Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nursery Blocks

I have so many ideas going on right now, but I just don't seem to have the time for any of them. Since we are preparing for not one, but two babies in the coming months, that has been occupying most of my time and attention.

I've started working on their baby quilts. I don't have much experience with detailed quilts. The one's I have done are just block quilts, so these require much more time and precision. I'll post pictures of the finished products once they're done - though I have feeling it's going to be a while. The two of them may have to share one until I have the time to finish the other.

I ran out of thread after 6 blocks, so I started looking around the craft room wondering what else I should work on. I found some small canvas blocks and decided to make something out of them.

It's hard to think of anything non-baby related, so the first thing that came to mind was the word "baby". I have never really learned to paint, or know any special painting techniques. But, I took some inspiration from Joshua Radin (my background tunes) and made these little pretties:

How cute are these? I love, love love them! I know the flower throws you off a bit, as these are obviously meant for a boys room. But I don't care. I love them!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rainbow Jello

A couple of weeks ago, my step daughter celebrated her 10th birthday. Although we kept pestering her for weeks about what she wanted for her birthday, she never had an answer with the exception of one thing: Rainbow Jello. She’s not a big cake fan, and even less so of frosting. What she really wanted was layers and layers of colored Jello.

I’ve always thought about doing this. I’ve seen others do it. It’s probably one of the simplest things I’ve ever made. But it takes FOREVER. I started preparing the layers on a Friday afternoon; one box at a time. I’d wait a couple hours, then add the next layer. I was able to get three of them done by Friday night.
Saturday morning, I was making Jello again while waiting for my crepes to cook. Crepes are her favorite breakfast item, along with turkey bacon.
Finally, by the afternoon, I’d finished all the layers. I added a layer of whipped topping (of course!) and we served up the first…um…”piece”. Rainbow Jello is pretty difficult to serve. You have to get all the flavors in there or what’s the point? But even though it came out a bit sloppy, it looked just as pretty in the bowl. And it was DELICIOUS. Whoever said they didn’t like Jello was lying. Or at least was thinking more about the fact that it’s made out of fat than the yummy taste it has when mixed with loads of sugar. Mmmmm.
So, when you have some free time or when you feel like making something really special – perhaps for that next potluck? – grab a few boxes of Jello and go to town!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cake Pops Recipe

Last weekend, I was finally able to announce the genders of my soon-to-be-born twins. I have heard about gender reveal parties before but I’ve never been to one. I’ve heard of many people having the ultrasound tech write down genders for the parents in a sealed envelope, then taking the envelope to a local bakery and having them prepare a cake with the usual associated color inside topped with white frosting. The parent(s)-to-be will then cut the cake at the reveal party to announce the gender of their baby: Pink for girl, blue for boy – and a surprise for everyone.
Originally, I wanted to use this idea and have a two-tier cake prepared, one tier for each of the twins. But, my husband couldn’t stand the thought of having to wait another two weeks before we could find out, so we ended up finding out right at our appointment. I did, however, still want to incorporate the cake idea when we announced to our families what we were having.
Instead of having a cake prepared, I decided to make my first try at cake pops. If you’re not familiar with them, you can find where I discovered them here or just read on for the recipe I used. I had grand ideas of what I wanted to do. I could make them look like children’s blocks and cut out letters from fondant for the decoration. I could find little candies and make them look like baby cheeks sucking on binkies. I could make them look like little baby bottoms complete with crack and belly button and cover them with carefully cut Airhead candies shaped like little white diapers. So many clever ideas…but alas, so little time.
I ended up sticking with a basic design: saucer-shaped cake balls dipped in white chocolate and covered with multi-colored sprinkles. If you decided to do this, I recommend double dipping before using the sprinkles as the color of the cake did show through a bit (I had to go back over some of the more transparent spots later to cover up any traces of blue). Another tip: Freeze the balls before dipping. This will make them much easier to dip and they’ll hold their shape better. You can make these as cake bites instead of pops simply by omitting the stick. If you choose to use the sticks, dip them in chocolate and insert them into the cake ball, then freeze or refrigerate long enough for the chocolate to set. This will ensure the ball doesn’t come off the stick while dipping (another thing I learned the hard way).
Finally, I presented the cake pops on floral Styrofoam blocks I’d covered with colored tissue paper and ribbon (sorry, I didn’t get a pic of this part – I had hungry mouths to feed!). I kept the colors gender-neutral so no one would get any funny ideas. I then explained there were 12 pops colored for baby A and 12 colored for baby B. As they started to bite into them, they started yelling out, “blue!” until finally everyone realized…they were all blue! This saved some time in the kitchen, because I didn’t have to prepare two batches with different colors.
Another final tip: These treats are EXTREMELY sweet and rich, so I would recommend making them bite size so as not to send your guests into a sugar coma. If you’ve got other ideas for how to make the announcement or if you want to share what you did, please post in the comments. Have a great week!
Cake Pops
1 Box white cake mix (other flavors can be used but if you plan to color the cake, you’ll want to use white)
¾ Container cream cheese frosting
2 – 3 Bags chocolate candy, any color (available at most craft stores) or Bakers chocolate
2 – 3 tsp. Crisco shortening
Food coloring (optional)
24 – 30 sucker sticks, if desired
2 rectangular foam blocks
Prepare the cake as directed on the box. You can choose to add your food coloring now or wait until mixing with the frosting later.
Once the cake cools completely, crumble it in a large bowl and add the frosting. Mix thoroughly until you have a dough-like consistency. Refrigerate until the “dough” is hardened; usually about an hour. Tip: To reduce this time, refrigerate your cake before mixing with the frosting.
Use a spoon or cookie/ice cream scoop to get equal portions of dough for shaping. Shape the balls using your hands but be sure not to roll them for too long or the dough will become warm and soft. Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Melt ½ bag of chocolate candies and ½ tsp of Crisco shortening. Dip the sucker sticks into the melted chocolate, coating generously, then insert into the middle of the prepared cake balls. This will ensure the balls stay in place during dipping.
Freeze of refrigerate the balls for 30 minutes to allow ample time for the chocolate to set. About 10 minutes before removing from the fridge/freezer, begin melting the rest of the chocolate and Crisco shortening. Remember to stir constantly and melt on low heat to avoid scorching the candy.
Dip the balls in the chocolate one at a time, stirring the chocolate after each dip. Allow the excess chocolate to run off. You can lightly twirl the pop to help distribute the chocolate evenly, but be gentle. After the chocolate starts to harden, insert the stick into one of the Styrofoam blocks to continue cooling. For a quicker set, place the block in the refrigerator or freezer.
Once the chocolate has hardened, you can choose to give them a second coat. The Crisco gives the chocolate a thinner consistency making them easier to dip, but can also leave the first layer looking thin.
Decorate as desired and enjoy!