Friday, May 29, 2015

A Near Pin-saster: Edible Cigars

Along with the Monthly Pinstrosity Challenge, I also follow and participate the Iron Craft challenge (I was actually introduced to it through a submitter here on Pinstrosity!). It's really fun to do both and to poke a stick at my creativity. As I often do, for one of the projects I decided to kill two projects with one pin. The two challenges were "E is for..." and "Gifts". It took me a while to figure it out but the day before the Iron Craft project was due I figure it out (it's always the day before).

Emilee and Chip just graduated and I wanted to give them something fun for graduation. Emilee loves cigar boxes, so I thought it would be fun to find a treat to put in it. Enter Pinterest! I found a neat pin for making "Cigares au Chocolat" and knew that was it! Edible Cigars for Emilee's Excellent Educational Efforts.  Amazingly I had all the supplies at home. The only hard part, the recipe was in french and metric measurements. I decided to try it anyway using Google Translate and for the translation and conversions. This was going to be awesome!
I got it mixed up and it looked like this:

Now I had no idea if that was how it was supposed to look, but it seemed okay so I just went with it. The first pan I didn't flatten the cookies enough and they were just blobs. The second pan I tried to flatten them with my fingers but the dough was super sticky and they had holes and didn't work well either. Finally the third pan I pulled out a spoon and a cup of water and dipped the spoon in the water and used that to flatten the dough. That worked fairly well. But they really weren't flat enough still.

They wouldn't roll. I had to start rolling them right away without them cooling because they stiffened up super super fast and ended up cracking and crumbling. It just wasn't working.
I set the bowl on the counter above the trashcan and went and browsed Pinterest, hoping I could find some other E project that I could whip out. While scrolling through I came across a pin for cookies I'd actually already made...successfully! I don't know why I didn't think of those earlier! They were so similar.

I had an idea for what I needed to do...I needed more of a batter than a dough. However, I was out of eggs so I couldn't add extra egg whites. I didn't have cream, I didn't have milk (we were so seriously out of groceries that day!), so I added about 1 TBS of water (maybe more, but not much) and stirred that into the dough to make more of a batter. It looked good, but now to see if it actually worked or if I'd ruined the remainder of the dough. Amazing the Pinterest Gods smiled upon my efforts and it worked! The batter spread thin enough without being too runny and thin, but still make a good pliable cookie. I'd almost given up on this! I'm so glad I didn't! Luckily I had just enough batter left to make a dozen cookies.

I got them baked, rolled, and then dipped in chocolate. I dipped the end in cocoa powder to look like the ash on the end of the cigar.

Last, I found a cigar box at the local antique mall to put them in. It was nice and cleaned out and didn't smell like tobacco, so it worked great!

So in the end these weren't spectacular (especially when you see the original inspiration), but they were fun to make and they made a fun gift to give!

All too often I think we give up too fast. I was pretty frustrated and ready to be done with these. Sometimes all you need is to put yourself in timeout from the project and come back to it later. Now I think I need to make these again, because I didn't even get to try a completely finished one! To get my version of the recipe (and the filling I made for these!), you can check out the blog post on Mower Cooking.

Sometimes though, even putting yourself in a project timeout doesn't work. Ever have a project that's a Pinstrosity before you even really get underway? I tried to take apart the light fixture and separate the dome from the light and chain for a project I had in mind. I got it all taken apart only to realize without unscrewing the entire thing from the ceiling and disconnecting wires there was no way I could get that dome off (without breaking it at least, and since we're in a rental that's not really a great option). So I went to put it back together...and it wouldn't go back together! I fought with it for an hour and finally had to let it just hang there lopsided and disassembled until Cameron came home. His years at the furniture store have served him well and he had it back together in no time! I felt a little sheepish though. "You run Pinstrosity...shouldn't you know better?" he teased. Of course not! I'll probably be making Pinstrosities as a 96 year old lady and he'll still be shaking his head and laughing at me.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oreo Truffle Tutorial

Some submissions that are sent to us require us to test out the pin, do research online, or call in "experts". Okay, most submissions do. We don't pretend to know how to fix everything. But sometimes we do get a submission in that we actually do know how to do, and that makes us feel super excited, like we actually do know something and aren't great big phonies.

I'm pretty excited to get to tell you about Oreo Truffles. Alexa, "a teen who loves Pinterest", came across these while surfing Pinterest before Easter. "I'm not a baker, actually I'm not very good at crafty-diy kinda projects but I still take on the 'easier' ones, just for fun. Last week, I was looking on Pinterest for something sweet to make with an Easter theme, and came across this AMAZING looking treat for Easter."

The Original Pin
photo by Gimme Some Oven

Mmmm, yum yum yum!! "It seemed easy enough, and plus, I mean how hard could it be? So I went and bought the ingredients for these delicious-looking Oreo truffles. I got home and started to read the directions, it said that I needed to put the Oreos in the food processor. Ours broke earlier this week, so, I settled for a hand mixer (there would just be chunkier pieces of Oreo right?). After I had 'blended' the Oreos and cream cheese, I just assumed that it 'was supposed to look like that' and made the eggs. Finally I chilled them and TRIED to dip them in chocolate."
The Pinstrosity

"Of course, I ran into all sorts of problems. For example:
1. Dropping the egg into the chocolate and unsuccessfully taking it out before it had taken almost all of the chocolate. 
2. Running out of chocolate because I had wasted a bunch of it.  
3. Transferring the already scary Oreo eggs onto a smaller pan because it wouldn't fit in the fridge, therefore making them look 100x worse
Unfortunately, all attempts failed to make them. And I ended up with delicious (but hideously ugly) Oreo eggs. So, lesson learned: I don't know how to dip Oreo eggs or how to follow directions-- if you do, then, I think they would turn out beautiful AND delicious!!"

These Oreo Truffles are one of my favorite things to make, especially at Christmas time. One batch makes a TON!

As luck has it, I actually wrote up a tutorial post for this recipe 5 1/2 years ago! I've perfected it a little more now, so I'll include my current commentary here in italics (the original post can be found here).

Oreo Truffles

Supplies you will need:

  • 1 pkg oreos (I prefer double stuff)
  • 1 pkg cream cheese
  • 1 pkg chocolate candy coating (I usually use Almond Bark, but the store I went to for this particular time didn't have any, they just had Kroger Candy Coating, which works, but it doesn't taste as good in my opinion)
  • 1 pkg vanilla (or any white) Candy Coating
  • 2 pots
  • 1 bowl
  • baking pans
  • wax paper
  • 4 spoons
  • 2 butterknifes
  • Shortening 

Smash the oreos. I use a cool little blender thing-a-ma-jigger...I can't think of what it's called right now, but it's in the picture below (uh...6 years ago me...that could be called a mini food processor or a food chopper). I've used a ziploc bag and my fist before, but it doesn't work as good. In Alexa's case here, a ziploc bag and a rolling pin, a bowl and a heavy duty cup, or something would also work.)

You don't want there to be any big cookie chunks. You want it to look like potting soil. MMMmm, yummy! 

One package of oreos will yield this many crumbs (below).

Step 2: Add the whole block of cream cheese.

I suggest removing any rings or bracelets for this next part.

Step 3: Mix the crumbs and the cream cheese together. I have tried a few different things and have found that using my hands is the most effective way to get this stuff mixed together.

It was after seeing the above shot that I decided I needed to put make up on and brush my hair now my cute little side ponytail is smooth, I have cute dangly earrings on and my makeup is subtle but present (this was just at the start of deciding that it is okay to be girly and feminine..."subtle but present" makeup was me saying "I'm wearing makeup and that makes me feel silly so I'll downplay it." I can be a bit of a goob sometimes).
It'll look like this when you're done (below is actually a double batch mixed up).

Step 4: Put the bowl with the goop in the fridge or freezer to harden up a little. Meanwhile, get out a casserole dish or a cookie sheet. After just a minute or two (or about 5 or 10), take the goop back out and then start rolling it into little balls about this big:

When I got my double batch all rolled out, I had 194 oreo balls (but then I ate two, so I ended up with an even 16 a single batch will yield about 8 dozen candies...depending on big/small you roll the balls and how many you eat in the process). Once the balls are rolled, stick the pans in the freezer.

Step 5: Melt half of the chocolate in a saucepan (there'll be instructions on the packet if you need them). Once the chocolate is melted, take the balls out of the freezer and plop a few in the pan (I usually do about 3 at a time). As the balls warm up, they will try to come apart, so don't throw too many in the pot at one time.

I've done the chocolate in the microwave and on the stove and still the stove gives me the best results. Keep the heat on low and be patient. Stir the chocolate occasionally to keep it from scorching, and keep water out to keep it from seizing up. I will typically now add a tablespoon or two of shortening to my pot of melted chocolate to make it more smooth and so I don't get as thick of coats on the truffles. 

Cover the ball in chocolate and fish out with a spoon, or whatever device you have chosen for the job. My preferred device these days is a fork. You can scoop up the truffle and the excess chocolate runs through the tines. Don't stab the truffle, scoop. 

Dip half of the balls in the chocolate, adding more chocolate to the pot to melt as you go. I used to melt all the chocolate at once, but then it started to get lumpy and not as smooth (seizing and scorching). I found that it works better to add chocolate as you go. Once half the balls are dipped in chocolate, set the chocolate pan aside (with any remaining'll use it later).

Step 6: Melt half of the white chocolate in a different pan and dip the remaining half of the oreo balls. Usually I end up using a little more of the white chocolate than I do the reg. chocolate because it takes more white to cover the oreoness. 

Step 7: After you have dipped all the oreo balls, put the white ones aside and bring back the chocolate ones, but keep the white chocolate in the pot warm and runny. At this point I added a little bit of shortening (anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon or two, depending on how much chocolate is left and how runny I want it, just add 1 tsp at a time and stir it in), to make the chocolate a little more runny. Dip a butter knife (or a fork) in the white chocolate and drizzle it over the chocolate oreo balls, as seen below.

Once you have drizzled white chocolate on the brown balls, heat up the chocolate (again adding shortening if extra fluidity is also makes drizzling a little easier and as long as you don't add huge amounts of shortening, the flavor will be fine too) and then drizzle chocolate over the white balls. In the end it'll look something like this:

It took me about 2 1/2 hours to do a double batch from beginning to end. If you don't want to do it all in one shot, you can make the balls, and leave them in the fridge or freezer for a bit before you dip them. These are quite easy and they look nice (well...mine look like blobs, but you can make them look nice) and they taste great!

Seriously, these are so yummy. Give them a try! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Show and Tell: Use it Up Projects

I put this post off a day hoping that maybe we'd have some late entries for the April challenge, but figured I'd go ahead and do the post today. I was able to get two Pinterest projects done this month using the Use It Up theme we had. Everything I used came from things I found around the house. I was pretty proud of myself! 

First, I made a table topper Dresden Plate, following one of my pins to a great tutorial. It was fun to dig through my fabric stash and pick out colors and prints (I don't have a huge one, so finding 4 fabrics that fit together perfectly was pretty exciting). I even found thread and batting in just the right amounts (I used just about every inch of the remaining gold thread I had, it was the perfect length left on the spool).  You can read more about this project here

Second, I made me a Home sign, using this site as my inspiration. I had spare 8x10 canvases in my painting box, a printer with ink, and mod podge, and made that work. I like how it turned out (especially now that it's dried all the way and the wrinkles in the paper are stretched out and gone). You can read more about this project here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Even a Seasoned Crafter...

There is one thing we love about Pinstrosity...very few escape the clutches of a good Pinstrosity moment sometime in their creative life. Not even the seasoned crafters, bakers, artists, moms, office geniuses, etc. Mishaps happen to everyone. 

Carrie included. 

Carrie told us that she was doing a demonstration at her local Mothers of Preschoolers group on home decor and DIY projects and brought a bedside table to redo quickly, with this pin as her inspiration:

The Original Pin

She said, "I brought along some lace and laid it down and started painting. Well, apparently I used too much paint because it definitely didn't turn out like the example. But it was a good example to everyone that evened seasoned craft and DIYers have dud projects!"
The Pinstrosity

We've seen a few troubles come up with similar projects, and more often than not the problem is actually the use of lace vs. the use of a crocheted doily. Lace is much more thin and moves easily. It works, but you have to be very careful with it. Gentle spray painting works best with lace. Crocheted doilies are usually thicker and a little more sturdy. They produce a more apparent design from a distance (as with the turquoise table), and can be used with spray paint or gentle and careful application of liquid paint and a brush. You can often find doilies at local thrift stores or up in your attic. Just make sure you aren't using great great great grandma's crocheted doily that she carried across the ocean with her. That would be a Pinstrosity in and of itself.

Monthly Challenge: May 2015

May can be an insanely busy month with Graduations galore, Mother's Day, family vacations, wedding season starting, etc. Rather than throw something on top of all the craziness for this month's challenge, we thought it would be fun (and helpful) to make the challenge go along with what many people are already doing for May. Gifts! There are millions of diy gift pins, Pinterest boards for goofy grad gifts, and even gift wrapping pins. If nothing else, make a gift for yourself! 

Now, what exactly are we asking you to do again?

1. Browse through your Pinterest boards, and then your sister's Pinterest boards, and then your high school BFF's Pinterest boards, and then your cat's previous owner's Pinterest boards, and then even the Official Pinstrosity Challenge Pinterest Board (we'll be adding ideas to it all the time) and find pins that fit the theme that inspire you. They can be food, decor, costumes, aprons, painting color schemes, etc., but it needs to be out of supplies you already have. This should be fun! 

2. Once you've found some pins on Pinterest that inspire you, build on that inspiration!  You can follow the pin instructions to a T, or you can just work off your inspiration and go for a Pin Spin.

3. Take a picture of the outcome. We want to see the Pin Wins, Pin Spins, and Pinstrosities!

4. Email us your pictures, the link to the project you were inspired by, and any bit of the story you want to tell. You have until 8:00 AM (MST) on June 1st to send us your May projects.

5. Saturday, June 6th we will do a Round Up post and show you the projects we were sent in. If we have too many for one post, we'll do multiple Show and Tell Saturday posts!

6. All projects submitted as part of the challenge need to have been completed in May 2015. No submitting projects you did last year. The point of this challenge is to get you to actually use Pinterest to inspire your life!

7. Feel free to submit as many times as you want!