Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Are you all tired of the pumpkin and fall things on this blog yet? No? Great. Because today I have the simplest fall recipe possible that would be the perfect thing if you have to bring a last minute treat to work for Halloween or something. Of course they'd be good anytime after Halloween as well. And if you REALLY aren't tired of pumpkin flavored things, then I have one other recipe to share with you for some awesome pancakes that could be easily made without the pumpkin. But back to the cookies! These aren't a new idea and I did not come up with them. I think Mom actually told me about these once, but I've also seen them all over the internet. They really do require only two ingredients for the cookies. However, if you want to frost them, you'll either need to make or buy your frosting (I recommend cream cheese icing).

The two ingredients are:
1 box spice cake mix
1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
The first thing I would do (and I did NOT do this, but should have) is sift the cake mix. I had a really hard time getting the clumps out and it is quite obvious in my finished cookies.

Add the can of pumpkin to the sifted cake mix and stir until it is well mixed.

Still lots of cake mix chunks.

Use a cookie scope or a couple of spoons to drop the batter on to cookie sheets lined with either parchment paper or non-stick mats. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool, then top (or sandwich) with icing if desired.

That's all! These cookies are super soft, cakey and oh so delicious. I made them pretty small so every time I ate one I didn't feel too guilty. Of course after eating about 10 in a day, I ended up feeling guilty after all. Below are the options I tried for icing the cookies. The sandwich ones ended up being a little bigger than I wanted, so I iced most of them just on top.

Option 1: Scoop a big dollop of icing on the bottom of one cookie, then top it with another cookie. Excessive? Yes. Did I still eat a couple like that? You betcha.

Option 2: Pipe a little swirl of icing on the bottom of one cookie then top with a second cookie. Much less icing than option 1, but still a pretty big cookie bite.

Option 3: (Seen at the back of this next picture) Just pipe a little swirl on top of one cookie and call it good. :)

We've been staying pretty busy around here. I was out of town a couple days last week for work. On the days I was home, I primed and painted the piano room and now I'm starting to work on the cabinets we got off Craigslist to use as the base of a built-in book shelf in there. It's a little slow going in there and with a ton of work to still do, it might be a while before there is a final result to show ya'll. Yesterday we also added a small flower bed around one of the trees in our front yard and planted a bunch of bulbs. Hopefully they all pop up in the spring! Coming up this week I've got a couple of Halloween cakes in the works. One will be for Joe to bring to work and one will be for the chili cook-off / Halloween potluck at my office. So I'll definitely be showing y'all those. Now it's time for me to go make some marshmallow fondant for these silly Halloween cakes. I hope you all have a great week and a Happy Halloween. Make these cookies! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Leaves Wedding Cake

As I mentioned in the last post, I completed and delivered my first wedding cake order this past weekend! The cake was for a friend from school who contacted me earlier this year about making the cake for her wedding. I baked several varieties of cupcakes for her and her fiance to try and they decided on a few flavors, as well as a style of cake. They settled on a 3 tier main cake, as well as a simple sheet cake that could be sliced in the kitchen to serve more people. The design for the main cake was 3 round tiers (10", 8" and 6"), with vines and autumn colored leaves trailing up the sides. The flavors for the cake were: 10" - spice cake with pumpkin filling, 8" - pumpkin cake with pumpkin filling, 6" spice and pumpkin cake with pumpkin filling. All of the round tiers had cream cheese icing. The sheet cake was simply vanilla cake with vanilla icing.

I started this whole process almost a week before the wedding when I made the fondant for the leaves. A couple days later I went shopping for the cake ingredients and dyed the fondant the colors I needed for the leaves. On Wednesday I baked all of the cakes and made the pumpkin pastry cream filling. Then I filled, stacked, did a thin icing coat on all the cakes and cut out some fondant leaves on Thursday. Friday evening was spent putting a final coat of icing on the cakes, and cutting out the remaining fondant leaves.
The plain vanilla cake for the people who weren't adventurous enough to try the pumpkin or spice cake ;) 
I needed to shape the leaves so they wouldn't all be flat and Joe had the idea to lay them over some candle sticks that I had up on the mantle for our fall decorations. It worked out well and between those and draping the leaves over some skewers, I had a good assortment of wavy and curvy leaves. The leaves had to sit out at least overnight to firm up and hold their shape. The final step for the leaves was hand painting each with some gold pearl dust that I mixed with vodka so it could be brushed on. The vodka evaporates quickly and leaves no taste, but it doesn't ruin the fondant like water would.

On Saturday, I put the finishing touches on the cakes, piped on the vines and added the leaves. I worked up until the last minute before we had to leave for the delivery and with Joe's help, we made it out the door on time. We got the cake set up and it stayed standing! When I went back to the reception to pick up my cake stand, it was STILL standing! :) I helped cut the cake, breathed a final sigh of relief, and headed home.

Now, you might be able to tell from the pics that the cake was a little "lumpy". I'm not sure why but after a while my cakes always seem to settle a little and the icing bulges or big air bubbles pop out on the side. Sometimes the icing even buckles and cracks. Right now I don't know how to prevent this, but it was the main point of my stress on this cake (and all my past cakes), so I need to figure out how to fix it soon. Overall, I'm glad I did the cake and the bride and groom seemed very happy with it. I know that it at least tasted good! That's it for tonight. Have a great week!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wine Cork Table Topper

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. That was a sigh of relief. I delivered my first wedding cake today. I guess you could say it was a success. The bride and groom seemed very happy with it and when I went back to the reception to  help cut the cake and pick up my cake stand, the cake was still in one piece. However, there were some things that I was not happy with. BUT, I won't talk about all that now since I plan on doing a post about the cake itself. For now I want to show you something I made with all the corks Joe and I have been collecting for the past few years. A lot of wine was consumed for this craft. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it :)

Like I said, we've been saving all the corks from the wine we've bought over the last few years, I just didn't know what I was going to do with them. There are lots of wine cork craft ideas out there but none of them were really things I liked or needed. Then I saw this idea on a blog but there was no link to the source of who originally created it. I thought it was cool looking, and although it isn't exactly a useful item, I liked it and I had a ton of corks to use up!

All you need for this craft is a bunch of corks (I used about 65), a paper mache ball, and a hot glue gun. I guess you could use a Styrofoam ball but sometimes hot glue will melt Styrofoam and also the paper mache doesn't stand out as much when there are gaps between the corks. I bought the paper mache balls in the Christmas section of Hobby Lobby. They're actually ornaments that are meant to be painted or something, but they were missing the hanging hooks and loops, so I got them for 60% off instead of 40%.

When you're ready to start, just dab a little hot glue on the end of one cork then press it onto the ball. Hold it on there for a few seconds then continue with the remaining corks.  When the ball is covered, just pick off all the hot glue strings that will be EVERYWHERE :)

Right now this cork ball is just sitting on our kitchen table. I'd like to make a couple more, but I don't have enough corks for a whole other ball. Time to drink up! haha. I was thinking that I might cut some corks in half to make a ball that is a little smaller in diameter. Until then I'll just enjoy looking at this one and remembering the fun times that we had sharing these wines with friends and family!

In the next couple days I'll show you guys the wedding cake from today as well as some easy treats that I made tonight with leftover ingredients from the cake. This last week has been long and exhausting (mostly due to that cake) and I think next week will be pretty similar. So for now, I'm going to enjoy this weekend and I hope y'all do to!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DIY Fall Letter Wreath

I've been slowly decorating our house for Fall and I think it is now complete. I really haven't done too much, but all the little projects have been stretched out over the past few weeks. One of the first things I made was this wreath for our front door. I wanted something that would not be just Halloween, but that could stay up from now until after Thanksgiving. This wreath at a blog called Two Twenty One was my inspiration. I had initially set out to make pretty much the exact same wreath that she had, but as I wandered around Hobby Lobby looking for the right supplies, I ended up with slightly different things in my cart.

In stead of a square styrofoam wreath, I bought a grapevine one. I also didn't really like the color of the sheets of moss that were available, so I bought the clumps of lighter green moss. There didn't seem to be any bags of leaves, but there were branches with leaves still on them. Instead of a paper mache letter, I got a thin fiber board letter. The gold ball fillers were something I already had on hand that I got for 90% off at Hobby Lobby after Christmas last year. Yes, 90% OFF of $1.97 :) The other supplies were things that I already had on hand. Overall what you'll need for this project is:

Plain grapevine wreath
Wooden or paper mache letter
1 bag of clumped moss
1 bunch of autumn colored leaves (fake or preserved)
Any other fillers you may want (like the gold balls)
Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
Mod Podge
Ribbon for hanging

Unfortunately, I didn't take too many process pictures, but I'll try and be as descriptive as possible in the steps.

I started by picking the leaves off of their stems and roughly hot gluing them to the letter. You could use regular glue or Mod Podge, but then you'd have to wait for it to dry. And if you're like me, that just won't do :) Once the front of the letter was covered, I wrapped the pieces of the leaves that were hanging off the letter around to the back and hot glued them in place there. It's ok if some of the leaf pieces aren't laying completely flat, but if you'd like you can trim the excess off with scissors.

I think these were actually real leaves! They were still on the branches, they'd just been dyed.

With the letter all covered in leaves (don't worry about covering the entire back), I painted over the leaves with a pretty liberal coat of Mod Podge. This step probably isn't necessary, but I thought it might help protect the leaves since the wreath would be outside.

While the Mod Podge was drying, I started arranging the moss and gold filler on the wreath. Once I got them in a place I liked, I used a little more hot glue to secure them. There will be hot glue strings everywhere by this point, so just try and pick them off when you see them.

Once the letter was dry, I placed it on the wreath to line it up, then just hot glued it in place. If you have a letter that has a nice piece across the top, like an S, R, E etc. then you might not have to hot glue the letter in place. You could simply loop the ribbon that you use to hang the wreath around the letter too. If you can manage to skip gluing the letter to the wreath, then you could reuse the wreath for other holidays and make letters covered with something other than autumn leaves!

Now you're ready to loop the ribbon through the wreath and hang it up! I have 2 handy screws on the back side of our screen door that I can use to secure the ribbon, but you could always use a wreath hanger or even a thumb tack or 2 on top of the door.

Enjoy your new fall wreath! 

Are you guys doing any fall decorating? I'd still be up for a few little projects, so let me know if you have any fun DIY ideas! Have a great week!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homemade Chili and Taco Seasonings

When it starts to get chilly outside that means it is also the start of chili season! We typically make pretty basic chili around here, which used to include buying a package of premixed chili seasoning. Neither of us were really that wild about any of the store bought mixes we tried, so we searched around for a homemade version that we could control the salt, spice and other flavors with. I don't remember exactly where we got this particular recipe, but there are lots of ones like this out there. This also got us thinking about making our own taco seasoning, which we use all the time now! These recipes basically involve dumping various amounts of dried spices together then shaking or mixing them up. You could use an old jar to hold the mixture, just make sure to get something with a nice tight lid. If you place a cute label on the outside, you could even give these as gifts :) I would recommend double or tripling these recipes so you aren't always having to mix up new batches. Oh, and the 1/2 tablespoon measurement is kind of weird, but just eyeball it, the mix will still turn out good. I'll share my basic chili and taco recipes with these mixes too since they really are so simple that the don't need their own post.

Chili & Taco Seasonings

Chili Seasoning

Use 2 tablespoons of the mixture per 1 pound of meat

4 t. Chili powder
1 T. Crushed red pepper
1 T. Dried minced onion
1 T. dried minced garlic (or 1/2 T. Garlic powder - that's what I use instead)
2 t. Sugar
2 t. Cumin
2 t. Dried Parsley
1 t. Salt
1 t. Dried basil
1/4 t. Black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in an air-tight container.

For basic chili, I like to use 1 pound ground beef (or turkey), 2 cans of kidney beans, 1 can of stewed tomatoes (pureed), and 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes (pureed), plus 2 tablespoons of this seasoning. Cook the beef or turkey first, then add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes until you're ready to eat. If you're looking for a chicken chili recipe, I recommend this one: Creamy Chicken Ranch Chili. It's so easy with the crock pot!

Taco Seasoning
Use 2 tablespoons of the mixture per 1 pound of meat

2 T. Chili powder
1 1/2 T. Paprika
1 T. Onion powder
1/2 T. Salt (can use less if desired)
1/2 T. Garlic powder
1/2 T. Cumin
1/2 T. Oregano
Dash of red and black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and store in an air-tight container

For basic taco filling, I like to use 1 pound of ground beef (or turkey), 1 can of fat free re-fried beans, 1/3 cup water, and 2 tablespoons of this seasoning. Cook the beef or turkey first, then add the remaining ingredients and continue cooking for a few minutes. I like adding the re-fried beans because it makes it kind of like a burrito filling, plus it makes more taco filling using less meat.

DIY Taco Seasoning

Taco and Chili Seasonings

Well, now it's off to finish prepping the piano room for paint. I can't wait to get some changes made in there so I can show y'all! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

Well, I'd say my first blog give away was a success! haha. I had a total of 8 entries so for those of you who commented, you're odds of winning were pretty good :) So I won't make you wait any longer to see who won. The winners of a set of 3 Halloween wine bottles are... Sarah Edwards and Sharon Cox! Congratulations ladies! (I'll email y'all tonight). Their favorite things about fall are also some of mine: nicer weather, beautiful fall colors, pumpkin & cinnamon foods and comfy/cute fall clothes. Thank you to everyone who commented, I really love hearing from you all!

In keeping with the fall theme, I wanted to show y'all some cupcakes that I made for a coworkers last day. I asked her what flavor cupcakes she would like and she immediately said pumpkin! So I thought of these pumpkin spice latte cupcakes that I'd seen on a blog called Annie's Eats. They're supposed to be similar to the delicious, and somewhat addicting, Starbucks drink that they bring out every year at this time. I tried to make the cupcakes look like Starbucks' drinks with the green wrappers and straws :). This drink is like the unofficial sign of the beginning of fall! If you've ever had one then you know what I'm talking about. The recipe on Annie's Eats has a pumpkin spice cake that is made from scratch, but I didn't really have time for that. So I turned to a cook book I have, The Cake Doctor, which always starts with cake mixes then customizes them to create something delicious that tastes like it's made from scratch. I still had to add some espresso powder that was in the inspiration recipe to the Cake Doctor recipe. BUT, I couldn't find espresso powder at the grocery store so I ground up some instant coffee in my food processor and it seemed to work just fine. The topping is just homemade, sweetened whipped cream, and that recipe came from the Annie's Eats page. Here is the Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe adapted from Annie's Eats and The Cake Doctor.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes
350 degrees, makes 24-30 cupcakes

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain spice cake mix
1 can of pureed pumpkin (15 ounce)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)

For the topping:
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Caramel ice cream topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tins with baking cups.

2. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric on low speed until moistened, 30 seconds. Turn the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes while scraping down the bowl. The batter should be smooth, but it will be fairly thick.

3. Fill you baking cups about 1/2 full with batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into a cupcake comes out clean.

4. Let the cupcakes cool for a couple minutes in the pan then remove them and place on a wire rack.

5. While the muffins are still warm, brush the tops with strong brewed coffee or espresso. Brush each cupcake a couple times.

6. After brushing the cupcakes, you can make the whipped cream. I like to chill the bowl that I'm going to use so it keeps the cream nice and cold. You can either use a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Pour the chilled cream into your chilled bowl and start mixing on low using the whisk attachment. Gradually increase to high speed and after a minute or so, mix in the powdered sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

7. Transfer the whipped cream into a piping bag and top each cooled cupcake. Then drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with cinnamon.


These were a HUGE hit at work! The whipped cream topping was really perfect for this type of cupcake. I know I'll be making them again this season. Well, that's it for tonight. Thanks again to everyone who commented on the wine bottle post, and to everyone who reads the blog. You guys are great!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

DIY Halloween Wine Bottles

GIVEAWAY CLOSED. See the winners here!

Fall is certainly in the air around here. Not only is the weather cooler, but all things pumpkin, fall and Halloween are filling up the stores... and our house :) I went to Aldi yesterday and they completely sucked me in with their fall food! I went to get things to make some simple cupcakes, and left with that and pumpkin cider, pumpkin cookie mix, and butternut squash pasta sauce. But tonight I'm not here to share a recipe, but rather a craft project that I first made last year after seeing it on a blog somewhere. I wish I could remember where so I could give them credit.

Joe and I save most of our wine bottles and we have several of them lining the tops of our kitchen cabinets (classy, I know). But when we have duplicates or ones that I don't feel like displaying, I typically save them because I know they'll get used for something. That's where this craft comes in!

To start you need to remove the labels from your bottles and make sure that all the residue is gone as well. Sometimes I use a little Goo Gone for the labels, but just make sure that you clean the Goo Gone off too. Then, depending on the design you want, you could tape off part of the bottle with painters tape. The designs I made were a jack-o-lantern, a ghost and Frankenstein. For the ghost you'll need a clear bottle and some frosted glass spray paint, but no taping is required. The jack-o-lantern will need a green bottle, orange spray paint, and the neck of the bottle will need to be taped off. Frankenstein will need a green bottle, black (and maybe green) spray paint, and painters tape for his hair. When taping off his hair, you could either cut notches out of the tape first with scissors, or put the tape around the bottle then use an X-acto knife or utility knife to cut out the notches.

I tried making Frankenstein two ways. First was to paint the entire bottle green and then tape off the hair and paint the top black. But for some reason, the green paint I bought (Krylon brand) was NOT sticking to the bottle! I just could not make it work, and there were little spots all over the bottle. I moved forward with it anyway and my attempt to tape off the hair only ruined it more. I did end up hand painting over the green with acrylic paint, so it ended up OK I guess. The more successful way to make Frankenstein was to not paint the bottle bright green and just paint the top black for hair. I do think that I could have made the green spray paint work if I would have used a spray primer first. But the Rustoleum orange spray paint that I used worked just fine, so maybe it was just a problem with the brand.

The green bottle only looks ok in this picture, but it was not good in real life.

So once the bottles are taped, sprayed and dried, it's time to add the faces. A paint pen works really great for this, but acrylic paint and a brush would work just fine as well. If you plan on covering the face parts with glitter, then you could even just use a Sharpie marker to draw the faces on. Just don't be impatient like me and try and rush things before the spray paint is dry. If you want to add the glitter then use something like Mod Podge or any kind of craft glue to paint over the face you drew, then sprinkle the glitter on and tap off the excess.

This project is actually really quick and I think they turn out super cute! But I like wine and glitter, so they're kind of right up my alley :) Now for the giveaway!

Since I made these this year and last year, I've actually got 3 sets of Halloween wine bottles! So I'd like to give two of the sets away to two of you. I'll let you pick glitter or no glitter, and bright green or plain Frankenstein :) All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite thing about Fall is! Everyone should be able to comment even if you don't have a Gmail account, just select "Anonymous"  on the list of profiles. If you can't seem to comment for some reason, then just email me and I'll be sure to get you entered. I'll choose 2 winners at random on Thursday evening, then this weekend I'll mail the bottles! (Giveaway is closed now, but you can still tell me your favorite things about fall!)

Oh, and one last thing! You may have noticed that there is now a "Pin It!" button under each picture. That is in case you want to add one of these pictures to your Pinterest board. Now if you don't know what Pinterest is, (that's probably for the best) but it is an online bulletin board of sorts where you can organize all of the ideas you see online that you might like to try one day. It's a little addicting!  :) I hope you all have a great week and don't forget to comment so you can win these super sweet wine bottles haha