Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sprite Explosion

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Have you ever experienced that feeling of anticipation; it feels like all the fizz in a bottle of shaken pop is rushing to the top. Or in some cases it feels like all the pressure from frozen and expanding soda is building and building. Then when that something you have been hoping for comes true the excitement is comparable to an explosion of pop and fizz.

Have you ever felt something like that?

Well, i haven’t really either.

What I did experience was the literal explosion of opening a frozen bottle of Sprite in my kitchen.

You, see, I did not understand what would happen if I opened the frozen bottle of soda. I learned yesterday. My husband bought me a 2-liter of Sprite and put the bottle in the freezer so it would be cold in the evening, just in case I wanted some.

Well I did want some. And when I opened the bottle and it gave a loud hissing noise, I should have put the bottle in the fridge and walked away. I didn’t. I let it sit for a minute and tried again. I held it over my glass expecting the Sprite to dribble out through the ice chunk.  Instead..

My kitchen was filled with the explosion of Sprite that shot across the room and hit the wall. My counter was flooded with the sticky drink and my floor was showered as well.

I cleaned up the kitchen as best as I could. But seeing as the force of the Sprite blast hit some where so high on the wall that I can’t even reach, I doubt I cleaned everything.

So this summer when I start complaining about the ants crawling all over my kitchen wall, kindly remind me of my Sprite disaster.

Just par for the course in my kitchen.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

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Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese

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At some point in the recent past I wrote that all of my February posts would be Valentine themed. Well as the month goes on I have realized after Valentine’s Day is over, there is nothing valentine-y to talk about. So, I am moving on to better, and yummier, things. Mac and Cheese! The homemade kind.

Today’s little find is the result of a craving for a quick and easy, but still tasty, dinner. You see, my darling husband is gone most nights with grad school and work and I am constantly left with a dinner dilemma. I don’t want to make something to fancy for just me and Elizabeth and have Brian miss out. Frankly though, I am tired of eating cereal, sandwiches and other assorted single person meals.

So I went to my favorite recipe finding site, Recipezaar.  I found this easy homemade macaroni and cheese bake. But…I didn’t bake it. This recipe is an alteration of the one I found. I hope you enjoy.

Maybe this recipe is obvious to everyone but me, but I feel like I stumbled upon a gem. This was so easy.

You just need some cheese.Then some gooey stuff, you will add the cheese to this after a while.Oh and some cooked elbow macaroni noodles. (^that is a new whisk by the way. valentine’s gift from hubby, love it!)

With their powers combined. . .you will eventually have some delectable macaroni n’ cheese.

Okay, now that I have tantalized you. Here is my recipe.

Easy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Supposedly, this recipe only serves 3-ish. You might need to double the recipe if it is your main dish.

What you need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • 1 Cup hot (not boiling) milk
  • 2 1/2 Cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni noodles

these are optional:

  • some Parmesan cheese, probably 2-3 Tablespoons (optional but I recommend it)
  • some salt
  • some garlic powder
  • maybe some paprika
  • any other spices you might like

Okay, here’s what you do:

  1. Boil some water and start cooking your noodles.
  2. Melt your butter in a small saucepan, over low heat.
  3. Once melted, add flour, stir constantly until the flour is absorbed
  4. When the flour is absorbed, add the hot milk and whisk in for about three minutes. You want a smooth consistency.
  5. Add your cheese and keep stirring until smooth again.
  6. If you want, add your Parmesan cheese, to taste. Note: I feel like the Parmesan cheese is what kept the sauce from being bland without having to add a lot of salt.
  7. Once you noodles are cooked, how you like them, drain them.
  8. Pour them back into their pot and add the mixture.
  9. Mix all of it together really well.
  10. Now if you want you can add any spices you want. I added a little paprika for color, but too much doesn’t taste very good. I also added a small amount of garlic powder.
  11. Macaroni Bake Option: Pour all of it into a casserole dish, top with shredded cheese and bake at 400ºF for about 20 minutes.

I will say that if you are used to the macaroni and cheese by Kraft or Velveeta, you may think this is really bland. Those brands tend to have a lot of salt. I never realized until I stopped eating them for awhile and then had some. This recipe is a nice alternative.

I hope you enjoyed this fabulous recipe as much as we did.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

The Secret Life of Cake Truffles

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Okay, so as I said last time, I made caramels and cake truffles for Valentine’s day goodies. Here is the story of chocolate cake truffles and all the bumps along the way:

First things first, you have to bake a cake. I cheated and just used a store bought chocolate cake mix.

Choooocooolaaaate Caaaaake Batter! Sorry, I just thought that was fun.

Anywho, you bake a cake and let it cool completely.

You will need some frosting and you can either buy it or make it.

I made mine with the recipe off the powdered sugar box. Yuum!

I dyed mine pink but it doesn’t make a difference. I just liked the color.

Once your cake is cool, crumble it all up. Some people recommend running the crumbs through a processor but I don’t have one of those and I survived.

Then you are going to add frosting to your cake crumbs. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Gradually add the frosting to the crumbs. If you just dump the crumbs into your frosting, like I did, you will probably have way more frosting than you needed and then you won’t be able to make balls out of the mixture. I had to bake a second cake, so I could add more crumbs and get the right consistency.

Okay, now you have a mess of chocolate cake and frosting, make sure you mix it all together really well.

Then roll them into 1-inch balls.

Now cover your almost truffles with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. It would probably be best to do it overnight, but you can just do it for an hour or so.

Once you have let them cool and set up, you melt some chocolate and dip away. I don’t have any pictures of the dipping process because it is just crazy. As soon as you dip them add sprinkles or whatever topping. Do it before the chocolate sets up.

Then Ta-Da! You have truffles.

You can even package them all pretty:

I got this idea and the recipes from Recipe Rhapsody and Bakerella. They make cake pops and I just took out the stick to make truffles, which I found was much more difficult. I highly recommend checking out their sites because their cake pops look a-mazing!

Okay so here is the whole recipe:

Cake Truffles

You gotta get:

  • 1 box of cake mix, any flavor (and I guess you could make a cake from scratch if you really wanted
  • frosting, a store bought tub or homemade, any flavor
  • 1 24oz package of chocolate bark (maybe more if you are as messy as I am)
  • any toppings you want to cover your truffles with

What to do:

  1. bake a cake
  2. let it cool
  3. mush cake up into fine crumbs
  4. add some frosting to the cake,gradually, until you can make a good ball out of the mixture
  5. let cake balls cool in fridge
  6. melt some chocolate bark according to package’s directions
  7. dip the cake balls in the chocolate (good luck at this, I really have no tip as how to do it with out making a giant mess of everything)
  8. add toppings
  9. let them set up for a bit
  10. enjoy

Well there you go. I wish you luck. It is a messy treat!

Homemade Caramel Calamity

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For Valentine’s Day I made the mistake of offering to make truffles and homemade caramel and took orders for these delicious delights. Of course, everything sounded fun, until I noticed I had an essay due the Friday before and an exam the Monday after Valentine’s weekend. The result was spending, an entire day in the kitchen trying to make truffles and caramel.

Let’s start with the caramel(I will talk about the truffles on Saturday), since it was much less successful. To sum up my suck-cess: I had to make them twice, broke a spatula and almost lost a glass baking dish.

I don’t know how well you can see, but my spatula is broken in half. And the caramel in that pan is rock solid and set in the pan. I had to soak the pan in hot water for days before I got my pan back.

Regardless of the insanity induced by making caramel, the process is quite fun. I got the recipe out of my Betty Crocker cookbook. (A wedding gift that I just rediscovered, we’ve been married 3 1/2 years.) It is amazing to see the few ingredients needed turn into what should be yummy caramel if I could figure out what I am doing wrong.

You just add all the ingredients (sugar, butter, whipping cream and corn syrup)  into a 3 qt. pot. The size is very important, for some reason.

And stir.

And stir.

And stir.

Eventually, it will start to look like this, which I think it crazy and awesome. Then you stir some more.

And keep stirring.

And stir.

Finally, you can pour it into a greased baking dish and let the caramel goo cool for two hours. Or over night. But then when you wake up in the morning, your caramel is so hard that you can do nothing to remove the caramel rock from your dish.

And then Saturday morning, when you wanted to be sleeping in, you get up and start over.

You add the same ingredients to the 3 qt. pot, only this time you add some chocolate (because that is what I was supposed to make in the first place). And you let your caramel mixture come to a boil while you stir.

And stir…and you know the drill.

Keep stirring.  Important: The trick is to pour the caramel into the pan as soon as it reaches the right temperature. The best way to do this, a candy thermometer. But who has one of those? I don’t. So the next best thing, according to Betty Crocker, is the Cold-Water Test. With the caramel, you want it pour it into a dish at 245° F.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, drop some of your caramel into a glass of cold water. If it makes a firm ball that will hold its shape until pressed, you have apparently reached the right temperature. I don’t know though. I still think I messed something up.
Then you get to pour your bubbling goo of caramel into a 8x8in or 9x9in square baking dish. Dish size is important as well. Then let it cool for two hours and some how manage to get you caramel out of the pan.

I actually suggest pulling your caramel out sooner, as it starts to harden really quickly. Then cut your caramel into pieces.

Ms. Crocker says to use scissors because it will be easier than cutting it with a kitchen knife.

Um, I say lay your soon to be caramel-crete on a cutting board, don some protective goggles and just hit the caramel with a butcher knife and it will break into  pieces. Neither cutting with knife nor scissor worked for me.  Oh and be prepared to walk out of your kitchen covered in caramel dust and shrapnel, which could be good news for a caramel loving husband or boyfriend. (Warning, this may not be the safest advice and you should proceed cautiously while breaking your caramel.)

The result:A bunch of chunks of hard candy caramel.

I definitely imagined soft caramels, so I don’t know if I did something wrong or if I just didn’t know what I was getting into. The caramel is pretty good though. If you drool all over it for a minute it gets kind of chewy.

Here is the full recipe, proceed without rigid expectations.

Indredients

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter or margarine
  • 2 cups of whipping (heavy) cream
  • 3/4 cup of light corn syrup

Instructions

  1. Grease the bottom and the sides of your square baking dish (8×8 or 9×9 will work) with butter.
  2. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat all the ingredients to boiling over a medium heat. Stir constantly.
  3. Boil for 35 minutes, stirring frequently, until the candy reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer. (See above for cold-water test)
  4. Once the candy reaches 245ºF, immediately pour into the baking dish.
  5. Cool completely, a little less than 2 hours.
  6. Some how manage to break apart.
  7. Store candy in airtight container.
  8. Enjoy?

If you try this recipe, good luck. Then comment and let me know if you figure out the secret.

Come back for the truffle recipe on Saturday.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

I Double Dog Dare You…To Tell The Truth

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How many times a day are you asked “How are you?”

How many times do you respond with “I’m fine”?

We, especially women and even more so mothers, go through the day asking each other how we are and expecting the normal casual response. Any break from the normal “good” would potentially cause us to have to stop and listen to some one’s problems and then feign interest and even concern. So to avoid any detour in our busy day, we all know the rule. “How are you?” is answered with some form of “good” or “I’m fine”.

Haven’t we all had a day when it almost feels like the world is about to cave in around us?

When you woke up and walked into the kitchen you realized you didn’t do the dishes and now all the food will be a thousand times harder to scrape off. Your hair will absolutely not cooperate. You cut yourself shaving, again. The dog pooped by the door because you didn’t let him out in time. Your mother called to criticize you for not vacuuming enough. Your toddler just tried to eat dog food, again. You can’t shake the feeling that your clothes make you look fat and unfashionable. You try to go grocery shopping and you forget your little one’s favorite toy or snack so she whines the whole time. By the time you’re done and in the car your both crying and all you want is to get home and see your husband soon. Crap, you forgot set the chicken out to thaw. Then your husband calls, he has to work late. You some how manage to get you and your screaming-at-this-point kid and your groceries inside. Then, when you finally close the door and can look in the mirror, you see that your mascara, which you only wear occasionally and wanted to wear today so you would look nice, is completely smeared and running down your face in a terrible way.

Then the phone rings and it’s your close friend calling to invite you to dinner on Thursday. But before she says anything else, she asks “Hey, how are you?”

You hide the insanity in your voice just long enough to say fine, accept her invitation and tell her thank you.

When you finally hang up all you’re left with is a dinner plan for Thursday, a crying child, groceries that need to be put away and your mascara covered self.

What’s worse? The result. You get irritated with your kid and yell at them, when you finally thaw the chicken and try to make dinner you burn it all and when your husband walks in, he has no idea he  has just walked into a circle of hell. And of course by then, it is all his fault anyway.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to take a few minutes to be honest with your friend? Maybe she would have told you about her crazy day and how the cat jumped on the cabinet and started eating a loaf of bread, chewed right through the plastic! Then you both could have laughed and your evenings would have stood a chance.

Now, I am not saying that sincerely asking and answering this question will solve all the problems in the world. I mean maybe it would have. Maybe if some one had asked Hitler how he was doing the day he was rejected from art school and he had taken the time to explain how hurt he was, just maybe he wouldn’t have turned into a mass murdering dictator. But I am not saying that.

All I am saying is, it’s important to ask each other how we are doing and then take the time to listen to the answer. And if asked we need to, maybe take a risk, and honestly say we are having a hard day if that is the case.

We women and tired Mamas especially need to look out for each other.  Instead, there has some how become this trend of seeing who can be the best. Who has the most well behaved children? Who never EVER argues with their husband? Who’s home is immaculate? Who can be the superest-mom without having a breakdown in the frozen food aisle? The result is never confiding in one another for fear of admitting that our life is the one spinning out of control that day.

We lie to look good and mistreat ourselves in the end.

I double dog dare you to tell the truth about your day, good or bad.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

Bonus Valentine’s Day Post: The Vagina Monologues

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For Valentine’s Day, Brian, my darling hubby, took me to a benefit production of The Vagina Monologues. The event was absolutely amazing. I was allowed to write a response for an assignment for my Literature by Women class. I am posting it here as a bonus entry. If you have never been to a production of The Vagina Monologues, I would suggest attending. Granted, some people may not appreciate the openness or language; it is a terrific experience.

The production was to benefit Wings of Hope: Stillwater Domestic Violence Services and was a part of V-Day.V-Day is a global movement to end violence toward women. For more information check out Wings of Hope or VDay.org

My Response to The Vagina Monologues

(keep in mind I could not possibly have written my complete emotional response to this wonderful performance)

The experience of attending The Vagina Monologues was a satisfying experience in such a complete way. I was able to attend a dramatic performance that included comedy, dealt with tragic situations, supported a great cause, and educated me. My husband and I went to the Sunday afternoon performance, and his willingness to not only go with me but actually take me as a date reminded me of how lucky I am to have him. His reaction, however, was one of the many ways the event was so wholly satisfying. He was quite moved by the monologues about women being abused. We discovered that my husband is probably, in its truest form, a feminist; he essentially said if being a feminist means not wanting women and girls to be beat and raped, then yes, he is one. I asked him several times throughout the performance if he was okay, and he always seemed fine. I start out with talking about my husband because I feel so blessed to have a man in my life who is so supportive and loving. He is not weak or effeminate, like I think some men might tease; he is just especially respectful toward women, including me. There were several monologues that mentioned what I would consider failure of men. The monologue you read, “The Flood,” involved an rude and immature reaction that kept your character from experiencing sexual or emotional freedom. “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could” included the father of the character’s best friend raping her as a child. In “Crooked Braid” the husband beats the character constantly. Even in “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” part of the reason she turned to women is because the men could not handle her moaning. This list of course does not include the facts about abuse and the final monologue. I say all of this because I am amazed at my having such a wonderful man in my life. It is partly because of my husband that I can feel so open as to attend such an empowering production and explore who I am. He supports and encourages me in everything I do. The Vagina Monologuse confronted me with a look at how great of a guy he is.

Enough about my husband, The Vagina Monologues are about women! I thoroughly enjoyed the production. I laughed so hard about “My Angry Vagina.” I could hardly believe the ability Eve Ensler has to capture the universal feelings about vaginas. I guess interviewing so many women helped, but what a terrific way to capture all the little annoying instances our poor vagina has to endure. That particular monologue captured the extremes of a woman. On one hand the character is angry and uses coarse language; she is loud and forceful and angry about her vagina. In her rant though, she describes just wanting to be wrapped in velvet and being able to put her feet in fur covered stirrups. My husband even commented on how a woman can “be tough enough to cut off your balls from eight to five, but that at the end of the day all she wants is a warm bath and some chocolate.”  I thought his remark was a perfect description of how strong and courageous women can be while still having the capacity to love and be gentle.

The multiple facts and monologues about domestic and international abuse were so confrontational. I completely agreed with Elkie Burnside (I think) when she talked about how we minimize the abuse of women and children, but we gush over animal abuse. I am so glad The Vagina Monologues was a benefit production to raise awareness about domestic abuse. The monologues specifically dealing with abuse were heart-wrenching and necessary to deal with the reality of what women are experiencing. Women have come a long way in the rights they have, but there is so much more that must change. “A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery” was perfect. It told the horrific facts of what some women endure and then showed women’s amazing ability to endure and then thrive. I was in tears when one of her closing lines were about her breasts filling with milk, and she could love her baby. Just the idea of taking the baby, the product of such horrible abuse, and loving her shows intense strength and compassion. And to finish by talking about being able to feed her baby was incredibly emotional for me because I went through such a struggle to breastfeed my daughter, and I understood the relief of being able to do so. I can scarcely imagine the emotion in being able to do that in the character’s situation. That particular monologue, for me, highlighted the resilience of women.

Then the monologue “I Was There in the Room” was the embodiment of the whole production. Eve Ensler’s description of the vagina is to me the epitome of womanhood and femininity. The thing that made her description so powerful was the fact that only women have vaginas. Then she parallels the heart and the vagina. The combination of our vaginas having the same abilities of the heart and that only women have vaginas was the most empowering experience in the performance. Our vaginas can give and stretch, can take things in and release things into the world; our vaginas can sacrifice. I have never felt so special to be a woman.

The Vagina Monologues was such a wonderful experience. My family had a dreadful morning, and I remember thinking maybe we should just skip the performance and go home to rest. I am so glad I attended. I would not have traded my experience for the world’s best nap. I learned so much, realized how much I love my husband and grew as a woman.

Happy Valentine’s Day

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

Would be…

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On this eve of Valentine’s Day, I had hoped to bring you a very special entry. I was going to talk about my adventures in making caramel candy and cake truffles. I took lots of photos and thought of all the funny things I would write. The day has been non-stop chocolate covered drama. But on my way to deliver such a fun-filled post, my camera pooped out. I have no idea what is wrong, but I cannot post all the pictures I took of my work. And if I can’t show you the cookumentary, I don’t want to talk about it. So this entry is in mourning for my hopefully temporarily out of order camera and the lost pictures. I hope Monday will bring good news of fixed cameras, satisfying chocolate truffles and a Happy past Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

Hearts Hearts Everywhere

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Inspired by some other blogs around the web, I decided to find the hearts in my little world. I glanced around the apartment and this is what I came up with.

This is off the cover of Southern Living. My Nana gave me a subscription for Christmas, because I need another magazine, and I have found some really terrific recipes in there. I need to try them out soon. The recipe for these cookies are inside. They sound delicious. Maybe I will try them in a few posts. This cover is darling; the picture cheers me up every time I see the magazine.This is our calendar. I am marking off every day with a different heart. I personally like my Saturday heart the best. It is a classic Mom-4-Eva tattoo heart. I crack myself up. I find doing this gives me something really simple to look forward. I actually have a reason to stop and doodle for a second.  In November I did leaves and for December I did Christmas ornaments. Lots of silly fun. 

These hearts are one of my earrings. Brian gave me this pair of earrings the Christmas before we got married. I only wear one at a time on special occasions in my cartilage piercing. They are a nice little treat to wear and pretend I am fancy-schmancy!

This is Elizabeth’s first soccer ball. We bought it at the Old Navy in Oklahoma City while E. was in the hospital. As soon as she was born she kicked and we joked about her becoming a soccer player. Now she loves to play ball by rolling it back and forth with us. She was doing this as soon as she could sit up. She got a Sesame Street ball for her birthday and that will probably take the soccer ball’s place seeing as the soccer ball’s stitches are coming undone. Elizabeth could probably not care less but there is a part of me that is kind of sad. I am sure I will all survive the loss. This is my favorite heart in the house! I made this for Brian the semester I took Jewelry and Metal Working. We got to make these Valentines as a class project, so fun. The piece of copper has a map roller pressed into the background and is textured with as bumpy hammer. Then I pressed in the heart shape. To finish I stamped each individual letter in with a small stamp and hammer. It reads “I love you” and “I can’t wait to travel the world with you”.  We were talking about being international missionaries at the time. We are more settled on the U.S. for now but I would still love to travel the world with my hubby!

Well there you are. Hearts! I hope you enjoyed them.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

P.S. I forgot to add this:My little sweetheart with hearts on her shirt! Really this is just an excuse to include a picture of Elizabeth.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie

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Valentine’s Day is only a few days away! Here is a sweet way to wake up in the morning or finish out the day.

Here in the Harrison house we have discovered frozen fruit smoothies. All you do it throw the frozen fruit in the blender with some milk, blend and ta-da. Easy, yummy and filling to boot, as breakfast or a snack. In my experiments with flavors I discovered this concoction of a chocolate fix that is healthy too. 

All you need:

  • 1 Cup frozen cherries
  • 1/4 Cup of milk (add more if needed to blend well)
  • 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar (add half at a time, to taste)
  • chocolate syrup

All you have to do:

  1. throw your cherries and milk in the blender
  2. blend for awhile
  3. add the cocoa powder and some of the sugar
  4. blend for a bit
  5. taste and add more sugar if you want
  6. blend some more
  7. pour into a cup
  8. garnish with a chocolate syrup swirl (you don’t have to do this, but it adds a nice sweet taste, i think it makes the balance of sweet and tart perfect)

NOTE: you could mix the cocoa powder into the milk so that when you blend everything together you get less of the powder texture

ANOTHER NOTE: the great thing about this recipe is how easily you can make it your own. you could add strawberries, add more cherries, add more chocolate syrup, try other spices like cinnamon. just make the smoothie taste good to you.

Enjoy!

-Sarah, One Curly Mama

Decorative Garnish Food Stencil

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My last post featured french toast sammies with a heart shaped garnish of cinnamon sugar. This is  how I did it.

First take a piece of card stock and cut a design into. You can go simple with a couple of hearts by folding the card stock in half and going old school valentine. Or you can get creative and design a phrase or pretty design and cut it out with an X-acto knife.

Lay the stencil flay on your food or drink.

Sprinkle your choice of garnish over the stencil. Carefully, remove the stencil.

Voilà! You have a perfect decoration on you food.

You can leave a message for your lovey, or spice up a dinner you are serving to friends or just enjoy a pretty snack. Whatever you decide, what an easy way to take your cooking to the next level of awesome-ness!

This idea is originally for coffee garnishes. I love the idea of stenciling a message in onto a cappuccino with cocoa powder like this, but why limit your self. You could do it on lots of different foods. So get creative. If you try this post a comment and share what you tried and if it was successful.

-Sarah, One Curly Mama