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Candy Corn Cupcakes

Thing 2 came home with a birthday party invitation for one of her friends this weekend.  Since my parents are coming down to visit this weekend Thing 2 wouldn’t be able to attend and I felt bad for her little friend who is such a sweet girl.

“Let’s make her some cupcakes” I suggested out of guilt.  Keep in mind – we all just arrived home and it’s already 8:00 PM and we haven’t had dinner yet.  Just a glimpse of the glamour filled life I live.

While dinner was cooking – I looked up on Pinterest some Halloween themed ideas for cupcakes and found this cute idea for candy corn cupcakes.  These cupcakes capitalized on the trend of differently colored layered batter.

The three color combo was an easy feat to pull off last minute.  I had a yellow cake mix and 1 can of vanilla frosting.   I also had just bought candy corn to decorate my entryway (because its colorful and yucky so I won’t eat it)

Candy Corn Cupcakes were going to happen!

First I added yellow food coloring to the already yellow cake mix – making it more vivid and bright yellow.  I spooned the batter into the bottom of the cupcake liners.
Then I mixed the remaining batter with red food coloring, changing it to a deep pumpkin orange.  This is where I switched to a pastry bag.  I started cake decorating with I was just 10 years old – learning this great skill from my girl scouts leaders.  I still have my original frosting bags – the kind you had to clean and wash after use.  The invention of the disposable cake decorating bag is up there on my Top 10 favorite craft items.  You can use it for soooo many different things beyond the intended use.  It allowed me to carefully piped the orange batter into the liner without disturbing the yellow layer.
Then they were popped in my sad excuse of an oven to bake.  Thing 2 frosted them in the morning and added a topping of candy corn.
Not bad for a last minute idea!

Flourless Tutorial for rolling out Cookie Dough

Every year my girlfriend KP hosts THE best cookie exchange party!  It’s a wonderful event where a group of friends can catch up (sometimes from last year’s exchange party) and have a little bit of mommy/adult time (no kids allowed).  It really puts everyone in the Holiday spirit.  And of course, you come away with a variety of yummy cookies.  I think they were exceptionally great this year.  The past few years (with the exception of last) I’ve made gingerbread snowflake cookies.  Giant snowflakes decorated with white on white frosting and silver dragees and a dusting of sparkling sugar.  They are gorgeous and almost too pretty to eat.   The gingerbread dough recipe is a famous Martha Stewart recipe and it makes THE BEST gingerbread cookies!

This year, I felt it was time to change it up.  I broke out my prized copper reindeer and sleigh cookie cutters.  These over sized cutters make large cookies that make a bigger statement and are more fun to decorate.

But they are tricky to use since they have a solid back.  If the dough sticks to the cutter, you can’t use your finger to nudge the dough out.

I’m going to share with you my method of rolling out dough without dusting the surfaces with flour.  I’ve never seen anyone do it quite the way I’m going to describe (but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one).

The first key tip is your dough should always be chilled before you cut it and before you bake it.  Otherwise it gets sticky and tricky to cut out.  And it gets puffy in the oven and doesn’t hold the shape.  No one likes a fat reindeer – they can’t fly and they certainly can’t pull Santa’s sleigh.

When I first make the dough, I separate the batch into halves or thirds.  This makes the whole process more manageable.  Each portion of dough is placed on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Flatten it out a little with your hands – then top with another piece of plastic wrap.  Now roll out the dough with your rolling pin – no flour needed!    You will need to frequently lift off the wrap and reposition.  Roll the dough out to a thickness of around ¼”.  I place the dough on one of those flexible plastic cutting boards and place it in a stead spot in your refrigerator.  This way the dough chills flat.  Chill for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled – peel off the top layer of wrap and save it for later.  Place a silpat liner upside down onto the dough (or the right side to the dough for you sewers) and flip.  Now your flexible cutting board is on top, remove that and remove the top layer of plastic.  You may need to give one last roll to smooth any wrinkles or imperfections in your dough.

Cut out your shapes, peeling away the negative space dough.  I pile that excess dough back onto the removed sheet of plastic wrap.  If you’ve done this quickly enough, your cookies can go straight into the oven, but if you’re like me and take your time or get distracted by other things, you may need to chill your dough again.

Take the remaining dough and gently knead it back together and repeat the steps above.   This method yields perfectly shaped cookies and is far less messy!

And guess what!  Martha Stewart agreed!  She asked her viewers to submit their cookies this year and out of hundreds, thousands of people – she chose to show mine on her Friday episode last Dec. 16!  Hearing her describe to her audience the “fine work by Nicki Simpson” made me feel like I won the lottery!  Thank you Martha!!


Diaper Cake

My best friend forever (Really?  Forever?  thank you Bridesmaids) called upon my craftiness this week.  Yes, Wilma Fingerdoo was invited to a baby shower and to her full credit, she saw, somewhere in the interverse, a Diaper Cake –  which apparently is all the rage for baby showers.  Full credit because Wilma is not exactly know for her maternal instincts.

Now, when I was having babies, they didn’t exist yet.  (diaper cakes, not babies)  What a GREAT idea!  You can never have enough diapers when you have a baby – and diapers are expensive!  Wilma asked for my help (she knew I’d have all the supplies) and it sure looked like fun.

It’s ironic that the day that I’m helping make a diaper cake, I bought a high school graduation card for the son of my other BFF, Kat.  I threw Kat’s baby shower right before Jaggar was born.  It was the first baby shower I had ever thrown.  And now he’s G R A D U A T I N G!  How the hell did that happen?

I didn’t bother to put the instructions here making on diaper cakes, just the results.  A quick search on your favorite search engine is going to give you all the options and details that you need.  I will tell you we went with the “swirl” method (oddly appropriate for a diaper cake if you think about it).  Wilma may not have deep maternal instincts but she instantly figured out that the other methods involving rolling up diapers and securing them with rubber bands would be a pain in the butt for the new mom.


Makeup and Enchilades – the foundation for friendship

We gain a lot from our friendships – not just in the form of support or shared laughter and memories… but crucial knowledge gained.   Take my good friend KP.  I met her when Thing 2 started kindergarten.  Up until that point, I wore the hallowed crown of all things crafty.  She, and another mom, (of Pop Rocks and Goblins fame) quickly knocked that crown off my big fat head.  I had met my crafting match.   KP, who wears minimum and requires minimal makeup taught me how to curl my eyelashes.  What?  It’s not like I don’t know how to put on my make up.  I take pride in my make up skills.  And KP barely even wears makeup!  But she showed me the technique to curl eyelashes.   (Start at the base of your lashes, squeeze, then move out slightly, squeeze, then quickly apply mascara to seal the curl.)

KP also gave me this kick ass Enchilada recipe.  Now, the story goes, the recipe was given to her by another NFL wife.  And she never ACTUALLY had the recipe written down… she just made it from memory.  So when I requested the recipe… it presented a challenge.  She had to wait until the next time she made it to remember how she did it.  When she did make a pan of these bad boys, I was over there to learn the process.  I think I’ve finally mastered the recipe.  The weather’s been really cold (ha ha by LA standards) and with left over turkey, I had all the motivation I needed to make up a family sized batch of tummy warming goodness.

Here’s KP’s recipe with one small modification from me – the use of a pastry bag.  Anytime you have to spoon sticky ingredients into small spaces (think manicotti, baking forms)  get out your pastry bags.  It just makes the process a lot easier and the bags are disposable – no clean up.  You’re gonna need:

  • 1 Whole Chicken (or left over chicken/turkey meat)
  • 1 package Tortillas (we use whole wheat)
  • 2 28 oz Can Enchilada Sauce
  • 2 packets of taco seasoning
  • 1 4 oz can of jalapeños
  • 1 4 oz can of mild Fire Roasted Chilies
  • 16 oz Mexican Cheese Mix (I use more like 20 oz)
  • 3 Cups cooked Rositas Rice
  • 1 1/2 box softened Cream Cheese (12 ounces)

Step 1.
Start by cooking the rice.  Shred the chicken or turkey meat with a fork (or your fingers).

Step 2.

Combine rice, taco seasoning, chicken, cream cheese and chilies.  Load into a pastry bag – no tip is even necessary – just cut off about an 1 1/2″ to give you a nice wide.
Step 3.

Set up 1 pie pan’s (or similar dish) and pour Enchilada sauce into one.
Pour your Wesson Oil into the frying pan and heat.
Set up your cutting mat.
Begin by frying the tortilla on each side until it puffs up (like in the picture below).
Remove with tongs and dip into the enchilada sauce, coating both sides.
Place on your cutting mat and pipe a row of the enchilada mixture.
Sprinkle with cheese, roll up and place it in your cooking pan.
Rinse and repeat. (literally – you’ll want to keep a damp towel handy to wipe your hands)
Once all of the enchiladas have been completed – top with any remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 C of the cheese.


Step 4.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve and enjoy.

Speaking of make up tips – The day before I made the enchilada’s, I visited my parents in Hellsperia.  My long time friend Carmen came down to visit.  Carmen and I became fast friends in high school typing class when I admired her eyeliner.  Her eyeliner was always a coveted clean and neat black line.  We quickly bonded over the eyeliner application that ensued in the back of typing class.    Now, Carmen and my path has diverged and merged many different times in our lives.  We’ve lost touch, then found each other several different times.  Carmen likes to tell the story when she found me the first time, because she recognized me by my laugh.  We had both graduated high school and moved away from Alaska an on to our separate lives.  This was long before the days of Facebook.  Coincidentally (well not so much, we were both rocker girls) we ended up in Los Angeles.   One night, on the Sunset Strip, I went out to see a show at Gazarris.  I can’t remember who I saw.  It was some glam metal band with big hair and shredded clothing so hell, it could have been anybody.    Carmen likes to tell how she heard this distinctive laugh coming from a few people ahead of her in the crowd.  Instantly she knew it was me but  I didn’t look like the Alaskan girl she had known.  My brunette tresses were blond and teased up high.  My brown eyes were disguised by blue contacts.  But she knew… from my laugh!  Somehow, in the crazy years of our youth, we lost touch again when she moved to the East Coast.  And somehow we found each other again.  But then I moved, just last year.  And she just recently moved back to Los Angeles.  She tracked me down by knocking on the doors of my old neighbors.  Carmen is very sweet and charming and finally convinced a neighbor who had my current info to pass on her number to me.    This past weekend, in Hysteria, I clearly remembered why we became friends in the first place.   It wasn’t because we had some bonding moments at the local Michaels.  It wasn’t because she promised to give me her killer pie dough recipe.  It’s just because sometimes there are people you just click with.  And even when you haven’t  seen that friend in a long, long time, you pick up the friendship, right where you left off, like time had never passed.