Backgrounds & Polka Dot Backgrounds

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jewels by JLC

I have this cousin. And she makes jewelry. I find random pictures on the internet, and she whips it up for me. Seriously folks, girl be talented, affordable, and awesome!
This ring was inspired by one I saw online for almost $50. She made it for $15. It is unique and beautiful!

These earrings she made for me for Christmas last year. I get LOTS of compliments on these.

This necklace has jewel tone pearl type beads (I don't know what they're called I just know they're purrty!) in three different layers. This was originally made for a member of my wedding party but I kept it :) Oops!
And finally, my Kokopelli necklace. This is one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry. I bought the pendant and asked her to create something beachy for the honeymoon we didn't end up taking. It is such a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Want some of your own? Want something custom made for a seriously reasonable price? Hit her up!
Check her out on facebook here and email her at OR check her out on Etsy here.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Tye-Dye Cupcakes

Last Sunday I had the privilege to watch my husband's beautiful cousin Kirsten graduate from high school. I loved high school, and judging by the crowd that accumulated at her party, I'd say she did too!
I also had the priviledge to make cupcakes for her party. I made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and tye dye vanilla cupcakes with tye dye frosting.

These babies were beeeeutiful if I do say so myself. I LOVE anything rainbow and these had such a beautiful mix of colors. And no two were alike!

Want to make these for your next party? Kiddo's rainy day summer fun? They are really easy!

Vanilla Cupcakes (courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications "Cupcakes")
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean (please! who can afford these??) seeds or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (additional)
1/2 cup whipping cream

Set out butter, egg, and egg yolk on counter at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, mix flour, powder, and salt. In large bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on med high for 1 minute. Add egg, egg yolks, vanilla bean or extract and the additional extract. Beat until combined. Alternately add flour and whipping cream, beating on low speed until combined. Batter should be thick and over mixing makes for tough cupcakes.

Now here is the incredibly messy (read: fun) part. Get out small bowls, one for each color you want in your cupcake (I used five: orange, pink, teal, green, and purple). Divide the batter into your bowls, no need to measure, just eyeball it. Add food coloring. I use Wilton's gel food coloring, as this does not change the consistency of what you put it in, as liquid does. This is less important when you're adding it to cupcake batter, and a lot more important when adding it to frosting that you want to pipe and have set up.

Prepare 12 muffin tins with cupcakes liners and spray with non-stick spray. Add a spoonful of each color into the liners in whatever order you like. I like to start a few with one color, then change the order so that most are different. Fill to about 3/4 full. Bake about 17 mins or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 5 mins, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

To make tye dye frosting. Take whatever white frosting you like, and sepearate into five bowls. Color the frosting with whatever colors you like. Now take a pastry bag, or a gallon zip lock bag and set in drinking glass with the tip pointed down and the top of the bag rolled over the top of glass to create a stable place to put in frosting. Add each color of frosting to the bag on a different side, depending on how many colors you have. It's ok if the colors touch while putting them in the bag. Now if you're using a ziplock bag, cut off a corner to create a tip. Squeeze the frosting to the tip and pipe in whatever design you like. The colors will start to mix and create a tye dye effect. I had no issues with the colors blending and making a blackish or unsightly color. At some point I'll try to do a picture tutorial of this.

All cupcake pictures are courtesy of Jacque Bundy of Jacque Bundy Photography. Check out her blog here. You can find pictures from our wedding there, as she took them and did a wonderful job! Thanks for the pics Jacque!



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comfort in a Bowl: Beef Stew

When I was a kid, my Gramma did a lot of the cooking in our house. To this day, all my favorite foods are ones that she made when I was a child. They remind me of her (she passed away in 2008) and home and they make me smile. As a child, beef stew wasn't anything special. However, as I've grown up and ordered it at various restaurants, I've discovered that it was unbelievably special, and difficult to replicate. I thought I knew how to make it: beef in flour, add carrots, onions, potatoes, and water. Cook for what seems like an eternity. WRONG. Sound bland? It is. Much to my amazement, when I went to make this after she died, I didn't know how! So over the last few years, it has been my mission to figure out how to make it delicious again. And I did it! Thanks to a pot roast recipe from the cookbook that came with my Crock-Pot, I have been able to change it up into some AMAZING stew. Ready to be comforted into a warm, happy place?

First, a note about the recipe. It's less a recipe and more like a big pot of whatever you want it to be. Aside (that's a word right?) from being SUPER delish, it's SUPER economical. You can make this stew go a LONG (are the random CAP words getting annoying? I swear I'd yell these at you if we were talking face to face:) way. Just over a pound of stew made at least six servings, and I fill my bowl to the top. I'm not a fan of potatoes in my stew so I leave them out, but my Gramma always put them in, and your stew will go even farther with potatoes in it.

Start with stew meat. Like I said, I used about 1 1/4 pounds of meat. The way stew meat comes at the store, it's in large chunks. I cut my down to bite sized pieces.

Mix about 1/2 cup of flour in a small bowl with some salt and pepper. Toss the stew meat to coat.

Add a few tablespoons of oil to a dutch oven or stock pot. Once the oil is hot, add the beef. Cook until brown. You aren't trying to cook the meat, just to brown the outside. While browning meat, dice one large onion and 1lb. of carrots.

Once meat is brown, add in onions and carrots. Then add spices. I probably (this is all to taste folks, stew should be made how you like it, so taste, taste, taste!) use two teaspoons seasoned salt, 2 tablespoons of dried parsley, and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder. Now comes the stars! Crushed (if you use whole it is pokey to eat!) Rosemary and Ground Thyme. I have discovered some in my family do not like one or the other, I love both in my stew and on my roasts. I use about a teaspoon of each.

Sprinkle a generous half cup of flour in the pot.

Stir this in really well and let cook for a minute. It's very important there is no visable flour left or your stew will have flour chunks in it. Ew! It should look like this.

Add in about six cups of water. More if you have more meat or want it to go farther.

Put a lid on this and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 to scrap the bottom and keep from burning. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 2-3 hours. If you're adding potatoes, put them in about 30-45 minutes before serving.

The thickness of stew is a personal preference, and I like it be a lot closer to a solid than a liquid. Typically, I find the flour added in the first stage is not sufficient to make my stew thick enough. About halfway through cooking, if it isn't thickening up as I like, I use an old trick my Grandma Annette taught me. I wish I had taken pictures!
Put about half a cup of flour in a shallow tupperware bowl. Add in COLD water to the bowl, just enough to cover the flour, and place lid on tightly. Over the sink (you'll regret this if you do it elsewhere) and holding the bowl upside down with lid securely in the palm of your hands, holding tightly, shake vigourously until all the flour dissolves in the water. It definitely helps to use clear tupperware. Add this to your stew, stir and it will thicken up in no time. If it isn't thick enough, add more flour/water mixture. This little trick works on any kind of gravy (I use it for Sausage gravy all the time!). 

If you're vegetarian or are cooking for one, use mushrooms instead of the beef. I think this would turn on quite well although I've never tried it. The main thing to remember with beef stew is that you should taste as you go and use ingredients you like. This is a very basic recipe that  you can use to tailor to your likings!

Serve with homeade biscuits and Enjoy!


PS. This last pic does not do the stew justice! Looking for a new camera, any suggestions??

Monday, May 16, 2011

Easter (just a bit late)

Graduation is now over, and the real world is setting it. And it is completely free of homework! And that leaves a lot more time for cooking, baking, decorating, reading, and crafting. Oh and a little work in there too :)

Easter weekend was spent out at my grandparents house with some extended family, in addition to most of my immediate family. It was a wonderful weekend full of laughter and comfort food. And hunting Easter eggs. Alexia is 2 1/2 and she loved hunting the eggs!

I decided to go all out for Easter. I made a 14 layer cake, and tulip shaped sugar cookies.  For the cake, I used this recipe. Now I'll show you the assembly process.

The recipe calls for 12 layers, but I like the 14 layer look so I just split it between 2 more pans. Once you prepare your batter, prepare your pans. This part of the process is incredibly time consuming, turn on some music or something, you'll be there for awhile. Crisco (or butter) your pans. I use the stuff that comes in stick form and use a spatula to spread it around. Cut out 14 pieces of wax paper, cut to the size of the bottom of the pan. Just staple 14 pieces of wax paper together and then trace the bottom of the pan and cut out. Place a sheet of wax paper in the bottom of the pan and grease it. Then flour the pan.
Repeat... 13 more times!

Bake your cakes, checking frequently for doneness. To remove from pan, flip over on top of a cooling rack. The wax paper will be attached to the cake. Carefully peel it off. As long as you have greased it well, it will come off, but it often comes of in many, many pieces.

To assemble the cake, place a cardboard round on a pan with a rack, so there is something to catch the drippings. 

Then place a small amount of frosting on the cardboard, and add a cake layer. Then pour more frosting and add another layer, repeating until all the cake has been used. If you think you are using too much of the frosting you probably aren't, and if you think you are using just the right amount, you could probably use more. This frosting goes a long way. 

Now I originally found this recipe on Bakerella's site and she used a dark chocolate buttercream to smooth out the sides and make it look even more beautiful. 

So that's what I did, and it MADE the cake. I added Easter malted milk ball eggs around the bottom and a few on the top to make it a bit more festive.

 This cake was very moist and very rich. If I make this again, and I probably will, I'll change the ganache recipe a bit, I didn't think it was sweet enough, or something about the flavor was a bit off. I'll definitely keep the dark chocolate buttercream, and I'll probably use it on everything now, I LOVED this frosting. I also have a few ideas on how you could do some variations on this cake:

1. Tint each layer and make it a rainbow cake. Then I'd do a white frosting in between each layer for clouds.
2. Tint each layer as a different shade of one color, like a whole spectrum of purple. This would be so pretty!
3.  Make the layers chocolate, and the in between frosting peanut butter flavored, with the dark chocolate buttercream... probably incredibly rich, but delicious!

I also made sugar cookies. I found a tulip cookie cutter at Michael's right before Easter and really wanted to use it. This seemed like the perfect occasion. I used this recipe for the cookies.

And I used this recipe for the Royal icing. It wasn't hard to make at all!

 Annnnnnnd... I forgot to take a picture of the finished cookie!  I'll show you more sugar cookies soon!



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coming Soon!

These last few weeks have been crazy! And graduation is only a week away! So until I make it through finals and all the insanity that comes with the end of semester I probably won't be on here much. Here are a few things to look forward to...

1. What I made for Easter
2. Adorable Mini's
3. The super awesome amazing jewelry my very talented cousin has created for me
4. Pancake Cupcakes
5. Finishing of the 100 List, several of the things on it have been made in the last few weeks
6. A new book review, I have a LONG list of books on my reading list

To anyone who didn't know already, as of June 1st I'll begin my job as Program Coordinator of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Flint Hills. It's part time but it's a job that I love so I'm VERY excited!

Ok, that's all for now... I'll see you soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some Easter Deliciousness

Have you ever heard of The Pioneer Woman? Her cooking is a revalation. Last night we made the crispy onion strings from her cookbook. They are beyond words. Last week we made her chicken parm and it was the best foods I've ever eaten. If you aren't familiar with P-Dub, and you love good food, then head over to her blog, where you can ALWAYS find something delicious to make for dinner. She only lives one state away from me... think she'd take me in if I pretended to be lost or something. I'd probably never leave. Please don't tell her I'm crazy :)


Are you ready for Easter? Do you know what you're making yet? Me neither. But I have a few ideas.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a Fourteen Layer Cake from Bakerella. Or cake pops. Or both.

But this Chocolate Truffle Egg Ganache Torte from Annie's Eats looks amazing too.

Or maybe Butterscotch Bird's Nests from With Sprinkles On Top.

But I also want to start experimenting with Royal Icing, so I might make sugar cookies. Oh the possibilities. What are your Easter ideas? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you!


PS I've been experimenting with fondant, more on that later. And I'll post some pics and an update of what I decide to make this weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little Bit of Sunshine

It's cloudy here. Like depressingly cloudy. And cold. What happened to spring???? So I thought I'd share some sunshine on here.

This is one of my nieces. She is my little angel! And she ALWAYS cheers me up on gloomy days. Yesterday I went over to see her and ended up spending an hour outside with her picking all the flower weeds in the yard. She could barely hold them all in her little hand. I took a few pics but I can't figure out how to get them off my phone. :S



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

After decorating all the cupcakes for the anniversary party the other day, I wanted to bake something that didn't require decorating before eating. And my sweet tooth is begging me for a sweet treat, like right now. I found the recipe for Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies on the Java Cupcake blog awhile back and it combined two of my favorite cookies. So without further adieu...

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
20-24 Double Stuff Oreos, I made mine rather large so I ended up with 22 cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar together, it's easier if you use a mixer. Add in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
4. Add dry ingredients into wet mixture, adding about a 4th of the mix at a time.
5. Stir in chocolate chips.
6. Spoon about a tablespoon of dough into your hand and flatten it out. Place an Oreo on top of the dough and mold it around the cookie.

7. Spoon a slightly smaller amount into your hand and flatten it out. Put it on top of the Oreo like a lid.

8. Press down the dough at the seams to encase the Oreo. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.........

9. You want there to be just enough dough around the cookie to cover it. Place 12 on a cookie sheet and bake for about 13 minutes, until just golden brown.
10. Remove from cookie sheet and .... eat immediately! Or let them cool a bit.

11. And ENJOY!

These cookies are delish, but one at a time is enough for me! And since I made dessert... the husband is making dinner: Pork Chops, everything mashed potatoes (I'll share this recipe sometime soon!) and corn (the only vegetable a true Johnson eats!)


PS. Apologies for the terrible pictures, I bought my ancient camera on clearance a few years ago, hopefully I'll upgrade soon!

Welcome to Baking a Family!

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now and I've finally done it! This blog is a place where I can showcase all my baking creations, and hopefully it will motivate me to create even more. I hope to create something new at least once a week, hopefully more often after graduation in May. I get most of my inspiration from other blogs that I read religiously, check out my blogroll so you can follow too!

Today I co-hosted with my husband and my sister in law, a combination anniversary and birthday party for my husbands parents. I baked the cupcakes myself and they turned out beautifully and received rave reviews at the party. I was even asked by Michael's cousin to make some for her high school gradution next month, which I am SUPER excited about! Hopefully someone took a few pictures of the cupcakes, as I forgot my memory card for my camera :0

Stay tuned for beautiful creations!