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{The Friday Yum} The Outlaw Mom(TM)’s No Bake Oreo Truffle Cake

19 Aug

For J’s birthday, I wanted to create something Oreo-ish since we were having dinner at a restaurant famed – at least in our circle – for its Oreo dessert.  I also wanted to incorporate cream cheese since J had mentioned my Gingerbread Sweeheart Mini Cakes would have been tastier with a cream cheese frosting.  With no extra time on hand and two little munchkins wrapped around my ankles, the easiest thing to do:  mix the two ingredients to make a No Bake Oreo Truffle Cake!

Ingredients

  • 1 – 3 row package of Oreo cookies
  • 1 – 8 ounce package of room temperature cream cheese
  • baking pan (or other mould) lined with cling wrap
  • chocolate chips
  • candy melts (optional)

Step 1

Throw your Oreos into the food processor and grind into a smooth, fine cookie sand.  Tip:  You can put the cookies into a ziploc bag first and pound away at them with your fist to shorten the food processing time and to work out any stress or frustration you might be harboring.

Step 2

Pour the cookie sand into a large bowl and mix the cream cheese in with a spoon until everything is well-blended.  Press the mixture into your lined baking pan (or any mould of your choosing) to form the cake.  Make sure to leave some extra cling wrap hanging over the sides.  Roll balls out of any remaining mixture to make stand-alone truffles.  Refrigerate.

Step 3

While the Oreo mixture is setting, melt your candy melts in the microwave or double boiler.

Step 4

Remove your Oreo cake from the pan by lifting it out with the cling wrap.  Line the side facing up with a layer of candy melts to form a sturdy base.  I chose white to mimic the colors of an Oreo.

Step 5

Melt your chocolate chips, then coat your cake and truffles.  Tip:  To jazz things up a bit, use chocolate or candy melts to decorate the individual truffles.  I also used heart-shaped edible gold accents.

Happy Baking!
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The Outlaw Mom’s Gingerbread Sweetheart Mini Cakes and Cake Balls

21 Jul

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E & C are getting married!

To celebrate, Jane and I made them Gingerbread Sweetheart Cakes.

These sweet little cakes would be perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day, a birthday or an anniversary, too!

Ingredients

  • gingerbread cake (from scratch or mix)
  • almond buttercream frosting (or cream cheese frosting)
  • fondant
  • candy melts (or white chocolate)
  • heart-shaped cookie cutter

Step 1

Follow my cake pop tutorial to combine your gingerbread cake and my favorite buttercream frosting (or any vanilla frosting) into cake pop mix.  Instead of using all of the mix to create cake balls, form and flatten three or four palm-sized balls of the mix and use a cookie cutter to cut out heart-shaped cakes.  With the remainder of the mix, form your standard cake balls used for making cake pops.

Step 2

While your mini cakes and cake balls are chilling in the refrigerator, roll out and cut your fondant using the same cookie cutter from Step 1.  (If you dislike the taste of fondant, you could substitute the fondant with marzipan or leave it out completely and stick with the buttercream or cream cheese frosting).  You can also cut out any other decorative shapes now.

Step 3

Attach the fondant heart cutouts to the mini cakes with a generous layer of frosting.  I used my favorite buttercream frosting, but substituted the vanilla extract with almond extract for a more exciting flavor against the warm and spicy gingerbread.

Step 4

Turn your cakes upside down and spread a layer of melted candy melts to the entire base of each cake.  This will give the cake a more solid surface to sit on and also add another sugar kick to the overall taste of the cakes.  You could always substitute white chocolate for the candy melts, but keep in mind that if the weather is warm, the chocolate will melt or sweat, while the candy melt will stay put longer.

Step 5

After your cakes have been chilled and the candy melt bases have dried, start decorating!  For fun, I decorated the cake balls with Xs and Os, attached with a candy melt base.  Again, you could substitute chocolate for the candy melts.

Happy Baking!  And Long Live Love!

Salt Dough Hand Prints

28 Jun

Inspired by these salt dough footprint keepsakes from The Imagination Tree, we made these salt dough handprints as one of Hubby’s Father’s Day presents:

We followed The Imagination Tree’s tutorial, so I won’t re-post it here, but will just say that it is oh-so-fun for the kids to mix and knead the dough and make the prints.

You can paint yours, but Jane and Sam were so delighted with the unpainted versions, that we still haven’t gotten around to it!

Read here for how we packaged them and to see the Truffle Brownie S’More Pops we made for Hubby on Father’s Day.

Birthdays Are Forever: Free Special Agent Oso Birthday Party Invitation Printable

26 Jun

How could I have been so remiss?  I posted all the details about our Special Agent Oso birthday party, but neglected to post our invitation!

Here it is:

Better late than never!  Download a free printable invitation to personalize for your own little special agent’s celebration here.   Just change the font to Cooper Black and you’re ready to go!

Pirate Themed Birthday Party

12 Jun

Ahoy there, Mateys!

You’ve read about my inspiration for Sam’s pirate themed first birthday party and how to make your own pirate party invitation – now here’s how our party turned out and some ideas for your buccaneer bash.

The Pirate Ship

From the second I came up with the idea for the pirate theme, I became obsessed with building a life-sized pirate ship for our partygoers to play in.

If you’ve been following on Facebook, you know that I even resorted to the extreme of dumpster diving in the parking lot of Michael’s for cardboard boxes.

After harassing every shipping department from Sears to Safeway for refrigerator or washer/dryer sized boxes, I ended up purchasing 5 grand wardrobe boxes from U-Haul.  The plans I downloaded from Mr. McGroovy called for 7 boxes, but it was hassle enough for me to maneuver the five I had, so I figured we could make do and be creative about it.

The $23 I spent on the plans and Mr. McGroovy’s rivet project kit were so worth it.  The plans were easy to follow and the rivets made building and taking down the ship – literally – a snap.  The great thing about the rivets is that you can re-use and rebuild your project over and over again.

We cut the cardboard pieces for the ship walls at home two days before the party and decorated the cardboard cutouts the evening before and the morning of the party when Hubby and Uncle B set up the ship at the park.

Jane had a blast painting and setting up the ship:

Hubby and Uncle B (dressed as a pirate) finished building the ship just as the guests began to arrive:

We spray painted the outer hull of the ship with black chalkboard paint with the idea that the kids could draw on the ship as a party activity.  For the inside, we kept it bright and cheery in playful preschool colors.  We also added some chalkboard contact paper to a few inside walls for the children to draw on.

The finished ship:

The net and bamboo pole masts with pirate flags – Grandma’s ideas – were the finishing touches.  I couldn’t find any starfish or other sea creatures to attach to the net, so we ended up using those toy animals that soak in water for 72 hours and grow 6 times their original size.  Of course, after Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides was released, pirate party paraphernalia showed up everywhere!

The Treasure Chest Cake

What I really wanted to do was this amazing cake by The Willow Blog.  But since we designed, created and decorated the cake the night before the party, we changed the concept to an old sea-weathered treasure chest.  I say “we,” because this cake was truly a family effort with Grandma, Granny, Hubby, and Uncle B all involved into the wee hours of the evening.

Here’s how we did it:

Construction

After stacking two rectangles of sheet cake, I did a crumb coat using my favorite buttercream frosting.  Then Grandma fashioned the top lid of the chest with a curved piece of cardboard and not-to-be-overlooked outstanding architectural and design direction from Hubby and Uncle B.  We covered the lid with aluminum foil and placed a few squares of leftover sheet cake under the lid at the back of the rectangular base to prop it up.  Another layer of buttercream frosting over the lid and back of the cake sealed the lid to the base.

Decoration

Using Wilton gel icing color in brown, I mixed a dark brown frosting to cover the entire base of the cake.  To cover the lid, I pressed on dark brown fondant, and then placed light brown fondant around the base for a decorative trim that would help outline the shape of the treasure chest.  Silver, gold and white Wilton shimmer dust added a pearlized, dusty effect proper for a glistening treasure chest washed ashore.

The fun part came next:  I rolled several small fondant balls of varying sizes to make pearls and then covered them with pink Wilton pearl dust and the white Wilton shimmer dust.  If you’re wondering about the difference between pearl and shimmer dust, the pearl dust is much sparklier – so of course I preferred it!  I placed the glistening pearls in strands along the two sides of the chest so they would appear to be spilling out.  Note:  the homemade marshmallow fondant from The Frosted Cake and Cookie that I was so excited to work with didn’t work out so I opted for pre-made fondant.  (I might try it again because of the rave reviews, including praise from SugarBelle, and because it was the most fun to mold and shape).

Finally, I stuffed the cake with as many chocolate gold coins (correctly pointed out to me as “doubloons” by Jane) as I could fit to achieve a stuffed, overflowing look.

We carried the cake to the park the next morning on a homemade cake board (cardboard covered with aluminum foil) and decorated it during the party.  To create the beach, I poured light brown sugar around the sides of the cake and added some blue frosting for a bit of “ocean.”  Then I added a sea of gold coins in the remaining space in front of the bit of ocean and on the sand.

We ended up never cutting the cake at the party!  (See The Birthday Boy below).  But the kids were treated to cupcakes decorated with buttercream frosting, M&Ms and cute pirate cupcake toppers from Meri Meri.

The Fare

We offered a pared down version of the menu for Jane’s Special Agent Oso themed birthday party:  bagels, cream cheese coffee and juice.  We also offered personal organic watermelons, carved out with a melon baller and re-filled with watermelon balls, strawberries and grapes.

Inspired by all the beautiful dessert tables showcased around the blogosphere lately, we topped the tables with glass containers filled with rainbow Goldfish crackers, black and red M&Ms, Swedish Fish and  RedVines to go along with the black and red pirate theme.

{What I wouldn’t give for a beautiful “blog worthy” shot of a lineup of our yummy containers!}

These Swedish Fish in blue jello technically were edible, but we just used them as decoration.

We followed Chica and Jo’s advice on mixing the blue Jello with clear gelatin, which worked, but the “water” was still a bit dark.  If you’re going to make these, be aware that the Swedish Fish will blow up into Swedish whales if you make them too far in advance!

The Favors

Jane helped make these jewel encrusted treasure chests out of styrofoam boxes we picked up for pennies at a nearby pharmacy’s going out of business sale:

We simply painted the chests and then glued on jewels.  A word of advice:  don’t use Gorilla Glue!  I had it on hand and was too lazy to search for our other kid safe glue and it foams and poofs up, which makes for a tight, but funny looking, bond.

We had planned to put foam pirate swords (similar to this), bubble wands and pirate teddy bears in the decorated chests for our toddler guests to find on a treasure hunt, but you know toddlers . . . the second they saw the treasure there was no keeping them away!  It was much better this way, though – the kids enjoyed sword fights and blowing bubbles from the get go.

Jane also made these great homemade telescopes that we passed out as another pirate prop to play with.

We planned to give out these little pirate booty bags with sticker, chocolate coin and temporary tattoo loot that Granny put together, but never got around to it:

The Birthday Boy

Did Sam enjoy his party, you ask?  So much so that he snoozed under the trees.

Since he was sleeping during the party, we took the uncut treasure chest cake home and saved it for a celebration at home later the next evening.

Hope your pirate party turns out to be a swashbuckling success!

Rolled Treasure Map Pirate Party Invitation

31 May

Inspired by this, the first thing I did to prepare for Sam’s pirate themed birthday party was to decide on the cake.  After debating a pirate ship, a pirate face or a message in a bottle cake, I  finally settled on a treasure chest.  A treasure map invitation was a natural complement to the cake theme.

Building on my mother’s coffee paper staining technique we used for my own childhood projects, here’s how I made these fun rolled treasure map invitations for Sam’s party:

Materials

  • printer paper
  • pirate fonts and images (downloadable here)
  • tea bags (one tea bag will cover about 3 invitations)
  • hot water
  • raffia (or other string)

Step 1

Download these great free pirate fonts and images from FontSpace if you don’t already have some of your own.  I used Rapscallion (Ryan Splint) and Treasure Map Deadhand (GemFonts).  Make sure you play around with all of the letters, numbers and symbols, plus use the shift and control keys, so you have access to the jolly roger and other pirate images available.

Step 2

Decide on the pirate language for your invitation.  I drew inspiration from these pirate lingo resources:  The Pirate’s Realm and Language Realm.

Then print out the invitations.  Remember to print out extras in case you rip or burn a few copies during Steps 3 or 4.

Step 3

Get your tea bags, hot water and printed invitations ready.

Dip a tea bag in the hot water and either wipe the paper with the bag or firmly press the bag into the paper.  I preferred pressing the tea bags into the invitation so that the color came out nice and dark.

Note:  the color fades a few shades when the paper dries.  Also, if you drag the tea bags with too much pressure, the bags will rip.

Step 4

Once the invitations are dry, crumple and crinkle the paper as much as you like.  (It looks even better when you do this step when the paper is wet, but it’s much more time consuming since you have to be meticulous about not ripping the paper).

For a really authentic look and feel, burn the edges of the paper.  I tried this for the first few invitations, but after nearly burning the house down, I abandoned the idea.

Step 5

Roll the finished invitations and tie them with natural or brown raffia.

A few things to think about when making your invitations:

  1. Make sure to build drying time in to your schedule.
  2. A fun variation would be to create an actual map using well-known landmarks and an X to mark the spot of the party.
  3. You could hand deliver your invitations in a bottle filled with sand and seashells.
  4. If you mail the invitations in an envelope, they will flatten out somewhat in the mailing process.

An invitation in a bottle like this one from Chica and Jo would have been totally cool, but since I needed to mail out the invitations and wanted to avoid having them opened for inspection by an over-zealous postal worker, I opted to stuff our homemade treasure map invitations into manila envelopes.  To spruce things up, I sealed the envelopes with a skull and crossbones sticker and added a jolly roger image to the clear mailing address labels.

That didn’t mean Jane didn’t have a sticky good time trying to tape up some bottles in case we used a few for party decorations.

Did I say tape up a bottle?

{Don’t let your toddler try the self-taping technique at home …  you’ll need a lot of olive oil and some vaseline to peel off the tape without the ouch factor}

If you don’t have the time or patience to create your own pirate party invitation, don’t despair – download The Outlaw Mom’s Free Pirate Party Invitation Printable here

Yo ho ho.
lil luna link party button

Confetti Cake Pops and Easy Ribbon Box

6 May

Since my first shot at the cake pop, I’ve been busy trying to perfect my technique.  I took my own advice on this attempt and chose white candy melts to make the spring confetti really pop.

The lifesaver this time around:  disposable candy melt bags.  I’m never making cake pops again without this handy dandy device!  You can melt and decorate so easily and with virtually no mess.  The double-boiler method would still probably give you the best results because it keeps the candy melts at an even temperature for a prolonged period of time, but my life is all about shortcuts these days.

For a fun spring birthday theme, I tried three different pastel confetti designs:

(1) all over confetti

(2) confetti dots

and (3) an ice cream look (covering only the top of the pop)

These were a birthday gift for a friend, so I needed a portable presentation.  A beribboned styrofoam block (using colored tacks) worked out perfectly.  A few tied ribbons on the cake pop sticks and a rectangular piece of cardstock used as a gift tag completed the present.

The Rise of Spring: Easter Craft & Baking Recap

28 Apr

I’ve always looked forward to back-to-school sales in early August, which mark the imminent start of the school year ahead.  New academic apparel means Halloween – the first official “holiday” of Fall – is around the corner, with Thanksgiving soon to follow, and Christmas rounding out the holiday season in early Winter.

This trio of festivities continually make Fall my favorite season with all the crafting, baking and planning involved for each occasion.

And of course, Fall wildly surpasses all other fashion seasons.  Autumn collections deliver, with bold classics for the serious fashionista.  Spring and Summer looks, on the other hand, tend to fall short.  They’re so full of – well – frivolous frippery, if you will.  Yes, platform sandals and gauzy blouses get my heart in a tizzy, but after the thrill of neon brights and florals wears off, you’re just left with a few flimsy pieces.

The same it was – I thought – for spring and summer crafting and baking.

I never thought I would say this, but I think Spring may be nudging out Fall as my favorite season.

Maybe having kids has gotten me all soft.  But it seems that my yearning for mellow autumn days of melancholy sunlight and the chill of winter solitude has been replaced by a fondness for chirpy chicks, fuzzy bunnies, bright pastels and the zippity-do-da of Spring.  Could it be that I’m ready to drop my teen angst at the ripe old age of 35?

With peppy springtime projects like candy-filled eggs, confetti cake pops, painted puppet boxes, sprinkled cookies and paper mache eggs, I just might be.

Candy-Filled Easter Eggs

All the cracking, bashing and crunching made these by far and away the most exciting springtime activity for the kids!  They also make a gorgeous hostess gift, too.

Materials:

  • eggs (white eggs will take color better than brown, but you can do a few uncolored, brown eggs for variety – I even did some white uncolored eggs)
  • vinegar
  • hot water
  • McCormick food and egg dye in the regular and neon colors (a fun – and much faster – alternative to dyeing the eggs is simply decorating with markers or stickers)
  • a non-metal container
  • mini cupcake paper/foil baking cups
  • glue

Instructions:

For detailed step-by-step instructions, see not martha‘s excellent tutorial for Easter Surprise Eggs here.

I followed the color recipe exactly because her eggs turned out so strikingly beautiful, but the only recipe that developed into a similar color to hers was the blue – and still it wasn’t quite as robin’s egg/turquoise in color.

The Outlaw Mom’s Tips:

  • If you agitate the eggs, you’ll get splotchy color, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, Hubby and Grandma’s favorite egg was the one that turned out the most speckly.

  • If you use just-boiled water and highly acidic vinegar (like I did), when you drop your egg into the coloring solution, it will spin and fizz like crazy on its own, which creates the speckled effect.
  • Although most blogs advise not to move your eggs around, I found that dipping the eggs once for an initial coat, and then dipping additional times to increase the color intensity worked better than when I tried the recommended method of letting the eggs sit in the solution and then rotating halfway during the coloring time.  Submerging the entire egg or leaving the egg floating on top of the solution didn’t seem to make a difference (except that if you leave the egg floating on top, you’ll have to rotate four times – quarter turns).

  • When taking the eggs out of the boiling water during sterilization or the just-boiled water for the solution, do not lift the egg out completely vertically so that the boiling hot water drips down on to your finger!  Try a more horizontal angle.
  • Try an eggs inside of eggs look.  I chose Cadbury Mini Eggs as the main candy,  Marich Mint Chip Maltballs to go along with the speckled theme, and Jelly Belly Ice Cream Parlor  jelly beans for more of the speckled egg look.  Sconza Dark Chocolate Raisins finished out the mix.

  • Use mini-cupcake baking cups to seal your eggs.  Stickers don’t fold around the jagged opening as well.  I used polka-dot mini-cupcake paper baking cups for all the colors except the blue eggs, which I sealed with silver foil cups.

  • Present the eggs in a clear tin for a pretty and practical way of transporting this gift.  Alternate the eggs with layers of paper Easter grass.

I think we’ll be making these for other occasions, too.  I see Fourth of July flag eggs, pumpkin eggs, Santa eggs . . . the cracking is irresistible fun!

Confetti Cake Pops & Ribbon Box

Since my first shot at the cake pop, I’ve been busy trying to perfect my technique.  I took my own advice on this attempt and chose white candy melts to make the spring confetti really pop.

The lifesaver this time around:  disposable candy melt bags.  I’m never making cake pops again without this handy dandy device!  You can melt and decorate so easily and with virtually no mess.  The double-boiler method would still probably give you the best results because it keeps the candy melts at an even temperature for a prolonged period of time, but my life is all about shortcuts these days.

For a fun spring birthday theme, I tried three different pastel confetti designs:

(1) all over confetti

(2) confetti dots

and (3) an ice cream look (covering only the top of the pop)

These were a birthday gift for a friend, so I needed a portable presentation.  A beribboned styrofoam block (using colored tacks) worked out perfectly.  A few tied ribbons on the cake pop sticks and a rectangular piece of cardstock used as a gift tag completed the present.

Wooden Spring/Easter Puppet Baskets

To make these springtime baskets – which make great children’s gifts – you’ll need:

  • wooden baskets (ours were $1 from Michael’s)
  • paint suitable for wood surfaces + a paintbrush
  • stickers
  • felt for the puppets (or buy pre-made felt puppets)
  • lollipop sticks (even a pencil will do – you just need something to prop up the puppet)

First, have your toddler paint the undecorated wooden baskets.  Let the paint dry overnight.

Then, decorate the painted boxes with stickers.

Finally, make your felt puppets or take your store bought ones and prop them up on a lollipop stick.  The easiest gift and super cute, too!

Easter Egg Sprinkle Cookies

These hard, cardboard-tasting “Ideal Sugar Cookies” were a total bust!  A little embarrassing because I gifted these to one of my friends, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?  And they’re oh-so-pretty to look at.

The recipe was fine, but I doubled the butter and then tried to correct it by adding more of all the other ingredients and it just didn’t work. Of course, I used my favorite buttercream frosting, so licking off the sprinkled frosting was delicious!

“Paper Mache” Plastic Eggs

This is one project I couldn’t finish in time for Easter, but now that we have literally dozens of plastic Easter eggs littering our living room floor, I’m going to continue with the project anyway.  I only got so far as one egg, but the results are very cool.  Check out Sweeter than Sweets’ Tissue Paper Easter Eggs tutorial here.

Happy Spring baking and crafting!

Inspiration for a Pirate Themed Birthday Party

12 Apr

After a few months of brainstorming, I finally picked a theme for Sam’s first birthday party last week:  pirates!

While I was mulling it over, the first obvious choice was a character-themed party from one of the television shows he watches.

Yes, American Academy of Pediatrics – my not yet one-year old son watches television!  The shock and horror, I know, I know.  Not only that, but his first words were “Go . . . go Go” (Nick’s Go Diego Go) and “…clap…clap” (Disney’s Little Einsteins).

But I couldn’t pick an Elmo-themed party because Elmo was Jane’s first love.  And a Super Why! party would be treading dangerously close to Jane’s territory, too.  Plus, we just had a character party for Jane (Special Agent Oso) and I’m not really in the mood for another one.  Hmmm . . .

Arrgh!  That’s it!  A pirate theme!

From left to right:

  1. This book is permanently wedged in between the kids’ car seats for guaranteed entertainment and tantrum-taming in the car.  (Nowww, pat clap, pat clap, pat clap!)
  2. The pirate theme hadn’t gelled yet when I drove past this giant billboard, but it managed to make an impression.
  3. I picked up this pirate’s hat, the sword and children’s costumes for 80% off at a post-Halloween sale last year.
  4. One random midday nanny check, I popped in to see the kids watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on Playhouse Disney, which they’ve never watched with me.  (No wonder Jane’s been greeting me with “Ahoy there, Matey!” and “Aaargh!” when I come home from work).
  5. Tiny Prints was having a sale on gift tags just after Christmas, so I bought all of our Christmas gift tags a year in advance and saw this one for Sam and had to pick it up, too.  (I do love a good sale!  See No. 3 above).
  6. I also picked up these matching personalized cards and address labels for Sam – on sale of course.
  7. After I burned the parchment paper from my Crunchy Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies baking experiment and saw that it resembled an old treasure map, the lightbulb went off!

Now, time to get planning . . .

Easy Handpainted Wrapping Paper

23 Feb

Jane loves to paint, so we decided to create a specially designed, one-of-a-kind art piece for Hubby’s birthday wrapping paper.  This is just as easy as the simplest homemade wrapping paper we made for my Valentine’s Day present to myself, but a little messier.  And, the results are a lot splashier!

First, we headed to the easel and painted over our existing crayon drawings.

Then, we set Jane’s painting aside to dry.

Another masterpiece

Finally, we wrapped Hubby’s present and voila:

A gift beautifully wrapped in vibrant Matisse-like handpainted paper!  Hubby kept the paper instead of throwing it out, so I know we had a hit.

We also made Hubby this handmade card and cardholder from specialty cardstock:

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