Shimmering Twig | Hello Logo, Welcome Home

As a former artist, I fully understand the weight behind an image. At my current state, I’ve been monopolizing on my friend Vanessa’s beautiful photographs of our children to place a face to the name Shimmering Twig along with the initial inspiration photograph of those icy trees on my mountain commute to work.

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A particular website was recommended by my brother-in-law who is, as far as I am concerned, the last word in design. He is  the most creative artist I have ever met. His mind works in such unique ways and the products he produces are unreal. When I was planning our wedding, I went straight to him with a few inspirations for invitations, programs, etc. He took our wedding theme and turned those ideas into personalized, beautiful pieces of art. So when I first began to toss around the idea of giving Shimmering Twig a logo, I immediately ran the idea by him looking for guidance on how to approach the task.

He recommended the website Logo Tournament and briefly explained how it worked. It’s a website where you hold a competition to have designers come up with ideas for your logo, rank them, provide feedback, and ultimately choose your favorite design at the end. This was such a fun concept!

Once I began the contest, I was allotted 4 days of a blind phase where designers would submit ideas, I believe I ended up with 40 designs during the initial phase. I then chose my top 5 designers at that point, and they were given an additional 2 days to fine tune their submissions, requesting input, and tweaking designs to meet Shimmering Twig’s needs. By the end of the first day in the finalist round I already knew which design I wanted. This particular designer was in contact with me immediately, continuing to improve her design even during the blind phase. Janis Aydelette was somehow able to capture my style and ideas for Shimmering Twig right of the bat. But she didn’t stop at just the initial design, she continued to revise and improve until finally, going above and beyond my expectations in the first few hours of the finalist days.

And so, it is with extreme excitement that I present you with Shimmering Twig’s new logo:

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Today I will be replacing it on all of my social media pages: FacebookPinterest, Instagram. Check them out! Cheers and have a great weekend!

  • Whitney
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Gray and Pink Big Girl Bedroom

My baby is growing up. It’s as simple as that. At an age just shy of two and a half, we switched her to a “toddler bed” which was nothing more than a missing side to the crib. I can clearly see why the packaging spoke of the conversion but didn’t show it. I was not impressed in the least. Now that she is 3, we have been tossing around the idea of a “big girl bed” for a while. So I began to browse all websites offering free shipping, great discounts, and guaranteed quality. I just wanted a bed that was pretty. I wasn’t looking for high quality, amish-carved, hardwood that would cost me an arm and a leg. I am sticking to this spend less, value more theme for the year, and while I did invest in my daughter’s room, I was able to balance it out with money brought in at the same time.

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I have been falling in love with the cross between slightly vintage and clean line inspired with a slight farmhouse feel. The space needed to be a room that would grow with my daughter. I settled for a pink and gray theme, knowing that a neutral wall could easily be updated with new decor or bedding throughout the next 15 years of her life.

I started the room on a binge spring cleaning, decorating, and organizing weekend while my husband was off looking at hunting property. My favorite type of project weekend: one where I am left to my own devices, uninterrupted by the husband who is slowly learning to trust my decorating style. My parents graciously offered to have a sleep-over on the chosen Saturday evening to allow me a solid 24 hours for the transformation to take place.

I can still remember the day spent painting my daughter’s baby room in our old home, Benjamin Moore blue paint, paint rollers, round belly and all. I spent a solid 3 hours recapping this experience in the post, Painting Away the Baby Blues if anyone is interested in my ramblings about how quickly time passes. Her room was so darling with it’s blues and pinks.1610776_10202449172093566_6772120460429108894_n

My Mom hand-made the bedding for this little princess, and for that I will always be grateful! My very good friend now owns it with her sweet little peanut nestled in to it.

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Since vamping up my quality of decorating materials, I have become a devout Benjamin Moore Paint fanatic. I travel a solid forty five minutes to get the paint, and every mile is worth it because the quality of this paint is incomparable, as are the shades of colors they offer. I settled for a beautiful shade of A la mode which is found in the current Whites handout in the store. You can see photographs of my inspirations along with my daughters room on my Pinterest board, Gray and Pink Bedroom. I was so excited watching the simple paint transformation take place. My daughter’s bedrooms are small to say the least also lacking in closets. It took me a matter of 2 hours to cut in and roll the four walls slowly, therapeutically going through my process and listening to Pandora into the wee hours of the night. (Ok… I was done painting by 10:30, which is way later than I ever stay up.)

Getting excited about the progress in the room, I couldn’t hold out until morning without putting my daughter’s bed together, so my next task was moving the furniture I was selling out of the upstairs and brining this darling metal framed bed in pieces to assemble in the room. It was a simple project and I was able to complete the assembly by myself.

I bought the DHP Bombay Metal Bed in White for $99.00 on Amazon. You can go directly to link above to see the bed itself. It was a simple assembly and a good quality bed. My daughter loves the swirl details in the head and foot boards.

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The pink floral balls hanging from the ceiling were from the previous bedroom theme but transferred nicely into the new room. I liked being able to keep a few items from the previous decor to help with this heart-breaking transition to a “big girl.” I believe they were from T. J. Max and cost around $10.00 a piece.

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I spent the next morning adding in all of the details, arranging the furniture and hanging this gorgeous Pink Canopy Tent I also found on Amazon earlier in the week. for under $47.00

While the owl rocker doesn’t exactly match her bedroom anymore, it was so cute, I couldn’t take it out of the room! My mother in law gave all three of her newest grand daughters those for their first Christmas two years ago.

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Now for this mirror. I Love this mirror! I stumbled across this on a spontaneous T. J. Max shopping trip the day before my renovation project. It cost me 45.00, but as far as I am concerned, was worth Every. Single. Penny.  I was able to find a similar version on Amazon by Little Colorado HERE. My daughter loves looking in the mirror and checking out her outfit for the day! I still want to find a cute little hook and pretty hanger to lay her outfit out the night before.

 

The mirror leads me to my next favorite detail: the Gold Vinyl Dot Wall. I love, love, love this detail!!  This one simple little accent wall completed the room. They were easy to attach and only cost $10.00! (All blue links will lead you directly to each product)

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I considered an even spread of dots, but loved the look of dots being shot out from the corner, like stars falling gracefully from the sky. This won me some major points with my daughter, let me tell you!

The bedding is a whole different story. I struggled to find this bedding. It is Pillow Fort by Target, and was incredibly difficult to track down. They are out of stock every where you look. You can find it from some sneaky Amazon sellers who quadrupled the price. I, however, was not willing to pay 100.00 for a bedding that was 25.00 originally. I was able to find two fairly reasonable distanced stores selling the bedding and pleaded and begged a shipment out of the store.  I also found a perfect match set of sheets from the Better Homes and Gardens collection at Walmart. It’s a coral floral set that is so stinking cute!

Update* The pinch pleat bedding by pillow fort can now be found HERE on Target’s Website!

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As for the accent pillows throughout the room, they were a series of accent pillows either pulled from other bed sets used in our bedroom, the living room, and one perfectly pink and white pillow with gold dot accents came from a spur of the moment T. J. Max find.

The wooden crate was a repurposed crate I had laying around the house. I am a crate junkie and cannot be held accountable for any crate purchases made. You just never know when one will come in handy!

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It made the best little stuffed animal holder, and pillow holder once we discovered our daughter is not interested in sleeping with pillows!

The clean white lines of the metal bed really balanced out well with the rough wood of the crate and were pulled together with this super cute sign I found at Jo Ann Fabrics.

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The three items together, along with the white wooden mirror helped to pull the entire room together!

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The final touch added to the room was a set of sweet little white Christmas lights that added that final little soft sparkle to a space designed for one sweet little lady.

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By the time the room was complete, I could not wait for the girls to return and for my husband to get home to see the finished product! I spent the next several hours pacing the house, rearranging spring decorations and cleaning every nook and cranny of our house!

There are so many spaces in my house that I never thought to clean, which is incredibly gross, but I managed to take care of each one during my 24 hours of peaceful project work. Seriously, what did any of us do with all of our time before kids?

So lets break down the Budget:

Prior to renovations I sold our crib and changing table netting us + $100.00
I also sold the travel play pen we used for our babies + $50.00
A set of baby toys were also sold + $65.00

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+ 215.00

From that we spent 99.00 on a bed frame and 85.00 on a mattress leaving us at:

+ 31.00

I also purchase the canopy, mirror, and bedding

-25.00
-45.00
-47.50

Miscellaneous decorations and pillows totaled up to:

-50.00
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Leaving me with a grand total for my bedroom renovation of:

$136.50!

I feel that is spending less and valuing more, please don’t hesitate to share any ideas or renovation projects you’ve taken on recently with me! I love to see start to finish projects!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Painting Away the Baby Blues

Parenting is like a never ending rollercoaster. One moment you are climbing up what seems like an immense hill and as you finally figure it out and begin to casually coast down the other side, just like that, those darn children change and you feel like you’re starting all over again, re-learning the next challenge, milestone, or phase in your child’s life.

Recently I have been struggling with the first round of “lasts” of parenting. We mutually agreed to have two children and have been blessed with two healthy, beautiful, funny, head strong girls and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When our youngest turned one, it felt somewhat like an accomplishment: we had survived the baby phase. She gradually began to master the art of walking, and eventually phased out her adorable little knee-scootch that she used in lieu of walking for like a five month span of her life. It was only a matter of time before her sweet deep little voice began to mimic words, learning “peeze” “tank-yew” and “wav yew,” each becoming music to our ears.

All of a sudden, just after we reached the 16 month milestone, it was as if someone pushed the fast-forward button in my daughter’s life. Within a week it felt as though she had completely transitioned from baby to toddler, trying harder than ever to keep up with her three-year old sister. She seemed to skip stages of development that her older sister hung in a bit longer.

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Everyone wants to tell a new mother or young mother to cherish the time while you have it, and every sleep deprived mother nods politely back, as if they are being lectured on not appreciating their children enough, even though we all know that is not the intention of the comment. But it isn’t until the second child that you begin to feel the depth of true meaning behind this comment. Time is priceless. We do not know how much time we have on this earth, with the people we love. All that we know is we need to make the most of it, cherish the small moments, hold on to the good memories, and let the grudges go.

I have recently found myself emptying dresser drawers of baby clothes. Rather than re filling totes to store in the basement “for the next one” since there will be no “next one”, I have been passing them on to friends I care for very much. It is this weird sharing of little items, that helps bring peace to the harsh reality that my baby is growing up. Giving someone else the opportunity to share little moments in the sweet clothes that I have photographed countless times, memorized the milestones that took place while wearing them for each of my girls, brings a little peace to an aching heart of a mother who just wants time to slow down, if only for a moment.

My youngest is this wild at heart child who is fierce. She is fierce in how much she loves, how she plays, how she learns, and how she grows. I am constantly amazed by her.

I recently spent an entire weekend in spring-cleaning overdrive. My husband used to work away so I was used to frequent days alone to complete home projects. With his recent shift back into an office, I have not had as much time to really dig in to any major home projects. So when the opportunity came for him to take a weekend venture with his brother and Dad to check out a potential hunting spot, I fully supported it.

Our three year old has been drastically out-growing her toddler bed. My parents willingly scheduled a sleep over with our girls for the same weekend so I could complete a full bedroom make-over uninterrupted. It was during this weekend of solitude that I really began to reflect on how much life was changing in our house.

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loved my daughter’s nursery room. Ironically, I loved it so much that I re-created it three times. I first set her room up in our old home, about 2 months before she was born. We then purchased our current residence and moved when she was only 5 weeks old, the child never even had a chance to sleep in her initial nursery. The exact nursery was replicated in the new home. And then shortly after she turned one, we shifted her room to a different room in the house when discovering she would become a big sister in the very near future. My mom hand sewed a gorgeous set of beautiful pink and blue crib bedding that set off the entire theme. So when I tell you I struggled with the idea of changing her Tiffany Blue baby walls to a delicate and sophisticated color scheme that could grow with her, I truly mean it.

So on that Saturday evening in March, I methodically began my process of moving furniture, cleaning the floors and setting up my work station. I have a system to every painting project I take on, perhaps it is the former artist in me. Once I had all of the pieces in place and the Pandora station set, I began to cover up three years of my baby girl’s life with a new coat, perhaps a new stage, of life.

The next 3 hours felt like a bizarre movie was rolling through my head as I remembered little moments in her life, like the first fall after she was born when my husband posed for his first archery season picture with her. The smile on her face when she sat on his lap was so genuine and full of excitement that it melted my heart right on the spot. I remembered the first time she began to dance to The Hotdog Song from Micky Mouse Clubhouse. I also remembered how she first tried learning to run the summer after turning one. Her arms would go so fast, but her poor little feet were so slow and comical. I remembered the heart breaking teeny tiny little boot she wore after discovering she had a tiny toddler fracture in her leg. I thought about how she would tilt her head in a sweet little shrug whenever anyone said “awe, so sweet” to her. And then I started to catch up to more recent moments, like when she would try to pose her baby sister on the couch for me to take her picture. I also remembered the epic fail of trying to send my husband a video of the girls saying “happy birthday daddy”  when he was working away, when all Brielle could muster was “eeew, she’s throwing up Mommy… clean her up!” Oh those reflux babies…

As the time passed, so did the coat of paint, and eventually I found myself taking a picture of the last strip of blue paint, just before I covered it up. Perhaps the purpose behind this post is to remember that life is constantly moving forward. There is no stop, rewind, or pause button for it. It is difficult at times to keep this in perspective; however, critical to remember because as beautiful as the time is that we are given, we cannot get it back.

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I still keep 3 pairs of 0-3 month socks in my girls drawers. I just cannot bring myself to take those teeny tiny little pieces out of the drawer, permanently accepting that they will never wear them again. It was a bitter sweet moment as I added the finishing touches to my daughter’s “Big Girl” room preparing for the great reveal, and rather than get hung up in the time that has passed, I chose to focus on the here and now, anxiously awaiting her approval that would hopefully come that evening.

Once my husband returned from his trip, I picked the girls up from the weekend sleep over at Nana and Papa’s and corralled the girls back into the house. Our three year old bolted up the steps to see her new room, and let me just say, three is a wonderful age.

Hug your babies tonight, cheers!

  • Whitney

Auntie M’s Gob Icing

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Some memories are so precious they are difficult to share. Just like some relationships are so priceless, they can never be replaced. I was blessed with 16 years of my life as the goddaughter to the kindest, most generous woman that could grace this earth. The number one rule to blogging is to be candid and open about life experiences and memories that inspire us to be the people we have become; however, my Aunt Madlyn is a sacred subject. She is not just my memory, nor is she just my painful loss to share. I was not her daughter, I was not her husband. I was not a person deserving the right to share these intimate details of her kindness, her selflessness. She was an inspiration to anyone who ever had the privilege to meet her. To me, she was Auntie M, a person who loved so deeply, gave so freely, and believed so strongly.

As a child, I don’t have a single memory of a life milestone, birthday, or exciting moment in my life that she was not a part of. When I lost her at sixteen years old, barely stepping into young adulthood, a huge part of the child in me died with her loss. As if I aged 10 years that summer. I carried her memories with me everywhere for years, trying to understand and accept that my life would forever be changed.

I tried various ways to honor her memory, from Relay for Life teams to little decorations hidden around my home reminding me of her kindness. Our oldest daughter is named after her, carrying her middle name, Rose, as a continued attempt to keep her alive in our hearts.

This summer we plan to add a rose bush to our new home, which has been the plan for several years, but never actually happened. She loved roses, and I can remember her sharing yellow ones from her shrubs with me when I young.

But the one specific memory I will always associate with her would be her ability to make the best Gobs around. Now, I am sure they are equal to most family gob recipes, but they hold so much more value for me knowing that they are hers. I find myself making her gob icing recipe more frequently than the actual Gob cookie itself. I love cakes and cupcakes with this very specific icing recipe. My family would agree, no cupcake is as good as a Gob cupcake.So today, I will share with you, my beloved Auntie M’s gob icing recipe.

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This icing is SO WORTH the time put in to it. To start, you  need a medium saucepan to cook the milk and flour. I use 2 percent milk; however, I have made this exact icing with both Vitamin D and Skim milk and it turns out great with each kind.

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Stir the mixture over medium-high heat until it thickens and begins to boil. DO NOT STOP MIXING.

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Continue to mix the mixture until it turns to a thick paste consistency. At this time, remove from the heat and chill completely. I place my mixture right into the fridge or even freezer depending on the time frame I have to work with. You will want this mixture to be ICE COLD later when adding back into the icing.

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Next, cream together the butter and shortening. We use Crisco in our house, and for some reason, this ruins the icing for my Dad?? He is the king of sweets, but doesn’t love Gob Icing! Go figure.

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Once the butter and Crisco are nice and fluffy, add in the vanilla and powdered sugar and continue to whip the icing in a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment. It should really begin to look delicious by this point!

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I love the fluffiness of freshly whipped icing. Every time I make desserts in my stand mixer, I think about my crazy Orange color choice for my mixer. I love it with the wall color in my kitchen, but I’m not so sure I will still love it once we have re-finished our kitchen this summer. But then again, I think I would miss this bright pop of orange if it were gone.

But I digress… Once the icing mixture is ice cold, remove it from the fridge. It should be cold to the touch and very stiff.

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Scrape all of that nicely thickened flour mixture from the sides of the saucepan and plop it into your stand mixer. Beat on high until your Gob icing is nice and thick, without any lumps.

It has always been a sort of tradition in my family to tint the gob icing to match whatever occasion or holiday is taking place.The girls and I chose green for this particular batch leaving a slightly minty tint to our creation.

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Look at how rich and thick the icing is! This icing is by far, my favorite sweet treat! When we make the actual gob cookies, my Auntie M’s daughter, along with her daughter come over and assist in the process. It’s become sort of a sacred tradition to make these treats together.

To get a pretty design on your cupcakes, use a Wilton Decorating Tip set to keep your icing smooth and consistent. I like the disposable decorating bags for time sake. I have the reusable ones, but I really hate the cleaning and drying process that goes with reusing a bag.

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Once you’ve piped your icing onto your cupcakes, or into your cookies, it’s time to enjoy! Be sure to store both in a cool space to help the icing keep shape. I usually keep mine in an air-tight container in the coolest room in our house, not that gobs last more than 24 hours around my family!

Every time I take a bite into either the gob cupcake or the actual Gobs themselves, it takes me back to when I used to be able to sweet talk my Auntie M. into making me her infamous cookies. I hope this recipe brings your family the joy we feel every time we make these.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

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Auntie M's Gob Icing

  • Servings: 24 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Rich and creamy gob icing is the perfect addition to any cake, cookie or cupcake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour (Pamela’s Artisan Blend)
  • 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. In a saucepan combine milk and flour over medium heat. Whisk constantly as mixture becomes thick and bubbly.
  2. Continue to stir until mixture becomes a thick paste. Remove from heat and chill until ice cold.
  3. In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat butter and shortening until fluffy.
  4. Add in powdered sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla, continue to mix at medium-high speed.
  5. Once the flour mixture has chilled, add it into stand mixer and continue to mix at medium-high speed until smooth.
  6. Using a decorating bag, pipe on to cupcakes or gob cookie halves.

 

 

 

The BEST White Chocolate Butter Cream Recipe

A cupcake is only as good as it’s icing. At least that is the theory in my house. I love a classic butter cream icing. We use it on almost every cake we bake. But recently we were looking for a flavorful twist on buttercream. I recently tried a marshmallow buttercream which was decent, but not what I was looking for this time. I really wanted to find a rich, bakery style butter cream.

Scouring through my cabinets I came across some Ghiardelli Classic White Chocolate Chips in my ridiculous stash of baking essentials. At that moment, I decided to attempt to make a white chocolate buttercream recipe, which turned out to be delicous and ridiculously simple.

I started my butter cream recipe out by dumping about 6 ounces or approximately half of the standard bag of chips into a microwave safe bowl and heated the chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring well in between.

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My microwave only took 2 30-second rounds until the chocolate was nice and smooth. I then set the chocolate aside to cool.

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Next, I placed one cup of butter at room temperature into my stand mixer prepared with the whisk and beat the butter until nice and fluffy. I began to incorporate powdered sugar into the butter in half-cup increments until I reached the consistency I was looking for, stopping at 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. I then incorporate 1 tsp of vanilla and just a stash of milk, knowing I would still be adding chocolate to the mixture in the future.

Once everything was mixed well the icing looked like this:

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Getting excited with my creation, I then poured the cooled chocolate into the butter cream, making sure to scrape in all of the chocolate.

Cupcakes-17I turned the mixer back on to medium speed and beat the icing again until the chocolate was just incorporated. While my photographs may not do it justice, can I just say… WOW do I LOVE white chocolate buttercream! 

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Now, I am sure most of you love the smooth piped icing, as do I. Being a novice decorator I was unaware that the large tip I have was not big enough to get the thick swirl I was hoping for. But I will say, the starter Wilton 8-piece tip decorating kit I purchased to get myself started was a great investment! In addition, the plastic tip attachment for bags was also a great accessory to decorating. You can purchase the reusable bags, and perhaps in the future I will invest in that. But for now, I love a good disposable wilton decorating bag.

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There is definitely a a finesse to swirling icing, and I plan to work towards that perfect swirl, but for now, these will have to do.

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This recipe is hands down the BEST white chocolate butter cream icing you can find. It’s simple, rich, and delicious! Pairing it up with your favorite gluten free cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Or try my Bakery Style Boxed Gluten Free Cake recipe.

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Happy cup-caking!

  • Whitney

The BEST White Chocolate Buttercream

  • Servings: 24 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A decadent, rich buttercream icing that is perfect on any cake or cookie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter at room temperature
  • – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • – 6 oz (1/2 a bag) Ghiardelli White Chocolate Chips

Directions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl heat the white chocolate in 30 second incriments, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat butter until nice and fluffy
  3. Gradually beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time
  4. Once icing is thick, add in vanilla and beat for about 30 seconds longer.
  5. Pour cooled chocolate into icing and beat on low speed just until combined.
  6. Place icing in a decorating bag and pipe on to cupcakes or spread evenly over cake.

 

 

 

How To | Make Gluten Free Box Cakes Taste like Bakery Style Cakes

Everyone loves a beautiful cake. If you have celiac disease or any type of gluten intolerance, going to a birthday party or any special occasion event involving a gorgeous cake is torture. We all know Bakery style cakes are so much richer, denser, and frankly, amazing. But if you are one of the select few who have found that bakery style cake that is Gluten Free you know what I mean when I say it’s like winning the lottery.

I have a friend, two friends really, who are amazing cake bakers. They have been tackling the gluten free cake baking field for me for several years now. This dynamic cake duo can make any gorgeous idea you throw at them. If you can find it on Pinterest, they will make it equal in grandeur, perhaps even a little better! Once, I gave them an invitation to my daughter’s baptism and they replicated the cake to match the design of the invitation! They have also mastered the art of gluten free baking.

If you follow any of my social media feeds, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, (yes I have twitter too; however, I haven’t tackled that beast yet…) you will see all too often my daughters and I in the kitchen baking cookies, cakes, cupcakes, you name it! We love to bake! But the reality of making a cake from scratch on every baking whim I have, with two toddlers, is so unrealistic. So today I present you with a couple simple hacks to improve your typical gluten free boxed cake mixes to give them a rich bakery taste.

My cake mix of preference is Pillsbury; however, I have to credit Betty Crocker for breaching the name brand gluten free products way before anyone else in the market. My particular reason for choosing Pillsbury is the equivalent size factor. Betty Crocker cakes are great tasting, but do not come out to standard boxed cake sizes.

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I start out with one boxed cake mix and one small box of jell-o brand pudding mix. I typically use either the white chocolate or vanilla with a fun-fetti flavored cake. Cheesecake is also a good flavor to add.

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Next, add in 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil and 1 1/4 cup water. Using a stand mixer mix until well combined. The mixture will be thicker than a standard cake.

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The girls typically feel the mixer will not work if they do not hold on to it while blending. I think they also believe it gets them closer to paddle licking once it’s finished.

Be sure to stop mixing once or twice and really scrape down the sides well to ensure all of the mix is incorporated. Your finished mixture should look something like this:

 

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Next you will want to prepare your cupcake tins. If it was up to the girls, every single cupcake would have a hot pink wrapper. Since we were preparing ones for a green event, we came to a mutual agreement with silver wrappers and green icing.

The box says you can get 24 half filled cupcakes; I disagree. I always place 24 cups but never get more than 20 cupcakes from one batch. I like my cupcakes to puff a little  above the wrapper, so I fill my cupcakes around 2/3 full.

This particular time I ended up with 20 cupcakes and just enough batter on the paddle to split between two cute and very anxious little girls.

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I then bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes removing from the oven to cool slightly, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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There is nothing I am more disappointed in than an over-baked cupcake. They should never be brown around the edges. Dry cupcakes are gross. The pudding mix helps to add moisture and density to the cupcakes giving a slightly bakery feel, and I love t!

You can also follow these instruction with the gluten free Pillsbury Devils Food cake mix combining with a chocolate pudding mix.

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I have not tried it yet, but I think a chocolate strawberry cake would be amazing if you added Strawberry Cream Pudding into the chocolate cake mix.

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Always remember to transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack just moments after removing form the oven to allow them to coo completely before icing.

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My favorite recipes to make with these cupcakes include a White Chocolate Buttercream I came up with, Strawberry Buttercream, and of course my ultimate favorite, Auntie M.’s Gob Icing.

If you have an apple corer like The Pampered Chef’s The Corer it is a great tool to hollow out the center of a cupcake just slightly to make room for an additional filling or just a secret hiding spot for more icing! Check out my friend Kathy’s page and splurge on these amazing stackable cooling racks that I couldn’t live without! My first home-show business was The Pampered Chef and let me tell you, that is an amazing little business to get into. Not only did I make money while finishing my graduate degree, but I completely stocked our kitchen when my husband and I were just starting out. Check in with her if you think it might be something you’d be interested in!

Keep checking back as you will find all three of my most favorite icing recipes including the Best White Chocolate Buttercream, in the very near future! Have a great week!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Designing a Home Office

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Whenever designing a home office there are a few things to consider before jumping head first into your project. I have been considering a home office space for about a year now. But since I haven’t had a real need for one until recently, the idea just kept getting brushed aside. We live in an incredibly old farm-house. It has the old farm house charm, but was freshly renovated before we moved in. When my husband and I walked through it for the first time, incredibly pregnant with our first child we both immediately fell in love with the space, the location, and the PORCH. Seriously, the massive porch on our house is a second living space in the warm weather seasons.

The house is set up in an L-shape floor plan with a brightly lit living and dining space and an impressive sized kitchen just off the dining room. A mud room, laundry room, and 3/4 bathroom were added after the original home was built and they are located just off the kitchen.

The second floor replicates the L-shape with a master bedroom above the living room. Just outside the master bedroom is an open hallway at the top of the stairwell with a bathroom and a door to the bedrooms. The one unusual thing about the floor plan is that you must go through each of the additional bedrooms to get to the next bedroom. Our house is considered a 4 bedroom residence, but each of the girls’ bedrooms are slightly narrow and lack closets. Very inconvenient since we have all daughters. But we make it work.

The first of the three adjoining bedrooms has been primarily dominated by my husband, turning it in to his western-Pennsylvania “trophy room” full of every type of mount you can imagine. We all win with this arrangement: he gets a man space, and I get a dead animal-free first floor. The girls bedrooms are just beyond this man case, which concludes the floor plan explanation.

Having talked you through my house, you may have noticed, every space is being used by a dominating purpose. There is no real spare room or office space in our home which meant I needed to get creative on my placement of my home office. I considered placing the office in the corner of our dining room; however, this space already has a lot going on and is just on the edge of becoming over-cluttered. We have a fire-place, staircase,  two doorways and even a closet door. The room also holds a dining table that seats 12 limiting the extra space.

My next thought was to utilize the additional space in our bedroom. The master bedroom is a bit large and a slight waste of space. In the future I would like to see our small bathroom expanded into the extra space. Unfortunately this construction project is not in the near future, so I settled on this space. The other plus to this room, is the amazing lighting. We have a windows on 3 of the four walls making it such a bright and welcoming space, particularly in the morning hours when I will be spending the majority of my time working in here.

I decided to use the smaller desk that was currently acting as an entryway table, (which lead me to redecorating the entryway… see how my mind works?!) as my desk. I love this simple white desk that worked well with the white woodwork throughout our home and had the simple clean lines that I like, without giving it a modern feel. I also received my equipment from the Cyber School I would be working for and knew the printer I received was massive, clunky, and black. I found a black filing cabinet to put the beast printer on to help blend that bad boy away from becoming an eye sore.

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Getting the equipment in place, the basic furniture set, I felt I had a good foundation to add the fun pieces. You want your workspace to be cute, but it needs to be functional and suit your specific needs. I will be teaching from this station, so I needed to make sure the backdrop for my lessons was simple. Since my husband’s side of the room would be behind me, it is very plain. Perfect. Next I would need to find ways to organize my daily supplies and make my bland view, a little more fun.

By the way, the color of my walls is Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore. You will never see a room in my house painted in anything but Benjamin Moore paint. I Love the quality of the paint, the thickness and the ease of cutting and rolling such rich paint.

After leaving my office alone for a couple of days to think about what items I really wanted I used an inconveniently scheduled doctor’s appointment and made the most of the day browsing the sale isles of various stores. My super creative friend showed me this darling sign she found at JoAnn fabrics and I immediately said “I need that for my office!!” Knowing they were having a 50% off sale I started there.

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I also found this great little glass milk jug holder there, and I’ve linked a similar product HERE for you if you are interested in this style of organization. The art teacher comes out in me when I organize. I can’t help but place all warm colored pens together, cool colors together, and blacks separated as well.

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If I am going to function well in the digital classroom, I need only a few items right at my reach, a planner located in my drawer, a notebook to write down to-do lists, and easily accessible pens.

I also am a “hanging file junkie” and will be using this as not only my classroom but finally a home office space, where I will keep all bills, family documents, and resources that might come in handy from my former teaching position. I plan to use the filing cabinet for bills, family documents and older resources that might come in handy in my new position.

I found these really cute crates at T J Max on clearance and decided I would use them as an additional filing system for all documents needed while teaching online and writing IEPs for my new caseload.

I love hanging file crates! How cute are they? Plus they distract from the ugly shade of green on the hanging file folders. Here is a similar product on Amazon you could use in youor own home office. Large Crate and Small Crates.

I also found this sweet little gem as a little reminder to myself each day why I chose this career and how fortunate I am to jump on opportunities like this digital career shift. Everyone needs a little reminder to Dream Big, so why not have one right in front of you every day?

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While my bedroom is fairly large, I didn’t want to add too much to distract from the simplicity of the room or look too bulky. So I began searching a series of chairs, from slipper chairs to crazy finds at TJ Max and discovered, once again, in the clearance isle a simple adjustable office chair that was less than distracting.

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I found a CLEAR OFFICE CHAIR! It literally blends into the space when rolled in, fits neatly in its place, doesn’t distract from the simple space, and is, believe it or not, comfortable!

You can find a similar chair HERE for your own office space.

Now there is one last piece I need to share. Every time I start a major career, I have one piece from these two particular girls. When I was starting my first teaching job, I took a vase and flowers made for me by my nieces as a little piece of home. That vase has stood the test of time and is still on my desk. I recently received a beautiful little cross stitch from my one niece and felt that I needed another good luck charm as I start my next career adventure.

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And that brings me to the finished product. My functional, personalized office space:

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So lets recap. There are several critical things to consider when designing an office space that works for you:

  1. Spacing and Location – If you have a designated room for a home office, your creative opportounities are endless; however, if you have limited space, as I did, you need to create an environmenet that utilizes the space efficiently
  2. Functionality – What will your office be used for? Will you be storing significant files? Or will you be primarily digital and simplified. These are all critical factors in laying out your space. Determine what items you need to be your most efficient self.
  3. Style – Find a style that fits your personality. If you aren’t sure what that is, Pinterest is always a great starting point. I wanted a style that held the farm house charm, but still reflected simple clean lines

So, whenever tackline your home office:

  1. identify your space
  2. repurpose furniture you may already have laying around your house
  3. determine what your purpose will be for the office
  4. find an effective layout for your office
  5. shop the clearance isle for cute accents
  6. have fun with it!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Recipe Round Up | Cadbury Season!

 

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With St. Patrick’s Day freshly in the rear view mirror, it is only appropriate to move ahead to the upcoming holiday, Easter. I was walking through the isles at the grocery store a few weeks ago after proctoring the SAT exam, and came across my Mom’s favorite Easter treat: Cadbury Minis. A few years ago, I take full credit for successfully hooking my Mother-in-law on to theses little bad boys. So this post is completely for these two and all people who love Cadbury Minis.

Last Easter I was browsing Pinterest for ideas to use during our pre-Easter egg coloring family event I host each year. I randomly stumbled upon a recipe incorporating in Cadbury Minis leading me to a plethora of recipes! I was so shocked  and thrilled that I now have a Pinterest board dedicated to these recipes just for fun: Cadbury Mini-speration with additional recipes and ideas.

So here it is: 15 cute Cadbury Recipes to spark a little Spring Fever in us all.

  1. Bunny Chow

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I mean, like the name isn’t enough to sell you?? I just love this idea! And what a simple twist!

2. Mini Eggs Cheesecake Dip

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If you are looking for a simple recipe to add to any potluck or family gathering, this one is sure to please a crowd! Everyone loves the dessert styled dips. And Cheesecake? Well that just seals the deal!

3. Easter egg Pretzel Chocolate Swirl Bark

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I love bark recipes, but really need to work on my chocolate swirl patterns. Bark recipes make the best last minute gift ideas. Salty and Sweet, covers all bases and the festive colors are so pretty!

4. Coconut Macaroon Nests

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These delicate little treats are almost too cute to eat! Being a sweets lover, I couldn’t resist these and already have them scheduled mentally for Easter dinner at my parents!

5. Easter Nest Sugar Cookies

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Now, I can guarantee you I will see sugar cookies that look exactly like this at my mother-in-laws this year! Why? Because her sugar cookies are delicious, she decorates in this star tipped style, and she loves Cadbury Eggs! And who wouldn’t when you could make these sweet little nests with just a couple quick tweaks to convert it to a gluten free recipe?

Everyone in the family looks forward to her sugar cookies. She even made me gluten free ones one time, for my baby shower. They were sweet little pink and yellow star-tipped owls. I’m pretty sure she hated working with the gluten free flour and would agree there is a learning curve to get the feel of it, but trust me when I say, it’s an easy conversion!

 

6. White Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes

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I love these cupcakes! They are so sweet and light. But I think the best part is the egg carton presentation! It’s so cute! These are on my to-do list for a school party coming up in a few weeks!

7. Cadbury Chocolate Thumbprints

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I. LOVE. THUMBPRINTS. They are so simple and delicious! I also love six sisters’ stuff blog, and have lost count of the recipes I use from these lovely ladies!

8. Mini Egg Fudge

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Fudge should be a necessary staple at all holiday events. This one in particular makes me think of when I was young and my Mom and Aunts would go to Smicksburg, a local Amish village and buy all kinds of crazy fudge the day after Thanksgiving. We kids would wait for them to get home and dive into the pounds of fudge we knew would be hidden in those bags. I love when new recipes arouse a sense of nostalgia when viewed for the first time. It makes a new taste so personal right from the start.

9. Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies

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I feel safe to assume I will see this recipe in my Mom’s kitchen at some point in the next 4 weeks until the holiday. Blondies? YES PLEASE.

10. Easter Egg Layer Cake

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My next big project I want to tackle and master is cake decorating. I made a miserable attempt at my oldest daughter’s birthday and really need to recover my reputation with a pretty cake. Perhaps this simple recipe might help!

11. Peanut Butter Cadbury Cookies

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter, enough said!!

12. Cadbury Mini Egg Candy Bark

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These are so cute! I know I have already mentioned bark, but this one is so light and sweet looking, how could you NOT want to try and make it? I might have to improve my melting skills and bring this pretty little treat to life!

13. Cadbury Brownies

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Brownies are like a blank canvas, you can add anything to them to create unique and flavorful treats! And with the creation of some of the most delicious boxed gluten-free brownie mixes out there like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Pamela’s, and my sister’s personal favorite: King Arthur

14. Milkshake Recipe

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Alright, this recipe came from The Food Network so of course it’s beautiful, b I love the idea of a pretty milk shake! We just gave our youngest her first milkshake recently, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, she loved it!

15. Chocolate and Orange Mini Egg Cheesecake

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This particular recipe I posted with my Mom in mind. I always think of her when I hear the Orange and Chocolate combination thrown around. It’s unusual but works so well!

So there you have it! Does this post make you want to run out and grab the first bag of shiny plastic grass and get your spring vibes on?? I’m pretty sure I’ll be binging in the Easter sections this upcoming weekend.

Happy Spring everyone!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Gluten Free Reuben

As a last celebratory Irish themed post, I present you with The Gluten Free Reuben. We love all things reuben in our house. When my husband and I took our delayed honeymoon trip to Maine for our first anniversary, we stopped in a cute little coastal town in New Hampshire for dinner to start our week off. This was my first truly normal dining experience. 5 years ago, dining out was so different in the New England area than it was for a Celiac person in Western Pennsylvania. Almost every restaurant we went to on our little getaway offered gluten free this, or gluten free that. I was in heaven.

Fast forward 5 years and my local area has gone above and beyond to catch up with the New England states jumping on the gluten free alternatives in almost every restaurant around. In my small town alone I have 5 different options for ordering a gluten free pizza. If you told 16 year old, newly diagnosed Whitney that in the future, not only would I be able to get gluten free pizza, but that I would have five different options, I probably would have cried. I still feel like crying thinking about how different my life was at 16 with this frustrating diet. Looking back, it was by far the best option of the possible issues I could have been dealing with, but as a teenager, I hated it.

When we discovered a tolerable tortilla shell a few years back, I made reuben styles quesadillas for St. Patrick’s Day. Now that gluten free bread is so readily available, it’s nothing to schedule a sandwich into our weekly meal plan.

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The recipe is pretty straight forward. I like to use Udi’s Whole Grain bread as a substitute for the classic Rye option. Start off by buttering one slice of your bread and lay it down on your prep area. Place 2 slices of the corned beef on to the bread and start the magical layering process!

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Next add a couple spoonfuls of Sauerkraut on to the meat, trying to drain off the excess liquid.

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Follow this up with Swiss cheese and the Thousand Island dressing.

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And then place those bad boys in a pan and grill away! I butter the top slice after placing it in pan. (I like to place a lid on for a minute to help heat up the meat and melt the cheese)

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Halfway through, flip the sandwiches and give a nice little golden hue to each side of the bread.

As always, if you are a split home like ours, half gluten free and half regular products, prepare on two separate surfaces, preferably preparing the gluten free sandwiches first. Here is a glimpse of what our counter looks like when preparing meals like this:

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It seems like a pain, but you get used to it quickly! It’s second nature to us at this point. Once your grilled sandwich has lightly browned on both sides plate that bad boy up and serve it with a side of Simple Potato Wedges.

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My second most favorite Reuben style dish, the one I will be taking to my Mom’s annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner is the Reuben Dip! My sister and I tried is several years ago when I spent the holiday weekend at her house. It was so good! I haven’t made it in a few years so I thought it would be a good variation on the holiday sides.

Cheers & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  • Whitney

 

Simple Potato Wedge

My sister is a phenomenal chef, I’m sure I have mentioned this before. The ironic part about this is my most favorite recipes of hers are potato wedges and steamed broccoli. One might think, “Seriously? You have a culinary expert sister, and STEAMED BROCCOLI is your favorite thing she makes?” But any family member, picky toddler, or former client will vouch for the fact that my sister makes amazing broccoli!

Now, I have tried countless times to replicate her ridiculously simple-sounding instructions failing slightly every time. There is no point in even telling you how she does it because, you won’t get the full effect until you have had hers. Clearly she just has that natural instinct that someone well versed in a trade develops when they have a passion for something.

My sister is one of those people who excels at whatever she dabbles in, and can transition so smoothly from one professional opportunity to another, and doesn’t hold back from pursuing a dream. She also has the courage to make life decisions when that dream has changed or pulls her in an alternate direction, never wavering in the desire to pursue it. Perhaps it was a little of her inspiration that pushed me to make my current career shift back to the home, a decision that is all too quickly coming to a reality.

Returning back to the potato wedges. I have a very simple recipe inspired from my sister’s delicious potato wedges along with my nieces excellent Sirach mayo dipping sauce. My children love tater tots, fries, and hash brown thanks to Ore Ida, but I like to make potato dishes from scratch, even if it is a simple fry.

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My particular favorite version of these fries involves a little light olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika seasoning. To start, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Begin to slice the halves lengthwise to create wedges to your thickness preference. We like thinner wedges, and they are a little more time efficient for baking. 3 potatoes is plenty for my family of 2 adults and 2 toddlers. You might want to consider doubling the recipe for more than 2 adults.

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Once all of the potatoes are sliced, spread them out on a baking sheet evenly. Drizzle a little olive oil over the wedges, approximately 3-4 tablespoons. I do not measure this, just lightly drizzle. Toss the potatoes to coat, redistributing them evenly on the baking sheet again.

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Sprinkle the wedges with salt (about 1 – 2 tablespoons) to your liking. My favorite seasoning to add is a light coating of smoked paprika. You could really add any flavor to these to match whatever you are cooking. Some times we used onion salt and garlic powder, while other times we use plain salt. Once we used grill mates seasonings to pair them with my husband’s expertly grilled steaks. (Just wait until grilling season kicks in!)

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Place the baking sheet into an oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Set your timer to 30 minutes. While the wedges bake, prepare your main course or sneak in a few extra snuggles from cuties running around your kitchen. Every time I create a recipe and photograph the different steps my youngest daughter runs into the kitchen yelling, “Cheese! Cheese! Cheeeeeeeeese!”

After the thirty minutes are up, pull the sheet pan from the oven and give the potato wedges a little toss. They should look something like this:

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Place back into the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes depending on the crispiness you prefer your potato wedges to have. Once they are complete, pair them with an excellent grilled meal, sandwich, or anything that meets your taste buds that evening!

So, thank the chef for always motivating me to try more “fresh” options for my family. Perhaps she’ll even inspire a healthier diet once I am home more to experiment with recipes and alternative ingredients!

Cheers!

Simple Potato Wedge

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A great side dish option when prep time is limited but homemade is critical.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of Extra Light Olive Oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Continue to cut each half into aproximately 6-8 wedges lengthwise.
  2. Spread the potato wedges out on a large baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and toss to coat evenly
  4. Season with salt and paprika.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn over and return to bake an additional 10 – 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven when wedges have reached desired consistency.