January 31, 2012

January 30, 2012

CakePops!

I love Kohl's. I have a sick fascination with that store. So when I was able to purchase the Babycakes CakePop Maker for $18 back in December? I did NOT hesitate!  I read some very mixed reviews about it online but I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it worked!

I decided to use a regular box cake mix for my first time. Every time I've tried to make cake batter from scratch, I'm always disappointed (see Donut Maker entry!)  I only used half of the mix though, adding half the water, oil and used two eggs instead of three.  

Using a disposable pastry bag, I filled the reservoir to the top:


Exactly four minutes later, I had this:



They are so perfectly round!!  They lifted out so easily too.

While looking through the enclosed recipe book, I found a recipe for a glaze that uses canned icing and melted chips. I'm not a fan of the taste of wilton's colored/flavored melting chocolate so I decided to give this a try.  I used a 1/2 a can of vanilla frosting and 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips (which happened to be striped red, since they were leftover from Christmas.) 


I melted them separately in the microwave and then combined them to get this:


It should be very runny. It should not stiff at all or the cakepops will not coat properly. Also, before I inserted the sticks into the cakeballs, I dipped each stick into melted chips to help secure the cakeball to the stick.  This worked well. The only time a cakeball fell off the stick was when the glaze started to stiffen up and was too heavy.  You will need to re-microwave the glaze a few times during the dipping process. In the end, I ran out of the pink glaze and had to make more (this time adding chocolate chips to the vanilla icing) so you will definietly need the whole can of frosting, even though this is technically only a half a batch of cakepops!


The verdict??

So easy.

So quick.

Very little mess.

AND They are really good! They are light, like a tiny cupcake, and not heavy like a traditional cakepop that is mixed with canned frosting before it's dipped.  I definitely prefer them this way.  The glazed-coating does stay hard (because you melted some chocolate into the icing) and it keeps the cake inside moist.  The only downside to making them this way is that you can't form them into a shape you may want. However, I still plan to make more this weekend and turn them into little (round!) footballs for the Super Bowl!


January 24, 2012

Shutterfly Rocks!

We visited Disney World and LegoLand (Florida) in November 2011. The last time we went to Disney was in 2006 when my youngest son was just 2 years old. A return trip was very overdue so I was finally able to twist the husband's arm into going. He's not a huge fan but I tried to remind him that this time the trip would be so different! No diapers! No strollers! No naps being skipped!  I'm here to tell you that he actually enjoyed himself and he said I was right! I know - get that in writing, right?!

Anyway, I'm currently behind in my scrapbooking (starting Christmas 2010 soon!) and I took SO MANY PICTURES during our trip that I know it would be almost impossible to properly scrapbook, let alone when that might occur ... so I went to Shutterfly to take a look at their photobook options.

Have you used Shutterfly lately?  I've created a photobook or two in the past but it's probably been about two years since I've done one.  WOW the options have changed. It is completely and utterly customizable now. I was really surprised with how many things you could do with it! 

I decided to do 2 separate books, one for LegoLand and one for all things Disney.


This one is for LegoLand (8x11 book) was quicker to do since I didn't take a gazillion pictures!  I made sure to order the book when the photobooks were on sale (like right now) and I had a $20 credit sitting on my account thanks to a special offer from the company who took my kid's school pictures this fall. I paid $18 shipped for this book! And it looks FANTASTIC! It arrived over the weekend.

This is the mammoth Disney book. It's the normal 20 page 8x11 book with an additional 29 pages. I know, I went crazy.  This one probably took me a total of 12 hours to do.  The photobooks are still on sale so instead of $63, I paid $51 and then, yes, I had another $20 credit sitting on my account.  I added in 15 prints to this order so my total for the prints and the book came to $35.78 - shipped free.  I just ordered it today.

The boys are already loving the LegoLand book so I can't wait to get the Disney book so they can visually relive our wonderful trip!


 

January 20, 2012

Best Brownie Pan Ever

And trust me, I've tried quite a few. But I finally found the BEST brownie pan! This pan bakes the most perfectly sized brownies I've ever had. And the best part? They lifted out of the pan so easily! Not ONE brownie broke and fell apart.  I didn't have to use my fingers to "remold"  a brownie ... they were just perfect.

Here's the awesome pan:


And here is where you can purchase this pan.  Apparently it's just called "Chewy Brownie Pan." But I think it should be renamed to the Greatest Brownie Pan Ever Made!


Ready to bake!



The awesome baked to perfection goodness. Each row lifted right out of the pan with very little effort. I didn't want to cut them while still in the pan because I don't want to damage the finish on the pan.



Cut and ready to devour. And my boys did just that, husband included.


Does anyone else find it ironic that I'm currently trying to lose a few pounds? Ha!

Must. Stop. Baking.

January 19, 2012

I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for ice cream!  Even when it's frigid outside! I'm not responsible if your mouth starts to water while reading this post.  My Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker was begging to be used again and my boys were begging for more Cookies and Cream!

The recipe is simple:

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

and crushed Oreo cookies

First, pour the chilled mixture into the solid frozen base of the ice cream maker. Turn on the appliance and allow it to churn the ice cream for about 15 minutes.


Then add the crumbled oreos. Oh my ...


Let that churn for about 5 minutes to ensure the oreos are thoroughly mixed in.  It should look like this when it's all mixed:


And that's it! Turn off the appliance and scoop the yumminess into a freezable container. Right now it will be in soft serve-like but if you like your ice cream hard, place it into the freezer for at least 2 hours (or overnight.)  If you can keep yourself from eating it all as you scoop it into the container!


Enjoy!

January 18, 2012

Make Your Own Invitations

Have you discovered Picnik yet? If not, you must visit and create a free account.  It might be one of the greatest sites on the internet! You can upload and edit your photos and create your own art for free!  Of course many of the "better" options are only available to those with a paid membership, but look what I created today for free:


I searched the internets high and low for a suitable winter pool party invitation but couldn't find anything I liked that was suitable for my son ... this world is so girl-crazy!  So I made my own. Certain information was obviously blocked out for privacy but you get the idea.

Using a free stock photo, I was able to download a pool water picture which I then uploaded to my Picnik account - and created the invitation from there.  You can customize everything, including the finished size. I decided to use the 4x6 size for this invitation. It's saved as a jpeg file so I can easily upload it anywhere to have prints made.

I'm still debating whether or not upgrading to a premium membership is worth it, since I likely wouldn't use the site daily or even weekly. But regardless, it's pretty cool. Check it out when you can!


January 17, 2012

Good Kitty?


Note:  No animals were harmed while this photo was taken. Jo-Jo was returned to his cage once I finished cleaning it.

January 12, 2012

Funnies in the News

Cruisin' with Kate Gosselin. That's exactly where I want to be! Trapped out a sea with her doing crafts. Seriously?? She's grabbing at straws now. Next you'll see her signing autographs outside an Atlantic City Casino.

She should have followed Jon's footsteps and faded back into the real working world.

January 10, 2012

Saving Money, One Grocery Trip at a Time

Every once in awhile I do really well at the grocery store. I'm a Shop Rite girl but keep my eye on Acme's weekly ads as well. I find Acme to be much more expensive than other grocery stores. Because of that, I only look at the front and back page of their weekly ad since that it where the best deals will be listed.

I'm glad I looked at their current ad! Here was my haul:

4 boxes of Hamburger Helper
2 boxes of Betty Crocker Fruit snacks
2 cans of Green Giant Low Salt canned corn
1 Gogurt box
1 Trix yogurt 6 pack
8 Lean Cuisine meals, various

All for $17.96. See?



The hamburger helper, fruit snacks and yogurt were all on sale plus Acme was offering an additional $5 if you bought 10 items (4+2+2+1+1)   On top of that, I stacked coupons for the HH (.80 off 4), fruit snacks (.50 off 2) and yogurt (.75 off 2), saving an additional $4.10 since Acme actually doubles the value of a coupon.

The Lean Cuisines are normally priced at $4.79 (what a rip-off! NEVER buy them at that price) and were on sale for $2.00, while 3 varieties I purchased rang up at $1.88. I also had a $1 off the purchase of any 5 Lean Cuisine meals.

I saved 64%. I would have paid $49.51 if I had bought these items when they weren't on sale and didn't use coupons. Fifteen minutes worth of planning saved me $31.35. Maybe I will get to St. Lucia one day after all!

January 6, 2012

Lunch Break Friday #1

If you live near a Five Below store and want to score some cheap hand soap, get there soon. I bought 7.5 ounce bottles of Softsoap Foaming Hand Soap for $1 each today (was $2.99.)



It doesn't matter to me what the pictures are on the fronts of the containers. My kitchen sink has one of those soap pumps built right in and it will only "pump" the foaming hand soap correctly! So I throw away the containers anyway.  

Happy Shopping!

Heaven in a Box

Have you met my new baby? Here she is:



The ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker by Cuisinart. She makes the most fresh and most delicious ice cream you'll ever have the pleasure of eating off a spoon. And the best part? You can pronounce all of the ingredients in the ice cream.  I seriously may never buy ice cream in a carton again.

All you need is sugar, a pinch of salt, milk, heavy cream and pure vanilla extract. That's it! That's pretty much the base recipe of all of the ice cream recipes in the enclosed booklet. So far, we've made vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream and coffee (for my father-in-law.)  All are to die for!

I did alter the recipe for chocolate ice cream by cutting back on the unsweetened cocoa by 1/4 cup because my son felt it was too chocolatey - as if there is such a thing!  This coming from a  kid who routinely puts chocolate syrup on his chocolate ice cream with chocolate jimmies. I know, he makes no sense. I point this out to him but he doesn't care.

Do yourself a favor and buy one of these precious babies. It will be the best $60 (or less, if you are a good shopper like me!) you've ever spent.

(No one paid me in any way to write about this ice cream maker. I've only had a blog for 3 days!)

January 5, 2012

Donut Maker

My son received a Babycakes Donut Maker for Christmas. The one we have makes 12 small donuts at a time. I should have taken by own picture of the device because I can't find the right picture online. Doesn't it figure? Anyway, we decided to make chocolate donuts the other night. We used the recipe included with the instructions.

Chocolate Donuts
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:
  1. Stir dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Add egg, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Using a mixer on medium speed, blend until smooth.
  2. Fill each cooking reservoir with about 2 tablespoons of batter.
  3. Bake about 4 to 5 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into donut comes out clean.
  4. Glaze or coat with powdered sugar, as desired.
Makes approximately 28 donuts

Tip: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, pour 2¼ teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar into a glass measuring cup.  Add milk to equal ¾ cup. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes, then use in place of buttermilk in this recipe.

We used a disposable decorator bag to fill the reservoirs with the batter. This worked perfect and made it very easy to not overfill the reservoirs. We resisted the urge to check on the donuts while they were cooking and 4 minutes later we had perfectly cooked chocolate donuts.  We dipped them in a chocolate glaze.



The verdict?

They were good but I was disappointed with the flavor of the batter. It was bland and not as fluffy as I hoped it would be.  I've heard you can use a regular cake mix to make the donuts but I'm not sure if that will be the right texture either.  So I'm on the hunt for the perfect donut batter recipe!


January 4, 2012

A Jersey Girl Intro

Yes I live in New Jersey and no it's not by choice. I've lived here my entire life (except for the college years) so it's hard to think about living somewhere else, especially when most of your family lives here and your children are still young.  It's an okay place to live, I guess. You've got the ocean on one side and city life on the other. Both of which offer many options for fun.

You might be wondering what this blog will be about. Good question! I've been reading blogs for very long time. I had one in the past, but mostly wrote about my children. I decided that wasn't a good idea and shut it down. That was about 3 years ago. But I missed having a blog.

I like to bake and try new recipes. I like to plan parties. I like to organize. And I like to try easy (and cheap) home decorating ideas. Some are my own and some I find on the internet and tweak to suit my needs. I am not Martha Stewart. I like simple, uncomplicated things. With common ingredients found right in your home. So boring, right? I like to call it sensible and time-saving instead.

After all, I am a working Jersey Girl!