Fancy living needs fancy cookies

As I’ve said before, being out in Hawaii kinda sucks for buying fabric.  But it doesn’t just apply to fabric, it goes for anything, really.  A vendor Ryan works with calculated that things cost something like 230% more in Hawaii than in Texas.

Say a tube of toothpaste is $2.00 in Texas (Just say for example, don’t even get me started on extreme couponing and how with your store card it’s 1.60 and with your 60 cent double coupon plus the manufacturer coupon for 40 cents makes it totally free and you can get 10 of them. STFU.), here the same brand and size would be $4.60. Other thingsn to put into perspective, milk is 6-7 bucks for a half-gallon! Seriously.

So when it comes to other “luxury” things, like Cheryl’s in Ohio or anything from Milk Bar in New York, buying the ingredients to make it ends up costing the same as if you were to just order it off the website and pay the exorbitant amount in shipping fees (oh free shipping you say?  let’s not forgot the offer is only for the 48 contiguous states, so regular shipping still applies, and for good measure, add $15 for handling.  You know, I’ve mailed lots of things, both locally and to the mainland.  It takes the same amount of effort no matter where the intended destination.  Just sayin’.

A few weeks back, while in Orlando, I tried Cheryl’s butter cream frosted sugar cookies.  I had never heard of putting frosting on a cookie, and it shocked the vendors.  It was like telling me you’ve never heard of frosting on a cupcake (I’m pretty sure that’s standard?).  C’mon, why would you put frosting on a cookie?  Frosting is not like icing, it doesn’t even and it would look like a mess if you packed them up.  Whatever, I took 2.

Why had I never had these cookies before?!  I don’t like soft cookies.  Keebler Soft Batch cookies would taste better if maybe they were cooked.  And what is up with frosting on cookies?  But these worked.  Soft sugar cookies with frosting.  It wasn’t just any frosting either, this wasn’t like birthday cake frosting, these weren’t smearing and getting all over.  I would describe it as “frocing” it looked and tasted like frosting, but was more stable like royal icing.  LIGHTBULB!  I know why we don’t have these in Hawaii — frosting isn’t stable in the humidity.  Well, I could definitely do something about that.

 

Soft sugar cookies with pineapple buttercream frosting

**Sugar cookies – adapted from Skip to my Lou

Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
2 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix ingredients well.  It gets thick, but you will want to make sure there are no lumps.  Using a small scoop or teaspoon, make balls about the size of a half-dollar.  Flatten slightly onto a prepared baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.

Bake for 11-13 minutes.  Unless you want a crisper cookie, do not let these brown.  Makes 3 dozen.

**Pineapple buttercream frosting – adapted for Hawaii humidity from Heather Homemade

1/3 c. salted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, slowly adding another 1 1/2 c. until desired consistency
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp of pineapple flavoring
2 1/2 Tbsp milk
5 drops of yellow food coloring

Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth.  Frost cookies.

 

The frosting by the original recipe was gorgeous.  It was a pearlescent yellow and had a smooth creamy consistency.  It also melted right off the cookie.  I added more powdered sugar and it got more stiff, but lost that creamy consistency.  I found that using a wet butter knife across the top of the frosting helped with aesthetic.  Doesn’t matter too much though when you start eating them!

I would still place an order with Cheryl’s, as there would be the benefit of flavor variety, but if I’m ever in need of a quick fix, these whipped up nicely.

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On a roll

I’m still determined to make a better bread.  I’ve somehow veered away from making ‘survival bread’ and am focusing on making delicious breads to eat.  The first one was too dense, then the next one the crust was hard.  The Spanish rolls were good but not quite as buttery as I imagined. I want to make a bread that looks, smells, and tastes like what I’m imagining in my head.  How do grocery stores and local bakeries do it?  Well, I have a theory and it involves sponge and a a day of letting it sit, but I’m way too impatient for that.

Anyway,  I made some dinner rolls to go with … dinner!  Actually, after dinner.  Apparently, if you’re going to bake in Pyrex you should bring down the oven temp — the crust cooked and hardened while the inside was still dough.  Oops.  So what should’ve taken 20 minutes and consumed with the pasta I made, ended up being an hour post-meal with butter and strawberry jam.  Still good!

There’s one thing I don’t get about all these recipes.  People post them, other people try them and comment about how they love them, but when I try it, it doesn’t come out how everyone else describes it.  Is it being in Hawaii?  The ingredients here aren’t the same (Big Island Hawaiian Honey is a lot darker and actually made my bread look whole wheat)?   I don’t know exactly why.  But what I do know is that I need to boost my confidence and make some recipes that I know will turn out.

Need more chocolate

This past weekend, we went to a party celebrating my brother’s graduation from highschool.  I made cupcakes!

These are my FAVORITE cupcakes and, after a verbiose story from me, they can be your favorite, too.

Last year, for Ella’s 3rd birthday, we threw a carnival-themed party.  Ryan made a Spongebob cut out from plywood.  He cut out the teeth and placed golf tees to hold up ping-pong balls.  These were for target practice.  He helped me make a plywood Cookie Monster with a mouth cutout, and I sewed cookie bean bags to toss in.  We also had a small swimming pool with felt sea creatures and washers with magnetic fishing poles.  We made kits of PVC pipes and fittings so each kid could make marshmallow shooters.  There was a station with bubble solution and pipe cleaners so kids could make their own bubble wands.  You get the point.  They were all unmanned stations, making the parents escort the kids through the different play areas, with bins full of novelty toys.  So as the kids would play, the parents could award the kids with little toys for their goodie bags.

For dessert, I wanted to have a variety of things to satisfy every sweet tooth.  I did a fruit salad, a white cake with fresh strawberry frosting, and a chocolate therapy cake. Everything looked and tasted delicious.  But… It was a VERY hot and humid day.  Both the white cake and chocolate cake MELTED.  Cakes don’t melt, you say.  The frosting liquified and the layers of cake slid off each other.  Also, when someone would cut a slice of either cake, it was lava flow of sweets oozing down from all directions.  It was the saddest display of birthday cakes ever.

I got such rave reviews from both cakes.  I only wished that I could make them more appealing.  I did some research, the frosting needed more confectioners’ sugar to keep it’s stiffness in high humidity.  Ok, so that solved the melting issue, but there was still the problem with cutting.  Well, if they didn’t have to cut into it, that wouldn’t be a problem.  Duh!  Cupcakes!

I experimented with the chocolate cake.  Ok, so one recipe makes a 3-layer, 9-inch cake.  That should be about 2 dozen cupcakes, maybe?  Oh-em-geezy, I ended up making 5 dozen cupcakes with that recipe!  I wasn’t about to make that much frosting, so I cut that recipe in half.  Good thing too, it took twice as much confectioners’ sugar for it to maintain it’s structure in the Hawaii humidity.  I ended up piping it on top of each cupcake and decorating it with half a cookie.  I’ve made this recipe as cupcakes 3 times.  After the second time, Ryan said maybe I should ask for his permission if I’m going to bake again.  Not only does it make way too many to consume (rather, that you should consume), but it takes a lot of time to prep, bake, and frost.  So really, a large party is my only excuse to make this recipe.

So, there you have it.  The most delicious chocolate cupcakes!  As I mentioned, beware, it makes a lot.

Recipe — make the cake recipe, fill cupcake liners about half full.  Cut frosting recipe in half, add more confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency.

This is how you Spanish roll

To the left, to the left. To the front, to the front. Now sprinkle, baby, sprinkle. Sprinkle, baby, sprinkle.
 
 The latest dance moves? Nah! It’s just my technique for making Spanish rolls!
 
 These contain milk, eggs, and butter, so definitely not survivalist bread. But let me tell you, I could survive off this bread! I think I’ve expressed how much I love bread, but now it’s baked with butter and sugar rolled up in it and sprinkled all over? Yum. I ate two. I had to make sure it tasted good, then I had to taste if it still tasted good when it was cold. (It did!)
 
 I have to disclose, however, I didn’t exactly follow the instructions. I was supposed to turn the dough out onto the countertop and knead it. I did that for all of, maybe ten minutes. I was putting all my weight into it, perspiring from the higher humidity, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. My stand mixer came in and saved the day. In the same amount of time it took me to decide to use it, it got the job done.
 
 Also, after the bread hook did it’s magic, rather than letting it rise for 3 hours (who has the time?!), I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, placed it in middle rack of the oven. Boiled a quart of water and poured it in a pan that I then placed on the bottom rack, then shut the door. In about an hour, the dough was pretty much doubled in size.
 
 So really, my deviations were only time-saving tricks. I’ll probably make these again, but with more butter and sugar, and maybe a brush of butter over the top, too. My favorite bakery Spanish roll is saturated in butter and gritty with excess sugar. Of course you’re willing to eat it, but making it that way is met with so much hesitation. Oh well, here are some shots from tonight’s adventure!;
 
 Before baking:

 After baking:

 Eh! No make fun of how it looks. I have a hard time securing the flap, so when it bakes it puffs out and rises more. It makes it look less roll-like and probably contributes to its drier consistency, but they are still very delicious and addicting.

Bread and butter

I love me some fresh bread!
 
 I may be a terrible asian and resident of Hawaii for saying that. Most people leave the ‘aina (land) and come home craving rice. Don’t get me wrong, rice is yummy when it’s sticky and paired with something salty like spam, crispy bacon, chicken long rice, or chili. But when I spend any amount of time a away from Hawaii, when I come home, I don’t care.
 What I do like is BREAD! And pasta, too. But I could easily walk into an Italian restaurant, eat all the bread, and have no room for the main course. I also prefer little sauce on my pizzas, pan crust being my ultimate fave!
 
 Ryan was saying bread is a good starch option if we ever need to survive without electricity. We’ve been doing practice runs to find a recipe we like, because you wouldn’t want to wait until a hurricane to make rocks!
 
 Ryan’s first attempt was in a Dutch oven. It smelled great and was really …rustic. It was really dense and the crust was tough to bite and chew.
 
 Next, I tried making a loaf of French bread. It looked sort of like it was supposed to, but again, it was more dense than I expected and the crust still on the thicker side. Flavor-wise, I also think it should be a little sweeter and less yeasty. Although, you will hardly notice if you spread on a large pat of softened butter!
 

 I guess we need to keep doing these test runs! Good thing I love bread!

Oh shirr…..

Did you know, my living room is a great location for spotting UFOs? I would post a picture to prove it, but I may get in trouble and risk having my blog shut down.

Of course, UFOs being Un-Finished Objects and the mess that is the living room is quite embarrassing, and doesn’t need to be forever emblazoned on the Internet. Ryan gets on my case about having so much craft stuff all over the place, and I agree. But if I clean, then the UFOs will forever hover. My goal over the next month (coinciding with not washing my hair-HAHA) is to finish projects and put away my crafting supplies.

First up? That damn dress! A year ago (7/13/2013), I got caught up in the April Rhodes’ The Date Night dress hype. I thought it was fab and all the bloggers that had an opportunity to make it swooned over the fit and ease of assembly. It got me excited. Like leave work, go shopping for fabric, and start sewing excited (I didn’t).

Tangent: One time, I made a navy blue knit dress. It was from a tutorial, so I was drafting my own pattern. The knit was transparent, so I figured why not just double it up? It added so much bulk, I wore it once. Another time, I made matching tops for myself and Ella. The arm cuffs were too tight, so we only got one use out of those as well. It seems I can sew better for kids, as I’ve made many dresses, pants, and costumes, but when it came to sewing for adults, I’m only successful at hospital gowns. Eek! That’s depressing.

Back to my story, I’m excited about making this dress. One problem: I live in Hawaii. The only places to buy fabric are over-priced, touristy, or do not carry the right type. Oh, and good luck finding any new collections that you see pop up in mainland fabric shops. For instance, there is a store on Oahu that happens to sell voile, for nearly twice the price as the mainland, but had only two “new” prints. Even then, they were from a collection a year before that was no longer in print. Frustrating! Ordering online is the way to go, except it takes a few days, shipping to Hawaii is costly, and you don’t get to see/feel the product until it gets here. Needless to say, I was less excited at this point.

Before I realize, it was November. I was periodically checking fabric sites for something that caught my eye, slowly losing hope that I’d ever make the dress. Then…SALE! I love that word. It’s a curse word, I’m sure. Husbands universally cringe when it’s used in conjunction with craft supplies. Three yards of a pretty voile on its way!

Slowly, it started looking like a dress. For a long time it didn’t have sleeves, then it was even longer before there was a finished neckline. It wasn’t until maybe April(?), when I finally finished the hem on the sleeves and bottom, after finding a hem template. It worked great for the most part, but the laser toner didn’t like the heat from my iron and rubbed off from the paper onto the fabric. Ugh!! Luckily, my mother-in-law had a metal one I could borrow.

At last! I was done! But there was yet another problem. It looked like a hospital gown — face palm. The print that I chose, though pretty, and worked well in other dress designs, in this arrangement was just unflattering hospital garb.

I tried to dress it up with different belts, but nothing would remedy. My dress form wore it for months with a wide belt that was so two years ago. Then it struck me, if nothing quite matched it, why not shirr it?

I was nervous. I had never shirred before and my sewing machine can be wonky. The last thing I needed was to have my $30 + labor gobbled up in the feed dogs. I wound the elastic thread on a bobbin, practiced on a scrap, then just went for it.

It’s still quite sterile in appearance, but paired with a neutral cardigan, it works for me. Ryan says it must be the sleeves.

I even wore it to work …gasp! Funny that I was worried about busting a seam or any other wardrobe malfunction, when in reality, it is probably better constructed than most of the store-bought stuff in my closet. It has French seams, a reinforced pleat, and properly tied off threads!

Well, that’s one UFO crossed off the list. (Hands on hips, head turn) “I got this!”

*Have you seen ABC Family’s Young and Hungry? It annoys Ryan; totally my kind of show.

I made this: Monkey Bar Skirt

I enjoy sewing. I love that it has an instant reward for my efforts. I admire how some people are able to make a living out of blogging and crafting and sewing and cooking and being super mom. Obviously implying, that’s not me.

I like simple projects like kids clothes, maternity and baby accessories, pouches, and random things by request. This summer, I’ve made a Snow White inspired dress, Elsa costume, and a stroller strap.

When I saw the Monkey Bar Skirt from CrafterHours, it looked like a quick fun project.

It took me about half an hour (over the span of 3 days), and Ella wanted to wear it the day she saw it completed!

Now, that’s an instant reward!