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.