Sunday, August 12, 2012

Challenge 31 (and 32)- Nieman Marcus brownies and Crayola art (It's a Pinterest Win Day) Part 2

Now on to our melted crayon art. I believe it is impossible to have been on Pinterest for even a day and not have seen one of these projects. I have seen them turn out beautifully and I have seen them in upper realms of epic faildom. I truly believe that the difference between success and failure is materials and attention to detail.
Here are our supplies (all purchased at Michael's Craft Store) and my friend (who happens to work for Michael's) also had an embossing tool that I believe is key to the success of the project (also purchased at Michael's, she said in the 20 dollar range, 15% off if your a teacher *shameless plug inserted here*)
Our lovely assistant returned and we very carefully arranged the crayons we wanted in rainbow order (ROYGBIV anyone). We didn't use any browns, black, or grays (I believe another reason for some of the uglier versions of this project). My friend quickly hot glued the crayons in order on the top of the canvas, keeping them as even as possible.
We took them outside and put an old flattened cardboard box underneath (very important, don't forget this unless you want a multi-colored crayon dots decorating your patio). We aimed the embossing tool fairly close to the crayons, slightly above the double black lines and slowly moved the heat down to the next color trying to let everything melt at an equal pace.

You have to move slow to prevent splatter and not too close to the crayon or it starts to pool and that color takes over. We did the same thing to my canvas and this is how both turned out.
My friend decided to melt a silver crayon near hers and let it make cool silver dots on her canvas as well.
So here are my tips to making this project work.
1. Only use Crayola crayons, I haven't seen any of these go as well with Rose Art of any of the generic brand crayons.
2. Invest in the embossing gun, it worked so much better than the hair dryer, didn't allow for nearly as much splatter and I'm sure could be used for other things to make the purchase worth it (and buy it at Micheal's with a 40% coupon-last shameless plug I promise)
3. Don't use browns, black, or grays unless you are doing a small selection of just those colors. They just take over and the color blending ends up looking blah)
4. Take your time and don't rush, if you want it to look nice, invest some time in the creation of the piece.

The next time I try this I want to buy one of the black canvases (yes they make those now) and do this with blues and purples. It's always a good day when you can have a double Pinterest win and spend time with one of your favorite people.
Challenge 31 (and 32)- Nieman Marcus brownies and Crayola art (It's a Pinterest Win Day) Part 1

I have some very supportive friends who have been great since I started this blog (and before) who I am incredibly grateful for. One of these friends had told me how excited she was to come over and do a pin for my blog. When I had my contest for what to do for my 25th Pinniversary, she was slightly disappointed the Nieman Marcus brownies didn't win and had admitted she had wanted to try them. She also had been wanting to try the Pinterest classic craft project, the melted crayon on a canvas. We decided that she needed to come over for dinner and we could make it a double pin day.

Now the the tag on what I pinned called these Nieman Marcus brownies, however on the web page they called them chess squares or Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake but what's in a name? The recipe is easy and only calls for a few kitchen staples.

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 300 and spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray. Mix cake mix, melted butter and one egg to a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan. Mix powdered sugar, softened cream cheese and remaining two eggs until smooth, about 1-2 mins. Pour on top of crust. Bake at 300 for 40-50 minutes until top is golden brown. ( from
The is after you mix in the cake mix, butter, and egg. It is very dense and similar to sugar cookie dough.
My beautiful assistant pressing the dough into the dish. The was very easy to do, you just have to make sure you get the crust an even in thickness.
After you blend together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and two eggs. It is very sticky and dense (and prone to toddlers wanting to lick it, which is a no-no since it has raw egg in it).
Into the oven at 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes. After 50 minutes this is what it looked like:
These were a little sticky to cut but the did come out of the pan pretty easily (make sure your spray your pan)
The bottom is dense and very much like a Blondie brownie. The top is rich, sticky, and very sweet. Together they are delicious but a little goes a long way. My friend admitted that these probably are not a go to dessert but most definitely not a Pinterest Fail. I'm not sure if and when I'll make them again, but they do appeal my sweet tooth and the fact that they are super easy to make. Pinterest Win #1 for the day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Challenge 31- Edible Cucumber Bowls and Avocado Chicken Salad

Normally when I'm pinning food items, I tend to lean more towards the sweet and delicious and less towards the healthy and sensible. When I saw the pin where you cut cucumbers into thick slices and use a melon baller to scoop out the middle and use it as an edible serving dish I knew I had to give it a try, but what to put in this edible dishware. Fortunately, I also had pinned a recipe for a low mayo chicken salad that used avocado so I figured I could kill two pins with one recipe.

Now I will admit I made a few mistakes right from the beginning:

Mistake 1- I forgot to peel the skins before I started cutting (this was a total brain fart on my part, but when I thought about doing it later I couldn't find my vegetable peeler so I wouldn't have been able to do it anyway so I don't feel as bad about this one.)

Mistake 2- I bought cucumbers that were WAY to big and wide. This picture from the pin had these cute little cucumbers and for some reason when I bought these at Albertson's I went for the gigantic sized ones. This made it difficult for a few reasons which I'll get to in a bit.

Here are my nicely (and thickly) sliced cucumbers with their skins still on. You have to cut them thick so you have enough width to scoop out with the melon baller. This is why having smaller cucumbers is better because these where crazy big slices of cucumber which would be a lot for somebody to try and eat.
You have to be very careful when scooping out the middle. You want to leave enough of a dip to put a filling in but if you scoop too much this will happen:
I had to sacrifice a few cucumber slices do to my overzealous scooping. It wasn't a difficult process and not too time consuming, you just have to be careful when your doing it or you'll end up with cucumber donuts instead of bowls.
Now the recipe for the chicken salad I pinned wasn't so much a recipe as a ingredient list. The blogger basically explained that she used those ingredients but wasn't sure in what amounts and it was all by taste. Well if another blogger can do it so can I.

My chicken salad recipe was:
1 large can of Target brand chicken breast
1 pouch of 100 Calorie Wholy Guacamole
1 short squirt of Lite Miracle Whip
1 teaspoon(ish) of sweet relish
3 short squirts of lime juice

I liked this chicken salad recipe and it was different from what I normally make but these cups would be great with any chicken salad recipe you come up with. After I spooned out the chicken salad I had a few cucumbers left so I tried one filled with red pepper hummus and one with cottage cheese. The cucumbers held the filling well and it tasted great.
These are great as an appetizer or lunch, and way lower calorie than putting the fillings on crackers or bread. They would also be awesome for someone going low carb. You definitely could just slap the filling on the top of a cucumber slice but I do believe scooping out the middle kept the filling from falling off and gave you more room to be generous with your filling. I will make these again with other fillings, making sure I fix both of the egregious mistakes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Challenge 30- Sharpie + Ceramic dishware= Endless Possibilities

Forever ago (meaning one of my first pins back in November) I pinned the instructions to designing your own ceramic dishes with just a Sharpie and an oven. Sadly, checking out the pin only led me to pictures with no other instructions than to draw on the ceramic dish, put it  in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and the Sharpie will magically be baked on the dish forever. I searched other pins but sadly I didn't see any other links to websites that showed whether or not it really worked, so obviously I had to try it. Yesterday, the husband, toddler, and I did a sojourn to our not so local IKEA and I found (among many other things) some cool ceramic mugs for only 99 cents a piece. I bought two for this specific project and tried to think of what I could drawn on my skillfully crafted Swedish dishware. I had seen a mug recently that had a mustache drawn on it to comically look like the drinker was rocking said mustache. I figured what better opportunity to try and make one myself. I found a picture of one online (simple Google image search) and printed it out.
I carefully cut out the mustache and used a few very small pieces of double sided tape to stick in to the mug. I used my black Sharpie to trace the outline and then carefully fill in the color. I noticed quickly that the marker left some lighter areas where I was coloring it and the more I tried to fill it in the more marks it made.
I decided that I might be able to color over these after it had time to bake and cool and I would just try a second round (if it worked at all). Now I was also cooking corn in the oven (great way to cook corn on the cob, check out and the corn just happened to need to be cooked at the exact same temperature and amount of time as the mug. Ever the multitasker, I decided I could kill two birds with one stone.
I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes, took it out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes. I put it to the dish soap and sponge test and this is how it came out.
I wanted to fix the lighter areas as well as even out the stache so I used a regular standard Sharpie as well as a super fine Sharpie to fix it. The second layer of Sharpie went on very easily and covered over the light areas and mistakes very well. Back in the oven for another 30 minutes and a 15 minute cool down. It again passed the soapy sponge test and our final product looked like this.
I know I usually rag on pins that are only pictures, but occasionally they do work out. This would be a fun project for kids, teens, and anybody who wants to design their own ceramic ware. I suggest two coats if you are coloring in anything and only put it on the part of the dish your mouth isn't going to be touching. I don't know how this will hold up in a dishwasher yet (I plan on checking that out soon) but it does hold up to a hand washing. If you don't have an IKEA near by, Dollar Tree carries lots of ceramic dishware you could try this out on. I'm excited to try this out again very soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Challenge 29- I'd Dip that in Chocolate

We are for the most part unpacked and I was at home most of the day waiting on the AT&T guy to come back and uncluster-F the Internet and TV, so I was home with time on my hands. Earlier this morning I had been laughing at a blog post from my favorite author about an Ambien filled epiphany she had had about dipping things in ranch (its pretty funny I was inspired to dip food as well (in chocolate though, I just wasn't feeling the ranch today) and perused through my pin board to see what I could find.

Up first was Flame Free S'mores-
The first one was easy, I had all the ingredients, and its a classic. You take a pack of graham crackers, break them into single cookies, spread marshmallow cream between them, and dip them in melted chocolate. The first step is easy but can be a bit sticky trying to get the marshmallow cream on the crackers (don't go crazy putting on a ton either but I'll come back to that).

I have a Wilton Chocolate Melter Deluxe ($20 at Walmart and worth every penny) so all I had to do to melt the chocolate is turn in on and throw in the cubes of melting chocolate I bought at Albertsons. I ended up throwing in about 6 of the ice cube sized chocolate pieces and stirring them around with a silicon spatula until they were completely melted (about 8-10 minutes). You can melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler but I swear the melter is the easiest thing to use and a lot less messy and prone to user error.
With a quick dip and drag motion I covered all of the graham cracker marshmallow sandwiches and quickly put them back on the sheet of wax paper. The ones where I had gotten a little overzealous with the marshmallow cream ended up expanding out the side of the crackers and I had to wipe the side of the crackers with another silicon spatula.
They were easy and looked delicious. I made a rookie mistake and didn't put the wax paper on a tray first, so I had try and kind of slide them on the the tray and this made for a small mess and a less than attractive look for a couple of the S'mores.
I put these in the fridge to cool. I only had one sleeve of graham crackers so this yielded 18 sandwiches and I still had a bit of chocolate left. I refused to let good chocolate go to waste, so I hunted my pantry for other things I could dip in chocolate. I was out of pretzels (the next obvious choice) and nothing else sounded appealing until I saw my box of Cheerios. I had never had chocolate covered Cheerios before but it sounded pretty good. I pour in about a cup (possibly a cup and a half) of Cheerios into the pan and stirred it around until I saw most the chocolate seemed to be used up.
I pout this onto a wax paper sheet (which was already on a plate this time) and put that in the fridge to cool. The finished S'mores looked like this:
Very good and very easy. Not as good as a real S'more, don't get me wrong but in a pinch these would work great. Good for parties in the summer that don't have campfires, or when it's 103F at 9pm and you don't want to be anywhere near a fire. I expected them to be tasty and they were but the Cheerios were kind of a shot in the dark but it worked. It dried like peppermint bark and I broke it up into jagged peanut brittle like pieces. It was so yummy, the the flavor of the Cheerios and chocolate together were great and not exactly what you would expect. I have been forcing myself to not go back to the fridge to get more, because I could easily eat a the whole bowl.
Both of these were very easy (a bit time consuming) and turned out great. I'm saving my not so great chocolate dipping story for tomorrow, so you'll have to come back and check that one out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Guest Blog!!! Yeah Ms. Z-The Good, the Kinda Bad, and the Ugly

So we are officially moved into our new rental house. By moved in of course I mean all of our stuff is strewn about the house, boxes open, and all of our earthly possessions are in nonsensical locations. However, we have turned in the keys to our apartment so at least that is taken care of. Because of the move I have been unable to make any of my many pincreations for the last few days. Never fear because I have great friends I had a volunteer blogger who recreated some pins while she was on vacation in Cali the last few weeks. These are her words and pictures (with only a tiny bit of editing from me.) Enjoy!

Here's one of my pinterest attempts from this summer, and it's perfect for summer. I saw a pin about waffle ice cream sandwiches ( ) which led me to this blog of how to make cake in a waffle iron - also saw a pin for cookies made in the waffle iron. We tried this one the night after the waffle iron cakes. Here's the blog that I totally ignored but saw the photo from it -

So first the good (and easy)
Just mix a cake mix the way it says on the box and heat up the waffle iron. Spray the waffle iron right before you pour (we used Crisco butter flavor spray). The chocolate flavored waffle cakes were yummy! And without turning on the big ol' hot oven! These were very yummy and super easy!

Now - the ugly (and sorta bad):
We had pre-made cookie dough from Papa Murphy's and heated up the waffle iron. We sprayed it & scooped them on the waffle iron.
 Closed the lid & waited 2 minutes. 
More time was needed.

This is how the first two came out; broken & sad, but okay tasting. It was really hard to get these out - they just fell apart.
Here's how the last two turned out.  They came out a little easier but were a little well done. I prefer regular cookies to this. Maybe for dunking these would be perfect. Also, maybe a different dough would do better. And finally, maybe if I had read the pinterest instead of just assuming it would cook similarly to the cake waffle.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Challenge 28- Banana Bread Cake- A Pin with a Twist

I started this whole blog with an awesome banana bread recipe and I stand by it being the hands down best banana bread recipe. This recipe however is not exactly banana bread and not exactly cake, and is an adaption of a pin but unique in its own right.

The first thing you need to remember is that my family and I are moving on Thursday, which means 90% of our possessions (including my cookware and spices) are packed in boxes. I also haven't been grocery shopping in 2 weeks since I knew everything in the cabinets and fridge would need to be moved, and the less there was the better. I did however have 4 very brown bananas that were just crying to be made into something before they got too mushy and unusable. However my vanilla, cinnamon, flour, etc. had all been pack away. I remembered seeing a banana bread like recipe on Pinterest that involved yellow cake mix and I knew I had that so we were go for launch. We hit a snag in the having 3 eggs part of the recipe, but being the smart baker I am I knew I could replace eggs with applesauce in cake and bread recipes so we were still good to go. The original recipe called for chocolate chips (which surprise I didn't have) but it also said you could use nuts, and I just happened to have some sugar glazed pecans lying around (see
Preheat the oven to 350 and the mix one box of yellow cake mix, two snack containers of applesauce (or 2-3 eggs if you have them) a cup of sugar glazed pecans (or chocolate chips, or walnuts, or whatever you think will taste good), and 3-4 ripe bananas into the Kitchen Aid (or using a hand mixer). I mixed it on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the batter was wet and I didn't see any dry powder.
My loaf pan was packed away so I used my glass 9X13 casserole dish and spayed it with some butter spray (guess where my PAM is) to help keep it from sticking to the pan. I put it in for 35 minutes on the top rack for 35 minutes. Around 25 minutes I noticed the top was browning a lot but the inside wasn't done yet so I moved it to the bottom rack for the last 10 minutes.  (If you use a loaf pan you'll probably need to add more time in the oven, just check it every 5 minutes once its been in for 30 minutes to see if you toothpick or chopstick comes out clean).
I let it cool about 30 minutes before I cut it, but it was still pretty warm. The butter spray did a pretty good job keeping it from sticking too badly. I put some Cool Whip on top and it was very good light frosting for this cake.
It definitely had the flavor of banana bread but with the fluffiness of cake. It wasn't as dense like banana bread usually is, which was a nice change of pace. The pecans added some flavor but weren't over the top. I think this would have been excellent with the chocolate chips and with or without the pecans. I also ate a small piece with no Cool Whip and it was still very good. This would be great with coffee, and I think really good around Thanksgiving/Christmas. I will make this again when I have banana bread ready bananas but I'm missing some of my regular banana bread ingredients, or I'm just feeling lazy. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention and not having the right ingredients can make for a pretty tasty treat.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Challenge 27- Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas

So this was pinned off of a friend of mine and it looked delicious. However when I clicked on the image the recipe was actually for a baked chicken enchilada recipe with no mention of the crockpot what so ever (I have again been deceived by a Pinterest description, will I never learn). I decided that I could take the recipe and make it crockpot friendly (or at least try). This is the original recipe (from

1 pound boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon Seasoning for Tacos
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with taco seasoning; grill or sauté. Cut the chicken into cubes and place in a greased 8x8" baking dish; season with salt to taste. Add the enchilada sauce and toss to coat the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over the chicken and bake at 350º for 10-20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Scatter the green onions over the top.

I had everything except the green onions, which I figured were good but not essential to the recipe (my husband however disagreed).
In my version I put a crockpot liner in the crock pot (I learned my lesson from the glazed pecan mess I had to clean up last week) and added in about 1/2 cup of chicken stock and then 4 frozen chicken breasts (they were small). I sprinkled about half a pouch of taco seasoning on the chicken, about 1/2 cup of chopped red onion, then added the can of mild enchilada sauce. I cooked this in the crockpot on high for 3 hours.

After 3 hours the chicken was cooked but not so cooked that it was falling apart. I preheated the oven to 350 and placed (very carefully, the chicken was still pretty tender) the four breasts in a 8x8 casserole dish.
I spooned on about half of the sauce mix from the pot on top of the chicken and added 1 cup of shredded Fiesta blend cheese (you could add more or less depending on your love of cheese). I put foil over the top of the casserole dish (very important step) and into the oven for 20 minutes. I made a bag of boil a bag white rice to go with the chicken instead of using tortillas. After 20 minutes in the oven it came out looking like this:
These cheese melted well and really tasted great with the sauce. The chicken was still tender but was still able to be cut into instead of shredding apart like most crockpot chicken.
This recipe was really good and transitioned well into a crockpot (ok not completely crockpot) recipe. I probably could have melted the cheese in the crockpot but sometimes that is hit or miss with the flavor so I decided to use the oven. The sauce was tasty and the chicken moist but it wasn't anything remarkable. I might try this one again and cook the chicken longer in the crockpot so I can shred it and make this with shredded chicken instead. The recipe has a lot of potential and can be spiced up and added to fairly easily. The husband was a bit remiss that I didn't have green onions and next time I'll be sure to make this when I have them at my disposal. Calorie wise this is fairly low calorie and could go with black or pinto beans if you wanted to go higher protein lower carb version. All in all a great dinner recipe that takes only a few ingredients and not a whole lot of effort.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Challenge 26- Spaghetti Impaled Hot Dogs (these probably need a better name huh?)

This pin was one of those dreaded picture only pins but I figured it was a pretty simple concept and I probably couldn't do too much to screw it up.
Two simple ingredients, spaghetti noodles and hot dogs. I love these Heartland Hidden Vegetable noodles since I can't get my child anywhere near vegetables and they do taste better than whole grain spaghetti noodles. Hebrew National are also my favorite hot dog brand and these are incredibly low in calorie for a beef hot dog. You slice the hot dogs and impale them with a few spaghetti noodles while they are both still uncooked.

I used about 4 noodles and 2 hot dog slices per section, I had a few broken noodles but it wasn't difficult to do (and definitely something you could have kids help with). I started heating the water while I was making the hot dog spaghetti structures. Once the water is boiling throw them in and cook them until the noodles are cooked to your preferred texture (These took about 10 minutes for me).
Once the noodles are cooked, drain like regular pasta and put back in the pot. I sprayed these with butter spray for the toddler but they could be good with pasta sauce (or they could be awful I'm not really sure).
They were cool looking and adventurous kids might like this cool mix of two of their favorite foods. My child however is not adventurous when it comes to food and was not a huge fan. She ate the noodles but not the hot dogs. These were OK taste wise but pretty bland for adult pallets. The hot dogs were a bit dry but that may be because they were a low fat hot dog to begin with. I might try this one more time with the fattier Ballpark like franks and see if they are any better. But with the amount of work it takes to slice and impale the hot dogs I might just be more willing to boil some noodles and nuke the kid a hot dog. I was great to try once and would be fun to make if you have a kid who wants to help make dinner with you. Other than that they aren't really worth it unless your kid really loves them.