Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas

We do Christmas cookies pretty much every year, and as such we love finding a new cookie cutter to mix things up a bit.  This year, though it be early in the season, we have already stumbled upon some new things we like.

We use a stiff royal icing, to start off with, for anyone wanting to know.

So first, penguins are not commonly thought of in Christmas cookies if I had to guess, but they are consistently the favorites wherever we take cookies.  We have managed to come by a large penguin cutter and now a small baby penguin cutter.

An entire batch of penguin cookies complete with babies?!?!? How could you pass that up!

Another thing that we discovered today that we really like the looks of is using a cabin cutter in gingerbread and making log cabin cookies.  For this one, I drug lines across first, then filled in the window and door, and then made broken lines on the roof in green and a red chimney.  It took just a minute or two and it was adorable!

When doing anything kind of complex, I find it best to make the outline around a cookie and outline any little details like the penguin centers or making the eyes and letting that set a few minutes before filling in a main color.  It is a lot easier to not smear things around that way.

The top right corner are the ridiculously easy lemon cookies I made yesterday from a cake mix that taste delicious. That is a really simple way to add some easy filler cookies to a box and/or mix up the flavor offerings.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Super Simple Lemon Cookies with Lemon Icing

-1 box Duncan Hines super moist lemon cake mix
-2 eggs
-1/3 C oil
-Optional white chocolate chips

-1/3 C powdered sugar*
-2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 375F.  Mix the cookie ingredients and drop dollops on a greased cookie sheet, smooshing them down just a touch.  I like to use one of those melon baller scoops/small cookie scoops that have the trigger releases.  But relative spoonfuls are fine too.

You will want to space them about an inch and a half or two apart, they will spread a bit. 

Bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are set (this time for me was on light cookie sheets in an electric oven, my dark sheets in my gas oven at school would be shorter, please adjust according to what you use).  They will firm up and flatten out as they cool, and they will form a pretty crackled top.  Transfer them to a wire cooling rack.

Mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice together, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoons if needed to thicken it up.  I made mine the consistency of honey, maybe just a touch thicker.  It set up very well and was nice and tart.

That is actually what I like about these cookies- they are tart yet sweet.  I love a good cookie and I for sure love sugar cookies especially, but mixing it up a bit with a cookie that shies away from being overly sweet is a great change of pace.  These cookies for me came out with a nice soft center, but not one that does not taste done...I am not a fan of liquid cookie goo in the center of my cookies.

Let them sit until the icing sets before stacking or similar.  I did not bake mine with white chocolate chips, but I fully believe that would be a great addition to these cookies.  I adore lemon and white chocolate together! 

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fresh Cranberry Salad

-1 bag fresh, whole cranberries
-2 C white sugar
-3/4 C brown sugar
-zest from half an orange
-1/4 C water or orange juice
-1 C mini marshmallows

Add all of the ingredients except the marshmallows to a pan and heat over medium.  You will want to stir it a lot, and will need to cook it approximately 15 minutes to really cook that sugar in and soften the berries.

Remove from heat and allow to cool before stirring in the marshmallows.  You could also add things like pecans or almonds if you wanted. 

Mom used water to make this, but you could most likely get a really great flavor from using orange juice as well. 

I think this is a good thing to know how to make because it is interesting and very versatile, plus it really helps you step back and take a look at how much sugar has to go in to something cranberry to get it to not be so tart.  I think this is something that I definitely if not many people have overlooked when it comes to things like Thanksgiving and cranberry sauce.  Fresh crans pack a pretty feisty kick!

The marshmallows really balance out the tartness that remains, so it works really well together.

Happy crafting, and a very happy Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Cake Pops Version 2.0

You will need:
-Your favorite cake pop recipe, I chose a red velvet and desired filling
-Red and orange candy melts
-skewers or lollipop sticks
-candy eyeballs
-snack size Ziploc bags
-An arrangement base, I used mine from yesterday's post
-Ziploc bags and wax paper

So after you have your cake pops baked, cooled, cored, and filled, you can get to work on putting them together.  Before you dip the birds, you want to make the tails, beards, and beaks.  You can also use butterscotch chips for beaks.  Believe it or not, we were OUT of baking chips.  I sincerely think this is the first time in my life.  But fortunate favors the clever, and most things can be made of chocolate.

So you want to melt the candy melts and pour the chocolate into a Ziploc bag.  Cut a TEENY bit of the corner and pipe out your decorations on to wax paper.  Do NOT cut too much of the corner off or it will be really hard to control it.  You also want to err on the thicker side over super thin decorations as they will be easier to get off the paper.

Leave them be until they are fully set, this should not take too long but may require you popping them in the fridge if you have a really warm house.  Slide a knife slowly and gently under them to pop them off the wax paper.

Melt your chocolate to dip the turkeys in, putting a little chocolate on the stick before you put the cake pop on it to make sure it holds better.  Again, if you have a warm house, freeze the pops for a bit after you insert the sticks so that they will help the chocolate set faster when you dip it.  Dip the turkeys and let a little chocolate drain off of them. Set them on top the tails, holding them if they are not sitting level and are trying to roll. Put the eyeballs on, the beards, and the beak pieces.

Let them sit until cooled and then return them to the base you have prepared. 

I really just expected them to start singing or something I mean honestly to me, it looks like a fun chorus of goofball birds that should burst into song...

Or that should be devoured. But sadly, that must wait until tomorrow.

Happy crafting!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Easy Holiday Edible Arrangement Base

You will need:
-2 foam blocks or one large block, depending on the desired size of your arrangement.  I am using 2 blocks approximately 3 by 8 or so (rough guess).
-Foil, wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, or other desired covering that you can poke sticks through
-Bamboo skewers
-A tray that fits the amount of foam you have
-Tape (good quality)

I always wrap my foam blocks in paper because it keeps the little foam pieces from getting on things and it makes it look better.  When doing an edible arrangement, you have to think in 3D for multiple reasons.  First, things like cake pops are chunky.  You need space in between them so that they can all fit.  Second, you want to be able to see the things you have included in your arrangement. 

What I do is I cut off the bottom third on long skewers for sticks that will go in the front.  For the next tier, I cut off only about an inch.  The back row stays uncut. Cut all sticks at an angle to make sure you can poke them through the paper and the foam.

Quite frankly, the cut ones are often easier to poke.

Stick central ones in first, then outer ones in at an angle to make a sunburst, or in this case a turkey tail shape.  Use these sticks later to put your cake pops or whatever edibles on and reinsert in the holes.

The last thing you want in an edible arrangement is to try to poke a hole with a delicate treat already attached to the stick.  It is a recipe for disaster.

If you are a little worried that the wood will make whatever you are putting on them taste funky, dip the end of it in chocolate first and let it set. 

I like to secure my blocks to my tray with tape.  It helps the stability and makes it easier for people to grab things and pull them out.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 25, 2013

DIY Simple Christmas Canvas Decoration

You will need:
-A canvas size of your choosing, mine was about 5x7
-Paint in the colors of your choosing, I used white and green
-Puffy paint in red or other color as desired

If you are wondering why part of mine looks pink it was because I was trying to paint over a canvas I had messed up just to see if It would work.  You may prefer to start out on a clean slate.

I used red puffy paint to make the tree first, making it whimsical and curly.  Next, I painted my canvas white, after the puffy paint had dried, with crappy cheap paint and put roughly three coats on, to very little avail.  I don't mind, I love a good experiment.

After I was done coating the canvas, I came back with green and added some color to the tree.  This would be fun to have multiple shades of green on hand for.  I of course do not as I rarely paint anything.

Then, I finished it off with the word JOY in red puffy paint.  I would have polyflaked my tree boughs...but my glitter is missing.  It is really killing my soul.

Regardless of the pink showing through, I actually like this concept and it was delightfully easy. I have a few more projects in mind that I may use this for.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Chipotle Cranberry Turkey Wings

Ingredients (increase as needed, this was to fit my round baking dish):
-3 pieces from turkey wings once separated at joint and wing tips removed
-1 TB butter, soft
-1/2 C chipotle cranberry sauce, recipe found here
-2 TB brown sugar
-2-3 TB almond flour

Put the wing pieces in the baking dish (I always like to butter any glass dish I am baking in just in case).  Rub them each with a little butter, then give them a healthy dose of salt and a little pepper.

Spoon the chipotle cranberry sauce over them evenly and sprinkle with the brown sugar and almond flour.  The almond flour can be omitted, I just wanted to add it in for a little texture.  To be honest, it was not all that noticeable in the dish, so don't fret too much if you leave it out.

I like to add just a couple TB or so of water to the dish, cover with foil, and bake in an oven at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  I like to remove the foil for the last ten minutes of baking, adding more chipotle sauce if it looks like it needs it.

You need to understand that these should not be eaten if you need to look dainty, delicate, well mannered, or sexy.  You will be a MESS by the time you are done eating them and I must say it is quite an adventure.  Thoroughly enjoyable, and why not get a little messy now and then?  I personally found myself only able to eat one piece per meal having other sides to go with it.  These wing pieces are quite large.

And they were CHEAP.  So I was not afraid to do a little experimenting.  It was quite an adventure cutting them apart and I suggest looking up how to do it because I am not a good resource for that.  I almost became a vegetarian while cutting them up after I got some goo on me.  I have never cut anything like that apart before, I hardly ever even cut apart pork because my mom and I share packs of it and usually she cuts it before giving it to me.  I realize now I am completely spoiled by this. 

But this was a good experience.  Shenanigiving helped me get insight into parts of cooking I usually don't get: having multiple things done at the same time and cutting apart meats, and just how exhausting bigger than usual meals can be to make. 

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Shenanigiving, Part 2: Paleo Friendly Bacon Sweet Potato Casserole

Now I do not in any way shape or form claim to be a paleo expert, I don't eat paleo, but I do have friends that do and through them I come across recipes I like to adapt.  Through most of my online perusing, it seems maple syrup is paleo although I always see a notation of grade B.  Regardless, this recipe is delicious and I don't care if you are paleo eating or not, you should try it.

Per 2 servings you will need:
-1 large sweet potato, peeled boiled and mashed
-2 strips of bacon, cut in half and cooked until just under crispy
-1/4 C or less almond flour plus additional almond pieces or pecan pieces if you want to add those in
-1 TB real maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Layer a buttered, greased, oiled, or whatever you prefer to use glass baking dish with sweet potato.  I did not even mix my sweet potato with anything I left it as is. 

Sprinkle a layer of almond flour on top, along with any larger nut pieces you may desire.  I would suggest cutting the bacon up into pieces and not leaving it as chunks but I was being really lazy during Shenanigiving.  I was tired!  Put the bacon pieces on and drizzle the entire dish with maple syrup.

Bake, covered, for about 30 minutes. 

For anyone just tuning in, yesterday I did the first-ever Shenanigiving meal which I am posting in a 3 part series.  I wanted to take some very typical foods or concepts of Thanksgiving and give them a little shenanigan spin.  Another sweet potato recipe had been passed along to me by a friend, and some of the concepts for that made me think this was possible.

I took my first bite and it was basically heaven.  Why are bacon and sweet potatoes not always together? These are an absolutely perfect pair! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Swaps: Flourless Stuffin' Muffins

Welcome to the first of three Shenanigiving Posts!

Ingredients (per 6 muffins):
-1/2 C pumpkin puree
-1.25 C almond meal
-1/2 C almonds
-2 jumbo eggs
-2 TB butter, melted
-1.5 tsp sage
-1 TB chia seed (optional but suggested)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 TB honey
-1 tsp minced onion flakes
-Dash of marjoram and thyme
-Optional 1/4 C or so of chicken/turkey/preferred stock

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Now, it may seem odd to say that the stock is optional, but hear me out.  A LOT of times when I make muffins like this or when I make corn muffins I make really stiff batters.  They actually do have a little wiggle room if you want to add in some extra liquids.  I would in no way classify these as dry without the stock, but the addition of it would give it a richer depth and would loosen up the batter a little. 

Anyway, pulse the almonds a few times in a food processor until they are mostly small bits with a few large remaining.  Now that I think about it, you could remove the almonds to a bowl and then mix everything together in the food processor and not dirty up your kitchenaid...really wish I had thought of that sooner.

Regardless of what you use, mix all the rest of the stuff up and grease a small cupcake pan. Since this is a really firm dough, you can put large scoops in that basically fill up the wells.  It does not rise too terribly much and it is not soupy so you don't have to worry about it running over.  Bake for 12-18 minutes or until starting to brown on top.

So these reminded me of a hybrid between hush puppies and dressing...WHICH is amazing because I absolutely love both.  It really made me want to try to deep fry this batter, but I don't have a deep fryer so I will just have to forever wonder on that one.

You can use a fork to loosen these up and remove them to a wire rack to cool. 

I LOVED the crunchy almond pieces hiding throughout these.  I think pecans or walnuts would be delicious options as well.  I think the most important thing, at least that I have come across so far, is that if you are going to make something flourless you really need to think about the texture.  Some things I have tried just end up a little mushy or a little too eggy textured.  If you just toss some crunchy bits in it really helps.

Happy crafting, and happy holidays! Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fresh Cranberry Almond Muffins, No Butter Needed

-1/2 C almonds
-1/2 C fresh cranberries
-1.25 C AP flour
-3/4 C unsweetened applesauce
-1 jumbo egg
-3/4 C sugar
-1.5 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp almond extract
-dash of salt

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a muffin tin VERY WELL, or line it with cupcake papers.  In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are mostly in small pieces with a few big ones remaining.  Transfer them over to a bowl, and then finely process the cranberries, transferring them to that same bowl when done (no need to dirty up more!)

Next, combine the egg, applesauce, extract, and sugar in the food processor.  Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse a few times to combine.   Return the almond and cranberry mix to the processor and pulse a few times to incorporate.

Fill the muffin wells about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Now, even though these have no butter I am not exactly going to sit here and say they are healthy, but I will say they are DELICIOUS.  My only issue is that any non-oatmeal muffin makes me think of cupcakes, and then I just want to make some white chocolate icing to put on these.  I absolutely adore the texture of these with the crunchy bits of nuts, but I would like to convert this to an oatmeal muffin recipe at some point. 

I do think you could get away with using these as cupcakes as well.  The fresh cranberries give them a little zing that would be a refreshing detour from the typically hyper-sweet cupcakes.  You could also coat these in an orange glaze if you wanted.

I ran out of bread, and had no desire to wait an hour or more until something raised, so I opted for muffins. I don't make muffins all that often, so it is a really nice treat.  Usually I wait til I go home and I convince my mom to make them for me... mwahahaha.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

-1 small chipotle pepper (I use the ones from a can packed in adobo sauce)
-1.25 C fresh cranberries
-2 TB honey (or for a different spin, use maple syrup!)
-1/4 C packed brown sugar
-1/2 C chicken stock
-1 to 2 roma tomatoes, diced (I only used 1, but you could add more to your preference)
-1 TB butter
-2 shakes of ginger
-dash of nutmeg
-hefty pinch of salt
-1 tsp garlic
-1 to 2 tsp minced onion
-Optional bit of orange zest, orange marmalade, or other orange-ness on hand, I used 1 TB of orange marmalade but would have enjoyed some orange zest in this.

In a food processor, pulse the chipotle with the cranberries, honey, and tomato until it is all broken up pretty fine.  Add to a small saucepan with the remaining ingredients.  Cook on medium heat or just a touch over for about 7 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and let cook another 5 or so minutes.

Return the sauce to the processor and blend until smooth.  Alternatively, if you want to  use this as a spicy relish this holiday season, you may choose to skip this last processing.

I cannot stress enough that you need to TASTE this sauce while it is cooking because my love of chipotle heat may not be the same as yours.  You can tone it down with things like ketchup or more sugar or more tomatoes, or you can kick it up with additional adobo sauce or other peppers. 

My plans for this sauce are to use it as a wing sauce for a special event I like to call, Shenanigiving.  My plan is to put my crazy, scheming ways to the test and to make a very fun meal for my apartment.  I also want to really reflect on the last year, and may even get sentimental enough to post some of my things I am thankful for. Who knows. By my calculations, I am about 107 days in on my second 365 Day Craft Challenge...which seems really crazy to me because I feel like this second one just kicked off.  I should be thankful I have survived this long ;).

Be on the lookout for shenanigiving, and spice up your holidays!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake Bites

-2 C graham crackers, pulverized, I made my own, recipe found here.
-4 TB cold butter, cut into pieces
-1/2 C sugar if you do not put a cinnamon sugar coating on your grahams, if you do feel free to cut this back to a scant 1/4 C
-1 jumbo egg

-3 packages cream cheese
-3 jumbo eggs
-1 C sugar
-1 tsp vanilla

Topping: 1-2 large packs of Nestle Dark Chocolate, or other chocolates and coating as desired

Pulse the grahams in a food processor until they make a delicate dust (said in a fancy voice for added pizzazz).  Add the butter and pulse again a couple times, then add the egg and process until it comes together as a dough.

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper, and press the crust into the bottom (even though it was parchment I stilled sprayed mine with PAM just in case).  Bake at 325F for about 14 minutes or until set. 

While it is baking, mix your cheesecake ingredients.  I usually mix the cream cheese and sugar first because I assume the friction of the sugar will break down the cream cheese that I should have at room temperature but somehow never quite put it out soon enough...  Then mix in the eggs and vanilla.

Pour over the hot crust, return to the oven, and bake for 35-45 minutes until the middle is just set.  I turned my temperature down to just over 300 after about 8 minutes or so because cheesecake in my oven tends to get the edges of things a little brown.  Like I always try to reiterate, every oven is different in my experience.  This one seems to bake hotter than the one at my real home.

Cool the cheesecake on a cooling rack until it can be transferred to the fridge.  Refrigerate for a couple hours.

I cut mine into squares when it was cool that were a little over an inch on each side.  I ended up getting about 54 out of mine, which would be 6 rows by 9 columns in my pan.  You can cut them as big or small as you like. 

Put them on a cookie sheet, it will be easier if it is lined with parchment but it is not inherently necessary, and pop them in the freezer for an hour or so.

Melt your chocolate according to package directions.  Working with a few at a time, remove the cheesecakes from the freezer, dip them in chocolate, and set them on wax paper to dry.  Repeat this process until all are dipped.

Refrigerate for at least an hour or so, or until it is time to serve these.  You could also keep these in the freezer like the ones you can buy at the store and have a decadent little frozen treat whenever a sweet tooth attacks.

These were a big hit at work and as you can see in the picture I used the strawberry topping that I made yesterday.  For that recipe, click here.

Happy crafting!
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Strawberry Sauce for Cheesecakes, Ice Cream Toppings, and Other Sweet Treats

-2 packs of strawberries
-1.5 C sugar
-1/4 C water (can be on the scant side)
-Juice of half a lemon
-5 shakes of ginger
-Optional corn starch if needed for thickening

Dice up the strawberries (or process them if you don't want very many chunks) and pop them in a medium sized pan or larger with all the rest of the ingredients except the corn starch.

I heated mine on just under medium and from the beginning alternated between stirring and mashing with a potato masher.  I wanted to leave some chunks but I also wanted to get those juices pumping out of the berries.

Heat and heat and heat some more, I let mine go for about ten minutes.  If I stopped stirring for just a moment, bubbles would form as it was pretty close to boiling, to give you an idea of medium on my stove.  Mine is gas, and it functions a lot different than the electric at my mom's house.  There always seems to be a level of adjustment between equipment.

Anyway, there are two things to remember here.  Jelly and sauces and all other such shenanigans firm up a lot after being refrigerated.  That being said, I still added about 1/2 TB of corn starch, which I dissolved in roughly 1/4th cup of water and then added to my strawberry mix, stirring constantly.  I followed the directions and let the liquid come to a boil and boil for one minute.  And then I did my own directions and let it boil another minute.

Because I am a rebel.

Or maybe just because I was paranoid of not having it be the right consistency.

Remove it from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool before placing it in your fridge over night.  I set a fan on mine because I really needed to speed up the process.  We were having some wicked wind here and I was not in the mood to pay much attention to the sweets I was making any longer.

I served mine with some cheesecake bites that I will be posting about tomorrow, and it was all a big hit.  I think this strawberry sauce would be fantastic with ice cream, waffles, as a dessert "salsa" with cinnamon chips, and quite a few other things.  It was definitely great with cheesecake.

It was also great directly off the spoon...

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crockpot Chipotle Shredded Chicken for Tacos, Taco Salads, and More

-2 chicken breasts
-2 small chipotle peppers
-1 tsp cilantro (I used the stuff in the tube from the produce section, you could use some fresh leaves or some dried, use less if dried)
-6 small Campari tomatoes or tomato of your preference
-1/2 C frozen
-1/2 C water or chicken stock, stock if you have it on hand
-2 TB butter
-pinch of garlic

I pulsed my chipotle peppers and my tomatoes with the cilantro in my food processor until blended.

Then I just threw everything in my crockpot and put the chipot-mato puree over it after salting and peppering the chicken breasts (I put mine in frozen).  I popped the lid down on my crockpot and let it cook on high for about 4 hours, then shredded the chicken and turned the crockpot to "keep warm" and let it sit about 30 minutes.

So far I have eaten mine on corn tortillas, which was very tasty, and tomorrow I am going to eat it as a naked taco salad, because I really don't feel like making any more shells. It is spicy for sure, but quite tasty!

In fact, I am incredibly exhausted.  There were tornado warnings here all day, at one point the sirens did go off although luckily it did not get that bad, and I have cooked so much in the last few days that I have washed my kitchenaid bowl about 8 times in 24 hours.  AND IT IS DIRTY AGAIN.

Along with all my forks, what the heck happened to them?!?!

I don't have a dishwasher, but in my own weird way I kind of am starting to like that.  I am pretty convinced my dishwashing is what is burning all the calories I am eating.

But those darn dishes are just going to have to wait til tomorrow.  This chick is definitely hitting the hay early.  However, my cheesecake pops seemed to have turned out pretty good, so definitely check back for those tomorrow!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dill Seed Bread

-1 pkg active dry yeast
-1/4 C warm water
-1 C sour cream
-1/4 C sugar
-2 TB butter, soft
-1 jumbo egg
-1 TB dill seed
-pinch of salt
-2 C AP Flour
-1/4 C Whole Wheat flour
-More of preferred flour as needed

I let the yeast sit in the warm water in the mixing bowl until it started to look foamy.  Next, add in the remaining ingredients, adding more flour as needed until it just comes into a ball.

Turn it out on a floured surface and knead about 5 or so minutes until it is smooth and elastic.  Oil a bowl and plop the dough ball in, turning it over after doing so to coat it.  Let it rise, covered, in a warm place for an hour.

When the dough is ready, punch it down and dust it with a slight bit of flour.  Place it in a greased bread pan (I used my Rachael Ray Oven Lovin' Pan) and let it rise, covered, for another 30 minutes.

After it has risen for the second time, you have the option of using 1 egg mixed with a little water as an egg wash if you want to put a topping of some sort on it.  I used my everything topping that I love.  Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes or until golden, this may take up to 40 depending on your oven.  I used a dark nonstick loaf pan in a gas oven, and I pulled mine out after 30 minutes.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Even More Everything Topping

-1 TB each of Chia Seed, Sesame Seed
-1/2 TB each of Poppy Seed, Dill Seed
-Scant 1/2 TB minced onion
-Healthy Pinch of garlic

You can toss all these together, multiplying the recipe to make it as large or small as you need.  I love the texture that this gives stuff, and so far I have used it on some gluten-free sandwich thins and some roasted cashews and pecans. 

I plan on also using it on pretzels or breadsticks soon as well. It would be GREAT on bagels and breads, or on crackers.  There are a lot of different ways to use this, and having all of these ingredients on hand is great for other recipes as well.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Roasted Cashews and Pecans with Everything Topping

You will need:
-1.5 C Cashews
-1 C pecans
-1 Jumbo Egg white
-Everything Topping

Preheat your oven to 300F.  Whip the egg white with a pinch of salt until it is frothy. Toss in the nuts and stir to coat.

Turn the nuts out onto a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with everything topping and salt.  Roast for 25-30 minutes until brown, stirring once or twice during the roasting.

I am ever more convinced that my oven cooks really hot.  I actually cut my heat down to 250F after the first 15 minutes, and then I did allow them to roast for the full 30.  However, I also had mine on a lower rack than what I usually do, so they were definitely closer to the heat source.  Just be aware that you may need to adjust your timing or temperature.

If you make these and any males are present, don't expect them to last long.  The cashews are especially good, and I can see them being consumed by the handful.  If you are looking for a great thing to make for football Sundays, this is a great option!

You can mess around with different seasonings and toppings, I would personally like to try a spicy variety (maybe creole seasoning or something unusual!).

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Sandwich" Thin Variation: No flour or dairy

Ingredients (per 4-6 rounds)
-1 and 1/4 C Almond Flour
-1/2 C Pumpkin Puree (or applesauce, or yogurt, or whatever of a similar texture you want to sub)
-2 jumbo eggs
-2 TB melted butter
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 TB Honey
-healthy dash of salt and other seasonings as desired (more on that later) I used a little pinch of garlic.
-desired toppings: I suggest "Everything Topping"

Mix all this stuff up in your mixer except whatever you are topping these with.  Pumpkin is really subtle until you add things like sugar and cinnamon and those sorts of spices so don't get too hung up on thinking that this is going to taste like a pie. 

Spread these out on parchment or a silpat on a cookie sheet, using 2-3 tablespoons of batter.  Mine did not really raise or spread out much, so be aware that what you are doing is what you are getting when it comes to size and such.  If you opt for something like yogurt, yours may spread a little because it could make the batter thinner, which should not be an issue. I spread mine out to about 3 inches in diameter and probably only 1/4 inch thick.

Bake them for 15-20 minutes at 350F until they are as firm as you want them.  I did about 18 and they were set but longer might get you something sort of crispy which could be awesome!  So experiment.  I have a gas oven and baked on silpat.  So different ovens and methods will change a bit. I will probably try it at 20-22 minutes next time to see how that goes.

Now, back to my note about other seasonings.  These are a little sage and whatever other herbs go into it from being the most amazing gluten free sub for dressing that I could possibly imagine.  Not to mention, that would be a great flavor profile for sandwiches regardless.

My thoughts on them are make them about 3 inches in diameter and use two like a bun.  Or you could make bigger ones and cut them in half. 

Or you can eat them like savory cookies which may or may not be what I was doing.

Check back tomorrow for my AWESOME riff on everything topping!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pesto Pasta Dough and Chicken Stuffed Ravioli

-1 C AP flour
-1 jumbo egg
-dash of salt
-3 TB pesto (any brand or your own variety)
-1+ TB olive oil (I add mine in half TB increments til my dough comes together in a ball)

-1 small chicken breast, cooked and finely shredded
-handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
-1 heaping handful of spinach leaves, finely shredded
-salt and pepper

Plop your flour in your mixer and add the egg and salt.  Add your pesto and let it mix a minute or so with the dough hook attachment.  Start adding in EVOO in half TB increments until the dough forms a ball.  Get some plastic wrap, oil the surface of the dough ball, and wrap it up in plastic wrap to sit for thirty minutes.

While this was going on, I heated a skillet up and plopped in my chicken, tomatoes, and spinach with a little pat of butter and some salt and pepper, and I let them cook for about 5 minutes until the spinach wilted down.  My chicken was leftover from another dish, so I did not have to worry about cooking it. 

Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool down. 

When the dough is ready, roll it out as thin as you can on a floured surface (think 1/8th inch or so).  If you can't get it out real thin the first go, you can thin out the ravioli pieces after you cut them.  I do this all the time.

I cut mine into squares, rolled them out thinner, and put a little dab of filling in them.  You could totally add ricotta to this or mozzarella, but all I did was grate just a tiny bit of parmesan into the filling before filling the ravioli.

Wet the edges of the dough with water, fold it over into a triangle, and seal the edges by pressing a fork into them.  You may want to knock the fork tines in some flour now and then to prevent them from sticking.

Once you get the ravioli done, you can cook them in batches of 8 or so in a large kettle in salted water for approximately 6-8 minutes, depending on how tender you like your noodles.  I prefer to go a little longer than some.

You can also put these out on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer for an hour or so, then transfer them to a bag and save them for later.

You can also coat these in an eggwash and breading and bake them in the oven.

Really, ravioli is every bit as delicious as it is tasty.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Upcycled Light Bulb Ornament: Santa 'Stash Away All

All you need is a burned out bulb, some red and white paint, and a paintbrush.

I used a metallic red because that is what I happen to have on hand and I think the color looks cool.  So paint the red base coat on first and let it dry. 

Go back and paint the white mustache on, and I would suggest letting it dry as well because you have to be super careful if not.  Using white paint, or bringing in another color like green, you can write "stash away" near each mustache curl and then "stash away all!" under it. 

If you want to be more spelling-ically correct you could do 'stache away of course.  But I just felt more like using stash.

I added the detail around the top just for funzies and then laughed because it really did remind me of Santa.  That is perfect.  I will probably wrap wire around the metal part of the bulb to create a hanger.

Luckily for me, I have a few more bulbs left and  couple of fun ideas for them.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leftover Buns? Make Frozen Garlic Bread for Later!

Why this never occurred to me I have no idea.

I always make things in my apartment like hamburgers or other sandwiches, yet I never have buns and always opt to eat them on bread.  My reasoning for not having buns on hand is that I can't get through a whole pack without them getting moldy.

Problem solved!

All you need to do is put a thin smear of butter on them, top them with a light dusting of garlic or a garlic cheese topper (I use Shipshewanna brand, but McCormick makes a pretty good one too) which is a combination of cheese dust, garlic, and herbs.  Put them out on a cookie sheet and pop them in your freezer.  I left mine in for a couple hours because I went shopping.

I transferred mine to a large Ziploc bag to store them in.  Now, whenever I want some garlic bread, I simply grab out a couple of pieces and bake them at 350 for 8 or so minutes. 

This gets the outer crust crispy while still having a soft buttery center.  Alternatively, you could broil them to get them more brown on top, but you will need to watch them carefully.

I like this so much better than getting that garlic toast out of the box because you can control the amount of butter that goes on it.  Don't get me wrong I love me some butter, but I do not want my garlic toast to be swimming in it. 

As a bonus, when you only use a little butter you can get away with using them as sandwich buns after toasting too, every now and then.  That would make a chicken sandwich just a little more festive at times, Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing

Cupcake Ingredients:
-1 and 1/4 sticks of butter, softened
-1 C sugar
-2 eggs
-1 and 1/3 C AP flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-6 TB milk
-1 tsp almond extract plus 2 drops orange extract
-Dash of salt unless using salted butter
-3/4 to 1 C chopped fresh cranberries

-1 C Crisco or equivalent amount of butter
-4 squares white candiquick or about 1 C white chocolate chips
-2 C powdered sugar
-1 tsp vanilla

Optional filling: 3 big spoons full of Ocean Spray Whole Berry cranberry sauce mixed with 1 TB powdered sugar.

Cream the butter and sugar for the cupcakes together, then add the eggs and extracts and mix well.  Add in the remaining ingredients except the cranberries and mix well to incorporate.  Coat the cranberries in a little flour and add to the batter.

In an oven heated to 350F, bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until starting to turn golden.

While they are cooking, mix the Crisco or butter (whichever your preference and as needed to suit the temperature of where these cupcakes will be, let's face it butter can get a little soft) with 1 C powdered sugar and a little dash of water, and let it mix while you melt the chocolate in the microwave.

Add the chocolate to the icing base and let mix on a medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Add in the vanilla and the remaining sugar and let it whip for 5 to 7 minutes. 

I highly suggest coring the cupcakes and filling them with the filling mentioned above.  It really helped bring out the cranberry flavor.  I would also argue that you could cut the milk in half and add 3 TB of the cranberry sauce to the actual batter itself if you wanted them to be more obviously cranberry.  You could cook your cranberries down before adding them as well. 

Pipe some icing on the cupcakes and enjoy all the whippy-deliciousness as I have been calling it.  By leaving out the cranberries and changing the extracts, this recipe works well as a base recipe for a wide variety of cupcakes.  Alterations to this would be adding in some orange zest to the batter or sprinkling some on top of the cupcakes.

These are such a fun, and most importantly not overly sweet, addition to the holiday dessert varieties.  And I must say, the icing is quite delightful.  I will not judge you if you make a batch just to eat off the spoon.

The recipe made 18 cupcakes and just enough icing to cover them all with the large tip.  Feel free to increase the recipe by half to have a little wiggle room.  I would definitely do that the next time, just to be sure.

Happy crafting!

Remove the cupcakes from the oven when they are ready and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.  I cored the cupcakes and mixed Pin It Now!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mashed Parsnips

Ingredients (per person, potentially 2):
-1 lb parsnips, peeled and cubed
-1/4 C grated parmesan
-1 TB garlic cheese topper
-Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the cubed parsnips until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and mash them (I just used a wooden spoon as they were super tender).  Toss in the cheese and seasonings. 

Enjoy with whatever you would eat potatoes normally with.  You may end up seasoning these a little more heavily than you would a potato, because they are a bit more on the sweeter side. 

This is a cool swap for a potato that doesn't look too much like a mashed veggie, with those picky eaters in mind.  I definitely enjoyed it and can't wait to try it again with my favorite ingredients...LIKE BACON!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chicken Kale Chili, Crockpot Style

-2 or 3 chicken breasts, frozen (more as desired)
-1 can tomato puree plus the can filled up with water and added
-4 big kale leaves, shredded
-1/3 packet of Durkee's Texas Red Chili seasoning or your favorite (if you use a less spicy one you may be able to use the whole pack.  This particular brand is delicious but spicy, it's a judgment call based on your preferences.)
-6 small tomatoes, diced (more as desired)
-4 TB butter (everything needs butter)
-1/3 C ketchup

The usual rules apply, you can toss all this in your crockpot and let it cook on low for about 8 hours.  Pull the chicken out and shred it then add it back in.

This actually started as a tomato soup that I tried to add kale too and I went a little crazy and added random stuff like lemon juice and some herbs, which you will note are not mentioned in the ingredients above.  That is because, thankfully, the chili seasoning really did a great job at masking them. 

So, that is another good rule.  If at first you don't succeed, get the chili seasoning out. 

I ate this with my cranberry corn muffins from yesterday and that was a really tasty combo.  It hit all my favorite combos, sweet/savory/spicy/hearty.  I also felt good about all this because it was a sneaky way to use up some kale.  Kale is super cheap, so I have been working on finding ways that I like it since it is inexpensive AND healthy.  What a combo.

I love crockpot soups.  I actually like my crockpot more for soups than any other thing.  It is good for ribs, no doubt, but coming home to a nice comforting ocean of soup is pretty darn great in the winter.

Washing the crockpot...not so great.  I always spray mine with cooking spray for easy cleanup. 

You can also make this on the stove, which I would do by boiling it about 30 minutes or so until the chicken is done and then letting it simmer a while longer.  I am also a big advocate of making chili of any variety the day before, as it is best when it has had some time to sit.  Personal preference, of course.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cranberry Corn Muffins

-3/4 c corn flour
-3/4 c AP flour
-1 egg (I use jumbo, if you use real small eggs, use two)
-3/4 C milk
-1/4 C honey, or alternatively you can use maple syrup!
-3/4 C fresh cranberries
-1/2 C frozen corn
-1/2 TB baking powder
-3 TB butter, melted
Optional additions: Bacon, the ultimate addition to everything; feta or some other rich cheese; or some rich herbs like rosemary and basil.

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a muffin tin.  Mix all the ingredients together and fill the cups.  I make my corn muffin dough pretty stiff typically, you can soften it up with additional butter and/or milk of course.  These are not overly sweet, they more have a hint of sweet and then some tartness from the cranberries.  You could add a half cup or so of sugar to them, or you can add a savory component like bacon which I also think would be interesting.

If you thin it out a little it will probably fill up 12 tins, mine did 11 but some of mine were a little shy of full.  I don't mind a shrimpy muffin! You could make quite a few mini muffin bites out of this too.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove and transfer to cooling racks.

I like these as they are and think they would be good with butter.  I also think that they would be AMAZING with some of those other additions I mentioned above.  Or maybe even some orange zest. 

I may be mildly obsessed with corn muffins at this point.  Now, I maybe won't rank these as high as my Mexican street corn muffins, but I do rank these as pretty freakin DELICIOUS.  And delicious just in time for the holiday season.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hearty Quinoa Salad (Great Fall Side Dish)

-1/2 C quinoa, cooked according to package directions or alternative preferred method
-1/2 pack sliced mushrooms
-2 large kale leaves, finely shredded
-1/3 C chopped fresh cranberries
-handful of cherry tomatoes
-handful pecans, chopped
-salt, pepper, garlic and other herbs as desired

While the quinoa is cooking, sautee the mushrooms, kale, and cranberries in a little EVOO or butter.  I personally like to use butter and also add a little water to it to get it all steamy.

Add a dash of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of garlic to the mix.

Once the mushrooms and kale have cooked about 5 minutes, toss in your tomatoes, or you can add them in fresh at the end.

When your quinoa is cooked, drain if needed and transfer the quinoa to the skillet where your veggies are cooking.  Add a little more salt and the pecans and toss to combine.  Let it all incorporate a few minutes and serve.

I actually added mozzarella to mine and will not apologize for that.  It was delicious.  However, if you want to keep it a little more on the healthy side, don't cheese it up.

I did not overly herb this, but if you wanted it to be more reminiscent of a stuffing you could add a hit of sage to it.  I actually think quinoa is a pretty good potential sub for dressing for those that are looking for an alternative.  I have been trying to eat a little healthier, but I will absolutely be eating dressing at Thanksgiving.

I like to mix light and heavy flavors.  I think quinoa has a heavy taste, to me it tastes earthy.  Any time I use it I like to add something in that tastes light, like a tomato or a cranberry or something else along those lines.  Plus, look at all those fantastic colors!

While I will not be making this for Thanksgiving, as I do not have a very quinoa friendly family and they would much prefer I come armed with pumpkin cheesecake pops or the like, I will be making this at my apartment.

Who knows...maybe a few days in advance I will have the Great Healthy Turkeyday Spoof meal. Now THAT is a challenge I may not be able to resist...

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pecan Kale Pasta Salad

Ingredients (per 4x4 or so lunch container)
-1 C cooked tortellini
-1 kale leaf, rolled and shredded
-handful of pecans, chopped
-Lemon Infused Olive Oil
-1 TB parmesan cheese, finely shredded

I put my kale and cheese together in the bottom of the dish, then plopped the tortellini in when it was drained so that it was still hot. This helped wilt the kale a little.  I used tortellini from Sam's. You can buy the big containers of it for about ten dollars and turn it in to eight or ten smaller bags in your freezer that will last a good long while.  It is pretty inexpensive for a quick meal.

Put in a drizzle of the lemon olive oil and the pecans and toss to combine. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper, if desired. I warmed mine up at lunch because I always think I stay full longer when I eat warm meals.

You could add in other things too like tomatoes, or other herbs like basil.  Craisins might also be a fun addition.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well I liked this pasta salad.  I was unsure if I would like kale in anything other than chips or similar, or in an egg dish.  You can throw most ingredients in an egg and I am perfectly happy.  The kale still had a little crunch to it, but had softened up a little.  It was really a great texture and variety.

The lemon olive oil I used was from Trader Joe's, because my mom had purchased this awesome trio of oils there.  It came with basil, hot pepper, and lemon.  I have been really enjoying them and they are such a great way to add a subtle flavor to pasta salad.

I have been trying to add in new ingredients to things I eat consistently, which is how cranberries and kale got welcomed to the shenanigans this week.  The cranberry superfood soft granola bars from yesterday were quite delicious, and this pasta salad was a success as well.  AND I got to have something a little (naturally) sweet after my lunch today with the granola bars, so I am one satisfied little luncher at the moment.

I highly suggest using tri-color tortellini or mixing regular, wheat, and spinach tortellini together to get a variance in color.  I really do agree when people say we eat with our eyes first, and so a bright and festive meal can really get you a little more excited about healthy food than a bland colored meal.  At least in my opinion that is the case.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Superfood Granola Bars: Fresh Cranberries, Chia Seeds, Flax Powder

-1/4 C Chopped fresh cranberries
-6 TB almond meal
-1 TB chia seed
-1 TB flax seed powder
-Handful of pecans, chopped (pistachios may also be an interesting choice)
-1/4 C chunky unsweetened applesauce (OR use 1 egg if you like, I think they make granola and things hold together a little better)
-1/4 C honey
-1 TB orange marmalade, or some orange zest if you prefer to not add anything with sugar
-2 shakes of ginger
-dash of vanilla

You just want to mix these in a bowl until they are well incorporated.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper and turn the batter out onto it.  Spread it out into a thin sheet about 1/4 inch thick.  I would say mine ended up being 3 inches wide by 6 or 7 inches long. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges start to brown, or until desired texture if you want it to be a crunchier bar.

Drizzle with white or dark chocolate, or eat as is.  This recipe is really adaptable, as all granola bars are.  Basically the general formula for granola bar is chunks of something and enough of something else to make it all hold together.  So you could easily add in more nut chunks and then adjust any honey, apple, or egg amounts if it was not holding together in your bowl.  Granola bars are, in my opinion, the simplest thing to make and one of my favorite blank canvases.  I highly recommend adjusting this to what you have on hand or what works best with your taste buds.

Cranberries are one of the newest additions to my fridge, so I will be looking forward to making some cool recipes with them.  I am a sucker for a superfood and also for snacks, so I enjoy that this way I can involve them both.  My sister gave me a big container of powdered flax seeds, and so I thought this may be a fun way to combine a whole lot of new ventures.

You may also consider adding in some cinnamon and nutmeg to give these more of a spiced fall taste. 

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Two-tier Zebra and Pink Cake

Zebra and pink cakes have been all the rage over the last few months for us.  We have tried, for the most part, to make them all different unless people specifically wanted something similar to one we had done.

For this one, we base iced it in white buttercream.  Next, I took a regular smaller piping tip and make the zebra stripes 2 lines wide.  I smoothed them out with the back of an offset spatula to give them the smoother look.

The letters are white chocolate dyed pink, with matching pink piping around the bottom.

In retrospect, the only thing I wish I had done but I did not think about it until it was too late was doing the piping around the layers with the grass tip.  I think that would have made a very froufrou cake that would have been even cuter.  But I do like this as is.

Another option would be to put hot pink sixlets around the base of it, which you can buy from Hobby Lobby.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bedroom Fireplace Bedore and After: Green, tan, white, and brown color scheme

So over the past year or so when I come home from college I have been working on this room. It is actually one of the first times I have ever had a room where I could paint all four walls, because we used to live in a log house. 

So we moved into a house that needed some rehab on the top floors.  I found that amazing light at a flea market, and a coworker of my mom's redid the ceiling and hung it.  It is actually a little long for the room and no one taller than me (5 foot 8) can walk under it, but I already have a solution for that.

I stained the floor with Red Mahogany Minwax.  Sometimes people shy away from red but putting it over something that is already brown or a dark wood can really give it a richness that I love. 

Once the floor dries, I have a little round table that will be going under the light, and I will most likely put a rug on the floor as well.  I am not sure just yet on whether it is going to be round or what shape.  But a rug will eventually come in.

For the wall paint, I used Behr.  I love Behr paint+primer, I think it is by far and away the best paint, and I rarely have to put a second coat on.  The green is Oregano Spice, the tan which is not in this picture but is in the top 2/3 of my wall above the chair rail on the other 3 walls is Mushroom Bisque, and the brown shown here is Ancient Root.  For the mantle, I used a pearly paint from the Martha Stewart Collection in Bone.   All of my trim is done in Ultra Pure White.

I painted the chair rail in by taping it off on the top and bottom with the green frog tape which is the ONLY PAINTING TAPE I suggest using because it is fantastic.  I painted the brown in, let it dry a little bit, and then removed the tape.  This was much cheaper and way easier than me trying to install a chair rail.

That is just not my forte.

For the fireplace mantle that was originally off when we moved in, we reattached it with liquid nails.  While it dried we braced it with lumber.  The number one lesson we have learned so far is that liquid nails solves everything. 

I plan on putting pops of yellow around the room to coordinate with my fantastic light.  Did I mention that light was only $50? I am really in love with it. A gold rimmed mirror will also be going over my mantle and I hope to create this eye popping entrance view to my room, with my bed and furniture around the edges.  I am probably going to put my twin bed from college in this room when I get home because I am apparently very strange and I love smaller beds. 

Not to mention I just bought a new mattress when I came to college and it is fantastic.

This room has come a long way and has been extremely fun. It was the first time that I have really designed a room from the start.  I am very excited to see it finally finished.

Happy crafting!
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