Monday, March 02, 2015

Cupcakes-and Why I am Addicted to Piping Bags

A little while ago, I told you about the cake I made for the twins' birthday. I also made cupcakes for their classroom. Using a size 1M and 2D Wilton tips, I made these creations. Once you get your hands on a piping bag, you won't ever decorate cupcakes any other way. This was much neater and more professional looking than my old method which just consisted of using a butter knife to spread icing over the top, and inevitably all over my fingers and the sides of the cupcake as well. Here is a cupcake decorating tutorial.

The class and teachers loved them! The recipe was an egg-free one that a neighbor gave me and I used this buttercream (the same one I used for the recent birthday cake). I used Wilton's gel food coloring. You have to add a lot more of the coloring than you think to get these rich colors. A lot of the online tutorials show people adding a little bit at a time with a toothpick, but I ended up using a cereal bowl full of icing and adding about 1/2 tsp or so to get the rich colors. This time I made the buttercream fresh and let me tell you, it makes it so much easier to decorate. Don't refrigerate the icing before you decorate! I learned the hard way that it takes too long to warm up and is hard to work with. Fresh-made is significantly easier.

So pretty, if buttercream didn't have so many calories, I would find all sorts of reasons to decorate with it!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Skyline Chili Slow-Cooked Ribs

My husband's family has this addiction to a Cincinnati-based Chili called Skyline. Traditionally, it is eaten over spagetti with diced onions and cheddar cheese, or over hotdogs on a bun with mustard, onions and cheddar cheese.

Everytime we head back to where he grew up, he and his siblings make multiple treks to get their fill, and we always pack cans of the chili to come home with us for those times when the craving just won't wait until the next visit. I have to admit that the chili has grown on me over the years. And it does make for a quick meal in a pinch.

My brother-in-law mentioned to hubby recently that he had tried a chili smothered rib recipe once, so I set out to try this. I didn't have a recipe, so I made one up.


-1 lb Baby Carrot
-2 15 oz Cans Skyline Chili (check your local grocery store - my Wegman's in Maryland actually carries it)
-5 lbs Pork Ribs
-1 Medium onion, diced
- 2 lbs Red potatoes (Whole)



1. (Optional) Place a Slow-Cooker Liner in the base of your slow cooker ceramic pot. I love these liners! They make clean-up a breeze.


2. Place a layer of carrots on the bottom, follow by a layer of red potatoes. Feel free to leave these out. I prefer my slow-cooker recipes to be one-pot meals.

3. Put half the ribs covered by the half the onion and 1 can of skyline. I had to cut the ribs in half to get them to fit. Repeat with another layer of the remaining ribs covered by the last half of the onion and second can of skyline. (I know, it doesn't look very appetizing yet).

4. Place the cover on your slow-cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

5. Enjoy. These litterally fell off the bone, so I couldn't get a good picture of them, but they were delicious.

Hubby was SO excited about these he actually posted about it on Facebook, so I guess this recipe is a keeper.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Growing up fast and foray into cake decorating

The twins turned two recently. Last year, I ordered smash cakes for them, as M had a newly diagnosed egg allergy and I just couldn't handle trying to put together birthday cakes for them with this new restriction. A local bakery, Flavor Cupcakery, does vegan cakes, and I was sold.

This year, I decided it was time to try to bake the cake myself. I pulled out my trusty egg-free cookbook, Bakin' Without Eggs, and picked out a recipe: the Silver White Cake. My icing was a basic buttercream icing.

I have done some cakes in the past and was always befuddled because my cakes weren't perfectly flat and putting them together successfully in layers was challenging. Additionally, my icing was always a hot mess and full of crumbs. This time, I did my research to get my layers as flat as possible and discovered that I was really doing what is called a crumb coat before and you really have to go back over top of that layer with more frosting (no objections here to more frosting).

Using Wilton's Bake-Even Strips, which you soak in water for about 5 minutes and then wrap around your pan, I was able to get even layers. I was skeptical, but these really work!

My nice even layers.

I also wanted to try a little bit of decorating. I bought some cake decorating supplies from Wilton (tips, bags, gel icing colors, cake wheel), and ordered some Thomas cake toppers from Amazon.

A tip I found for keeping any filling from leaking out in between your layers is to pipe some icing around the edge of your layer and then put the filling in the middle (Strawberry, yum!)

Then you put your layers together and do a crumb coat, starting on the top. Here is a great tutorial on how to do a crumb coat.

Once your crumb coat is complete, pop the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes to harden the frosting enough to make your next layer of frosting easy to do without pulling off your crumby crumb coat.

Here is the cake after the second coat. Not perfect, but much better than any previous attempts. And once you pipe and decorate any imperfections are less noticable. One tip: many resources online will tell you you can make your buttercream ahead of time and refrigerate it and pull it out to warm up when you need it. I found the frosting took forever to warm up and was harder to work with. In the future, I will make it fresh right before I want to use it. Another tip is to make way more icing than you think you need (I quadrupled the buttercream recipe).

Wilton's website has a lot of great tutorials and instructions on how to decorate a cake. Also this video was helpful. My final product is not quite up to par with their's, but it is still the fanciest cake I have ever made.

Here is the final cake with piping and cake toppers. It got the seal of approval from the twins who for days were asking for more cake, and hubby liked it too!

And of course the celebrations.
You can tell by G's face what kind of day we were having! Ah the terrible 2s times two.



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A New Door

As my kids have gotten a bit older and I am having an easier time sneaking in some home projects, slowly but surely we have begun the process of making this house ours. One of the projects that we have been working on is replacing all the interior doors. Originally, we thought we might just hire this one out, but my dad is pretty handy and my husband wants to learn so we figured we would give it a go ourselves (with a lot of help from my dad). A few months ago, they hung two doors while my dad was visiting and I finally have gotten around to painting one of them. The second one is in the basement all ready to be painted and I will hopefully get to it in the next week or two. We did not do pre-hung doors and the boys did all the cutouts for the hardware.

Luckily, all the upstairs trim is already a nice bright white, and the previous homeowners left a partial can for us that was well-labeled and I was able to determine that the trim is just a basic Semi-gloss in Sherwin-Williams Extra White (SW 7006). How easy is that? It is basically just their untinted standard white, but it's exactly what I wanted.

Unfortunately, most of our downstairs trim is not this same bright white and eventually I will likely repaint all of it.

Here is the before and after of the nursery door.



The wall on which the alphabet print hangs also used to be Ravens purple (to the dismay of my Bengals-loving husband) and I recently painted the wall (two coats of primer to cover all that purple and 2 coats of paint) to match the rest of the room. The prior owners had painted all the electrical outlet covers (which I replaced), but it did make it easy to get a color match!.

I had never painted a door before and did a lot of pinterest research prior to doing it. This was my favorite resource on how to paint a six panel door. I basically used this technique except that I used a brush only for my 2 coats of paint instead a roller and then drag method. You can't just arbitrarily paint it, you really should do it in a systematic order. After filling in any imperfections with wood putty and sanding the entire door, I did 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of paint (only 1 coat under the hinges). Each coat was progressively easier as I got used to how best to paint a door. I used a small 4 inch roller for the flat sections for the primer coat only and then used a brush for the 2 coats of actual paint. I got to a point where I could do a coat on one side in about 45 minutes. After trying a few different size brushes I decided that I like a 2 inch Purdy XL brush best for this task.

I still have to go back and putty and paint some small areas on the trim. Because we couldn't be without a nursery door while I painted it, we put the old door back up with the old hardware as the prior owners painted over the hinges and one of them couldn't be removed from the old door. As a consequence I couldnt fix the trim until all the new hardware and door were installed.

All the hardware is now oil-rubbed bronze. It is amazing how much a simple door and some new hardware can upgrade a space.

This project has made me excited about the simple power of a new coat of paint!