Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Artisan Bread-Easier than you think!

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This recipe is tasty! I was sitting next to a friend at choir rehearsal who was describing this super easy and tasty bread recipe and I knew I had to try it out. Apparently the recipe first showed up in the NY Times from Mark Bittman, but I found this version at Steamy Kitchen.

First, I had to hit the store because I did not have bread flour or instant yeast. This recipe is super easy, but it is not super fast. You have to start the dough the night before and you need to have a couple hours of raising time the day that you want to bake it. You don't need a fancy mixer, but you should have an enamel cast iron baking dish with a lid that can handle oven temps of 450 degrees.


3 C. bread flour (I used King Arthur)
1/4 t. instant yeast
1 tsp. salt (table)
1 1/2 C. warm water

In a med/large bowl add all the dry ingredients and stir. Add the water and stir it up until you get a messy lump of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set on the counter overnight.

The next day the bowl will have a light and fluffy dough. I laid out a dish towel and sprinkled it generously with flour and then dumped the contents of the bowl onto the towel. I used the edges of the towel to form the dough into a ball, then wrapped the cloth around it to let it rise for a couple hours.

As instructed by the Steamy Kitchen, the last 30 minutes of raising, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees with the baking dish inside the oven. I dumped the dough from the towel onto a piece of parchment paper and slipped it into the pot. Put the lid on the pot and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and bake for another 10-15 minutes until it is a beautiful golden color. Remove it from the pot and let it cool on a wire rack.  NOTE:  After seeing America's Test Kitchen do this bread too, they didn't pre-heat the pot and it seemed to work fine.  Last time I did the bread, after I shaped the dough into a ball, I placed it on the parchment and right into my cast iron pot to rise and put it in the 450 degree oven when it was ready.  Seemed fine.  I also had a cold house that day, so I put the pot in the powder room with a space heater...it made it rise nice and fast).

I bundled up this gorgeous loaf of bread up with some homemade strawberry jam and a dishtowel that I imprinted with the Citrasolve method and took it as a gift to some good friends. When she served it at dinner, everyone wanted to know which bakery I had stopped at to pick it up! One friend immediately wanted to know how to make it because it reminded her of the kind of bread her husband loves from Portugal. So, it was a hit! Try it out, you will not be sorry :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Licorice Caramels

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One of my favorite memories of my grandpa is that he always had licorice in his front shirt pocket (he wore those Western style shirts with snaps on the pockets). My brothers and I all love black licorice--so it was no surprise that licorice caramels are a big hit around our house. I first had these tasty treats in college when my roommate made them for me. I'm pretty sure the recipe is from The Lion House Dessert cookbook, but I got it from Melissa and haven't been able to come to a family Christmas without it since. Even if you don't think you like licorice, you very well may love these (you can make the recipe without the anise and just use vanilla...or if you are busy like me, you make one batch of caramel and divide it in half and do both in one fell swoop). On years that I get my act together early, I wrap the caramels individually, other years I cut it into squares and stack in wax paper layers. I usually cut up my wax paper squares while the caramel is cooling in the pan.


1 C. butter
1 1/2 C. light corn syrup
2 C. white sugar
1 can sweetend condensed milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp black food paste
1/2 tsp anise oil (NOT extract)

In a heavy 6 qt saucepan mix the butter, syrup, sugar, sweetened condensed milk and salt. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches "soft ball" stage and a medium caramel color (around 225-235 on a thermometer...I never use one, I use a bowl of ice water and test it). Don't try and make the process faster by turning up the heat, it will burn.

Remove the caramel from the heat and add the anise oil and food paste. Let the caramel cool a 20-30 minutes in the saucepan before pouring it into a well-buttered cookie sheet/cake pan (if you pour super hot caramel, it will melt the butter and stick to the pan). Do NOT try and pour the mixture directly on wax paper, it will melt the wax and stick to the paper (learned the hard way). I usually use my kitchen shears (sprayed with Pam) to cut them into squares.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cake Pops

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Do you remember the Christmas that you got your Easy Bake Oven? I do. I'm pretty sure its the same year that I got a foot-pedal powered blender that I used to make red Kool-Aid in my bedroom with brand new sunshine yellow carpet (sorry Mom). I loved making cute little cakes. Turns out my demographic are suckers for spending money on things that remind us of our childhood, hence the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker. I got one on Black Friday at Kohl's and I had some fun trying it out!

I made the vanilla cake recipe in the Babycakes recipe book that came with the machine. The batter is a thick one, and with the many other reviews I've seen, apparently that is an important factor. I tested several methods of putting the batter into the wells, and I decided I liked the cookie-dough scoop the best.

I found that filling each well right to the top worked best. My first batch turned out absolutely perfectly...every cake was a perfect sphere...and yet I manged to not take a single picture of them. Sigh. As I continued making batches (cooking for about 5 minutes) they got less and less perfect. I suspect that the device was getting too hot. So next time, I'll unplug the device between batches and plug it back in once I've got the batter in and lid closed.

I put the cake balls in the freezer before decorating. To decorate, I melted the candy chips in the microwave in a small bowl and then sat the bowl in my mini-crock pot. This kept the candy nice and smooth and allowed for easy clean up. I dipped the stick into the melted candy then pushed it into the frozen cake ball. Then I put them back in the freezer to harden the stick. I then dipped and swirled each of the cake pops. You have to tap off the excess and twirl the stick a bit to get it all smooth.

Decorate with sprinkles or drizzling with melted chocolate. Turned out pretty darn good for a first try. I did find this great Youtube video today, AFTER I had already done mine. I think I'll try some of her suggestion too.

I had great fun--I'm thinking cake pops are going to show up at the family Christmas party :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Activity Booklet for Kids

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Placemat image from http://www.bedifferentactnormal.com/2011/11/printable-thanksgiving-activity-sheet.html

Last year I made up a booklet of mazes, puzzles, coloring etc... for the nieces and nephews. Here it is again, along with another booklet that I found at TLSBooks.com I also thought that Family Fun had lots of great ideas.

Here's the link to my Google Site where you can download both PDF booklets.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Apple Pie Filling for Now or the Freezer

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I had the good fortune of having some friends with an apple tree with so many apples, that they gave me a large bag! I love eating apples, but this was more than I could really eat in a timely fashion. So, I decided to get some apple pie filling made and frozen. I'm planning on using it for the Thanksgiving pies that I'm responsible for at the family dinner.


6 C. sliced apples
1 T. lemon juice
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 T. instant tapioca
1/2 t. cinnamon
pie crust

I used an apple/peeler/corer to get all my apples done (I ended up with enough apples for five 9" pies). I mixed up each batch of dry ingredients and apples separately, mostly because I don't have a bowl big enough for 30 cups of apples! In a bowl mix the apples and lemon juice. In a smaller container mix the sugar, salt, tapioca and cinnamon. Mix the dry ingredients into the apples. Let the mixture rest on the counter for at least 15 minutes.

Option 1:
Make the pie right now! Put the bottom crust in your pan and pour the apple filling in, dot with butter; top with crust and pinch the seams together. Cut vent slits in the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes at 400 degrees.

Option 2:

Freeze just the raw filling so you can use in future pies. To freeze the pie filling, dump the 6 cups of apple mix into a large zipper freezer bag and squeeze out the air and close it. Put the zipper bag of apples into the pie pan that you will eventually be using to bake the pie. Smoosh the apples around until you have a pan-shaped pile of apples. Leave the bag in the pan and put both in the freezer. After the apples are frozen, you can take the bag out of the pan and just keep the bag in the freezer. You may want to double bag to help avoid freezer burn.

When you are ready to make the pie, get the bottom crust into the pan and put the frozen apples in it. Dot with a couple tablespoons of butter and put on the top crust. Cut some slits in the top and bake for 50-60 minutes on 400 degrees (you'll need to wrap the edges of the pie in foil so that the crust doesn't get too brown). Don't let the apples defrost before using them; they'll get too juicy and make for a soggy pie.

Option 3: Freeze a whole raw pie to bake later.

Make up the pie, as if you were going to bake it right away (crust and all) and freeze the whole thing, just don't cut the vent holes yet. Wrap it in plastic wrap and then foil (or if you have those giant freezer bags, you could try them too). When you are ready to use, take it out of the freezer, cut the vent holes and bake, do not defrost first--it will take nearly 2 hours at 400 degrees, so be sure to use foil around the edges for at least the first hour. (I did this method as a test run for Thanksgiving and it turned out PERFECT!!)

Now I'm stocked up on apple pie makings!

Update: I tried it with cherries and it also turned out super yummy. The recipe is slightly different. 4 C. sour cherries, 3 T. tapioca, 1 t. almond extract, 1 C. sugar

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Multi Grain Bread

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Last weekend was a long weekend for me and I enjoyed lazing around on Saturday morning, including some time watching America's Test Kitchen. I love that show. They tell you why you should or should not do something in a recipe and everything they make is always super delicious looking. The episode was on making multi-grain bread, and they showed examples of breads that may be super nutritious, but they are so heavy and dense that they aren't very tasty. That is exactly what I have thought about healthy bread recipes I've made in the past, but this one looked so yummy, that I knew I had to try it out. I waited all week to try it (because I know that I shouldn't start a recipe that takes 3-4 hours when I get home from work).

The surprise ingredient in this recipe is hot 7-grain breakfast cereal. What genius, since a bag of cereal is less than $3 and I don't end up with bags of grains that I'd never use up. It turned out so great! It took longer for the dough to raise than the recipe suggested, but it was probably because my house wasn't super warm. The bread turned out so light and with good "chew". You could make a really great sandwich with this bread and have it not fall apart (like home made wheat bread sometimes can). I followed the recipe exactly, including the checking the bread's temp before removing from the oven. I even managed to wait 2 hours before I cut into it (torture).

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen
  • 1 1/4 C . 7-grain hot cereal mix (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
  • 2 1/2 C. boiling water
  • 3 C. all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • 1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
  • 4 T honey
  • 4 T unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 T table salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, (unsalted-I did not add these, I don't like seeds in my bread)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats
  • 1. Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour. Whisk flours in separate medium bowl.

  • 2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, melted butter, and yeast and stir to combine. Attach bowl to standing mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer running on low speed, add flours, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until dough forms ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2 to 3 tablespoons additional all-purpose flour and continue mixing); continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes. Add seeds and knead for another 15 seconds. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, taut ball. Place dough into greased container with 4-quart capacity; cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

  • 3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 9 by 5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pat into 12 by 9-inch rectangle; cut dough in half crosswise with knife or bench scraper. Shape each piece into a loaf by rolling it up; roll to coat with oats; cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. (Dough should barely spring back when poked with knuckle.) Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vintage French Grain Sack Dining Chair

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I suppose other people have been tuned into the vintage french style way before me, but when Target had those cute dishtowels earlier this fall, it got me crushing on the trend too. A little Googling and all kinds of cute stuff made with "vintage" grain sacks pop up. So, I decided to try all kinds of crafting. The best part? Except for the Citra Solv, I already had everything I needed in the house!

The chairs were in need of some re-gluing and some sanding. I used some Gorilla Glue and clamps to tighten up joints that probably came loose from a boy leaning back on the chair whenever his mom wasn't looking. My palm sander made short work of the already worn finish.

A debate waged in my mind over whether to paint or stain the chairs (the wood appears to be maple and it cleaned up very nicely--I could almost see my dad cringe over the thought of covering up nice wood with paint), however, I opted for paint, sorry Dad. I used Ralph Lauren in Oatmeal-I could still do the second chair hanging out in the garage with stain right?

Here's where the vintage French grain sack comes in. I got inspired by The Graphics Fairy's project, here. I'd heard about doing ink transfers using paint thinner, but I loved the idea of using something less dangerous like Citra Solv. I won't explain the transfer process here since she explains it so well on her blog (even the Citra Solv website has craft ideas for you).

I found the Citra Solv at Whole Foods (eek, expensive at 8.99 a bottle, but its enough for a decade of projects and price sticker removal, so I guess that's ok). I have no idea if other goo gone products work, but try it out and let me know what you come up with. I practiced the image transfer process 3 times on an old flour sack dishtowel before I did the fabric for my chair. What I discovered: 1-The photocopy from the machine at the grocery store worked great, the copy from the machine at the library did not--so, something in the toner or ink in that machine made it not work. 2-Less Citra Solv is better than more. My first try I taped the image on and generously dabbed at it with a foam brush, which resulted in the ink getting a bit smeary and blurry. The next time I used less solvent and more rubbing and it was PERFECT.

I was probably a bit timid with the transfer process on my actual fabric, so its a bit more "faded" than I would have really liked, but then again, if I were really re-purposing a vintage grain sack, it might be faded right?

Here's the graphic that I created. I inserted it into Word and resized it, then flipped it horizontally so that the words are backwards--so that when you lay it face down it will be correct after the transfer. I used the fonts Leander and Chenier. (And I made up the name of the grain mill and address...I used the Restoration Hardware linen pillows as inspiration).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interchangable Magnetic Necklace

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I've had some fun making magnets or necklaces using Diamond Glaze and scrapbook paper (or photos)--so why not combine the two? A co-worker had some earrings that had the same premise (although fancier than a bottle cap) that I used as inspiration. Now I can switch out my necklace depending on my mood or outfit :)

You'll need:

Bottlecap necklace blank (Hobby Lobby)
Round magnets
Diamond Glaze
Patterned paper or photo

This was a super fast, super easy project (and very inexpensive--the magnets were 1.99 for 6, but I had a 40% off coupon and the bottlecap necklace was on sale for 4/$1). I looked at some other necklace blanks that were flat, but I was concerned that the magnet could get knocked off.

First, find the scrapbook paper that you like and roughly cut out a circle a bit larger than the magnet. Flip the piece of scrapbook paper upside down and spread a thin layer of the Diamond Glaze (you could use any glue here, but to keep things simple, I just use the glaze). Press the magnet into the glue. Let it set for about a minute, then use scissors to trim around the edges.

Make sure you don't have any excess glue dripping down and flip the magnet over so that the paper side is now up. Puddle some Diamond Glaze on top of the patterned paper and smooth out (I use a bit of cardstock, or in this case packaging from the bottle caps) as a spreader. Go slow and make sure that you don't have any air bubbles. Careful, if you are doing more than one pendant at a time, keep them apart--if two magnets with wet Diamond Glaze get close together...not so good (not that I learned that the hard way or anything). Let dry for a couple hours (or overnight).

Thread a chain through the bottlecap and decide which magnet to pop in! That's it :) Try it out for different holidays (or make an advent necklace!) or to switch up between favorite sports teams or your school mascot.

Washstand Repaint

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I ran across this sturdy table at a thrift store and decided I could probably put it to use. After scrubbing, I debated whether or not to leave it stained or painted. It was pretty rough, so I tried some wood restorer that did wonders on another project...but it didn't look right on this project. So, paint it is. That $3.00 sampler of Martha Stewart teal paint sure has gone a long way (this is project #3).


A couple coats of paint. Then some sanding (all the paint covered up some of its "character"). Then I used some chocolate brown glaze to tone down the color and emphasize some of the dings and dents. Really, it turned out great.

I haven't found a permanent place for it yet. I've got some ideas, like as a storage station for a basket of socks, or as a stand for drinks at a party, but right now its a charging station for my iPad.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Metal cabinet repaint

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I work in a cubicle. A gray cubicle. I do have a window, which is great, but my view is of the wall of the other building. Oh well. So, in my gray cubicle is a metal cabinet that I thought could use some sprucing up! So, I hauled it home and went to work on it.

First, I used my sander to scuff up the surface then I washed it really well and dried it. I took the doors off and the hardware and used painter's tape to cover the brand name label (Steelcage) on the bottom. I used Krylon Fusion paint in Hot Pepper. It took about 1 1/2 cans. I did not paint the inside, so I used some newspaper to cover up the door track and block overspray from getting inside.

After I let it dry (had to go grab it out in the yard in the middle of the night when the thunder storms were threatening-ha ha, me in my PJ's dragging it back into the garage) for a couple days I got to getting the vinyl ready. I had a hard time deciding what to do on the doors. I thought about quatrefoil, or intersecting circles or maybe some typography or even scientific formulas (since I am a science nerd for work)--but things are always a bit crazy around my office with huge projects, tight deadlines and low funding, so this one seemed most appropriate. I measured the space on the door (decided that I'd just do one door, 2 seemed like overkill) and left space at the top, bottom and sides for the tracks. I planned it out in my Silhouette software and let it cut while I waited for the cable man to show up (yup, 15 minutes before his 2 hour window was up, he came. Typical). I used a yardstick and chalk to mark my lines.

So it adds a nice pop of color to my office (I should probably work on getting the piles of papers taken care of, but oh well). I love the transformative power of spray paint!