Decorative Letters

Letters (15 of 16)

Throughout our college careers (as is the norm for most college students), we’ve constantly been on the move — in and out of dorms, sorority houses, apartments. Each new school year comes with a new place and new people to call home. While definitely exciting as each place will inevitably bring new memories with our friends at school, it makes it a little harder to create that “home away from home” feeling.

When we moved into Towngirls (the 4-girl room in our sorority) together sophomore year, we decided to make a little housewarming gift for our roommates to brighten up the standard white walls and grey carpets of our room and make the place feel a bit more lived-in. Since then, it has been a tradition to begin each school year with this housewarming gift for our new roommates.

This craft is unbelievably easy to make (you’ll be surprised) and can be tailored to each person’s favorite color, pattern, etc. These letters make the perfect housewarming, birthday, holiday gift for friends and family — really, it’s great for any occasion!


Materials:

  • Cardboard letters (we got ours on Amazon, here)
  • Acrylic paint/paintbrush (you can also use spray paint)
  • Decorative paper (we got ours at the Paper Source, here)
  • Modge podge
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

After carefully peeling off all the price stickers from the cardboard (you want to begin with as smooth a surface as possible), we began to paint the letters completely. Two layers ensured a rich paint color. Let dry completely before moving on!

Letters (3 of 16)

Next, we flipped the letter upside-down and traced onto the matching decorative paper with a pencil. It’s really important to make sure you are tracing the letter backwards onto the back side of the paper — we don’t want to pull a Karen from Mean Girls!!

Letters (5 of 16)

Then, carefully cut out with scissors. Make sure to stay as close to the pencil line as possible so that the paper lines up with the letter so there is no excess or shortage.

Letters (6 of 16)

Finally, we painted Modge podge onto the front side of the letter so we could attach the decorative paper. Carefully lay the paper onto the Modge podged surface so that there are no wrinkles. Press down firmly to secure.

Letters (8 of 16)

Now you’re ready to keep ’em, gift ’em, hang ’em on a wall – whatever your heart desires!

Letters (10 of 16)

Letters (12 of 16)Letters (14 of 16)Letters (16 of 16)

Happy Modge Podge-ing!

– Kirby and Michelle

Coconut Macaroon Birds’ Nests

Easter (9 of 16)

We hope everyone has an amazing Easter this upcoming Sunday! We will both be spending it the best way possible, with family. This is one holiday that, although it was a blast as a kid (who doesn’t love a good Easter egg hunt?), it is still just as special as an adult. Maybe it’s the fact that the weather is nice, family and friends are around, or that it always is on a Sunday, but neither of us can remember having a bad Easter. Plus, the Easter candy selection might be the best of all the holidays. Hard to compete with that.

This past week we tested out some coconut macaroons as a sweet treat to contribute to our Easter parties. Instead of traditional coconut mounds, we shaped them into nests that perfectly fit three little cadbury eggs in the center. The result is an adorable Easter themed treat that tastes like a dream.


Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (1 14 oz bag)
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A bag of cadbury mini eggs

Preheat the oven to 375º F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In our test run, the cookies stuck a little bit so next time we will grease the paper as well just to be careful. Mix together the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla until well combined.

Easter (1 of 16)Easter (2 of 16)

In a separate bowl, use and electric mixer to whisk the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks.

Easter (3 of 16)

Carefully fold the egg white mixture into the coconut mixture.

Easter (4 of 16)

Use a spoon to form a heaping mound of mixture onto the baking sheet.

Easter (5 of 16)

Then use your fingers to press down in the center to create a “nest” shape. You might want to test the size of it with three eggs to make sure that they will fit. Repeat this until you have used all of your mixture.

Easter (6 of 16)

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges are golden. Then allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, fill them with mini cadbury eggs and you are done!

Easter (12 of 16)

Easter (7 of 16)

Lola thought they were pretty tasty, too hehe.

Easter (8 of 16)

Easter (11 of 16)

Easter (16 of 16)

Happy Easter!

-Michelle and Kirby

Beauty and the Beast Belle Cupcakes

belle (22 of 24)Michelle and I are beyond excited for Disney’s new live action Beauty and the Beast. The costumes look stunning and I adore Emma Watson, she is the perfect embodiment of Belle, on screen and in real life. Belle was always the Disney princess I associated myself with as a kid… but looking back that’s probably just because she looked the most like me.

There’s nothing quite like a themed cupcake to get me even more excited for something. Michelle and I made these two-tiered Belle cupcakes for the occasion. They brought me right back to my 6th birthday party when I had a Barbie cake. Did anyone else have one of those, with the real Barbie inside the cake “dress”? This whole week has been filled with a whole lot of Disney/Barbie/princess nostalgia!

On another note, Michelle and I have officially finished college as of yesterday and we are off to Thailand for two weeks! I have no idea how four years flew by that fast. We can barely contain our excitement for this trip and can’t wait to see what adventures await us. We have some fun content lined up while we’re gone and hopefully upon our return we’ll have some Thai-inspired crafts to share with you all.


Materials:

  • Cupcakes (not shame in using a boxed mix – the college budget is real)
  • Vanilla frosting
  • Yellow food coloring (we used golden yellow and bright yellow to create two separate shades)
  • A printed Belle template (here’s our Belle Template)
  • Toothpicks
  • Super glue or hot glue
  • A knife
  • Plastic ziplock bags or piping bags

Bake your cupcakes and allow them to cool completely. We used red cupcake liners to symbolize the red rose from the film.

Belle cupcakes

 

These cupcakes are actually created by stacking one cupcake on top of another in order to get the correct dress shape. Start by unwrapping the paper from a cupcake. Flip it over so that the bottom is on top. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut away slivers of the cake to make the cupcake a more conical shape. Grab another cupcake and spread frosting on top of it. Finally, place your upside down carved cupcake onto the iced cupcake. Repeat these steps with all of the other cupcakes.

PicMonkey Collage

Separate a small amount of your icing and use your dyes to mix a deep golden yellow color. Spoon it into a zip lock bag or piping bag and cut a small hole in the corner. With the remaining icing, use your dyes to mix a lighter shade of yellow for the main part of the dress. Spoon that into a different baggie and cut a larger hole in the corner, about a centimeter wide.

belle (8 of 24)

Starting at the top of the cupcake, carefully create vertical stripes using the yellow frosting. The key is to move faster at the top and slow down towards the bottom so that the stripes are wide at the base. They should be tall narrow triangles, and they don’t have to be perfect – in fact, the lumpiness makes the frosting look more like fabric.

belle (10 of 24)

Continue making stripes until the entire cupcake is covered and none of the cake part is exposed. If there is cake exposed at the very top, just use a little bit of frosting to cover it up.

belle (11 of 24)

Using your darker shade of yellow frosting, carefully pipe the ribbon around the dress, following the wave pattern of the stripes.

belle (14 of 24)

Next, print your Belle template and cut out only the top half of her body.

belle (12 of 24)

Use super glue or hot glue to attach toothpicks to the backs of the cutouts and allow them to dry.

belle (13 of 24)

Once they have dried, insert them into the top of the cake, and you are finished. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did, and enjoy the movie!

belle cupcakebelle (23 of 24)belle (19 of 24)

Happy baking!

-Kirby

 

Mardi Gras King Cake

king-24-of-26We hate to brag, but this is one of the most delicious king cake recipes ever. It is soft, it is cinnamon-y, it is nutty, and it is coated in thick, gooey vanilla icing. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The festive cake season started on January 5th, also known as the Twelfth Night or Epiphany Day, and ends on Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. This year Mardi Gras takes place on February 28th so it is perfect timing to whip up your own king cake. Whoever finds the small baby hidden inside is blessed with luck and prosperity, and has to bring the king cake to the party next year!

We’ve learned a lot about the history and symbolism behind the cake throughout this project, but what we love the most is the joyful celebrations that surround this treat. We daydream about dancing in the streets of New Orleans every time we bite into this cake, but for now we’ll have to enjoy it from afar here in Los Angeles!


Ingredients

The Cake

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened, cut into small cubes

The Filling

  • 2/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups chopped walnuts

The Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The Decoration

  • Yellow, purple, and dark green sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • A small, plastic baby

Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour with the package of yeast until completely blended.

king-1-of-26

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, combine the dry ingredients with the hot milk while the mixer is on low speed.

king-3-of-26

Once the liquids are well incorporated, add the eggs one at a time. Mix until a gooey dough forms. Switch to a dough hook attachment. Mix in the remaining cup of flour and the salt.

king-4-of-26

Add the softened butter, one cube at a time. Using the hook attachment, knead the dough for 8 minutes, pausing to clean the sides of the bowl every few minutes.

king-6-of-26

Knead the dough a few times by hand on a floured surface.

king-8-of-26

Then roll it into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise for an hour. It should almost double in size.

king-9-of-26

While the dough is proofing, make your cinnamon filling. Combine all ingredients until it forms a thick paste.

king-10-of-26

Once the dough has risen for an hour, remove it from the bowl and roll it out onto a floured surface. You want to roll it into a rectangle measuring approximately 10 x 20 inches.

king-12-of-26

Smear the cinnamon filling onto one half (the long ways) of the dough. Don’t be afraid to use your clean fingers to get it evenly distributed! Fold the dough in half over the filling and press down firmly.

king-13-of-26

Carefully slice the dough into three long, even strips. Then pinch the dough together, sealing any openings so that the cinnamon filling won’t leak out.

king-14-of-26

Gently braid the dough. After you braid it you can stretch it out a little bit.

king-15-of-26

Form the braided dough into a wreath shape on a foil-lined baking sheet (we used a pizza stone). We tucked the loose pieces of dough underneath each other in order to disguise them. Then cover and allow to sit for another hour.

king-16-of-26

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350º F. After an hour, when the dough has once again doubled in size, place it in the over and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes or so once finished baking. The filling might have leaked a little bit (ours did!) but no worries, it comes off easily when you transfer the cake to a new plate.

king-18-of-26

While it cools, make the icing by mixing the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk together until smooth. It should be viscous but not too runny.

king-20-of-26

Onto the fun part – decoration! First, and most importantly, tuck the little plastic baby into the cake somewhere. It helps that it is braided because there are many secret little crevices.

king-19-of-26

Using a spoon, pour the icing on top of the cake in thick globs. Allow it to ooze instead of spreading it.

king-21-of-26

Then finish it off with green, purple, and yellow sprinkles! We did them in six alternating sections.

king-22-of-26

Time to reap your reward! Pop your piece in the microwave for ten seconds if you want it warm and soft… really, does it get any better?

king-23-of-26

A big thank you to our friend Evie, a cooking genius (and she is 12!!) for her help on this baking project.

 

Happy Mardi Gras!

-Kirby and Michelle

Texas-Style Queso Blanco

qeuso-edited-6As most of you know, the Super Bowl is coming up. And we’re going to be completely honest here… football is not our thing. In fact, we had to google who is playing this Sunday (sorry, Dad). But there’s one thing that brings us to the TV room every Super Bowl Sunday, and that’s the food. We can get down with some buffalo chicken wings and jalapeño poppers.

One of our favorite snacks of all time is queso (otherwise known as liquid gold). In fact, one of the first things we bonded over our freshman year of college was our love for cheese, and look how strong that bond proved to be. If you haven’t had queso, here’s your opportunity to change that. We wish we could have our first bite of queso all over again. It’s not easy to find here in L.A. though. Our Mexican food is amazing, but very different from Tex-Mex. Liquid cheese doesn’t necessarily fit the California health mold. Can you imagine… “May I have some queso with my quinoa and kale?” So we’ve been making our own, and my god is it good.

The best thing about this recipe is the use of fresh ingredients. We won’t deny how tasty Velveeta queso is, but this recipe allows us to enjoy it with a little less guilt.


Ingredients 

  • 8 oz white American cheese (get a good quality kind, preferably at the deli counter), cubed or shredded
  • 4 oz monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1 cup half & half or cream
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilis
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Chili powder (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Chips

edited-queso-5


Pour a tablespoon of oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, onions, fresh tomatoes and jalapeños. Sauté for a few minutes, just before the onions begin to look translucent.

nye-4-of-16

Pour in the cream and the can of Rotel tomatoes. Stir well and bring to a simmer.

queso-edited-4

Then add the cheese a little bit at a time, continuously stirring. You don’t want the cheese to burn the bottom of the pan but you want it hot enough to melt evenly and smoothly.

nye-6-of-16

Once all of the cheese is melted, add the lime, cilantro, salt and pepper. At this point you can play with the seasoning and add based on your preferences. We like a little cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes.

queso-edited-3

Pour into a bowl and serve immediately with chips! You can also microwave it later if it cools too much.

queso-edited-1

edited-queso

Good luck not eating the whole thing by yourself!

nye-16-of-16

Go Patriots and Falcons! May whoever wins be rewarded with liquid gold.

-Kirby and Michelle

Mason Jar Gingerbread Cookies

dsc_0491goldleaves

In my family, the day after Thanksgiving has always meant the first day of Christmas. It may seem a bit early to some, but with all of us living in different places it’s one of the last times we’ll be together before Christmas Day itself. So in the true holiday spirit, our house begins to resemble Santa’s workshop as we all get to work. My dad hangs the lights outside, my sister and I grab container after container of ornaments and stockings off the shelves in the garage to bring inside, and my mom whips up some homemade hot chocolate and cookies for us all – Noodles hovering close by, waiting for scraps of food to be dropped to the kitchen floor. With a full fire going and Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other members of the Rat Pack playing in the background, we all gather around to decorate the Christmas tree.

It’s truly one of the most special days of the year in the Embury household, and something I wish I could share with everyone. While I can’t personally invite every person I know into my house, I did the next best thing. I found a way to bring our holiday festivities to you through some of my favorite gingerbread cookies!

These were very simple and affordable to make, which is always a plus on my college budget. They make the perfect gift for friends and family, and go a long way in spreading the holiday cheer. I made quite a few at home over Thanksgiving break, but saved one to enjoy with Kirby and our friends in Los Angeles.


Materials:

  • 1 quart-sized mason jar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • Small spoon or ladle
  • Twine
  • Gingerbread man cookie cutter
  • Fabric to cover mason jar lid
  • Card stock paper to write instructions
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch

Mix 2 cups of flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Mix the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour with the ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. Layer the ingredients in the mason jar starting with the flour and baking powder mixture, then the brown sugar, and finally the flour and spice mixture. Pack firmly between layers. I used a small metal ladle to press down each layer as I went. Seal the mason jar tightly with the lid.

dsc_0471

Fold a piece of card stock paper over and write down the ingredients and directions on the inner section. I used white card stock so that you could clearly see the writing on the page. Feel free to decorate this card however you want. On another piece of card stock (I used brown to resemble a gingerbread man) I stenciled a gingerbread man using the cookie cutter to cut out and paste on the front section of the ingredients and directions card. Make sure to leave room at the top, inner corner to punch a hole.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • icing and candy to decorate

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. Empty contents of jar into a large mixing bowl
  3. Stir to blend together
  4. Mix in butter, molasses, and egg
  5. Cover and refrigerate (1 hr)
  6. Roll dough to 1/4″ thick on a lightly floured surface
  7. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter
  8. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake (10-12 mins)
  9. Decorate and enjoy!

dsc_0463goldleaves

dsc_0464goldleaves

Place enough fabric over the top of the mason jar to cover the metal lid – I chose red to match the holiday theme! Secure the fabric to the jar by wrapping twine around the lid. Make sure to loop in the ingredients and directions card as well as the gingerbread man cookie cutter before tying a bow.

photoshopped-image

michelle-and-noodlesgoldleavesNow you’re ready to gift, bake some cookies, and relax!

_mg_8165goldleaves_mg_8173goldleaves

Happy holidays!

-Michelle