DIY Photo Canvas Wall & Book Review

Canvas Wall 2 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri


I am super excited to show you this DIY canvas wall!!!  The possibilities are endless and the result is SO much fun.

Photo canvases are cool… and very expensive.  Even a small 12″ photo canvas can run around $40 each.  This canvas wall cost about $50 for EVERYTHING.  They are so much fun to change out and blow up those favorite photos.  I just LOVE photos when they are big!!!

But first the Book Review:




This book is about two things:  hope and love.  Hope and love are illustrated throughout the book using personal stories of motherhood.  Every mom should read this book because:  You are not alone;  You are enough.  Every word feels like it is written from her heart.
The insights and stories include those from the bible such as when Jesus stops the storm while the disciples are in the boat.  Each chapter takes these stories from the bible and relates them directly to your heart.  Another story included is the one of Mary and Martha.  The author reflects, “… sometimes being Martha doesn’t look like choosing something else over Jesus.  It simply looks like forgetting that He is always in the room.  … He knew that since the beginning of time, women have been trying to clean up their own messes, and He has to remind them that only Jesus can do that.”

I like that each chapter is structured well.  There are good reflection questions at the end of each section and space to write down your thoughts.  The entire book is 204 pages – a good length for a busy momma to sit and grab a chapter a day.

Canvas Wall 3 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri


(The opposite wall from this contain two very tall windows… hence the glare on some of the canvases.   You don’t notice it much in person.)

This project is SUPER flexible and you could use any combination of canvas sizes you want.  I purchased the canvases at Michael’s.  They go on sale quite a few times per year.  For example, here is a link to the 16×20″.  It is one of my favorite sizes.  It also looks FABULOUS above a fireplace or couch with a 20×30 in the middle of the 16×20’s.  I guess I just love the 4:5 ratio for some reason.

If it were above my mantel, I would replace the white 20×30 photo in the middle with a family photograph.

Here is a link to Wall Art Placement on Pinterest for inspiration on your space!

Supplies you will need:
-canvases (for this project I used 6 –  16×20 canvases  and 1 – 20×30 canvas OR you can also cheat and use a piece of foam core from the Dollar Store which is exactly 20×30″)
-photo posters (purchased through Costco – the 16×20 posters are $6.99/each and the 20×30 poster is $9.99)
-Mod podge (1-2 ounces per canvas)
-foam brush (3″ wide)
-a lint free cloth (like microfiber or lens cloth, etc.)
-optional:  old tablecloth or piece of plastic to go underneath the project

  1.  Have everything on hand in front of you.  The thin mod podge dries quickly, so you need to have everything sitting in front of you.  This should include the mod podge, foam brush, and…

Canvas Wall 8 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

the poster!  The canvases at Michael’s even come in black now – that might be really cool.  Just ignore the lid of glue in the photo…. that experiment didn’t work!

Canvas Wall 7 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri


2.  Gently pour 1-2 ounces of mod podge all over the canvas.  It should be a thin stream.  Spread this with a foam brush all over the canvas into a thin later.  Take care to get the corners very well.   My lovely assistant is demonstrating below.

Canvas Wall 5 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

3.  Very carefully, place the poster down onto the glued canvas.  Line of the edges and corners.  Don’t worry, you still have a little while before it dries to pull the poster to make sure it is completely straight and flush on the sides with the canvas.

Canvas Wall 4 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

4.  Allow it to dry a few hours and it is ready to hang!  My canvases have a lip on the back, so I just need nails.  No need to add the metal hangers!   Now, you want to be really creative, put mod podge on TOP of the poster and lay a piece of real canvas on top.  Remove the canvas immediately.  The mod podge will form a canvas-like texture on top!

*I know real photo canvases wrap around the canvas.  I thought about this – but this method I did here was so easy and I am happy with it!

Canvas Wall Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter FB title Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

There are few foods yummier than peanut butter.  Covered in chocolate, hidden in smoothies or eaten straight out of the jar, many people eat it even on a daily basis.  Entire cookbooks are dedicated just to this one ingredient!

Today my friends, we take it up another notch.

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter 2fb Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Another reason to consider making homemade peanut butter:  the deforestation of the earth because of palm oil.  This is why Trader Joe’s natural peanut butter will state “palm oil sourced from sustainable sources” on the back.

Plus, homemade peanut butter can be made crunchy or smooth.  You can whip up peanut butter any time of day you have a craving… and the best part is?  We found something even tastier!  Honey Roasted Peanut Butter!

Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme grocery stores have their own peanut butter machines.  You press the button and freshly made peanut butter oozes out into the empty container for all your peanut butter needs.  Honey Roasted runs $3.99 per pound.  Regular peanut butter runs $2.99 per pound (at Fresh Thyme).  The savings are pretty negligible to say the least when making your own peanut butter with just peanuts.  But, these stores are far away and the drive is no where near where I drive.  So – to save gas and time, I make my own.

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter 4fb Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Made too much?  Fresh peanut butter on sale?  NO worries.  Freeze it!  Peanut butter will freeze just fine 🙂  Just like real butter!  I always freeze real butter.

So, buy that jar of Honey Roasted peanuts for about $3 (less than $3 at Aldi!)  and try making your own honey roasted peanut butter.  It will be hard to go back to regular.

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter 3fb Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Storage:  Store in an airtight container.  You can use the peanut butter immediately.  You can store it in the pantry for up to 1 week.   Ours never lasts that long, but for longer storage than 1 week keep it in the fridge.  For even longer storage, keep airtight in the freezer for a few months.

Don’t like peanut butter?  Need almond butter?  Cashew butter?  Try the same recipe with different nuts!  Or your own combination of nuts.

Mary Ellen’s All Time Favorite Lunch Sandwich:

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter 5fb Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Serves: 1 and 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups unsalted roasted or honey roasted peanuts
  • Optional: peanut oil, honey, salt
  1. Put the nuts into your food processor or high speed blender like Vitamix.
  2. For the food processor: turn the machine on for 1 minute. Scrape the sides down if necessary. Run the machine for 1 more minute. Scrape the sides down. Run the machine for just 1 last minute. During this last minute, add a tablespoon of peanut oil or drizzle of honey or 1/4 tsp. of salt if you wish. The peanut butter will be soft, thick and glossy.
  3. For the Vitamix, turn the machine to 1. Slowly, turn the machine up to 10. Use the tamper to press the peanuts towards the blades. In about 1-2 minutes, you will have yummy creamy peanut butter! Once the peanut butter becomes smooth and the blades move freely, turn off the machine. Scoop out with a scraper.


DIY Tutu Dress

FLower Girl copy Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Hello Everyone!  It’s my first shared blog post between Mary Riley Photography blog and this one.  I haven’t had a craft on here in a long time and thought I would share this no sew project that was super easy to do and my little girl LOVES this dress.  She had to show her teachers immediately!

Fairy Girl 2 VigenetteMary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri copy 2

I saw a few dresses like the one below on Etsy and thought it would be so pretty for my little girl.  The prices were not as pretty 🙂  This is a NO SEW project.  I promise.  And not one fairy was harmed during this project.

This dress is great for just playing dress up, for a flower girl at a wedding, for a photo shoot or Halloween.  I cannot tell you how excited I was by how fast this project is to complete.  I made entire dress while rehearsing for “Beauty and the Beast” at the same time, so again pretty simple and fast.    The sky is the limit on color combinations – use the same color for a fairy type dress or use whatever favorite colors you like.

Lantern Girl Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri copy

As for the hair band… that is another project.  I found those on Etsy as well for around $25.   It cost about that amount at Michael’s unless you have 50% coupon.  The floral stems are 50% off sometimes.

Lantern Girl 4 Mary Riley Photography Wentzvill Misouri copy

The dress in the photo is about a size 7/8.  Skirt is 24″ long.  Crochet top is 10″ long.  Crochet top is 29-32″ in circumference.  I purchased the crochet top here.  I purchased the tulle here.  The top is Eggplant. The tulle is purple HOWEVER I had to color correct the skirt because their purple tulle looks blue in photographs.  If you know a place where you can preview the tulle and top let me know!  I would love to be able to see the color I am ordering first.

Lantern Girl 5 Copy Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Here is a place where you can view the tulle and purchase 25 yards for $1.99.  I haven’t used them yet though.

For a smaller size dress, there are 8″ lined crochet tops that are 7-8″ from top to bottom and 7-8″ wide and 22-24″ in circumference.

Lantern Girl 3 Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri copy

Supplies you will need:

Helpful DIY Photos found HERE.

-a 10″ lined crochet top for a size 5-8 (I found mine here)  or a 8″ lined crochet top for a size 2-4  (can be found here)  **Check the description for accurate measurements!!**

-100 yards of tulle for a single skirt or 200 yards of tulle for a double skirt (I used just over 75 yards of tulle on the dress in the photo.  The skirt is 24″ long)


-a piece of plastic or cardboard that is the length of your skirt (not totally necessary, but makes life easier), so my skirt is 24″ so I used a 24″ long piece of cardboard

-crochet hook

  1.  Make sure the crochet top fits the girl first.
  2. Once the crochet top is on, measure from the bottom of the crochet top to where ever you want the tutu to stop.  Usually skirts go to the ankle, just below the knee, or between the knee and waist (with a bottom underneath).  I made this one to go to the ankle.  From crochet top to ankle was 24″.
  3. Now that we have our measurements, we can get started!  Find something that is the length of your tutu.  My quilter’s plastic omnigrid ruler just happened to be 24″ in length.  But you can use any scrap piece of cardboard cut down to the measurement you need.
  4. Wrap the tulle around the cardboard lengthwise.  Remember the end you started on (I place my left thumb there each time.)  I went through the entire 25 yard roll.  Then cut just ONCE on the end you started on.  Cut the short end.  This will create tulle strips that are DOUBLE the size you need.  You want to have strips that are 48″ for a 24″ tutu.  You want 38″ strips for a 19″ tutu.  Etc. Etc.  You can move to the next step and crochet this amount so you don’t over cut the amount of tulle you need, or guesstimate.  I used 3 full rolls of 25 yards in the tutu and just a little bit of the 4th roll.
  5. Take one strip and fold in half lengthwise.  Push your crochet hook up the bottom hole in the crochet top.  Hook the tulle you folded and pull through.  Now, tuck the tails through the hole.  Pull the tails and this will create the tutu.  Sometimes they don’t pull very well – I just work on each tail gently and it will eventually lay flat.  Do this all the way around the tutu.
  6. If you are really ambitious and want a fuller tutu, do this all over again in the second hold above the first.  Go all the way around the tutu again.
  7. To make the shoulder straps, I made two more strips.  I used my crochet hook to wrap them around the front and through the back.  Now I had two tails in the back.  (I just eye balled the placement.  I am pretty good at eye balling.  If you are not, I highly recommend to just simply use a ruler to make sure each strap is symmetrical on the dress.)
  8. Due to lack of any imagination, I tied a pretty bow in the back and that was it!  The bow held very well even while prancing and dancing around.
  9. Please wear shorts underneath these tutus – they can be see through.  If taking photos, try to find a pair of shorts that matches the color as best you can.

Fairy Girl Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri copy

For the Headband:

Helpful Youtube Video Here

  • 1/2 fold over elastic
  • flowers of your choice (choose at least 2 or 3 in various sizes, 1 main color and 1 complimentary color)
  • hot glue and hot glue gun
  • ribbon
  1.  Take the fold over elastic and put it around the person’s head (or someone of approximate size).  Cut to size.  I had it start and stop behind her ears.
  2. Remove stems from the flowers.
  3. Glue flowers inside the flowers if you like.  This is not necessary.  I thought it gave the headband some interest.  Then, I laid out the flowers the way I wanted them to look.
  4. Take the ribbon and cut two 10″ strips.  Enough to wrap around the end of the elastic and tie a bow on the back of the head.  Always go longer than you think here – it is much easier to cut it later.
  5. Hot glue the ribbon to the elastic.  Wrap the ribbon a couple of times around the end of the elastic and glue down.  Do again on the other side.
  6. Hot glue the flowers to the elastic starting from the middle of the design you laid out in step 3.  Work your way out to the ends.
  7. Allow to dry an hour or so.

Now dance outside!  You’re done!

Flower Girl 3 copy Mary Riley Photography Wentzville Missouri

Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce

BBQ Sauce_1 on Whisk Together

Our book club book for the month is

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall.

I haven’t started it yet, but I did pick up Marina Keegan’s book The Opposite of Loneliness during our Fall Festival at the library.  I saw her on the news a couple of years ago due to her tragic death at the height of all she had accomplished by age 22.  Here are some quotes:

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. ”
“Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it: already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.”
“Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.  But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes . . .). We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.”

I like the last one the best 🙂


Yes, Fall is upon us.  But who doesn’t grill up a nice juicy burger in the garage or outside every now and then?  I know most guys are outside unless it’s -30 degrees.  And any burger needs a good BBQ sauce.  We were craving some BBQ sauce and were out… but had all the ingredients in the pantry.  #1, I try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.  #2 I try to stay away of processed junk.  Okay, so the first ingredient is processed… sorda.  I think Trader Joe’s organic ketchup is pretty close to the homemade thing.  #3 – I don’t like Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce.  It’s way too spicy hot for me and I can tolerate a good medium heat salsa.  So, I stopped buying it and made this one.  It’s even BETTER.  I promise.

The secret to great BBQ, sauces and smoky flavor without all the time and wood chips?  Liquid Smoke, my friend.  Sigh.  It deserves its own book even.  One of the best ingredients ever.  Amazingly cheap.  And all natural.  If you can count smoke as natural.  Ugh I would hope so.  I’m sure some paleo policeman will come after me.  

Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce


  • 1 and 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 Tb. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb. honey
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I left this out.)
  • 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (I like Figaro's hickory smoke. But try the smoke you like the most.)
  • 2 Tb dijon mustard (or the mustard you have on hand)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mix it up and eat! Always taste test as you go. Add more honey for a sweeter sauce. Add more hot sauce if you like it with a kick.
  2. Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Homemade No Cook BBQ Sauce

1 and 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tb. cider vinegar
3 Tb. honey
1 and 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (I left this out for the kids’ sake.  I’ll stick to that story.)
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (I like Figaro’s hickory smoke.  But try the smoke you like the most.)
2 Tb dijon mustard (or the mustard you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it up and eat!  Always taste test as you go.  Add more honey for a sweeter sauce.  Add more hot sauce if you like it with a kick.

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Perfect (at home) Pedicure

Perfect (at home!) Pedicure at Whisk Together

This is a little off-topic… maybe considered “a craft”???  But hey, it took me nearly 20 years to figure this out and therefore I figure I better share it with everybody!  During the winter, my feet get well… dry… flaky, cracked… really not pretty.  After going through many products over the years, I finally found the ones that worked and how to use them.  They are not expensive and really, cost less than one pedicure anyway!

Step One:

Buy a microplane foot rasp and use it on the dry skin.  Do this over the bathtub!  Or you will have dead skin all over your floor.  Here is the one I bought and works great.  The reviews agree!

(photo from Amazon)

Step Two:

Soak your feet in warm, soapy water.  Do this in a chair, or I just take a longer shower.  Soak for about 5 minutes or longer.

Step Three:

Use a pumice stone to soften your feet.  Rub and rub.  I haven’t found one that doesn’t work… but the pumice stones with handles on them seem easier to use.  Bath and Body Works carry them as well as regular stores.

(photo from Amazon)

Step Four:

Pat dry your feet and slather on petroleum jelly all over.  I have tried many different lotions, but they just don’t seem to work well on feet.  I do love the scent of Bath and Body Works Foot Cream – Shea Isn’t So.  Put on your cotton socks and you’re ready to roll!

(Photo from Amazon)

 Super Rich Foot Cream Spa Size - Shea It isn't So - True Blue® Spa - Bath & Body Works

(photo from Bath and Body Works)

Step Five:  The next day after your feet have soaked in that jelly, push back any cuticles, trim your toenails evenly, file them and paint them if you wish.  It’s winter right now here, so I feel this is optional.  It was 60 degrees today, so perhaps sandal weather is almost here!

How to Upholster Your Dining Chairs

Changing Up Dining Chairs!

So, it’s been almost 7 years of children in the house.  They really did a number on my seat cushions, but they weren’t destroyed or anything.  Since the youngest is 3 years old, I thought it might be time to redo the cushions.  Instead of buying a whole new dining set, of course.  This was WAY cheaper.  I spent a total of $22.50* to redo all 6 chairs – or $3.50 per chair.  Or, even if you don’t have kids and want to change up your colors  – this is a great, fast and easy and cheap way to do it!  With the holidays coming up and people coming over, this will be a good change.

The first step is to pick your fabric.  A good fabric store and cutter should know how much fabric you need.  For a standard chair, you need 3/4 of a yard of 50″ outdoor fabric for every two chairs.  My chairs are pretty standard and measure 17″ by 20″.  Therefore, I need 23″ by 26″ of fabric for each cover.  Always just add 6″ to the width and height.  The depth of my chairs was about an inch… again pretty standard, so 6″ extra was plenty.  Why outdoor fabric?  Well, you can cover your chairs with blue jeans, drama t-shirts (I have NO shortage of those!) or cotton  or anything really.  However, outdoor fabric is already treated to be stain, mold and mildew resistant.  Food falls right off and food stains wipe right up – believe me.  The kids gave me plenty of testing.  🙂  I finished all 6 chairs in about 2-2 and 1/2 hours.  The longest part is taking the screws out of the bottom and putting them back in.

*I purchased the fabric from Joann’s which almost always has Outdoor Fabric at 50% off .  Regularly it is $19.99 for most prints.  It is $9.99 per yard on sale.  If you sign up to be on their mailing list or use their app,  you can get 15% or 10% off your total purchases – even sale purchases – as well.

Upholster Dining ChairsPrintable Instructions Here

You will Need:
3/4 of a yard of outdoor fabric 50″  per 2 chairs
staple gun
measuring tape

New Dining Chair Upholstery_4 on WHisk Together

1.  Obtain your fabric.  See above for my opinion on what to pick.  Remove your seat from the dining chair.  For me, this involved unscrewing 6 screws.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_2 on Whisk Together

2.  Cut a square that is 6″ wider and longer than the actual seat cushion.  For me, my cushion was 17″ long by 20″ wide.  Therefore, I cut squares that were 23″ by 26″.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_7 on Whisk Together

3.   Lay your  seat cushion on top of the fabric like in the photo.  Pay special attention to the fabric if it is something like stripes.  You want to make sure they are lined up straight.  Wrap two sides around to make sure they will fit snugly.  You want to pull it tight – but not so tight that it pulls the fabric’s design out of place.  (e.g.  your stripes are not straight because you are pulling too tight on the fabric.)  You are covering the seat UNLESS your seat has huge rips, smells bad because of something soaking in, etc.  Mine had none of those issues, so I covered them instead.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_6 on Whisk Together

4.  Place 1 staple in the center of one edge.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_10 on Whisk Together

5.  Continue to staple outwards along this edge.  Don’t get too close to the corners.  Leave about 2″ at least on either side away from the corners.

6.  Move to the other side of the cushion and staple the same way on the OPPOSITE side of where you just stapled.  Repeat this stapling for the other two opposite sides.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_12 on Whisk Together

7.  Now corners can be a little tricky, but with a little patience they will look just fine.  First, grip the corner of the fabric and fold it onto the cushion.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_13 on Whisk Together

8.  Next, take one of the corners and fold it towards the middle.

New Upholstery Chair_1 on Whisk Together

9.  Take the other corner and fold it towards the middle as well.  It doesn’t matter which order you go in.  Though it seemed to me that one way always looked better than the other way.  So, I just tried both sometimes until I got it looking right.

New Upholstery Chair_2 on Whisk Together

10.  You may want to flip the cushion over to see if it looks nice on the other side.    If so, staple that down!  If not, try folding it starting with another corner first and see how that looks.  I usually used 4-5 staples on the corner.

New Upholstery Chair_4 on Whisk Together

New Upholstery Chair_5 on Whisk Together

11.  At this point, you are finished once you finish all 4 corners.  You may trim your extra fabric off if you like.

12.  Flip your beautiful new cushion over!

New Dining Chair Upholstery_8 on Whisk Together

13.  Attach it to the chair.  Marvel in the chair while it is still clean for 5 minutes.  Tell child to please get out of the photos.  Etc. Etc.

New Dining Chair Upholstery_15 on Whisk Together

Instant Vanilla Pudding

Instant Vanilla Pudding on Whisk Together

After finding out how easy it was to make a homemade chocolate pudding mix, I thought it would only be right to make vanilla as well.  Now, we don’t eat vanilla pudding often, but there are a myriad of applications like adding pudding mixes to cakes, or making a very quick pastry cream, or using it as a base for other flavors.  You could use vanilla pudding to make an Eclair Cake or a Banana Cream Pie.

The one I made was super vanilla because I used my vanilla sugar for the sugar.  To make vanilla sugar, simply add a scraped vanilla bean specks and the bean to a bunch of sugar and let it sit.  I bought a bunch of beans here and found they are lasting quite a while.  Vanilla beans are quite expensive purchased at the stores, so I bought them online instead.  Or, you could find a couple friends who want to split the cost.  Ha ha, get it?  “Split”  Like split the vanilla bean… okay, never mind.

Pudding has a really interesting history.  Apparently, a man’s wife was allergic to yeast and eggs.  So, he created pudding in order for her to enjoy dessert.  Isn’t that “sweet”?

Instant Vanilla Pudding_1 on Whisk Together

Instant Vanilla Pudding
serves 4

To Make the Mix:
3/4 cup (2.25 oz) nonfat milk powder
3/4 cup (3 oz.) cornstarch
1 cup (7 oz.) sugar or vanilla sugar
2 whole vanilla beans, split, scraped and cut into 3 pieces*
1 tsp. kosher salt

*If you absolutely do not want to buy vanilla beans, my replacement would be to add 2 tsp. of vanilla extract AFTER the pudding has been cooked on the stove and removed from the heat.  That way the vanilla flavor won’t cook out.  Stir in and cover with plastic wrap and chill for cold pudding or stir and eat for warm pudding.

1.  Mix it all up!  Store in a airtight, dry place.

Instant Vanilla Pudding_2 on Whisk Together

To Make the Pudding:

1/2 cup mix
2 cups milk or half and half***

1.  Whisk the mix and milk in a medium saucepan.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Whisk often.
2.  Once it starts to boil, bring the stove down to medium-low or low and simmer for 4 minutes.  Whisk the entire time in order to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.
3.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Some websites had it ready at this point.  I thought it was better chilled.  So, put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (to keep it from forming a skin) and chill in the fridge for 4 hours.

***If you want to fill tarts or cakes with a pastry cream like filling, simply reduce the milk to 1 and 1/2 cups.  After removing the pot from the heat, add your flavor:  more vanilla, fiori di sicilia, peppermint, etc.

I made mine super duper vanilla by putting another scraped vanilla bean into the saucepan which is my photo has so many vanilla bean specks.  I told ya I have a lot of beans!

Recipe from

Instant Chocolate Pudding

Juliana with Chalkboard Copyright

I took a quick photo of my daughter with one of my new backdrops and just had to post it 🙂  Plus, this is a kid-friendly food blog post, so I thought it would be okay.  Yep, that is a backdrop!  I don’t have any props – just gave her the chair from her room and a pearl necklace.  It was so fast I didn’t even cover my carpeted flooring.  That’s okay.  Keeping it real and simple here.  The backdrop was put up temporarily using painter’s tape.

instant Chocolate Pudding_5 on Whisk Together

This recipe works!!!   I was so happy this recipe worked AND both kids liked it.  I would only post this if my 6 year old and 2 year old liked it as well because I feel it is important for it to pass the kids’ picky palate test.  My kids aren’t terribly picky… but I do find that children seem to be more sensitive to flavors.

instant Chocolate Pudding_7 on Whisk Together

Jello pudding is a staple in most households and most of these ingredients are actually in the box (like sugar, cornstarch, and chocolate).  However, the pudding isn’t quite as dark when made homemade because you don’t have red #40, yellow #5 and blue #1.  Even if you don’t care about those things, this is really a cinch to make and you don’t have to run out to the store to buy a box if you have these simple ingredients on hand.

***Update*** regarding “Instant” as many people have commented about this not being an instant pudding.  The definition of the adjective “instant” per Merrium-Webster is: “a (1) : premixed or precooked for easy final preparation<instant pudding>”.  This is why the books publish this recipe as instant.  Hey. learn something new every day!

Also, please note this is called instant because it contains no lengthy cooking time watching eggs.  If you watch professionals make chocolate pudding from scratch, the pudding will contain egg yolks and a host of other ingredients with a much lengthier cook/wait time.  That is why it is called instant in this sense.  I was confused at first, too.  But then I found the “real” recipe for chocolate pudding.  This is faster.  Believe me.

Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
makes 3 and 3/4 cup mix

3 oz. Dutch processed cocoa*, about 1 cup
2 oz. cornstarch, about 1/2 cup
6 oz. powdered sugar, about 1 and 1/2 cups
1 and 1/2 oz. instant non-fat dry milk, about 1/2 cup
1 tsp salt

*I have successfully substituted Hershey’s Dark Cocoa in the past.  This product contains a mixture of natural and Dutch processed cocoa.  But, I made this recipe with King Arthur Flour’s Double Dutch Cocoa.

1.  I put everything in an airtight container on my kitchen scale.  The kids shook it, and we were done!
Original directions state to store in the fridge up to 1 month.  I think you could get at least 3 months.  Plus, I store these ingredients in my pantry, so mine is in my pantry.  The freezer would be a great storage spot, too!

instant Chocolate Pudding_1 on Whisk Together

instant Chocolate Pudding_3 on Whisk Together

How to make the pudding:
(I have been able to also halve the recipe by using half the ingredients.  To halve the pudding mix, you need 7/8 of a cup, or 1 cup minus 2 Tb., then halve the rest of the ingredients of course.)

1 and 3/4 cup Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 cups of milk
2 cups of cream**
1 tsp. vanilla extract

**I have also used half and half to replace the milk and cream before and it has been successful.  I have read reviews that 2% milk works as well.

1.  In a medium sized saucepan:  whisk together your pudding mix and liquid ingredients (milk and cream or half & half).  (This part is also why you need dutch processed cocoa.  It dissolves in liquids much better than natural.)

2.  Heat them on medium.  Boil and whisk together.  Whisk once in a while.

3.  Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to low and whisk together for FOUR minutes.  Whisk constantly to keep the bottom from burning.

4.  Take pot off the heat, whisk in the vanilla.

instant Chocolate Pudding_4 on Whisk Together

5.  Pour this mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl.  Cover the pudding with plastic wrap right on the surface.  Chill for 4 hours.  Feel free to top with whipped topping, oreos, etc.

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Recipe from Alton Brown Good Eats volume 2 which calls it “instant chocolate pudding mix”
as well as the Food Network website

Make Your Own Celebration Plate!

Plate Craft

This is another one of the crafts we did at MOPS, and I wish I had brought my camera to show you all the cool ideas the ladies came up with.  You could write any saying or use any drawing or simply use the plate even as a great way to remember a special day by having everyone sign it at your party!  The possibilities are endless.  I’ll try to list a few, some links for picture inspiration and tips.  I thought these would be cute for Christmas cookies and if you wrote down the recipe on the plate and wrapped it up with cellophane with the cookies on top.  Or, I heard one family that discussed each other’s day using the plate.  The person with the worst day got the special plate for dinner or something like that.

1.  Use your family’s last name initial and then “Est. 2010” at the bottom
2.  Write the child’s name and date of the birthdate.
3.  Use an initial in the middle and family members around the edges.
4.  “Happy Birthday!” or “Happy Birthday to You!”
5.  Write a favorite song or lyric
6.  Just draw pictures or doodles
7.  Draw blank faces.  Then, you can put orange or apple slices around them for the hair, marshmallows for teeth, etc.
8.  Draw a spiderweb
9.  You are Special
10.  Cookies for Santa
11.  Write a Recipe
12.  Bible Verse

1.  Try to sketch it out on a piece of scratch paper first.  Even the writing part.
2.  Try to avoid using yellow permanent marker.  I am not sure if it was the sharpie brand or the fact that it was yellow, but the yellow markers all dulled to a muted gross yellow color after the plate was finished.
3.  Some people have put these plates in the dishwasher successfully.  If you want to cherish it and use it often, of course handwashing is probably best.  We were also handed the cheap, clear plastic disposable plates to put on top of our plate – just so someone didn’t accidentally chip the art with the fork.

Permanent markers
oven-safe plate

1.  Make sure the plate is clean and dry.
2.  Decorate using permanent markers.
3.  Put the plate in the oven and turn it on to 350 degrees.  Let the oven heat up and then bake it for a total of 30 minutes.  Remove plate and cool.

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