Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Decorate a Cake Like a Pro!

Decorating cakes can be tricky.  I can't even tell you how many times I've ended up covered in frosting and close to tears over a grand idea for a pretty cake, so I'm always on the look-out for shortcuts that make simple cakes look special and fancy.  You can't get any simpler than this quick vanilla cake decorated with Necco Wafers.  It's as easy as frosting the cake and sticking the sweet pastel wafers right onto the icing.  The end result is going to seriously impress your guests. 
You will need:
-2 Bags Necco Wafer rolls
-Fully Frosted vanilla cake (make from scratch or mix)

Unwrap the wafers and sort by color , then stick them on to your frosted cake in neat rows. I stuck to 4 colors and the whites for the top, but you can do any color combo you like!
This would make a sweet baby or bridal shower cake, or even just a spring birthday cake! Don't you love how simple this was?  I was so pleased with how finished the end result looks.

Do you have any go-to cake decorating tricks?


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Turn Plastic Dollar-Store Eggs into Keepsake Easter Eggs

Sometimes little tiny plastic eggs just don't cut it for holding treats and Easter surprises.  Growing up, we would hunt for the small eggs and also for a few of the big German paper mache eggs filled with the bigger surprises.  I found some super large plastic eggs at the dollar store (also saw them at the craft store) and they totally reminded me of our big childhood Easter eggs. I had some fun transforming them from a cheap plastic eggs into something a little more special that makes a great goodie-holder or Easter decor egg.
You will need:
-Large plastic eggs
-Decorative paper/Scrapbook paper
-Mod Podge
-Hot glue gun
-Rick Rack and Ribbon

Trace the shape of your egg onto the backside of the pretty paper and add one inch all the way around.  Slit the paper, fringe-style, all the way around.  Coat the first egg-half with mod podge and press the paper on, working all little flaps down all way around and brushing a top coat of mod podge on as you go.  Repeat on second half of egg and allow to dry.  Trim edges.

Add a decorative rick rack border along the edges and embellish with stickers, bows, or ribbon!

Much prettier, yes?  I have ours on display in my old egg basket on the kitchen table as we wait for Easter to arrive this weekend!


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Saturday, March 7, 2015

4 Simple Ways to Brighten Your Home for Spring

Obviously we're all starting to get a little antsy for spring.  One thing I start to notice when I've had enough of winter is that I start to crave pops of color around the house, a need for a bit of freshness.  If you're like me, and you're looking for ways to bring some color, warmth, and spring into your home, here are 4 quick and easy ways to do it!

No.1 flowers
The first and most obvious way to bring in a little cheer is with flowers! Having flowers around the house doesn't have to break the bank.  Being selective in the floral section of your local supermarket, or springing for few nicer stems at the florist would do just fine.  Making several small arrangements and scattering them in different rooms of the house is an easy way to get more bang for your buck as well. Place them on end tables, atop bureaus and tucked into bookshelves...

No. 2 Scents & Soaps
One of my other favorite ways to chase away winter blues is with scents & soaps. I love hand soaps and candles that have light floral fragrances, especially when the container itself has a bit of color to it too! Scents like geranium,basil and privet are light refreshing smells that remind us of spring and summer.  These cheer me up every time I wash my hands, or walk past a candle and catch the fragrance. 

No.3 Pillows
Throw pillows are my go to vehicle for introducing pattern and color mainly because  they are so interchangeable!  I'm a bit fickle with prints so I love that when I tire of certain pattern I can simple change the cover or swap it out for a different one.  Around this time of year I put the hues of winter into storage and bring out our cheerier couch pillows.  What a difference a strong splash of color makes!

No.4 Wall Art
Nothing screams personality like colorful wall art and when you already have a few frames laying around, swapping images out for bright swatches of fabric or homemade paintings can be the quickest way to add some oomph.  Have child use bright colored paints to create a special piece of art or visit your local fabric store or paperie to pick up some bright bold patterns!

Making small changes around our home never fails to raise my spirits and remind me that spring is indeed on its way!

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Lemon Curd and Ricotta "Pancake Cake"

In honor of the upcoming weekend, I thought I'd share a recipe that can either be a dessert or a super decadent breakfast/brunch treat. This lemony pancake cake has just the right amount of sweetness, creaminess, and tang.  The best part is, if you can make pancakes, you can totally make this cake!

7-Layer Lemon Curd and Ricotta "Pancake Cake"

2 Cups dry pancake mix (Bisquick is totally acceptable)
1 Cup milk
2 Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 Cup Lemon curd

Ricotta "icing":
1 1/2 Cups ricotta
1 Tsp vanilla extract 
1 Tbs granulated sugar
Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 1/2 Cups confectioner's sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbs water

Combine dry pancake mix, milk, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Drop 1/4 cup fulls of batter onto a hot greased griddle.  Batter will make approx. 7 pancakes.  Lay pancakes on a cookie sheet to cool.
For Ricotta Icing: Whip ricotta, vanilla, sugar and nutmeg together until blended and fluffy.

Spread your first pancake with lemon curd and pipe or spread a generous layer of ricotta frosting.  Set on cake plate and begin the second pancake repeating the lemon curd and ricotta frosting spread.  Stack each pancake as you go until you've reached the final top layer. Prepare the glaze and pour over the top of the cake so that it begins to drip down the sides. Allow to set, and then serve!

I think the flavor will really surprise you.  I find this cake to be a total comfort food. The familiar flavor of homemade pancakes mixed with fresh, bright lemon and light fluffy ricotta.  Something that will be sure to impress...
Enjoy your weekend!

*the flowers pictured are not edible flowers, they are for decorative purposes only, and are not intended for consumption.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

How I Made a Wooden Cutting Board

When Nick and I got our first place together my dad made me a beautiful wooden cutting board.  It's something I use often and will always cherish.  It grew in me a love for sturdy wooden cutting boards.  I've been searching for another, larger board, for a while when Nick suggested we make one! This was the perfect solution as it enabled me to make the exact size and shape I wanted.  It also allowed me to test out the wood burning pen Nick had given me a few moths ago.  Double fun!  I thought I'd share my process, in case you'd like to make one too...
The first step is to carefully select your wood type.  I found that the top three recommended woods for food-safe cutting boards are Maple, Walnut, and Cherry as they are hard woods that provide the least porous surface. 
( I didn't have access to any of these three at the time, so I chose a piece of red oak.  Red oak has gotten mixed reviews for cutting board material because it tends to have long open grain.  I felt safe using it since the main purpose of my board will be serving, rather than a lot of food preparation.  I'll use my new board for things like loaves of bread or baked goods.  I, personally, also never allow raw meat to come into contact with my boards, so that lessens my concern over the grain as well.)
I began with a 3/4" thick piece of 8 x 16" wood.  Then I traced a large round cake plate onto the lower half of the wood, the same size that I wanted the cutting board to be.  To make the handle, I traced the shape I wanted onto a piece of paper first to test and then used the paper cut-out as a template to outline the handle on the wood, making sure it was centered at the top of my circle.

Nick was already working on some cabinets outside with the saw so he kindly cut the shape out with a jigsaw for me.  Then he drilled a small hole in the handle.  I sanded the whole thing down, careful to work in the direction of the grain.  I made sanded the edges and handle nice and smooth too.
After working a little pattern onto the edges with my new wood burner (lots of fun, but a little more practice couldn't hurt, as you can see 'wink wink'), I cleaned my board thoroughly and began to apply the fist coat of food-safe mineral oil.  I let that dry for 30 minutes and applied 4 more coats, working it in with the grain (the same direction).
I love my new board, I can just picture a nice, big, crusty, round loaf of fresh bread sitting in its center, can't you?  I know it will just get better looking with age and use too.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

St. Patrick's Day "Lucky" Mug DIY

It's almost March!  St. Patrick's day is around the corner in all its green glory.  Do you know what else is glorious?  I found a gold metallic oil-based Sharpie the other day!!  After the fun I had with the blue paint marker that I used on my hand painted plate , I just had to have the gold, and snagged a "clover" green one too while I was at it.  Like this adorable "Lucky" mug!? It's as easy as it looks to make.  I couldn't pass up the adorable mug and spoon set when I saw it at the craft store either.  The spoon slips right into a little holder on the handle of the mug. Perfect, no? Wanna make a "Lucky" mug too?
You will need:
-Gold metallic Sharpie oil-based paint pen
-Green Sharpie oil-based paint pen
-White ceramic mug and (if desired) small ceramic spoon to match
-Letter Stencils or stickers to trace
I had some stickers laying around and they were the perfect font so I stuck them on the mug and gently traced with a pen marker (not permanent because I'll wipe it off when I'm done painting).  Then I peeled the stickers off, careful not to smear my wet trace lines...

I used the paint pens to fill in my designs and when it was dry (after about a minute) I wiped away my trace line gently with a wet rag.  
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes!

For someone like me, who isn't huge on the color green, this little set is the perfect way to bring out a little holiday flair.  It would make a great gift for any friends or coworkers who are big on St. Paddy's Day too!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

3-Step Blueberry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding is my weakness, especially during the winter months when it becomes a hearty and sweet comfort dessert.  Rich and moist in flavor, I prefer it with a fruit that cuts in with a little tartness and tang.  Fresh blueberries are perfect for this. Bread pudding is as simple to make as french toast, except you don't have to watch a pan because you simply pop it in the oven.  It's also an excellent solution for day-old breads and rolls.

Blueberry-Vanilla Bread Pudding

4 Cups bread cut into large cubes (I used up 3 leftover deli rolls)
2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Butter
2 Large, or 3 small eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 Cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted.

2. While milk and butter heat on stove, in a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt until well blended.  Toss in cubed bread and berries and combine gently.

3. Pour the warm milk and butter into bowl reserving a small amount in the saucepan.  Stir bread mixture to coat and pour into a deep  un-greased pan.  Pour remaining milk/butter mixture over the top and bake for approx. 45 min.  Berries will bubble and a toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when done.

Serve Warm!  (Excellent with a bit of ice cream on top too)

While I usually like a sauce on my bread pudding, I feel none is needed here.  The blueberries cook down and create such a perfect sauce of their own that just a bit of powdered sugar tops things off perfectly.  You may also choose to spoon some of the juices out from the bottom of your baking pan to pour over the servings.  

Hey!  Remember my Easy Hand-Painted Plate ?  Doesn't it make the prettiest charger for this dessert plate?



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