Thursday, January 30, 2014

Personalized Jars

My sister made me a couple of these jars for Christmas that have maps on the corks.  This was a really cool gift because I LOVE maps, absolutely love them.  And more importantly, I always have little things lying around that need a home in a jar.

All you need is a jar with a cork like this and something to put on it like a map, a picture, a memento of some sort, fabric would probably even work with the right glue to secure it.

For a lot of things you can use Mod Podge. You will want to also coat the top of whatever you put on here so that it will be protected from spills and similar.

You could also use this same idea to cover over a cork board for prettier notes and reminders displays!

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good Morning Carrot Muffins

-4 Large carrots, shredded (I used my food processor)
-1/4 C chopped walnuts
-1/2 C AP flour
-1/2 C wheat flour
-1/3 C Almond flour
-1/3 C honey (locally sourced, preferably a dark one)
-1/4 C sunflower seeds
-2 TB chia seeds
-2 eggs (I use jumbo)
-1/2 C applesauce
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-2 tsp cinnamon or more to taste
-2 shakes ginger
-2 shakes nutmeg
-pinch of salt
-dash of vanilla

Wow, right? Quite a list.  Normally I hate things that take a laundry list of ingredients, but I ended up really liking these.  I used an applesauce my mom made that was very low on sugar, and all in all these ended up with just a hint of sweetness instead of being overly done.   If you want to make them sweeter, feel free to add in some brown or white sugar. Maybe this is a sign that I am growing up, but I actually prefer things that are less sweet in the morning.

Anyway, as usual I don't do anything complex in this apartment unless it is French macarons, so all you need to do is toss all this stuff in a bowl and give it a good mix.  Divide it evenly into 12 muffin tin wells that have been greased.

You should not need liners for these.  If you swap out something like the eggs for bananas, you may want to use cupcake liners.  Bananas always give me such a time.

Anyway, bake for 20-25 minutes at 350F.  Let sit in the pan a couple minutes, run a knife around the edges of the muffins if needed, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

And yes, I do actually measure a lot of my spices in shakes and not actual measurements.

I think this will be a very acceptable substitute for bread in the morning.  I ran out earlier tonight.  Sadly, I cannot make a multigrain bread that I like as well as some of the ones I can buy.  What I can do, however, is make muffins that are not sugar bombs.  And that is just fine by me.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sports Cap Jewelry: Game Day Fun

For this you will need:
-Chain/closures or already made bracelets or necklaces in the right sizes
-Bottle caps, silver or team colors
-1 inch round hole punch
-Scrapbook paper, pictures, tickets, maps, etc. with logos and favorite memorabilia
-Jewelry pins or wires and team color beads
-Jump rings
-Resin or epoxy stickers
-nail and hammer or other method of putting a hole in the caps

So this is a simple and fun way to have unique jewelry for the big game.  I am actually sitting here right now wondering if I have blogged about this before but I am way too tired to do anything else, so if this is a repeat I will just have to make it up to you lovely readers sometime with something super cool at a later date.

Anyway, all you need to do is punch the part of the paper or ticket or image that you want to be in the cap and secure it in place with glue.  I like to use E6000 because it does not get things overly wet and it dries quickly.

Next, coat the insert in resin or secure an epoxy sticker on it to keep the elements at bay.  Allow that ample time to dry if using resin.

Use a nail and hammer to punch a small hole in the top of the cap on the rim.  Secure the caps to the bracelet with jump rings.  Add any beads or other charms you may want (football charms, helmets, etc.) and wear your bracelet with pride!

You could also make these for vacations or events like weddings or similar for more of a wearable scrapbook type idea.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Pulled Pork Corn Muffins

-1/2 C Corn Flour
-1/2 C AP Flour
-2 TB Butter
-1/2 C Milk
-1 Egg
-1/2 TB baking powder
-1/4 C finely minced onion
-Pulled pork and BBQ sauce as desired
-Optional 1/3 C frozen corn

Mix everything together except the pork and BBQ sauce, adding an extra splash of milk if needed.  I always make my corn muffins like this a really stiff batter like my drop biscuits, to give you an idea of the texture you are looking for.

I highly suggest adding corn if you have it, somehow or other I seem to be out of it in my freezer...completely unacceptable.

Squish the center down and make a well in the middle of the corn muffin pile.  If you don't want batter all over you, consider spraying your hands with PAM or similar.

Press some pulled pork into the batter and top with BBQ sauce, allow me to HIGHLY SUGGEST Sweet Baby Ray's Chipotle Honey BBQ.  It added just the right spicy kick.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until muffins are done.  Typically mine start to get a little golden on some of the pointy edges. You could also add a little cheese onto these right as they come out of the oven.

I think these would be a fun game day snack!

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Monkey Cookie Idea for Baby Showers, Birthdays, and More

This is a design idea for cookies that you might want for a birthday or baby shower.

The white ones that are square have little edible images on them.  We have a cake shop nearby that will print them for us, but the availability may vary based on where you live.  It would be worthwhile however to call around to local cake shops and see if anyone prints them for purchase.

If you invest in a monkey cookie cutter, you can make these other adorable monkeys as well.  As always, do the face and head outline first, let that sit a few minutes, and then fill in the brown details.  I would suggest doing this on all the cookies, then coming back and doing the tan.  Once the tan is dry, go back and add the eyes and mouth.

This is just a quick post to get your creative juices flowing.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Balsamic Asparagus with Bacon

Per serving you will need:
-12 spears of asparagus
-1/2 small white onion, sliced
-2 strips of bacon
-1 tsp balsamic vinegar, more as desired

Start by frying your bacon in a skillet, giving it a minute or two head start before adding in the onion.  Let those two cook, turning the bacon as needed.  Once the bacon is just starting to get done, add in the asparagus.  Remove the bacon when it is just at or below crispy.

Add the balsamic and mix the veggies around to coat.   Add a little water and pop a lid on the pan to let the veggies steam.  While steaming, cut the bacon into pieces.

Steam until the asparagus is at your desired level of doneness and then remove the lid and add the bacon back in.  Give it all a good stir and let it cook a minute or so more.

This would pair well with burgers or steak, and probably a lot of other dishes.  When I was eating it, I was definitely thinking steak.

But something like salmon would be tasty with this as well if you did not want to do beef and bacon...although I cannot imagine why you would not!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Penguin Sugar Cookie

We got this cute, chubby penguin cookie cutter from Meijer around the holiday season.  I was good, however, and I waited to get it on clearance.  AND I AM SO GLAD!

Look how cute this thing is.  I mean really....just look at it.  I chuckled...and then I DEVOURED IT.

So basically you just need your favorite roll out sugar cookie recipe or mix and some royal icing in squeeze bottles.

As always, do the outline first of your design.  Next, you can fill in the black and then the white.  Let these dry and then go back and add the cute little eyes, beak, and bowtie.

Let every part of the cookie dry completely before attempting to stack or move.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cranberry Vodka: Simple Gifting

All you need is a cute bottle of any size or style you like and enough cranberries and vodka to fill it.

I suggest poking a hole in at least half of the cranberries that way it will infuse better.  Pop them all in the bottle and then fill with vodka.  You can also put a pinch of sugar in it if you like.  The cranberries are very tart when fresh of course, so it very much depends on your taste preferences.

If you do put sugar in it, just make sure you do so sparingly and that you shake the bottle to dissolve the sugar.  I like to give the cranberry vodka a shake every couple of days anyway, much like I would an extract.

An inexpensive but good vodka is recommended.  I am not actually a drinker myself, but that is the general feedback I have received.  A super cheap vodka will take longer to taste...well...not cheap.

You can also add lime or orange peel to this, cutting off larger strips of zest without the white part.  Mix and match different flavors for unique gifting!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Healthy Chicken Bacon Zucchini Boats

You will need:
-3 zucchini, about 5 or 6 inches long and 1 inch or so diameter
-2 oz shredded chicken
-3 strips bacon, fried to just crispy
-1 c mushrooms, chopped
-1/2 c onion, chopped
-2/3 C tomatoes, diced
-1/3 C marinara or tomato sauce of choice
-salt and pepper to taste
-1/4 c water

Cut the ends off the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise.  Hollow out the center.

Drain off a little bacon grease from the frying before adding in the onions and tomato.  Cook until onions start to turn translucent.  Remove from heat, add chicken, and stir.  You could also sautee your mushrooms with this, I did not originally plan on adding them and threw them in last minute.

Fill each of the boats with the chicken mixture and top with half of the bacon.

Distribute the marinara between the boats.  And here is where you have an option: either you can go ahead and put the rest of the bacon on now, but the water added to the pan will reduce the crispiness, or you can wait and add it as a garnish when it comes out of the oven.

Regardless, add the water to the pan and cover it with foil.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

Happy crafting!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Zesty Tomato Florentine Soup

You will need:
-2 Tb chopped onion
-2 Tb olive oil
-1/4 tsp garlic
-dash of soy sauce
-Salt and pepper
-hot sauce to taste
-2 cups chopped baby spinach, stems removed
-4 chopped large tomatoes
-1/2 C tomato sauce
-1 small container cream or half and half

Sautee the onions in the olive oil with the garlic, soy sauce, and a little salt and pepper until they start to turn translucent.  Add in the tomatoes, sauce, and hot sauce. Let simmer until hot and bubbly, then add the spinach.  Cook for 5 or so minutes, depending on how you prefer the spinach to be cooked.

Pour in the cream or half and half and whisk in and bring to the desired temperature. Garnish with pepper, grated Parmesan cheese or sour cream (especially if you got a little too hot-sauce happy!)

Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich! All good soups on snowy days are best served with grilled cheese sandwiches.  This recipe is from my mom, and I am pretty excited to try it up here during some of this cold weather that is back upon us.  

You could vary this recipe by adding shredded chicken to it, or BACON.

I really think everything needs bacon.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lunchbox Shenanigans: Caprese Salad

You will need:
-1 C spinach leaves
-1 or 2 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
-Mozzarella cheese (I like to have a small partial slice of cheese for each tomato ring)
-Preferably fresh basil leaves, but dried basil if those aren't available
-Balsamic vinegar to suit

I think this is a fun thing to bring for lunch because it makes you think of something fancy but it is really simple.  You can get a bottle of balsamic vinegar pretty cheap at your local grocery store, and I like to use the fresher mozzarellas from the gourmet cheese section.

Tomatoes this time of year are really sketchy, so this may be something that you will prefer to enjoy in the spring and summer months, and maybe you will be a fancy soul and even grow your own basil!

I am a firm believer that people only hate salads because they insist on making boring ones.  If you can think of ways to put your favorite appetizers or meals into a salad variation, it quickly becomes something exciting for lunch instead of just a salad.

Balsamic vinegar, if you are not familiar with it, goes a long way with just a little poured on, so drizzle with caution!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Owl Cookies

You will need your desired colors of royal icing and some big sugar eyes.  Typically you can find these at most stores that have cake decorating section.  I have seen quite a few different variety packs at Meijer recently.

The best method for sugar cookies is to outline the cookie first and let that dry.  You can also outline any sections where colors will change.

After the outline is dry, go back and fill in the large sections and plop the sugar eyes in the wet icing.  This will set the eyes as it dries so that you do not have to worry about them moving if you need to stack cookies.

As a last thing, put in yellow details for the feet and beak.  Allow the cookies a couple hours to dry completely.

You can find really cute owl cookie cutters on amazon if a local store does not have any in stock.  Use with your favorite sugar cookie recipe and royal icing for tasty and adorable party treats!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homemade Herbed Ricotta

You will need:
-4 C whole milk
-1/4 C vinegar
-1/2 TB basil
-1 tsp crushed rosemary
-pinch of salt

Put the milk, salt, and herbs in a large pot and heat on medium high until frothy and foamy looking, which should take around 10-15 minutes.  You will want to stir it while it heats up.  If you have a food thermometer, a lot of recipes suggest heating to a temperature of about 120 degrees.  I have seen it done both ways, and used a thermometer for this one, and both seem to work just fine so go with your preference.

Remove it from the heat and add in the vinegar and give it a gentle stir, cover with a lid, and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.

Put cheesecloth in a colander over a larger bowl.  Drain the mixture through the cheesecloth and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Squeeze any excess liquid out as needed.

Transfer to a bowl and use in your favorite recipes!

I think I will be using this to make a pizza that will have hearty mushrooms, tomatoes, and maybe even bacon on it.  I have not been the easiest person to get along with lately, so I am considering taking an "I'm sorry you have to deal with me" pizza with me when I go home!

Calories are the ultimate apology.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Healthy "Nachos" for Lunch and Snacking

You will need:
-2 oz of shredded chicken mixed with 1/3 C salsa (I boil my chicken in salted water 30-40 minuted or until I can shred with two forks)
-1 Red bell pepper, cut into sections
-1 Wholly Guacamole single serve cup

I heated up my chicken before eating this all as a meal.  This is a really great thing to pack for a lunch when you want something healthy but something that still packs a lot of flavor.

By using the peppers in place of chips, you still get a really crunchy texture in your meal with a healthy spin.  I think texture variety is extremely important! Crunching sends lots of happy signals to the brain, and if this is midday at may really need those happy signals....

And of course, it isn't a bad idea to have a better balanced lunch than something packed with sugar or overloaded on carbs that will just make you crash later.

You can also add things like cheese or lettuce or other toppings you may like as you see fit.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Simple Crockpot Bourbon Apple Butter (using honey instead of sugar)

-6 to 8 apples, I used Fuji you may use your favorite kind, peeled and cubed
-2 tsp honey (darker, locally sourced kind preferably)
-2 tsp cinnamon (more or less to taste)
-3 shakes ginger
-2 shakes nutmeg
-1 tsp lemon juice
-2.5 tsp vanilla bourbon

I made my vanilla bourbon by chopping a vanilla bean and putting it in a jar with about a cup or cup and a half of Woodford Reserve.  You can use more beans as desired for stronger vanilla.  You will want to let it sit about a month at a minimum, shaking daily.

Anyway toss the peeled apples into your crockpot after spraying it with cooking spray.  Drizzle the honey, lemon juice, bourbon, and spices over it and stir to coat.  Cook on low for about 6 hours, stirring every hour or so and mashing the apples at around 4.5 hours.

I will be storing mine in a mason jar in the fridge.  Since I mashed mine (you could also throw it in a blender) I might also eat it as applesauce!

You may prefer a sweeter variety, in which case you could up the amount of honey in it or you could add in 1/4 C brown sugar as well.

So I really enjoyed this because it was simple, it was minimal work, and it just tastes good.  It is a little different spin on the typical apple butter and it tastes a little brighter to me.  Obviously you can tell by the color of mine that I did not heavily load it with spices.  You can absolutely add more to your preferences.

Feel free to increase the recipe and freeze for future use!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Honey Oat Wheat Rolls

-1 C warm whey or water mixed with 1 TB honey and 2 tsp fast rising yeast, combine and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy
-1 tsp salt
-2 TB olive oil
-1.5 C whole wheat flour
-1/2 C oats plus more for sprinkling
-1/2 to 1 C AP flour
-egg mixed with water before baking for eggwash

After the yeast mixture has gotten foamy, add the oil and salt and mix to combine.  Add in the whole wheat flour and the oats next and mix to combine.

Add in AP flour slowly, adding just enough that the dough comes into a ball.  Turn out onto a flour dusted surface and knead for about 5 minutes.

Grease a boil and let dough rise in it for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch dough down divide into 6 pieces and form balls.  Place in greased metal baking pan (no larger than 8inches) and let rise for another 45 minutes.  Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with oats.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until starting to turn golden on top.  I removed mine to cool on a wire rack.

These are going to be my breakfast sandwich rolls! I am very excited to load them up with bacon and eggs.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Roasted Zucchini Boats

-3 average sized zucchini, cut in half (those ones at the grocery that are about an inch or so in diameter and maybe 5 or 6 inches long...I would call those average)
-1/4 lb ground beef
-1/2 C onion
-1 red pepper, diced
-3 tsp (or more to taste) of dill
-1.5 tsp parsley
-pinch or so of garlic

First, hollow out the zucchini halves a bit.  I did this with a spoon but you may need a knife depending on your spoon quality.  Chop the hollowed out bits and reserve in a bowl.

Sautee the ground beef with the onions, red peppers, zucchini, and half of the spices.  You may need to add a little oil if your beef is really low fat and won't produce much grease, in which case you can add about a half TB of butter or desired oil.

Cook until beef is done and onions are translucent. Line boats up in a rectangular glass baking dish and carefully fill with cooked filling.  Top with remaining seasonings.

Add about 1/4 C water to the dish, cover, and bake in a 350F degree oven for about 30 minutes.

You can switch up the seasonings as desired to make these taco flavored or whatever you might prefer. If you are not on any restrictive diet or similar, you can also top these with just a little feta cheese on top when they come out of the oven.

Happy crafting!

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Rich Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

You will need:
-1/2 C Peanut butter or almond butter (or HAZELNUT! what a great idea it would taste just like nutella)
-1/4 C plus 2 TB honey
-2 TB sugar
-1/2 C applesauce
-1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
-3/4 C oats
-1/2 C Hershey Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1.5 C shredded zucchini
-Optional 1/2 C Tollhouse Dark Chocolate chips or vanilla chips to make these like an oreo

Preheat your oven and grease an 8x8 baking pan.

Pulverize the oats in a food processor, which should take a couple minutes.  Empty and set aside.  In the food processor with the metal blade, cream the nut butter of choice with the applesauce, honey, sugar, and vanilla.

Next, add the zucchini, oats, baking soda, and cocoa powder.  Pour in greased pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top if desired, or any nuts or similar toppings that you may want to add.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

Allow them to cool for a moment and then slice in and enjoy!

The Special Dark chocolate makes these amazingly rich and almost jet black.  It is very conceivable that adding in one egg to this batter would make it hold together slightly better, as it is slightly crumbly.  If you are not a fan of using eggs, the chia seed replacement for eggs is also worth considering.

However, if you want to make it just like this, it does work just fine! Although these are much healthier than a typical brownie, I have been really making them much less healthy by adding a marshmallow icing on top! Do you know how much less guilty I feel about icing a brownie that is made from veggies? The answer is A LOT.

Ladies, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  Might I suggest making these brownies and topping with bacon and walnuts and dark chocolate chips before baking?  Load that bacon on! Your man will never know the brownie itself is healthy, and the end product should be nothing short of male-approved deliciousness. that I mention it I think I will make that for myself!

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Loaded Stuffed Pizza Pull Apart Bread

-1 C warmed whey (or you can use water, we had whey leftover from the ricotta we made)
-Hearty pinch of sugar
-2 tsp yeast (I always buy rapid rise)
-Pinch of salt
-2 tsp dried rosemary
-1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning
-2 TB basil infused olive oil
-1.5 C whole wheat flour
-1/2 to 1 C AP Flour

-1/2 C tomatoes pureed with pinch of rosemary, salt, garlic, and 2 tsp basil
-4 TB butter, melted

-1/4 log of mozzarella cheese, enough to make 25 to 30 1/2 inch or so cubes

Combine the whey or water with the sugar and yeast and let rest for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.  Stir in the salt, seasonings, olive oil, and wheat flour, mixing to combine.  Add in the first half cup of AP flour and combine, then add more flour as needed until it just comes into a ball.

Turn out onto a very well floured surface, sprinkle flour on the top, and knead for about five minutes.  Grease a bowl and sit the dough ball in, covering to rise for one hour.

When finishing rising, punch the dough down.   Melt the butter for the topping and pour in the bottom of a round glass baking dish (about 10 inches diameter).  Add the tomato puree to the bottom of the bowl.  Tear off hunks of dough just large enough to wrap around the mozzarella cubes.

Place the stuffed dough bites into the bowl, packing them fairly close together.  Cover again and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until browned on top and hollow sounding when tapped.  Remove from oven and let rest for about 5 minutes.  Flip the dish over onto a serving plate, shaking a little if necessary to remove from pan.  Top with freshly grated parmesan.

And then DEVOUR.

OK...we ate way more of this than we should have.  It was delicious! The bread bites were extremely soft, and the awesome mozzarella that I picked up at Trader Joe's was melty and stringy and gooey and absolutely fantastic.  The bread bites easily pulled apart and it tasted so much like a yummy fresh pizza.  By making a fresh puree of tomatoes instead of an already prepared sauce, it really brought in a nice bright flavor.

The outer bites also got a nice crusty edge on them, so expect people to fight over them! However, the inside ones are just as good because they are so soft and decadent and they catch the vast majority of the toppings, so don't worry if the edge ones go quickly because those inner ones are going to be quite the treat as well.

You could really play around with what you top this with to come up with all kinds of unique and easy breads for parties and dinners.  This is a simple way to make something really stunning that everyone is going to enjoy.  I could see this being a hit at Super Bowl, and I might actually put it in the starting lineup for SB this year!

I would say this particular size recipe would be good for about 4 people, more if there are a lot of other meal options.  My cousin and I ate about half of it, but we did not make anything else to go with it and ate it like a dinner.  And we were quite full afterward!

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cheesy Mushroom Calzone on a Pizza Stone

You will need:
-1/2 batch of your favorite pizza dough recipe
-1/2 C mushrooms, sauteed (I used sliced Porteenie mushrooms)
-1/2 C mozzarella, cubed
-2 TB ricotta
-1/2 pack cherry tomatoes, pureed with 1 TB garlic cheese topper, 1/4 tsp rosemary, 2 tsp basil
-1/4 C shredded spinach or lettuce blend
-1 TB freshly shredded parmesan
-Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450F, with a pizza stone on the bottom rack.

Stretch your pizza dough out until it is fairly thin, but still sturdy.  I would suggest that as you top your calzone, you keep everything over to one you can tell by my not so pretty tear, I thought of that a little too late.

Brush the crust with olive oil, then start layering on your toppings.  I actually like a fresh tomato blend better than actual pizza sauce, but feel free to use sauce if you prefer.  Assemble the calzone on a cookie sheet or pizza peel dusted with cornmeal.

When finished, fold the dough over and crimp with a fork to seal.  I would highly suggest brushing the top with more olive oil.  I happened to FORGET to do this.  I was so sad. But next time I will absolutely brush mine with a little oil.

Transfer to the pizza stone and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. I positioned my calzone at the edge of the baking sheet I was using as a peel, pulled my oven rack forward, and gave the sheet a little shake to slide the calzone off.

To get it back out of the oven, I pulled the oven rack forward again, grabbed the edge of the calzone with tongs, and slid it back onto a metal pizza pan.  I typically let my pizza stone cool back down with my oven to make sure it does not cool too quickly.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Breakfast: Multigrain toast, cookie butter, honey, banana

-1 or 2 pieces of a multigrain bread (you may vary this by how much you like to eat in the mornings, the size of the loaf, etc.)
-Cookie Butter (I used Speculoos from Trader Joes)
-About 1/2 tsp honey per piece of bread
-1 banana, I used a larger banana for 2 pieces

I toasted my multigrain bread to a nice golden.  I get a little excited when my toaster really gives me that perfect color.  Not all bread toasts the same, it can be quite vexing for me.

Anyway, smear a thin, very thin layer of cookie butter on the toast.  You don't need a lot it is quite rich, and doesn't have all that many redeeming qualities.  It is kind of like Nutella.  Delicious, but not really healthy.

Next, put a little drizzle of LOCAL honey over it.  Local honey is the best honey, and I HIGHLY suggest looking for very dark local honey because it is going to taste a lot sweeter and stronger and you can really get away with using just a little which will make it last longer.  I like to get mine from Whole Foods.

Top it with banana slices and enjoy your indulgent-tasting breakfast!  I actually found this pretty filling, which is rare for me to say about anything that does not involve eggs.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Blackberry Chia Seed "Pudding"

-1 small pack of blackberries
-1/3 C almond meal
-1/2 C almond milk
-2 TB chia seeds
-Optional 1/2 tsp honey and/or 2 shakes of ginger

You just need to toss the first three ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the blackberries are to your liking.  I let mine go a bit to turn them into juice.  You could do just the blackberries first, then put it through a strainer to remove seeds.

I obviously did not bother with that.  Anyway, after you have it all mixed together, add in 2 TB chia seeds and refrigerate overnight.

Chia seeds take in moisture, so it is a distant cousin to something like a tapioca pudding without the obvious round bits that tapioca has.  This has a much more subtle texture.  You can pretty much use any fruit you like, and don't have to add the almond meal if you don't want to or don't have it on hand- the chia will still do the trick.  I just used it because I had some leftover from a different recipe.

This is a pretty tasty superfood snack, and it is a beautiful color! I would definitely add in ginger next time, however.  Ginger and blackberry go great together.

Happy crafting! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Healthy Baked Zucchini Bacon "Ranch" Cakes

You will need:
-3 small zucchini, grated
-2 to 3 strips of bacon, fried and chopped (shooting for about an ounce of it)
-1 egg (at least a large, I use jumbo but it was actually probably more than I needed, especially if you are going to slack on drying them well)
-1 TB parsley
-1/2 tsp dill
-Ample salt and pepper

That's right.  That is all there is to it.  So I used my Cuisinart and the grater blade to shred the zucchini in seconds.  I love my food processor.  Add a sprinkle of salt to the shreds and let them stand while you cook the bacon.  Cook the bacon to crispy, then drain on a paper towel.

You will need to press the water out of the zucchini shreds.  The more you get out the more they should be able to crisp up.  I pressed mine between two paper towels, which honestly I think I am just going to use some flour sack dish towels next time because I hate using a lot of paper products, and I have about a million towels.

Anyway drain them well, then mix with the remaining ingredients.  Form them into patties, mine made 4 and I pressed excess liquid out while forming them.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet or parchment paper.

Mine STUCK to my sheet because I have two identical pans, and one is terrible.  It is actually starting to lose its finish too (dark nonstick) so I need to just toss it.  My other has done really well, I am actually not sure why I have had such issues with this one.

I really wanted to add about a half a cup of onion to this recipe.  It really could have used the richness that onion brings.  I also considered frying these in the leftover bacon grease to really infuse that flavor further and also to crisp them more.  You could flip them halfway through baking also to brown each side a little better.

Other options would be to fry them in your skillet in butter if you are not a fan of cooking things in bacon grease.

I think these would be really good with a sauce, and there are a ton of different spice profiles you could use and make these spicy or give them a Greek flair even.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

College Colored Wreath (Graduation Party Decoration Idea)

So I do have a new found love for making wreaths.  Which is kind of terrible because they are so big where do you even store them!?

But regardless.  I am most likely going to have a graduation party when I get done with my master's degree.  Just a small thing of course but something that tops off this journey.

Also, I needed something to put in place of my Christmas wreath, because as it turned out I really liked having something in that spot on my wall.

So you need a wreath form, some wire if it does not have anything already built onto it to attach things to it with, and about 3 to 4 rolls of deco mesh and/or tulle in your college colors.  I scored all these at Hobby Lobby in the post-Christmas sale. I used 2 reds and a small part of a black roll of tulle.

I make about 3 loops and put them together in my hand, crimp the base together, and then attach it to the wreath.  This deco mesh stuff really likes to catch and hook itself, so it is not difficult at all to get it to stay where you want.  You just have to make sure that you buy enough rolls that you cannot see the wire frame.

I am also planning on attaching either a little grad cap and diploma embellishment to it or finding something with the BSU logo on it to put on the wreath.  It will hang in my apartment til I leave and then be some cute wall hanging for my party.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Just Dessert: Banana, Vanilla Custard Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Walnuts

You will need:
-1 banana, sliced in half both ways
-chocolate sauce of your choosing, I used my dark chocolate balsamic sauce found here
-Vanilla ice cream or another flavor like banana or peanut butter would be tasty, I used my homemade vanilla custard ice cream found here
-a handful of walnuts, broken into pieces

OK so I do have a teeny bit of a confession on this one.  I am quite possibly using this as a craft of the day because the picture is really pretty.

Don't get me wrong the ice cream was amazing.  The chocolate balsamic and the vanilla ice cream and the banana and then the crunchy walnuts made this really fantastic.  It had good texture variety, it was sweet but rich and a little fruity from the banana and the sauce I used.  Definitely a very tasty treat.

But the picture is really pretty.  And I will not apologize, at least I admitted it.

Plus, I have been snowed in all day, and will be snowed in all of tomorrow as well as classes have been cancelled.  I really don't do well with nothing to do. Tomorrow will probably have a lot of shenanigans!

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Meatball Sub Stuffed Crust Pizza (My first pizza stone attempt!)

You will need:
-1 batch of your favorite pizza dough recipe, I use Cuisinart's that came with my food processor which is enough for a 14 inch pizza
-about 10 meatballs (for about a medium sized pizza) thawed. I used Trader Joe's mini party meatballs.  I love them!
-Mozzarella cheese (I like the mozz you can get in rounds, not rectangles, and I really like Trader Joe's)
-Favorite pizza sauce (I like light sauce but add to your preference obviously, believe it or not I typically just use Hunt's tomato pasta sauce, cheap and tasty)
-4 to 5 string cheese sticks, halved longways
-olive oil and cornmeal

Stretch or roll your crust out fairly thin and brush it all with olive oil. Once mine was stretched, I transferred it to a baking sheet that I could use like a pizza peel (having a flat edge that I could slide it off onto my stone).  Have the stone in your oven preheating to 425, I baked mine on the lowest rack.

Anyway, once the crust is on the baking sheet and oiled, place the string cheese halves around the edges, bringing the crust over them and sealing.  I did not seal mine very well so it popped open, but string cheese is not exactly the most meltable thing that ever existed so it did not really make a difference to be honest.  But you will seal yours well anyway.

Top the middle with sauce and cut your meatballs in half.  Place them around on the pizza, and top with cheese.  I used chunks of cheese and did not bother shredding it, I would highly recommend that.

I never buy preshredded cheese.  It is just weird.  And like plastic.

Anyway, once it is all topped, you can optionally hit it with a little fresh cracked pepper.  To transfer mine to the stone, I moved it around a little on the pan to make sure it was not sticking, and I scooted it close to the edge that it would need to slide off.

Open your oven prepared with an oven mitt on, and pull out the rack that has the pizza stone (I took my top rack out just to make sure I did not accidentally burn myself).  I grabbed the edge of the pizza and slid it right off, and then adjusted it quickly to center it on the stone.  My pizza dough made a large enough pizza that it covered the majority of my 15 inch stone.

Return the rack to its proper position, close the door, and bake for about 12-14 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and brown.

10 minutes the cheese had NO color on it.  The picture above was at 13.  You really need to watch this thing once it gets close to the end.  

Since my pizza stone said to not cut pizza on it, I grabbed the edge of the pizza when it was done with tongs, lifted it up, and slid it on to my original pizza pan that has holes in the bottom.  The craziest part about this pizza is that my pizza cutter sliced it like butter....that never happened before! It made a really great crispy crust.

And, it is good because it still gives me a use for my old pan, because I definitely won't be going back to that for making pizza.  This one was amazing.

I topped mine with fresh grated parmesan when it came out of the oven.

I made this because a large snowstorm and temperature drop is baring down on us here.  My lights blipped off right after the dough started to raise and I was so worried this would not happen.  But we made it through, the lights are still flickering every now and then when the wind picks up a bit, but hopefully this will all pass by without a hitch.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wheat Berries: Apple Craisin Salad

You will need:
-1/4 C cooked wheat berries
-Up to 1 whole apple, chopped
-Spinach/Spring Mix blend lettuce (I used about a packed half cup or so)
-1 TB Feta cheese (I like Athenos reduced fat)
-1 TB Craisins
-1/4 C Walnuts, chopped
-Lemon infused olive oil (I cheat, mine is from Trader Joe's), just a light sparing drizzle over it
-Fresh cracked pepper
-Other toppings as desired

So, to cook wheat berries, at least the ones I got from Whole Foods, you soak them overnight in 3.5 times as much water as however much berries you are cooking.  I soaked 1/2 C of berries in 1 3/4 C water, for example.  Then you boil them in that soaking water the next day for about an hour, adding more water as needed.

I only used a portion of what I cooked for this super tasty salad.  I tossed in all the ingredients mentioned above, plus some sunflowers I roasted, and drizzled just a bit of lemon olive oil on it. I hit it with some fresh cracked pepper, and dug in.

As it turns out, I really like salad when it has a lot going on.  I am not a big fan of the standard lettuce-cheese-crouton-ranch "salad" and actually with the exception of Ruby Tuesday I don't even use croutons much anymore.  If you have a lot of bold flavors and a variety of textures, you likely won't miss the croutons, or at least I never do.

But all bets are off when you go to Ruby T.  Those croutons are amazing.

I had planned on adding more salads to my weekly meals, and so far I have eaten some version of a salad both days I have been back, which is pretty unusual for me.  It is a welcomed surprise as a matter of fact.  I am very hopeful that I can continue this trend, because honestly I would like to take salads for lunch sometimes at work.

I paired this tasty salad with a small pork tenderloin and the remaining sections of apple that I did not chop for the salad.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Oven Roasted Stuffed Apples: Feta, Walnuts, Dark Chocolate Balsamic

Ingredients per serving:
-1 apple (I used a medium-sized Fuji)
-1 TB feta
-1-2 TB roughly chopped walnuts
-2 tsp dark chocolate balsamic sauce, my recipe can be found here.
-Optional: Bacon of course

I forgot to buy bacon.  This makes me sad because there is a big snow storm coming and I do love bacon.  But since there is a big snow storm coming it also means the grocery was a madhouse.  So I think I will just be bacon-less for a few days as opposed to going back.

Anyway, cut the apple in half and scoop out the seed part and make a little well.  I used a combination of a knife and spoon to do this.  Top with feta and walnuts, you can obviously add more or less to your taste but I decided to go heavier on the walnuts than the feta.  I also used a reduced fat feta (Athenos brand).  Drizzle on a little dark chocolate balsamic, making sure that some gets down in the well too and not just around the edges.

Bake in an oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  I only did 25 in my gas oven in a dark metal cake pan.

I paired mine with a mixed salad blend and some salmon that I just cooked in a little bit of butter with seasoned salt and pepper on it.  The apples were amazing with the salad blend and I ate some of the bites with salmon which was equally good.  It was really a light and refreshing meal.

The best part about this to me is it made a really fancy salad in a really easy way.  You could roast a big pan full of these apples and use one or two parts of them to top salads for a big dinner, and it would be a lot faster than chopping up apples and whatnot to put in salad.  No one has to know that your super fancy dish took very little work!

Also, I like warm toppings on salad. I sometimes make one with roasted veggies, and it really does change the whole dynamic of a salad and, in my opinion, makes it a lot tastier.  Because the apples here had so much flavor, I did not even have to break out any extra dressing.

I would imagine you could do this with pears, but I am not sure as I have not tried it.

This all started from me going to the grocery without a list, which I said I was not going to do.  Secretly, there is very little change from when I make a list and when I don't.  Either way, I am still a kid in a candy store when it comes to the produce section and I constantly buy things that aren't in my plan.  Today, for instance, 3lb bags of Fuji apples were BOGO free at my Meijer.  That would never have been on my list, but there is no way I would pass something like that up!  I don't exactly know what I am going to do with 6 lbs of apples just yet however...

I also tend to make snap decisions when the grocery is packed.  With the big snow coming in, there were tons of people at the store.  I will hand it to Meijer, they prepared well and had a lot of lanes open.  I would guess that I did not have to wait but about 20 minutes at a max, which for snow panic is really not that bad at all.  That is also why I did not go back and get bacon...there was no way I was losing my spot in line!

But back to these roasted apples, I could eat an entire pan full of them. I love a good cooked apple and it is so nice to have one that is not drowned in sugar.  You can really taste the apple flavor and it is sweet and savory all at once.  The walnuts are amazing roasted, and the best part is some of the feta cooks a lot and actually gets a little crispy.  Yummy! It did not, however, instantly cure me of my sugar addiction that I developed over Christmas break after eating a few too many chocolate dipped marshmallows.

If anyone ever hands you a strawberry marshmallow dipped in white chocolate, do not eat it.  You will be addicted and there is just no coming back from that...

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

DIY Breadstick Seasoning

Per every batch (approximately enough to fill small jars like these that I bought at Hobby Lobby) you will need:
-4 TB oregano
-2 TB garlic cheese topper (I LOVE Shipshewana brand, but if you can't find that McCormick makes one as well)
-1 TB basil
-1/2 TB crushed rosemary
-Pinch of garlic
-Pinch of salt

You just mix up all this and put it into a container to use for breadsticks or to give as gifts. I did a little of both this year.  I paired some homemade seasoning blends with things like bread mixes and packets of yeast for baking baskets.  That is a kind of gift I would certainly not mind getting!

I also used mine on breadsticks to test it out.  I don't typically like oregano, but blended with the other ingredients I actually was fine with this seasoning.  If you can't find garlic cheese topper, nab some pizza cheese from Pizza Hut or similar that you can toss in with this.  I also would have liked this if I had increased the garlic cheese topper by another tablespoon, so don't be afraid to deviate.

For a super simple breadstick recipe, check out my no-wait version here.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Sauce

You will need:
-1 C balsamic vinegar (doesn't have to be fancy, mine was Colavita and I got it at Target)
-1/2 C water
-1/4 C sugar
-1/3 C Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate powder
-Optional 1 tsp vanilla, raspberry, or orange extract (experiment with different flavors, I think orange would be amazing!)

You will need two sauce pans for this.  In the first, heat your balsamic vinegar on medium-low or so until it is reduced by half, stirring often.  Set aside to cool.

Add the water and sugar to another pan, dissolve the sugar, and bring to a boil.  Reduce immediately to low and add the cocoa, stirring to dissolve. Heat on low and stir until the syrup begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and add any extracts you want to use.  Mint could also be interesting.  Set aside to cool.

Combine the two once cool and transfer to desired bottle for serving or gifting.

So first off, I discovered while making this that I HATE the smell of balsamic while it is reducing.  I love the taste of it on salads, I love this chocolate as is...but I hate the middle part of turning one into the other.  It is pretty powerful, so be prepared.

The great thing is the end product.  The chocolate almost has a fruity undertone, and it would be great with cheesecake, ice cream, and potentially even savory dishes.  I think this would be fantastic on like a dessert pizza or similar.

Now, admittedly, I probably did not reduce mine as much as I should have but I was just not liking the smell, but the end product was still great! So even if you cut it just a little shy, don't give up on it.  The thicker chocolate can really balance it out, and I actually liked it being a little thinner of a sauce.

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