Monday, December 31, 2012

Lego Cupcakes

R.'s  birthday was a few weeks ago.  Although he opted out of having a party, he did want lego cupcakes so I made him some to bring to his school.

All I did was made a batch of vanilla cupcakes and piped on frosting using the 1M tip.  That's my favorite no fail tip.

I used my lego mold I made here and used candy melts to make the lego blocks.  The mini-figure mold I bought at the lego store.


My best advice for getting perfect figures is to shake the mold after you pour the candy melts so that all the air bubbles are released.

After the candy melts are set, I just popped them out of the mold and placed them randomly on the cupcake.

R. said they were a hit and since the molds I used are true to scale and looked pretty convincing, some kids were hesitant to eat them.

Not to worry, once R. demonstrated they were edible, the lego candy were the first to be scarfed down.  :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

The kids have been waking up super early every morning, except ironically this morning they decided to sleep in.  I toured the house seeing if any kid was lurking, but not a sound I so turned on the tree lights and went back inside

Hours later, with no peep, announcement or sound, I came out to check on the cinnamon rolls in the oven and found A. just sitting and staring at the tree.  He was so mesmerized, he didn't even hear me snap a picture.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fried Turkey

Having a turkey is one of the most typical things to have during the holidays.  A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try to make fried turkey and since then, I haven't done it any other way.  The outside remains crispy while the inside remains super moist.

It is really so simple to prepare.

Fried Turkey
10-14 lb turkey
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
3/4 cup paprika
4-5 gallons of peanut oil

Heat peanut oil in a turkey fryer or a very, very large stockpot to 350 degrees F.  I would recommend you do this outside.

Combine and mix the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika and set seasoning aside.  Wash turkey inside and out, and allow to drain. Pat turkey dry.  Rub turkey all over with the seasoning.

Lower turkey into hot oil, very carefully, making sure it is fully submerged. Fry turkey for 3 minutes per pound plus 5 minutes per bird.  Once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, remove turkey from oil and drain on paper towels.

Add some sides and you are done!

Note:  To measure the amount of oil needed to fry the turkey, place uncooked turkey in fryer, add water to top of turkey, remove the turkey and the water line will indicate how much oil will be needed to fry your turkey. Having too much oil can cause a fire. The pot should not be more than 3/4 full or the oil could overflow when the turkey is added.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peanut Brittle

During college, I would spend my summers working in D.C.  I made my land lady some spring rolls one day and in exchange she asked me what I wanted her to make me.  She handed me this cook book and told me to thumb through the pages and see what I wanted to learn how to make.  Back in the day, I had never followed a recipe before (other than following directions on the back of a box).  I never baked anything from scratch following a recipe.  Crazy as it sounds, I learned everything from my mother who cooked by taste.  She was great at cooking, but she really never made any sweets or baked anything so one of the things I asked her to teach me was how to make peanut brittle.

I LOVE peanut brittle.  I probably could eat a pound of it without even blinking, but I don't make it very often because R. is allergic to peanuts.  This year, I decided to include peanut brittle in my goodie box I was handing out.  The recipe is from the Betty Crocker cook book.  I received this cookbook from my landlady when I moved out. Even though its now 15 years old and filled with flour, sugar, drops of oil, chocolate splatters, fingerprints, and sticky pages, it was my very first cook book and a gift.  That in itself makes me cherish it.

Peanut Brittle
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 tbsp butter
3 cups unsalted raw peanuts (1 pound)

Grease 2 cookie sheets with butter.  

Mix baking soda, 1 tsp water and vanilla and set aside. Mix sugar, 1 cup water, and the corn syrup in 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, to 240 degrees on candy thermometer.


Stir in butter and peanuts. Cook, about 15 minutes, stirring constantly, to 300 degrees. Watch carefully so mixture does not burn. Immediately remove from heat. Quickly stir in baking soda mixture until light and foamy.

Pour half of the candy mixture onto each cookie sheet and quickly spread about 1/4 inch thick with buttered spatula. Cool completely, at least 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store in air tight container.

This is SO good.

For me, it really is one of those recipes that I can't walk pass without nabbing a piece or three :)

If you love this recipe, you might want to try my cashew coconut brittle recipe here.    I love it even more than peanut brittle.

Okay,  its bad, but I'm off to nab another piece.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peppermint Marshmallows

Yesterday was my all day baking day and since I still craved peppermint, I decided I would be making peppermint marshmallows again.  They are so yummy.


The marshmallow recipe can be found here.  This year, I decided that I would not make enormous marshmallows so instead of using 1 10x10 pan, I followed the recipe and split it into 2 10x10 recipes.

Also, instead of using gel food coloring, I used the liquid.  If you like the deep red swirls, stick with gel food coloring.  It works a lot better. Using the liquid red food color just made everything pink on top.  I think the next time I make these, I'll leave them white.


My Christmas goodie box before I filled every nook and cranny with Christmas candy.

Its been a crazy day putting everything together.  This year my goodie box consisted of banana bread, peppermint cookies, mint chocolate cookies, peanut brittle, and peppermint marshmallows.  I filled the empty spaces with candy canes, candy cane and mint chocolate hershey kisses.  Can you see my theme this year? 

Gotta get back to baking. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Peppermint Cookies

This year my family is all about peppermint.  From peppermint bark to candy cane hershey kisses (which I must say is now my favorite candy), we have been buying everything peppermint.  I even went as far as buying the handmade peppermint snow from williams-sonoma.  I think we have just become obsessed with the flavor of peppermint this year so I decided to create a peppermint cookie to calm my cravings a bit.


Here is what I came up with.  I thought it turned out pretty delicious.  In my recipe below I increased my peppermint extract from what I originally tried to give it a little more peppermint flavor.  In my original trial recipe, I used only 2 candy canes, but since I love the bits of the peppermint, the next time I make it, I'll add 3.  The recipe below depicts what I would do next time.  The amount of white chocolate chips and candy canes used is purely preference.

Peppermint Cookies
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
red food coloring
8oz of white chocolate chips
3 candy canes (crushed)

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) together and set aside.   In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and peppermint extract. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Add red food coloring (I added a tiny squirt of red gel food coloring, about 1/3 inch) and mix.  

I didn't want the entire cookie to be pink so once the food color was evenly mixed in the center of the dough, I folded in the sides for the bi-color effect. 

Add in the white chocolate chips and 2 of the crushed candy canes.  I saved the larger pieces to top the cookies.

This cookie recipe originated from a sugar cookie recipe so the dough will be extremely crumbly.  Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls with your hands (as if you are forming meatballs), flatten, and place onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Top cookies with remaining crushed candy canes and press into the cookies.  Make sure you do flatten the cookies a bit so that they are uniform in size.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool.

These cookies I thought were SO good. They were chewy on the inside, but the crushed peppermint added an extra crunch.

The cookies themselves had a slight hint of peppermint flavor which added that extra punch to the cookies.

I will definitely be making these cookies again.

I'm salivating as I am posting these pictures so I'm off to eat another cookie. :)

I've got to stop or I won't have any to give out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making your Own Christmas Card

Every year, I would spend hundreds on family photos because I figured I'd get great pictures. After a few disappointments, I decided a couple of years ago I would start taking my own family portraits.  If they didn't turn out, I could always go find yet another photographer.  The last two years have been interesting using a tripod, timer and running back and forth, but we were able to actually get a lot of great pics, some of my all time favorites.

This year, I solicited my sister to snap the pictures for me since it is a lot easier than arranging everyone and trying to snap the pictures while being in it as well.  I generally scope out a location that I love, but this time, we winged it.  My husband suggested a local park I'd never been to and to my amazement, it had a secluded path that was completely private.

We had 1 hour of overcast (according to the internet) so we had to work quickly.  I decided this year, I wanted to have fun Christmas cards so I made A. wrap lights around us because he is the mischievous one in the family. I am so happy with the results. 

Then, I went home and added text using photoshop and voila I have my Christmas card.  I love it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nintendo 3ds XL for $140 or less!

I was pretty disappointed with all the black friday deals this year.  I always go shopping on black friday, but this year the experience was completely different.  It turned out to be so chaotic and getting to the point of violent that we left the store before the sale even began and I vowed never to do another black friday again.  Its not worth it.

What I found interesting was that everything sold in the store was also sold online at black friday prices so I have done the majority of my shopping online this year.  Sales this year seem to be better days leading up to Christmas.  Here's my newest find.  Best Buy is selling the 3DS XL for $159.99 which is the lowest price I've seen this winter, but I can beat that.  I printed out the page and brought it into Target to price match.  I didn't have to bring the ad, I could just show them on my phone, but it was easier to have a printout in hand to show them what I was talking about.

I had no issues price matching yesterday.  What makes this deal sweeter is that Target is giving a $20 gift card with every 3DS XL purchase!  I used my Target Visa to get another 5% off and I had their pharmacy rewards card so that added another 5% off.  To top that if I may, I had a Target coupon for $8 off an $80 purchase!  That brought my total to $136.39 with the free $20 gift card, bringing the final amount to only $116.39!  That's a savings of $90 once tax is added into the mix!  Even without the 5% + 5% off + coupon, its still the best deal around at $139.99.  I don't know how long the deal lasts, but I'd get it now if it is on your Christmas list.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Building 3 beds for 3 boys in 1 room

I'm DONE!  It has been quite a challenge to find the time to finish building my kiddos' beds, but I am finally finished and I LOVE how they turned out so much so that after they were put together, I sat and stared at the beds for quite some time like a total nerd.  Remember this post about moving my 3 boys into one room?


I've been wanting to build three platform beds for them since I noticed how the sleigh beds consumed the room.  Those sleigh beds are really beautiful, but not for this space.  I wanted three similar, if not the same beds next to each other.  Here's what their room looked like before.  It was a total mismatch.


In my search for ideas, I found the Ashby bed at PB as my inspirational bed because of the sleigh head board, but it didn't have a sleigh foot board.  PB has definitely been a huge inspiration in my bed building experience.  I've built their Riley bed frame and mixed it with the Thomas bed style to create my trundle bed here and I've built another PB look alike for my now guest bedroom here so I am definitely not a newbie when it comes to making a bed.  What I am is indecisive.  I redrew my design half a dozen times before I came to the conclusion that I was going to build the beds similar to the full bed I built last year (minus the head board).


For the triple beds, I wanted to keep it simple.  I decided upon 3 platform beds for several reasons.  I didn't want a huge foot board.  I wanted my kiddos to be able to sit at the end of their beds.  The foot board also made the room feel a lot smaller.  I also wanted to raise their beds so that I can build trundles underneath.

My goal was to recycle what I had as much as possible (as my husband would kill me if I had to store the two unused beds in the garage).  Therefore, I reused the supporting slats (beams that prevent the mattress from falling through) from their current beds.  That saved me time, money and storage.  I would have reused the sides as well, but I couldn't attach them to my new legs.

I reused the head and foot boards.  I took the foot board of one of the beds, raised it up on wooden pedestals (to add height) in order to make it into a headboard that matched the other two.


My ultimate intention was to make a new reclaimed looking headboard, but after finally figuring out how to hang that foot board into a head board so that it wouldn't topple over on R., I fell in love with the look.  The new bedding I bought for the kids will have to wait a while longer before it gets used.  Its winter.  Hence, the Christmasy sheets (yes, we go all out with holiday bedding in all our rooms).

We gotta match the Christmas tree.  I forgot to turn the tree lights on for the pic.

What would normally take me about 3 days to build dragged on for 3 weeks because the only time I could build was at night and I couldn't very well be using my saw at the wee hours of the morning so I got pretty creative like sanding by hand (that was horrible and time consuming) and staining at 3 in the morning before I went to work (I'm just crazy like that).  I'm just glad to be finally done!  I'm ecstatic that their room no longer looks like this:

but rather it looks like this.

There is still so much to do. I want to find or build new night stands, make some trundle drawers underneath their bed, and build some vintage looking storage trunks.  Plus, I have to install new lighting that I bought and perhaps make artwork above their beds.  All this for just this side of the room.  It's coming along, slowly, but surely.  Baby steps....but I'm getting there.
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