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.

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! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Sick-day.

Woe is me, I've caught a cold. I have a nasty little cough and watery eyes. Hot tea is my knight in shining armor right now. I'm on my third mug of Chai tea with milk and sugar. YUM. I really like vanilla soy-milk in my tea, but I don't have any. I'm not an avid soy drinker, but I could be. It's delicious. And animal friendly. But my husband would never go for it and I'd still end up buying regular milk anyway. Plus, soy is just so darn expensive. So, I will settle for a little in my tea when I can. All I need now is a good book and a blanket.

Speaking of books... Recently, a local bookstore (Borders) went out of business. I didn't realize until just this moment that it appears to have been bought out by Barnes & Noble. I was going to link to Borders but when I went to their website it redirected me to this. Interesting. Anywho, I was a late-comer to the blowout sale but still able to snag a bagful of books for next-to-nothing. I grabbed just about anything that sounded mildly interesting and was less than $3.00. I walked away with the following:

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Last Life by Claire Messud
The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (<-- I have heard all about this guy and this "non-fiction" book of his, thanks to Oprah. I can't wait to read it for myself. Google it if you're curious.)
Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley
The Brethren by John Grisham

As well as the soundtrack to For Colored Girls and season one of the old Western series Big Valley. Both of those were gifts for others.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October fun & festivities.

This has been a fun week for me. Some of my girlfriends and I got together on Wednesday evening for a pumpkin carving party. We drank wine, snacked on appetizers, gossiped, watched Halloween in the background, and I carved my first pumpkin in probably 15+ years and LOVED it! It is no masterpiece, but for a practically first-timer I think I did OK. If you can't tell, it's two spooky ghosts. I am just hoping that no one decides to smash my pumpkin on Cabbage night! We do have some little hoodlums running around the neighborhood. My house was egged a month or so ago and I never found out who did it, although I did question a few of the older kids. Maybe I'll bring my pumpkin inside Sunday night just in case.

Friday night my ma and I took my young cousins (three girls aged 8, 9, and 11) to see Disney on Ice in Cincinnati. I used to go every single year as a little girl and I have such fond memories of those days. Begging my mom for a snowcone. Begging my mom for a magic light-up wand and matching crown. Begging my mom for popcorn, cotton candy, and soda. Begging my mom for a spinny glowstick toy and a program. Oh, and don't forget the t-shirts, hats, bracelets, etc. etc. etc. I may have only gotten one out of ten of those items per visit, but it didn't matter because watching all of my favorite Disney movies acted out right in front of me was soooo worth it. And seeing me glow with excitement despite all my whining and begging for outrageously priced goodies made it all worth while for my dear mom, too. And so, we wanted to share that with these three little girls as well. I think I might have enjoyed it more than they did, but they seemed to like the show and even more so, the shuttle bus ride to and from the car. It was a lovely night for all of us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good luck is often with the man who doesn't include it in his plans.

Today began as ordinary as ever... I woke to the tiny wet kisses of my 3 1/2 lb Yorkie-Poo on my cheek. She is normally much grouchier in the morning so this could mean only one thing: She had to pee. I glanced at the clock and realized it was well past a reasonable time to still be in bed and got my lazy butt up. Skip ahead an hour or two and I am sitting at Starbuck's sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte (Mmm Mmm!) and sitting outside with a couple of friends, enjoying the perfect fall weather. I should have known right then that it was going to be a good day. Afterward, I spent several hours shopping with my friend who needed a new dress for an occasion. Somewhere in the middle of our day we paused to share a large platter of orange chicken, fried rice, and crab rangoon (Mmm Mmm!) at the mall food court. Sadly we were given only one fortune cookie, which my girl friend kindly surrendered to me. I cracked that baby open and shining up at me was my bright and promising fortune: Everything will soon come your way.

Now that is what I call a fortune! Although "everything" is a very broad term. But it's starting off right, that's for sure. Upon leaving the mall I found a small wad of cash on the ground. $12.00 to be exact. Ok, so not a whole lot but still a nice surprise! That sounds like an awfully good start to everything coming my way, if you ask me. I'm just hoping that the word good is hidden subliminally in there somewhere after everything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DIY: Wingtip painted canvas sneakers.

My house has become a make-shift studio. A sewing, painting, crafting studio. Last night we had to eat our dinner-- double-decker tacos-- in the living room, on the couch (the horror!) because I've taken over the kitchen table.

Yesterday, to my great joy, I found an idea to revamp a pair of old sneakers! You can find the original tutorial here. It was really really simple, except that I used fabric paint instead of Sharpies like the how-to suggested. So, the most difficult part was letting it dry as I went along.

 I made a super quick How-To of my own that explains how I did my version of these:

I used a variety of brushes in different sizes. For the thin black line I used the smallest brush and dipped it very lightly in the paint. There was some correcting later with white paint after everything had dried. Also, the great thing about the fabric paint is that it gives it a very clean, almost shiny, finish. I would recommend this over the marker if you have the time and materials to do it.

Even my husband came home and said "Cool!" when he saw my new kicks. Now that these are complete, I have a whole slew of ideas for more fun and funky sneaker designs. Too bad I'm out of old sneakers to paint :/

Friday, October 21, 2011

DIY: Native American inspired tank top.

The tribal theme has become awfully popular these days and I was really beginning to feel behind the times. Since my husband and I are temporarily living off one income, I don't have the money for shopping that I so wish I did. After doing some online window shopping, and finding many many pieces that are now sitting patiently in my cart, I decided to just make my own shirt with stuff I had around the house.

To begin, I dug out the following materials:

A plain tank top (or t-shirt)
Fabric paints
Paint brushes
Poster board or thick paper for a stencil

Click image to enlarge.
First, I sketched my stencil onto the poster board using various triangles and squares, then cut out all the parts that I wanted to be painted, and taped the stencil to the shirt.
Using the fabric paint, I filled in the exposed parts of the shirt through the stencil.
Next, I removed the stencil and free-handed some dots for a final touch.
The last thing I decided was to cut fringe at the bottom. I cut off the hem of the shirt into a half-moon shape with the round part facing down.
I placed a long piece of tape straight across the shirt from one side to the other to indicate my stopping point for the fringe.
Finally, I cut half-inch pieces all the way across the shirt.
Once that was completed, I tugged on each piece of fringe to stretch it slightly and give it that loosely hung look.

NOTE: Make sure you place something stiff as a barrier inside the shirt before painting. This will keep the shirt in place as well as to soak up the excess paint that seeps through the fabric.

<3 And viola!

A trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Wednesday was a very cold and rainy day. It was the kind of day where you feel trapped inside by the weather, but desperately want to get out and do something. Lunch and a movie was out because I'm seriously broke and starting to feel guilty for all the hand-outs. So, thanks to a bright idea by my friend Dan, to the FREE art museum we went. It's a fun thing to do if you give half a damn about art and have a couple hours to spend walking around and admiring the works. Watch out for the official-looking security folks who stare you down if you get too close to a sculpture, though. WHAT? I find the details of this bronze lady's buttcrack fascinating. Sheesh.

I remember the last time I was at the art museum-- it was for a college art course I was taking and we did a fun little scavenger hunt. One artist who impressed me then, and did so again during this visit, was Darren Goodman. His specialty is blown glass.

Ferrari Challenge
Trial by Fire
These are the photos I took of his work. I think the hanging tear-drop display was called "Trial by Fire", and the wall of vases was the "Ferrari Challenge". There was plenty of other beautiful artwork that I did not photograph. I found out while trying to snap some photos of the Contemporary Art displays that, while the artist is still living and collecting royalties on their work, photographs are not to be taken. Oops. (Props to the official-looking security folks for making themselves useful.)

Anywho, it was a nice day that ended with a scrumptious Pesto+Turkey grilled cheese sandwich from Tom+Chee. YUMMMM. And yes, I was a mooch and let Dan buy my lunch. He insisted.
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