Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wonderful Play-doh Recipe!

I've never been keen in homemade playdoh until now. In the past I had only been aware of the flowery ones that either dye your hands and everything it touches when you play with it, completely fall apart, or are so watery they're gross.
I found this post on Pinterest and was pretty intrigued by the raving review a teacher had given this particular recipe.
So I decided it would be a fun rainy-day activity for me and the kids.
Since it has been raining at least once a week here, I didn't have to wait long to try it out.
We made two batches (each kiddo made one). Over all, it was a recipe they could be hands on with, which is nice. It would have been both quicker and cleaner if I had done it alone but that was not so much my intention with the whole activity.
This dough is very squishy (a desired attribute) and seems to hold its moisture very well. We played for probably 45 minutes with all of it out and it didn't even begin to dry up!

Okay here is the easy peasy recipe;

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 Tbls. vegetable oil
food coloring

Combine all the ingredients into a stove-safe pot and mix well. (I used a whisk to get all of the clumps out and realize now I should have helped stir more before the stove-step; It would have made the end result prettier)
We made purple and orange batches. If I had made it for presents or school, I would have halved the batches and done 4 colors. It made so much! Perfect for home though.

After it is all well mixed, stick it on the stove over medium heat and stir. Once it starts really getting thick (you'll know) then it is a very quick process. Maybe 45 sec.
After it has formed into a nice ball and all of the visible moisture has been cooked out, remove it from the pot and flatten it out on a plastic cutting board or plate to let it cool. It will be VERY hot at first, so don't let little helpers get too eager to try it out.
After about 15 minutes it is cool enough to play with.

Here is the consistency and color of the soupy mix. You will notice that, once cooked, the color gets darker.  The orange turned into a pinkish color.  (see the clumps I was talking about)

In this photo I tried to show about how much one batch makes. 

The two larger balls are, what I gaged to be, about the amount of dough in one regular play dough cup. The third, smaller ball, is what is leftover. Hopefully that is an understandable comparison.

Here is our creation in action.  This is all of the "orange" Play-doh and some of the purple.  The 2nd purple princess is in the castle, of course.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Night at the Circus

Thinking back, I remember little about our family trips to the circus. I remember always wanting one of the obnoxious spinning, flashing, over priced toys.
Luckily, now I can look back on a trip to the circus with more vivid memories.

If you couldn't guess, the circus came to town: Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus; the greatest show on earth.

The opening night, a Wednesday, was not the ideal time for a night on the town, but opening night tickets were all $10.00. You can't beat that.

So, after work we headed over to the bi-lo center.
It was not what I expected in some ways. There was a lot of singing and dancing but I didn't really mind that surprise. Simon wasn't thrilled at that unexpected addition but all of the acts were great.
I was really excited about the tigers, but
the elephants ended up being my favorite!

Here are a few pictures from the night. I didn't think I would be able to bring my camera in, so the photos are from a phone and not that spectacular - But some turned out pretty well.

pre show

A very pixely photo from before the real thing started

I got cotton candy!!! I had been looking forward to this all night!!

The elephant train :)

Head stand!

 Elephants again (Like I said, they were my favorite part)

 spinning people

 Grand Finale
Here is a little video. Of the elephants of course  heehee

Strawberry Coconut Cake

Although I don't get many opportunities to bake big cakes or fancy desserts, I jump at any event that I can sneak one in. This time, it was Valentine's day. <3
Simon really likes strawberry cake. For his birthday a couple years ago I made one that turned out really yummy; However, I wanted to try a different recipe this time since my experimenting chances are limited. Why make the same thing twice. Haha. 
Previously, I searched painstakingly for a recipe that did not include box caked mic or strawberry gelatin. I caved on this one because of how delicious it looked an sounded, and because I couldn't find one, apart from the one I made before, that did not include either of those things.
I am so happy that I did branch out, though, because this turned out to be, possibly, the best dessert I have ever made! 

The whole thing took me about 4 hours but that is including the waiting time required before icing was possible. It also would not have taken as long if I had 2 round cake pans. I only have one, so I had to bake each layer individually. 

I found this recipe on one of the blogs I follow.

Okay, here is the slightly altered recipe. I made a few changes as I went along: ex. I did not have coconut extract and therefore did not use any. 

A few of the prettiest ingredients 

1 (16-18 ounce) box white cake mix 
4 Tbsp. strawberry gelatin powder
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/4 Cup water
1/2 Cup pureed strawberries
1 Cup coconut, finely shredded in food
1 tsp vanilla
(1/2 tsp coconut extract) optional
1/2 Cup fresh strawberries, finely diced
Several sliced strawberries to fill cake 
3-5 whole strawberries for garnishing
Shredded coconut for garnishing 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 8in or 9in round baking pans. 

Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl; stir. Beat in oil, eggs, water, vanilla, and coconut extract. Mix well.
In food processor, purée 1/2 cup strawberries and 1 cup coconut. Add this to mixture and stir until well combined.
Pour into prepared baking pans.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the cakes are pulling away from the sides of the pans.

Place pans on wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and place in racks to cool completely. (25-30 minutes). 

Cream cheese icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency. Add a tablespoon or so of milk if icing is too thick. (I used the entire 4 cups and had only a little icing remaining).

Finishing Cake:
Thickly spread icing atop bottom layer, cover with a layer of thinly sliced strawberries. 
Place second cake on top and ice the rest of the cake. Carefully cover entire cake in shredded coconut and garnish with fresh strawberries.

All finished
A slice