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!

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

I'm pretty sure that pulled pork is one of the most delicious foods I can think of. And making it in the crock pot is wicked easy. Let me tell you all about it. (Check out the original recipe here.)

Ingredients: boneless pork shoulder roast, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 bottle (12 ounces) barbecue sauce, your favorite, 3 to 4 tablespoons honey, or to taste, pickles, sandwich rolls

Directions: Place pork roast in a lightly greased 3 1/2 to 5-quart slow cooker. Combine onion, barbecue sauce, and honey; pour over roast. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 7 to 9 hours. Serve on buns, topped with pickles. Mmmmm....

Gel Nail Stickers

I was at the mall recently and ran into one of the accessory stores. I saw these gel nail stickers and decided to try them out.

I can't say that I totally loved them. They didn't stay on my nails very long and not all the stickers had flowers on there. If they'd stayed on better and if I'd had a coat of color underneath them, they would have been better. But while they lasted, they were kind of cute!

Guess who's being featured?

Have you seen Tatertots and Jello? It's probably one of the best crafty sites I've ever seen. And Jen over at Tatertots and Jello recently featured the key lime cheesecake I posted for you all. Go check it out along with all the other really amazing stuff Jen has up over there!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Key Lime Cheesecake

Are you ready to start drooling?

This is probably the best thing you will ever put in your mouth. And I'm gonna tell you how to make it. Huzzah! (Check out the original recipe here)
Ingredients: 1 3/4
graham cracker crumbs, 5 tablespoons melted butter, 3 (8 ounce) packages softened cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 6 tablespoons key lime juice, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons sour cream
Directions: Leave the cream cheese and eggs on the counter overnight to come to room temperature. Trust me, this is a key step. Room temp is essential.

Stick the graham crackers in a food processor and grind until all are in crumbs. Add butter and mix. Put in the bottom of an 8 inch spring form pan and press down. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar, beating until smooth. Add vanilla and key lime juice and mix thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each egg. Gently mix in sour cream. Pour mix into a greased spring form pan.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes (cheesecake should still jiggle a little in the center). When baking, put a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to create a steam bath for the oven. After the 40-45 minutes, turn the oven off and crack the oven door open about 4 inches and leave the cake in there for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and cool to room temperature on wire rack. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

When removing from the spring form pan, you may find it
easier to transfer the bottom of the pan to your hand and slide the side down along your arm rather than up over the top of the cake. I recommend decorating with several dollops of whipped cream and slices of key lime.Isn't it pretty? And I promise it tastes just as good as it looks.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Look what you did!

You are all up to such cute stuff - where do I begin?

#1 Make a maxi dress at @ Second Street

I can't wait to try this out! So cute!

#2 Make easy Parmesan knots at Chef in Training

Are you drooling yet? I know I am!

#3 Make a DIY "read" sign at Onesie Twosie

Seriously, I think I'm making this today. Love it!

#4 Make personalized wedding gifts at Clean & Scentsible

These are just so cute and I am just loving this idea. I might just make one for me!

#5 Make beautiful canvas art at Apothecary Home

I just can't get over how beautiful this is. I mean, just look at it!

Folks, again, I am in awe at how talented you all are. Thanks for making everything so beautiful! I just love it!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Look what you did - family trees

I was particularly inspired this week by the neat family trees that I've seen people working on. I'm not talking the ordinary kind, but the super crafty kind. I think they are lovely had I had to show you.

#1 Legacy Family Trees at Jill Means DesignsDo yourself a favor and enlarge that image. Seriously, it's beautiful and I am in awe of it.

#2 Family Tree Quilt at Team Quiltsy
I bet this took forever to do, but my word, it's beautiful.

#3 Quilled Family Tree at Sun Scholars
How fun is that? I especially like that there are roots for the tree.

#4 Picture Tree at the Brocton CG Blog

This is a great way to display family photos, especially if you have really old ones of ancestors. I love it!

#5 Framed Family Tree at A Punctuated Life
This would be fun in a kid's room, especially if Grandma and Grandpa live far away.

Aren't these all just so beautiful and inspiring? They are just all so fun. Good job, all - keep up the good work!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Homemade Pizza

My husband loves pizza. Like, will eat it for every meal for 6 days in a row without getting sick of it. I know this because he's done it. So I decided to make pizza for dinner. Last time I made pizza, I used a store mix for the crust. Yikes. That was a bad idea. So this time, I decided to brave the wild and make my own. Not that adventurous, I know, but it has to be tried, right? On with the recipe!
Good Housekeeping's pizza crust recipe

2/12 to 3 flour
2 1/4 t yeast
1/2 t yeast
1 c warm water
2 t oil

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/4 c flour, yeast, and salt; add water and oil. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Then beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the flour and mix. Turn out and knead until you have a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll dough out to fit your pan or tray or stone or whatever you're using to bake the dough on. Put the dough on your baking apparatus, cover, and let rise for 35-40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400. Prick the crust with a
fork so it doesn't bubble up and explode. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Take out of the oven, spread the sauce on the crust, add cheese and your favorite pizza toppings, and then pop it back in the oven for 10 or so minutes, or until all bubbly and gooey and delicious. And then eat it.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Dipping strawberries is no news to anyone at this point. I just wanted to show them off.For anyone who doesn't know how to do them, I'm going to tell you the easiest way to do them. Put some chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or cup. Nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring between each. When melted, dip your washed and dried berries. Place on wax paper to harden. It works best if the wax paper and whatever you line with the paper has been in the freezer - the cold will help it harden. If you want to drizzle with contrasting chocolate, just put some of the melted stuff in a Ziploc, snip the very corner, and drizzle away. Let harden, and enjoy!

Road Trip Cake

I have a good friend who is leaving for college. She'll be driving across the country to attend university, and I wanted to make her a special cake to say goodbye and good luck. Here's what I came up with:
I depicted her road trip using food. Yu-um! Let me tell you how I did it.
I baked a plain 'ole cake. Then, I used granola bars to criss-cross the cake, as if it was a road. I iced both sides of the cake. and covered the left side with coconut. (I dyed it green by putting it in a Tupperware container with a bit of food coloring and shaking it.)
I took some small brownie bites and laid them on the far right side as rolling hills. I cut some ice cream cones in half, dipped them in icing, and then dipped them in the coconut.
For the car, I took a Twinkie and cut a piece of the front to make it look like the front of a car. I did the same with a much smaller piece on the back. I dipped this in chocolate and put it in the freezer until it hardened.I used icing for the windows and purple Froot Loops for the tires. I stuck it on the gravel road with icing and then iced a dotted line along the path.

It was a super fun cake to make, though it did take forever. She loved it and was so excited to see it waiting at work for her. She'll do great, though we'll sure miss her!