Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spiderman Birthday Cake Tutorial

My little guy just turned 4 and he loves Spiderman! We think this is pretty funny because he hasn't seen the movie, just some old cartoons and we've read books with him. For some reason, he has just latched onto the idea of all things Spiderman. He informed me over a month ago that he needed a Spiderman cake and I briefly considered just baking up a 9X13 cake and decorating it with a web. Lucky for him, my creative streak took over.

I bought a G.I. Joe cake pan at a thrift store last year, so I thought, hey, I can make this work.

I whipped up a batch of buttercream icing and did my best to tint it red and blue. It is really hard to get a true red, even using the nice Wilton paste food colors. I'd recommend picking up a ready-made tube of red icing at the store, which is what I did for the black icing.
Now I'm showing you this because I want you to see that you don't have to have a Spiderman pan or even a G.I. Joe pan to make this work. Looking at a picture of Spidey, I began outlining in red.
Next, I filled in with blue using the star tip and I was moving fast, so these are not perfect. Not a wedding cake--just a Spiderman cake for a 4 year old. :)

You can see how Spiderman took shape nicely. One key tip I will share on cake decorating is the importance of outlining. OUTLINING makes your image pop and changes a quick decorating job into something snazzy!
My little men were so excited when they saw the cake in progress! See those bottled tomatoes? Now you know why I was in a hurry to get the cake done before the party.

And here you go. With the black icing, Spidey came alive.

Now, if you're a cake decorating judge, you're going to notice the flaws, but I'm telling you that everyone in my family thought this cake was amazing and that Spiderman looked great.

My four-year-old was shaking he was so excited. Yep, he has a cool Mom (buffs nails on my arm).
With a few simple cake decorating tools, you can create wonderfully tasty cakes for your family too!

I love Wilton products and their website has tons of cool tips.
Do you have a birthday party coming up? You can spend $20-$30 on a store-bought cake with their 3 inches of frosting...or try your hand at creating one of your own.

DIY Birthday Cake Savings

Cake Mix = $1.59
Buttercream Icing Ingredients = $ .75
Store-bought black icing = $2.25
Thrift store cake pan = $2.00
Food coloring (I already have, really hard to figure out cost per cake, but I'll guestimate) = $ .15
Simple piping bag with 3 tips set = $4.00

Total for homemade Spidey cake = $10.74  OR if you already have the cake decorating tips/food coloring it's only $6.59

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Carrot Creatures

 For this gardening post, I get to share our famous carrot creature!

 This is what happens when you don't thin your carrots properly. Yes, I'm guilty of that this year, but you must admit, the consequence was quite fun in this case!

Meet the Octopus carrot. . .
Photos courtesy of 9yo Miss G, who was thrilled about this carrot!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fresh Salsa to Die For

 We've been making this salsa about once a week at our house and it disappears so fast!
 Fresh Salsa by Rachelle at
4-5 Roma Tomatoes, or mix & match with tomato varieties you like
1 Green Pepper
2 Anaheim Peppers or toss in another green pepper
2 Jalapeno Peppers--remove the seeds from 1 of the peppers
1 onion-medium sized
1 tsp. Cumin
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Garlic clove
2 tsp. Lime juice
1-2 tsp. salt

Throw everything in the blender--tomatoes first. If you have a high-powered blender or BlendTec then you don't need to chop anything, just toss it in. Pulse to desired consistency.
Enjoy! This salsa isn't super burn-your-face-off hot, but it has a nice zip. My kids still think it's too hot, but I think it's just right to keep you salivating for more.
You'll note from the pictures that my salsa isn't very red--this is because I blend all the ingredients together. If you want yours to look red, then you could try blending separately or chopping. We really like the texture of this salsa. I could drink it folks--it's so good!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beautiful Roses in the Fall

As a wedding planner, I've smelled a rose or two but life never seems to slow down! I love this time of year and the roses in front of my shop are still blooming. Here's a few tips to help you enjoy those flowers of romance a bit longer.

Deadheading roses--If you aren't out trimming them for glorious bouquets then you need to keep up with deadheading your roses. Once the bud is spent, wilted, petals are falling off, go ahead and clip that rose off. Take your little hand pruners and find a shoot of leaves that has 5 leaves--Count them, there will be 5--cut the stem right below the first grouping of 5 leaves. This prevents the plant from expending energy into the preservation of that particular blossom and it also helps with insect control.

Clusters of blooms--How to deadhead?
If you have an antique rose or other variety that blooms in clusters, you can't identify the true leaf or group of 5 leaves. In this case, it is best to concentrate on removing the spent blooms, pruning the plant to encourage the best production.

Check for insects--When you are out in your rose garden, trimming or smelling, turn over a few leaves and examine them for presence of insects. Some roses have problems with white mealy flies, aphids, and other small insects. Sometimes spraying them with water will dislodge the critters but other times you'll need to rejuvenate your soil, overall rose health or use a spray for the pests.

These tips will keep your roses producing throughout the season. Most important, IMO, if you don't stay up on deadheading, the blooms will diminish. This has been a busy summer for Pyper's Dream Weddings and my roses have seen some neglect, but even with the little bit I've been able to do they are still blooming for me.
So, stop and smell the roses, but remember to deadhead too!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Best Homemade Pizza Ever

My family loves pizza, as do most families, and with the economic crunch maybe you're looking for ways to still enjoy your favorites but pinch a few pennies at the same time.

Have you decided maybe you can't afford to grab a pizza every week or every month like you're used to? No reason to stop enjoying what you love when you can make it yourself!

Now, I've tried lots of homemade pizza recipes and what I usually found was that although the crust was tasty, it was oftentimes too thick and bread-y. And we always had the problem with keeping our supreme pizzas from being soggy from all the water off the vegetables. Well, we've solved that problem and have been enjoying homemade pizza using this recipe for the past three years!

The secret to success for us was to roll our crust out thin. It raises, but we still like it on the thin side because it doesn't go soggy and pizza is wonderful for leftovers. The other secret is the high heat * You must bake at a high heat to have success. I recommend baking at 500 degrees or higher if you're using lots of fresh vegetables. This cooks it up perfect and the moisture from the vegetables doesn't make your pizza soggy.

I'm so nice I'm going to share my recipe with you. This is a combination of several different recipes we tried, then my husband and I did a little tweaking and perfecting to get it just right. So here goes....follow the recipe and have fun! I make 2 pizzas and breadsticks with sauce for around $5.00--could be less depending on what toppings you choose to use.

Best Homemade Pizza Ever!!
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Combine and let sit for 1 hour. I like to double the sauce recipe so that I can have extra sauce for dipping breadsticks later!
Dough: Increase a little bit to have enough for breadsticks and 2 large pizzas or make 1 1/2 times the recipe
1 1/3 cups warm water (105 degrees F)
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for dough)
9 ounces vegetable oil (3 ounces per pan)
Butter-flavored Pam
Put yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk in a large bowl. Add water and stir to mix well. Allow to sit for two minutes.
Add oil and stir again. Add flour and stir until dough forms and flour is absorbed. Turn out on to a flat surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Divide dough into three balls.

 Put 3 ounces of oil in each of three 9-inch cake pans, making sure it is spread evenly. *But I use my Pampered Chef stones. I use a large bar pan and a 15 inch circle stone to cook two pizzas, then I use my 12X15 rectangle stone to make the breadsticks. Using a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball to about a 9-inch circle. Place in cake pans. Spray the outer edge of dough with Pam. Cover with a plate. Place in warm area and allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
For each 9-inch pizza
Heat oven to 475 degrees F. Cook at 500 degrees if using lots of vegetables
Spoon 1/3 cup sauce on dough and spread to within 1 inch of edge.
Distribute 1 1/2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese on sauce.
Place toppings of your choice in this order: Pepperoni or ham, vegetables, meats (cooked ground sausage or beef)
Top with 3 ounces mozzarella cheese.
Cook until cheese is bubbling and outer crust is brown. Cut into slices.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kitchen Tip: How to Keep Water from Boiling Over

How to keep the water from boiling over when you're cooking pasta.

Simple! Just add one tablespoon of olive oil (or oil of your preference) to boiling water. Stir in with pasta. That's it!
Now, whenever I cook pasta, I set the time and walk away. I don't have to worry about messy spills or pasta water burning on my stove. Yee-haw!