Sunday, October 26, 2014

Covering the Creepy Holiday Spectrum in an Entire Day- Kate Baked Her Ass off!

Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen- literally. From making cranberry muffins for brunch to beer-battered fish 'n' chips for dinner, I never left. This was because I was making the fanciest of cakes while also making my foray into the cake pop world. So when it came time to run errands today, I slicked back my hair, slapped on a coat of Spackle (or makeup, not sure which), and muttered to the mirror, "This is as good as its gonna get today." My husband overheard this and managed to coddle me in a manner that involved an analogy about cake (he really knows how to handle my crazy). He told me when I put on makeup and fix my hair, its like he's getting really, really fancy cake; but even when I don't get all done up, he's still getting cake either way, and cake is awesome. Sigh, managing to intertwine my love of cake and my love of my own reflection all in one fell swoop- what a guy. He's going to be getting so much cake its ridiculous...
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene!
Pulling double duty in the kitchen this week turned out just as I had hoped. One awesome sugar skull cake for Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead for those of you who do not habla the EspaƱol), and Jack O'Lantern and Jack Skellington cake pops! While the cake was somewhat time consuming because I mixed about ten thousand different dyes to make the cake colorful, the hardest part of the cake pops was waiting for them to set in the freezer. If you want to be the hit of your Halloween party next weekend, let me give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make both of these spooktacularly tasty treats. I'll start with the beginner-level stuff for those of you who don't want a terrible challenge, but still want to look like a creative genius with these cake pops. Just don't tell anyone how easy it is like I'm doing now, or people won't be quite as impressed. The things I do for you all...
Surprisingly, not dressing for turkey.
 All you need for cake pops is a tub of your favorite flavored frosting, decorative sticks, chocolate melts in your preferred colors (orange and white in this case), a food-safe marker, and one cake- made and cooled. I actually made two cakes for my sugar skull cake, and realized I only needed one (first-world problems are still pretty awesome). I still had a ton of scraps from cutting out the skull shape, so I used these scraps to make my cake pops. Simply crumble up your cake into fine little bits. This is where I realized a food processor would be a worthwhile investment, but if I bought one, it would have to come with its own house because I have nowhere to put one in my kitchen as it is currently bursting at the seams. These are the kind of first-world problems that are not so awesome.
Also, not mayonnaise.
Once you've crumbled your cake, throw half a tub of icing into it. Things get messy here, but there's no turning back at this point...unless taking a spoon and just eating a bowl of cakey icing is your thing. I'm not judging you; it sounds like a really great idea. Mix together the frosting and crumbs. I found the easiest way to do this was by hand. And once I was done, you better believed I licked a finger or two.
I also won't judge you for eating the cake pops in this form, either.
Take a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, and go to town. You'll have to finish forming the balls by hand, but they should stick together nicely in consistency. If you want to add more frosting because you feel like they're not sticking together well enough or want a really sweet cake pop, go for it. Place your shaped cake pops onto a Parchment-lined baking sheet, and throw them in the freezer for a couple hours and go about your life. Watch a movie, eat the remaining icing, whatever. This is the chill dessert for multiple reasons. Once your time is up, empty a bag of melts into a deep microwave-safe dish. Heat for 30 seconds, mix, and repeat three times.
Take your fancy stick and dip it into the melted chocolate.
Wonder if people will judge you for your slippers.
Then skewer your pops. Give it a few minutes,
and let the chocolate harden so it glues the stick in place.
I made the mistake of not waiting long enough, and some of my pops kept falling off while I was trying to dip them into the melted chocolate. I don't blame them- I'd hang out in a giant dish of melted chocolate for as long as acceptable, too. One day...
Ahhh, serenity.
Once your sticks are in place, dip the cake pop into the melted chocolate, completely submerging it; I used a small spoon to run more chocolate on the top of my pops. I found it easiest to pull the pop straight up and out quickly, so I did not get any weird, runny action from the melted chocolate. I swept off excess chocolate by wiping the bottom of the pop on the edge of my Tupperware. This is somewhat challenging, but after a couple, you will get the hang of it and be making professional-looking pops, while eating the two wonky-ass pops for yourself. You know, to make sure they're acceptable for sharing.
Repeat the process with the other colored chocolate melts, and set everything back on the Parchment-lined tray.
Let these bad boys dry for awhile (I ate dinner and then came back to them- so I can't give you a scientific allotment of time- just enough for me to stuff my face and need looser pants). Then finish them off by drawing faces on to the pops with your food-safe pen! So easy, a child can do it! Or a grown woman on her fifth wind. Whatevs.
Spoooooky. Okay, more like, cuuuutttte.
"What's this? What's this? There's color everywhere!" (You're welcome for getting that song stuck in your head- now go watch Nightmare Before Christmas...but not until after you finish reading my blog, dammit.)
Keep these refrigerated because they are way better cold. They can keep for up to two weeks in there- which is totally unnecessary because they won't last that long. I need to find some sort of container to house these in, as they will be traveling into the great state of Texas when we go visit Derek's family next week. I imagine their simply being in Texas will make them taste even better than they already were. Now, onto the advanced portion of today's blog... I realize this is hilarious because we're starting out with box cake and a pre-made decoration, but just go with me on this.
As previously mentioned, you only need one cake for this.
Also, depending on how you decorate your skull, pre-made roses are an awesome addition to the ojos.
You will need a stupid amount of brightly-colored gel dye, multiple #3 tips, and one #6 tip.
Make your cake in a 9x13 pan, and then let it cool. While cooling, make your life supremely easier by finding a sugar skull template online, printing it on heavy-stock paper, and cutting it out. I even colored in how I envisioned my skull. This makes the decorating process about one thousand times easier because you're not going in blind (This comes from a woman who plans her week several days in advance in a planner, and gets frustrated when things do not unfold as I told them to when I wrote them down. Life, what a rude jerk.). 
I realize it looks more like a Terminator right now, but just go with me here.
Place your template on the cake, and carefully cut around it. Even if you don't plan on making cake pops at this very instant because you're not a crazy glutton for punishment and cake in many forms, I recommend saving your scraps in the fridge in case you change your mind or just want to eat them for breakfast. Word.
I may not be able to color inside the lines, but I can cut anything like a pro.
CAREFULLY transfer your skull to a decorating board. I used a large spatula and a whole lot of prayer to get this part done. Thank you, 5 pound 6 ounce baby Jesus. Whip together a batch of white frosting. For this batch with the funfetti cake, I added lemon extract instead of almond and it was ah-mazing. I recommend placing your cake in the freezer while you make your frosting so that the crumbs aren't absolutely out of control when you try to frost the sides of the cake. A few extra minutes in the freezer will save you from a crumble-addled breakdown later. Firsthand knowledge is my gift to you.
Post-breakdown, and many sighs of relief later.
Be sure to give this cake a solid crumb coat, freeze again for 20, and then put on a final frosting coat. Put it back into the freezer to let it set, and then use that handy paper towel trick to smooth out your skull. No one likes a bumpy skull in real life, or on cake. You can mix your frosting dyes while your final coat is setting in the freezer. I just used canned decorator frosting.
Yea, I ran out of couplers, so the last bag I just snipped a tiny corner off of. Ghetto, but effective. Fit the black frosting with a #6 tip because you need it to be thicker to fill in the eyes and nose. Place a #3 tip on everything else.
Now comes the fun part. I sincerely enjoy decorating this cake more than anything else I've done to this point because it allows for so much creativity and color. I have always loved the vibrancy of Dia de Los Muertos and the fact that it is a celebration of passed loved ones, so it was absolute kismet that Derek (I keep him around for infinite reasons!) suggested I make a sugar skull cake when I was contemplating what treat to make for Halloween. If you don't know much about the Day of the Dead, I recommend doing some reading over it because I feel like Mexico is doing their passed loved ones way better justice than we do with this holiday. It is simply amazing. PSA over, now back to making the sugar skull. You really can start with whatever part of the skull you like, but I went for the basics first- eyes, mouth, nose.
Oh, you're welcome for not rotating this picture.
Yes, my sugar skull does have a bitchin' uni-brow.
Fill in the eyes and nose by just tracing them in and smoothing the frosting out with a small spatula.
Then come back in and start adding details! The more color, the better. Rarely does life present me an opportunity to say that. This mantra still does not apply to fashion- keep that shit simple, people. Don't go all clowny on me.
Don't mind me, still laughing at my Terminator template. What? I find me hilarious.
Once you've finished with your frosting, simply smoosh (very technical term) the roses into the eye sockets.
I wanted to spruce up the sides of the cake, so I added S-shaped designs with dots on to the sides.
And there you have it! The hardest part of this cake really is probably mixing all the frosting. Scratch that- the hardest part of this cake is having to cut into it. I wouldn't let us touch the cake for a full 24 hours because I wanted to revel in its beauty before devouring it whole. That's the sad paradox with fancy cakes- I want to eat you because I know you will be delicious, but I don't want to eat you because you're so damned pretty. I think we all know which side of the paradox played out in this household. 
You are so beautiful, to meeeee. Until I literally cut your head off.
I still have an extra skull cake in my freezer, whose face will be decorated at a date to be later determined by yours truly. I sincerely recommend making this skull cake to wow people and then make them feel bad about eating your work of art so they'll let you drink their booze for free at their party. Cake guilt. Its a thing now. This will wrap up my blogs for Foxtober (yes, that's also a thing). I'll be back with more tasty treats in early November, I promise! For now, we will be off enjoying a trip to Tejas and time with Derek's family. Enjoy your Halloween because it is the greatest holiday ever! Try not to steal any candy from kids, and be sure to dress up like an unabashed giant child. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Painted Pumpkins 101

I know, I know..first it was pumpkin bundt cake, then it was pumpkin dog treats, and now its spray painted faux pumpkins (or faumpkins as I call them. Or just started calling them right here in this moment. Whatever.). I really wasn't kidding when I said I'm absolutely obsessed with fall. On a scale of things I could be addicted to, it is a pretty mild issue really, falling somewhere in between Netflix binging and wine fervor. In fact, everyone only seems to benefit from my hardcore seasonal enthusiasm. I spray painted two pumpkins last year for Halloween, and absolutely loved them. Since Derek was home this year, I decided it would be fun for us to make a few more. Derek begrudgingly agreed to my unrelenting arts and crafts session (he secretly enjoyed it), and thus, these faumpkins were born:
I bet its pretty clear who chose to do what pumpkin.
A few Halloween's ago, I carved a Mike Wazowski jack o'lantern. It was in this moment that my arthritis was born. But since we live in a magical land where it is 80 degrees one day in October, and 50 the next before repeating the cycle, jack o'lanterns rot in about a night or two and turn into something reminiscent of Renee Zellweger's new face. Its rough, y'all. So last year, I took the time to churn out a few painted pumpkins from Hobby Lobby, and love that I can reuse them year after year without worrying about melty face.
Mike in cooler, happier times. My fingers get all crampy just thinking about it.
Last year's faumpkins for an NFL house divided.
At least one of these pumpkins isn't dying from embarrassment this season.
These pumpkins are insanely easy to do, and if you live somewhere with bipolar weather, you will find it is nice not to have to worry about your hard work withering and dying before your very eyes. Or if you live somewhere normal, its just awesome to have pumpkins you can use year after year. So let's get to the nitty gritty! Sorry, the fall obsession makes me say very strange things like "nitty gritty."
You'll need spray paint depending on what type of pumpkin you want to make. Get a can for your base color, and if you have large accents, get those colors in spray paint as well. For smaller accents, Sharpie makes paint pens in just about every color imaginable.
Then head to your local craft store (Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.) and look for fake pumpkins in the seasonal area. Grab however many you need! They usually come in standard orange, white, and black.
The only downside about the fake pumpkins is that they can be kind of pricey, around 25 bucks. This why I get them from HobLob, because they are 40 percent off. Well, I also have to get them from HobLob because Michaels does not exist out here, unfortunately. Once you've gathered all your paint and pumpkins, get yourself set up outside. Naturally, the weather went to complete shit when I wanted to do these, so we had to work quickly and bring the pumpkins in to the laundry room to dry.
Look, I got me a handsome model to help with the step-by-step photos!
Spray your faumpkin with a base coat of spray paint. Allow it to dry for about a half an hour before hitting it with a final coat. On a nice, sunshiny day, you could leave them outside to dry even quicker between coats. Thanks, Clovis. While drying, create a template for your pumpkin. I simply Googled "Mike Wazowski pumpkin template" and "Grim Reaper pumpkin template" and printed out what I found on sturdy card stock after working my MSPaint mojo and resizing the templates to fit properly on the pumpkins. Yes, MSPaint mojo is a real thing. No, I cannot tell you why I'm too cheap to buy a better image editing software. Anywho... If you have to spray paint an accent color instead of using the paint pens, the card stock will keep the paint from soaking through to the rest of the pumpkin while you use it as a stencil/guide.
Yeah, my printer stopped working halfway through the reaper, so I had to freehand.
You want to reverse-image cut the stencil if you plan on spray painting. Again, this is so that you don't end up accidentally painting the already painted base coat a different color. You'd want to use double-stick tape to secure it to the pumpkin so no holes would cause a leak. I just needed guides to draw on my pumpkin, so that is a lot easier to do.
 Once the base paint is dry, it is time to get all super artsy (by super artsy, I mean tracing with a pencil). My pumpkin did not require anymore spray paint, so I just needed to draw on Mike's eyes, mouth, and horns.
I simply traced around his ojo and drew in a pupil and an iris.
"Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me!"
Now we get to practice coloring inside the lines.
Something I have always failed at miserably. Damn these dysfunctional hands!
Derek decided it would be easier to trace the reaper and color him in with my giant Sharpie.
Think markers for three year olds, just toxic.
How ghastly! He has more artistic talent when it comes to drawing than me
because he has real, working hands. Lucky.
 Derek started by working his way from the outside to the inside. As a lefty, this made no sense to me, so I did things the exact opposite way. I now see that probably would have been beneficial working outside to inside because then I would have had a better chance at not coloring like a simple-minded idiot (*waves hands*) or a toddler.
Derek's reaper was outlined in black, and his scythe colored in silver.
Once he colored in the reaper, he used the silver paint pent to add a creepy moon, stars, and tombstones.
At this point, I think he was finally enjoying himself. At least I only make him do arts and crafts time once a year.
I started by working on Mike's beautiful, large, oblong eyeball. Can we just talk about how much I love Monster's Inc.? Seriously. It has to be one of my all time faves. Children are so scary even monsters don't want to touch them. This speaks to me on so many levels. I'm also a fan of any story with a good bromance. Mike and Sully, Turk and J.D., Affleck and Damon...I'm probably just jealous because relationships like that don't exist with women. We get Regina George and Cady Heron, Paris and Kim, that one annoying chick from Glee and that other annoying chick from Glee. Sigh. I digress.
In my own way, I did start working from outside to inside.
Just in a fashion more befitting a scatterbrained chicken.
I used the paint pen to color in Mike's white (he only has the one),
and only dripped paint all over him, me, and my redone kitchen table once! Progress, y'all!
While letting his eye dry, I drew in his horns and colored in his teeth. No drips this time. Little victories.

I then took my industrial-sized Sharpie to color in his pupil. Still, just has the one.
I finished up by coloring in his baby blue (just the one), and painting in his horns before outlining everything last.
Unconventional, but it worked!
From start to finish, including drying time, it took us the same amount of time to make these pumpkins as it would have to cut open a real one, not puke while scooping out the guts, and build on to the preexisting carpal tunnel and arthritis by carving them. And bonus- we get to reuse these again next year. Perhaps Sully might come out to play for Halloween 2015. Who knows...

Each year I add to our Halloween decoration collection. This year I finally had the wherewithal to film all our decorations at dusk (see above). From our Batcave (where I park my Batmobile) to our Murder House windows to our graveyard and swirling vortex of doom, we are really ready for Halloween! Minus the fact that I abhor children and make Derek answer the door. Last year I had to do candy by myself as he was deployed. After one hour and a possible brain aneurism from listening to high-pitched child noises, I quit, turned off all the lights, and ate a bunch of candy in bed. It ended up being a really great night. Back to Halloween treats next week. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pumpkin for the Pooch

Aside from being obsessed with pumpkin-flavored everything for myself, I decided this week it was time to get Hank addicted, too. My version of a trickle down effect, if you will. Canned pure pumpkin is extremely good for a dog with an upset tummy, and Hank has this uncanny resemblance to a garbage disposal on our walks. If I take my eye off of him for one second, he somehow always manages to find something to eat: Oh, wow, that house has really amazing landsca-oh my God what are you eating? This is exactly what happened on our Monday walk when Derek and I were discussing a house across the street, and the dog somehow managed to find what appeared to be some sort of bone or bone-like morsel in some grass. Fairly certain it could've just been bone-scented garbage and the dog still would've tried to eat it. After prying open his mouth and realizing my poor timing had struck yet again, I was happy to know we had canned pumpkin at home to help him digest his poor life choices.
I know the dog can't tell that these are Halloween themed, but it matters to me.
While most people would be worried the dog would die after eating a bone, I, however, was not quite so anxious, as Hankopotamus is clearly part goat. If the dog had a punch card for finding random bones in people's yards and eating them with the speed of a cheetah pouncing on some unsuspecting gazelle, this probably would've been his third or fourth punch. Hank's well on his way to that free t-bone left out in someone's yard who clearly doesn't understand how garbage bags and trashcans work. Oh never stop amazing me for all the wrong reasons.
This time I realized the merits of mini cookie cutters for dog treats,
unlike my dismay with the last batch of milk bones I made him.
I knew I wanted to make pumpkin dog treats for the puppers, so it just happened to be fortuitous that the dog decided to cram his gullet with garbage and be in need of some soothing pumpkin after I had already gathered the necessary accoutrements. If you asked him, I'm sure he'd say he was just trying to do me a favor. But if my dog ever did gain the ability to form coherent human sentences, this would probably be the last thing we'd care about. He'd be asking me for his own squirrel- or cat-filled cupcakes without a doubt. I digress. Wilton has a 12-piece set of mini Halloween cookie cutters on Amazon Prime for like nine bucks...winnnn. 
It really doesn't get much easier than this.
The ingredients for these treats are so simplistic it makes my last batch of dog cookies feel like a five-course meal. One can of pure pumpkin, one chicken embryo, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and two and a half cups of flour. I used wheat flour so it is easier for his doggy digestive system to process. I was already keenly aware of how rank the house was going to smell thanks to his proclivities for snacking on trash, and did not want to add to his future fervor for room clearing. Have I mentioned how this dog follows me everywhere I go, like a shadow? Yeah, always bake with the wheat flour for your dogs. You're welcome.
I sampled the pure pumpkin, what of it?
In a stand mixer, blend together the egg, cinnamon, and can of pumpkin until well mixed. At this point, you're going to start to wonder if these treats could also be fit for human consumption. This is perfectly normal, I assure you.
Thanks for having my back, wheat flour.
Slowly add in a little of the flour at a time, mixing well after each addition until you've got a nice consistency of dough with all two and a half cups mixed in. My mixer is not an extremely expensive Kitchen-aid mixer, so I knew my dough was mixed and ready when the bowl started to knock around like it was a washing machine full of nothing but loose change. It may not be pretty, but it works for my penny-pinching ass.
Time to bust out the kitchen weaponry!!
This dough was stickier than I expected, so I recommend spraying a little cooking spray or dusting some parchment paper with flour before you roll it out. I also placed parchment paper on top of my dough mound before rolling it out. I forgot to take pictures of this process because I was enjoying roughing up the dough and relieving my Monday stress. Sue me. Or try to, anyway, just not when I've got a rolling pin in my hand because I will end you. Once I rolled my dough out to about a half-inch thickness, I used my cute terrifyingly haunting Halloween cookie cutters to cut out my dough and placed these adorable nightmare-inducing shapes onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Aren't they just the scariest?!
I cooked my tombstones, pumpkins, leaves, skulls, moons, witch's hat, ghosts, bats, and cats at 350 for a half an hour. I then let them cool completely while on the tray so they'd get a little crunchy. If it isn't crunchy like day-old garbage, Hank may not want it.
The face that says, 'I know I don't need the garbage, but I just can't resist it.
Also, when is this woman going to stop inner-monologuing for me? I mean, really.'
Of course, I had to take it a step further and decorate these bad boys once they cooled off. All you need for dog-friendly icing is fat free plain yogurt, or fat free cream cheese. I went with some yogurt, and placed it into a piping bag fitted with a tiny number two tip. Remember to use the cup trick to fill your piping bags so you don't end up wearing most of your decorations.
Even our cups are terrifying.
Then, just have fun and go to town decorating your dog treats however you'd like. Remember, this step really makes no friggin' difference to your dog, other than they have to wait even longer to eat what they know you've most certainly just made for them. Call this my passive aggressive way of letting the dog know I wasn't rewarding him for dumpster diving.
At this point, these cookies made the house smell SO GOOD I was almost positive I had to eat one, as was Derek.
As of this blog, we still have not eaten any. I make no future guarantees.
With such a small piping tip and such an easy work surface,
you can pretty much do whatever you want. Me gusta.
While these may not be the prettiest, they don't have to be. And not just because they are dog treats, but because they are HALLOWEEN dog treats, and should be both menacing and a little rough around the edges. As far as I know, Casper was the only friendly ghost and cats are definitely evil, so I wasn't too worried about perfection here. No offense to anyone who likes ghosts. If you're a cat person, I'm not sure why you're reading a dog blog unless you wanted to make these for yourself. I'm only judging you for liking cats, bro. 

Of course, Hankenstein was thrilled that I finally baked for him again, and ate these right up. Happy to report the pumpkin did its job, and he wasn't chasing me out of any rooms later that evening, nor did he have any digestive issues due to his version of go hide and seek garbage. Now I can say with certainty that my baking can save lives. Til next time, my fellow eaters!