Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Evil Weevils

This post has absolutely nothing to do with cakes. Or cookies. It has to do with kitchen reorganization. is nicer to bake and decorate cakes and cookies with a clean, organized kitchen, so given that, this post may be very related!

Have you ever been confronted with a pantry weevil? They are pesky little critters. They are usually brought into the house through an already infested grain product. Lovely, eh?

"Rice and granary weevils are harmless to people, houses, furniture, clothing and pets. They cannot bite or sting and they do not carry diseases. They will not feed on furniture, the house structure or other items. The harm they do is destruction of the seeds they infest and the annoyance of being in the wrong place."

Annoyance is an understatement. Highly irritating...that's a bit more on track. Every time I see one I just want to squish it's little guts out. Fortunately, they're very teeny tiny, so the guts *really* don't squish...

I discovered weevils in our pantry probably about 2 years ago. Since then I've been on a non-stop mission to rid my house of them, every so often clearing and cleaning out the pantry, only to have them return time and time again. Or maybe they never ever really went away...they were just hiding in some crevice waiting for me to restock the grains and reproduce.

A couple months ago I hit my wall with them. I was so sick and tired of seeing them around. It was time for drastic measures!

I came across a site which I cannot for the life of me find anymore. This mom not only organized her pantry, but she painted and decorated it. It was beautiful. I was awestruck by how tidy it looked. Then and there I decided I was just going to bite the bullet and spend money on some good quality, air-tight containers. The ones I currently had *claimed* to be, but those little weevil suckers have always found their way inside.

Now. Before I show you the before picture of my pantry, allow me to put on extra neutral caked-on makeup. You know, to hide the blushing from embarrassment.

:Deeeeep Breathe:

Here it goes....

Geez. I feel like I'm exposing myself in my bra and panties...

 Now, just my bra...

 Now, just my panties.

If I was wearing any.

(just kidding. really.)

Okay. Now I am totally naked.

Are you happy?

I have bared myself for the sake of blogging...

Whew. I'm glad that's over!

I got started by first buying air-tight containers. I pretty much stuck with 4 different kinds of containers:

Good Grips by OXO:
POP Containers:

Acrylic Canisters:

Click-Clack Canisters. My personal favorite.
No teeny tiny critter is getting past the seal of these suckers!

The next step was to empty out the ENTIRE cluster of the pantry. I was dreading this. I kept putting it off. For weeks after I bought the containers, literally. Finally one day I just grabbed a big garbage can and went to work. I threw out anything I haven't touched in awhile...or didn't think I wanted anymore. Anything that was expired of course was out. Then of course, anything that even had one teeny weeny critter in it. It was gone.

I took the trash out right after I was done...I didn't want to chance any of those things getting out. Next I got my shop vac and sucked every nook and cranny of that pantry. Lastly, the whole pantry got wiped down and cleaned.

Next came packaging up the containers. Every grain got a home, many packages got opened and dumped into a container. Cans were racked, and bottles were lazy-susaned. I really wanted to label, which my husband disagrees even needs to be done. I agree that some things are clear-cut, like pasta and rice...but whey powder? Cornmeal? Pancake mix? I would really not like a cornmeal shake, thank you very much.

So labeling is to come. I couldn't wait to just get everything back on the shelves, and off my counters.

Are you ready?

I give you...

My Organized Pantry!

Now, for some things I did leave them in their packaging and in bins vs. containers. Over the years I have noticed things like the mac n cheese and granola bars go undisturbed.

I've kept a watchful eye on the shelves and walls since doing this, and although I've squished seen a few weevils here and there, they are for the most part...GONE!

I guess in the end, the little critters were a good thing, because I never would have done this. My pantry would have gone on looking like a big crumpled mess, and things would disappear and expire even before being used. Now, I have a clean, organized pantry that I am not ashamed to show...that I don't have to keep locked out of embarrassment! I've even showed it off! Heck, our fish-tank guy even took pictures to show his wife for inspiration!

So next comes the labeling. I want to keep things non-permanent (ie, no stickers that can't be peeled off), and I want them aesthetically pleasing to the eye, preferably clear. I think vinyl is the way to go, but I have no clue about it. Post-It has come out with new peel-off label-type of pads, but they're bright colors. I don't really want to order custom made ones, because I want to be able to whip a new one out if I put something else in the pantry. I do have a label maker...I will have to check the fonts on it and maybe succumb to that...but if anyone has any brilliant ideas, I would love to hear them!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Recent Sweets~~~

Here's a few projects I've finished in the last couple of weeks...

Ladybug cookie bites to go along with this flower pot I found at a local Hallmark...

Hunting and golf themed for my FIL's birthday...

Dinosaur train, cupcakes, and gumball machine for
my friend's 4-year old twin's birthday...

Close-up of "Buddy"

Cupcake close up!

One of the twin's personalized cookies...
the square is a peanut-butter cut out cookie;
the J's are cookie bites...

A duck-themed cake for a 1-year old birthday girl...

The bottom cake is a "column" cake I tried out for the first time. It's 2 - 8" cakes stacked on top of each other (each on a cake board for support), the top is a 6", then covered in fondant. I really like the look of the added height!

Some cookies I added for the duck-themed birthday...

...and these are just for funsies...

"Peek-a-boo" Baby cutter bought from ecrandal.
I can't wait to play around more with this cutter!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spinning Leaf Molds & Chocolate Transfer Sheets

For awhile now I've wanted to try out chocolate transfer sheets. They look like a fun way to jazz up decorating projects and turn an otherwise ho-hum deliciscious treat into a oh-yum cute treat.

I found out about Spinning Leaf cookie molds on my go-to site for ideas, Cake Central. Their company has molds for chocolate, soap and most importantly...cookies! After reading about them, I had to try them out right away. Ordering was a breeze...and can I just tell you about their customer service? They broke the mold (har har...pun intended) for how to do business. Quick to respond, and so, so nice!

Having a couple birthday cookie projects coming up, I thought it was a perfect time to experiment with the molds and transfer sheets!

I'm sorry I didn't start taking pics from the beginning, but I'll explain where I started...

Let me introduce you to the cookie mold
(and my nubby thumb)~~~~~~~

Six-pack design, sized perfectly for regular Oreo-sized cookies (but they make ones for Oreo minis too! How cute is that!). This is the standard cookie mold, but they have a whole bunch of other molds in their collection. Hearts, faces, Halloween-themed, Christmas-themed. You get the idea, endless possibilities...go and take a looksie for yourself!

Next comes the part without I took my chocolate transfer sheets, which are about 11x14, and cut a strip width-wise the same as my cookie circles. Be careful handling them because the design can be rubbed off with your fingers. Place the strip, design side UP on wax paper. Melt some chocolate of choice (I used chocolate almond bark), and...

Spread it thinly on top of the transfer sheet:

Now, careful when you are spreading to not push the melted chocolate around too much. You basically want to smear it on, and leave what has already touched the design surface alone. Too much smearing will make the transfer sheet design rub/smear off.

I know this, because of experience...

See how the lettering is a little rubbed off?

(FYI, I did that on purpose just to prove how not to do it...mmmkay?)

Let that harden up a bit.

Next, you get a circle cutter. I happen to have one that is *just about* the perfect size, and it has an added bonus I'll show in a minute. It's about 1-34/" diameter...

Place it over your firm chocolate and press down to cut the circle out

There she is. Smudged letters and all.

Now, place it over the empty cookie mold cavity. The added bonus of my special circle cutter? It has an edge that allows it to sit down perfectly into my mold.

Lovely. Just lovely.

Next, take a sharp knife and gently push around the edges. It should just easily fall into the bottom of the mold. If it doesn't, then give it a little help with your finger. Don't one will see the fingerprint mark you leave on the chocolate; the evidence will be covered up!


The underside:

Letter smudges and all.

Now for the fill.

Get your supplies.

I used Oreo Double Stuff (shown) and Oreo PEANUT BUTTER. Salivating yet?

Chocolate for melting.
I used Merckens, but any will do.

I melted my chocolate in a disposable icing bag. So handy for squeezing into the mold cavities, and clean up is easy peasy.

Snip off the end of the icing bag and squeeze the melted chocolate right into the cavities

Now, I know what you are seeing thinking. I thought it too. So, quickly get that cookie and smush down any crappy visuals you may be having of that chocolate swirl.


Smoosh it down so that the top of the cookie is below, not flush, with the top of the cavity.

Then top of each cavity with more melted chocolate

Pick up the entire mold and give it some taps on the counter to settle the cookie and allow any air bubbles to come to the surface.

If needed, add a little more melted chocolate. I did. You want enough on top to be able to scrape it flush. Kind of like you want a little extra on top when measuring flour or sugar in a cup.

Time to scrape. I use a small plastic bench scraper.

Now, when I scrape I like to do a couple passes, and I go in a square-pattern.

1...along the length
2...along each bottom
3...along the other length

Flushed and finished!

Now it sits in the fridge to firm up. Doesn't take long.

I used the wait time to color some black royal icing. In doing so, had a little incident with the black coloring gel. The gel won.

As evidenced in it under my fingernails. Really. It's not dirt.

So after messing up my kitchen more, I took a mold out, turned it over, gave a very easy press on the cookie, and out it came!

Without much pressure or convincing!

Not too shabby!

One of these pretty little numbers just had to be sacrificied.

Poor thing.

Of course, I had to sample it. You know, to make sure it was edible for the recipients and all.

A Double Stuff may or may not have been sampled as well.

Have you done cookie molds?
Chocolate transfers?

Let me know your experiences and tips!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autumn Leaf Cookies or...Love is in the Air

Recently I fulfilled a request for anniversary cookies...the theme was left up to me. It was for my friend Tricia who wanted to surprise her husband with some sweet treats. Trying to figure out which designs to go with, I decided to browse her wedding photographs. They were married in September and their theme was vintage with an autumn influence. I confiscated some of the pictures, and with the help of my projector...these were born:

... I really must time my pictures for when it's daylight...

Their movie poster wedding program...

Sunflowers (kinda)...

Autumn leaves...

The getaway car...

and misc...

The Autumn leaf cookies were my first try at coloring sugar cookie dough for a multi-colored effect. Here's how I did it...

First I started off with a recipe for Cinnamon Spice Roll Out Cookies I found on the Karen's Cookies site. After making the dough, I divided equal parts into 5 sections. Leaving one section the original dough color, I then colored the other 4 the Fall colors I wanted:

Then I pinched off a part of each section and layered them on top of each other:

Next I pinched the dough together all around:

Flattened and rolled it out:

I chilled it for a few minutes in the freezer before cutting it out with my leaf cookie cutters.

Baked it at 350, for approximately 10-12 minutes...

I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to decorate them. I really didn't want to ice them and cover up the colors. So, after cooling, I brushed them very lightly with light corn syrup and sprinkled on gold sparkle dust...voila!

I just love how they shimmered!

Happy Anniversary Tricia!