Friday, July 24, 2015

Cookies, and Quinoa and Crafts, Oh My!

   Whatever you do, don't look at the date of my last post. Seriously. Ok, now we can move on. Because the most important thing here, is the food. You guys are getting a two-for-one here today. Mostly because I've been getting requests for two specific recipes. One is a newer quinoa salad I tried recently for a grilling and games night. The other is a cookie recipe I've been working on over the course of a year or so tweaking a bit every time I go. At the end I have a few recent craft pics to wrap it all up with.
      The first recipe is a quinoa veggie salad with a bit of a Mexican flavor flair. It was a Pinterest find that was altered. I know, you're shocked. I was afraid it wouldn't be a hit when I started out because it just seemed so healthy....haha. Thank goodness they thought it was delicious before they realized it was good for them. :) Unfortunately, I have no pictures for you of this one. *See below for added pic from a later batch* Luckily for you, all it's a dump everything in a bowl recipe!

     Quinoa Veggie Salad 


1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa (I always cook it in chicken broth- way better taste!)
1 diced cucumber
1 chopped red pepper
3 chopped scallions
Corn chopped off of two corn cobs (or a can of corn- I just love the fresh summer corn!)
1/2 can of black beans

1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one whole lime
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne

    After you toss all of the veggies into the quinoa, make the dressing on the side. All of the dressing ingredients get mixed together and tossed into the salad. This was a great side for grilling in the summer. It has great fresh flavor and a lot of perfect summer veggies that are in season.

    Now it comes to the most important recipe. I'm serious. It's going to rock your world. Nobody believes me when I tell them that something this delicious doesn't have flour or butter in it either! They are phenomenal. When my colleagues at school know I've been baking, I get classroom pop-ins all day long. It's my favorite treat for my friends that are trying to avoid gluten as well. I love the smiles on their faces when I tell them they can really eat the cookies. YAY! On to the fabulousness of double chocolate cookies... This recipe makes about three dozen smaller sized cookies.

3 room temperature egg whites (temperature matters!!!!)
1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups of Ghiradelli 60% Bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Non-stick baking spray if you don't have fun silicone baking mats (best purchase ever!!!)

     Start out by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Put one cup of the chocolate chips in a bowl and melt them in a microwave. It's best to do this in 20-30 second intervals so that your chocolate doesn't seize up. This can go to the side for right now. In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together one cup of the confectioners sugar, the cocoa, cornstarch and salt. This can stay to the side for right now as well.
     The rest of the main work can be done with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. I go straight to my bright purple kitchen aid stand mixer. She's the best. (no judging!) Beat the three egg whites until they form soft peaks. (aka making a meringue base) Once the egg whites can hold their shape a bit, put the mixer on a slower speed and mix in 1/2 a cup of confectioner's sugar. When it looks like marshmallow fluff it's done! Next you're going to mix in the other sifted dry ingredients. Do this a little bit at a time so that you don't have a big powdery mess in your kitchen. (Not from all...) Once that's been mixed in you can put your hand mixer away, or just take the bowl out of the stand mixer. Add the remaining half cup of chocolate chips to the melted chocolate and then fold this whole mixture into your meringue base. From here it should start to stiffen and become a more solid cookie base. I use a silicone baking mat and cookie scooper to form and bake my cookies. If you don't have the mat, use your baking spray on cookie sheets. Using a scooper or spoon, form the batter into balls and place on the cookie sheet. Now the original recipe included rolling the cookies in more powdered sugar to give them a crinkled look. You can absolutely do this. I've found I like them more without. (My great uncle LOVED these cookies and prompted the exclusion of the powdered sugar) Alright- back on track- bake your cookies for ten minutes and let them cool for at least ten minutes. You're good to go. Try not to eat them all at once. I swear.
Most recent batch!
These are what they look like with the crinkle cookie look
     Finally, here is a sneak peek of the craft I did recently. I wanted to upgrade my olive and vinegar set because, let's be honest, it was just the bottles they came in. So I found plain glass bottles at my local Bed Bath and Beyond for about $4 each and went straight to my sketch book! 

     Once I had a design that I liked, I grabbed my paint and brush. I went with a black and white look so that each design would stand out against the contents of the bottle. Black is the olive oil and white is for the balsamic. The great thing about painting acrylic on glass is that if you make a mistake you can either wipe or scratch it right off. (This can also be a downside too...oops) The completed bottles got a clear coat that can technically go through a dishwasher. I don't know that I'm brave enough to really try that, might go straight for the hand washing route. 

     Ta-da! Here's the final look! I really ended up loving them and they went straight into the kitchen. I may or may not be able to be bribed for your very own set. 
     Alright folks, that's about it for tonight! Try the recipes and give me a shout if you have any trouble or improvements! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Golf Cake Upgrade!

     Ok, so yes, it has been almost an entire summer since I've typed up any fun for you. Firstly, I apologize.  Secondly, I have SO much to share with you. I'm going to start with a project I undertook for my Dad's surprise 60th birthday. The additional motivation for this is the fact that a similar golf themed cake project I put on Pinterest previously has the most re-pins out of any so far!
     Now, due to the fact that my "to-do" list for the party was super long, I went with cake mix boxes. (I know, the horror!) I did, however, add some bags of dark chocolate chips to the dark chocolate cake mix. It's always fun and easy to add a little pizzazz to plain old box mixes. The picture of the finished project in my head was a pretty big one- so I bought four boxes of mix. This ended up making me a total of 7 different sized cakes.
Yes, I can count…7th cake was already cooled and out of the pan!
     The next step was to pair a frosting with my dark chocolate and chocolate chip cake. My dad is a huge fan of the dark chocolate and orange flavor pairing, so that gave me some direction. I went with a cream cheese frosting with real orange kick. You can find it on Liz's blog Love Grows Wild here: Kick butt frosting
I doubled the recipe and ABSOLUTELY fell in love. The real orange zest and juice make all the difference. Here are a few shots of the frosting creation process: 

Such beauty from little flecks of orange!

      The cakes and the frosting were made the night before and BOTH were refrigerated for the night. If you need to shape and stack cakes it helps a lot to have them cold when you work with them. The size of the cake also inspired me to attempt fondant.  I took a wonderful stroll down the baking aisles at my favorite Michael's and came away with fondant, gum paste, and some edible glitter. (WHAT?!?!) I know, how do you pass up glittery things that are even edible?!?! The next morning I started working on the exact formation of the cakes. The idea was to make the cake in the shape of a hill with the tee at the top and the hole at the bottom. Each cake was placed and then given a layer of orange frosting. (see crumb coat)

     While this cooled (again) in the fridge I started working with the fondant. Again, remember the long to-do list. So I purchased my favorite cake man's fondant in bright green and gave it a quick warm up in the microwave. 
     Fondant needs to be rolled out quite thin (1/8 inch). I highly suggest either cornstarch or confectioner's sugar on your work surface before you start rolling. Let me tell you, my arms were aching by the end of this. It made me wish I had one of those fancy rolling machines…*sigh* oh well, moving on. Once the fondant is rolled out you need to move quickly and accurately. 
     You don't get a second chance with it. Place it in the right place and move quickly. Smooth out your fondant and make sure it nicely wraps all of your cake. 
     From here on out it's all fun and decorating, ahem, for the most part. There were only a few moments of panic and "I have no clue what I'm doing" thoughts. I used the gum paste to form two golf balls and a golf tee. (A chopstick was a great tool for making the little indentations of the golf balls) These were set to the side to dry. Gum paste turns hard as rock once it has been set out. While these dried I moved to a bit of decorative icing with your regular old sugary green icing and a star tip for grass. 

     Thicker grass was completed and then I set out to create my sand traps. Say what? Well, of course the golf course needs sand traps! So I pulled out my trusty box of Nilla Wafers, got a ziplock bag, and started smashing. 

     The convenience of the ziplock bag is the ability to just cut the corner with scissors for easier and more precise placement. In order to have my "sand" stick, I cut out the fondant in the spaces for my sand traps. 

     Now to the part you were all waiting for….GLITTER. Ok, so the part I was waiting for. You can dust the glitter on as it is or you can paint with it. I chose to paint with it. The trick is, you want to put it in a liquid that will evaporate quickly. (Cue the alcohol!!) Vodka is actually the perfect liquid to use to mix the glitter, as it dries very quickly when painted on thin. 
     The golf balls and tee got white glitter and the area I planned as the green was given a coating of green glitter. 
yay for sparkles! 

       The final assembly involved placing both of the golf balls on the cake. One went in some longer grass and one went into the hole in the green. The tee also went into the longer grass at the top of the cake. The flag for the green was textured paper rolled around a thinner wooden dowel with the words Happy Birthday! Voila! A fun golf themed cake with a few extra 60's thrown in! 

     ….Aaaaand just for fun here is a shot of the watermelon that honors what my father looks like any time he is in his recliner! 
     Last, but not least is a sneak peak of the next post. Straying far away from food and moving over to the DIY home organization category. 

     Keep your eyes peeled for a fun take on a $10 crate from Wal-Mart. I'm just crossing my fingers that it turns out nicely enough that the hubby can't say "I told you so!" As always, thanks for the read and stop on by soon. I swear this next one won't take so long! :) 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Departure from Food: Attempting to Revitalize a Green Thumb

     Now, if you ask the hubby, he will most likely tell you that I never had a green thumb to begin with. The plants I try to keep alive, die; and the plants I try to kill, live forever. It's a gift…I guess…This is why I waited to create this post. I wanted to make sure things were…ahem…alive for a bit. I am pleased to announce that they are, but I give you permission to laugh at that statement. :)
      On a whim one weekend, I decided to finally attempt a display for the bay window in our kitchen. I  scurried around our house collecting a random variety of types of glassware and then headed out to the store. Here is what I came back with:

       Ok, so technically I already had the stones in my craft room. The rest, however, I bought at the store. You may laugh now. Yes, I am bragging that I have kept succulents alive for a month. We all have our strengths and weaknesses people. ANYWAY, because my glassware did not have holes in the bottom, I read that I needed to have an alternate form of drainage. See- stones. Each jar/vase/glass got a base of stones at the bottom. This way, when I water them the roots don't sit in the moisture. It can drain down between the stones.

          After this, I put some of the special cactus soil in each container. With a few different alterations, I settled on how I wanted to distribute the plants to each glass. I have to say, for a first attempt, I'm pleased with the results.

       Again, let me say, they are all still alive and thriving. (On one shot glass of water a week might I add!!!) I just read a fun pin on adding food coloring to the water and how it affects the succulents. I may actually give that a try just for the fun of it! Check back to see results later! In the meantime, here is  the window sill of my bay window in the kitchen. Not too shabby to begin with. And again. Alive. :) 

         I am officially half way through Spring Break and enjoying some much needed relaxation! I'm hoping to share a staining project with you soon. However, the weather is not cooperating currently. As soon as I get a nice, warm, Spring day - I'll be all over it! In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of Spring and a good chuckle at my "green thumb's" expense. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Monster Melons!

Hi Bloggers!
     This is not a post about what probably first came to your mind! (dirty dirty people) Today's post has to do with one of the many cute and handsome lil men in my life. (i.e. 3 nephews and a godson!) One of my adorable nephews just recently turned one. This lil man, however, unfortunately is currently allergic to MANY things. :( In talking with my SIL about this struggle for her and the family, I remembered the cake I made for the hubby this past summer. I offered to help and got several cute Pinterest ideas sent my way as soon as the party was set to be a monster party! Based on what I got, this is what I came up with. I'll show you each step of the way, and the final result. (There were not a ton of step by step offerings online that I could find)

   Begin by finding a nicely shaped watermelon. As lil man's birthday is in February, we had to compromise with mini watermelons. Regularly sized melons were not in season. (Commence childish giggles…just me?…oh…) The first step is to cut a small slice off of the bottom of the melon in order to NOT be cutting the watermelon while it wobbles.

   My next move was to outline and cut out this dude's mouth.

From here you can work on carving/hollowing out the whole melon. This can be cut up and tossed into the fruit salad as well. 

My next move was to cut some teeth into the top and bottom edge. Just a cool note about watermelon and carving is that you can actually score the skin and peel it off of the greener flesh. I used this method to carve a tongue for my lil monster after his teeth were done.
I also used a lovely orange and blueberries to create some goofy eyeballs and a nose. I made sure to slice the orange in nice circles, and attached everything with tooth picks. Sometimes I cut/broke the toothpicks in half for the smaller pieces.

Here is the first dude ready to go! I didn't document the whole process of the second monster just because time began to move quickly and you can figure out what I did! 

Here they are ready to travel!
I can't tell you how much fun I had making these crazy monsters! They were a hit at the party and I couldn't help but giggle my whole way through the process. This is a GREAT option for parties especially when cake is not always an option. Enjoy the final image! 

Up next you can expect a post about my experiment with succulents for our bay window in the kitchen! 


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fat Kid Food- BUT Healthy!

Hi friends,
     In the time that I last wrote, the heater has been broken and fixed, my brother got married, the washer broke and is being replaced, and Spring weather finally made an appearance! I am so excited to share so many things with you, but we'll start with FOOD. (and end with crafts!!)
      As always, I am on the lookout for ways to make food that tastes like eating buffalo wings but will let me feel healthy afterwards. This is not a wing substitute- don't get me wrong! BUT it does have chicken and buffalo sauce. I introduce to you: Buffalo Quinoa Casserole.

You Will Need:

*1 cup of quinoa
*1 1/2 cups of chicken broth (I use bullion cubes sometimes)
*1 head of broccoli cut into florets
*1 cup of hot sauce (I buy it by the gallon now…haha)
*2 chicken breasts
*chili powder for seasoning
*1/2 a small onion chopped up
*olive oil for sautéing onions and cooking chicken
*your favorite shredded cheese if you want to top the casserole off with it!

Begin by sautéing the chopped onion in olive oil in a pan. While this is cooking, season the chicken breast with chili powder.
Add in the chicken breasts and cook completely. I sometimes put a lid on the pan to keep in moisture. When the chicken has cooked, pull it from the pan. I then shredded it and put the onions in with the shredded chicken. 
Put this to the side, and begin cooking your quinoa. I cook my quinoa in chicken broth ALL.THE.TIME now. Seriously- there is no point to cooking it in water…unless you don't like chicken. The ratio is about 1 cup of quinoa to 1 1/2 or 2 cups of water/broth. Bring the water to a boil with the quinoa in it and then put a lid on it and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Now, when I put it to simmer, I tossed in my broccoli florets to cook in some of the flavor with that as well. What results is perfectly cooked broccoli that is already in the quinoa! 
Finally I get a large oven-safe dish and poor my hot sauce in. The first time I tried heating it and adding a bit of cottage cheese to get a creamy/healthy effect. It worked- but you can definitely do it without as well. 
check out the fun nails! 
Toss in the chicken, and broccoli quinoa mixture gently. I added a bit of hot sauce on the top once it was mixed as well. (I know, I know…can't get enough of it) Then I baked it in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes at 350. You could add the cheese for this step as well. (I waited and put it on my individual serving)
It's not the prettiest dish I've ever made, but it's DELICIOUS. I've been all about quinoa "casseroles" lately. They're great! You can do anything with it! (Will show you chicken with zucchini as well sometime!) 

Here is a final shot of my serving with the melted cheese on top. Seriously, it was just so yummy and filling. You don't even have to eat a whole ton of it to be satisfied. Just so tasty and popular with the hubby!

I will leave you with a few shots of my latest crafts! Most of the earrings are either available or can be reproduced if they've been sold already. The ring holders are able to be ordered to your personal liking. Choose the frame and the fabric color! Enjoy and cross your fingers for MORE SPRING!