Categories
Holidays Home Monthly Mantel Decor

Easter Mantel: Gold Accented Painted Wood Egg Set

 

I don’t know about you, but for years I did NOT have any Easter decor besides filling an Easter Basket with Easter goodies, and the traditional Easter egg hunts and Easter meals. In fact I never really got excited about Easter decorations because all the traditional pastel and bunnies and plaid and flowers and lace just seemed to uninspiring for me. Nothing grabbed my attention. UNTIL I saw a spray painted pastel rainbow of these wood eggs, and the inspiration FLOODED my brain. I was so excited I could place an order fast enough because I KNEW exactly what I was gonna do. I knew I wanted something with lots of gorgeous colors, but still had that elegant edge without the traditional “grandma-cheesy” Easter decor I detest.

 

I am OBSESSED with these colors and the gold accents. I have a set of gold utensils I use for Easter dinner, and so the gold accents just pulls it all together. I contemplated cutting out, and sanding my own eggs, but the shear amount of work it would take I was not prepared to do…I have my limits…made purchasing 6 sets so worthwhile. 

The gold accents I added are easier to see in this picture. I not only painted the bottom third of each egg–and since there are three different sizes, the bottom third is proportionate to the size of the egg–but I also speckled the eggs with the gold paint. I used a tooth brush dipped in the gold paint, and with my thumb or another finger to run down the paint soaked bristles while aiming at the wood eggs. To say the least, got gold paint all over my thumbs and fingers…and table and chairs…ya, I also recommend covering the table and all surrounding chairs with plastic before splattering paint. I learned the hard way, but I tend to be so excited about these projects that this type of prep work is harder for me than the extra clean up work I create for myself.

I used craft acrylics, as well as some of my professional grade Golden brand acrylics to achieve some of the colors I knew I HAD to have since I already had the on hand. Because I am uber particular with the shades of the colors I wanted, I mixed most of the colors myself, but that is entirely unnecessary if you find 3 different shades of pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple you love in craft paints, as well as a craft paint in gold you love. I listed materials and steps below.

Required materials:

6 sets–wood eggs in 3 sizes

craft paint in 3 desired shades if each color grouping (pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, & purple)–18 colors

gold craft paint

*painter’s tape 

 

 1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

a clean, dry toothbrush (for speckeling)

plastic to cover your work surface to protect from gold speckling

80 grit or finer sandpaper

 

 

Steps:

1) Sand the wood egg cutouts to smooth any splinters or any rough areas. You don’t need to make sure it is ultra smooth. in fact, I only do a light overall sanding using an 80 grit sandpaper quarter sheet (tearing a full sheet of sandpaper into fourths). You want the paint to have some texture to grip onto, and dry smoother; you do NOT want to paint such a smooth wood surface so the paint will basically peel off. 

2) Use two coats of the base color paint for each egg. Make sure you let each coat dry in between. 

3) Paint the bottom 1/3 of each egg with the gold craft paint. Use two coats, making sure each layer is completely dry before adding another coat of paint. *NOTE: You can use painters tape to mark off the bottom third for the gold paint. Just know you may need to go in with the base color paint to touch up any bleeding you may get with the gold once you remove the painter’s tape. I am an experienced painter, and thus trust my hand to be steady enough to get a straight line using a 1 in flat brush, and so I skip the painter’s tape. 

4) To speckle the eggs with the gold paint, dip your toothbrush in the gold paint (you do not want it dripping off of the toothbrush), and run your thumb or a finger from the hand not holding the toothbrush to flick the paint onto the base color part of the egg. Repeat until you are satisfied with the speckling. NOTE: Be aware that as you load your toothbrush with gold paint multiple times, paint can start to pool and then drip where you do not want it to drip if you are not careful. To remedy this, I simply tap off any excess paint after a few times I have dipped my toothbrush.  

5) Let the eggs dry completely before setting up your Easter display. Stand back, and enjoy your custom creation you will be able to use year after year. In fact, I see these custom made holiday decor pieces as heirlooms to pass on; it just adds to the sentimentality and tradition of the holiday. Happy Easter!

 

Check out my Spring/Easter dual sided letter blocks I created with scrap wood. Super easy project that is super cute!

Categories
Holidays Home Monthly Mantel Decor

Super Cute & Easy Scrap Wood Spring & Easter Decor Blocks

 

DO you have scrap wood sitting around from a home improvement project, you hate the space it is taking up, but you hate wasting perfectly good wood even more? Then this is the PERFECT project for you! It is so easy and so hard to mess up. All you need is 2 x 4 wood, a saw, or a friend who has one, sand paper, craft paint, brush or sponge brush, and letter stencils or vinyl letter cut outs to use the letters or as a stencil. I did both. It is so versatile as well! You can use it for Spring and Easter just by flipping the blocks!

 

Aren’t the colors so perfect for Spring AND Easter??!???!!! I am OBSESSED. I did use my Silhouette Cameo 3 for the first time since I bought it 6 months ago. This was the perfect excuse to pull it out. It was a headache, but I am sure for all y’all who are NOT “tech phones” like me wouldn’t have an issue. I ALWAYS have issues setting up technology…part of the reason it sat for so long.

I knew I wanted Spring on one side of the letter blocks, and Easter on the other side. As I played around with fonts and sizes, I decided on all lower case for Spring and all upper case for Easter. I loved the font changes, and I used the Georgia font, which I love to use. I also knew I was gonna make 3 sets…and I still have tons of scrap wood left over from my storage shelves…I will definitely post about those. I had a co-worker and friend come over with her 3 little girls for a craft day. Her oldest is a die hard crafter at the wee age of 8, which I adore because I was too at a young age. I started by cutting the blocks to size (listed below). We had to make a Home Depot run because I was out of sand paper; knowing there were 3 girls 8 and under, I got the sand paper blocks for them, but I prefer the basic sand paper I tear into quarters to use. I bought 80 grit to make sure all the splinters were smoothed down, as well as any stamp lettering you commonly find on 2x4 studs. The girls were put to work sanding as well, and it was a great teachable moment to let them know there is always the “not-so-fun” parts of projects, but that it was a necessary part, and if we persevere we get to do the fun part: painting! Painting these wood blocks is perfect for young kids because they are a single background color each, and if the parents allow, the kids can choose their color adding to the excitement and ownership of the project; they will BEAM with accomplishment and love it all the more because they picked out their color. The girls lost interest and left my friend and I to some much needed girl talk as we finished painting the first coats! Hahaha! It was SOOOO therapeutic. I recommend painting two coats to ensure there is solid coverage of the background colors. These blocks become a keepsake to remember they were custom made each Spring and Easter.

To save on vinyl, I used one set of letters for two sets of blocks: one set of blocks I used the background vinyl of the letters as a stencil to paint the letter, and then on another set I used the actual vinyl letters. Confession time, my friend also had to use the background of the letters as stencils because I ran out of my precious white vinyl troubleshooting why the darn machine wouldn’t cut all the way through the vinyl. Grrrrrr. Well I figured out the bottom of the cutting tool was loose and not screwed in all the way, and I didn’t have the cutting tool properly locked into place…I’m just bummed it took 3 sheets of white vinyl to figure that out! Oh well, you live and learn…but the important part is I LEARNED!!! BTW, you will want to space the letters so you can cute each letter to have a clean margin of vinyl if you plan to use the stencil. My personal preference if the painted letters using the vinyl letter stencils. Once I applied two coats of the white paint, and on the second coat I removed the vinyl stencil to keep the paint from drying which I imagine would make removing the vinyl a pain…or worse…detrimental to all the hard work of the letter block. There is nothing I detest more than wasted time…well, wasted time where I felt like there wasn’t a proper lesson to learn.

As you can see I embellished one set with ribbon, pink twine, felt flower cutouts, buttons, and beads. The set you see the embellishments on is one set of blocks with the letters for Spring on one side, and Easter on the other side. I think they turned out so adorable!!! And yes, I did find my little spelling mishap…tee hee hee…I think it is a subliminal message. Did you see it? Spring is “bloomy”-ing! I didn’t even notice until my husband started belly laughing, and told me he loves me. Ha! I tell you, I am the worst editor in the world because it all looks right in my head! I did keep the painted gold “bloopered” set myself (above). I also added gold splatters to that set. The gold splatters is a running theme through all my custom made Easter decor, which I cannot wait to share it all with you! I have listed all the cut lengths below, as well as listed all the materials you will need. 

2x4 cut lengths:

1- 13.75 inch piece

2- 5.5 inch pieces (tall)

2- 5 inch pieces (medium)

2- 4.25 inch pieces (small)

 

Required materials:

2x4 wood studs, scrap wood is perfect for this

wood saw (I used my miter saw) or a good friend with one 🙂

craft paint in the colors you prefer

1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

 

1 inch flat paint brush or sponge brush

small flat brush, if you plan to stencil in the letters (I prefer this to a stencil brush)

sand paper, 80 grit or finer

vinyl letters in your preferred font, or letter stencils

 

Steps:

1) Cut the wood to the specified lengths. 

2) Sand all edges and faces of the wood to smooth any splinters, rough edges, or ink stamps on the wood. You do not need it to be super smooth, and in fact I do not use sand paper finer than 80 grit because it gives the paint good teeth to grip and gives better coverage. 

3) Order the size of the blocks to your preference. For the Spring letters, I used the pattern: tall, medium, small, medium, tall, small where only the first and last blocks do not sit on the bottom longest block. For the Easter letters: tall, medium, tall, small, medium, small. I actually only marked the bottom with one of the letter combinations, and once I did all the steps to complete one side, I turned the blocks around and rearranged it slightly until I liked the order for the letters to spell the other word on the other side. 

4) Paint two coats on all sides of all the blocks your desired colors. I let each layer completely dry before adding a coat. 

5) Make sure the paint is completely dry before adding the vinyl letters, or stencils. Spell out your desired word on each side to coordinate for Spring and Easter. 

6) I chose different phrases on the long base block. You can customize what phrase you prefer, then stencil or adhere the phrase with the vinyl. Embellish to your hearts desire, or leave as is and you will have a great custom made keepsake you will love to put out each Spring, and flip the blocks to continue to enjoy through Easter!

Don’t forget to check out these amazing and colorful gold accented wood Easter eggs perfect for any mantel. I’m OBSESSED with them!

Categories
Cookies Home Recipes

Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies

 

After my last minute rush to get a Valentine’s dessert thrown together with leftover frosting, cookies, and raspberry filling, I stumbled on a NEW dessert that is so ridiculously AMAZING I don’t know how this desert hasn’t come to light yet! Cheesecake Sugar Cookies flavored with fruit fillings!!! I like to have holiday themes for each month and because it is March, I decided to go with a Key Lime flavor for my cakes and desserts. My new custom recipes this month included a  Blueberry Key Lime Cake, a Key LIme Tunnel cake, and a Key Lime Dressing for a spinach salad…AND last but definitely not least, my Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies. If you like Key Lime, you will LOVE these recipes! I am talking complete FOOD NIRVANA!

 

These cookies are so easy to put together, especially with a batch of my Key Lime fruit filling on hand, which is used in all the previously mentioned Key LIme recipes. I love having versatile recipes, and multiple uses with flavors I adore. And how cute are they as little Shamrocks! The piping was also very easy, and I didn’t even use a tip; I just used the open end of the piping bag. I started in the center of each shamrock, and piped two loops in each leaf, and ended at the stem (all in one continuous motion). 

 

In fact, I had a batch of my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe at the bottom), and I just mixed in enough of my Key Lime Fruit Filling to get that oh so delicious tangy key lime cheesecake flavor. I made sure to NOT add too much fruit filling so the frosting was still a good piping consistency. I also added a drop of green and a drop of yellow food coloring to get a beautiful chartreuse green hue. I brought my first batch of these cookies to test out the recipe with my co-workers where I teach high school math, and they RAVED about them! I knew I wasn’t looney for thinking they were so good. Now I had confirmation of how dang delicious they were. Everyone was saying how perfectly tangy they were, and there was no doubt they were Key Lime Cheesecake. They also said the cookie was the perfect size to have a yummy dessert, but not over do it…and not get all the calories from a slice of Key Lime Pie!!!

Because I use a St. Patrick’s day rainbow and shamrock “Lucky” theme for March, I wanted a way to incorporate that with this recipe. So I busted out the larger shamrock cookie cutter and my rainbow sprinkles to get these stinkin’ cute shamrock cookies! I also love the added crunch from the sprinkles!!! You can see that one of the larger cookies I used the same green frosting as the smaller cookies, one was just my cream cheese frosting, and one I lined the piping bag with 3 stripes of the key lime fruit filling (recipe at the bottom) to get a variegated frosted cookie. I love the variations, and all are so yummy!

This is my go to sugar cookie recipe, and you will get rave reviews! To make these Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies, you need:

1 recipe of sugar cookies, cut out, baked, and completely cooled.

1 recipe of my cream cheese frosting (found at the bottom of the page)

1/4-1/2 c of my Key Lime Fruit Filling recipe.

Mix in the key lime fruit filling to taste, then pipe or frost your cookies. Store frosted cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and they will last up to 3 weeks. They also freeze well in an airtight container for up to 3 months. These storing guidelines also work for leftover frosting. I also use this Key Lime Cheesecake Frosting on cakes, and this cake was particularly delicious!

Key Lime Fruit Filling
Do you LOVE Key Lime but you don’t love the time it takes to make a key lime curd? Then you will adore this recipe! This fruit filling recipe is so versitile, you will loose count how many diffierent ways you can use it. I mostly use it to fill cakes, flavor frosting, and even in a vinaigrette recipe for a spinach salad. 
2 c fresh Key Lime Juice (or 1 1/2 c lime juice plus 1/2 lemon juice)

 

1/2 c sugar

T corn starch, mixed in 1/2 c cold water

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat.

2) Bring the juice mix to a boil.

3) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.

4) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 

 

NOTE: I use this to flavor frosting, fill cakes, vinaigrette dressing, and many other key lime recipes.

To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

 

Categories
Monthly Mantel Decor

March Mantel Decor: Lucky Shamrocks

 

I love it when ideas come together seamlessly as if they were meant to be. This is how my March mantel came to life. I love decorating my mantel each month with holiday themes or seasonal themes. It adds that extra special sense of celebration to the home. Custom decor also give me the ability to let my creativity go free and have an artistic outlet I thoroughly get joy from. Also, each custom handmade piece becomes an heirloom I am proud to pass on, put up year after year building family memories and traditions to deepen that joy.

 

The first piece conceived in my mind was the rainbow felted wool ball garland. I was at a loss trying to figure out the easiest way to get all the shades of the rainbow I wanted in the same size, which can be very tricky and time consuming…and I am not about to waste my time. Thankfully I found these and loved the variety of color. I knew I could use the more vibrant rainbow colors for my March St. Patrick’s themed garland, and the other more muted colors would be great for a fall month garland. 

All you need is white embroidery floss and a needle with an eye large enough for the full width of the floss, and you are good to string those felt balls together. I tied a looped knot at the beginning, made sure my needle went through as close to the center of the felt ball each time, and strung them one after another. I did line up the colors in the order I wanted from beginning to end. I used 52 total felted wool balls to repeat a pattern of 17 colors from a dark burgundy to white with multiple shades of basic red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink. I love seeing multi shades in my rainbows! Oh, and I did use one extra white to begin and end the garland with white. I knotted it off with a matching length loop, and used a large paper clip I opened up to use as a double hook to attack the garland on one side and to my tall silver candle holders.

The next idea I procured during my Christmas decor take down, that happened late February…believe me I was beginning to think it was going to be Christmas in July as things were going with no time and no energy to put Christmas away with all the other project I had going between work and home.

I was about to put these iron fireplace pillar candle holders I traditionally have only used for Christmas. Then it hit me…WHY on earth am I using these gorgeous candle holders ONLY for Christmas? Why not take what I’ve done for Christmas and do something similar to customize for all my holidays and seasons? So I also get to reuse the pillar candles I have (and have never burned), and all I did was add these beautiful rainbow spectrum ribbons with a small chartreuse green ribbon I had on hand and tied them at the top with a simple square knot to give it added interest. I love it! Just about every time I see these candle holders, I have to laugh because until I decided to paint these white with white glitter, I HATED these wrought iron candle holders. They were my husband’s before we got married (or maybe his parents he “inherited”) and they were bulky, beige, and so ugly in my mind. I seriously had them packed up to donate a few times, and something always made me hesitate but I didn’t know why. Then it hit me to refinish them, get white pillar candles, and wrap the base of the candles in a beautiful red sparkle stripe ribbon, and I have loved them ever since. I love them ever more now that I can use them all year! P.S. I just used cellophane tape to tape on the rainbow ribbon, but know when I change it over for Easter, I will take the time to burn the edges of the ribbon to stop the fraying and be able to use these year after year.  I may need to cut the thin green ribbon, but I am thinking I will stitch it onto the wide ribbon, and just tape it each year…unless I can figure out another easy way. 

One thing I knew I wanted to do, but it took the right inspiration on how I was going to do it, was have wood letters spell out LUCKY using various green shades and one letter was going to be painted a rainbow spectrum. JoAnne’s and Michael’s ironically left me inspirational-less, however, walking through Walmart’s vamped up craft section I saw these great wood slatted panels in different sizes. Boom! Inspiration came flooding in! I bought the light grey almost white thinking I would paint the background pure white in the biggest one as well, but in the end I liked the subtle difference. I knew I needed two wood shamrock cutouts that I couldn’t find anywhere with the right size, shape, and thickness. I did find them on two different Etsy stores. I couldn’t wait for them to arrive. I hate having to be patient once I get a completed vision in my head. However, I am so glad it worked out that way, because I finished painting, gold speckling the LUCKY unfinished wood letters I found at Michael’s and got on discount with a great coupon for my whole purchase (where I also got the felt shamrock garland, sparkle mini shamrocks, and gold coins i used on my mantel–watch out for those coupons on their app!). While waiting for my large shamrock and four leaf clover to arrive, I painted the green and white chevron and felt I needed some sparkle! I had some emerald green glitter craft paint I got from the after Christmas sales that was perfect for this. After adding the glitter to the green chevron, I knew I wanted to use the same green and glitter craft paint for the shamrock was planning to glued above the LUCKY letters. It turned out better and tied them in together perfectly! I also had a blast using my paint mixing skills to paint the spectrum rainbow on the U. I am just obsessed with it all and thrilled at how well it all came together.   

I knew I wanted the spectrum rainbow to tie in from the candles, to the garland, the U in the lucky, but felt there needed to be one more place. The smallest wood slat square I originally wanted to break in my Silhouette, that I haven’t set up since getting it for Christmas, and make a stencil for the phrase”You are the gold at the end of my rainbow,” however, time got away from me and I needed something faster. I figure I can use that for another project next year–I always have far too many ideas than I do time! 

When the four leaf clover wood cutout arrived, it was perfect for the square, but too big for the green and white chevron like I was planning, so it hit me…to tie in the gold speckling on the letters AND that last rainbow spectrum element, I would paint the four leaf clover gold, and the whole square the rainbow spectrum like I did the letter U! Voila!!! The inspiration and seamlessness of everything coming together just kept making me so happy! The last thing I did was throw up some the the left over foam shamrocks, and it was a wrap! Now I finally had my March mantel and I am OBSESSED with it! It has all the elements I love: gorgeous color, balance, everything is tied together, sparkle, and nothing is gaudy or cheap looking…it is not diy, it is CUSTOM!

To do the chevron, I taped off the pattern using the thinnest painter’s tape I could find. I first measured the width of the medium sized wood slat piece, and it worked out to divide it into 2 inch sections for each segment of the chevron design. In the video I posted to the right, I show you what I do to ape on the chevron and how I used the width of the tape to determine the width of the chevron spacing. After the tedious, thought relaxing, process of taping off the chevron pattern, I used an inch flat brush to paint in the green. I immediately removed the tape while the paint was damp to avoid any sticking.

After the green paint was dry, I used white craft paint, and a smaller flat brush to paint in the white, while at the same time being able to clean up any bleeding the green did and sharpen up the edges. After it all dried, I used the flat brush to paint on the glitter craft paint. It adds the perfect variation in design, color and texture to the whole mantel.

NOTE: To paint the greens, as well as the spectrum rainbow colors and the gold, I used my artist grade Golden acrylic paints I had on hand. You may use craft paints to achieve the look for much less, but I knew ahead of time I wanted this to be a long lasting, heirloom quality set of holiday decor with the vibrant colors I can achieve with my Golden acrylics. I personally feel it is worth it, and see it as an investment. There is nothing saying that you, however, cannot use the craft paints that offer a beautiful range of color options–especially if you are not as confident in mixing colors.

Materials needed:

DMC white embroidery floss–full 6 strands

embroidery needle with a large eye

52 felted wool balls of various shades in rainbow colors

3 inch wide rainbow ribbon

3/8 inch green craft ribbon

clear cellophane tape

 

fabric scissors-to cute the ribbon to size

white pillar candles

3 sizes of white washed slatted wood panels–largest, medium, and small square–found at Walmart’s craft wood section

Craft paints of various rainbow colors–as many as you like, or mix to make many shades

 

 

 

gold craft paint

emerald green glitter craft paint

1 incha dn 1/2 inch flat craft paint brushes

paint palette or paper plate for mixing colors

6 inch unfinished wood letters LUCKY

6 inch unfinished shamrock wood cutout–I found mine in Etsy 

8 inch unfinished four leaf clover wood cutout–I found mine in Etsy 

white craft glue

thin painter’s tape

pencil

measuring tape

long ruler

cup and water to rinse brush

paper towels

 

What did you do for your custom March mantel?

Categories
Cakes Home Recipes

Raising Sweet Awareness: A Blueberry Key Lime Cake for cancer

 

I custom made this cake to honor and raise awareness of some thing my husband and I have been dealing with for the past year. This month marks the year anniversary that we found out about my husband’s terminal cancer, Pancreatic NET’s or Pancreatic Neuroendochrine Tumor Cancer. Of course, I can remember like it was yesterday being told he had Pancreatic cancer, and literally I couldn’t process anything beyond that because all I could think of is that he’d be gone in 6-9 months because that is all I knew of Pancreatic Cancers from a childhood friend’s older brother who I remembered had died in less than a year of finding out about his cancer and anything attached to Pancreatic Cancer to that point was basically a quick and awful death. Finally when I was able to process above my tears and crying to hear what the hospital therapist was telling me that he was gonna get the best care and it was slow growing and not the one I was thinking of…it felt like an alternate reality that was crushing my world. My likes to tell people it is the Pancreatic Cancer that Steve Job’s had, not the one Patrick Swayze had.

 

What I know now compared to then is immense, and I don’t think you can gain a true understanding the first time you are told these kind of world turning news. There’s a whole life to find new footing, then shift to new gears, and figure out the new “norm”, all while mourning the things you hoped for that would change, and the changes along the way you don’t expect. It is a fine balance because you also need to remember to not get consumed by it, keep your own awareness of it because everything will now be measured and done with a respect of the new limitations. I speak of this as the spouse, the caretaker of the one who has this cancer. I cannot for a moment say I know what he goes through. I get an insight here and there…

The ribbons that inspired this custom cake are: 1) Purple Ribbon for Pancreatic Cancer, 2) Zebra-print Ribbon for NET’s or Neuroendocrine Tumor Cancer, and 3) Lavender Ribbon for Caretakers. There are many origins for NET’s, and my husband’s happened to be in his Pancreas, which is shut down and he is insulin dependent for the rest of his life and takes 4 shots a day of both long acting and short acting insulin–just the experience we have had adjusting to that gives me so much empathy for those suffering with diabetes, childhood and adult, and that alone is not fun. The Zebra-print Ribbon brings awareness to rare diseases and the awareness month is February, but I felt it was more appropriate for our personal journey to share it in our year anniversary of the beginning of this journey. The lavender was to honor all those who have cared for me and David, specifically at the hospital as this is where we got to share this cake today; but also to raise awareness of the toll that a caregiver goes through and that the caregiver also needs support.

I’ve never been keen on the color lavender, but now it holds a special place in my heart. Granted, I admit I didn’t go as true lavender with the frosting as I could have, but now this color is very personal to me. If you are a caregiver, or ever have been a caregiver no matter the capacity, it truly is very difficult. I could not do this in a professional capacity, so my thanks goes out to all who dedicate their lives to the well being of others. This color is so personal to me because of journey as a caretaker through this. You get not just the whole spectrum of emotions, but a whole depth and breadth you didn’t even conceive before the new “norm” you constantly have to adjust to.

There is so much you do not know when cancer enters your intimate life, and combine that with unconsious expectations you may have from treatments, or thinking life will go back to the way it was after a “treatment”, or not understanding the reality of “chemo-brain”, or the toll it takes on yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. I remember the results from the first round of chemo lasting from March-August 2018. Nothing had changed. NOTHING HAD CHANGED? We went through 6 months of torture for NOTHING TO CHANGE?!!?!!!? What took me a while to digest and understand, what that this was a good result. The cancer had NOT gone aggressive, which is a possibility starting treatments. AND what I didn’t grasp from the beginning is that this treatment was not to eradicate the cancer, like I was expecting, but to manage it and see how it reacts. What I didn’t understand is that this was terminal in that there is NO KNOWN TREATMENT to eliminate this cancer from my husband’s body. There was only treatments to manage the tumors, and keep them from interfering with LIFE DEPENDENT PROCESSES. Oh, wow. Ok, so now I had to throw out the word REMISSION, and come to terms with and redefine my understanding of TERMINAL cancer. 

I want to come back for a moment to “chemo-brain.” Your loved one’s body is being ravaged by poison when going through chemo, and so many horrible side-effects…it literally messes with their brain! Not just memory, because there is legit memory loss, but personality. I never saw such anger, rage, callousness in my husband as I did during that first chemo. It got to the point I didn’t think we would last, and that I was just there to help him through this–that is how bad it was. 

It wasn’t until I spoke with my mom who had been taking care of my brother and his cancer for 10 years, that she helped me to understand the reality of this phenomena. IN fact, she had attended support groups as she was going through the roughest times caring for my brother. The impact “chemo brain” can have on a patient is pretty dramatic, and it isn’t the imagination of the caretaker. It truly is difficulty on all accounts and on all involved. It takes a lot of patience, understanding, and compassion, because empathy is nigh impossible is you aren’t the one going through the treatments…and vice versa for the caregiver.

My not understanding this “chemo brain” definitely played a toll on my relationship with my brother at the time I wanted to be closest to him knowing about his terminal cancer, and he was the most caustic and mean to the point we stopped talking for years. I wish for all family and friends’ of loved ones who go through this to gain an awareness of “chemo brain,” the toll caregivers go through, and the support they also need. My heart goes out to any and all impacted by a terminal cancer, or any cancer and treatment that goes with it.

Time to change gears and talk FLAVORS!!! In my brainstorming phase of this cake, I first thought of blueberry because that is a flavor my husband has been especially keen on. Later, I found out the colors of the ribbons associated with the message of awareness I wanted to promote revealed the purple and lavender that was perfectly aligned with the blueberry I was planning. Also, I had recently made Key Lime Cheesecake Sugar Cookies in the shapes of shamrocks for fun March themes of St. Patrick’s Day. Blueberry and key lime are ridiculously good together and so it just seemed to work out as if it was meant to be! I am OBSESSED with how GORGEOUS the pale lime goes with the purples, and how you see the natural fruit which just adds to the design and elegance IMO. The sprinkles pop on the pale green key lime frosting. I only used a drop of green coloring for the lime filling to flavor and color the frosting. The blueberry did all the work coloring the dark  lush fruit filling and lavender frosting. I used the key lime frosting from the cookies, and then mixed the blueberry filling (recipe below) I made with my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe at the bottom), some fun sprinkles, and voila the masterpiece to voice my message of Pancreatic NET’s and Caregiver Awareness was born! It was also a perfect way to say thank you for all the people who have cared for my husband this past year at the hospital. And it was a hit! 2nd and 3rd helpings…meanwhile these red velvet cupcakes sat sadly overlooked that someone had brought. I’m sorry, but not all cake is created, or made, equal! Proof is in the pudding, or in this case in the first bite! It is sooo delicious!!! I wish there was such a thing as smell-o-vision or taste-o-vision! The scent of the key lime and blueberry is so divine! No sickeningly sweet tasteless cake here!

Blueberry Key Lime Cake

Would you imagine for a moment, a cake so moist, so flavorful, there is no way you thought it came from a box? This cake sure is, BUT it will surprise to find out this recipe uses a box cake mix. The thing is, the BOX cake mixes are so nice to get on sale, AND they already deliver the dry ingredients you need in the perfect ratios saving time and potentially money…now it is just a mater of CUSTOMIZING that box cake mix to a cake that will rival the best bakery out there. After making this cake, with the blueberry and key lime fruit fillings, along with the Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese frosting, you will have a flavor masterpiece that will blow the minds of everyone who has a taste…and I dare anyone to just have “a bite”!

1 white box cake mix

4 eggs

1 1/2 packages white chocolate instant pudding

1 c sour cream

 

1 c milk

1/2 c melted butter

1 to 1 1/2 c white chocolate chips, optional

3/4 to 1 c Blueberry Fruit Filling, recipe follows

1) Pre-heat the over to 365 degrees F if above 3000 ft elevation, or 350 degrees F if lower than 3000 ft elevation.

2) Prepare your layer cake pans AND bunt cake with my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix(recipe at the bottom of the post) mix or grease your pan with lard (or butter) and dust with flour, and a parchment liner on the bottom(optional but i do not risk all my efforts to possibly having the cake stick to the pan).  **Even if you have a non-stick pan, it is worth greasing your pans with lard/butter and dusting with flour, or just having a batch of the Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (see recipe in post).

3) Mix all the ingredients except the white chocolate chips and fruit filling in a stand mixer, or a large bowl and hand mixer until smooth. It will be thick. Do not over mix

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips and mix by hand with a spatula or spoon. 

5) Divide your batter between your prepared cake pans. If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: A) use half the batter, B) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, C) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, D) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and E) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking. 

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan. 

NOTE: The picture below left shows my dollops of Razzleberry Fruit Filling before I take a butter knife and swirl to get the marble effect with the cake layers I used in this cake. The pic below right shows what my marbled batter looks like before I put it in the oven.  I actually used a layered method for this cake to get the fruit stripes, however, I did not get pictures of it.  To get a layered look, spread out the fruit filling instead of marbeling the dollops as pictured below; then layer more batter, spread it out, more filling, and repeat until you get the desired amount of batter/fruit-filling in the pan before baking. 

Blueberry Fruit Filling

3 c fresh or frozen blueberries 

1/2 c lemon juice

 

1 c sugar

4 T corn starch, mixed in 1 c cold water

 

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat. 
2) Mash all the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice with a potato masher. As the mix heats up and starts to boil, the berries will give off more of their juices and the sugar will dissolve. 
3) After the mix has had a chance to heat through, the berries give off their juices, and the sugar is dissolved, pour the mix into a blender. Blend until smooth and even. 
4) Pour back into the sauce pan, and bring to a boil on medium heat.
5) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.
6) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 
7) To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix

In a 1:1:1 ratio, mix flour, lard or shortening, and vegetable oil. Mix until evenly incorporated, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For example, I use 1 cup of each ingredient to mix up and have on hand to prepare all my cake pans before adding batter, and then baking. Cakes will come out clean and easily, with no sticking. I coat my pans with this mix using a silicone baster brush. I also add a cut parchment paper to the bottom of any flat bottomed cake pan I use.

Categories
Home Main Course Recipes

Simply Delicious Chicken Madeira (Better than Cheesecake Factory in your own home)

 

Is it no surprise that Chicken Madeira is one of the top, if not the top, ordered entrée at The Cheesecake Factory. It seriously is so delicious. So flavorful, and so succulent. I love to go out with the girls, or on a date with my husband, but is it me or is the price tag and the hassle getting to be too much that it takes away from the experience? I hate going away from dinner, thinking, man that was good, but was it THAT GOOD when thinking of how much we just dropped for a dinner out, vying for a parking spot, waiting to be seated, and then getting hit with a big check at the end. It got to the point I thought there has to be a way to make it at home…

 

The loveliest part, it really is a SIMPLE recipe with SIMPLE ingredients. Like, almost ridiculously simple. Like, I’ve made it way too many times, more than I’d like to admit, simple. 

The hardest thing about this dish was finding out the Madeira wine is sold in the cooking wine section at the grocery store I went to. You see, I do not drink alcohol, so any recipe that asks for it I am clueless where to find it…in fact overwhelmed if I try on my own. Luckily, I found a helpful employee who didn’t just point, but explained it was with the cooking wines and proceeded to show me. I also learned how to flambé to cook off the alcohol, rather than just wait for it to simmer off. Oh man, that is a blast! I just recommend you either do it with 1/4 c at a time, have nothing above your stove top, or let it simmer a little before you light it. The first time I did it, I had been simmering the wine with the mushroom for a couple minutes, then it occurred to me to try to flambé with my candle lighter, and it was perfect. The second time, I lit the entire amount of wine in the pan on the stove which was under our new convection oven/microwave and gorgeous blue and orange flames spewed up! It was awesome, caught both my husband and myself off guard, and luckily the cover was close by to shield our new appliance! Man that was a rush! We laughed and laughed about it. I don’t recommend that route.

One thing I made sure to do with this recipe is to have plenty of sauce. I LOVE sopping up the sauce with bread or using it as gravy on creamy Yukon Gold potatoes that are either steam cooked, or made into garlic mashed potatoes; however, the garlic mashed potatoes I made are so good I prefer to eat them on their own. The other thing you want to be aware of for this recipe, the relatively quick step of butterflying the chicken, and tenderizing the chicken thin reduces the cooking time on each side, as well as provides a good portion control if you only want to eat half of a chicken breast and it still looks like a big portion. I pound the butterflied chicken to an even thin thickness with two layers of plastic wrap and my meat tenderizer. It is a great way to let off some stress! Haha! If you don’t have a meat tenderizer mallet, use can that have some weight to it and a flat side. Do what you gotta do. The video below shows how I butterfly and tenderize the chicken.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it really cooked this fast! DOn’t forget to check out the flambé. I get a kick out of doing it every time I get to flambé…I even love saying “flambé.” Yes I’m a total nerd, and you totally hear a blip of a conversation between my husband and I while I am cooking. I get a kick out of that too. The lazy, sentimental, humorous side of me didn’t want to edit that out! I hope you get a little smile or chuckle out of it. In the video to the left, I am only cooking half of a recipe due to the size of my pan for the video. 

 

Simply Delicious Chicken Madeira 

Do love Chicken Madeira? Would you love it even more if it was simple to make in the comfort of your own home? What if you spent did not have to spend the time and money to hassle with parking, fight the crowds, and plunk down a heck of a lot more than this meal would cost you to make? Did I mention it was tastier too? You will LOVE this recipe. You can customize it to your specific taste. Maybe you wish you had more asparagus, less mushrooms, no mushrooms, more sauce…it is up to you. You can even make a lighter version skipping the butter and using olive oil, or doing a half-n-half butter and olive oil. I have to say, however, the velvety sauce you and flavor your get from the butter, it is worth it. I love having left overs!

2 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied, and pounded thin

3 T butter (reserve 1 T for the end)

salt & pepper, to taste

1-2 c mushrooms

1 1/2 c Madeira cooking wine

 

1/2 bunch of asparagus

1 1/2 c beef stock (or 1 T Better Than Bouillon and 1 1/2 c water)

3/4 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 T corn starch

3/4 c cold water

 

1) Season both sides of the butterflies pounded chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
2) Heat 2 T of butter in a pan on med heat and cook the chicken golden brown, about 3-4 min. on each side. Remove to a plate, and set aside.
3) Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter until they are browned and give off their liquid.
4) Add the Madeira wine, bring to a boil and cook off the alcohol for about 4 min. Or flambé the alcohol, 1/4 c at a time in the pan to avoid a huge flame; I also flambé the entire amount after letting it simmer for a minute or 2. To flambé, I recommend using a lighter with a long shaft to keep you from getting burned.
5) Add the beef stock or the Better Than Bouillon mixed in the water, and boil for another 3 min.
6) Add the asparagus to the pan, and cook covered for 5 minutes. This steams the asparagus. 
7) Remove the asparagus to a plate, and stir the corn starch slurry (corn starch mixed in the cold water). Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. 
8) Add the chicken back in the pan, place the asparagus on top, and sprinkle on the mozerella cheese. Cover until the cheese is melted. If you have an oven safe pan, broil the pan until the cheese is golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

Note: I used golden Yukon potatoes that I pierce, cover with water in a microwave safe bowl or large measuring cup, and microwave for 16 minutes while making the Chicken Madeira to serve on the side. They come out steamed to perfection, and so creamy.

Also, if you prefer NOT to use the cooing wine, you can omit it and double the beef broth. However, I do not recommend doing this, because you will loose the flavor, and you cook out all the alcohol. 

 

Categories
Cakes Home Recipes

“Love is Sweet” Cake

 

The first time I saw this humongous heart shape lollipop, an image of an over-the-top “Love is Sweet” candy cake for Valentine’s Day popped vividly in my head. I KNEW this would be a hit to celebrate Valentines with kids. I also knew this was so delicious that the adults would enjoy it even more than the kids! The family that this cake went too said the kids went crazy over it and that the parents initially didn’t think they would be able to enjoy it because it looked too sweet…that is until they took a bite! “Five stars and two thumbs up! Everyone loved every aspect of it. My wife and I loved the flavor of it as well!”

 

Five stars and two thumbs up! Everyone loved every aspect of it. My wife and I loved the flavor of it as well!

DC Swanson

Dad and CFO of the Swanson Crew

Isn’t this every kid’s and adult kid’s dream?!!???! Oh, and the cotton cady was so good too. The cotton candy I used in this cake are not available anymore, but I have used this one here, glitter to top the cotton candy here, limited edition sprinkles here, the lollipop from Dylan’s, and I used these Sweet & Sour Conversation Hearts that I had never seen before this year’s Valentine’s season. I am OBSESSED with sour candy, so these were perfect, and so good. I had to have some as I was decorating this cake! I also used the cake recipe and Razzleberry filling from this post. You can learn how to marble the cake layers here as well.

Let’s talk cream cheese frosting for a second. Personally, I cannot handle sickeningly sweet frosting, and I want my frosting to add to the flavor of the cake as a whole. Besides this cooked frosting, I use cream cheese frosting on my cakes and cookies. The problem with most cream cheese frostings are that they cannot be piped and will NOT hold their shape. When I was planning my wedding cake pictured to the right, I was on the hunt for a cream cheese frosting that holds up to decorating or piping. I looked high and low. finally I found this one, a crusting buttercream. I found it to be easy to pipe and decorate my cakes. Of course I tweaked the recipe to create a truly custom gourmet cream cheese flavor that is out of this world so tasty, AND that is perfect to pipe and decorate any cake. May I present my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting!  

Check out the piping details, texture details, and edible black cake lace in the pics below.

This frosting holds any piping beautifully! If you are used to traditional cream cheese frostings, then you know what I mean when I say those recipes are great for a bunt cake or slathered on frosting BUT IN NO WAY would it hold up being piped or used to decorate a cake, cupcake, or cookies.

The wedding cake I used the crusting decorator’s cream cheese buttercream, and the other two cakes I used my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting. The recipe is posted below. I wanted to demonstrate the versatility of this frosting, and give you an idea why it is my go-to cream cheese frosting recipe. I also use it to make a frosting that is half and half with Cooked Frosting, as well as add fruit filling to stripe and flavor different variations of this frostings, which I use on my The Last Sugar Cookie Cut-Out Recipe You will Ever Need cookies. For this cake, I used this White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake recipe, and I used my cream cheese frosting recipe to fill and frost (at the bottom of this page).  I literally cannot get myself to use any other base frostings that these two: Cooked Frosting, and The Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (recipe below).  I build all other flavors from these, and have a blast coming up with different variations. 

Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting

Have you been looking for a cream cheese frosting you can also pipe and stable enough to fill a cake? Do you not only want the flavor of cream cheese frosting, but the flexibility to design and pipe a gorgeous cake? Did you think you could have a cream cheese frosting that tastes better than you could imagine? Then this recipe of the perfect fit for you. The salt brings out the flavor and balances the sweetness in this frosting. The last thing you want is sickeningly sweet frosting to take away from your cake masterpiece. You do not want to miss the secret ingredients that add a dimension of flavor to your cream cheese buttercream that makes it out of this world memorable! This makes a great base frosting to customize with fruit fillings, or mix with Cooked Frosting.  Really, there is no limit what you can do with this frosting. 

1 c salted butter (2 sticks), room temperature

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1 tsp salt

2+ T butter powder 

2+ T cream cheese powder, to taste

 

1 T vanilla (clear vanilla for a whiter frosting)

1 tsp Creme bouquet Flavor

5 c powder sugar

*NOTE: If I want to turn this into a crusting frosting, I will omit 1/2 stick of butter, and use white shortening, and add 1 c of powder sugar 

 

1) Cream the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer, or large bowl with a hand mixer until creamy and fluffy.
2) Add the remaining ingredients except for the power sugar, and miz untilevenly incorporated.
3)Add the powder sugar in 1 c increments with the mixer off, scraping in between with a silicone spatula until the right consistency is reached. 
4) To pipe, use right away. If you need to store the frosting, put in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator; just know if you plan to pipe from a chilled state, I recommend letting it come up to room temperature and beat with a hand mixer or a stand mixer to keep fluffy before piping.

Categories
Home Recipes Soups and Stews

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

 

What pops in my head when it’s cold outside? THIS soup! The funny thing is that I’ve gotten lazy during my single days in So Cal and the past few years going to Panera to get their version…up until this past Christmas in CO with my husband’s family.  I grew up making Wild Rice Soup with chicken, ham, left over turkey from Thanksgiving…it is the epitome of comfort food to me. It is so creamy, so delicious, and so filling. I almost can’t eat it without dipping crusty, chewy french bread as an edible spoon. Whether I am eat it on its own or dipping bread, I CANNOT eat it WITHOUT my comfort food noises and repeating almost with every bite how yummy it is! This is serious comfort food.  I was out Day-After-Christmas-Sales shopping on my own–I’m an independent shopper which probably has to do with how focused I am and all my wheels turning creating different ideas ALL THE TIME.  I was getting hungry for lunch and being that it was colder than Vegas, I wanted some Chicken Wild Rice Soup and there was a Panera down the street a couple miles. I got there, and it wasn’t even the freaking day they have it available!!! What???!!?!!!??

 

 

So in a “hangry” huff, I spun on heel out the door, straight to the grocery store I passed on the way. I immediately got all the ingredients for MY soup, and I was gonna have a bowl one way or another. I didn’t care what my in-laws had planned, they could join me or not. This was happening. To expedite this mission, I picked up a rotisserie chicken in lieu of raw chicken breasts because the norm when I make this is to use a crack pot, set it and forget it, and then shred the chicken before diving in to enjoy a bowl. I did NOT have time for that. Homey was not messing around, and you do NOT want to get in my way when I am in this mode. Trust me. I was on a mission.

Not an hour later with travel time, and orienting myself with my mother-in-laws kitchen–and hallelujah she didn’t even bat an eye lash when I got home with groceries to make this soup–my husband, my father-in-law, and myself were deep in comfort food nirvana. Ain’t no one was talking! Umm, um, ummmm…that was so good. And you know what, it reminded me how much BETTER my soup is than the corporate soup-mill down the street…or not so down the street back in Vegas. Now don’t get me wrong, their soup is very good and I won’t hesitate to have a bowl if I am there on a day they have it. It was just the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back not having the soup THAT day…on top of the other times I went and it was either it was the wrong day to be up on the menu or they are already out of their day’s stock.

P.S. I like BIG chunks of vegetables. I like meaty pieces of chicken, or whatever meat I add. I like seeing the onions in my soup. I like having mushrooms and broccoli in my soup. Dang it, I just LOVE me some of MY custom, homemade soup, with leftovers at my beck and call the next few days…if it lasts that long because this is one of the dishes I make my husband actually LOVES left overs, never mind the two full bowls the day I make it–and he detests left overs. I, on the other hand, love left overs because I do not have to cook or clean up after so there is no delay to enjoy it.

Besides the fresh vegetables, spices, and meat, what makes this soup is the wild rice and the creaminess. Coming out west, I took for granted how easy it was to get wild rice in MN. Well, duh, the real wild stuff grows in the lakes and rivers of MN and Canada, eh, and the Native Minnesotan’s used to beat the plant to get the seeds while canoeing, in their canoes–I paid attention to my MN history and Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox lore. Yes, seeds. Wild Rice is not even rice. It is a seed, and much like quinoa, it is far less calorie dense than any rice, brown included, AND has a much higher mineral content. Win-win! Not only does it taste so good, add such a wonderful texture rice cannot add and doesn’t get mushy, but it has less calories and more nutrients. The key hack cooking with wild rice is to either soak it overnight, or using your crock pot to cook the wild rice before you add to your soup for a couple hours on high. Which every way is more convenient for you, make sure you have a generous margin of water above the line of the settled wild rice because it will soak up that water and expand. My preference is the crock pot method. You can also cook up a big batch, drain it, freeze in a zip-lock bag ready to use without this step. This is a very handy tip; it opens a ton of doors to amazing wild rice dishes.

The creaminess is achieved with cream, whole milk, or half-and-half, AND roux. What is a roux you say? It is your creamy soup’s best friend. It is a cooked mix of butter and flour in a 1:1 ratio or equal amounts. I always make the roux after sautéing and cooking the vegetables to al dente in the chicken stock, before adding the cream; the cream is always the last step and either I add it to the hot soup and let it somewhat cool it down before eating, or it can simmer a little more BUT I never boil it after I add the cream. That goes for cooking this soup in a crock pot too; I only add the cream after the full cooking time is complete, and all that is left is to shred the chicken, add the cream, stir until evenly mixed, and ready to enjoy.

The roux I always make in a pan separate from the other ingredients because I melt the butter, sprinkle on the flour, and use a silicone spatula to incorporate until you get almost a pastry dough like consistency. When I use my crock pot to make this soup, I stir in the roux with the chicken stock before I add all the vegetables, seasonings, and chicken so it will thicken as every cooks together.

The other thing that sets my soup apart from that other soup, I use poultry seasoning because it already has the perfect blend of all the spices I want. One and done. Boom. Not 10,000 bottles of spices to rummage through, open, measure, and put back. I will season with salt and pepper just before serving to make sure I don’t over season it. 

Oh, I cannot forget about the chicken stock. I actually do not keep canned stock on hand, or can my own (as much as the “pure-est” in me would love to), but I do keep jars of the Better than Bouillon in my pantry and use that 9 times out of 10. But whatever is on hand works just fine…and yes, this last time I made it, I painstakingly unwrapped and used those silly little bouillon cubes my husband bought a BULK jar of. Ya, not my jam if you catch my drift.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This is the ultimate comfort food. Hearty, full of fresh vegetables, nutty full-bodied texture of wild rice, and chunks of juicy chicken, this creamy soup can be enjoyed on its own as a full meal. Wild rice, the caviar of all grains, has a deep earthy flavor with less calories and more nutrients than white or brown rice. So tasty, it will be hard to stop at one bowl. Skip the lines, and empty flavor of those other chicken wild rice soups, and make this gourmet custom masterpiece in the comfort of your own home, while enjoying the fruits of your labors the next day or two with just as flavorful, if not more, left overs.

1 jar Better Than Bouillon with 8 c water, or 2 quarts  (2-32 oz) chicken broth  

I c plus 4 T (2 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

2-3 T olive oil

1 c. flour

1 onion, chopped

2-3 celery ribs or 1 c, diced

2-3 carrots or 1 c sliced mini-carrots

2 T garlic, minced

1 c broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

 

4 1/2 c cooked wild rice (1 1/2 c dry wild rice)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

2 chicken breasts, 2 c cubed cooked chicken, or a rotisserie chicken with meat removed and cubed*

2 c (1 pint) whole milk, whipping cream, or half-and-half**

*If using a crock pot, use raw chicken. If cooking on the stove, use pre-cooked cubed chicken, or use a rotisserie chicken with the meat removed and cubed

**Depending on how rich you want your soup, or what you have on hand. I mostly use half-and-half.

 

Crock Pot Directions:

1) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock into a crock pot.

2) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

3) Add the roux to the chicken stock, and stir until evenly combined.  

4) Add the chicken, all the vegetables, dry wild rice, and poultry seasoning to the chicken stock.  

5) Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. 

6) Once the chicken is cooked through, use two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot.

7) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

Stove-top Directions:

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 4 T of butter and 2-3 T oil on medium heat until melted.

2) Sauté the onion, carrots, celery in the butter mix until the onions are translucent. 

3) Add the garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli to sauté until the broccoli is bright green. You may also put the cover to the pot or dutch oven on to steam the vegetables until the broccoli is bright green.

4) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock in with the vegetables. 

5) Add the poultry seasoning, and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer until the carrots are al dente, or firm to the bite but not crunchy. 

6) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

7) Add the roux to the chicken stock and vegetables, and stir until evenly incorporated into the soup.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened. 

8) Add the cooked chicken and wild rice. Stir and simmer until warmed through. 

9) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

 

Categories
Cakes Frosting Home Recipes

White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake

 

I have been in love with the Nothing Bunt Cake’s White Chocolate Raspberry since the first bite…but I was NOT in love with the prices, nor their store hours….AND the presentation left something to be desired with all the gorgeous barrel cakes I was wanting to make. I not only want memorable taste, but a memorable, stylish…GORGEOUS cake! This is WHY I started my trial-and-error search for my perfected copy cat recipe…and then I upgraded to Razzleberry after I used a Black Berry filling in my sealing reception wedding cake. SO amazing…and the color I get from this Razleberry mix when I used it to decorate my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting was also out of this world. It was a home run on all accounts!!!

 

I was first on my mission for upgraded box cake recipes back in 2013 when I dove in the deep end to make my own wedding cake, pictured to the right. I decided I was not interested in full on, from scratch cakes, because let’s face it, the dry ingredients are already in the perfect ratios, and you can often get box cake mixes on sale. I learned a ton since this cake, but don’t let the flaws like the bulging fool you; this cake tasted so good and I had sooo many compliments. I will post this recipe on a future post as well. I still think this is a beautiful cake, and my talented friend Marissa added the orchids in this ombre design so I could actually get ready for my own reception!

Now, my mom may be floored that her “pure-est” from childhood has given way to a “BOX” mix; you see I was OBSESSED with making stuff from scratch growing up, and it was such a big deal to me I ended up making a lot of dinners and my mom called me the “pure-est” because of this obsession. I’m sure she didn’t mind the help cooking, but I KNOW we butt heads quite a bit because I was, and still am, very independent, strong-willed, and not easily intimidated. So I made my own 5 tier wedding cake, and I had never made a cake more than one tier before. When I say I dive in the deep end and learn to swim or sink right away, I mean it. Remember I’m the “pure-est,” which mostly translates to independent and strong-willed and not much fear of “failure” and only want the highest quality of whatever I do. On a side note, there really is no such thing as “failure,” but rather learning experiences which I feel so strongly about that I plan to devote an entire post on that and redefining what “failure” really is.

I cannot recall where I first learned this box cake mix hack, but it because forever ingrained in my noggin every since my wedding cake in 2013. I added 1-2 more eggs than the box directions indicated, replaced the oil with 1/2 cup melted butter, added a box of instant pudding, and replaced the liquid with 1 c milk. Voila, instant upgrade and you would never know it was NOT completely from scratch. I have modified all my cakes using this base since. In fact, now I DETEST the airy, oily, almost non-existent texture you get from making a box cake from the original instructions…not to mention the lack of food-gasmic taste the basic box instructions yields. Never again! Never looked back since. NEVER made a box cake according the the box directions since.

The step that led to the apex of my recipe trial-and-error journey was the first time I made a bunt cake recipe that used sour cream. I made it for a pot-luck at a Real Estate Investment course my husband and I were taking. I got so many compliments. One of the coaches raved about it and would always ask when I was going to bring it again.  The next time I made my “doctored-up” box cake, I added sour cream, and it was a home run! The moistness on top of the amped up flavor and texture I already loved made this my new go-to box cake upgrade. Oh my oh my, if you have not tried this, you NEED to…AND you will never look back. It is that good.

Now where in the world did the Razzleberry come from? This is the most recent upgrade to this recipe, and there are three main contributors.

1) When my husband and I finally were ready to get sealed, which is the spiritual marriage ordinance in my faith and frankly it is more valuable to me than any civil ceremony could ever be (message me if you would like to know more), I knew I was going to make my cake for the reception again…then oscillated between doing what I did the first time, or once again diving in the deep end to upgrade the cake. I am sure you are getting the sense that there is no way I settled for what I did before, and definitely chose to further customize and upgrade my cake.  This customization also extended to the gum paste flowers I made which were stunning; I will definitely dedicate a post to that as well. Check out the pic below of my stunning cake I made below! I am so in love with it!

2) Once I decided I was not going with the same cake from our wedding reception, which was in So Cal–the sealing reception took place in Las Vegas where my husband is from so I justified a whole reception with the full nine-yards because we never had one for his side in his neck of the woods–I knew I wanted to coordinate the fruit filling with the deep magenta I had paired with the black and white and lime green accents for the colors in all the decorations I was reusing from the first reception; I was going for a Glam Retro Hollywood feel.  I started with the idea of a raspberry filling, but I just couldn’t commit because the last time I made my White Chocolate Raspberry Bunt Cake, the color was not the deep magenta color that I was going for to coordinate with bridesmaid dresses, flower girls dresses, chair sashes I sewed–foreshadowing another post…you are just getting to know me so well by now!! (((air kisses))) LOVE you! Yes, back to where the Razzleberry cake from. Because the sealing reception was late summer/early fall, there were gobs and gobs of gorgeous blackberries, and it hit me! Use a blackberry fruit filling! SO I did, and the color was magnificent. Check out the picture below.

Finally number 3) When I went to make a friend’s birthday cake, along with 3 Valentine’s cakes earlier this February, I didn’t have time to go to the store for only blackberries, but I did have a bag of organic frozen blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries I ended up using for the fruit filling, and it totally added another dimension of flavor I had not used before…and LOVED it!  Hence the White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake was born!

Prepping your pans and my Quick-Release Cake Pan Prep Mx.

Now let’s talk prepping your cake pans before we get to the recipe. I cannot stress how vital this is…vital to NOT losing all your time, effort, and gorgeous, high quality ingredients to a mass of torn cake because a good chunk of it is sticking to the pan. SO NOT PRETTY AND SO AGGRAVATING! Growing up, it was the “grease and flour” step of making a cake. Now I just keep a pre-made mix of flour, lard, and oil in a 1:1:1 ratio to make my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (yes, yes it’s long winded, but that’s Bloomy’s Dictionary sometimes). It is important to use a vegetable oil, or any oil that has a high smoke temperature. Olive oils have a lower smoke temperature which means it will start to smoke or burn at lower temperatures than other oils; since you are baking cakes at high temperatures, you do not want smoke ruining the high quality flavors you worked so hard to put in your cakes. I will keep a mix of 1 c. flour, 1 c. oil, and 1 c. lard in an airtight container in my refrigerator. Being it works in this ratio, you can use the same measurements of all three ingredients in any amount. There have been times I have been in a pinch, and needed to whip up 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup mixes of this if I am out of my pre-made mix in the fridge. You will prep your cake pans and bunt cake pans with this mix. Or use the traditional grease and flour method to prep your pans before you add any batter, however, if you take my word for it, this old-school method is a lot more time consuming and can be a lot messier! I use a baster to slater on my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix; BUT you don’t want it pooling or gobbing on your pan. A nice even coat is sufficient. I also ALWAYS use parchment paper on the bottom of my pans, and for time sake I prefer the precut ones. I will use my quick geometry teacher skillz and can cut out a free-handed circle of any size pretty quickly by folding a section of parchment paper into quarters, and then eighths, and again if not too thick, and essentially cut half the length of my circle pan (half the diameter, or half the radius for y’all who remember your geometry).

Marbling You Cake Layers

If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: 1) use half the batter, 2) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, 3) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, 4) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and 5) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking.

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan.

To build this barrel layer cake, I used 3-2″ thick 6″ layers of marbled White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake. I filled the cake with my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (gourmet flavor cream cheese frosting stable enough to fill, frost, and pipe beautiful cakes), and the Razzleberry Filling (recipe below) using a buttercream dam to prevent bleeding and bludging. I also used gold sparkle powder, limited edition Valentine’s sprinkles from Sweetapolia, these gold metallic rod sprinkles, Lindt White Chocolate truffles, and gold lustre dust to color the “Happy Birthday” and piped accents. I used this tip to pipe the 5 dollops on top. 

In fact, I cannot tell you how fun it was to parade this cake (well, there was no other way to describe carrying this cake in a restaurant, trust me) through The Cheesecake Factory! I mean getting all the ooooh’s, and aaaah’s, and compliments, and all eyes on this cake that I did at THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY is a feat in itself! AND they didn’t even get the privilege to taste this masterpiece! I assure you, it tastes as good as it looks, if not better! I mean look at the gorgeous birthday girl’s reaction to the cake! A gorgeous cake for a gorgeous momma!

White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake

Nothing Bunt Cake…I don’t think so. This is White Chocolate Raspberry done right…aka White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake! Love those well-known bunt cakes but not the price? Or wished they looked more elegant? This recipe not only taste BETTER than those bunt cakes, but you can CUSTOM design your own masterpiece with a few simple steps. You are not limited to making this cake in a bunt cake pan, but have the flexibility to do so if you would like.  Check out the Perfect Ratio Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe that is easy to decorate with AND tastes amazing with this cake. NOTE: I always use wet (but wrung out) cake baking straps on all my pans, and I wrap up the baked and cooled cake layers I am not immediately using in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Freezing cakes like this keeps them moist when thawed and ready to use.

1 white box cake mix

4 eggs

1 package white chocolate instant pudding

1/2 c sour cream

 

1 c milk

1/2 c melted butter

1 to 1 1/2 c white chocolate chips, optional

3/4 to 1 c Razzleberry Fruit Filling, recipe follows

1) Pre-heat the over to 325 degrees F; bake your cakes low and slow (may need to add to baking times–use a toothpick or cake tester to see if done in the middle). 

2) Prepare your layer cake pans AND bunt cake with my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix(see recipe in post) mix or grease your pan with lard (or butter) and dust with flour, and a parchment liner on the bottom(optional but i do not risk all my efforts to possibly having the cake stick to the pan).  **Even if you have a non-stick pan, it is worth greasing your pans with lard/butter and dusting with flour, or just having a batch of the Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (see recipe in post).

3) Mix all the ingredients except the white chocolate chips and fruit filling in a stand mixer, or a large bowl and hand mixer until smooth. It will be thick. Do not over mix

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips and mix by hand with a spatula or spoon. 

5) Divide your batter between your prepared cake pans. If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: A) use half the batter, B) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, C) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, D) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and E) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking. 

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan. 

NOTE: The picture below left shows my dollops of fruit filling before I take a butter knife and swirl to get the marble effect with the cake layers. The pic below right shows what my marbled batter looks like before I put it in the oven. 

BAKING TIP: If you are baking 3″ layers with an 8″ pan or larger, use a metal rose piping pin inverted in the middle of the pan to get heat and bake the center of the cake evenly with the outside; or use a baking core. I do this with 2″ layers for pan 10″ or larger as well. 

 

 

Razzleberry Fruit Filling

3 c fresh or frozen mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries 

1/2 c lemon juice

 

1 c sugar

4 T corn starch, mixed in 1 c cold water

 

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat. 
2) Mash all the berries, sugar, and lemon juice with a potato masher. As the mix heats up and starts to boil, the berries will give off more of their juices and the sugar will dissolve. 
3) After the mix has had a chance to heat through, the berries give off their juices, and the sugar is dissolved, pour the mix into a blender. Blend until smooth and even. 
4) Strain the juice back into the rinsed pan through a metal sieve using a metal spoon to circulate the seeds to get all the juice through. Discard the seeds.
5) Bring the seedless berry mix to a boil.
6) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.
7) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 
8) To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

Note: Let’s get real. I love to cook once and use multiple times. This recipe is modified from using a full 48 oz. bag of organic mixed berries consisting of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries from my local bulk store. 

Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix

In a 1:1:1 ratio, mix flour, lard or shortening, and vegetable oil. Mix until evenly incorporated, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For example, I use 1 cup of each ingredient to mix up and have on hand to prepare all my cake pans before adding batter, and then baking. Cakes will come out clean and easily, with no sticking. I coat my pans with this mix using a silicone baster brush. I also add a cut parchment paper to the bottom of any flat bottomed cake pan I use.

Categories
Frosting Home Recipes

Cooked Frosting

 

Cooked Frosting: frosting that will beat any boring buttercream’s butt, total KO with one bite! Frankly this is the only frosting I knew or made growing up, and every time I make it people rave about it. All my mom knew is that she got it from a roommate in college, and it was called Cooked Frosting.  I have looked everywhere for this recipe online and cannot find it. I am pretty sure it has a proper name unbeknownst to me.  Just like a rose called by any other name, I really don’t give a flying flip what it is called because it is the BOMB when it comes to frosting, and if you have never tried it, dive down that rabbit hole and give it a go! I promise, you will come back to it for cookies, cakes…hey, even a stale graham cracker can taste like the most exquisite cookie with this frosting.  I have used my fruit cake fillings to stripe this or mix it in to add another depth and dimension of flavor.  The standard of vanilla and almond extract is delightful. I also love adding coconut extract in addition…or Creme Bouquet or lemon…it truly is a magnificent canvas to frosting masterpiece to flourish with any flavor you love. 

 

Pictured above you see this frosting on my Valentine’s Cookies 2/5/2019 where the frosting by itself, striped with my mixed berry cake fruit filling, and the fruit filling fully mixed in all with sprinkles. SOOOO delicious! You also see it colored with green and yellow food coloring to get a light chartreuse color with one of Wilton’s Christmas sprinkles. You also see it in the first Valentine’s Day I celebrated with my now husband who I was dating. Truth be told, that weekend we went exclusive and my husband has since confessed that is when he knew he loved me…or did he love the frosting? Wink wink. It’s all good, and the rest is history as we say. The cupcakes with the frosting almost neon bright colored was celebrating my 33rd birthday…I think…you know you hit 42 and you think you’d never forget things and all of a sudden you find yourself forgetting EVERYTHING….ya, I wish I wrote more things down…but I digress. I LOVE SweetTarts so that is what I put on the cupcakes to pump up the volume and the inspiration to the color theme for that party. These were a hit! This frosting on a rich almost fudge cake is one of my weaknesses. Hence the heart cupcakes for the hub’s and my first Valentine’s together. Whether that move was to impress my man or to indulge myself, my lips are sealed…with a mouthful of this frosting! Ha!

This is the recipe my  mom hand wrote and oddly I don’t remember if she gave to me or if it came with me after I was on my own. BUT, that is neither her nor there and I will go with the first option. You can see her hand writing versus mine at the wee bottom so I could glue the backside down in my recipe binder. Of course the minimal directions are easy for me to follow because I have made this so many times I could do it in my sleep. Oh, that’s exaggerating a tad, but let’s just say this is how I prefer my recipes and all my well loved ones are just like this. Minimal, and mostly in my head.  

So on to decoding this recipe and give explicit directions. No, no, not THAT explicit…the explicit that is CLEAR, understandable, ya know what I mean? Before we go there, a couple things always stood out when I was learning to make Cooked Frosting which I feel helps in making this particular frosting because it is very different to what most may envision or expect when making frosting. My mom always said to use the cheapest shortening you can get. I generally go with the white store brand version of shortening. You end up making the frosting in 3 parts: an egg white mix, a powder sugar/lard mix, and the pastry dough part. I always have the egg white part in my stand mixer, the power sugar in a large bowl, and the pastry part in a pan on the stove. My mom always said the powder sugar part looks all crumbly and dry, you add add the powder sugar mix and the pastry dough mix in thirds to the egg white mix and whip it up on high in between each added third. She also said if it looks weird and like it will not actually be fluffy frosting, just keep mixing on high and it will fluff up almost magically. I have only felt that way a couple times, and my impressions are that those times were when I first started making it in my early teen, and after college when I had not made it for a number of years while going to college.

This is what the pastry part of the frosting looks like before you add it in thirds with the sugar mix to the egg white mix. I’m pretty sure the “cooked” part of the name comes from this element, and I never really thought about it until now. The cooked part is like a pate a choux used to make eclairs, profiteroles, croquembouches…basically a light pastry. It doesn’t take long and I have always started by melting the butter and adding the milk to heat up, and sprinkling the flour on top and mushing it around with a silicone spatula on med heat until it all comes together like the picture.

I will use a dough blender and cutter to start mixing the powder sugar, salt, and shortening. I end up using my hand to mix it until it is evenly fine and will stick together in my fist like fine wet sand. This is when I know I am done.

It whips up beautifully white and delicious! It is soft and easy to frost right away, and when chilled it stiffens quite a bit. I keep it in an air tight container in the refrigerator in between uses. It does make a lot, but I have never measured the amount because it doesn’t last very long. If you want to frost a cake or cookies and it is fully chilled, I set it out until it softens to almost room temperature. Also, on a side note, if I want to use part of the batch using a different flavoring, I will just add it to the amount I need and add other flavoring to taste. I find this gives me the flexibility I want so the main batch is more of my blank canvas and I modify as needed, as the wind blows, or according to my mood. However, the basic recipe with the vanilla and almond extract is delightful on its own.

Cooked Frosting

This is frosting is unlike any buttercream you may be used to; it is fluffier, feels lighter, and full of flavor without the sickening sweetness other frosting recipes offer, or the bakery type buttercreams that leave a shortening film in your mouth. It is simply amazing on its own, or kick it up with flavoring with fruit fillings or flavorings to add complexity and different flavor notes. It is fantastic on cookie cut outs, cupcakes, and cakes alike. It is initially made in 3 parts, which are combined for this lovely, fluffy, snow white frosting. Enjoy!

the sugar mix:

1 1/2 c. shortening

6 c. powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

the pastry mix:

3 T. butter

6 T. flour

6 T. milk

the egg white mix:

3 egg whites

6 tsp. vanilla

3 capfuls almond extract

 

1) For the sugar mix: mix all the ingredients in this section together until it is evenly incorporated in even crumbles.  

2) For the pastry mix: in a pan on medium heat, melt the butter, add the milk, and sprinkle on the flour. Use a silicone spatula to mix until the dough forms and comes clean from the pan all together.

3) For the egg white mix: in a stand mixer, add the egg whites and extracts and beat on high until fluffy, but no peaks forming (Tip: use this time to use your hand to evenly mix the sugar mix while the mixer runs). 

4) Add a third of the sugar mix and a third of the pastry mix to the egg mix, and beat on high until all combined. Repeat 2 more time to use up the remaining 2 thirds of the sugar and pastry mixes.

5) Mix the frosting on high until white and fluffy. If it doesn’t not look fluffy at all, just turn up the mixer speed and mix until fluffy. 

6) Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Let soften to room temperature when you want to spread on cookies or cakes.