Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Painted Cooler

One of the summer projects that I was passionate about completing was to make my very first painted cooler. Being a member of the greek community cooler painting is a common practice.  Girls make them for their fraternity formal dates, littles make them for their bigs, there is pretty much always a sorority woman painting a cooler somewhere in the world.  Although my father questioned why I would buy 1/2 gallon cooler, spend hours sanding, priming and painting it, only to have it complete the very same function that it would have if I had just brought it right home from the store, I can truly say this is one of the most fun projects I have completed!
First off, I have to be the first one to say that I am not artistic in the slightest.  I am known in my sorority for helping the art chair with the banners, and I can tell you that I am the best at filling in lines.  Truly, before painting this cooler, I had never even attempted something so artistic.  I belong to a facebook group called the cooler connection, and they truly gave me the greatest ideas, and had so many great ideas and tips to help me get going.  In there was a file to the "ultimate cooler painting tutorial, and I would not have known where to even begin without it.  I started with a simple cooler that I bought at walmart for $4 (it was on sale, so that was even better), and sanded it and then primed it with primer that we had laying around our house from a previous project. 

After sanding and priming, it was time to begin painting! I went to this websight, and created a monogram project, and then just simply printed it out!  In order to trace the design onto the cooler, I just printed it on regular paper, and then used a fine tip sharpie pen and traced over the designs and let the sharpie bleed through the paper.  I am sure that there are better ways to do this, but it seemed to work just fine for me!

To make the bow's on the side of the cooler, I simply went to my pinterest account (pinterest to the rescue again) and typed in "bow sides for cooler".  I found one that I liked, sized it in microsoft word to fit the dimensions of my cooler, and then just traced! As easy as that. 

This was truly the most time consuming part of the cooler, but my favorite none the less.  I love the Lilly Pulitzer Chiquita Bonita print, and so that was my inspiration for my cooler! Just as with the other two designs, I simply traced, and then painted over my lines. 


The most important part of the cooler is to seal it, just so that all your hard work doesn't go down the drain! I read on the cooler connection that this modgepodge and seal was the best, and so thats what I used and could not be more happy with the results!  I ended up doing three coats of modge podge and three coats of sealent, and it worked perfectly. 


I am so happy with the finished product!  It ended up taking about two days start to finish to complete, and I cannot wait to complete another one!



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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

S'mores Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

If I could pick my biggest weakness in this world, it would be my passion for s'mores.  Though to some, a s'more is simply a toasted marshmallow and chocolate piece sandwiched between two graham crackers, to me it is so much more.  That is why these s'mores bars are perfect.  They combine all the perfect elements of s'mores, plus add other delicious flavors including peanut butter and pretzels.  The original recipe was found here, however I made several adaptions that can be seen in the directions.

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 + 1/2 Cup all purpose flour 
3/4 cup ground pretzels (measure after crushing) 
1/3 cup confectioners sugar 
1/2 cup melted butter 
Filling: 
2 Cups semisweet chocolate chips 
1 cup creamy peanut butter 
1 cup coarsely chopped pretzels for topping
2 cups toasted marshmallows 
Ganache: 
4 Oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream 
2 tbsp. unsalted butter 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment, leaving long ends to use to remove the bars from the pan. 
To make the crust: 
2. Whisk together the flour, ground pretzels and sugar until well combined. Mix in the melted butter using your fingers to evenly distribute it. You should have a soft but not wet dough. 
3. Press the dough evenly into the pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. While the crust is baking, make the filling. 
To make the filling: 
4. In a double broiler or using a microwave melt the chocolate chips, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and stir until well combined and smooth. 
5. Pour the filling over the warm crust and spread out evenly. Tap the pan on the counter to allow air bubbles to escape. 
6. Spread the filling evenly over the crust, and tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle the remaining pretzels on top and slightly press them down into the chocolate. 
7. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top of the pretzels, and either use a blow torch (I used a creme brûlée torch) or your broiler to toast the marshmallows. 
8. Use a piping or ziplock bag to drizzle the chocolate ganache over the entire pan. 
9. Chill in the freezer for one hour. Use parchment to lift the bars out of the pan onto a cutting board. Use a large chefs knife to slice into squares or bars. Serve frozen, chilled, or at room temperature.
To make the ganache: 
To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a medium sized bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, immediately remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until a ganache has formed. Whisk in the butter until fully incorporated. Let stand at room temperature until fully set up, and then drizzle over the bark. 

Enjoy! 

Prep Time: 20 Min

Cook Time: 10-12 Min 

Yields: 20 Bars



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Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

What is better than a soft and delicious peanut butter cookie? A soft and delicious peanut butter cookie with a surprise chocolate and caramel nougat center.  These treats, originally found here, are sure to please, and a new favorite.  

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
About 22 Snickers Minis, unwrapped

Directions:

Cream butter, peanut butter, and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg, vanilla, milk, and salt and baking soda. Mix until combined. Slowly add flour and mix until dough comes together. Chill your dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silpat baking mats.
Scoop 2 tablespoon sized balls of dough. Press each one flat in the palm of your hand, place a Snickers Mini in the center and wrap the dough around it, rolling to form a ball. Place on cookie sheet 2” apart. Use a fork to make a small criss-cross pattern on the top. They won’t flatten because of the Snickers, but they’ll have the pattern.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until they just begin to brown. Cool completely and remove from cookie sheets.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. They can be frozen in sealable containers or ziploc bags between layers of paper towels for up to one month.

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 13-16 min

Yields: 22 cookies





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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Turtle Cupcakes

Chocolate, caramel, and pecans, oh my!
I found this incredibly delicious recipe here, and could not be happier with the way that these delicious cupcakes turned out.

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream

For the caramel and filling:
½ cup sugar
½ cups heavy cream, warmed
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional) 
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans
**If I were to make these cupcakes again, I would double the caramel 

For the frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese, cold
12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. caramel sauce (recipe above)
2¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of coarse salt

Ganache: 
For the drizzle: 
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

To finish: 
Caramel sauce
Chocolate syrup or chocolate ganache
Additional chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:

Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Filling:
To make the caramel, spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir.  Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream.  Set aside.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat.  (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.)  Carefully pour half of the heavy cream into the saucepan in a steady stream down the edge of the pan, whisking constantly.  The mixture will steam and bubble violently.  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has seized or hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Frosting:
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, and caramel sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.  Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag with a large round tip (I used Ateco #809).  Pipe a swirl of frosting over the top of each cupcake.  Use the tip of a small offset spatula or a small spoon to scoop an indentation out of the center of the frosting.

In a small bowl, mix together of the caramel sauce and the chopped pecans.  Fill the indentations in the frosting with a small spoonful of the caramel-pecan mixture.  Drizzle the cupcakes with additional caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and sprinkle with additional chopped pecans, if desired.

Ganache:
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat.  Once simmering, remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk in small circular motions until a smooth ganache has formed.  Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature until slightly thickened.  Drizzle over the assembled cookies.  Chill to set the ganache, or serve immediately for a gooey, messy dessert.  Store in an airtight container.

Prep Time: 30 min 

Yields: 24 Cupcakes 

Cook Time: 18-20 min 





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Friday, November 15, 2013

Peanut Blossom Cookies


Peanut blossom cookies are my littlest brothers favorite kind of cookie! These peanut blossom cookies (find the original recipe here) are the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut butter, and they are so soft!  Be aware: when you start eating them, you might not stop!  
About to go into the oven! 
Just before the chocolate kisses get put in! They need to go back into the oven for just a minute after the kiss is pressed into the cookie to allow the chocolate to harden (makes it just delicious!) 
Ingredients:
1 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar for decoration
2 (9 ounce) bags milk chocolate candy
kisses, unwrapped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, and 1 cup white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and stir in the milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the peanut butter mixture until well blended. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, and roll in remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to12 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from oven, and immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie. ( I put them back into the oven for about a minute to allow the chocolate kiss to set.)  Allow to cool completely; the kiss will harden as it cools.

Prep Time: 20 Min.

Cook Time: 12 Min.

Yield: 24 Cookies (ish)




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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back from the Hiatus!

Well, I am finally back from my three month hiatus! Between the start of my fall semester, and just overall involvement around campus, I have not kept up with my blogging.  I can say though, I am back to posting!  To give you all a little look into my life the past couple months, one of the best ways to do that is to show you what sorority recruitment is like at the University of Mississippi.  
Rush week for us occurred during the first week of October, however, the recruitment process begins in the spring of the previous year.  Between practicing songs and dances, to ordering special decorations- recruitment is a time consuming, but completely worth it aspect of sorority life.  
At the University of Mississippi, sororities participate in three rounds of recruitment within the rush week.  This year, the rounds started on Tuesday, and the new members received their bid to their house on Saturday!  We have two days of philanthropy, two days of skit, one preference round, and then the greatest day: bid day! 
As a member of Pi Beta Phi, I am just going to give a little insight into each round! Our philanthropy is Read. Lead. Achieve, and to learn a little about it, watch this darling video (seriously, it is so cute!)  Every night during formal recruitment, each sorority house "transforms".  Because our philanthropy is focused on literacy, we turn to Dr. Seuss for inspiration!
I know I am swayed in this direction, but I truly think that we have the cutest decorations!  They are bright, colorful, and eye-catching!  
During the philanthropy rounds, there are several components!  Initiated members get to know the girls going through recruitment, they watch our national philanthropy video, and they also get to watch a video that shows the involvement of the girls in the sorority! 
The next night is skit night, and once again the house completely transforms. This night is a more fancy, and rather than girls wearing t-shirts and shorts, everyone is in a dress.  
This round is based upon a skit that each sorority puts together that is supposed to be humorous, as well as show a little bit about the sorority!  This year our skit was based around The Price is Right, but instead we called it, "The House is Right"!  
It was such a fun night!  We had such a great skit (again, I am swayed a little bit, but just because I am so in love with my sorority!)  The skit was a mix of humor, dance, and information, and I can truly say that I laughed each round that I watched it (and there were a whole bunch of rounds.)  
One of the best parts of this night is that it is a little bit more of a serious tone.  The girls get to know the sorority more, and we get to know the potential new members more! 
This night is also a great bonding time for all of the initiated members.  After spending many, many hours throughout this week together, we somehow all seem to love each other!  I truly got to know the sisters  in my pledge class even more, as well as my sisters in other pledge classes!
The last night that is involved in recruitment is preference night.  This is the most serious of all the nights, and this is where you truly get to know the girls that you might be calling your sorority sisters the next day!  
For this round, many of the sororities wear long matching formal dresses, and the new members are wearing their fanciest dresses.  This night is all about letting the girls know why they should choose that house to be theirs for the next three and a half years.  
We demonstrate all of the most important aspects of our sisterhood, and what our values truly are.  This is the night that I knew that I wanted to be a member of Pi Beta Phi!  That night I knew that this was the perfect organization for me, but I would have never known about all the friendships that I would soon treasure!
The day that makes the entire recruitment process worth it is BID DAY!  We have the most amazing executive committee in Pi Beta Phi, and we had the recruitment to prove that!
This year our theme was "circus", so everything was brightly colored, super cute, and just all around adorable.  
Bid day is just as exciting for the initiated members as it is for the girls who get their bid to join a sorority!  
All of the girls become so close throughout this week, and I can truly say that we become "sisters"!  
Did I mention how cute our theme is? I mean, we got rainbow colored swirly lollipops! 
When the sorority reads out the girls who received bids, there are screams of joy from the house that could be be heard from miles away!  This girl was one that was welcomed by one of those screams!  I had her for water parties (a pre-recruitment "get to know" of sororities on campus), and at that point I had no idea that she would one day become my sister!  And I am so thrilled that she is,  I could not be more excited!
Recruitment is one of the best parts of fall.  Although all of the girls are running on VERY little sleep, we are physically exhausted, and running on fumes, it is truly one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been involves in, and I cannot wait until next year!  

I will blog again soon, I promise! 

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