Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Whoa! How did I go two whole weeks without posting??

This has been a busy month for everyone I'm sure, and I am no exception. I had a really lovely Christmas with my family and friends this year. We had the "smallest" Christmas we have ever had, and I enjoyed it the most of all so far. My husband and I did not even exchange gifts this year, and we purchased minimal but meaningful gifts for our loved ones. Because I was laid off work for 3 months, our funds were incredibly low. My first paycheck since I returned to work arrived on Friday the 23rd and off I went to do some insane last-minute shopping. The rage on the roads around this time of year is astonishing. What happened to Christmas spirit? I knew what I was getting into when I headed out to Target two days before Christmas, and so should everyone else who headed there too. Sure, it's frustrating and annoying and you wish you could run people over sometimes (or is that just me?), but I don't understand getting so mad at the the traffic, or pedestrians crossing the parking lot, that you feel the need to shout out your window and throw your hands in the air and scream, red-faced, within the confines of your car where no one can hear you until you appear to be seconds from literally exploding. I witnessed this very scene at least a dozen times on Friday, as well some peeling of the tires and horn-honking for good measure. Oh well, Merry Christmas to you too :)

We did something different this year for Christmas. We went out to dinner on Christmas day to a local hibachi grill with my parents and had a fun, expensive, and delicious meal. I don't know if this will become a new family tradition, but I wouldn't mind if it does! After all the ham, turkey, potatoes, corn, green beans, etc. etc., a little fried rice, veggies, chicken, and shrimp sounded absolutely perfect.


Onion volcano spewing fire.
My plate, after nibbling on it a bit. Yes, there was that much food! Plus a salad and soup prior to the main meal. Yummm!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winner winner, chicken dinner. (Recipe)

This week has really flown by for me. My free time has significantly decreased, and I'm going to bed much much earlier as well as waking up at an obscene hour again. I will get back in the swing of things very soon I'm sure, but in the meantime we have been eating pizza, reheated frozen left-overs, and grilled cheese. I did cook a "real" dinner once this week, and it was thrown together rather quickly so I was shocked at how delicious it turned out. I had thawed out chicken but didn't have much else at the house to make a meal out of, so I intended to stop by the store on the way home and pick up a few things. But of course I forgot, and so here I was at home with thawed chicken but no idea how to fix it. I remembered a recipe I found on Pinterest (pinned from here, which is an adaptation of an adaptation of this recipe) that I'd been wanting to try, that really only used a few basic ingredients. I made a few modifications for our tastes and due to being on a time crunch, but all in all it was a good meal. Here is my version of this easy & yummy recipe...



CRISPY CHEESY CHICKEN





Chicken:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into halves
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 sleeves buttery round crackers (like Ritz)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
1 tbsp oil or butter for frying
dried parsley, for garnish

Sauce:

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 c sour cream
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c shredded cheese of your choice


Lay out three separate bowls or pans. In the first bowl whisk together the milk and egg. Place the shredded cheese in the second bowl, and in the third crush up your crackers and combine with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I didn't want my crackers crushed too fine so I just used a potato masher to crunch them up until I was pleased. You can also crush them in a small food processor for smaller crumbs.

In a small pot on med-low heat, combine the sauce ingredients: soup, sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, and cheese. Stirring occasionally, heat until all ingredients are melted and make a smooth sauce. Turn heat to low to keep warm while you make the chicken.

For the chicken, heat your oil or butter in a frying pan on med heat. Dip your chicken pieces first into the egg mixture, then into the cheese, then into the cracker mixture to coat. Place each coated chicken piece into the pan and fry on each side for 5 min. Turn the heat down to low and cover with a lid while the chicken finishes cooking for an additional 5 min.

To serve, I placed a large helping of mashed potatoes in the center of the plate. I used Bob Evans refrigerated Original Mashed Potatoes (so delicious and perfect for when you don't have time to make your own!). Then I placed the cooked chicken strips right on top of the mashed potatoes and poured a couple spoonfuls of sauce over top. Sprinkle some parsley on top for some extra flavor and a nice finish.

My husband and I both were pleasantly surprised with the meal. It was also very filling so I am thankful I hadn't decided to make another side item to go with it. I ended up eating only one chicken strip and all my mashed potatoes, and I was STUFFED. My husband had two strips and was down for the count, too! That meant leftovers for work the next day for me, yippee! :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finally!

For the past nine weeks* I have been on furlough from my job due to lack of work, and yesterday I received the call I have been praying for... I'm returning to work on Monday! Not only that, but I've been offered a promotion. This makes me a VERY happy girl!!! As much as I enjoy sleeping in, and having hours and hours a day to blog, browse the net, play on Facebook and Pinterest, watch as much TV as I want, and all the other great things a girl can do with unlimited amounts of time, I am in desperate need of a steady income again. I may be posting less, but my posts could perhaps be more exciting now that I have money to due stuff again :-P

* I completely misquoted the number of weeks I was off work here. It was much closer to 13 weeks. Woops!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY gift idea: Jam jar soap dispenser.


I don't know about you, but I'm having to get more and more thrifty and creative with my gift giving lately. As the giving season draws nearer, I'm compiling a list of inexpensive and unique DIY gifts that I can make for the special people in my life. This one is a super easy and cute homemade gift idea that won't break the bank this Christmas.

Materials:

Liquid hand soap
Fake flowers, or any other fun items that will stand up in the soap
A glass jar with lid
Hot glue gun and glue sticks**

** After a couple uses, I found the hot glue did not hold this together as well as I'd hoped. I used Epoxy in place of hot glue the second time around and had much better results.


First, you need to make a hole in the lid for the soap pump to fit into. I drew a circle in the center of the lid just slightly smaller than the pump size. Then using an old sharp tip knife and a hammer, on a cutting bored, I banged little holes around the circle. Then I took the knife and cut around the holes VERY CAREFULLY until the circle could be popped out. This really is not a very safe method and I highly recommend wearing safety gloves if you try it, but it worked for me and it was the only way I could think of without using some kind of power tools that are far more dangerous for me to handle.


Next, place your flowers in the jar. You could also use clean stones, pearls, pine cones, small plastic toys, or anything else that is larger than the tube and won't get sucked up when you pump the soap. The possibilities are endless!


Remove the pump from your bottle of soap and set aside. Pour the soap into your jar, right on top of the flowers until it's nearly full. I'd say about a half an inch from the top is good. Replace the lid on the jar.


Using some good old hot glue** (change hot glue to epoxy), trace a line of glue around the edge of the round screw part of the pump (screw part is a technical term :P) and insert the pump into the jar through the hole you cut, and press it firmly until it dries. The beauty of hot glue is that this only takes a few seconds.


Make sure your lid is secure and you're all done! Go ahead and test it out, it should work just fine :)


This entire project cost me only $1 plus tax. The jar was left over from jam we finished a while back and I had the fake flowers laying around. The only purchase I made was for the soap at the dollar store. Cute and thrifty!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DIY gift idea: Homemade snow globes.

 
Homemade gifts are creative, fun to make, will most certainly be cherished by the receiver, and many can be done on a thrifty budget. Since I am on a tight budget this year, and I absolutely love to make things from home, I am going to be making a lot of my own Christmas gifts to give this holiday.

One such gift was inspired by these adorable Mason Jar Snow Globes I spotted at Anthropologie. The cost for these ranges from $25.00-$38.00, plus shipping if you order online. I decided to make them myself for much less, and this is how...

Materials:
  • A jar with a secure lid
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Artificial craft snow (glitter, sequins, beads, etc.)
  • Tiny figurines or trinkets
  • Felt
  • Scissors
Note: You can purchase a variety of jars at Walmart or any craft store, or you can clean and save your old jars from jelly, cherries, pickles etc. to save cash! If your jar has a spaghetti sauce lid just spray paint it the color of your choice and let it dry completely before beginning to assemble your snow globe.



How-To:

1. First, pick out the figures or trinkets you want to use for your globe. This could be anything from pine cones to a tiny Elvis figurine (I may be making one of those for my mama!). You are going to hot glue your figure to the inside of the lid. For mine, I placed a large blob of glue in the middle of the lid and pressed the base of the tree down onto it. I made a second globe in which I stacked three silver painted pine cones on top of each other, also securing them with hot glue. Just hold them in place till the glue dries completely (it only takes a minute!).


2. Next, add your glitter, sequins, etc. to the jar.

3. Once you've got your trinkets glued securely to the lid, go ahead and turn it upside down and place it on the jar slowly. Twist the lid on tight and shake it up to see how you like it. The hot glue is strong, but not too much so that you can't make changes if you must.

4. Place your jar lid side down on the piece of felt and trace around it. Cut out the shape and hot glue it to the top of the lid. This will keep it from sliding on the shelf too easily and protect both surfaces from scratches.

Now shake it up and admire your beautiful snow globe!


I had a hard time capturing the glitter with the camera but I assure you it is lovely :)

 
** If you want to add liquid to your globe, you can use distilled water or baby oil. I noticed after some time the baby oil turned fuzzy/yellowish but it could easily be dumped out and refilled each year.
 
The cost for one inspiration globe: $25.00-$38.00.
The DIY cost for two globes: $8.71 with materials to spare!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

DIY: Easy no-sew fleece poncho!

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving! Mine was entertaining as usual and filled with the love of a wonderful husband, our two polar opposite families, and tons of oh.em.gee delicious food!

Today, instead of shopping in all the madness, I stayed indoors in the safety of my kitchen-turned-craft-room. I finished one of the items on my to-do list, added another, and gave up on a third. I am not normally a quitter, but sometimes you just have to know when to throw in the towel. I've been fiddling with this plaid-kimono-like garment for months and all of my brilliant ideas have totally flopped. Now it is sewn nearly beyond repair. I say nearly, because it could be salvaged if I had the time, patience, and lots of bandaids, to rip out all the thousands of little stitches that I've sewn into it and start over from scratch. But that just isn't happening. Luckily the fabric was incredibly cheap, so not too much was lost.

The item that I completed successfully was my no-sew fleece poncho. I wanted it to be strictly "no-sew" so I would be able to brag about how super easy it was, and so I could make a tutorial for anyone who is not very keen on sewing but wants to make one as well. This project can be completed in 5 easy steps with only 5 materials.

The finished product:


And here is what it looks like on:



What you will need for this project:
  • About a yard or so of your chosen fleece
  • Scissors
  • A marker
  • A hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • Measuring tape

The tutorial: 


Click the image to enlarge.



It looks like I sewed around the edges of some parts, but that's b/c instead of buying fleece at the store I used a fleece blanket we already had (I'm being SUPER thrifty these days) and it already had a stitch around the edges. I just used edge pieces to make the belt and collar and save some of the pretty stitching. I promise this really is NO-SEW! I made a flower pin and pinned that at the collar for an extra accessory. I'm also going to experiment with different belts when wearing this. You can do whatever you like to make it your own! Hope you enjoy and have fun making yours!

xoxo

Rachel

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scallop trim nails: How-To.

I painted my nails with this pretty little scalloped edge. It was incredibly easy thanks to this tutorial. All you need is two nail polishes, a clear top coat, and a sewing pin with the little ball on top. And maybe some remover and q-tips for cleanup.

Here is a breakdown of the steps:

1. Paint your nails with the base color you choose. I wanted a more traditional looking French manicure, so I went with a very light pearly pink called Hawaiian Orchid by OPI. Let them dry completely.

2. Grab a scrap of paper and drop a blob of your trim color onto it. I used a basic French tip white for my trim. Dip the ball part of the pin into the polish, and dab one dot onto the tip of your nail. You can start in the middle or start to the side, either way you choose, but continue doing this (placing dots of polish) across the top of the whole nail. I did four dots to each middle nail, three on the pinky because it's smaller, and five on my thumb because it's larger. It might take a little trial and error at first, so have some remover handy just in case.

3. Fill in your gaps with the trim polish. I just took the brush and swept it across the edge of each nail. When it is all dry, add the clear top coat and you're done! If you're like me, you will have made a small mess on your skin around the nails. I used a q-tip and acetone-based polish remover to clean that up, but I also learned a new trick of rubbing Vaseline around your cuticles before painting your nails for easy clean up after.

I realize now that I should have done something more festive for Thanksgiving... But I'm too lazy to redo them plus I really like them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ahh Pinterest.

I have nothing much to report today but it's been a few days since I posted anything and quite honestly I was feeling the urge to blog about something... Anything, really. The past few days I have spent becoming obsessed with Pinterest. I heard of it several weeks ago and visited the site to find that I had to request an invite in order to participate. I thought that was odd. So, I closed out and went about my business and forgot about it for a while. But I just kept hearing about how COOL it was, so I requested that dang invite after all. About a week later I was on and now I can't get off!

The best way I can describe Pinterest is like your website bookmarks/favorites only public and set with the theme of a bulletin board. Each thing you pin shows a little photo and you can put a caption with it. It will link directly to the website that you pinned from, and you can store it all on your personal pinboards. It's great for you to store ideas and things you like, and others can view it and repin it, comment on it, or "like" it. Now I have found myself browsing the web solely for the purpose of pinning. I am just looking around at all times for something to pin! 

If you aren't on Pinterest then you need to be ASAP. You don't have to be a member to browse the boards, but you do have to join in order to pin things yourself. I even convinced my husband to join, explaining to him how it would be good to use for business purposes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

White nails...

I mentioned a couple days ago that I love nail polish. What I meant was, I really really LOVE nail polish. And I can't stand it if my nail polish chips. As soon as it does I will either a) remove the polish from all my nails and repaint them, or b) if the other nails still look nice I will remove the polish from said chipped nail and repaint it. But I never never leave a chipped nail longer than it takes me to get home and fix it. Call me crazy... I paint my nails sometimes 4 times a week. Every once in a while I like something funky, usually for a special occasion.

I have never really liked the white nail look, but recently I've seen it a few times where it caught my eye in a good way. The only white polish I have is for french tips, but tonight I decided to try it out. It basically looked like I was a teenage girl who got bored in class and used white-out on her nails. I didn't like that much (ok, not at all to be honest), so to tone it down some I splashed sparkles on top. I feel like a teenie bopper but hey, I'm going to see the new film in the Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn tomorrow night so that's kind of perfect, right?!

You might be able to see the bruising on my thumb where I smashed it in a car door two weeks ago. I try to hide it with polish but a little always peeks out at the bottom.

I don't like wasting polish so I will probably keep this on for at least one full day or two to get my wear out of it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe: Monkey bread muffins for a friend.

A close friend of mine is going through a tough time right now. Her brother was in a terrible accident and is in the hospital, and I wanted to make a gesture to show her that I was thinking of her and also to ease some of her burden. I was going to fix up a casserole or something of that sort but she is spending so much time at the hospital I wouldn't know when to drop it off. I realized that the best thing I could make would be something that's safe to sit on the doorstep without needing refrigeration or immediate cooking. I found this recipe for monkey-bread muffins that seemed to be just perfect. They sounded delicious and it's a quick and easy thing that she can grab and go and would be safe sitting on her doorstep for a while if she didn't return home until late.

Because they are so simple to make and so incredibly delicious, I am going to share the step-by-step here for you :)

First, gather up all the ingredients.

You will need:

1 tsp apple pie spice (if you don't have apple pie spice on hand, you can use the following substitution: 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8 cardamom or ginger)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 can refrigerated biscuit dough (12 oz or 5 biscuits)
1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbsps butter
1 t water

Preheat your oven to 375ยบ.
In the meantime, grease or butter a muffin pan. I don't suggest using liners because they will get messy and sticky in the next few steps.





Cut your biscuits each into 6 pieces.

Combine your apple pie spice (or, like me, the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, & ginger combo) in a bowl and mix in the white sugar.

Next, roll each piece of the biscuit dough in the sugar mixture until coated.

Place your coated biscuit pieces into the muffin pan evenly for however many biscuits you want. I put 5 pieces in each cup to make 6 even sized biscuits.

Combine the butter, water, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until bubbling, stirring constantly.

Drizzle the brown sugar mixture over your biscuits. Some of it will run down and pool at the bottom, so I chose to save about half of the mixture to pour on after they were finished baking as well.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-12 minutes until golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. I baked mine for the full 12 minutes because I wanted the top just a little bit crispy. After they were out of the oven, I drizzled the remaining brown sugar mixture over the top.

Once they had mostly cooled, I removed each muffin from the pan and dipped the bottom into the remaining white sugar/spice mixture (the bottom was sticky and gooey from the brown sugar mix), and placed on a piece of waxed paper. I didn't have a basket or anything very pretty to dress these up in, so I just sat them in a round cake pan on top of waxed paper and wrapped the whole thing with cellophane and a ribbon. The only sad part is that I didn't make enough to have some for myself!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little snippets of my life....

These are all pictures of moments that I snapped over this past year. They are things that matter to me, that I love, or that I've enjoyed. Some are superficial, some are more personal and important. I could have put a hundred little thumbnails up here but there just wasn't room.
Here is an explanation of the ones I chose and why:


1. My husband and I aboard the Sanibel Harbour Princess during sunset. We had a lovely vacation this year in Ft. Myers Beach, FL and this was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We took a sunset dinner cruise that lasted about 2 hrs and included an incredible dinner and spectacular view of the sunset. My other favorite part of that trip was taking a wave-runner dolphin tour. My husband drove while I rode piggy back, and along the way we got to learn a little about the area as well as see dolphins, manatees, and a large array of birds (including a bald eagle!) up-close-and-personal, all while speeding across the ocean on wave-runners. So cool.

2. A view of the stage and massive crowd at Rock on the Range 2011. I have been to many many live concerts; it's one of my all-time favorite things to do. This was my first year attending ROTR. It was their 5th anniversary, and the show was amazing. I had so much fun spending the weekend jamming out with 35,000 other rockers. THIS was my favorite moment of the entire show.

 

3. My newest nail polish called "Olive", purchased at Forever 21. I love the color and I also love nail polish. I can't remember the last time I went a day with bare nails. It's a staple to my wardrobe and as silly as it sounds it's my favorite accessory. You should've seen my nails for Rock on the Range ;)

 

4. A close-up of me sewing on my sewing machine. I am very novice at sewing but I'm learning and practicing all the time. I absolutely love making new things or revamping old things, and my sewing machine is my best friend during these times.

 



5. A stack of books on a shelf in my living room. I purchased almost all of them at an antique mall and they are mostly for looks, but I am an avid reader. I read whenever I can and I am always looking for new books to read. I also sort of collect books. I never borrow or rent them because I like to own them. My dream is to one day open a used bookstore.


6. A photo of my backyard taken just several weeks ago. The leaves were just starting to change and it was really beautiful. We have a narrow but long yard, fenced in by a board rail fence that my husband built, installed, and stained all himself (with the help of his dad). We also have a gorgeous patio that my husband and father-in-law put in themselves and landscaping that we worked on together. I love my backyard, it's my own little sanctuary. There is a really pretty Dogwood tree in the corner of the fence with a bench under it where I love to sit and read when the weather is nice.

7. A nighttime view of Cincinnati from the Purple People Bridge. I live near the Kentucky/Ohio border. A good friend of mine does a lot of modeling and they had a fashion show right on the bridge this summer. It was very neat and so pretty when it got dark and everything was all lit up.


8. A pair of tennis shoes that I blogged about recently. I painted them to look like wingtips using fabric paint. I am pretty proud of them, but that isn't why I put up the photo. I just thought it was a good example of some of the other crafty things I enjoy besides sewing. I enjoy crafting of ALL sorts.

 


9. My tiny precious little Lady. She is sitting in my lap at the table like a human. She's a 5yr old Yorkie-Malti-Poo and weighs in at a whopping 3 1/2lbs. She is super spunky and completely rules the house.

 


10. My lil buddy Presley. He's our other "child". He's about 15lbs and would be classified as a Miniature Poodle, based on his height (I think). He was sold to us as a Toy, but even as the runt he grew to be about twice the size of a Toy, but not nearly as large as a Standard. He has the best personality in the world. So gentle and sweet, and playful. He is a bit of a mama's boy though and wants my undivided attention at all times. Even as I type this he is sitting at my feet staring up at me.

11. A real live action photo of me skydiving (<-- click that link and you can watch me jump for yourself!) It's something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I have done other things leading up to it (though nothing even remotely close or half as exhilarating) such as bungee jumping at our local theme park and para-sailing on our honeymoon, but it took me YEARS to convince my husband to skydive with me. I put it off for a long time but was close to going on my own when he finally agreed this year that he would jump too. It's only been about 6 weeks since we did it and I am still reeling!

12. A photo of some flowers I saw on the beach on vacation. I just thought they were so pretty, and they were all alone in a large patch of dry grass and weeds on the beach. I love taking photos and try to often. I take pictures of anything and everything. Photos capture a memory forever.

13. This last one is of my sweet husband. He is enjoying a beer on vacation. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Latest DIY project: long sleeve cowl-neck top with two fabrics.

I have a folder on my computer called "Inspos" that is chock full of photos of things I've seen while browsing the web that I would like to try and DIY.

I was inspired to make this shirt by one I saw while window shopping on Etsy a few weeks ago. I think the shirt must have sold by now because I wasn't able to find the listing again to link directly to it. It was a long sleeved black sweater with a kangaroo pocket and it had a black and white striped cowl neck and matching half sleeves. I thought it was so cute and wanted to buy it, but it was selling for $60 that I just don't have. I decided that I could probably make one like it for a fraction of the cost if I tried hard enough.

To make this shirt, I was going to need two shirts OR one long sleeved shirt and some extra fabric. It just so happens that my husband recently ruined a nice polo of his by spilling something brown down the front. I tried to get the stain out with no success, and then stuck the shirt in my fabric box to use for a project at a later date. His white and gray striped polo provided a perfect cowl neck and sleeves for this project! The solid charcoal gray shirt was a long sleeved top I got at Forever 21 for $6.

I used the sleeves of his polo for the sleeves on the new shirt. They already had a finished hem so I didn't have to do any work there. I used the fabric on the back of the striped shirt (no stain on that side) for the cowl neck. I cut a large piece that was twice as tall as the neck I wanted, again using the already hemmed edge of the striped shirt to save me some time. I formed a circle and sewed it shut, then attached it to the inside of the neck of the gray shirt and folded it over to the outside. Another way to do it would be to cut it from the upper middle part of the shirt and then fold it over before sewing so the two rough edges are touching, close up your circle and then sew the rough edges to the inside of the other shirt. That would require no hemming on your part. I wasn't sure how this would turn out and I didn't take photos as I went, so no step-by-step for this one my friends :/

Overall I am pretty pleased with the results! And thrilled that it cost only $6 plus tax and a little of my time. :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekly recap.

That was one heck of a long, sick week and an incredibly lazy weekend. I'm still recovering from my cold that I just can't seem to kick. I decided to unwind on Friday night with a bit too much wine and subsequently spent most of Saturday moaning and groaning and even getting sick a couple times. Yikes. The rest of the weekend was enjoyed watching movies on the couch with the hubs. We had our own little Mark Wahlberg marathon. If you haven't seen Invincible, you should. We also finally watched The Fighter which has been on our Netflix queue for months. Also a good movie, though I think Christian Bale stole the show with that one.

Somehow on Friday night I smashed my thumb in the car door. My purple throbbing thumb has been a bit of a bother all weekend. It's hideous and painful, but mostly I just don't want to lose my nail!

As sick as I was, I did manage to get up and out of the house on Wednesday. Lately, on Wednesdays, I have been meeting a couple of friends at Starbuck's for a coffee and a chat. Since ours is located right next to Hobby Lobby, I found myself stopping in there to wander around as well. I could spend hours at Hobby Lobby without boredom. I invited my girl friend back to my house after coffee and Hobby Lobby for some tie-dying fun and she happily obliged. I felt like a kid again. We had corndogs and kool-aid for lunch. It was a nice relief from laying on the couch with my hot tea, doped up on cold meds.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Recipe: Cake Balls! (Or pops)

Cake Pops have become insanely popular. I finally tasted my very first ones at a bridal shower this past July and fell immediately in love. They are delicious! And adorable. There are so many combinations and varieties to make. The flavor and decorating possibilities are endless.  So finally, for no occasion what-so-ever, I decided to make some. My husband was more than pleased to hear this. He loves when I bake. I pretty much always have cake mix and icing on hand, just in case, and have plenty of almond bark and chocolate chips usually as well. But I assumed I would need some additional, fancier ingredients. I called up my girlfriend who had made them for the aforementioned bridal shower to find out just how difficult this was going to be. I was amazed when I found out how incredibly EASY they are to make. They are just too pretty and delicious to be so EASY! I was more excited than ever to begin.

Ingredients:
1 box cake mix (and ingredients needed to bake it: 3 eggs, margarine, water.)
1 16 oz. jar of prepared frosting
almond bark, chocolate chips, or coating of your choice
toothpicks (or sucker sticks if you want to make cake pops instead of balls.)
sprinkles, optional
other decorative materials (ie: cellophane, ribbons, mini-muffin cups, etc.)

I am going to use Butter Recipe Yellow cake mix and Rich & Creamy Rainbow Chip frosting, but you can use whichever flavors you like best.

We're going to prepare our cake according to the package directions. Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

Mix ingredients until smooth, approximately 2 1/2 - 3min.

Pour the batter into a greased pan. Any size will do just make sure you follow the timing instructions for your size pan.

Bake your cake according to the box. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Next, crumble the cake into a large bowl. Mix with a fork (or one of the beaters from your mixer, like I did) until crumbled into tiny little pieces. I cheated a bit and did this while the cake was still warm. However, it is important to let it cool completely before moving on to the next step or you may end up with a gooey mess.

When the cake is crumbled as fine as you can get it, add about half of your 16oz jar of frosting. Stir with a spatula until there are no dry crumbles left.

A good way to see if you have the right texture is to form your cake and icing mixture into a ball in the bowl. If it forms easily with no loose crumbles then you're good to go. Otherwise, add a bit more frosting and mix well until the right consistency. Keep in mind you don't want too much frosting either, because if it's too goopy it will be hard to from into balls. If you somehow use a little too much frosting, just place your mixture in the 'fridge for an hour or so to harden it up some before forming your balls.

Now the "fun" part! Pick up chunks of icing and roll between your hands to form balls of desired size. I used about 1-1 1/2 tbsp sized globs to form my balls. I was able to make 57 balls exactly, but could have probably gotten 60 if I had not made a few too large.

Set them on a baking sheet (I covered mine with waxed paper) and place in the refrigerator for several hours to harden up. If you're on a time crunch you can also stick them in the freezer for about an hour. Be careful not to freeze them for too long though, if they are too frozen it may cause your chocolate to crack after dipping.

Melt your chocolate (or choice of coating) using a double broiler or the microwave. I don't have a double broiler so I made my own by putting a small amount of water in a pot and placing another pot on top. Place the chips in the top pot and turn on low heat. Stir while it melts.

If you are making cake pops, now is the time to insert your sticks into the cake balls. Dip the tip of each stick into the chocolate and insert into the ball about halfway through. Dip the balls into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. If you are just making cake balls, like me, use a toothpick to do the dipping. Lay your dipped balls on a lined cookie sheet to set. (For cake pops, you can use an old shoe box with small holes cut in the top to insert your sticks and allow the pops to set upright.)

After removing the toothpick you will have a small hole where it was removed. Dip the tip of the toothpick into the melted chocolate and dab it over the hole to cover it. I sprinkled the cake balls with sugar crystals while the chocolate was still wet. After you have dipped all of your cake balls, place the tray back into the refrigerator until the chocolate is hardened. Once the chocolate is solid they are ready to serve!

For serving, I placed my finished cake balls in colored mini-muffin liners and viola! :)



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