Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homemade Pop Tarts

I haven't talked about it yet on my blog, but in addition to my other crafty pursuits, I also love to cook and bake.  I enjoy coming up with fun things to make for my family and within the last year or so I've been trying my hand at more and more replication recipes.  That is, making things that taste like the nostalgic processed food I can get in the store (minus the yucky extras I get with them). Or I might make things that I've only seemed to have tasted in a restaurant but don't want to spend the extra money, or the stress of taking the littles, to have some.

Today I'm going to try my hand at homemade toaster pastries.  I searched for a long time to find a recipe that I felt tasted like a pop tart and not like a tiny flat pie.  Not that a tiny flat pie wouldn't be very good to eat on a busy morning, but it wouldn't be a pop tart.  It comes down to the pastry dough.  Is it a light and flaky pie dough? Or is it the more dense and sweeter cookie-like dough found in a pop-tart?  If you want to limit your sugar intake, this may not be what you're looking for, but I'm not.  I want a cookie!  LOL!  I gave up my search of the perfect mock pop tart and started a search for a cookie-like pastry crust which led me to this recipe from A Crafty Cook which is a french pastry given to her by a lady from France and tastes like a sugar cookie.  Score!  I did edit her measurements slightly, since the original recipe was in metric.  So without further ado, here is my brand new homemade toaster pastry recipe. :)  (My first blogged recipe ever!)

This recipe yields about 8 3x4 inch pastries.

For the pastry:
2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 c (one stick) butter softened**
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

For the filling:
Your favorite jam (used my great-grandmother's rhubarb jam! Yummy and so unexpected!)

For the glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
2-3 Tbs. milk
dollop of jam used in filling (optional)
vanilla or other extract

pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl mix ingredients and beat for 30 seconds with an electric mixer, or by hand until all the ingredients form a ball.  (If you are making this on a warm day, you make find it easier to work with the dough if it has been chilled before you roll it.)  Roll out to 1/4 in and cut lengthwise into  3 inch strips, then cut widthwise every 4 inches to make rectangles.  Place half the rectangles on a rimmed cookie sheet (use a silpat or parchment paper for easier clean up). Spoon 1-2 tablespoons onto them, and cover each filled rectangle with one of the remaining rectangles, press the edges all around with a fork making sure to get a good seal, and pierce each completed pastry a few times with a fork.  Bake for 14-18 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.

While the pastry cools make the glaze (if you want them glazed) by adding a little milk to some powdered sugar.  You can make it as thin or thick as you like by adding more milk or more sugar.  Add a dollop of jam for color and flavor, and/or add an extract like vanilla. Drizzle or spread over each pastry.  You can add sprinkles too for that authentic look!

Double or triple the batch and throw them all in the freezer for a toaster treat on any busy morning or lazy afternoon! :)

**for the same flavor with a light and flakey crust, cut in cold butter with dry ingredients until crumbly, then add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until just combined.  Make pastries as directed then chill for an hour. Bake as directed.

My boys helped me make these and then gobbled them up as soon as they were cool enough.  They were and instant hit at my house!  They tasted just like a real pop tart and 20 times better!  The rhubarb jam was a fantastic call.  I highly recommend it if you have some laying around.   

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's a ...!! Our Surprise Gender Reveals

Ok, so if you've spent anytime on Pinterest in the last couple of years (if you're like me you've spent way too much time on Pinterest in the last couple of years) you will know that so-called "gender reveal parties" are the new "it" way to tell your family and friends - and even yourself - the gender of the new little bundle you're carrying.  Everyone likes a good surprise.  In the old days people got that big surprise in the delivery room when the doctor shouted out, "It's a Boy!" or "It's a girl!"  Now parents have a choice to find out the gender of their baby long before birth.  More recently there seems to be strain of new parents who are finding out early, but want it to feel a little more grand than the tech pointing out a private part on a grainy monitor - or at least they want everyone else to have that build-up-to-the-reveal type hospital-waiting-room moment.  Additionally, I personally know many couples who have decided not to find out the sex of their children at all until they were born.  In fact my husband and I were one of these couples for our first two children.  Our reasoning?  We both really really wanted that "it's a ___" moment when the baby was born.  We're super old school like that.  

Um.. I should say we were super old school like that.  Having had two little boys I just couldn't let my mind rest wondering if I was going to have another boy or my first girl.  I wanted to be surprised like I was with my first two, but for this one I just really felt I needed to emotionally prepare myself for the prospect of potentially being a 3 boy momma. :)

Still though, we didn't tell a soul.  First of all we weren't 100% certain that we were going to find out the day of the ultrasound, and second, we weren't 100% certain if we wanted to tell anyone and ruin that birth day surprise 4 1/2 months down the road.  I made up my mind that night though, after my mother-in-law, who had been watching the boys when we went for the ultrasound, had jokingly told them that we were having a girl - which was her guess.  Indeed we found out that we were not having a girl, and when I told each of my sons on individually as I put them to bed that night they both were so confused they almost cried.  Now I could have gotten mad at my poor mother-in-law and told her to mind her own business, but instead decided we needed to tell everyone the baby's gender so this sort of thing didn't continue.

Now it was always going to be a surprise.  I didn't want to tell them that I knew and that at such and such a time I would let them know too.  Mostly because there are certain family members who would not let this information be.  They would pester and push and over analyze everything we said about the baby until they figured it out.  I love my family.  Seriously.  I would do the same to them. :)

So after I discerned that I wanted it to be a surprise wherein we would tell everyone we wanted to know at once, I began to think about what kind of reveal it would be.  Would I write it on a cake?  Hand out a word search puzzle with only one real word (BOY) in it?  Or maybe make a cute scratch off ticket that would reveal if their guess was right or wrong?  I went with the scratch off ticket.  It was a variation on how I wanted to tell my mom I was pregnant, but that plan was scraped when I told her over the phone one day. 

And hey, guess what?  I am not the first person who thought of this.  I guess that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.  I'm probably not the first person who's thought of much anything.  After a quick search on Pinterest, I found several tutorials on how to make scratch off cards, some of them being specifically gender reveal cards.  There are even people who sell readymade designs of these cards on Etsy.  I opted to design my own,  it's nothing fancy, but I think they turned out pretty cute.

While I consider myself to be a good artist, I'm really not much of a graphic designer.  And that's an understatement, lol.  Nonetheless one night I sat down and popped this out on an online photo editor (basically Photoshop, except not).  Cute, but simple.

I printed it out on regular printer paper adjusting the original to print 6 copies on one piece of paper.  I guess that made each image about 2x3 inches.

Knowing that printer paper is a little too lightweight and slightly see-through I cut out my cards with scalloped scissors and glued them to slightly larger sheets of green construction paper with a glue stick.

Then I began to make my scratch off dots.  To make the paint most tutorials suggest to use two parts silver acrylic craft paint to one part Dawn dish soap.  This is too much soap, in my opinion.  The more soap you use, the longer it will take the paint to dry and the more coats you'll have to use to make it opaque.  The second batch I made I put a couple squirts of paint and a couple drops of Dawn (far less than I used the first time and it scratched off flakier than the others that smeared slightly).  I also used a dot of black acrylic paint to make it more opaque but it turned out I didn't need to do that because my new recipe wasn't as thin as the first.

I cut out a small sheet of clear contact paper and painted little circles all over it just big enough to cover the gender guess circles, two for each card (24 for the dozen of each batch I made).  Then I let them dry.  Again, since the dots were see-through when they were dry, I needed to apply another coat or two with a drop of black paint added to the silver.

After they were dry I could have used an appropriately sized circle punch but since I didn't have one, I just cut out the circles by hand.  I pealed off the backing and pressed each scratch off circle over each gender guess circle.  Sometimes a little bit of the paint scraped off while I was cutting and pressing, so I touched them up with the leftover paint and let them dry.

Then we were off to the first of our two family gatherings. :)  This one was for my husband's side of the family.  They were first because they live closer together and get together more often.  This one took place on Memorial Day about 2 weeks after we found out what we were having.  It was fun keeping this secret while the family asked politely what I thought we were having (I just said I didn't have a feeling one way or another... which was true.  I knew what we were having. lol).  Then after everyone had eaten and were relaxing on the deck I pulled out the cards and asked if everyone wanted to play a game I made.  My intuitive sister-in-law (one of the people that would have figured it out if we had told that we knew) immediately put it all together and asked, "Is this where you are going to tell us what you are having???"  She was excited.  I just blurted out, "YES!! Here's a scratch ticket for you, and one for you, and one for you..." until everyone had one.  Then, after I told them to pick the gender they think the baby is, they all scratched at once.  

That was fun. :)

Wouldn't you know that in all the excitement I forgot to get any action shots of the big reveal?  So I had  a few people reenact the scratching part later.  That's my sister-in-law in the middle hamming it up for the camera.  She's saying, "Oh, darn.  It's not a girl."  She was kidding, of course.

My mother-in-law (who also voted girl) was happy that she could commence shopping for this little one.  Not that not knowing would have stopped her.  When I had my little Adventurer there were several little baby girl outfits she had to return after he was born. :) 

Something I found interesting is that when I went back to look at the cards after the reveal was over, all the cards had both guesses scraped off.  Even the ones who guessed boy and didn't have to scratch the other side.  They just all had to know what the other circle said.  I wonder what that says about them?

It was a long wait until I could do the reveal for my side of the family.  I didn't mind waiting, but at times I did have to flat out lie.  Like when my little brother was talking to me on the phone asking about the pregnancy and wondering how in the world I could manage to not find out what I was having.  How it was a surprise no matter when you find out, etc.  And I had to be all adamant that we felt it was better to be surprised, blah blah blah.  In reality  even though I loved the way we did it the first two times, I liked finding out early too for different reasons.  But I couldn't say that.  So I lied.  

A whole seven weeks after the Big Ultrasound, we met up with my side of the family - or at least the ones that live in this general area - for the 4th of July.  And as we all gathered to fill our plates to eat I once again said, "You guys want to play a game??"  Everyone said, "YEAH!" (We like games, obviously, lol) So I began passing out the cards.  "Oh, it's for the baby!  How fun!" Someone said.  My mom asked, "So are these votes going in the baby book?" But someone else said, "Wait, do you know what you are having??"  And I said, "We lied...." My mom's head sprung up and she exclaimed, "YOU KNOW??"  I finished passing out the cards and then let them all scratch together.  

It's a BOY!  And now everyone knows!  Yay!

I had intended to take the pictures of the reveal myself, but as it all unfolded I preferred to just watch, so I handed the camera off to my husband who took two blurry pictures of my mom and one ok picture of me with my mom and my aunt.  But I'm glad I got at least part of the moment captured.

 After everyone scratched their guesses I went around to look at the cards and this time there were several that still had only the one side scratched off.  I wonder what that says about my side of the family?

Later I also sent my brothers (who each live in a different state) a picture text message of the scratch off cards and asked them to make their guesses.  And then sent them picture text messages of their answers scratched off.  I wish we could have all been together, but it's been over two years since all of us were in the same room.  I seriously considered mailing them each their own card to scratch (I did do this with my husband's brother and his wife who live out of state) but in the excitement of the moment I forgot I was going to do that. lol.  Hey, I'm pregnant.  At least I have an excuse. ;)

And now after all that excitement I'm starting the home stretch on this pregnancy.  28 weeks pregnant.  One trimester to go!