Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adventures in gluten free cooking... the good, the bad, and the ugly....

The bad......  So I decided to modify a recipe that we used to eat like gang busters around here...  a baked taco casserole thingy...  Basically uses biscuits for a base, then all the taco fixin's {yes, I said fixin's} on top.  I used my Gluten Free Bisquik {which has never failed me before} for the base...  What I did:  mixed up enough for a batch of biscuits and just pressed it into the pan.  Topped it with cooked ingredients, and baked.... What I should have done:  Made the pizza crust version which is much thinner, and requires pre-cooking.  Why:  The biscuit style crust was dense yet crumbly and wet at the same time...   hard to imagine, but that's the best way I can describe it.  It turned out super pretty, but went straight into the trash after I began to eat it...  All 9 x 13 inches of it...  Gluten free cooking fail....

See...... isn't it pretty???  But yah............ no...... el-yucko.....

The Good {and the Ugly}...  This cake was supposed to be of those imperfect smoosh unfinished cakes that you see on pinterest, all pretty and rustic looking.  However, my finished product was not so photogenic.  Some might say, a bit on the ugly side...  However, let me tell you about the taste.  It is a combination of several recipes that I put together.  I would describe it as a perfect summertime savory tropical cake.  Now you might not think that tropical and savory go together, but the cream cheese in the frosting and the fresh limes {given to me from a sweet friend grown in her own back yard} just really give it a savory feel.  The cake and the frosting are not too sweet, just sweet enough.  But very rich, I might add.  It would be a perfect cake for a brunch dessert or an afternoon treat for any guests that might need a gluten free dessert.  Disclaimer:  One must like the taste of lime and coconut in order to truly appreciate this cake...  it is not a sweet buttercream dream.... 

The cake base: {For a better tasting and super moist Gluten Free cake from a box}
1 package of Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup lemon lime soda
1 (3.4 oz) package instant coconut cream pudding mix
In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix, then stir in the oil.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the soda.  Pour batter into greased and {GF} floured pan (you can use two separate pans, or cut thicker cake in half when cooled.  You might need to add 10 minutes cooking time for thicker cakes) and bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes.  Center of the cake should come out clean with your cake tester of choice.  Allow to cool. 

The filling/ topping: {Adapted from Cool Lime Colada, Pampered Chef}
2 limes
1 x 8oz package of cream cheese, softened. {I used whipped}
1 cup cold milk
1 package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling {or coconut if you are so inclined}
1 cup thawed frozen whipped topping {Cool Whip worked well}
Assorted fresh fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, peaches, mango, you get the gist....
2 TBS toasted flaked coconut {optional}
Zest limes to measure 2 teaspoons zest.  Juice limes to measure 1/4 cup juice.  Beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually beat in milk, a small amount at a time, until well blended.  Add pudding mix, beat 1 minute.  Whisk in zest and juice.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread half of the pudding mixture evenly over bottom cake layer.  Top with remaining cake layer and pudding mixture.  Top with sliced fresh fruit of your choice and sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Refrigerate any leftovers.  {I also made my topping ahead of time, and refrigerated it until my cake was cool - added to the fluffy and thick texture of it...}

I really like this cake for a summery yum.  I have no idea if it would freeze well or not, but I suspect without the fruit it might be fine.  I really liked the taste of kiwi's on this cake, next time I will put twice as many on top.... 

Well, I hope you are inspired to try to modify some of your old favorites to suit your new Gluten Free lifestyle.  Happy cooking!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Egg-stra inexpensive home decor...

So I was at my favorite little boutique recently, and saw the cutest little altered egg crate decor pieces...  They only wanted around $10 for the item, but I knew that I had everything at home to make it...  While brainstorming with friends for our upcoming season's church group centerpieces, these came to mind.  So I got to work trying to replicate what I had seen, and low and behold... it was easy-peasy and super farmhousey...

It goes very well with the "bless this nest" frame I made a while back...  This project was basically free, using the items in my crafty stash...  Dictionary paper, Mod Podge, distress ink, picture frame wire, crimped and shredded brown paper, cardboard egg crate, cute ribbon...  I used blown out real eggs that I was saving to make those confetti eggs, but just never got around to them... but you could use plastic eggs as well I guess.  I just cut the paper into strips, Mod Podged them onto my eggs, placed the eggs on top of bottles to dry them, and inked them.  I am not a super fast Mod Podger, so it took me almost 2 hours for all 6 eggs, about 20 minutes an egg.  I cut apart the egg crate, filled with the paper, added the wire to the top to look like a basket handle, finished off with ribbon.  That's it, so easy!  Now I just have to make 7 more for our church table decor, but they will be with music paper instead of book print.  We will most likely glue everything down and use stronger wire for greater durability...  so that's a lot of Mod Podging in my near future... lol...  sticky fingers coming up ;-)    

Happy Crafting!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Doin' laundry... well.... kinda....

I had ordered a birch wood alpha bet set from etsy about a year ago, with the plan of having a trendy alpha bet wall somewhere in this rental house... Except that my kids are going into 5th grade and are pretty much video game fanatics.... so that idea seems a bit juvenile at the moment.  What to do with the alphas.... Well, I sat down and wrote out all of the words that I could make with just one of every letter...  My boys don't have much on the walls of their bedroom {shocking, I know...}.  And I figured hanging 26 alpha's might prove challenging in a rental home.

So I decided to make a sign for the boys room, first word I am working with is "grow".  I didn't have any fabric to match their room, but I did have a pile of clothing in the give-away box.  So I rummaged through, and found a couple of shirts that would work nicely.  I grabbed some cardboard from past science fair projects {that I saved solely for the purpose of upcycling that cardboard}.

Here's what I started with:

Here's the finished project:

I was a bit frustrated when cutting the fabric, that I wasn't going to have enough to avoid the buttons and pocket area.  However, I think those embellishments really add something to it, and I really like the outgrown clothing for the "grow" theme.  I used Fabric-tac to hold the whole thing together.  I find that it works well on fabric - but also on cardboard, and smooth raw wood surfaces.  I piled books on this thing to let it dry flat and keep it together overnight, since cardboard has a tendency to curl or arc.  

I am planning a whole wall of word faux canvases for their room, so maybe dream next.  {Naturally, I will have to buy more letters}.  But wouldn't it be fun to use an old rock concert t-shirt or Star Wars shirt or something along that lines for a "dream" themed canvas?  Yep, I think I am on to something here ;-)

Don't be afraid to look at what you have on hand, and what you are willing to purge.  When you are willing to get rid of it, you might be willing to tear it apart, and make it into something even better....

Happy Crafting!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pool, clean, craft, repeat....

Summer in Texas....  it is still hard for me to spend time outdoors unless it is at the pool...  so we have been spending loads of time venturing out trying new pools...  I still find it hard to sit around {or 'relax' as other's would refer to it} for hours while the kids are in the pool.  I think of all the things I could be doing, cleaning, or crafting.... but there is plenty of time for it all during the summer.

This week, we were at one of our favorite spots - Veteran's Memorial Pool.  Jake's favorite spot is the rope/ floaty obstacle course...  He must have spent over an hour on that thing...  We really must have one of these if we ever have a pool here in TX....  MUST!!!

We really enjoyed a quite, simple, family 4th of July at home this year.  I put some wild flowers in the jars that I made, put out a spread for an ice cream party, gathered some activities in a basket to keep my little dudes busy {coffee sacks for races, croquet, chalk, etc..}, and my hubby made me a special surf and turf dinner... It was just us, super simple, and super fun!  We live outside the city limits so we were able to light off tons of beautiful fire works - with our hose, bucket of water, and fire extinguisher nearby of course!

I snuck {yes, I prefer snuck to sneaked} in some crafty time.  I have collected vintage bottles for years, and I was able to cut some burlap with my scallop Spellbinders and make cute layered flowers.  I added some vintage jewelry and findings, and I am super happy with the results...  They charge an arm and a leg for these things at the antique stores and on Etsy, so I figured I am saving lots of money by making it myself...

They are displayed nicely in my guest room...  Normally, I don't have a super feminine decorating style since I live with 3 dudes...  but my guest room is where I go crazy vintage feminine as much as I can...  Sometime's I just sit in there and look around.... ahhhhhhhhhh.... pretty!!!

I also made a fresh batch of wax melting tarts that smell to die for!  These are Love Spell and Pink Sugar.  Gearing up to start a home business with these I think.  I have worked for over 2 years to perfect my process, and I think I am finally close to producing an excellent product...  I just don't like very many of the Scentsy smells, and I don't find that they last very long.  So I was determined to come up with something myself, and I think they smell devine and last a long time....

Well I hope you are inspired to make something yourself that you might see in a store or online.  Knock offs are much less expensive and *bonus* - you made it yourself...  so you can customize it or change it up to match your decor, colors, or style....

Happy Crafting!!!