Friday, October 5, 2012

Balloons in my backyard and decorating for must be that time again.

I am still exhausted from the past weekend and its Friday (ready for another long weekend?).  On Sunday  after driving my neighbors to the airport at 6am and taking care of the zoo at my sister's house, I came home to frantic dogs...well, one frantic dog and one wondering what the heck was wrong with the other dog.  Apparently, our neighborhood is a hot air balloon landing site.

View across the street

View of low flying balloon

With the cool weather in the mornings the hot air balloons have been out in mass numbers and this weekend kicks off the 2012 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

It was around this time, taking pics out side my house, that I thought "I should put out my Halloween decorations".

We hung a lighted web outside and put out ceramic pumpkins...
Web and spider closeup

What the web looked like from the living room

I also went to work decorating the inside.

Painted tequila skulls I found at Cost Plus 

I only added the skull and an extra bird...the rest is out all year round

I made the feather wreath, that was above the fireplace, using 4 cheap feathered boas from Hobby Lobby, a tube of foam plumbing insulation from Home Depot and a bird I picked up from Wal Mart.  The whole thing was less than $20.  I plan on buying a wreath form next year and rewrapping the boas around it.  At that point, I will hot glue them down.  

Wreath materials, ignore the glue gun and spider (I didn't end up using them)
I cut, stuffed and duct taped the tubing into a wreath shape.

Sake photo bombing my tutorial pic

I then spray painted the wreath form black, before wrapping the boas around it so the gray wouldn't show through.

 I then just tied them on, tucking the ends up under each other.

Saki photo bombed my wreath

 I tucked the bird in the center and tied a bow at the top to finish it off.  I think it looks pretty nifty.  

Next week, Halloween pillows out of tea towels and maybe, just maybe I will talk about cooking my first pot of beans (so simple, I don't know why I hadn't done it sooner).

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Banana Cake...maybe

So this post is old.  How old?  Well...we were still living in the apartment.  November and December last year was such a whirlwind of helping out with fundraisers and baking for the holidays, that this post fell by the wayside...forgotten and un-posted.

So today is your lucky day.  Since I am out of town right now and needing to post something, I will dust off this post and give it to you.  Its a good cake that's very tasty during the holidays with or without bananas.  Enjoy!

Banana Cake made for Sean's parents
So...the house guests have left the building.  The house is slowly being put back together and now I have to ramp up and bake for a charity kick-off at work.  I thought it would be easy...the banana cake I had made last week was a total success (thank you Ina...if you haven't gotten the recipe book, "Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That", you should) I will just make that.  I had perfect bananas; Sean's parents had left them for the cake to be made.  So my thinking;  I will make the cake for work on Thursday night, brilliant...or so I thought.

I walked home for lunch on Tuesday and my perfect bananas were gone...I was pretty sure we had been robbed.  After checking the rest of the apartment, nothing else was, there must have been a zoo escape and a primate came into my home and took the coveted fruit.  As I was about ready to call the zoo to let them know that they owed me more ripe bananas...I had gone to throw away a tear soaked tissue (yes...I had a shed a few tears for my missing bananas) to find that my bananas had been THROWN AWAY!!!!  HOW COULD THIS BE!?!?!?!?  Who would do such a thing!?!?!?!?!?!?  

I looked to the dogs...they weren't talking.  The cats...well, they were napping.  I then made the phone call..."Sean...Did you throw away my bananas?" ,  "Yep, they were bad" , "No, they were brown" , "Well, they were too ripe to eat" , "They weren't too ripe for banana cake?!?!?" ,  "Oh! *silence*  I'll buy you some more." , "*sigh*  That's OK." *click* (this was on a cell phone, so there was no click,  that was dramatized to show that we both hung up, in case you weren't aware and had thought that I just left him on the phone while I made myself soup...which I may or may not have).

So, that evening Cheryl (my sister) and I made our way to TJs in search of ripe bananas only to find that they were all green. *joy*  She imparted the wisdom of throwing the bananas in a brown paper bag in order to ripen them faster.  Well, that didn't Thursday they were eating bananas not baking bananas. *sigh*

So I made a chef-xecutive decision to make pumpkin cake using Ina's recipe.  Here is the result via my iphone (since in all my agony of not having my bananas I forgot to put my SD card back in my camera *sigh*).

Pumpkin Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting 
(adapted from Ina Garten's Banana Cake recipe)
For printable recipe, please click here 

1 c pumpkin puree 
¾ c granulated sugar
½ c light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ c vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
½ c sour cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ c coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x2 in. round cake pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the pumpkin, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the oil, eggs, sour cream, and orange zest. Mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack, and cool completely.
Spread the frosting thickly on the top of the cake.

Ina's Cream Cheese Frosting:
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbsp (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2½ c sifted confectioners' sugar (½ pound)

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until just combined. Don't whip! Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Yield: frosting for one 9 in. cake.

For Ina Garten's "Old-Fashioned Banana Cake" recipe just click on the link, here

This cake is as perfect for dessert as it is for breakfast.  It will end up being a holiday favorite and your go to, for work pot-lucks and for unexpected guests that stop is that easy to make.

Enjoy the foods of your labor. :-) 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Birthday ... have a biscuit

Its inevitable, people are going to have birthdays and you are going to have to buy birthday presents.  What I like to do for birthdays is getting a totally awesome container that I love and giving something baked inside of it, like these biscuits below.  

I fell in love with a wire basket at Target recently and had bought one for myself to store eggs that were given to me by my boss.  She had a birthday just recently and I thought she might be able to use a basket like this to store her eggs as well.  Instead of giving it to her empty, I lined it with a couple of tea towels that I had picked up and filled it with these tasty biscuits I baked the morning I was giving it to her.  Add some cool burlap ribbon and this becomes a really pretty present.  

Sour Cream Sweet Biscuits

Sour Cream Sweet Biscuits
For printable recipe, please click here

2 C Self Rising Flour
½ C Butter, melted
1 C Sour Cream
¼ C Sugar + ⅛ C Sugar (keep separate)
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract 

Preheat oven to 425°.  Measure out the flour into a bowl and whisk the  ¼  C sugar into the flour.  In another bowl combine sour cream, the  C sugar, and vanilla extract; whisk together.  Pour the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture, mix together with a fork or pastry cutter.  Pour the melted butter over the mixture and continue to mix until the dough comes together. Using your hands form biscuits, about ¼ C of dough each.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake until biscuits start to brown, between 15-17 min.  

Makes about 8 biscuits.   

Sour Cream Sweet Biscuits

Sour Cream Sweet Biscuits

The best biscuit basket ever...

What's great about this biscuit is the fact it can work for breakfast with jam or with fresh fruit for dessert, think strawberry short cake.

Enjoy the foods of your labor. :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A New Year, A New Home, A New Beginning or the end to nonexistent plumbing and Eazy Bake Ovens...

Christmas has come and gone, as well as a few holidays in between...but this story starts on my birthday which is on Festivus (I bet you would have never guessed I was a Festivus miracle).  On my birthday I had to go to the gym in order to shower...not to work out then shower...just to shower.  My shower was backed up...not fun and I had family coming over for Christmas Eve dinner.  So with and inoperable bathroom, I went to the gym to shower.

Sean (the beau) stayed home waiting for the plumber the guy's (my landlords) had called.  All I was hoping for was a working bathroom for the next day so we could clean it and get ready for Christmas Eve dinner.  The plumber showed up and basically told us that the apartment was a wartime build and that the pipes were gone and had to replaced in the back.  *sigh*  Thankfully, he got us to a working bathroom by the next day, so I could prepare what would be my last big meal in my uber small oven.

Coq Au Vin with Asparagus at Christmas Eve Dinner
Closeup of Coq Au Vin with Asparagus at Christmas Eve Dinner  

The plumber would visit 2 more times...I had to knock on my sister's door and ask to take a shower at her place.  We felt displaced, this apartment, though quircky, had served me well for the past 7 years.  We had painted, we had changed out the blinds to nice bamboo blinds, almost every light in the place was replaced with cooler/safer lighting, we had added storage to the kitchen; it was my pefect apartment...until it wasn't.  So I bought a house.  

Well, between the process of buying the house, moving in, being host to my sister and brother in-law while they closed on their home and trying to just get settled in, my blog took a back seat.  So, I wanted to post a few pics of my new kitchen (new appliances, more space, more counter work space, more than 1 electrical outlet and an actual pantry...I really love my kitchen) to kick off the first blog entry of the year and get back on track with posting a bit more frequently than every six months.  

Enjoy the foods of your labor. :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's a Marshmallow World...

So the last two days have been a blur of fluff...literally. I have been busy making marshmallows for work gifts and for my sister. I have mentioned before...there is something very satisfying about making marshmallows. I am not sure if its: the fact that if you place hot sugary goo in a mixer with bloomed gelatin that it whips up into something extraordinary or if its the fact that it taste so sugary good after you are done or that you can tell everyone..."I HAVE MADE YOU MARSHMALLOWS!" in your deepest Charlton Heston voice.

Well, here are the results that I am taking to my sister tonight:

Homemade Marshmallows
I bought these jars in a set of six from Overstock (I use them as sugar and flour they are pretty big)...I used chalkboard contact paper to make the labels with scissors that I got from my sister and a liquid chalk pen in white. The label can be reused once the marshmallows are gone, just take a little water to it, wipe it off and write whatever new and wonderful thing is being housed in the jar. I LOVE CHALKBOARD CONTACT PAPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The recipe for the marshmallows is from Alton Brown...I chose to first use his recipe, because if anybody would know how to make a marshmallow it would the science guy of FoodNetwork.  I was right;  these marshmallows are fool proof and easier than pie if you have a candy thermometer, an electric stand mixer w/ whisk attachment and the patience of Jobe to let the pan sit for 4 hours to set (I think that may be the hardest part..."IS IT MARSHMALLOW YET?!?!?!?!?!?!").

Homemade Marshmallows 

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007 
Prep Time: 35 min Cook Time: 10 min 
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr 0 min Level: Intermediate
Serves: approx 9 dz marshmallows or 1 ½ lbs miniature

3 packages unflavored gelatin 

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c ice cold water, divided 

¼ c confectioners' sugar
12 oz granulated sugar, approx 1 ½ c 
¼ c cornstarch
1 c light corn syrup Nonstick spray
¼ tsp kosher salt

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ½ -inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.

Cut into ½ inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

***I have not tried it yet, but I think it would be smashingly good to use peppermint schnapps in place of the vanilla to have a peppermint marshmallow.  Use 1 tsp peppermint schnapps in place of the vanilla to achieve this.

I also made a grouping of these for the folks at each a dozen ever so lovely puffy clouds of goodness.  I packaged them in cute little cookie box kits I got from Michaels a la Martha Stewart (BTW...I think Martha Stewart is AWESOME!  These box kits are AWESOME!  and I didn't buy enough of them, NOT AWESOME!  :-(   ).   The kits came with the box the ribbon the separating papers and labels...everything you would need for food gifts.
Homemade Marshmallows for work

I guess Johnny Mathis was right, it is a "Marshmallow World" after all.

Enjoy the foods of your labor. :-)