April 7, 2012

DIY: Peep Topiary

I've been busy making peep trees! No, this is not a joke. More officially, I suppose they are called peep topiarys. I found my inspiration at The Hungry Mouse where she made the CUTEST centerpiece from peeps. Check it out to see all the how-to details. Below is some of what I changed or added.

Although on my first tree I used 3 blue peeps for the center, on my 2nd tree I learned that 4 might actually be better. By the time I was finished, I needed about 8 boxes of peeps. I also used a 6inch ball instead of 7, simply because I couldn't find a 7inch at Michaels Craft Store.

I also painted the dowel/stake green and pulled faux leaves from a flower I had on hand, and painted them with the same color. I hot glued them onto the stake. I also added plastic wrap between the Styrofoam in the pot and the jelly beans so the beans are projected and still edible. I also waited until the last minute to add the jelly beans, so they were yummy to eat.

I gave my topiarys as spring gifts. They were a huge hit!

Happy Easter!

March 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

I found this treasure of a recipe via pinterest and have saved it up for when I had the energy to complete it all at once. As I was also warned, let me tell you that this is not a recipe for the weak- it is not a cookie dough battle, but instead, a war. A fabulously delicious, totally worth it war; a war that you feel good about when it's over. Borrowed  and adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything Blog, who borrowed it from Annie's Eats.. here we go!

Here's what you'll need:

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups), at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the filling:
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups), at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons milk
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract

For decoration:
Mini chocolate chips

For decoration:Mini chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. Although it approximated 24 cupcakes, I was able to make 30.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up just barely.To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. I used the tip of a steak knife but I've also been told that there are specific kitchen gadgets for this very purpose, who knew?! I used a stiff pastry bag with a very wide tip, or if needed you can remove the tip (sometimes the chocolate chips get jammed in there). Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture. It may come up and overflow a bit onto the top of the cupcake but don't worry, the icing will do a great job of covering it.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.

I used a disposable pastry bag for piping the icing and it worked like a charm! Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips to finish.

Look at this cupcake in all its glory! I hate myself for not taking a picture of the cupcake cut in half so you could see the amazing inside, the perfect amount of cookie dough! Run on over to The Girl Who Ate Everything and check it out!

March 26, 2012

Eat it All Week Chicken Salad

When you know your week will be crazy busy and there's no time to cook every meal, here's a super yummy and really easy chicken salad recipe that you can turn to. Not to mention it's full of fresh fruit and veggies and will get you ready for spring .

Quite possibly the very best part of chicken salad is that you can't mess it up- put as much of each ingredient you want, add different things or leave some out!

Here's what I used:

2 large cans canned chicken breast, drained and shredded
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup sweet relish
1/2-3/4 apple, diced
purple grapes, halved or diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Duke's Mayo, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Mix it together really well and refrigerate.

Serve on toasted bread or with crackers! Hello Spring!

March 21, 2012

DIY Pier1 Sequin Sunflower Napkin Rings

While out shopping recently, I found some precious summery napkin rings at Pier1, seen here. But instead of wanting to buy them, I was inspired to make my own. Instead of brown sequins, I opted for black, and used gold glitter.

The flowers are cut from individual stems I found at Hobby Lobby. I made the ring of a twisted pipe cleaner, wrapped with black felt and secured to the flower with hot glue.

Perfect for a spring or summer cookout. Your guests will love them! 

If you're interested in purchasing 4 (or more if needed), please leave me a comment!
Keep in mind that these can be made with other flowers of your choice and
you can use any color glitter or sequin!

March 18, 2012

Weekend Paint Project: Polka Dot Flower Pots

I've been ready for spring since before December 1st, but now that we've had almost a straight week of 70 degrees + weather, I've really got spring fever! After saving some basic flower pots from the dumpster at work, I went to Hobby Lobby and got some brightly colored acrylic paints.

Maybe red and black don't seem like a natural choice for spring? Well in that case, you must not live in North Carolina and you must not be a WOLFPACK fan?! After all, it is March Madness and they did just win their way to the sweet sixteen! My bracket is nearly destroyed, but I'm actually glad to see it!

Just because it's chipped, doesn't mean it's ruined.

A little paint goes a long way! (sometimes two coats)

Add some polka dots.. I recommend using round foam brushes. They're inexpensive and work really well.

Cute, huh? This is a great project for kids, too!

Think about using these for Easter baskets. Candy easily fits inside, and it's a lasting gift that can be used for everything from flowers to pencils and supplies for your desk at work.


March 15, 2012

Up-Cycled Bulletin Board

Happy Thursday, FRIDAY EVE!

So you may have seen here when I covered a bulletin board with fabric. It went awesome so when I received a bunch of others, I just had to cover them too! A slightly different twist though, this is a bulletin board that is half bulletin, half dry erase. But what do you do when someone writes on it with permanent marker? One of two things: write over each letter of permanent marker with a dry erase marker and then wipe it down OR turn it into a chalkboard!

Here's the before pic, all taped up and ready to paint! Kind of rough looking!

Use chalkboard primer first, two coats is best.

Here's what I used, and loved!

Once it's painted and dried, remove the tape. I made several mistakes, accidentally getting paint on some of the wood trim. Never fear, we'll just paint it!

Obviously it doesn't matter how much paint gets on the bulletin board.

Add the fabric (I only needed 1/2 a yard) using hot glue. It may need a few staples from a staple gun to remain secured. Be sure to pull it tight.

There it is! Much cuter!

Now that they have colored chalkboard paint options, imagine how cute this could be in pastels with a children's fabric?!

I'd love to see pictures if you create your own!

March 11, 2012

Homemade Rice Krispy Treats

Delicious! One of my very favorite treats for years, and I've just now made them myself. And I never knew they could be so easy- it will definitely be a go-to dessert from now on.

Here's what you need:

1 stick of butter
11 1/5 cups of Rice Krispys Cereal (almost a whole box)
16 oz of mini marshmallows
9x13" or larger glass pan
wax paper

Here's what you do:

1. Melt the stick of butter in a large pot on Medium-low heat. Melt it slowly, slowly!
2. Add the marshmallows and stir, still on medium-low heat. Melt them slowly as well, stirring occasionally.
3. When fully melted, add the rice krispy cereal and stir to combine.
4. Grease your pan. Pour mixture into pan and use wax paper to press krispys down firmly (because they're super sticky).
5. Let stand until cool (about an hour). Cut and serve.

March 10, 2012

Date Night Dinner: Shrimp & Grits with Sausage

There's nothing like having a plan.. After all, there's nothing I love more than a plan. But there's also nothing worse than when you have a plan and then it fails.. miserably, all week. Well, almost all week. To break it down, here was my plan: make delicious dinners several nights this week, and blog about the success, and share the recipes. After a slow cooker beef stroganoff recipe disaster (cheap beef jerky flavor, anyone?), and a "entree turned side dish and now we have nothing to eat tonight".. I was left with nothing to post.

THEN in all my disappointment, I turned to a great food blog, Seasoned To Taste, and found this treasure! An absolute masterpiece of a dinner, perfect for date night! My only challenge remaining: don't ruin the grits! (I've attempted another version of shrimp and grits, only with bacon instead of sausage, and it wasn't a success to say the least. Bryce will gladly try most of my recipe attempts, but that particular night was a struggle)

This is gorgeous and so fresh. I'm in love. I chopped the veggies the night before, and sealed them up until time to cook.

We also had the most awesome salad.
(Mostly to make up for the gazillion calories we were about to consume)

Run over to Seasoned To Taste and get this recipe! You'll be so glad you did! I doubled the recipe to accommodate for the number of friends we had over.

 Lastly, I have a confession: I did not ruin the grits, because I did not make the grits. My lovely friend Amanda did. I couldn't take the chance on ruining dinner for 6 other people.. (We used instant grits though and they work great.)

We had homemade Rice Krispy Treats for dessert! Stay tuned for the recipe!

February 28, 2012

Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

Alright people, I'm call this try-it Tuesday.. not sure it will stick, but go with it. A fabric covered bulletin board, simple enough, right?

 I made mine for my kitchen, but it would be great in an office, or child's bedroom, dorm room, classroom, etc. Think about it.. it could practically work for anyone.

(Forgive my bad photography- the picture is crooked, not the board)

 It's really easy- choose some awesome fabric (one yard is all I needed), get an already existing cork/bulletin board, and use a staple gun to secure the fabric. Make sure to pull it tight! Cut any excess fabric.

So try it!  Pin it! Share it! Let me know how it goes!

February 26, 2012

Birdseed Cupcakes

It's for the birds.. literally. Super simple birdseed cupcakes, complete with ribbon hanger. (And the birds can use the ribbon for their nests--it's a fact)

*Update: once my cupcakes dried, they didn't stay together quite as well as I'd wanted (especially since my original plan was to make a birdseed wreath)..I think overall the cupcakes should be fine, but I think adding the ingredients below (bolded) will work better for the wreath at least.

Here's what you'll need:

4 cups Birdseed
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
warm water
cupcake tray
Cooking spray
thin ribbon

Estimate the length of ribbon you'll need. Tie the ends in a knot. You'll need one for each cupcake. Approximately 24.
Pour packet of gelatin into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup warm water and stir until dissolved. Stir in corn syrup and flour.

Add 4 cups of birdseed and stir. Mixture will get stickier as you continue to stir.
Spoon into greased  cupcake tray. Use a knife to wedge the ribbon deep into each cupcake. Add additional seed and press firmly.

Allow to sit until dry.

When ready, they should slide out of the tray with ease.

Hang in your trees and enjoy the visitors! So cute and the birds will love them too!

*Update: wreath to come.. hopefully it will work this time. Stay tuned!

Finally-- SUCCESS! the new recipe (above) is wayyyy better than the first, it's like super glue! (I hope these aren't famous last words) When I read about doing this, it suggested using a decorative bundt cake pan and I have to say, the examples I saw were quite pretty. BUT, I don't have a bundt pan or anything decorative for that matter, so I turned to a disposable round foil pan instead.

To create the hole, I used a drinking glass turned it upside down. Be sure to grease both the pan and the edge of the glass.

Scoop your mixture in and press firmly- really give it a good smush!

Keep smushing!

Let it sit overnight. It may look a little white and it should slide right out of the pan.

Add a fancy bow! I used unwired polka dot ribbon with the wired green sheer ribbon. It really dresses it up and makes it a great gift option.

I LOVE the sunflower- it makes it so pretty and springy!

Much better than the first crumbled attempt! Hopefully it can also withstand some wind!