August 29, 2012

Cake Batter Popcorn

If you've been to any ice cream places lately I'm sure you have seen and maybe even tried cake batter ice cream. It's very popular and although we don't make outings to the ice cream parlor often I have to admit it is quite tasty.

I thought I was being really creative and inventive when I thought to make cake batter popcorn. Turns out there are already many recipes out there to follow to make this, however, all of them that I read used shortening (gross!) and white chocolate along with the cake mix. Since I can't bring myself to use shortening I knew I had to come up with something else.

My mom makes the most delicious caramel corn so I decided to modify her recipe to make it taste like cake batter but still be perfectly coated and crunchy!!

I have a serious problem with GMO (genetically modified organism) anything and since corn is something like 90% (don't quote me on the percentage) genetically modified these days I only buy organic non-GMO popcorn. You choose but be aware that unfortunately most corn is modified in some way.

Cake Batter Popcorn
1 stick butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. yellow cake mix
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Pop 4 quarts (16 cups) of popcorn and divide equally between two lightly buttered 9 x 13 pans making sure there are no kernels left.  I use my hands after popping the corn and put it in the baking pans leaving the un-popped kernels in the bottom of the bowl. It's no fun to break your tooth on a popcorn kernel so take your time doing this! (I think using an air popper is the easiest way to make popcorn but if you don't have one you can make it on your stove in a large stock pot with a little oil.)

Combine the butter, sugar, salt and corn syrup (try to get corn syrup that does not have HFCS) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes on medium heat stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda, cake mix and vanilla. The mixture will become light and foamy.

Immediately pour cake batter sauce over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat.

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes shake on some sprinkles for added fun! If you do this any sooner the colors will run making a messy looking popcorn and who wants that?!

After one hour remove pans from the oven and continue to gently stir the popcorn until it cools enough so it doesn't stay in big clumps.

Serve to anyone who loves popcorn or cake batter!

August 28, 2012

No-Sew 10 Minute T-Shirt Bag

Did you know that about 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the US alone and only about 2% of them are recycled? Check it out at

It's a scary statistic but we can all do small things to help our earth! Using reusable bags or totes is a very easy way to do your part. It is a great alternative to buying reusable bags or taking merchandise home in plastic bags from stores and much more fashionable! They are durable and will last a long time.

Everyone at some time or another has probably had an old t-shirt that they didn't need or like anymore. Instead of tossing it make it into a reusable tote in about 10 minutes.

All you will need is an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors.

You can use a short or a long sleeved t-shirt. It won't matter since you will be cutting the sleeves off anyway.

Lay your t-shirt out on a flat work surface. Using a sharp pair of scissors cut the sleeves off of your t-shirt.

You can use a large bowl and draw around it on your fabric to get a nice rounded scoop shape or just eyeball it and cut the scoop. I just eyeballed it.

At the bottom of the shirt cut slits about every inch through both layers (length will depend on the size of the shirt so you will have to make the call) long enough that you will be able to tie them twice. Remember the shirt will stretch with weight so try to make sure your tote isn't going to hang to your feet with filled with goodies!

Keep the slits lined up and starting with one end tie the aligning front and back pieces together in double knots until you have done the entire row.

If you don't want the knots to show you can tie them on the inside for a less fringed look.

This step is optional but I chose to cut small strips of extra fabric and tie small knots on the tops of the handles for a more decorative look.

The tote is finished and ready to use! Go shopping!

August 27, 2012

Raw Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Raw, vegan, paleo, chewy, rich, sugar free, and healthy chocolate peanut butter brownies! Who just cringed?? If you did you might want to think twice and actually try this dessert. Your brain won't know the difference in taste only texture which is still quite delightful.

Your body will enjoy protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants by eating this dessert! Yay!

I made these on a day that the temperature was 86 degrees and the humidity was 78%. Not exactly a day you want to scorch up the kitchen by turning on the oven to make brownies. All you need for these is a nine inch square pan and a food processor.

These brownies are simple and delicious and will definitely please and satisfy the kiddos! When I was making them my son walked into the kitchen and said, "Yum, I smell brownies!"

Raw Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Brownie Layer
1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. almonds
2 T. chia seeds
2 T. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c. pitted dates
1 c. raisins
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. cocoa powder
pinch of salt

In the bowl of a food processor add nuts and grind until crumbly. Add chia seeds and coconut and whiz to incorporate. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Without cleaning the food processor add dates and raisins. Grind until texture is like a thick paste. Add nut mixture to date mixture in the food processor and add cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Grind again until mixture can hold together when pinched. Divide mixture in half and set aside.

Peanut Butter Layer
1/2 c. almonds
1/4 c. walnuts
3/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. peanut butter (no sugar please)

Grind nuts, raisins and oatmeal in the food processor until crumbly. Add peanut butter and whiz until mixture comes together and can hold its shape. Set aside.

Line a nine inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Using half of the brownie mixture press firmly into the bottom of the pan. Next press in the peanut butter layer. Add the second half of the brownie mixture on the top and press again.

Gently lift parchment paper out of the pan onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife cut brownies into 16 equal squares.

Eat and enjoy! No waiting for the brownies to bake!

Store in an airtight container layering with parchment paper so brownies don't stick together.

Jumbo Spin Art Cookies

When someone mentions 'spin art' my mind tunnels directly back to awkward middle school carnivals where each room was filled with some sort of activity like the duck pond, ring toss, the cake walk, bean bag toss, and of course my favorite.....spin art! I would save up all of my tickets and only use them for spin art. I'm sort of embarrassed right now that I can actually recall these events in detail but I really loved watching that paint stream down onto that cheap white cardboard rectangle spinning a million miles an hour. When the table finally came to a complete stop it was like the world stood still for one second while I gasped at my newly created masterpiece. Then before it could dry the parent volunteer would slap it in a flimsy white matte and send me on my way! I felt like a million bucks!

Before my boys are old enough to enjoy the awkwardness of middle school I wanted them to feel my same love for spin art. Since I don't own an actual spin art table I decided to use my salad spinner and use food coloring instead of paint. And what goes well with food coloring? That's right.....cookies and frosting!

It doesn't matter if my boys are playing their favorite games or playing with their favorite toys - as soon as I get out the salad spinner they come running. They love to spin what ever greens I have in the device so you can imagine the excitement when it would be put to use with cookies instead of
greens! This could possibly be a child's dream!

You will need the following items:
- jumbo sugar cookies (recipe follows) - cut to fit the bottom of your salad spinner
- frosting (recipe follows) - I made cream cheese frosting but buttercream would also work
- salad spinner - don't worry....the food coloring washes right off
- liquid food coloring
- spreading knife
- rolling pin
- pizza cutter or sharp knife
- squirt bottle (optional)

This is a perfect activity for children and a fun family activity. If you had the cookies pre-baked and frosted this would also be a great activity at a child's birthday party!

Sugar cookies are certainly not boring and one of my personal favorite but if you want to you could make any cookie you want. I would suggest something smooth however because you will need to be able to spread frosting on very smoothly. Gingerbread would work well.

Sugar Cookies
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and mix until combined. Sift in baking powder and flour and mix until well combined.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap. Lightly flour a large work surface and roll dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut desired size circle using a table knife.

I made a paper pattern for the size of circle I needed and cut around it.

Place on ungreased sheet pan and bake 10 - 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Removed from oven.

If dough spread too large cut warm cookie to desired size again using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

Let cool completely on pan.

Makes approx. 6 cookies depending on thickness.

***I made jumbo cookies so they would fit nicely in the bottom of the salad spinner. You could make smaller cookies but you will need to find a way to keep them in the middle so they don't creep up the sides when the device is spinning. You can always cut the cookies if you think they are too big. Did I just say a cookie could be too big? Sorry, what was I thinking!!??

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese
4 T. butter
1 t. vanilla extract
3-6 c. powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)

In a medium mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar until you reach desired consistency.

Using a spreading knife smooth frosting on jumbo cookies. Be generous, everyone loves frosting!!

Gently place cookie in the bottom of salad spinner. I secured ours with a dollop of frosting on the bottom of the spinner.

You can drip on food coloring one of two ways. While it is spinning or before you start spinning. Before it spins (I think) is easier for kids but either way will give you the spin art look.

This isn't rocket science so I don't really have much to explain. Using liquid food coloring drip coloring where desired. Spin salad spinner gently enough that your cookie doesn't break apart but fast enough that you get the coloring to spin to the outside of the cookie. Repeat with more drops of coloring if necessary until you have the desired effect.

Gently remove cookie from spinner and allow coloring to dry (so lips and tongue aren't stained too bad) or eat right away simply because no one will want to wait!!

***I recommend using aprons or old clothes when the kids are dropping food coloring. You don't want stains on their nice clothes and they can get a bit carried away with all of the fun!

***If you want a more tie dyed look drop food coloring and then spritz with a few sprays of water (2-4 sprays) using a clean squirt bottle and then spin. It will cause the colors to run and bleed more as in picture #7.

***Don't worry, your salad spinner will wash clean without any stains - well, at least mine did!  :)