Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taco Dip

Parties and dip go together like salt and pepper or puppies and unicorns or pedis and massages, don't they? I mean, a good dip is what makes a good party. (Or it does for me, but I'm usually the one who awkwardly and possessively hovers around the snack table, pouncing on anyone who dares approach my delineated territory.) So for all you party animals, here's a fabulous, easy, cheap dip recipe, courtesy of my cute friend Nicole.Ingredients: 1 8 oz pkg softened cream cheese, 1 small container of sour cream, 1/2 c salsa (or to taste), 1 packet of taco seasoning, lettuce, cheese, tomato, olives

Directions: In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, sour cream, and taco seasoning. Layer this on the bottom of a tray or dish. Spread the salsa on top of this. Top with the rest of the ingredients. Grab a bag of chips, and try to share. Yeah, I dare you to share. In fact, I double dog dare you to let anyone else even taste it.

Monica's Tree Wall

My two bff's and I are notorious for crafting late into the night while discussing, well, everything. I am in awe of these two gals and they inspire me to do so many craft-a-licious things. For example, Monica recently repainted her entire office. On one wall, she made her own stencil and put the coolest pattern across the whole thing (that's another post for another time). On the opposite wall, she free-handed a tree. Yeah, a whole tree. Are you dying to see it?
She found these adorable bird hooks at Hobby Lobby so she could "hang" stuff from the tree branches. How freakin' cute is that? Seriously, Monica, stop being so adorable! You're making the rest of us look bad!

How to jazz up a jarred pasta sauce

Recently, I got a request for manicotti from the hubs. (It was delicious - recipe to come, I promise.) He also wanted chicken Parmesan with some, and I quote, "fun noodles." I didn't want to make my own pasta sauce, so I bought a jarred natural sauce from the local market. Total fail. It tasted like tomatoes, a little basil, and sugar. Ok, mostly it tasted like sugar. That is not what I am looking for in a pasta sauce. I don't know anyone who's looking for that in a pasta sauce, but apparently they still make it anyway. Regardless, it called for some doctoring. The results were so much better than what we started with. In fact, the hubs has requested that I now doctor all pasta sauces we buy. So I decided it might be helpful to throw out some ideas of stuff to put in to doctor the sauce.
  • a teaspoon of red pepper flakes heats it up a little bit and makes it much more flavorful
  • a teaspoon of basil is always a welcome addition
  • try a teaspoon of oregano, too - it adds another depth
  • try a half a teaspoon of chopped fresh garlic, or
  • sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of garlic powder
  • half a teaspoon of onion powder
  • a fourth cup of chopped, sauteed fresh mushrooms
  • if you like rosemary, try throwing a half teaspoon of that in the mix
Have you doctored your spaghetti sauces before? What else do you add to make them sing?

Cinnamon Honey Butter

Are you rushing for your breadbox yet? (Yeah, I said breadbox. I own one, but I think, other than my grandma, I'm the only person on the planet to actually own a breadbox. Anyone wanna prove me wrong on that one?) You'll be on an all carb diet after you try this stuff.

Ingredients: 1/2 c softened butter, 1/4 c honey, 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 t cinnamon (*Most other recipes I can find online call for the same amount of butter and honey, but I felt like it was too much and that if I halved the honey, I was much more pleased. But don't let me dictate your honey usage!)

Directions: Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Mix. Smear all over something carby and delicious.

Don't have a food processor? Use your hand mixer. It'll take a little longer, but you'll get the same product. Delicious!

Plaid Nails

Lay down a base polish color of your choosing. Then just swipe two coordinating colors across in a plaid pattern using a toothpick. Easy, kind of punky, and super fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Artisan Bread

If you are like me, you like bread. No, let me rephrase. You love bread. All bread in all its forms. And if you're like me, homemade breads ring your bell. Well, the only problem with that is that homemade bread takes a lot of work. Or it did, until this recipe came along! (If you want to see the original, go here.)
Ingredients: 3 cups lukewarm water, 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated fast acting yeast (2 packets), 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt, 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all purpose white flour
Directions: Warm up the water to 100 degrees. Add yeast and salt to the water and put it in a 5 quart container that has a lid. Mix in the flour all at once. With a wooden spoon. It's done being mixed when everything is uniformly moist. The dough will be wet and loose and this should take like 90 seconds. Put the lid on the container but don't seal it. A tiny bit of air circulation will help the dough rise. Allow the mix to rise at room temperature until the dough begins to collapse, about 2 hours. If you let it rise longer it won't hurt the dough, so no worries. Then put the dough in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. Put a piece of parchment paper down. Divide your dough into 1 pound pieces (about the size of a grapefruit). Your mix should make about 4 loaves. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball as you go. Put flour on your hands if it gets too sticky. The top of the dough should be smooth and tight. Put the dough on the parchment paper. Let the loaves rise for 30-40 minutes. Preheat a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven for at least 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Put a container on the bottom rack with water in it. This will help keep the dough moist and beautiful and amazing. (If you don't have a baking stone, you can use a baking sheet, but you will not get the crisp crust on the bottom. You will still have a great loaf of bread.) Dust the loaf with a little flour and slit the top of the loaves with a knife. This helps the loaves "bloom" in the oven. Bake at 450 F for about 30 - 35 minutes, depending on the size of your loaf. Make sure the crust is a deep golden brown. When you remove the loaf from the oven, you will hear it crackle for a while. In baking terms, this is called "sing" and it is exactly what you want. Allow the bread to cool for the best flavor and texture. It's tempting to eat it when it's warm, and that's fine, but the texture is better after the bread has cooled. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (with a hole punched in the top) container and use for up to 14 days. Every day your bread will improve in flavor. Cut off and shape more loaves as you need them. When your dough is gone, don't clean the container. Go ahead and mix another batch - the remaining bits of dough will contribute flavor to the next batch, much like a sourdough starter does! Bread is best eaten the day it is baked. Leftover baked bread is best stored at room temperature, unwrapped. Simply place the cut side of the bread on plate or counter. If your bread is gummy on the inside, try either increasing the amount of flour by 1/4 cup and/or increasing the baking time by 5-10 minutes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Look what you did!

I had a hard time picking projects to feature this week. I mean, there's always such a great selection of wonderful stuff, but this week... dang, you all. You've been busy, and it shows. Wanna see? I know you do!

#1 Paint a personalized cafe sign at Diary of a Crafty LadyDon't you just want to go find some wood and start painting? I do!

#2 Redo your blender at Sweet Little SomethingsUm... I can't say yes fast enough to this idea. Are you kidding me? How awesome is this?

#3 Check out these fun button art ideas at Lines Across My Face
This is just one of several cute, amazing button ideas and I'm so excited to get sewing!

#4 Make a Ruffled Necktie Tee at McKell's ClosetWanna know what I'm doing tomorrow after work? I'm making this shirt. And probably 5 more just like it.

#5 Make this Black Bean Pizza at Fabulessly Frugal
Not only do the girls at FF have amazing pointers on how to save money every day, but they make these amazing, delicious, frugal meals as well. Mmmm, I know what's for dinner!