4th of July Brownie Bites

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4th of July Brownies | shaneskillercupcakes.com

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, so I whipped up these easy brownies as a last minute treat for a BBQ I’m attending. I used a delicious brownie mix I only recently started using. Most brownie mixes that I’ve used taste like brownie mixes. They taste good but not quite as decadent as homemade brownies.

A few weeks ago I tried Trader Joe’s Brownie Truffle Baking Mix with Dutch Cocoa and Chocolate Chips for the first time and was impressed at how rich and delicious it was. It’s also nice that it already has chocolate chips included in it! To make these brownies you can use whatever mix or recipe you want, but I’d suggest trying the Trader Joe’s mix. It’s a good thing to have around when you need a dessert fast and don’t want to rummage through the kitchen collecting all the ingredients.

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Make your brownies and let them cool completely. Cut them into small squares and drizzle melted frosting on the top. If you want them to be festive, sprinkle a few jimmies on each.

4th of July Brownies | shaneskillercupcakes.com

That’s it! They are easy to make and don’t require a lot of artistic skill, yet they look pretty and patriotic.

4th of July Brownies | shaneskillercupcakes.com

4th of July Brownie Bites

Yield: 36 bites

Serving Size: One brownie bite

Ingredients

  • A batch of brownies, cooled completely
  • 1/3 of a can of white frosting
  • Red, white and blue sprinkles
  • Optional:
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts

Instructions

  1. Make your brownies from a mix or recipe and let cool completely. Add extra items (nuts, chocolate chips, marshmallows, etc) to the brownies if you wish.
  2. Cut the brownies into one inch squares.
  3. Put a cooling rack on top of a wax paper-covered cookie pan and place the brownie bites onto the rack.
  4. Melt the frosting in a bowl for 10-30 seconds until the consistency is liquid but still thick.
  5. Drizzle the frosting in a zig zag pattern over each brownie bite.
  6. While the frosting is still wet, sprinkle with your red, white, and blue jimmies.
  7. Chill brownies in the fridge for about 10 minutes to set the frosting.
  8. Serve at room temperature.
http://shaneskillercupcakes.com/2015/07/4th-of-july-brownie-bites/

I added marshmallows to my brownies, but they turned brownish yellow while baking and kind of messed up my red, white, and blue color scheme. They taste great though!

4th of July Brownies | shaneskillercupcakes.com

What are you doing for the 4th of July? Are you making anything special?

 

****I was not sponsored or paid by Trader Joe’s to recommend their product. I just really like it!****

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I’m Disappointed in you, Martha Stewart

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Recently Martha Stewart gave a controversial interview to Bloomberg.com. During the interview she made a comment about bloggers that really pissed me off:

“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. There are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of what really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create a kind of a popularity but they are not the experts. We have to understand that.” -Martha Stewart

If the video isn’t working you can watch it at Bloomberg.com.

Personally, I’m hugely disappointed. I’ve liked Martha’s crafts over the years, but I have to call her out for making incorrect assumptions about bloggers. What makes HER a professional expert? She went to school for History and Architectural History. Does that make her a expert in cooking? Did her modeling career make her a professional expert in arts and crafts? I don’t think so. She learned cooking from her family and may have a natural talent for crafting but she became a professional in those fields by starting a business in those areas and being successful at it. Many of these bloggers she so rudely dissed are doing the same thing with their blogs. They may not be huge money making businesses, such as Martha Stewart Living, but they care about the products they produce and many work hard to provide great recipes that have been tested over and over again until they’re perfect.

One thing I love about blogs is you often get to see the process that goes into testing recipes and crafts and finding out what works and what doesn’t. It’s a much more personal interaction between the baker or crafter and the audience, more than Martha ever has had with her audience.

I wouldn’t consider myself a professional baker by any means. I’ve never come up with a recipe myself and often use other people’s recipes in my blog posts, but I don’t think that makes what I do invalid. I’m new at baking and usually spend more time decorating a cake than baking it. I’m an artist and like to use my artistic skills in the food world. It’s fun! Blogging is fun.

For the past 12 years I’ve worked in theatre. Eight of those years were specifically in prop making. I don’t know if I’m a complete expert at prop making, because I learn new techniques for crafting props every day, but I would consider myself a professional in that area. The only thing that got me to that point of professionalism was getting out there and doing it. I didn’t go to school for years of theatrical education although my process of learning the job was in an educational environment. Life is full of education, whether you spent tons of money for a degree or not.

I think Martha Stewart is threatened by the Rise of the Blogger. Blogging is a simple way to gain a following and possibly a business. Martha may be concerned how quickly these bloggers can share their ideas and become a genuine professional in the field that she’s reigned for years now.

I know there are bloggers out there that don’t create anything new or original and take credit for other people’s ideas, but most of the bloggers I come across are nothing like that. Some of my posts don’t showcase a new design, but when I borrow from other’s ideas, I always give credit to those designs that inspired me and I built upon.

Martha should embrace the online blogging culture and encourage those who have a knack for cooking, baking, and arts and crafts to get out there and share it with the world! What’s so wrong with that?

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Cake Artist Spotlight: Marcella Robin of MRobin Cakes

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As an artist and a baker, I like to explore the art form of cake decorating. It’s one of the reasons I’d rather decorate a cake than bake them, although recipe experimentation can be its own form of art as well. When I come across other bakers who express their artistic abilities through cake design, I take notice. The cake artist I’m spotlighting today has found a beautiful way to make sculptural pieces of art through the baking process.

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Meet Marcella Robin, owner, baker, and cake designer at MRobin Cakes in Portland, Oregon. She has created her own unique style of cake design using jaconde, a thin decorative exterior sponge cake, that she forms into classic patterns reminiscent of mid-century motifs. The insides of these entremet cakes are filled with sponge cake, creams, custards, fruits, mousses, etc. With her bachelors degree in sculpture and as a graduate of the Professional Pastry and Bread program at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver in British Columbia, Robin feels she’s found the perfect balance between her two loves: art and baking:

I have found cake design to be the perfect blend of my love for art and baking. While I prefer a traditional cake form, the process I use is creative and modern. After years of cake making and designing, my current focus is on entremet wedding cakes. These specialty cakes include layers of mousse, bavaroise, dacquoise, sponge cake, caramels, fruit and other fillings. With its bold design and enticing outer layer of decorative sponge cake, the entremet is unique and above all delicious.

I highly recommend watching Cineastas great video highlighting MRobin Cakes below. It gives Marcella Robin the opportunity to describe her style of cake design and shows us her amazing process for creating such beautifully elegant cakes.

M. Robin – Cake Design from Cineastas on Vimeo.

Just look at all these awesome designs!

donteatdaisies pinkstripe sillychocolate wobble[Photos from MRobin Cakes]
 
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Etsy Store Spotlight Review: Claudine Hellmuth

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Photo credit: Claudine Hellmuth

The amazing artist, Claudine Hellmuth, sent me an adorable Retro Oven Cupcake Box from her Etsy store to review for the blog. I was more than excited. I’ve been a fan of her shop for a while and had fun putting this little box together. It is available as a .pdf file and you can print as many of these cuties as you want! The file has all five colors (Red, Pink, Yellow, Aqua, and Green) in it as well as some cute oven mit tags, a cupcake tray, and some editable cupcake flags that can be attached to toothpicks.

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Photo credit: Claudine Hellmuth

The first thing I did when I got the file was print out the blue oven. You need card stock, scissors, glue or a tape roller, and a scoring device to make these. You will also need an exacto knife to cut out the circle in the cupcake tray, and if you want, the window on the front of the oven.

IMG_3348Although it was pretty easy to construct, there were a couple parts that got a little tricky. I’m sure if I made these regularly I’d get pretty quick, but for a first time, it took me about 20 minutes in all to get this put together. I’d suggest watching her instructional video in addition to reading the written directions, because she gives you a few tips that make it easier to build and some ideas to make it look cuter.

I think mine came out pretty good! I’d love to make the other colored ovens too. They’re just so cute.

IMG_3357One thing I liked about these is that the ovens are a bit tall. There is enough room for cupcakes with toppers or tall frosting. The ovens would even be great for other small items like bags of candy, gift cards, small presents, etc.

lotsofroomAnother great thing is the price. You get all 5 oven colors, 1 cupcake tray, 8 cupcake flags with editable text, and 4 oven mitt shaped gift tags for $4.99! And you can print as many ovens as you want! Claudine even sells a commercial license for a one time fee of $20 per favor box design if you want to sell your own baked goodies in them. That’s a great deal.

Make sure to check out her shop to see all of her other designs. Not only can you find several other adorable favor/treat box designs (like an ice cream truck), you’ll also find printable dolls, decorations, and digital scrapbooking sheets. Most of her designs range from $4.99-$5.99. So affordable and very high quality.

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Claudine Hellmuth is an artist and illustrator. She loves creating “quirky, retro-whimsical” artwork to license to the gift, home and craft markets. She’s been featured in The New York Times, appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, HGTV and The DIY Network, and in 2012, launched an exclusive paper crafting line with the Home Shopping Network.

If you like her designs, make sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. Also don’t forget to visit her website and sign up for her newsletter! The newsletter includes free printables and alerts you to new items in her Etsy shop.

What’s your favorite item in her shop?

 

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How to Measure Flour with a Kitchen Scale {Giveaway}

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Measuring flour accurately can be difficult. When using measuring cups, the way in which you fill the cup can drastically change the amount of flour in it depending on if it’s sifted, packed down, scooped or spooned into the cup. This is why measuring flour by weight is the most accurate way to get the correct amount of flour for a recipe.

I received an EatSmart Precision Elite Digital Kitchen Scale for review* so I decided to show its features while demonstrating flour measurement.

The scale is quite nice. I’ve tried the EatSmart basic kitchen scale, the Precision Pro, before but this scale has several improved features. The button surface is smooth with no gaps for crumbs to fall into and it has an easy to read screen.

It also has a large flat surface for measuring. This is helpful because you can put a large bowl on there and still be able to see the screen. Some excellent features that I liked about this scale are:

  • Easy to use tare feature and auto turn-off
  • Can weigh up to 15 lbs
  • Easy to clean stainless steel
  • Batteries are included!
  • It comes with a little calorie counting guide as well

For those of you with resolutions to lose weight this year, this scale would be fantastic for portion control and serving sizes. With the included calorie counting guide and such an easy-to-use scale, keeping your portions down should be a snap.

Now, how to measure flour. I whipped up this little video demonstrating how I measure flour. I scoured the internet trying to find out how much a standard US cup of all-purpose flour would weigh. The answers I found ranged from 4.25 oz-5oz and 120g-140g. I was a little confused. I wasn’t sure how I would figure it out. Finally I had the thought to look at the nutrition facts on the bag of flour I was using. It told me that 1/4 cup was equal to 30g. I decided to go with this information and measured out 120g of flour.

 

This same method can be used for confectioner’s sugar and many other dry ingredients.

**CORRECTIONS: In the video, I said that you could use the scale to weigh liquid ingredients, but that is not quite correct. I’m sure it would be possible, but it would require a lot of conversions.  Measuring cups or a measuring beaker like this one are best for liquid ingredients. I should have done another video with corrections, but it took so many takes to get what you see above I decided to just correct myself in the post. The scale is great for all of your dry ingredients though.

Another thing I said in the video that needs clarifying is about sifted flour. If you use a scale to weigh the flour, you don’t have to sift it first, although it probably should be sifted before adding it to your recipe. When weighing, sifted or packed flour will still weigh the same. On the other hand, you can get a much better measurement with sifted flour if you are using a measuring cup.

If you would like to know more about EatSmart products, you may follow them through any of the ways below:

EatSmart on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Google+, and the EatSmart Blog.

 

{Giveaway}

EatSmart has graciously offered to give one of my US readers a scale of their own! One reader will receive an EatSmart Precision Pro Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scale. This scale is just as handy as the Precision Elite.

The giveaway is open to those who are 18 and older and a resident of the US. I’m sorry if you are from another country. EatSmart is sending this scale directly to the winner and they will only ship within the US.

Giveaway ends 01/16/13 at 11:59pm EST.

You MUST answer the two mandatory options for any other entries to count.

UPDATE: I was informed that some of you may be having trouble leaving comments. If this is the case, feel free to email your comment to me through this contact form. Thanks.

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International Giveaway

As promised, I’ve added a small giveaway for my international readers. I’d love to give away more, but this one is coming out of my own pocket. Anyone may enter this giveaway as long as you can receive money via Paypal or an Amazon gift card.

If you’re having trouble leaving a comment, read the bolded message above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
*Disclaimer: I was given this product free of charge for my honest review. I was not compensated monetarily. 
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