Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cheddar Dill Biscuits

-2 C AP Flour (Or alternatively, you could do as I did and split it half and half on AP and whole wheat)
-6 TB butter, soft
-1 C Milk, plus maybe an extra splash as needed
-1 TB baking powder
-4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (from the block, stop buying that preshredded plastic mess)
-1 to 2 TB fresh chopped dill or more, I personally think dill is pretty mild and like to err on the side of more

You just want to mix all these ingredients up, adding a little extra splash of milk if the dough seems too firm.  Mine was firm enough to handle but soft enough to still stick all over me.

I have developed a new, fun, and probably somewhat strange way of putting biscuits on a pan.  Any time I end up with a stiffer dough, because sometimes mine are very much drop biscuits, I tear off a hunk of dough and roll it into a ball in my hands, flattening it slightly.  I am not sure how I developed such a love for this, but it is really quick and gets me fairly consistent biscuits.

Anyway put them on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 for 18 minutes.  18 is the magic biscuit number, at least for me and my oven anyway.

You could also make a dill compound butter to spread on these and really send them over the tip top of the flavor mountain.

I sincerely love dill, it is right up there with cilantro on my list of fresh herbs I love, and I think it is really a little more flexible than cilantro.  These will make good breakfast munchies for me, and the rest will travel home with me this weekend to be enjoyed by family. 

I am exhausted, as I have been at a sprint ever since I got home to get all my dishes washed, snacks for work prepared as I promised to bring in treats this Friday, making something I could eat for breakfast, and hopping in the shower.  I am finally to the point where I can at least lay down soon and hopefully deal with some of the rest of this in the morning.

I don't know about you, but I never feel like it is possible to be completely caught up on dishes.

Happy crafting!
Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Man Candy: Cashews or Pecans, Dark Chocolate, and BACON

-8 oz of preferred nut (I used cashews for one batch and pecans for the other batch) plus more for topping
-1 big bag of Nestle Dark Chocolate chips
-bacon, fried crispy and crumbled (1 strip should do about 5 bars, so think 5 or 6 strips)
-1 egg per batch
-5 teaspoons of honey (or just a big squirt)

Pulse the nuts in your food processor until they are nicely pulverized dust.  Have I mentioned how much I love my food processor??

Empty those out into a bowl (you could probably do all this in the food processor but I am weird) and mix in the honey, egg, and salt.  I mixed it all with a fork.  I use jumbo eggs, so you might have to add a bit more honey if you use smaller eggs to make it stick together.

I dropped teaspoons of the batter onto a greased dark cookie sheet and then flattened them out.  I highly suggest spraying your hands with cooking spray to do that.

Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes or until the edges start to brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool.

Cook some bacon until it is crispy and rough chop a few more of the nuts to top the bars.  Melt the chocolate according to package directions and pour over the candy bars (I transferred them to wax paper to do this to avoid a big mess).  Top with nuts and bacon pieces and allow them to cool and set.

If you need to rush them, you can pop them in the fridge to set them.  If you leave them in there too long or need to store them like I might because your apartment or house is warm, the chocolate may lose its sheen, but it will still taste plenty good.

Each batch of this made about 25-30 little bars.

I used raw cashews, you may prefer to use salted and roasted, I am pretty sure that would be delicious as well.  It was a tough call in the grocery store.

I also did not realize I liked dark chocolate until now.  So that is another benefit! These are for my work peeps for post-Halloween snacking when I am there Friday.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crockpot Pork Cooked in Apple Cider

-1 pork tenderloin, a section of it, or other favorite pork roast cut
-1 sweet potato
-1 to 2 large carrots
-2 ears of corn
-1.5 C Apple Cider (the best is from Trader Joe's)
-2 TB* Balsamic Vinegar
-2/3 C water
-salt and pepper
-1/2 TB rosemary
-Pinch of garlic

These are the numbers I would use, but I actually would suggest upping the liquids to enough to cover the pork, it just makes it a lot juicier (typically how I cook my pulled pork is enough water to just cover it).  Also, I think you could easily up the balsamic to about 1/4 C or so and really change the broth, but I liked the bright apple-y flavor that still shined through.

Regardless, all you have to do is pop all of this in your crockpot with the carrots and sweet potatoes cubed/chopped into large sections and the ears of corn wrapped in foil. 

I do think that this pork is good just like so, but it does not get as juicy as my usual pulled pork crockpot version does, so I am a little biased.  If you made a sauce to go with this, however, out of the broth maybe with a little more balsamic or brown sugar or something and reduced it down, then it would be a whole different ball game. I personally will probably submerge mine in liquid next time.

I cooked this on low for 8 hours.

Now, the undisputed most amazing part of this was the SWEET POTATOES!  They tasted fantastic.  It was a lot like eating some sort of candied sweet potato, and the natural flavor of them mixed so well with the bright apple yumminess that I was basically in Sweet Potato Heaven, or SPH for short.

The corn was really good too.  I hardly put any butter on it and it still tasted crazy good and sinful like I had drown it in butter.  I did not wrap mine very tightly so I am sure some of my juices mingled in and I don't mind one bit.

If you served this up with cornbread, you would probably win the favorite cook of the day award with whomever you are dining with.  I give myself that award all the time ;).

Even if you just throw this pork roast in with water and a few seasonings, add a little butter, and then cook the corn with it, it would result in a tasty meal when you walked in the door.

If you are cooking it without having it submerged but can turn it in the crockpot a couple times during cooking (I could not as I am at school the vast majority of two days a week) it would still result in a much juicier end product.

Happy crafting!
Pin It Now!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lemon Dill Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients per two wraps:
-2 romaine lettuce leaves
-2 chicken tenders or one chicken breast
-1/4 C cooked wild rice blend
-6 asparagus spears
-1/4 C mushroom slices
-Fresh Dill
-Fresh Lemon
-Salt pepper
-EVOO or butter, your preference

I cooked my asparagus, chicken, and mushrooms together in a pan with a little water and about a half TB of butter.  I sprinkled about a teaspoon of dill over the whole dish, focusing mostly on the chicken, and squeezed a little lemon juice over it.  Make sure you salt and pepper everything.

I added a little more dill to the chicken when I turned it over.  Once your chicken is done (I cut mine into smaller pieces to make sure the inside was completely cooked since mine had been frozen) you can divide the rice between the romaine leaves, top it with half the mushrooms, asparagus, and chicken, and then put a few extra little dill sprigs to finish it off.

I was really happy with how this turned out, and actually a little surprised.  I got this idea because I ate out about 5 times over the span of about 60 hours...which made me feel like a beached whale (figuratively and rather exaggerated).  When I went to Meijer to grocery shop, I stayed solely in the produce and egg areas and did not even buy bread.  The bread thing though is also due to the fact that my Meijer ONCE AGAIN did not have my very favorite Eurograin bread.

This is getting tragic, it is changing my eating habits...

No actually I am pretty happy that this has all worked out like it did.  I signed up for MPerks finally and even though I bought a lot of produce, my order only came to 16 bucks which was a welcomed change, especially since it included restocking my chicken supply.  I doubt that the fresh dill will last as long as my cilantro has, but I intend on storing it the same way to test it out.

This many weeks for a fresh herb is pretty impressive.  That glass of water and plastic bag are champs.

Anyway, I hope to provide some more tasty lettuce wrap recipes this week for healthy lunches!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Social Studies Explorers Themed Study Game

My best friend is a teacher, and every now and then she lets me help her come up with creative ways to help her students study in the form of games.   Currently, they are learning about explorers, which is a topic near and dear to my heart as I have always been in and loved geography and similar.

So what we came up with was using the battleship boards or printouts with ships to fit the high seas scenarios.  Basically, the questions would be either read aloud or put into a PowerPoint, whichever you prefer, and each team (two teams or however many boards you could get your hands on) would write down the answer to the question.

If the team gets it right, yay! If the team gets it wrong, that is a peg in one of their ships.  We also proposed that if a team got some number right (3-5) in a row, they could remove a peg from one of their ships. 

Whoever has the most intact fleet at the end of the game (or round, or whatever you want to break it down as) would win. 

There are all kinds of things that you could do with this, you could have little treats at the end for the winning team with those little gold chocolate coins, Hershey treasures (do they still make those?), or similar.

If you don't want to get the boards and keep track of all those little pieces, you could easily get some ship clip art, print out multiple ships on a page, and put boxes next to them that would get checked instead of pegs going in holes. 

I am really glad my best friend lets me in on things like this, because I always enjoyed the games that my teachers used in high school to help us study.  It really did make it all so much more enjoyable and quite frankly easier to remember than just a typical study guide. 

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

DIY Decorative Pumpkin

You will need:
-a small white craft pumpkin or real pumpkin (I got a small craft one for $4 at Target)
-Black puffy paint

I always want to decorate my apartment for fall, but I am really not one to use real pumpkins because I don't want to have to worry about them getting old and such.  Basically, I want to be able to be as forgetful as possible while looking like I actually take the time to get festive.

I also love all the cute pumpkins that you can buy at Hobby Lobby and places that are all swirled and awesome, but I never really want to pay money for them.  I will also admit that I am terrible with decals, and mine never go on very smoothly.

My solution? Make them myself!

So all I did was put a simple swirled design  around the sides, leaving a relatively round section where I could put a monogram.

I freehanded in the monogram, but you could also mark on it with a pencil and then go over it. 

You could add color if you like (black glitter would be amazing) and if you ended up not liking the black on white you could always spray paint the pumpkin to make a solid color with a raised design.

This took very little time to put together, it is lightweight, and it won't rot!  That is my kind of decoration.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Maple Pecan Crusted Salmon (No eggs, flour, or butter)

You will need (per serving):
-1 Salmon piece, mine was a more narrow strip about 1.5 inches wide and maybe 3-4 inches long (fresh or thawed). 
-1 TB Dark Amber REAL maple syrup mixed with 1/2 tsp chia seeds and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle peppers (let this stand together about 10-20 minutes)
-1 TB almond meal (pulverized almond dust as I like to call it) and 1 TB of finely chopped pecans mixed together
-Salt and pepper
-Optional, BACON (did not try this but reeeeeally want to next time)

Preheat your oven to 350F and put a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet.  I like to turn the edges up a bit just to ensure nothing runs over.  I love to avoid washing baking sheets whenever possible.

Put your salmon on the foil, hit it with some salt and pepper, and pour or brush about half the maple mixture over it.  Sprinkle on at least 3/4 of the nut mixture.  You can use it all if you want or if your piece is bigger.  Mine just really did not have enough real estate to put all of it on.

Lightly drizzle a little more of the maple mixture on top.  I used almost all of mine between the two rounds.  I put more on top because I wanted to make sure that the nut mixture got nice and carmelized as well.

Bake for 15-18 minutes and serve with something equally tasty, my choice was pumpkin ravioli from Trader Joe's.  I tossed the ravioli in a little hot pepper infused oil and sprinkled the remaining nut mixture on it and put some parmesan cheese on top.  It was fantastic!

You may be wondering, why chia? Well, chia is one of my favorite things to hide in recipes.  Chia seeds are a trendy super food, and from what I have been reading they are also a viable substitute for butter.  They pretty much absorb liquids and seem to just take on the flavor of whatever is around them, so I figured it was a perfect time to add them in. 

I highly suggest picking up a bag of almond meal from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.  It is absolutely my favorite thing to put as a crust on fish.  And of course, you need it if you want to experiment with macarons, too! I often sub out parts of the flour called for in recipes like fruit crisps, cookies, etc. for almond flour.  I have yet to be disappointed!

This is easily my new favorite way to prepare salmon. It was so simple and amazingly tasty.  Since it is baked it would be very easy to make it for a larger crowd of people. Sadly, this was my last piece of salmon, so hopefully I can find a good sale on it soon. 

This coating would also be great for chicken and pork in my opinion too, if you happen to have some friends and family that are not real fond of fish.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Batgirl Halloween Costume (mostly from my closet)

-Corset, which could easily be swapped out for a black tube top, bathing suit (tankini) top, or even a tank top
-Black leggings
-grey over-the-knee boots (Naughty Monkey Fuel Me Up, for any boot lovers out there.  I found them on amazon a few years ago and LOVE THEM)
-yellow high belt (Body Central)
-Batman earrings (Flea market find!)
-Cape, children's size for less than $10 from Meijer

I made the bat sleeves by picking up some yellow calico fabric from Hobby Lobby, wrapping it around my arm to figure out how wide to cut the strip, and then tailoring it from there.

I also put black trim on the ends of them. When I cut the strip originally I made it where I would not have to cut any off the top that would be where the widest part of my arm is.  I sewed on the black trim first by wrapping a strip of black vinyl (had it leftover) around the edge of the fabric and sewing it down.

Now that I think about it, it would actually be much simpler to cut the fabric where you had a wide enough strip that would wrap all around your arm, long enough that it would cover it.  Then you would only have a seam in the back....much better.  Do that instead.  Sew the black trim on first still, then wrap it around your arm and either creatively pin it yourself or have someone else put pins and markings in the material so that you can taper it.

You may want to make the bottom of the sleeve a little wider than your wrist to account for getting it over your hand.

I cut little bat emblems out of the black vinyl and rough tacked them on.

For the legs, I suggest making a panel of material to tape inside your boots that goes about 3/4 of the way around your leg.  This will make it easier for it all to move together, especially when you are dealing with over the knee boots.

I am considering a bat necklace of some sort but I might just leave it all as it is and not worry about it.  So far, I have about $15 invested in the whole outfit.

That is not too shabby!

I will probably wear my hair in a sock bun and put a bow in it, because with the way the weather is being here it will probably snow, and my hair gets really staticky.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bacon Apple Crisp

-2 jars of apple pie filling (mine was home canned by family members, the best kind!)
-1/2 pack of bacon
-Equal parts brown sugar, flour, oats (I mix up a cup of each, although I actually sub part of my flour out for almond meal because I am sneaky like that)
-1 stick of butter (I never use the whole stick but I melt it all anyway)

Fry up your bacon to where it just starts to get crispy.  I say I am going to candy it every single time I make something like this and then I end up not doing and then I end up wishing that I did.  So all I am saying is that I think it would be a really good idea if you candied it...either with brown sugar or maple syrup (the REAL KIND not that pancake crap, throw that junk OUT).  ;)

Anyway, I sprayed my pan with baking spray and then plopped the apple pie filling in.  I cut the apple chunks up a bit since it was home canned but I left a lot of big ones in too. 

Mix up your topping and sprinkle it over the apples.  I did not use all of mine and again, I wish I had because a lot of my topping melted into the crisp.  It wasn't bad by any means, but it also wasn't as crisp as I would was a crispless crisp....On the other hand, I loved the attention being on the delicious apples and bacon, so maybe I would not want a thick topping as much as I imagine I would. 

Anyway, top your bacon on next and then pour just enough of the butter over the entire dish to moisten it.  Me and my ultra-precise measuring strikes again....

In an oven heated to 350F, bake the crisp for 22 minutes.  Remove and serve (if only we could serve this with maple bacon ice cream!) or cool it to take to work the next day and hope to heck you don't forget it.  For the record, I remembered to take it with me and it did not even run me late (forgetting to pack my lunch did run me late, which is ironic because I only ate a tiny bit of it and then went out to eat anyway...I am a sucker for Mexican food and lunch discussions).

Bacon apple crisp is much simpler than the mini pies, and it seemed to go over really well at work.  I ate a bite of it myself, and thought it wasn't too shabby.  Like I said above, if I had it to do over again I would probably use all of the topping.  The candied bacon part is not as critical, but would be interesting to see how it changes it.

It is a good sweet/salty/savory combo, in my opinion. I actually really like this concept of messing around with fruit pies and crisps because they tend to be such typical one note wonders.  There is really never a lot of variety in flavor or textures.  The exception to the flavor thing is pumpkin pie, which most people horrifically over-spice for my taste buds.  Why not add a little ginger to a peach crisp and put pecans in the topping?  Why not add bacon to apple? Why not add slivered almonds to a cherry one? WHY follow any typical culinary traditions that have stood the test of time ;).

This is definitely one of the side effects of watching the food network all the time during my undergrad.  I do actually find myself being judgmental on textures and flavor profiles...

I have a few other bacon ideas rolling around in the ole noggin', with the most curious being bacon on a homemade candy bar of sorts (mentioned during the first couple of weeks and knocking around my brain ever since)...but I mostly think I am fascinated by that idea because I want to call it "man candy".  Haha, I would make it just because the name would make me chuckle.

"What's that you have there?"

"Man candy."

"...Wait, what?"

Yep, that would be an instant classic. 

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lighten Up: Mexican Street Corn Salad

-1/3 C wild rice blend or quinoa, cooked to directions
-1/2 C frozen corn
-1/4 C peppers (I used red sweet peppers and green bell) diced
-Onion (I typically use a couple rings diced up, not a whole lot, use more to preference)
-About 10-15 fresh cilantro leaves, cut up
-1/2 C light or fat free sour cream mixed with 2+ tsp of adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
-1/4 light or fat free feta or other preferred cheese (cojita would be more authentic, but I tend to only have feta on hand)

Get the rice or quinoa cooking according to directions and put about a TB of butter or oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add your peppers, onion, and a couple TB or so of water.  Pop a lid on that and let it steam for a five to eight minutes or so (more if you like soft veggies, less if you like crunchy). 

Now, authentic street corn is grilled but if you are like me you don't have a grill.  So, I cook mine in with my peppers in the skillet.  You lose that char, but it is all still really tasty.  Add your corn into the skillet and hit it with a little salt and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves. 

Drain your rice if needed when it is finished and add it and the veggies to a bowl.  Add the cheese and sour cream mixture and the remaining bits of cilantro leaves.  Give it a good stir, taste, and adjust salt and adobo sauce as needed.

I am refrigerating mine overnight and taking it to work for lunch.  This would also make a really tasty side dish.  You could also add chicken in to make it even more hearty if you wanted.

Traditional Mexican street corn involves mayo which is fine, but it is a really easy ingredient to swap out for something a little lighter like sour cream.  I ALWAYS have sour cream with my favorite Mexican foods anyway, so to me this just makes sense.

You can either eat this as is, but you also might consider stuffing this in a tomato for something different.  Lunches sometimes get boring, and I think this dish is a pretty good kick up from a sandwich.  I loved it right when I made it when it was warm, and have tasted it as it is getting cold in my fridge and think it is also delicious, so I fully believe it will be very versatile.

And it is colorful! What a fun perk.

My cilantro leaves are STILL just fine in my fridge.  I have had them in there weeks and weeks in a cup of water with a Ziploc bag popped down over the leaves.  I have them sitting on the bottom shelf of my door, and I am legitimately impressed with how long they have lasted.  Some of them will be finding their way to some chicken tortilla crockpot soup tomorrow...mmmmmm yummy!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homemade Noodles with Ground Beef and Mushrooms

-1 C AP flour
-1 jumbo egg
-1/2 to 1 TB oil
-dash of salt
-1/2 to 3/4 lb ground beef
-1 C mushrooms, sliced

Mix the flour, egg, oil, and salt together to form the pasta dough, adding enough oil that the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for about five minutes until the dough is smooth.  You may want to put a little EVOO on your hands.

Rub the dough ball in a little oil and wrap in saran wrap and let it rest for thirty minutes.

When the dough is rested, roll out very thin and cut into slices, then cut those into sections to make little strips of noodles. 

Start cooking your ground beef and mushrooms in a skillet.  Get some water heating with a TB or so of butter and a little dash of salt.

When it is boiling, drop in your noodles and let cook for 8-10 minutes, on the low side if your noodles are really nice and thin.  I am a bit of a lazy bum so some of mine were thicker. 

Drain the noodles, then drain the ground beef mixture over it if your colander is fine enough.  If not, add a little butter to the noodles to make sure they don't stick and then drain and add your beef.  Salt to taste and enjoy!

This should make enough for about two people.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cheap Halloween DIY Decoration

What I used (all purchased from Wal-Mart):
-1 skull mug (about $2)
-1 pack of white tissue paper ($1)
-1 red glow stick ($1) or a couple LED lights for eyes (4 pack for $2.50)
-Optionals: Twizzlers (peel apart kind), Hershey kisses or candy, spider rings, and a marker

So for the top right skull, I stuck a red glow stick down in some tissue paper and stuck it in the mug.  Then, I wrapped the top of the paper all around the top and wrapped twizzlers around it to make it look like a brain.  Even just having the white tissue paper in it was cool because of the red glow that it creates.

For the other two, I put tissue paper in the bottom up to the eyes.  I put LED lights in with the bulbs pointed out toward the eyes and then filled the rest up with Hershey's for the left bottom one and tissue paper for the right bottom one.

I wrapped the twizzlers through the kisses for the left one and then drew a spider web for the right one and put spider rings around the rim and on the top. 

These were really cute and cost hardly anything! I think the spider one is probably my favorite.  If you don't want to use Twizzler's, you could always use something like red puffy paint, some round ribbon, or just draw on it with a marker.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Superhero Wall Art, Revisited

So I had some 8x8 square canvases that I wanted to make something on.  I loved the watercolor coasters that I did, and wanted to remake those designs for larger tiles for wall art.  I also wanted to bring in a few more superheroes.

I opted to change the design for the Spiderman one on this one, and to make the DC heroes fade at the bottom since they were going to be all emblems and not the actual character like the Marvel ones.

I still really like the Hulk. That one is easily the coolest.

I drew them out first, then painted a first coat, then finished the painting work and lacquered them when dry.  If you want to use them for coasters, you will need to polyurethane them, but as wall art a lacquer or sealant is fine. 

These really do not take long to do and result in some unique artwork for the wall.  It is a great way to make some inexpensive art for a young boys room, a game room, or similar.

You will have to give me a mulligan for these, I know I already posted the watercolor coaster ones and these are not just mind bogglingly different, but I was at the COOLEST jackolantern event tonight with thousands of carved and amazing pumpkins...

And after seeing craftiness like that, there was not much I could do tonight to compete ;).

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bake Sale Packaging and Treat Ideas

So there are a lot of different ways to package cupcakes for bake sales, but sometime you need something tall to account for cute decorations you may want to add on.  Or maybe you need something that will stack a little easier than the small cups in bags.

One option is to use cups with lids turned upside down.  The cool thing about this is that there is a rim on the lid that ends up holding a cupcake in place pretty well.  Obviously, if you have really heavy icing or typically top heavy cupcakes, it still may not secure them for transportation as well, but it is a great way to keep them in place while handling.

You can find these cups from your typical bulk product store.

We have had really good luck at past bake sales with biscuits.  A four pack of biscuits on a plate with a little ketchup/sauce cup of jelly is a great, less sweet addition to a bake sale.  Plus, bake sales typically start early in the morning and biscuits are breakfast food!

As I have posted, there are a lot of things you can do with biscuits too, making garlic herb biscuits, maple bacon biscuits, or cinnamon raisin biscuits.  With the sweeter versions, a simple powdered sugar/milk glaze makes them much like a scone without all the hassle.

And really, don't we sometimes just wish that bake sales were a little more simple?

These Duck Dynasty rings also added some extra cuteness to these cupcakes.  I really don't care how old you are or how big your hands are, you are going to try to put one of those rings on.  And that is that.  We are all still kids at heart when a cupcake is involved!

Four and six pack cupcakes are also a fun way to offer variety packs for those of us out there that just want to sample one of each.  Bright colors and fun boxes can add some liveliness to your bake sale table as well.

Another really simple treat is chocolate dipped pretzel rods with toffee, coconut, or peanut butter chips sprinkled over them before the chocolate sets.  This same idea can be done with oreos too, although pretzels are extensively more cost effective.  Sweet and salty is a nice balance from the super sweet other treats. 

Happy crafting!

Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Creative Leftovers: Pulled Pork BBQ on Maple Bacon Biscuits (Plus a Cheesy Quinoa Side)

For pulled pork, I cook a pork section of whatever variety is in my budget and the right size for my crockpot in enough water to cover it in a crockpot on low for 8 hours.  I usually have a couple TB of butter in the mix as well.  I cook ribs like this too and make rib pulled pork, it is awesomely delicious.

For the biscuits, I mixed the following ingredients and baked at 400 for 18 minutes (I suggest on parchment paper):
-2 1/3 C AP flour, 1/3 C more if you want them a stiffer dough
-1/2 stick butter, softened
-1 C milk
-1/4 C maple syrup (the real kind, dark amber)
-1 TB baking powder
-Dash of salt
-1/3 to 1/2 C freshly cooked and crumbled bacon pieces

I drizzled mine with a TB or so of maple syrup mixed with a little powdered sugar.

I also had some leftover quinoa and wild rice blended, both of which I made according to directions with some butter in the mix (I basically put a pat of butter in every pot of boiling water).

Now, to turn all of these yummy leftovers into my crazy good meal I did the following:

First, get a pot heating up and add your quinoa blend.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cubes of Colby jack depending on your desired level of cheesiness.  I would say mine was about 1/3 C.  Add in just shy of 1/4 C milk, and hit it with salt.  Let it heat on medium or low medium, stirring occasionally.

In a skillet on medium heat, add the pulled pork pieces and some Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.  Let that heat up and stir it around as needed. 

When your cheese is all melted in your quinoa and your pork and BBQ is sufficiently coated and heated, slice a maple bacon biscuit.  Top it with the BBQ and serve it up with your delicious cheesy quinoa.

That's right.  Pork on pork. It was so delicious I nearly fell off my stool (I have a pub set in the apartment).  If you were to retool this slightly and add an egg to make it a breakfast meal, I mean really you would probably never go out for breakfast again.  You would want to eat this every single day.

You would type your blog and realize there is nothing stopping you from doing it in the morning...decisions, decisions...

Decision made.

The bad part about this meal is that I really enjoyed the cheesy quinoa just a little too much.  I am not sure I can go back to eating regular quinoa now...I am not a big fan of things like mac-n-cheese typically, so I just assumed I would not be overly impressed with cheesy quinoa.


If you have picky eaters, I think that would be a great way to sneak it in from time to time.  You are really just a little salsa and some ground beef away from a "mexi rice" that at least hides in some protein.

Hey, that's a great idea that might just make it on to my meal plan for next week!

Leftovers are great if you find interesting ways to reuse them so you don't have to eat the exact same meal four times in one week.  Pork is often really cheap and there is nothing friendlier than a crockpot for some easy pulled pork.  You can also slather it with BBQ sauce and put it under the broiler for a few once it is done from the crockpot if you want more of a crispy carmelized taste.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maple Bacon Biscuits

-2 1/3 C AP flour*
-1 C Milk
-Half stick of butter, soft
-1/4 C maple syrup, the real kind, not that pancake junk
-Dash of salt
-at LEAST 1/3 C cooked and crumbled bacon pieces
-1 TB baking powder
-Optional 2 Tb of maple syrup mixed with 2-4 TB  of powdered sugar for drizzling when they come out of the oven (recommended)

I only used 1/3 C or so of bacon pieces because I only had a part of a pack left.  I would have really liked these to have had more in them and quite frankly would have liked to double the amount.  But the taste was still good and the little bacon pieces here and there were a welcome find.

Preheat your oven to 400 and mix all the biscuit ingredients together.  I have an asterisk on the flour because if you want these to be more like rolled and cutout biscuits you will need to up the flour.  I never make rolled biscuits, so I would suggest adding 1/4 to 1/3 C at a time til you get what you want. 

I would also suggest baking these on parchment paper.  They don't stick at all but the bottoms do get a little more brown since there is all the syrupy goodness in these.  I baked mine for 18 minutes.  The bottoms were not overdone, but they were a little crispy.  It was actually pretty tasty, but if I had to make them again I think I would opt for parchment.  I also bake on dark nonstick, so keep that in mind.

Bake these guys at 400 for 18 minutes, remove, and immediately drizzle with the maple and sugar mix if you want to give them a pseudo glaze.  You could also add a lot of sugar and make an actual glaze if you wanted these to be more like scones.  I wanted them to be like yummy biscuits that I can devour for breakfast since I ran out of my chia bread today.  I have been on a bit of a carb binge...

I absolutely loved these and I am not sure I can go back to regular biscuits! If I had bacon gravy to put on top of these, which is the only kind of gravy I make, I do believe that I would have been well passed cloud nine, maybe more like cloud ninety. 

My best description for what these taste like, other than utterly fantastic, is way better than a McGriddle.  They have a great texture, first of all, and it kind of tastes like the entire McGriddle in a biscuit because the bacon is already in there.  Maybe I was just lucky, but I did even find little tiny pockets of maple syrup through my biscuits. I mean really, you just can't argue with these guys.

If a McG sat around and dreamed of being a rockstar, these biscuits would be that dream.

I am one very happy camper, though one that is out of bacon.  That travesty must be corrected soon.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chia Poppy Wheat Bread

-2 C Whole Wheat Flour
-1 C AP flour
-1/4 C Almond Flour
-1 packet instant yeast
-1.5 C warm water
-healthy pinch of salt
-Optional addition: herbs of choice

-Handful of oats
-1 TB each of chia seeds and poppy seeds

Combine the warm water and yeast in your mixing bowl and let sit about 10 minutes or until foamy.  Add in 1 C of the whole wheat flour and stir, then add in the rest of the flour, salt, and any desired herbs.

The dough should be on the sticky side.  Oil a bowl and transfer the dough to it.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.  When nice and poofy, dust your counter with flour, having more on reserve to use as needed, and turn your dough out.  Sprinkle about 1/4th of the chia-poppy-oat combo onto the dough and start kneading.

Now, I only ended up using half of my chia mixture.  I think you can tell a lot by how something feels, and I just did not think that it would hold the rest of it.  I also think that eliminating the oats would be just fine if you don't want to mess with them, in which case it should handle all of the seeds just fine.

Knead it a couple minutes until it is smooth and no longer sticky.  Grease your loaf pan and plop in your dough. I brushed mine with oil and sprinkled more chia and oats on top, which worked fairly well but would have been better if I had used an eggwash.  So keep that in mind. Cover again with a towel and let rise for another forty-five minutes to an hour. Right before baking, slash the top 2-3 places to let it vent while baking.

I baked mine at 400 for about 35 minutes.  If you like crustier breads, cook at 450 until golden brown.  Let it cool on a wire rack.

Now, I know that true bread making gurus are going to hate me and that this is a bread sin, but after I cut mine with it still slightly warm, I popped it in a plastic bag.  I know, I can hear your anguish from here.  However, I will not apologize because I wanted the crust to soften back up a bit and it did.  So I got my way...which is really the important part of this story ;).

I think the most important thing to know is that the more mix-ins you mix in, the drier it may be.  With the exception of poppy seeds as I don't know much about their tendencies, chia and oats both soak up moisture.  My bread did not turn out dry and crumbly but it did turn out very hearty.  It eats a bit stronger than a typical bread.  The best way for me to describe it is more along the lines of an English muffin, and if you have ever had English muffin bread it is almost dead on to that.

I would like to try it without the oats and just using the seeds.  I am not sure how that would change things.  I really liked it as is though.

To describe the taste, oddly enough I would say it tasted like a saltine cracker.  It was not overly salty, mind you, but it tasted rich and buttery, like I think of crackers.  I used to eat butter on crackers as a kid all the time and I still would here if I ever could get through a pack of crackers before they go bad, and the first piece I tried from this loaf (with butter on it no less) made me think exactly of all that yummy happiness I feel with buttered crackers.... strange but true.

Now, how I would make this bread better....I would quite frankly add herbs.  After eating this bread I legitimately think that it would be perfectly complemented by my good friends basil and rosemary.  It has that natural heartier flavor and texture and you can tell it would hold up well to flavor.

I definitely liked this recipe enough that I would make it again.  This all started because Meijer was ONCE AGAIN out of my very favorite Eurograin bread and I was quite sad.  So I looked up a few recipes for using chia in bread and then gave them a healthy dose of shenanigans and went to work.  I always encourage people to do the same with my recipes:

Take what you like from here, mix it with what you like from there, and make it your own. 

That is what I really like about cooking, very few strict rules need be followed (except food safety rules of course).  Things are very adaptable, and even when a first recipe sucks (like my pork tonight) it may turn in to something good a day or so later (like the pizza it is going to become). 

And now, I know that if I don't find my beloved bread at Meijer (did everyone just start shopping there or what?! I miss my bread dangit!) I can whip up some pretty tasty carbs here.  The slices may not be as evenly cut, but they toast just the same.

That is the other thing about this bread, it holds up well to a toaster.  It actually is so much like the English muffin bread that I bought last week when my bread was not available at the store that it surprises me a little.  I may have stumbled upon a very convenient shenanigan.  I had to crank my toaster up a little passed 3 to even start getting color on it, which would have really darkened some of my other bread.   Mine was not crumbly when it came out of my toaster, either.

I slathered it with butter of course.

Anyway, I hope to get in to more and more fun bread shenanigans over the course of this current challenge.  I am, after all, a carbivore.

Happy crafting!
Pin It Now!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meatless Monday: Veggie Stir Fry in a Quinoa and Wild Rice blend

You will need:
-1/2 C Each of a Wild Rice Blend (I get mine at Trader Joe's) and 1/2 C Tri-Color Quinoa (which I also buy at Trader Joe's)  plus the water needed to cook, with salt and a TB of butter or similar added
-A handful of basically every vegetable you have in your fridge and freezer
-soy sauce, lime zest, ginger, garlic
-salt and pepper

Now for all you recipe lovin' fools out there you probably just cringed because there are no measurements here...sorry about that.  BUT I consider this dish to be one of the easiest and most flexible dishes a person can make, so it really will be tailored to your preferences.

For my veggies, I used the following: 1) summer squash (2) lima beans (3) corn (4) sweet red peppers (5) asparagus (6) mushrooms (7) onion, which I just did a few rings chopped up and not a small handful like all the others (8) broccoli slaw mix which I always have frozen...I think that is all.  I left most things be but snapped my asparagus (frozen) into pieces and sliced up my mushrooms. 

Get your quinoa and rice cooking, since quinoa takes about 20-30 minutes depending on who you ask and the rice blend takes about 30-35, I just cooked them together.  No rules in this kitchen! I always cook anything like that with a little pat of butter and salt. 

When there is about 15-20 minutes left, drop all your veggies that will need to cook the longest in a skillet with a little pat of butter or preferred substitute and about 1/4 C of water.  Add in a little drizzle of soy sauce, about 1/4th tsp of lime zest and about 2-3 shakes of ginger. Hit them with a dash of salt and pepper as well.

You know when you go to shake a spice and hardly any comes out? That is when I err on the side of more. 

Pop a lid down on all this and let it steam about 7-8 minutes.  If you don't like your veggies very soft, you may want to adjust this time down.  Add in your remaining veggies and cook about 4 more minutes, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper with the new additions.  Add water as needed.

When your veggies are sufficiently done to your liking, add in the finished quinoa/rice blend with as much or little as you like (I used just over half the finished blend because I want the rest for later this week), hit it with another little drizzle of soy sauce (or more if you like it heavy), a couple shakes of ginger, and another round of lime zest. 

I LOVE ginger and lime together in stir fry. They really make it taste brighter and cut the salt that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Let it all sit there and become friends for a couple minutes, then serve it up.

With the rice and quinoa blend and the amount of veggies I used (a handful of all those adds up quick) I think mine could have fed two people and/or been used as a side for multiple.  It is a pretty filling dish, and the veggies help it go a long way.

If you saw the pretzels I posted yesterday, this meatless Monday venture is completely because of those.  I ate ALL BUT EIGHT OF THEM before today...THE RECIPE MADE OVER 30! I new I had to do some serious detoxing, because I have some tight and well-fitted dress pants and skirts that I would like to stay fitting in to.  I also knew that the amount of food this would make would provide me with leftovers in case I wanted to stay on campus all day tomorrow to make myself get some work done...which I really need to do...

Meatless Monday, even if you aren't interested in it for environmental purposes, is FANTASTIC when you consider all the times you binge over the weekend and just need to make up for it.  Meatless does not equal tasteless, or boring, or not filling, it can be every bit as tasty as you make it.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Easy Bling Hair Bow (done on a bobby pin!)

You will need:
-A strip of black vinyl or desired fabric, about 1 to 1.5 inches wide and 5-6 inches long (can vary by desired outcome, you can make it as wide and big as you like of course) plus a strip .5 inch wide and long enough to wrap around the center (2 or so inches, you can trim later)
-Sewing machine and needle/thread
-jewels that can be sewn on (I snarfed mine off a corset that I am retooling for potential Halloween, but you should be able to pick some up at a craft store or use a sparkly material for the center)

Fold your strip over and sew the ends together (top left picture).  I use my sewing machine, but you might be equally fast by hand.  Flip it right side out again and (with the seam in the back middle) fold it toward you in half, then fold the edges back to make it look like a bow.  Secure these with a few stitches (middle left picture).

On your strip to cover the center, sew the little jewels on.  I sewed the top part of the strip onto the bow next, wrapped the other end around it and trimmed as needed, then secured with more sewing.

Use the same color of thread just so any rogue stitches blend right in of course ;).

Once you have that all secured, flip the bow over and put a bobby pin in between the strip you just sewed and the bow itself.  Sew it in as best you can, going around and through the end and pulling tight. 

Technically, you wouldn't have to secure it on.  You could just make these bows and put a pin in them whenever you wanted to wear them, no big deal.  However, I CONSISTENTLY lose bobby pins and so I wanted mine to have dedicated ones...I know when I move there is just going to be a mountain of pins somewhere in this apartment...

Now, a single bobby pin does not a secure hair fix make.  I highly suggest that either you wear these with a style that does not need them for support (e.g. a sock bun) or that you put two pins in your hair to secure it back (if, for example, you are just pulling a little section back and want a bow) in an X and then stick this pin with the bow in through them.

That 3 pin technique is about the only way my hair will stay in bobby pins.  The mane is quite unruly and it takes the holy pin-ity to get it to act right.  One lone pin would absolutely never stay put in my hair.

I am not actually a frilly, bow wearing girly girl, so the sheer fact that I A) made this thing and B) actually like and have been wearing it all day (just to sit around in my apartment no less) says a lot.  I got some black vinyl in a clearance bin at Hobby Lobby, and plan on using it for multiple cute things like this.

I think it would be cute to give these as gifts and make a few out of different material.  You could put them on cardstock and title it "Wear When You are Feeling..." and then have three different bows and moods. I would probably do this one as edgy, a satin type material one as sweet, and something colorful as creative.  It would be really inexpensive and totally cute.

Another useful thing to do with these is pair them with crochet hats and headbands.  If you have some you just want to dress up, you would probably be able to send the pin down through and under the headband or hat to add a quick little personal touch.

I knew I was going through a fashion change, my moods and tastes change every so often and my neon phase is clearly and resoundingly over.  I am surprised that my tastes now involve bows, though...I was always the kid that literally ripped barrettes out of my hair and hid them so I did not have to wear them to school.

True story, total brat.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cheesy Pretzel Ninjas

That's right.  I am calling them ninjas.  They are so sneakily good, they karate kick your taste buds ;).

Ingredients (makes about 30):
-1 C warm water (100F-110F for yeast)
-1/2 TB light brown sugar
-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
-1 C whole wheat flour
-1.5 C AP Flour
-6 mozzarella cheese sticks cut into 5ths (OR use a more pizzazzy cheese, which would be my preference in the future.  Pepperjack, spiced gouda, or whatever you like)
-1/3 C baking soda
-1 egg plus a little water to make an eggwash
-coarse sea salt
-Optional: everything seasoning or my faux version made with 1 tsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp chia seeds, a pinch of garlic, and a little marjoram.

Get out your handy dandy Kitchenaid and the dough hook.  Add the warm water and brown sugar and give it a swoosh so that the brown sugar dissolves.  Add in the yeast and let sit for ten minutes.

Add the whole wheat flour and mix on low.  You may need to scrape down the sides.  Once that is combined, add in the AP flour and mix until the dough forms a ball.  You could add another half cup here and let your Kitchenaid work it in, but I opted to turn mine out onto a floured surface and knead some more flour in by hand. After about ten minutes, it should be smooth and elastic.

Grease a bowl with a little oil and add your dough ball in.  Turn the ball so that all sides are oiled and cover with a towel.  Let the dough raise about an hour in a warm place.

When your dough is ready, remove and tear off hunks about the size of a golf ball or so.   You want just enough to get around your cheese slices but not to be too thin.  Smoosh and smash the dough around the cheese and press the ends together.  Seal it WELL.  I like to wrap mine, press mine, and then roll the whole thing around in my hand to try to make it forget where the seam was.

Get a pot of water boiling with the baking soda. I used my large soup pot and filled it a little over halfway. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 and grease a baking sheet.  Prepare your eggwash in a bowl and have your desired toppings ready in another bowl.

Once you have all the pretzel ninjas formed, drop in the boiling baking soda water and let them swim for about a minute.  That's right, ninjas can swim.  I used a mesh strainer to get mine out of the water and to drain them.  Transfer them to the baking sheet.

I noticed that one side got more of the baking soda bath than the other.  I just made this side the top. You could hold the pretzel ninjas down with the strainer or flip them over part ways through or something efficient like that if you so chose.

Brush them with the eggwash when they are all done and sprinkle on your desired toppings. 

Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes until they reach your desired level of doneness.

If you are baking in a gas oven, I recommend either using parchment paper if you are worried about the bottoms getting to done (e.g. gas oven and dark nonstick like my life), setting your rack up higher than you normally do, or swapping pans halfway through if you are making a double batch or have smaller baking sheets than I do. 

When they are done, transfer to a wire rack to cool and then DEVOUR! I dipped mine in my homemade pesto from yesterday.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bacon Pesto Pizza Pasta and a Spinach Pecan Pesto Recipe

That's right, two for the price of one today!

Pesto Ingredients:
-1 C of tightly packed spring mix baby lettuce
-1 handful pecans
-Just under 1/2 C parmesan, cubed (1/2 inch cubes)
-Squirt of lemon juice
-2 TB basil (I did not have any fresh, so I actually did use dried)
-1/2 TB Herbes de Provence (optional, but I like the blend)
-1/4 tsp garlic
-2 tsp rosemary
-salt and pepper

I pulsed the cheese and pecans first into a dust, then added the rest of the ingredients in and pulsed, drizzling extra virgin olive oil in until it was the consistency I wanted.  I would say it was maybe 4-5 tablespoons or so.  You may want yours thinner or thicker.  Scrape the sides down occasionally.  Let sit for 30 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend.

IF you are used to basil-based pesto you have to remember that this is going to taste a lot different.  I quite frankly really enjoyed it, and believe I will be making it whenever I have leftover spinach leaves...which is basically always.  I have tossed out a whole lot of them these last few months, unfortunately.

For the Pasta:
Dough (for 8 ravioli, increase as needed):
-1 C flour
-1 very large egg
-1/2+ TB EVOO

-2 to 3 strips of bacon (crispy but not dust)
-1/2 C mozzarella cheese, diced
-1/2 TB basil
-Salt, if needed

You want to put the flour and salt in your kitchenaid bowl, add the egg, and add oil just until the dough comes together.  Everyone seems to measure flour differently (and with varying shades of accuracy) and you may use smaller eggs (I use jumbo) so don't be alarmed if you need to work in a little more oil.

If you work too much in, you can add more flour.  Just go with the flow.

So once you get the dough mixed together you will turn it out on a floured surface and knead it for about 3 minutes or so.  It should be smooth and not real sticky.  Oil the surface and cover in plastic wrap, letting it rest for 20-30 minutes.

While it is resting you can cook your bacon, draining it on a paper towel when it is done.  Crumble it into small pieces and toss it with the cheese and pesto.

When your dough is rested (we don't want sleep deprived dough!) roll it out very thin (about 1/8th of an inch). I cut mine with a square cookie cutter, making sure I came out with an even number of pieces.

I actually like square cutters better because you can maximize the cuts you get out of a dough without having to reroll it.  That is my kind of awesome.

Put a dollop of the filling in the center of a ravioli piece, wet the edges with water, and press a top piece down on it, making sure there are not air pockets around the filling.  Seal the edges with a fork pressed into the dough. 

Get a pot of salted water boiling and cook the ravioli in batches of 2-3 (or maybe use a really big pot and do them all at once, I keep meaning to do that) for 4-6 minutes.  I actually like mine a little more on the tender side so I like to roll at 6.  Dough like this is naturally more firm so I like to get it as soft as I can without being ridiculous.

I also will put just a tiny little smear of butter on my dinner plate or wherever I am putting the ravioli once they come out of the water just to make sure they don't do any sticking. EVOO or putting them on a sauce bed would be fine as well. 

Top the ravioli with streaks of marinara and pesto, plus some of the remaining filling that you used in them, or some fresh shredded parmesan. 

One of my all time favorite pizzas I ever made was a bacon pesto pizza that was stuffed crust.  I have not been in the pizza making mood for some reason (probably because I have been too obsessed over trying new recipes) but I wanted that same depth of flavor.  Sticking it into a pasta was definitely a fun way to reminisce on a good recipe while creating a new one.

And sure, this may not be a typical way to stuff pasta and I can honestly say I do not care one bit.  If I was made to follow traditional rules and structure, I would probably not be having as much fun in the kitchen!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffed Mushrooms: Little Bites of Fall

-1 pack of mushrooms (mini bella)
-3/4 C pumpkin puree
-1/2 C corn flour
-1/4 C whole wheat flour
-1/2 TB of the finest most see-through little onion bits you can chop (this is my way of avoiding cooking them beforehand)
-1 egg
-dash of thyme
-dash of salt
-dash of nutmeg
-parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
-handful of pecans, chopped

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a baking pan.  Take the stems out of the mushrooms and clean the inside.  Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl, leaving the cheese and pecans aside as topping.

The stuffing WILL be a more dry mix.  My goal in doing that was to make sure it did not for any reason run over the mushrooms and create a big mess before it could get set.  Also, I wanted a firm texture this time as opposed to a more soft (and sometimes bland) texture that cream cheese bases can have.  That is also why I added in the pecans, for a little textural variety.

And seriously, what is more fall than a pecan? 

Anyway, stuff all the mushrooms and top each with a little sprinkle of cheese and a few pieces of chopped pecans.  Bake for about 17 minutes.  You probably can get a second pack of mini mushrooms stuffed out of this filling mix, but I only had one on hand and actually want to use the rest of the filling for a few experiments.

Namely, eggs benedict experiments.  (Random but true).

So these smelled really good while they were in the oven, for the record, and sure enough when I tasted them they made me think of Fall.  These were all really warm and cuddly flavors.  If you happen to have sage on hand, you could definitely add a dash of that in as well.  I do not have a full-blown spice collection as of yet, but I have the majority of my needs.

I googled "pumpkin and mushroom" beforehand to see if any recipes used the two together, and quite a few pasta recipes did just that.  I love pasta, so how could this go wrong?!  The cool thing about this recipe is with very minor tweaking, it could be a vegetarian snack.

Or you could add bacon and just go the complete opposite direction.

As for me, I will leave them as is because I think they are delightful.  If these were an appetizer at a party, I would pop a few.  I love little bites!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan Poppers: Baby Eggplant Appetizers

-10+ mini eggplant (mine were from a farmer's market and probably no more than an inch thick and about 3-4 inches long, real small little guys)
-EVOO or flavored oil (I like sundried tomato personally)
-1/4 C Panko bread crumbs
-1/4 C Flour
-1/4 C Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
-Italian spices as desired if not using a strongly flavored oil

Pour out a little oil in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the panko, flour, and cheese together, as well as any spices you want to use.  Preheat your oven to 375F.

I cut the tops off my little eggplants and then cut them in half, sprinkling salt over them.  Dip each cut side in oil ad then in the breading mix and put on a cookie sheet. I only coated the cut side, but you are welcome to go crazy with the coating.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until desired level of crispiness has been achieved.  I always feel like my oven cooks starkly different from others I use, so just be mindful and ready to spend a little extra time if needed. 

Serve these up with marinara to get all the yumminess of eggplant parm in a much more party-friendly package.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Charming Bow Tie Necklace

You will need:
-1 basic necklace (Hobby Lobby or Michael's) or chain/jewels to make one
-Black vinyl or preferred material
-Sewing machine and/or needle and thread

To start, you will need to cut a strip of fabric that is 1 to 1.5 inches wide (your preference for the bow, I erred on the smaller side) and a little over 6 inches long or so.  You want the bow to have at least 1.5 inches on each side past the middle when it is complete.

I like to fold my fabric over, scrunch it in the middle, and then determine exactly how big I want to make the bow. Different necklaces may look better with different sizes. Once you have it the length you want, sew the end closed with the fabric inside out (not the sides).
 You could sew a seam in the edges if you wanted.  I chose not to.  I will probably coat the edges with a little mod podge or similar to stop it from fraying, or I will let it get a worn out look.

Fold the bow in half in the middle, then fold the top and bottom back to make a scrunched look like this picture.

Make sure that your seam is in the BACK of the bow, not one of the sides.

Sew up and down, around and through, all kinds of ways to secure the scrunch.  I sewed for a few turns, wrapped the thread tightly around the scrunched, sewed a few more turns, wrapped again, and sewed again.  I am pretty unorthodox when it comes to anything sewing related.

Once you have the scrunch secured, cut another strip approximately 1/2 inch wide and just long enough to overlap in the back of the bow.  Wrap this around your bow with the seams in the back and sew into place.

I found this vinyl on clearance at Hobby Lobby. My new favorite thing to do is to raid their scrap fabrics that are clearanced out.  So far I have found this, some great lace, some canvas, and similar.  All of it is usually real small sections, so you rarely have to spend much over 5 dollars to get something.

Did I have a plan of what I could do with black  But I knew I would think of something eventually!

I attached mine to my necklace with wire.  You could actually sew a jump ring onto it while you are sewing the middle cover on, but I think that wire helps position it exactly where you want it and keep it in place.  I just wrapped mine around and through the ring of the necklace where I wanted my bow.

I had not gotten in to bows before this little guy, but I must say I really like it.  It was very simple to make and it is a cute play on a trend that I otherwise would have no interest in.

Plus, it is black...which I tend to wear quite often without realizing it (work clothes and pencil skirts!).  This necklace to me remains sophisticated but fun.

And really, we should all try to be more fun now shouldn't we?

Happy crafting!

Pin It Now!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mexican Street Corn Muffins

-1/2 C corn flour (I use Maseca, find it or similar near Hispanic foods at your grocery)
-1/2 C AP flour
-1/2 C Sour cream
-1/4 C Milk
-1/3 C Frozen corn
-1 egg
-2 TB softened butter
-2 TB honey
-1/4 C crumbled feta (or use an authentic Mexican cheese or parmesan)
-1-2 tsp adobo sauce (I used one but would not have minded more.  Alternatively, very finely mince a chipotle pepper and add as desired)
-2 TB extremely finely minced onion
-2 TB finely chopped fresh cilantro
-dash of salt (optional dash of garlic)
-2 tsp baking powder

Sheesh.  Talk about a lengthy ingredient list, I need a nap after typing it ;).  Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a muffin tin (this particular recipe makes 6 muffins of normal size so adjust it to your quantity needs).  I prefer dark nonstick everything.

Mix all the ingredients together in your Kitchenaid.  I am not really one to mix wet and dry separately unless I am doing something complex or particular, and these muffins are neither.  They are quite friendly as a matter of fact.

I used my large ice cream scoop (the kind that knocks batter off with the arm) to fill each muffin pan close to the brim.  These will raise but they are such a firm dough that they don't spread out and run everywhere. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until starting to turn golden on top.

Now, I know that feta is typically in Greek dishes but it happened to be all I had since I did not want to use the rest of my parmesan for these.  Luckily, the feta did not once complain that it was Greek ;).

I had seen a lot of recipes for Mexican street corn over the summer but never got around to trying it.  I have actually never grilled anything, now that I think about it.  I tend to stick with inside cooking.  If you want these to be a little more authentic, use mayo instead of sour cream.  I preferred using my fat free sour cream, and they turned out really moist and fantastic.

My cilantro has been a champ.  I bought some weeks ago and have kept it in a glass of water in my fridge, covered with a Ziploc bag.  I had seen this done for mint and it did not work at all for me but I went ahead and tried it with my cilantro anyway.  I am really glad that I did!

You see, chicken tortilla soup season is rapidly approaching and I LOVE to put fresh cilantro in my chicken tortilla soup.  It all cooks together all day in my crockpot and amazing deliciousness is waiting for me when I get back.  I think that I would really like these muffins with that soup, as it would be an explosion Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Deviled Eggs, a Classic Party and Holiday Food

-10 eggs (the bigger the better)
-1/2 C mayo
-1 tsp pickle juice or relish

Get a pot of water boiling (enough to cover the eggs plus 1-2 inches over them) with the eggs in it.  Boil for 18-20 minutes.

Drain the eggs and fill the pan back up with cool water or run cool water over the eggs in a strainer to cool them down.

Peel the eggs and slice them in half.  Remove the hard yolk and mix with the mayo (miracle whip is fine, use your preference), preferred pickle medium, and a dash of salt.  Some recipes add mustard, if you want to do that too by all means go ahead.

We like to put our filling in a piping bag to fill the eggs, but you don't have to.  Sprinkle with paprika and enjoy!

I have used half chipotle mayo in eggs before I thought it was fantastic.  I keep meaning to experiment with some fun flavors for deviled eggs but somehow never get around to it.  I think that a crab and dill deviled egg mixture would be amazing, or a bacon/cheddar/chive, and definitely something with parmesan (maybe italian herbs or similar).  Spicy works really well with deviled eggs because of the creamy mix, so if you feel like experimenting my vote is, as always, for chipotle!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mini Bacon Apple Pies

-6 strips of bacon
-1 can apple pie filling or equivalent in homemade
-2 pie crusts (homemade or store bought, whatever you typically use)
-Brown sugar

I only use John Morrell bacon.  It is freakishly tasty.  Fry up your strips to a tender crispy stage (aka there are crispy pieces here and there but the entire strip isn't crispy nor turning to dust).  Drain on a paper towel.

Prepare your pie dough as needed, roll out, and cut 2 inch circles out (biscuit sized basically).  Press GENTLY into a mini cupcake pan (24 wells).

Cut up the apples if needed in your pie filling to suit the smaller pies.  For the bacon, you have a couple of choices.  I just cut the bacon into pieces that were about the same size as the top of the pie.  If you are making this mostly for guys who will shove the whole thing in their mouth at once, this is perfectly fine.  But for girls who might take more dainty bites, you might want to cut the bacon up into pieces so that it gets in every bite. 

Top each with a little brown sugar.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until done.  Some pie dough recipes have a lot more butter than others and they brown differently, so a lot depends on what you like to use.  This particular one we used called for 1 1/4 C flour and a half stick of butter, whereas others called for a lot more butter. 

I ended up baking these right around 30 minutes, of which the last 5 I cranked the heat up to 375F to try to get the dough to brown a little more.  That helped get my bacon nice and toasty on the edges, which was just what I was looking for, so consider upping the heat near the end.

If you prefer, you could bake these higher for shorter (some similar recipes do 400 for 15 minutes).  I am a low and slow type, and I could not be happier with how these turned out.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Western Wedding Cake

There is something about the first weekend in October that makes the cakes we do turn out really cute.  Last year, exactly this time, we made a cake that will probably always be one of my favorites.  This year, we had an order for a western wedding cake that was simple and elegant.

For this, we used the tip that is usually used for basketweave with the ridged side facing the cake to make the fence border.  I used a large open round tip to make a scalloped piping that looked like a rope. 

I used the basketweave tip again to make the ribbon around the middle layer. It is easiest to do this with a good turn table that does not resist when you spin that way you can rest your elbow on your leg or table (depending on height) and keep the bag steady while you spin with your other hand. 

I used the same wide round to make the silver medallion on the middle tier, which I tend pulled more straps through with the brown icing.

We finished it off with a few roses in the brides colors and of course some glistening sugar.

I love this cake, it was simple and beautiful and I really think the couple is going to love it.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Washi Tape Canvas Wall Art

This is such a simple way to make some really cool wall art, and all you need is two sizes of washi tape (a thicker and thinner one) and a canvas of whatever size you like.

I made mine wrap around the sides and edges because that was just simpler to keep it more clean looking. To do this, I just made the strips longer so they could wrap around the sides.  For the top strips, I made a couple of centimeters worth of tape rise over the top.  I rolled that tape back and stuck it to the back of the canvas, then folded the top 1/3 of each end of the tape down before wrapping the sides back and sticking to the back of the canvas.

I really like the two travel-themed tape canvases on the left.  I encourage you to experiment with different prints, because you can very quickly come up with some visually interesting things.  You could stick letters or other embellishments on these if you so chose to fit your design.

The best part is, there is no drying time and they can easily be done in under ten minutes! That is my kind of art.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cream Pies

-3/4 C Pumpkin Puree
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 tsp cinnamon
-2 shakes ginger
-1 shake nutmeg (no I am probably never going to accurately measure either of those spices)
-dash of salt
-3/4 C packed brown sugar
-1/2 C granulated sugar
-1 tsp baking soda
-1.5 C quick cooking oats
-1 3/4 C AP Flour

-4 oz cream cheese
-2.5-3 C powdered sugar (adjusted for desired thickness)
-1/4 C REAL maple syrup (not that pancake crap)

Yes, for the record, I basically do have a vendetta against fake syrup.  I happen to use dark amber maple syrup this time as it was what I had open.  1/4 C was decided when that was all my bottle had left.  Oh the science of baking at work!

I mixed everything, in one bowl, basically all at the same time like I always do.  I started with the pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, spices, and salt and mixed them up all nice.  Then I added the sugars, baking soda, flour, and oats and mixed until incorporated.

Now, this made a bit of a stiff batter which I think is fantastic but what you need to keep in mind is that it does not spread out.  So, if you want thinner cookies, you need to spread it thinner to begin with.  You could also add a little more pumpkin if you wanted it to be a little more loose.  I used jumbo eggs, if you use eggs that are substantially smaller you may want to add more pumpkin as well.

Anyways drop dollops onto WELL GREASED cookie sheets, if yours have a tendency to be jerks I would consider baking these on parchment paper.  They are not nearly as bad as banana based things (oh my, that needs to be my next thing...banana cream pies, this recipe, sub banana for pumpkin and alter spices as needed) but they have the capability to stick.  I noticed that when I was getting them off the sheets.

Alright so dollops, drop them, then spread them out a bit if you want them to be thinner cookies.

I quite frankly like these hearty sandwiches. 

Bake them at 350F for 7-10 minutes, shorter for dark nonstick, longer for lighter pans, shorter side for my gas oven that I know burns hotter than the electric oven at home.  You want the edges to just be getting brown.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

I don't know if I only ever had one rack here or if I have managed to lose mine somewhere in one of my cabinets.  Sadly, either are equally likely.  I have a horrible time keeping tabs on things and an equally terrible time of losing things in the most random of places.

I needed two, however because this recipe made about 40ish cookies of about 1.5 inches in diameter.  Some of course were smaller, some larger, but what can I say I don't have a fancy small cookie scoop here.

For the icing, you have a couple of options.  You can whip it up in your kitchenaid like it should be, all professional, whipped for 5-7 minutes to get all that nice air in...or you can whip it by hand in a bowl with a fork because you are not in the mood to wash your bowl...which is clearly what I did.

I always like to err on the high side of powdered sugar, but you may prefer less stiff icings in which case just add sugar til you get it where you want.  To each their own level of sugar!

I had to freeze a lot of these because A) this recipe made way the heck more than I planned on and B) I am here by my onesies.  I am storing mine in the fridge because my apartment is always on the warm side and the filling is cream cheese based.  Most of the ones in the fridge will go home with me Friday for sharing.  Some of the freezer ones will wait until my friends come visit me.

I can always lure my friends here when there is desserts in the freezer, and I have especially good luck with pumpkin ones.

These cookies would also be good just as they are, or with craisins thrown in.  Also, consider using them if you need a base for an ice cream sandwich!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chicken "Florentine" Pasta Salad

-3 chicken tenderloins
-1 package spinach tortellini (Trader Joe's)
-1 C baby spinach, chopped
-1 roma tomato, diced
-1 C plain Greek Yogurt mixed with 2 TB honey, 1/4th tsp garlic, salt, and 2-4 TB olive oil to get it to desired consistency
-1/4 C finely chopped pecans
-1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese

To start, boil the chicken with 1 TB of butter, a little salt, and some optional herbs like a couple shakes of marjoram and thyme.  They are my favorite things to add to chicken right now.  Boil it for about 30 minutes or until you can shred it with forks.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to directions.  This should take about 5 minutes for most tortellini as they are essentially done when you get them.

Add the spinach, tomato, and pecans to a bowl big enough to mix and store the pasta salad (why mix it just to transfer it to another bowl!).  Add in your drained chicken and pasta.

Toss in your Greek yogurt mix and stir to combine.  Add in the cheese.  Give it a taste and salt as needed.

If you are like me, and have been using salt straight out of the big container because you grabbed the wrong kind to refill your sea salt shaker, you might find that you pour in way too much salt...never fear, counteract it with honey.  I personally think the honey helps it taste richer anyway, which is never a bad thing.

You can also add in a little basil or other herbs as desired.

It has been a really long time since I have had chicken Florentine, but I remember it from Indiana State.  I can't guarantee this is identical, but I can guarantee that is what I used as my inspiration and that this is a pretty darn tasty pasta salad.

For even extra tastiness, add BACON.

Should have seen that one coming.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!