  Who could ask for a better birthday?

That's all for today.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Buttercream Frosting

I think I said about a year ago that I was going to post my recipe for buttercream frosting soon.  It's still soon, right?

Anyhoo, this is the recipe I always use, and it can be adapted to do almost anything.  It's an American Buttercream, because I'm a simple girl with simple tastes.  And maybe a little lazy.

The original recipe can be found here.  Rick's Special Buttercream Frosting.  Rick is my hero.

I have adapted the recipe for my use, and this is the basic formula I use. In this post, I'm making a double batch, so the pictures are going to show more that the text is telling you to use.  Sorry, last minute cake request.  It was unavoidable.

Mix one cup of shortening (preferably not trans-fat free...that means no Crisco...use a store brand) and one cup of softened butter.  Now, it's February here in the Midwest.  I left that butter on my counter ALL DAY, and it was still a little cold. But it all worked out in the end.

Mix that all up nice.

See how lumpy it is?  (No?  Sorry for the picture quality.  It's also overcast and rainy today.)  Stir in 1/4 tsp of salt and a tablespoon of vanilla.  Once that's all incorporated, add two pounds of powdered sugar.  No need to sift.

Mix on low until it's all blended in.

Like I said, I made a double batch, so I added the sugar in two stages, so as not to overtax my mixer.

Here's the secret ingredient.  Don't tell anyone.  It takes the icing up to a whole new level.  Pour some into the bowl.  I don't know how much, so don't ask.  Stop when it looks right.

Turn the mixer up to medium/high and let it go for 5-10 minutes. You'll be glad you did.

At this point, I stop, scrape everything down really well, then give it another spin, just for 30 seconds or so, to make sure everything is nice and mixed up.

Ain't it purty?  It's light and fluffy and divine.  The double batch completely filled up my 14-cup storage container.  I barely got the lid sealed.  So a for regular batch count on a generous 7 cups of frosting.

Now the beauty of this recipe is that it's basically a 1:1 ratio.  1 cup of fat to 1 pound of sugar.  And one tablespoon of flavoring for each two pounds of sugar.  So you can use any kind of fat you want.  Don't like shortening?  Use all butter.  Have a dairy allergy?  Use all shortening and replace the cream with water (it's not the same, but it works).  Like cream cheese frosting?  Use half butter and half cream cheese.  Or 1/4 shortening, 1/2 butter, and 1/4 cream cheese. Want to use some other kind of soft cheese?  Ditto.

Like different flavors?  Add some raspberry puree with the cream (or strawberry or blackberry, etc.).  Or use cream of coconut instead of cream for coconut icing.  Fold in some lemon curd or jam.  Use almond (or any other) extract instead of vanilla. Sub out one cup of the powdered sugar for one cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for a lovely chocolate frosting.  Stir in a cup full of crushed Oreos for cookies & cream frosting.  Seriously endless possibilities here, folks.

Anyhoo, that's my favorite frosting recipe.  You should try it sometime.