Saturday, April 26, 2014

Apple Pie Cookies

One of my favorite seasons is autumn because I love the leaves changing colors, the pumpkin patches, Halloween, and of course, picking apples... too bad it won't be here for another 6 months. No worries, OhBiteIt introduced these delicious apple pie cookies which taste just like fall! But the best part? Not having to deal with cleaning up pie plates or even having to use a knife and fork!

Warning: unless you have a tiny cookie cutter, you won't be able to make more than 4-6 so be prepared to have your heart broken when you eat them all in 10 minutes... whoops... at least you'll have a lot of leftovers!

Ok, run to your grocery store or your pantry and grab these ingredients:

1 box of pie crusts
1 can of apple filling (I only used about 3/4ths of it)
About a cup of caramel sauce
1 egg for the egg wash
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top
Nutmeg for sprinkling on top
A little flour
A cookie cutter (if you don't have one, like me, just use the top of a glass!

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees so it'll be ready by the time you're done assembling. 

Unroll one of the pie crusts and dust it with a little flour. I decided to lay down a piece of parchment paper first and I'm so glad I did because  a.) it was a no-mess solution and  b.) I was able to use the same piece when it came time to putting the cookies in the oven.

Grab your caramel sauce and lightly coat the pie crust. If you don't have a brush, a knife would do just fine.

On a cutting board, pour out the contents of the apple filling and chop up the apple slices.

Pour a thin layer of apples on top of the caramel sauce. Don't make it too thick or you'll have one heck of a mess in the oven...

Now take your other pie crust, spread it out (again, I recommend doing this on a piece of parchment paper because you'll be using it later), and cut it into thin slices so as to make your lattice crust.

Place the strips directly on top of the apple pieces to create the pattern. This was the most time-consuming step but it's not difficult, just over... under... over... under...

Once you're done, take your cookie cutter (or glass), dip it into the egg wash (completely optional), cut out a piece, and place the cookies on top of the parchment paper you used to cut the strips. As for the scraps, don't throw them away because you can bake those too!

Take your egg wash and cover the cookies with a thin coat, then sprinkle on your cinnamon sugar and nutmeg. Do the same thing to the leftover pieces.

Every oven is different so bake them for anywhere between 20-25 minutes (or until they're golden brown). Let them cool, as they'll still be oozing apple goodness, and enjoy this autumn treat on a spring day!

TOTAL COSTS: About $11
$2.79 for the pie crusts
$4.49 for the apple filling
$3.69 for Smuckers caramel topping
Egg, cinnamon sugar, nutmeg, flour, glass, and parchment paper already on hand

25 minutes to prepare
25 minutes to bake

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The hardest part for me was making the lattice but that's only because I laid all the strips down first and then had to pry them off of the sticky apple filling in order to have them go under and over. Other than that, though, this is easy enough for your kids to help you make and for everyone to enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Strawberry Roses

Perhaps you've seen this photo floating around the internet of strawberry "roses":

Aren't they beautiful? Like something Martha Stewart could do in 10 seconds and probably impossible to do yourself? Well, I decided to challenge myself and let you know the reality behind the photo. And believe it or not, you can totally make these!

Quite simply, you'll need:

1. Lollipop sticks
2. Strawberries (if you want to make 5, buy a pack of 25)
3. A really sharp, small knife

The first thing I recommend is getting your strawberries cold. Think back-of-the-fridge cold. The closer to room temperature, the easier it is for them to become mushy and therefore, impossible to cut.

Once they're practically frozen, use your knife to cut a small hole near the stem. This will make it easier for you to poke the lollipop stick through.

Start by making four small slits around the base of the strawberry. Gently pull them away from the center so as to replicate petals.

Now you can either cut directly behind those petals to get a layered look...

But I recommend cutting in between the spaces and slightly bending the tips so they take on more of a petal-shape.

If you're lucky, you'll cut perfect "roses" with every strawberry. If you're not Martha Stewart, you'll probably make 1 good strawberry rose for every 5 attempts (so it's best to start this project hungry, since you can eat your mistakes!). Two things you should try to avoid include:

#1. Cutting too close to the base and therefore, having the petals fall off.

#2. Pushing the lollipop stick all the way through the strawberry OR cutting too close to it.

With enough practice, your strawberry roses will look good enough to smell and admire. Be patient, have a steady hand, and remember to keep them cold to keep their shape and not get mushy!

TOTAL COSTS: About $5 for a "bouquet" (depending on how many you eat)
$2.99/lb. of strawberries at Vons
$1.99 for Wilton lollipop sticks at Michaels

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Depends on how many you make
It only take a couple minutes to make one but if you rush it, you'll ruin it so take your time!

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 4 out of 5
It wasn't as hard as I had anticipated but as I said, only 1 out of every 5 came out well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Send a Message in an Egg

In the spirit of springtime, I thought this project would be apropos. Everyone puts up posts about how to decorate an egg but this post, originally found here on TechLoveDesign, is about how to decorate in order to destroy it.... well... crack it open. This would be great not only for springtime but for a birthday card or a baby shower note!

Here's what you'll need:

1. An egg
2. A container/jar to put the contents of egg in
3. A safety pin
4. Paint
5. A piece of paper with your message written on it

First, stick a safety pin at the top and bottom of your egg. Have one of the holes be bigger than the other, since you'll be putting your rolled up message at that end.

Put your mouth at the small hole end and blow! The egg contents should drip out into your container.

Next comes the painting. I decided to try and paint it similar to the original so I made it light blue, let it dry, and went over with a second coat.

Now you could use white stickers or you could paint white dots, however you choose to decorate your egg.

Once the paint is dry, roll up your message as tight as you can and stick it through the bigger hole you made earlier. Note that if your paper is bigger than the hole, you will slightly crack the shell.

Put it in a box that says "Crack Me" and watch them smile at your creative gift! If you want to make a felt box, see my DIY post here.

Note that I already had a safety pin (from the dry cleaners), paint, paper, and an egg

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Overnight + about 3 hours
5 minutes to blow out egg yolk and whites
Let the inside dry overnight but it was still sticky inside after 24 hours. I'd suggest giving it 2+ days to let the inside dry completely before painting
1 hour for first coat to dry
1 hour for second coat to dry
1 hour for dots to dry
5 minutes to roll up the message and stick inside the egg

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you don't like blowing up balloons, you won't like blowing out the egg yolk and whites. Other than that, it's not difficult at all to paint an egg shell and stick a message inside!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day Crayons

Happy Earth Day! Want to do a fun and easy project with the kiddos to show your appreciation for Big Mama Earth? Forget the tin can pencil holders and the t-shirt grocery bags and go straight to your art supplies. Gather all those broken and unused white, blue, and green crayons, a muffin tin, and make some mini-globe crayons! Today's post comes courtesy of TheGunnySack and would be great if you're an art teacher, an environmentalist, or maybe even a mom who doesn't want to spend more money on crayons!

Start by preheating your oven to 250 degrees. Next, take off all the wrappers on your crayons. The more you have, the more globes you can make!

Next, either break or cut them into pieces and put them in your muffin tin. If you put the white pieces in first, the "clouds" will appear on the top when you flip them over.

Stick the muffin tin in the oven and give them 15-20 minutes (or until the crayons have melted). Be careful removing the tin from the oven, as you don't want to jostle the colors too much.

Let the wax cool on the counter before removing them from the tins (I gave them about 30 minutes, just to be safe). Now maybe the original post had magical muffin tins that just let the globes fall right now but I needed a knife to cut all the way around and when that didn't work, I ended up cutting down the middle in order to get them out! So please, for your sanity's sake, use parchment paper or PAM or something to help get them out easier. Unless you have magical muffin tins.

But there you have it folks, your very own globe crayons!

Assuming you have crayons and a muffin tin

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 50 minutes
5 minutes to unwrap crayons and cut into pieces
15 minutes to melt wax
30 minutes to let cool

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
This is something the kids could get involved in (assuming you don't let them cut the crayons with a knife). Have them break up the crayons, place however they want in the muffin tins, and draw to their heart's content!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Infamous Bunny Biscuits

I know you've seen this photo floating around the internet. I remember seeing this last year, only no one was able to find a recipe.

It turns out MomAlwaysFindsOut found the original recipe here and they're not biscuits or rolls - they're pineapple tarts. The bunnies in the photo above are wrapped in pastry dough, not bread dough, which is why you may have seen fails such as this.

Right, so let's get to the bottom of this. Is it truly impossible to make this work with bread dough? I used this recipe to give it my best shot. They're quite delicious right out of the oven so I recommend you gather:

* 2 tablespoons of butter
* 8 ounces of sour cream
* 1/4 cup of water
* 1 egg
* 1 package of active dry yeast
* 2 tablespoons of sugar
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 2 1/2-3 cups of flour

Start by putting the butter, water, and sour cream in a sauce pan until the butter has melted. Once it has melted, take it off the burner to let it cool.

Meanwhile, add the egg, yeast, sugar, and salt in a mixer with the kneading paddle. Add the sour cream/butter/water mixture once it has cooled (I gave it 5 minutes) and slowly add the flour. I ended up using about 3 1/4 cups of flour because the dough was still sticking to the sides.

Once the dough has formed, put it in a warm spot and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size (I gave it an hour, just to be safe).

I recommend punching down the dough once it's ready and using extra flour, break off 16 rolls and place them on parchment paper (the extra flour is so you don't have it sticking to your hands or the bowl!). Use kitchen shears to cut the ears and cut them big, otherwise you'll just have these tiny little triangles, like in the photo below.

As you can see, because this is bread dough and not pastry dough, they won't be as smooth or as round as the original photo. Using a toothpick, poke in some eyes, if you like.

Get ready for these to grow in the oven! The yeast makes them expand and they look more like cats than bunnies, in my opinion. But keep an eye on them so the tops of the ears don't burn.

My favorite part? Decapitating them before devouring!

TOTAL COSTS: About $14 (if you don't own any of the ingredients - prices from Vons)
$.79 for butter
$1.99 for sour cream
$2.49 for eggs (but you only need 1)
$1.79 for active dry yeast
$2.69 tablespoons of sugar
$.99 for salt
$3.29 for flour

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 1 hour, 50 minutes
35 minutes to make the dough and cut ears
1 hour to let dough rise
15 minutes in the oven

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you're expecting these to look like the original, they won't. Really, the hardest part is trying to make them look like the original, which will never happen. Enjoy your unique, delicious, and morphed bunnycat biscuits because in the end, they're all going in your tummy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Three Ways to Decorate Cupcakes for Spring

Spring is finally here! The birds are chirping, the flowers are budding, and everyone is happy to done hibernating. So what better way to bring in the sun than with three delicious and creative ways to decorate cupcakes? C'mon, who here is still sticking with their New Year's resolutions? Anyone? I thought so.

I'm going to walk through how to make your cupcakes look like chicks, daisies, and carrots. Note that I don't walk through how to make the actual cupcakes, I'll leave that up to you. And I've put these in order from easiest-hardest, in my opinion. Note that the daisies contain a major mistake, so they don't look how they should.

First, the chicks. For this you'll need:

1. Yellow sprinkles
2. Yellow and orange frosting (and white, if you want to make the eye light)
3. Mini chocolate chips
4. Piping bags or plastic bags and scissors to cut the corner
5. Wilton piping tip #2 (optional)
6. Wilton piping tip #102 (optional)

Use yellow frosting to cover the top of your cupcake and smooth it out. In a small bowl or on a plate, pour your yellow sprinkles. Dip the cupcake into the sprinkles until it's completely covered and shake off the excess.

Place two mini chocolate chips upside-down into the top of the cupcake to resemble eyes and add the wings. If you have frosting tips, you can use #102. If you don't, grab a plastic bag, fill it with yellow frosting, cut off a small part of the corner, and squeeze out the frosting out the corner of the bag, which is what I did here. Make three or four squiggle lines on either side of the cupcake to resemble wings.

Pour some more sprinkles over them and shake off the excess so they look seamless with the rest of the cupcake.

Using your orange frosting and tip #2 (or another plastic bag with the corner cut), add a triangle for the beak and three squiggles per foot, just like you did the wings.

You can add a white dot to the top of the chocolate chips if you want to make the eye light, but it's completely optional. Other than that, your chicks are complete!

Next, the daisies. If you don't have frosting tips, you can just use a toothpick for making the grass and a plastic bag for making the flowers. For these you'll need:

1. Green, white, and yellow frosting - use buttercream! I didn't and screwed these up royally.
2. Wilton piping tip  #103 for the petals (optional). No piping tip needed for the capitulum (or the middle of the daisy)
3. Wilton piping tip #233 for the grass (optional)
4. Piping bags or plastic bags and scissors to cut the corner
5. Parchment paper
6. A cupcake or offset spatula
7. A pencil or pen
8. A cookie sheet

Let's start with the flower. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet, grab your pen or pencil and draw 1.5-2" large circles. You could trace around a piping tip, a half dollar, a bottle cap, whatever you have around. Flip the paper over so you won't have pencil residue or ink in your flower.

Next, grab your white icing, place it in the piping or plastic bag, snip the corner and insert the #103 tip. With the larger part of the tip facing away from you, place it 1/4" above the drawn circle and squeeze the icing towards the center of the circle. Gently decrease pressure as you move the tip down. Now that one petal is done, do the same thing for the next petal all the way around the circle until the daisy is complete.

Now this what my first time piping so excuse my messy daisy. Grab your yellow icing, place it in a piping or plastic bag, snip the corner, and pipe the center of the daisies you've made.

Put your cookie sheet in the freezer to allow the flowers to harden for an hour.

While those are hardening, it's time to make the grass. Grab your green icing, place it in the piping or plastic bag, snip the corner and insert the #233 tip. Place the tip 1/4" above the cupcake and squeeze, allowing the frosting to pile up. Lift the bag up and release to make it look like the grass is standing. Down, squeeze, up, release. Down, squeeze, up, release.

OR, if you don't have a piping bag, just frost the top of the cupcakes and, using a toothpick, flick up the frosting multiple times to resemble grass.

Once the daisies have hardened, use your spatula to lift them off the parchment paper and place onto the tops of the cupcakes. However, if you don't use buttercream frosting and you use the frosting out of a can, they won't harden and you'll have a daisy as a mess.

Finally, the carrot cupcakes. For these you'll need:

1. Green food coloring
2. About 2 cups of sweetened coconut flakes (though I used shredded and it worked out fine)
3. 2 Tablespoons of water
4. Orange Starbursts
5. Green Apple Twizzlers Pull N' Peel (though I used coconut flakes for the top instead)
6. White icing

First off, you'll want to dye your icing with green food coloring. If you have any leftover from the daisy cupcakes, that'd be convenient!

In a small bowl, combine the coconut flakes and water. Add green food coloring (about 8 drops) until the coconut is completely covered and set aside.

Unwrap the Starbursts, cut them in half, put them on a plate, and heat for 15 seconds in the microwave. This will allow them to be malleable so you can roll and shape them into tiny carrots. If they're too hard to work with again, pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds.  Note that they will be sticky to handle and they might stick to the plate.

Add a hole to the top of the carrots, either with a toothpick, skewer, or knife.

To add texture, cut a few indentations to the front.

Cut your Twizzlers into 1/4" pieces and pull them apart or pull a few coconut flakes you want to use for the top of the carrots. Note that the coconut flakes will be difficult to work with but they do make the design more cohesive.

Now it's time to put it all together! First, frost your cupcakes and even out the tops (obviously I'm not very good at the evening out part).

Next, sprinkle the green coconut flakes on top to resemble grass.

Add 2-3 carrots per cupcake and insert 2 Twizzler pieces or coconut flakes per carrot. Keep these away from Peter Rabbit and enjoy!

And there you have it kids - three delicious cupcakes to ring in the springtime air!

TOTAL COSTS: About $20
$5 for two containers of frosting to frost 24 cupcakes (8 of each kind)
$2.50 for mini chocolate chips
$3.50 for food coloring
$3.49 for parchment paper
$2.29 for coconut flakes
$3.29 for Starbursts
Plastic bags, Wilton tips, sprinkles, scissors, spatula, pencil, and cookie sheet already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Varies per cupcake
The chick cupcakes took 20 minutes
The daisy cupcakes took 30 minutes to make, 1 hour to harden, and 10 minutes to redo... hopefully you don't have to do that part
The carrot cupcakes took 1 hr., 30 minutes to decorate 9 (however, making 27 carrots took about 30 minutes!)

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): Varies per cupcake
The chicks were definitely the easiest to make, and the carrots were the most time-consuming, but those two were definitely easier than trying to get those daisies to come out right. I should have used buttercream frosting but oh well, my improvised flowers worked well enough!