Tag: pumpkin

DIY Succulent Pumpkins

So, there’s this thing called a succulent pumpkin. And it’s pretty darn cute. I’m sure you’ve probably seen one on Pinterest or Instagram. But when one of my customers asked me to come do a workshop on how to create these fall fancies later this month I jumped at the chance. I’ll be teaching more than 50 floral specialists (who are amazing designers — no pressure) how to put these together, so I figured I’d better practice by creating a few samples. Let’s just say it wasn’t the worst way to spend a Thursday afternoon. If you’re looking for a weekend project, I highly recommend it! Here’s how it all went down.

The materials I used were simple and fairly easy to find (especially since I had a sea of succulents to choose from). I was shocked at how quickly they came together and I highly recommend giving this a try for a fun fall project with your friends. Heck, it’s something you could get the kids involved in too if they’re fairly gentle with the plants. The first step? Head to your local farm stand and pick out some pumpkins. I scored these three for a whopping $7.50 at a little place just a few minutes from the office. I was going for small, medium and large here but also wanted to try different shapes and colors. I’m a sucker for a pastel-hued heirloom pumpkin and the donut shape is the perfect perch for succulents. The bright orange of the traditional round pumpkin was a nice base for the blue/green color of the plants. And of course the mini white pumpkin is just too darn cute.

I may just blow your mind with this one, guys. It’s something I didn’t know until I started working at ArizonaEast (like all the other plant knowledge I’ve gained these last three years). Good old Elmer’s Glue is just about the best adhesive you can use for succulent-related projects. It’s non toxic (very kid and pet friendly). It dries clear, and it washes away as you water the plants (which is okay because the plants will be rooted into the moss by then). It doesn’t dry as quickly as hot glue, but as long as you have patience (or some floral wire) that doesn’t really matter. All the tutorials I referenced while tackling this project used hot glue to adhere the plants to the pumpkin and I disagree with that approach. Almost every time I’ve ever used hot glue on succulents they sizzle and dry up which ends up killing them. You could try experimenting with a low temp if you’re dead set, but Elmer’s is a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. 

The next step is the most fun. Pick out your plants! You’ll want to grab one or two echeverias to act as a visual anchor in the front of your design, with lots of leafy, leggy succulents filling in the backdrop.

You’ll need to cut the succulent at it’s base to remove the root system and soil. Don’t worry! You’re not harming the plants! Succulents are resilient and they can last as cuttings for weeks before they dry out. If you glue them to a growing medium (moss in this case) they’ll grow a new set of roots and continue being a happy plant. And what’s even cooler is the root system you left behind will grow another succulent in a few weeks, so don’t throw away those plastic grower pots!

Once your plants are all cut it’s time to start building. The first step is to apply a generous amount of Elmer’s Glue to the top of the pumpkin. Then lay your sheet moss on top of the glue. This will act as the foundation of your succulent arrangement. Use your leafy, leggy succulents as the base, starting in the back, and then build from there. Since Elmer’s Glue stays wet for a while you can rearrange your plants as needed so there’s no pressure to get it perfect the first time. You can do a dry run by layering your plants on top of one another to achieve the look you want before gluing them all into place.

Scroll through the slideshows below to see how I designed all three pumpkins, starting from the largest at the top to the smallest at the bottom. I’m still new to this whole tutorial thing so don’t hesitate to leave me questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to help answer them if I can and I’d love to see photos of your creations. If you happen to post them on Instagram tag me so I can see! 🙂 Happy fall crafting!

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Romantic Dinner

If you caught my post yesterday, you know it’s been a trying week in the Genovese household. To top it off, Mike had to head to his company’s North Jersey office on just a few hours sleep (we’re always up late working) so Thursday was a long day. I was working from home yesterday, so when the clock struck 5 I shut down my laptop and took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to commute home by putting together a nice little surprise for Mikey to come home to. I figured a special weeknight dinner would be just the thing we needed to relax after a long week.

Romantic Dinner

I started with a special table setting using some of the flowers that were still going strong from Laura’s birthday dinner. I put together a few candles and threw in a sparkly ‘G’ that I got a few months ago from Michael’s to round out the centerpiece (I’m hoping to incorporate the ‘G’ into our holiday decor). I added some Tahari napkins I purchased on clearance at T.J. Maxx to tie in with the color of the ‘G’ for an extra special touch, and aerated some of our favorite wine in a decanter to go with dinner. Here’s a closer look.

Table Setting

Napkins

Centerpiece

And here it is with the candles lit. The ‘G’ was shedding glitter all over the table. I didn’t mind. You’ll notice some similarities to my last dinner party, but this setup was much more simple.

Candle Light

I’ve been on a ‘let’s use up everything in the freezer and pantry’ kick to save a little money on our grocery bill, and I didn’t have time to go to the store – so I got resourceful with the menu. After taking a quick inventory of the meat we had in the freezer (we were running a little low) I decided to go all-in and make oven slow roasted ribs. We had purchased them over the summer on a really good sale and never used them, so I figured why not? I knew Mike would love it and it’d be a special treat since we rarely have ribs. I had just enough time (2 hours) before he’d be home to get them roasted to perfection. Pumpkin cornbread muffins and creamed spinach rounded out the meal.

I followed this recipe for the ribs, and they came out amazing! Two hours of slow roasting with a brown sugar chili rub and a quick basting with BBQ sauce followed by a few minutes under the broiler to crisp them up – and these babies turned out perfectly. This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried for ribs, so I definitely recommend it. Check out a close up of the finished product.

Slow Roasted Ribs

I also loved the pumpkin cornbread muffin recipe. I got the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit based on what I had on hand. Here’s a look at the ingredients I used.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins Ingredients

Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, adapted from Nancy Creative. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  •  1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal (using a whisk to blend these ingredients works well); after blending ingredients well, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then stir in the pumpkin puree, canola oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full of batter).

Bake CORNBREAD MUFFINS at 375 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not over-bake, or muffins will be too dry and may brown on the bottom).

Pumpkin Cake Pops

Fall is upon us, and that means an overabundance of pumpkin-flavored fare. I look forward to seasonal ‘pumpkin spice’ flavors all year, and I also grumble a bit when pumpkin gives way to peppermint after Thanksgiving. So, while the calendar still says November, bring on the gourd-y goodness!

Pumpkin Cake Pops

If you follow our vlogs, you’ll know that I made Pumpkin Cake Pops for my friends annual Oktoberfest party this year, and you’ll also be keenly aware of the mental battle I’ve fought each and every time I’ve tried to make these puppies. I’ll be the first to tell you these aren’t easy if you make them the right way. And by that, I mean individually rolling each delicious-yet-devious cake ball – not cheating by using one of those newfangled cake pop pans. But my third time making cake pops truly was the charm. I had two rounds of cake pop making under my belt, and I knew what pitfalls to avoid going into this arduous delicious undertaking.

In the past I’ve made red velvet and chocolate flavored cake pops, but this time I wanted to stay true to the changing seasons and go right for that first punch of pumpkin. After a quick search, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese icing and I was sold (um, hello – with a name like that it didn’t take much convincing). Here’s a quick breakdown of the ingredients you’ll need:

Ingredients

I whipped together the cake and the icing by using the ingredients and measurements from the original recipe from Lemon Sugar. I knew I’d just be crumbling the baked cake into a mixture of cake crumbs and icing to form the cake balls, so I threw the entire amount of cake batter into one 9×13 baking pan rather than dividing it among three 8 inch round baking pans that the recipe calls for.

Once the cake is baked, let it cool completely before you dig in with your hands. Then follow the following steps to assemble your pops:

  1. When it’s fully cooled, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl in uniform crumbs.
  2. Add a small amount of the frosting (about 1/2 cup) to the cake crumbs and combine with the paddle attachment of your mixer until you get a smooth texture and all the icing is combined. Cake Crumbs
  3. Roll the cake and icing mixture into uniform cake balls roughly one inch in diameter. I recommend lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper and placing the cake balls in rows as you form them. This step will take you a while as the recipe yields about 90 cake balls.
  4. When your cake balls are complete it’s time to let them chill before securing the lollipop sticks into them with melted chocolate. Some tutorials I’ve read have suggested refrigerating or even freezing the cake balls at this step to harden them a bit. I recommend sticking them in the fridge for no more than 10-15 minutes.
  5. Melt your chocolate candy melts in the microwave ON THE DEFROST SETTING! I can’t stress this enough. It may sound silly, but getting the candy melts to melt without overheating, or worse, burning, is one of the hardest steps for me every. Single. Time. When making this batch of pumpkin cake pops I finally got this step down to a science (god, I hope). I popped the candy melts in the microwave on defrost for about 15-30 seconds before giving them a stir. About 15 seconds more and they were melted. These little buggers are tricky because they don’t seem to be melted at first, but overheating them causes the melts to harden into one big chocolate-ty glob. #fail. Be sure to give them a good stir and they should melt into the perfect texture after 30-45 seconds on the defrost setting in the microwave.
  6. Melted chocolate in hand, take a lollipop stick and dip the end in about 1/2 inch. Then carefully insert the lollipop stick into the cake ball. It’s important to be gentle with this step to avoid cracking. If your cake balls got too cold in the refrigerator they’ll crack very easily, so if you start out and you have one after another cracking, give them a few minutes to warm up before proceeding.
  7. When all the lollipop sticks are securely in place, it’s time to dip the entire cake pop into the melted chocolate to achieve that glorious hard candy shell. I sometimes use a spoon to make sure the candy covers the entire cake pop all the way down to the lollipop stick – just to make sure it’s extra secure. Hold the cake pop over the bowl for a few seconds to let it harden before moving on to the next.
  8. Repeat the dipping step for all of your cake pops, and then let them dry until the candy shell is completely hardened.

There’s several ways to display cake pops, but leaving them upside down with the stick pointing up has proven to be the easiest way to let them dry and transport them to a party. If you’re cake pops are staying put at home you can experiment with ways to invert them vertically by using a cake pop holder, floral foam or even a pumpkin. Hey, I’ve done it!

As I said before, this recipe yielded 90 cake pops, so you better believe my neighbors were the lucky recipients of a few Pumpkin Cake Pops that weekend, too. Here’s how I wrapped them in small batches as a gift:

IMG_0065

I also made the Pumpkin Dream Cake recipe as cupcakes with the leftover maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting about a week later – and they were DIVINE! My husband even said they were quite possibly the best cupcakes he’d ever had. Though he was probably just trying to butter me up, I’m going with it! Best cupcakes ever, for the win!

Here’s the full recipe for Pumpkin Dream Cake that you can pair with my instructions above to make Pumpkin Cake Pops for your next get together this fall. You can also see me tackle my batch of cake pops step-by-step in this vlog. Enjoy!