Monday, July 28, 2014

Rach Makes A Number 5 Birthday Decoration

I was so excited when my daughter was about to turn 1. I got a little carried away with the decorations and party stuff. One of the things I wanted to have was really beautiful invitations. I got some ideas at pinterest and was inspired by the below photo.

I decided that instead of multiple letters I would do a giant number 1. Below is the final result. I loved how it turned out for invitations. (Who doesn't love a little girl in a tutu!)

I used the giant 1 as a party decoration and then gave it to a friend to use for her daughter's first birthday. It has now been to 4 girls first birthday parties and got destroyed by a little brother at the most recent one.

My friend asked if I would make another for her godson who is about to turn 5. His party is an angry birds theme. This project is really cheap to do but packs a big punch for party decorations. I also figured this would be a great thing to share with everyone on my blog.

All you need is a box, some tape, mod podge, some kind of paper, an x-acto knife, some scissors and a disposable paint brush. Any type of tape will do. You just want it to be 2-3" wide. You could use duct tape, painters tape or masking tape. When I did the 1 I used masking tape but this time I used painters type because I found it quicker.

First break down your box so it is flat. Choose the largest side and sketch your number on it. Ideally you want the width of the numbers to be about 4-5" wide.

Make sure if you are doing a number with a rounded bottom like the 5 I have done that you make the bottom of the number flat so it will stand properly. You can see here I used the bottom of the box as the bottom of my 5.


Then cut out your 5. I find that the x-acto knife works great for the straight edges and heavy duty scissors works better for the curves. By the way this piece of cardboard is about 24" x 12" which will be the size of my completed 5.

Once you cut it out you want to place it on your other piece of cardboard and trace it. Then cut out a matching number.

You will also want to cut out the edge pieces. I use the flaps of the box for this. Each flap was 8" wide so I cut them down them middle to get a bunch of 4" wide pieces of cardboard. Length doesn't matter at this point. 4" wide will be the depth of my completed number. If you want to make it thicker you would just make this piece wider.

Now you should have 2 cut outs of your number and a bunch of side pieces.
You will see here that there is some blue tape on my 5. I accidentally sliced the 5 in the wrong place. No big deal. I just put tape on both sides to keep it together.

Next you want to create your 3D number by attaching the sides to the 5 cut out. Put some tape half way on the edge of the long strip.
Then attach the other half of the tape to the 5. I didn't do a good job putting the tape on here so I just attached another piece to make it wider.
You want to start at a logical place for the number starts or ends. Here you can see I started at the end of the 5 with the plan to work around the edge. Attach the tape and bend your long strip of cardboard around the 5, taping as you go until you run out of cardboard strip.

To attach the next piece of cardboard strip, you want to place tape on both the bottom edge and the side edge like shown in the below photo.
Attach it to the existing piece of cardboard edging along with the edge of the 5. Tape it on the inside to make sure it holds well at the seam.
Keep adding tape and your board to the edge of your 5. When working around parts that are rounded it is better to cut slits in the tape to help smooth it out. Especially if your circle goes in like the middle of my 5.

Once you finish one side of your 5, turn it over and attach the other side in the same way.
Your 5's are not going to match exactly but that is ok. You can fix that with a little bit of tape.

Just keep taping as you go around like you did with the other side.
Slit the areas where it curves.
Now you should have the 5 completely taped together and it should even stand up on its own. The next step is to add the paper and make it look nice.

When I did this for the number 1, I used tissue paper. You can use anything you want here - scrapbook paper, print outs from the web, wrapping paper. Because I used tissue paper the first time, I painted the number white before moving on. The brown of the box would have shown through the tissue paper otherwise. For the number 5 I used wrapping paper so I didn't worry about painting.

Wrapping paper is great because it is cheap and has large pieces. I actually borrowed this roll from a friend because I was having trouble finding it. You don't use a ton either. I probably used 2 1/2' of wrapping paper.

Lay out your wrapping paper on the floor and place your 5 on top of it. Trace around the edges of your 5.



Remove the 5 and cut out the 5. Do not cut out the 5 using the lines. Instead cut out about 1" from the lines.
Apply mod podge to the top part of your number.
Lay the wrapping paper down and make sure it is straight. Adjust as needed. Mod podge is pretty giving until it dries.
Apply more mod podge and smooth out the rest of your paper. I just use my hands to smooth out.

Now you want to take the overhang you have and mod podge it down to the sides. As you do this you will to mod podge under the paper and on top of the paper. You will also want to do a coat of mod podge on the whole front as you go to protect it.
Remember to cut slits in rounded edges as you go so the edges go down smoothly. This process is very similar to when you did the tape.

Once you are done with once side, let it dry about an hour or so the mod podge is clear and it isn't sticky to the touch. Once dry turn it over, and do the other side. Remember the number should be a mirror image this time. Again just place the bar side down on the paper and trace around it, then cut out about 1" from all the edges and attach the same way.

Let dry. Once both the front and back are done, you will want to do the sides. To give it a finished look I cut out paper that was just a little bit narrower than the 4" side of my number and just mod podge this down. Mod podge on the box, then the paper and the more mod podge. Work your way around. You will probably need to stop at one point and allow it to dry so you don't mess areas up. Mod podge is very sticky and if you set the wet side down on something, it may glue to it. This would result in either newspaper on your on number or some of your wrapping paper left behind. Best to let it dry before turning it.

 Now you have your finished 5! It would make a great centerpiece for any birthday party dessert table. You could even create two for a 25 wedding anniversary. Just think of the possibilities!


Giant Number

Supplies:
Large box
2-3" wide tape (painters, masking or duct)
Mod Podge
Themed Paper

Tools:
X-acto knife
Disposable paintbrush
Scissors

Directions:
  1. Sketch a number on the largest side of your box.
  2. Cut it out using your x-acto knife for straight edges and scissors for rounded areas
  3. Cut out a second number by placing it on the cardboard, tracing and cutting it out.
  4. Cut out strips of cardboard for the edges
  5. Attach strips of the cardboard to the number with tape. Cut slits in the are where it curves.
  6. Attach the other side
  7. Smooth out any bumps and add any more tape if necessary
  8. Trace the number onto the paper and cut out leaving a 1" border all around
  9. Apply Mod Podge and smooth paper on the front of the number
  10. Add mod podge on top to coat
  11. Repeat for back after allowing to dry
  12. Attach strips of paper along the edge just a little bit narrower than your sides
  13. Allow to dry completely before using

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rach Makes a Pool Ice Cream Cake

So for my friend's party she saw this pool cake on pinterest and asked if I could recreate it. You can check out the complete how to at Spoonful.
I started by letting my ice cream defrost a couple minutes as suggested. My friend had requested half chocolate, half vanilla with chocolate crunchies in the middle - classic ice cream cake. Then I scooped the vanilla ice cream out into my springform pan and smoothed it out with a spatula.

I put the cake back in the freezer to chill. This cake melts very quickly so make sure to keep it in the freezer as long as you don't need it.

Now it was time to create the chocolate crunchies because what ice cream cake is complete without it? I found this great recipe at Our Best Bites. Just put two rows of the oreos in your food processor and chop until they are course. Then pour in your bottle of magic shell and pulse on your machine until it is mixed well. then pour this on top of your vanilla ice cream and smooth out using the spatula. Now add the chocolate on top and chill for a couple hours. I chilled mine overnight.

Take your ice cream cake back out of the freezer and gently push your fudge sticks into the side. Even pressure is better so you don't break them. When done put back in the freezer for about 15 minutes while you make your whipped cream. I followed the directions on Spoonful by whipping the heavy cream until it was soft peaks then adding the vanilla and sugar and continuing to whip. I then added food coloring until the color looked good. I used a spatula to scoop and spread the whipped cream onto my cake.
Now freeze for about an hour or just enough for the top to harden and the sides to stay in place. I froze overnight again and decorated it just an hour before the party.

In the inspiration they used swimmer people but I couldn't find them anywhere without spending an arm and leg so I thought teddy grahams would be a good substitute. I laid them out on wax paper the morning of the paper and used my leftover royal icing from the cookies. I put a small amount, like just a dollop, in a bowl and mixed it with one of my many Americolor food colorings. I love the brand and they have a ton of colors. They are great because they are squeeze bottles and are easy to dispense just the right amount.
For this project I did bathing suits in pink, purple, teal and orange. After mixing the royal icing colors, I used a food paintbrush to paint bathing suits on my teddy grahams and then let them dry for 20 or so minutes.
 Aren't they cute! I also created a ladder out of twizzlers for the above ground pool. This was not as easy as the how to says. I tried attaching the rungs with royal icing and that didn't work so then I tried some store bought icing but after drying this still didn't hold so I used toothpicks through the rungs and into the sides of the ladder to hold it together.
Top: Royal Icing, Middle: Store Bought Icing, Bottom: Toothpicks (the Winner!)
I just stuck the ladder on the cake about an hour before serving and placed the the teddy grahams in the "pool". Some were in gummy rings, others got a float made of Airhead extremes candy and we put some balls in the "pool". Made of Gobstoppers candy. I think it looked great! And it tasted great too.


Pool Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Crunchies

Ingredients:
Ice Cream Cake
1/2 gallon ice cream (2 containers)
2 boxes of Keebler fudge sticks

Chocolate Crunchies
1 bag of Oreos
7.25 oz bottle of chocolate Magic shell

Whipped Cream Topping
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup confectioners sugar

Decorations
Teddy Grahams
Royal Icing
Gummy Rings
Paper Umbrellas
Gobstoppers candy
Airhead extremes candy
Twizzlers

Tools:
8" Spring form Pan
Spatula
Ice Cream Scoop
Food processor
Food coloring
Food safe paintbrushes
Toothpicks

Directions:
  1. Take ice cream out of freezer to thaw for about 15 minutes
  2. Scoop half of ice cream into springform pan and smooth out with spatula
  3. Place springform pan back in freezer to cool
  4. Chop 2 rows of oreos in food processor until course crumbs. You want some crumbs.
  5. Add Magic shell into food processor and pulse until combined
  6. Scoop into springform pan and smooth out with spatula
  7. Scoop rest of ice cream into springform pan and smooth out top
  8. Freeze for 3+ hours or overnight

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rach Makes Labeled Syrup Bottles

So in my previous blog I told you how I made homemade pineapple and mango syrup. I also decided to make strawberry kiwi syrup using the way all the blogs told you to. Boil water and sugar and add a cool aid packet. So now I had three homemade syrups and three store bought syrups and no way to display them.

I wanted them to look nice and have a consistent look while still letting people know what flavors they were. I figured a dollar store run would solve this problem and do it cheap. I found these sugar pours with fun colored lids and thought they were perfect.
And for the price of $1.49 each it was a match made in heaven.
First I removed the stickers at the bottom of the jars and washed them thoroughly. While at the dollar store I also picked up a roll of contact paper that looked like wood - also only $1.49.

I used my handy dandy cricut and the base camp font and cut the words out of the contact paper. For the shorter flavors - Cherry, Mango and Grape, I used a 3/4" height for the other ones I did 1/2".

I removed the letters and used my xacto knife to hold the middle of the letters down for a, e, p, o, g, b. Then I put a piece of scotch tape over these letters to to hold the middle in place. I then cut the contact paper down to a size of 3" (the height of my bottle) by 1". I just liked the look of 1". For the flavors with two words they were more like 1 1/2" width. Then I pulled a little of the contact paper off, centered it on the bottle and apply it slowed.
Remember to smooth out the contact paper so you don't get any air bubbles. Then remove the scotch tape from the top. The great thing about using contact paper is it water proof and it sticks on its. I have used it for a couple projects now and love how easy it is to work with.
For the words that I cut out at 1/2" I didn't feel it was necessary to keep the middles for the e, a. They were so small and impossible to hold onto. I think it still looks nice.

Remember when you move onto the next one that you put your contact paper in the cricut so the pattern goes the same way for all of them.
I love the bright colors mixed with the wood look. It really reminds me of Hawaii.

Snowcone Syrup Bottles

Supplies:
Contact Paper $1.49 for the roll
Jars $1.49 each

Tools:
Scotch tape
Cricut cutter with font cartridge
Xacto knife
Paper cutter or scissors

Directions:
  1. Clean your jars and remove any existing labels
  2. Measure your jars and see what size makes sense for your labels
  3. Cut out letters from a block of contact paper
  4. Remove letters and tape down any letters that have middles
  5. Remove from cutting mat and cut to size
  6. Carefully apply to jar
  7. Smooth out any air bubbles
  8. Remove scotch tape
  9. Fill and enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rach Makes Snowcone Syrup Using Tropical Fruit Juices

So for the upcoming beach party, my friend is going to have snowcones. Who doesn't love snowcones? I think she and I got hooked on them when we went to Hawaii for Christmas with the whole family. We hiked Diamond Head and at the base of it was this food truck selling shaved ice or what we call snowcones. They were amazing!
And the view at the top wasn't bad either.
When we were there they had all sorts of cool flavors. If you go and buy a snow cone machine where we are, they only come with boring flavors - blue raspberry, cherry, and grape. I loved the mango and pineapple flavors we had in Hawaii and wanted to recreate them for her party. I tried searching for some recipes but came up pretty much empty handed so I created my own and I think they came out pretty good!

You only need 2 ingredients - juice (in this case I used mango juice and pineapple juice) and sugar. Mix 1 1/2 cups of juice with the 3/4 cup sugar and heat until sugar dissolved and it comes to a boil. Heat for about a minute.

Let them cool completely before adding to your snowcone. Use on your snowcones and remember how amazing Hawaii was...You could also use it on pancakes or anywhere else a recipe calls for syrup.

My munchkin thought they were great!


Snowcone Syrup

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups juice
3/4 cup white sugar

Tools:
Small pot
Whisk

Directions:
  1. Stir together juice and sugar over medium heat until it boils and sugar dissolves
  2. Let boil for a minute or two
  3. Remove and cool completely before serving
  4. Add on top of your shaved ice for a tropical snow cone

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rach Makes Perfect Sugar Cookies (and shares my secrets with you)

I know I have previously shown you the bug cookies I made for a birthday party. Fancy decorated sugar cookies have become my go to dessert whenever I bring something to a party and they are often requested. Everyone always compliments me on them and I always tell them it isn't hard, it is just time consuming.

My good friend is having a beach pool party and I told her I would make the cookies for the party also. She really liked these snow cone cookies she saw on Pinterest. Not surprising it is a post from Bake at 350's on Parade Magazine's website.

Snow cone cookie from Bake at 350
I have already shared with you Bake at 350's amazing blog and how I learned all about decorating fancy sugar cookies from her. I find her Royal Icing 101 post especially helpful in learning how to create Royal Icing. The pictures really made it for me.

But what about before you bake the cookies? My mother told me in recent years that she had the most trouble rolling and cutting her sugar cookies so I figured I would show you how I do it.

I actually don't use the sugar cookie recipe from Bake at 350. I use one I found years ago at All Recipes that you can find here. It was submitted by Jill Saunders and I love it. I am retyping the recipe below and cutting in half because if you make them the way I do, half the recipe will make you about 40 cookies which is typically a nice size batch.

I follow the recipe exactly as listed. I use my kitchen aid the standard attachment. I never remember to take my butter out in time so I put in the microwave for 1 minute on the lowest power level. This softens the butter without melting it.

Then I place two pieces of saran wrap on my counter on top of each other perpendicular so it makes a t (sorry I didn't think to take a picture of this). Then I plop my cookie dough on the middle of the cross and smoosh it out. I fold over the edges so it is a square and flatten as much I can so it likes like the below.
I put it my fridge overnight. The recipe only takes 15 minutes to make and package so I often do it right before bed the day before I want to bake and decorate. This is a minimum of 3 days before I want to serve the cookies. I often make them earlier and freeze them. Have I mentioned I love to freeze things? It allows me to do things when I want instead of planning my life around to dos.

Sometime before I start rolling and cutting my cookies, I typically sketch out the cookies I want to make. This way I have an idea of what cutters and colors I will need.

Don't they look like the real thing? Well maybe not. How I do this is by taking my cookie cutters and placing them on a piece of paper and then trace the inside. I then sketch any additional lines and use munchkin's crayons to color if I am worried about what colors might look like together.

After it has been in the fridge overnight the butter will harden and it will be much easier to work with. Take it out and get your parchment and cookie cutters. I also keep a small amount of flour in an old (but thoroughly cleaned) spice jar.

I like to roll my cookies in between parchment. It allows sticky dough to be easier to work with and I use less flour this way.  Put one piece of parchment down and some flour from your spice jar.

Then place your dough down. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of it. Then place your other piece of parchment on top of your dough.
Now about rolling. I have two rolling pins, an old fashioned wooden one and a hard plastic one from the craft store that is supposed to be used for rolling fondant. I love the plastic one. It is wider than the wooden one and I prefer to roll pressing down in the middle.

I also have these great rings that I put on my rolling pin. The came in a pack and they go on your rolling pin so that you roll your cookies the same thickness every time. These rings were created for rolling fondant but they work great for cookies. I like to use the 1/4" thickness for my cookies. Depending on the thickness of your cookie will depend on how long you cook them.
So start rolling out your dough. I don't have much upper body so I find it helps if I stand on a step stool while rolling so I am higher up and can use more than just my arms to roll.

If you find the dough is sticking to the parchment pull it off and add a little bit more flour. I also like to flip over my dough and add more flour on the bottom. To flip it over, leave parchment on both sides and put one hand under the dough and parchment and the other hand on top. Then flip it over.














So roll out your dough so it is the same thickness all over. Then take the top parchment off and start cutting your cookies.




Your cookies should cut pretty easily since the dough has been in the fridge all night. At this point they probably won't stick and will remove quite easily while still keeping their shape.

See how nice they look! Now sometimes the dough will stick a little. Don't fret. The parchment is there to help you. First, remove the extra dough around the cookie. Then put your hand under the parchment and lift up. At the same time you want to peel the cookie off the sheet like a delicate sticker.
Sometimes I just turn the parchment and dough over in my hand and peel the parchment off while the dough stays in my hand like I am doing above.

So cut out as many cookies as you can from the dough and place them on your cookie sheets. I cover my trays in wax paper for the time being.
Stick your cookies in the fridge to cool. Having them go straight from the fridge to the oven will help them keep their shape.
All my cookie sheets have a lip so I stack my trays on top of each other perpendicular to the one below.
Once you have cut out all your cookies from the rolled dough, you will want to roll the extra dough into a ball and re-roll it. Sometimes I get too much flour on my area from re-rolling and other things.
That's ok. Just take a clean marinade brush and sweep the flour off.

I got to a point with these cookies that my dough got really hard to work with so I put it back in the plastic wrap, flattened it out and stuck it in the fridge for 15 or so minutes to help re-harden the butter. After that it was easier to work with and I continued rolling.

I like my cookies to stay in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking them. Like I said this helps them keep their shape while baking. I like to bake my cookies on a silicone mat.

I find it is easier to pull them off and they brown nicer. I never used to use silicone mats, I would just use tin foil but I got these mats from my mother for Christmas one year and love them. (Thanks Mom!) They fit perfectly on a 12.25"x 11.5" cookie sheet.

I also like to bake my cookies so the same type of cookie is on one tray. This helps me keep an eye on how many I have of each type. In this case I had one too many beach balls so I turned it into a life preserver.
You want your cookies to be about one inch apart from each other on all sides as they may expand in the oven as they bake. So pop them in the oven. They need about 8 minutes if you have done them 1/4" thick. I like to put the timer on for 4 minutes and turn them halfway to make sure they are cooking evenly.
You will know when they are done when the edges are little bit brown. This helps them keep their chewy yummy consistency.
Let them cool and decorate using the Royal Icing 101 recipe on Bake at 350.

Aren't they pretty?

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Tools:
Large mixer
Rolling Pin
Cookie Cutters
Wax Paper
Parchment
Cookie Sheets

Directions:
  1. In large mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla
  3. Slowly beat in flour, baking powder, salt on low speed
  4. Chill overnight
  5. Lay out parchment and sprinkle flour
  6. Place dough down, some more flour and another piece of parchment
  7. Roll to 1/4" thick
  8. Cut out cookies and refrigerate for 15 minutes
  9. Bake in 385 degree oven for 6-8 minutes
  10. Decorate and sit back and be impressed by yourself