Mini Cheesecakes

Be still my heart...
How I love these little darlings!  The deliciousness of cheesecake in a mini/bite sized portion...
Smaller is just cuter!!!
(That's why I'm dieting)


They are perfect for any occasion!  Whether it's a Valentine Karaoke party...
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A beautiful wedding...
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Or an outdoor summer barbecue.  They will be the perfect 3 bite (one if you're a dude) treat.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall.  They are more than appropriate!
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The key to making these darlings is having a mini cheesecake pan!  The bottom is removable so you can push your mini dessert up without prying it with a knife and ruining the sides.
Yes, it takes an initial investment, but if you're game for that, you will be able to make all sorts of bite sized creations.  I have the norpro brand, but I have also used my friend's chicago metallic brand pans and both work well.   I have put a link to them in our brand new amazon store- A place where we will put direct links to our favorite products we use in relation to our projects.  Check out our sidebar!
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I have tried 5 different cheesecake recipes in these pans now.  All have been successfully transformed into minis.  The best thing is that they bake for only 14 minutes (in my oven) as opposed to about an hour to bake a full cheesecake.  (And no water bath to deal with).  So when I asked friends and family for cheesecake opinions, I was surprised to find so many different opinions as to what makes the BEST cheesecake.  Some prefer a dense, rich cheesecake.  Some prefer a lighter taste with a fluffy texture.  Some prefer a hint of almond ext., some were appalled by it.  But all cheesecake tasters united in their opinion that you've got to go with a graham cracker crust.  And I whole-heartedly agree with my friends.

I make that graham cracker crust in a food processor-  a purchase I have never regretted.
I pulse 2 packages of honey maid graham crackers until they are crumbs.  Then I add 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1 T of sugar.  I pulse that once, then add 1 stick (1/2 cup) of melted butter.
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After you portion out about 1 1/2 T in each well, you press it down and go a little higher on the sides.  If you pack it down too much it will be kind of hard when you eat it.  If you don't pack it down enough, it won't hold it's shape when you take it out.  So go somewhere in the middle with that.  (I forgot to mention that you should spray the pan with pam first).
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Like I said, any cheesecake recipe will do.  Use your favorite!
I use an ice cream scoop to get even amounts in each pan.
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You fill them pretty close to the top.  They don't rise much.
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When they come out, you have to let them cool in the pan.  Then you can push them right up.  The tops of them don't need to look perfect.  In fact, that little well will make the perfect place to put your toppings.
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My favorite is raspberry or strawberry cheesecake.  But chocolate and caramel are always a hit too.
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Then you can top them with your choice of whip cream, cool whip, dream whip...
I'm not going to tell you what to do.  It's kind of like a mayo/miracle whip debate.
You'll go with what you love.
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I love my little 3 tiered plate stand (world market) to display 3 different topping flavors.  And I have an addiction to using paper flags in adorable mini desserts.  It makes them even adorable-er!
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They are such a fun party food.  Many times guests don't have room for a whole, rich slice of cheesecake.  But a mini cheesecake gives them just a taste of heaven.

And I was wondering if the smaller portion classifies these as a diet cheesecake?  
Okay, that's a stretch, but a girl can dream.  :)

Cupcake Tips

Hey guys!  Just wanted you to checkout my post on somewhat simple!
I used to be just a cookie lady over there, but Stephanie asked me to share any helpful tips I have on baking in general.  So I am going to venture into some other things over on her blog.

I shared a few basic cupcake tips with her readers this weekend.  Hope you are all having a good one!

Ring around the Button

Disclaimer: Fast and easy project ahead
Did not require 20 (!!!!!) colors of frosting. Those little kid cookies Ashleigh made....Holy cow amazing!

My sister-in-law Danielle told me she is turning buttons into rings. This is totally up my alley! I see the most adorable buttons all the time but none of my sewing projects have called for large sassy buttons. What's a girl to do with so many button choices and nowhere for them to go...

Make button rings!

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There isn't much of a tutorial here folks. The hardest part is getting your tube of E6000 unclogged.

Here are the supplies. Open. Glue. Dry.

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And then make your daughter model them since she had her nails done for formal. And I am currently sporting the manicure called "the soccer mom." Not cute.

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A Little Drawer Makeover

I've had these old IKEA drawer sets for a long time.  They were a part of my old organization system.  But since I've been redoing my craft space (as I mentioned in this post) and I wanted to give them a little makeover.
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I looked for a patterned paper that I loved, but I just wasn't finding much.  Then I realized I had a stash of fabric (Dena Designs) that had been waiting for me.  The design was a little big for the small drawers.  So I decided to put this fabric right in my scanner/copier and print it out at 65%.
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Now I had my little drawer covers, but I also wanted to spray paint the wood white so the sides and inside would have a new look too!  I used mod podge to adhere the papers to the front of the drawers.
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I didn't line things up perfectly, but I think they have character.
Did you know imperfection=character/uniqueness? 
That's what I tell myself anyway.
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Yes, my little creative space is coming along slowly nicely.
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Things are much easier to find when they have a label, so I've been labeling away.
The goal is to have the whole room looking clean, organized and fun with some bright pops of color.
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I'm sure all of my projects will turn out much better if I'm working out of snazzy drawers like this.
{cough cough}

Cute Kids

My most recent cookie project was making these cute little kids!
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I struggled with the idea of making realistic looking kid cookies.  I knew it would backfire on me because I'm not an artist.  But I knew I could pull off some simple stick figure kids.

Now, when I say simple, I mean they only contain like 20ish icing colors and consistencies.  
Yes, they were a little more intense than I thought when I chose some simple clip art off this site.                     
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Here's how these kids were made:  haha ;)
Let me start by saying that I prefer to eat a cookie that has a single layer of royal icing.  Some detailed dimension is fine, but if I were to have done a whole white layer, then the kid on top, then a large portion of the cookie would have had 2 layers of icing, making it a bit crunchier to eat.  So I went to the extra effort of filling in the white after I frosted the kids!

1. I piped the black outline (except the arms and legs) using my kopykake projector and a #2 tip.  I waited almost 24 hours for that to dry, so I wouldn't get color bleeding.
2.  I filled in the shorts, shirts.  For the polka dot dress, I used the wet on wet technique.  
3.  I filled in the faces with different flesh tones made from ivory and copper (flesh tone) americolor gel paste.
4.  I made a white border with piping consistency royal icing.
5.  I filled in the background with flood icing.  I let that dry for several hours.
6.  Next I added the hair and piped the arms and legs in black.
7.  I added hair bows.
8.  I drew the pockets on the boys with black edible ink.
9.  I drew the stripes on the girl's shirt with edible ink.

I know you're not supposed to choose a favorite kid, but since they are cookies...
 I just love this little curly haired darling.  A #1 tip did the trick for making those locks!
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I hope the other kids will be able to get over the emotional scars.  I'll refrain from ranking the others, because no one wants to be the last favorite kid cookie.  Hahahehehoho!

Sock Monkey Party

I intended to have a low key birthday celebration for my little monkey after a music class I host at my house. But, then I had to have a theme and then I had to have at least some cute food and then, two nights before the party I got a bee in my bonnet to make 16 sock monkey hats. Have I not learned my lesson by now?

My little dude is literally attached to his sock monkey. It's a disgusting shade of grey no matter how many times I steal it for a trip to the washing machine. So, a sock monkey party seemed only appropriate.

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I saw the cutest dinosaur hat tutorial by Christine at the blog From an Igloo and adapted it to make it a sock monkey. Christine did a wonderfully easy to follow tutorial and I won't reinvent the wheel. I used her pattern, size, directions on lining the hat and how to make that cute pom on the top. But here are the adaptations I used to make a sock monkey.

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The top is made of four triangularish pieces. I sewed the ears together, turned them right side out and placed them straight across from each other.

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After the whole outside part was completed, I sewed red lips onto an oval shaped cream colored mouth and then onto the hat overlapping the band of the hat. I then sewed on by hand black buttons for the eyes.

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Then follow the rest of Christine's instructions to line the hat and topstitch.

How cute are these little monkeys? PS I made pink ears and a pink pom pom for the hats for the girls. If only I would have had time to do eyelashes....

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We had some sock monkey sandwiches. Nilla wafer ears, mozzarella cheese mouth, licorice lips, and olive eyes.

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And some sock monkey cupcake toppers made with a tootsie pop, one vanilla melty, one chocolate melty, two mini chocolate chips, one slice of red licorice and one red hot. Basically what I found in my pantry since I got the idea to make these about a half hour before the party. I cut the chocolate melty for the ears in half and then shaved off a bit more to make it a half moon shape. I melted the chocolate ears and eyes just a tiny bit with a lighter. It could have been disastrous, make sure another grown up is close by. I glued everything else on with leftover frosting.

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The party was so fun but oh how I needed Ashleigh!! Since we moved away from each other I have desperately missed the best sister ever who would have arrived at 10 pm after I called in desperation for a sock monkey hat sewing party. I should never attempt to do a party without my sister for food and sewing help. And I forgot that having a party during the day means no husband at home to order around for last minute details.

I should really learn my lesson.

I probably won't.

But happy birthday to my monkey anyway!

Valentines- 2012

I wish I had posted these BEFORE Valentine's Day...

But "on top of my game" is not the scenario around here.
Nonetheless, I will document the Valentine's that the kiddos and I made.

My oldest wanted to do matchbook valentine's ever since I made these.
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We experimented with a few papers and I even tried putting a decorated cookie in a matchbook.  But they were a little too thick for it to close correctly.  If I did this again, I would roll the cookies out thinner.  We decided on the colorful chevron pattern paper that was red on the other side.  I printed it all out and when we put them together, my daughter said she was too embarrassed to have them say, "we're a match."  Whaaa?  It's like the cutest saying ever!  But I understood the scariness of 6th grade politics and we changed it to say, "two of hearts" and put two heart candies in there.
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The middle child chose the most time consuming Valentine.
She is a middle child, so I want to overcompensate sometimes.
We made chocolate lollipops.
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We put them in the freezer after each step which made the process with one mold, pretty slow.
So we added some ladybugs to the mix.  As you can imagine, the tags included, "you are sweet" and "lovebug."  It ended up that all of the kids and I worked on these most of the time.  Now she can never claim she is deprived, right?
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And for the preschooler... a really easy label glued to some crayon gum.
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He begged for these at the dollar store, so I thought if he like them, his friends would too.  I made a label and glued it around the box.  His only job was writing his name on the back.  I guess you could also use it on a real pack of crayons too!  Click here if you'd like a download this Valentine Crayon Printable.
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So another year of last-minute Valentine making success!  Success meaning, it got done!    Can someone please remind me to be on top of this early February next year?  Kathryn?

Oh, and p.s.
I just had to pick up one of the boxer short chocolate molds when I was buying the others.
It just made me laugh.  The kids asked why I was making "shorts" chocolates.  I evaded the question.
I think the hubs thought I had gone too far in my food crafts.  But I got a laugh out of him.  :)
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I Love Clear Packaging

I have a special place in my heart for clear packaging.

Clear boxes are a food crafter's way of showing off letting their food take center stage!
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We are dedicated to the details of our edible creations, (mixing the perfect shade of icing, getting the right consistency, adding some sparkly luster dust for "cheeks," and cleaning out the tiny #1 tips, etc.)
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So why not show them off?
Why should the lucky recipient of these happy heart cookies* have to open their gift to smile!?
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I think they will already be smiling the second you hand them this cute little clear box!
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Or how about putting them in a simple clear CD sized envelope?
{A little twist on my usual cellophane bag routine.}
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I do enjoy packing my treats about as much as I enjoy making them.  I love specialty boxes, unique favor bags, colorful gable boxes, and everything in between.

But lately I'm just obsessed with the understated simplicity of clear packaging.

Because the second someone sees you walking down the hall holding this box, the cupcakes will scream, "Hi!  Look at my handmade Valentine garnishes**!" Yep, these babies TURN HEADS!  People start striking up conversations with you in an effort to become instant friends and possibly gain a cupcake out of the deal.  Then when they realize you aren't giving them one, they request to purchase them.  Then when you decline to sell, they will start salivating.  {True Story}
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Because this box is CLOSED!  But look at how rad the cupcakes still look!  Try being trapped in an elevator holding these.  You will fear an impending attack.  {Also a true story}  But it will all be worth it when you hand over a special edible gift and eyes light up.
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Am I making a big deal about this?  YES!  But apparently I'm not the only one who is enamored with clear boxes.  Ever since this post, I've had several emails asking where I got my clear cupcake box.  The answer is that I bought the single square box at my local cake store, which doesn't help you all.  But then came a revelation as I discovered clearbags.com.  Yes, a whole company dedicated to clear packaging!  And they have a whole section of food safe clear packaging (including single cupcake boxes like the one I used)!

That is where I purchased these half dozen boxes.  I was really happy with the quality.  They were strong enough to stack and hold the cupcakes pretty stable for safe transport.  I liked them so much, I just placed another order.  I wish I could buy a million of every size clear bag and box.  One can dream.
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So consider being anti-opaque, when packaging all of your adorable Valentine creations!

Let them shine, let them be seen!
Let them be drooled over from across the room!

*The happy heart cookies were made with these tips and recipes.
**The cupcake garnishes were made with the same royal icing, piped onto parchment paper, instead of a cookie.  After the icing dries, it will pop right off the parchment for you to use on your cupcake.
The designs were inspired by these cupcake garnishes by Sweetopia.

A... You're Adorable

I'm trying not to poop out as I parent number six. Even though I mostly just want to sit on the couch and read, I have to stay strong, I've got years of parenting in me still. So, the baby just turned two. Sniff. And it's time to start teaching him his letters. I made an ABC book in 1997 for my kids that are now teenagers. It's looking a little dated, I'm wearing tie-dye. Yikes! Time for a new one.

I love this song that the kids have sung at school over the years called 'A' You're Adorable originally recorded by Perry Como but it has been redone by many, including Sesame Street, listen here for a trip down memory lane.

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I cut these letters out of cardstock and did a photo shoot against a black sheet.

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It was a good idea until little monkey wouldn't hold the letters and I resorted to taping them to his shirt.

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And then he thought it was fun to crinkle up or tear the letters. And I'm chanting to myself "Don't poop out, stay strong!"

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He was not enjoying the photo shoot and by now I was thinking he wasn't so adorable. So, the new plan was props.

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Ashleigh called during this fine mothering moment and told me that I could get like twelve apps for 99 cents each that will help kids learn letters.

That might have been a better idea.

But, I'm not pooping out. And I will not be defeated by a two year old so I gave him a nap and persisted through the alphabet.

After adding the words in photoshop and developing the pictures, the laminating was the easiest part thanks to laminator love from Ash which we gushed over in this post.

I'd like to say he loves his book and goes to sleep with it every night. He doesn't.

But, if only to prove to myself that I'm still trying to be a good mom, it was worth it.

....but then again, 99 cent app sounds like a really good mom to me.
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