Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September's Cupcakes

I think I may have mentioned this before.  I make a LOT of cupcakes, at least 50 a month for work.  I have even had a couple of people ask me to make them for other occasions :)

I forgot to post about August's cupcakes, but I promise I will soon.  I feel bad, it's been over a month since I've posted!  Please, forgive me...

I made peanut butter and jelly cupcakes a long time ago and this month there was a request for them.  It's a basic peanut butter cake with a PB frosting beautifully piped on top.  The jelly came in the form of my homemade blueberry/cherry/peach jam that I tucked inside of the crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside cupcakes.

Taking it a tiny bit farther I added a mini nutter butter on top.  Seriously, they are adorable!


The second cupcake I made this month was inspired by some blackberries I got in my CSA box this week.  I ended up making a delicious lemon cupcake with the blackberries in the frosting.  I made these cute by putting a blackberry on top.  Again, adorable.


I am really enjoying making cupcakes.  In my opinion they are much better than cake.  They are individual sweet treats.

Try one of these and comment with what you think.  

Until next time.

-April

Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes found here.
Lemon blackberry cupcakes found here.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Red Velvet cupcakes with a flower twist!

The second of my 2 cupcake recipes this month lead me to red velvet.  Why not?  It's only one of the most delicious cakes ever!

I wanted to do something different for summer, so I looked online for ideas.

My favorite flower is a daisy, and I came across a site that mentioned using marshmallows for petals.
I used skittles for the center :)

I tried it out, and it took a little getting used to.  Flatten a large marshmallow and cut into 3 strips.  In the end I found out that cleaning the scissors often helped (duh!)

I think they turned out cute, and I hope you do too.


Red Velvet Cupcakes and cream cheese frosting found here.

Side note, I've been taking the Wilton cake decorating classes at Michael's and I'm having so much fun.

Here is one of my pink lemonade cupcakes that I decorated into a rose and then ate half of ;)




-April

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

It's that time again.  The time when I scour my brain for cupcake recipes and look online for a recipe to fit my idea.

I make at least 50 cupcakes a month, always 2 different kinds for the folks I work with (not sure if I've mentioned that before.)

Being summer, I wanted to make something fun and fresh.  The first thing that came to mind was pink lemonade.

When I was on the hunt for what I thought looked like a good recipe, I was sad to find out that a lot of them started the ingredient list with "1 box of white cake mix."  It took me a while to find one that didn't.  One of these days I'm going to alter my own recipes and try them out.

Anyway, I found one that I thought was going to work, and did it!

Just a heads up, these cupcakes do have a tang to them, so if you are not a fan of lemon, these are not for you.

If you are... well... enjoy :D


Seriously, these cupcakes are the cutest things I have seen all year.


Pink Lemonade Cupcakes (from here)

Cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1/2 cup buttermilk
Red food coloring, as needed


Frosting:
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 T. frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 T. lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt
Red food coloring, as needed


Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, pink lemonade concentrate, oil, and egg whites until well blended. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Then add the buttermilk and mix again, followed finally by the remaining dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Add red food coloring one drop at a time to achieve desired pink color. The color will fade slightly when baked.

Fill each liner 3/4 full with batter. Bake the cupcakes for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until nice and fluffy. Pause the mixer occasionally to add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until combined and fluffy. Add the pink lemonade concentrate, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add red food coloring one drop at a time to achieve desired pink color.


Top with whatever you like.  I wanted them to have an ice cream look so I added sprinkles and a gum drop on top.

-April

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini

Since becoming a vegetarian again there is one vegetable that I have been obsessed with.  This would be zucchini.

I was craving stuffed zucchini, so yesterday when at Bristol Farms I picked up a few.  Little did I know that I would get a pound in my CSA box today.  I won't complain, more zucchini for me :D

I wanted to use what veggies I had on hand, so I made my own recipe.  The result was delicious.
I won't lie, it was inspired by a dish I had at a wedding rehearsal.



Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini

3 medium zucchini
8 ounces finely chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 ounces of fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons pesto
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Saute mushrooms and onion in a skillet with preferred oil (I use coconut)
Use a melon baller to create "boats" in halved zucchini
Place zucchini on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 20 minutes
Chop the reserved zucchini and add to mushroom/onion mixture.  Season with salt and pepper
When zucchini is done cooking, mix the mushroom/onion mixture with pesto and parmesean cheese
Stuff zucchini with mixture, top with more cheese and bake for 5 more minutes

ENJOY :D

-April


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Let's make jam!!!!

I love jam.  It's good on toast, with ice cream and on crackers with peanut butter (maybe even some cookie butter.)

I had a ton of blueberries and blackberries and I needed to use them up before I could no longer.

I decided to make jam, because, why not??

Jam is pretty simple to make.  You have fruit, pectin, sugar and possibly some lemon juice.

For this recipe I had 5 cups of the blueberry/blackberry (with 5 TB of fresh lemon juice) mixture.

Here it is cooking for a couple of minutes.


It already looks good.  After it cooks and gets to a rolling boil that can't be stirred down it's time to add the sugar.  I think I added about 5 cups of sugar (and this is the low sugar recipe.)


It's starting to look like jam.  Bring it back to a rolling boil and cook for one minute more. You need to stir this whole time!

During this time I like to heat the water in my water bath (for canning the jam.)  I also sterilize the jars in that water. At the same time, I put the lids and rings in some very hot water to sterilize and get the glue on the lids soft.

Once the jam is done, I used a "canning kit" to funnel the jam into the jars.

After the jam was canned, I cleaned the rims, added the lids and rims and into the bath they went.



Let the water get to a simmering boil, put the lid on the canner and process for 10 minutes.  Once the 10 minutes is up, turn off the stove and let the jars sit for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes take the jars out with a jar lifter and place them on a towel, not touching, for 24 hours.  The lids will "pop" down sealing the jars.  After this is done, they can be put in the cubbard for a year I believe until opened.  I don't think they will last that long though. ;)

This batch made 6 half pint jars.



Try it someday, and thank me later.  Keep some, give some as gifts, save some!

-April

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blueberry Waffles

I went to Costco the other day and stocked up on a lot of fruit.  I love this time of year!

I came home with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple and bananas.  

This morning I woke up and wanted waffles (again) and the first thing I thought of were the blueberries.

I searched online for a recipe in which I had all the ingredients for.  I also wanted to make my own syrup.

The whole process took less than an hour, and they were delicious!



Blueberry Waffles (recipe adapted from here)

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk (I use almond)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 cups blueberries

Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Mix in flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon just until smooth. Let sit 10 minutes then fold in blueberries.


Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. You may need to spray the iron in between waffles as the blueberries tend to stick.

Homemade Syrup (recipe from here)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (I got the Archer Farms brand at Target)


Bring water to a boil.  Add sugars and mix until they dissolve.  Let cool and enjoy.


Have a great Sunday!
-April

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Waffles for any meal

I'm not much of a breakfast person.  I am not 100% sure why, but I'm sure it is partly because I'm so lazy in the mornings on the weekends and I don't really want to make anything until at least 2pm.

I do love waffles though, and for a while now I have been wanting to get a waffle iron, so I did.  I was at Target the other day and they had a pretty good iron on sale.

Knowing myself I couldn't wait to try it out, but it was dinner time.  Who says you can't have waffles for dinner??  I whipped up these cheese waffles and threw a tasty over easy egg on top.  They were pretty good!


This morning I was thinking about breakfast, and how easy those cheese waffles were to make.  I looked in the refrigerator and remembered that I had tons of strawberries.  I decided on strawberry waffles with strawberry syrup.

I did a quick search online and found some good looking recipes.

First I made the syrup.  It called for a lot of sugar, but this is a treat, so I was ok with that.

See


After cooking the sauce for about 10 minutes I had a very tasty looking topping for the waffles I was about to make.


The waffles themselves were very easy to whip up.  I also liked that there wasn't a lot of sugar involved, especially since I used so much in the sauce.

I added a good amount to the waffle iron


A few minutes later I had a golden waffle with strawberries running all though.


Now let's top it :)


If you like strawberries and waffles, please try this.  They were the fluffiest waffles I've ever had, and they didn't take that long to cook.  Also, they are much easier to make than pancakes...and they are prettier :) 

Homemade Strawberry Syrup from here.

2 cups strawberries
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Wash the strawberries and remove the stalks
Mash the strawberries to the consistency you want. I threw them in the food processor for about 30 seconds.
In a pot place the strawberries, sugar and 3/4 cup of water.
Bring to a boil over medium low heat, stirring every now and then for 10 minutes
When you have 5 minutes left in the cooking time, dissolve the corn starch in the 1/4 cup of water and add it to the syrup while stirring. This will thicken the sauce and give it a beautiful consistency.
Strawberry Waffles adapted from here.
(this recipe made about 9 large waffles, I froze half.)
2 ½ c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ c milk (I used almond)
½ c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c chopped strawberries.

Heat the waffle iron.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. When the waffle iron is ready to use, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Stir in the strawberries. Do not overbeat.

Pour batter into center of the waffle iron (amount will depend on the size of your waffle iron). Bake until lightly browned. Serve with powdered sugar , syrup and/or sliced strawberries.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

-April

Monday, May 21, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I finally ran out of my store bought laundry detergent.  After many washes, my large tub is empty.  Normally I would be upset because I knew I would have to shell out anywhere from $10-13 for more detergent, but not today.

I was very excited.  Why, you might ask?!? Well, because I can finally make my own HOMEMADE detergent.  The recipe is simple:

Grind up a bar of soap.  I used Dr. Bronner's Peppermint bar soap.  I just chopped it up a bit and used my food processor to grind it down pretty fine.  I know $4 seems a bit steep for a bar of soap, but I do believe in the brand.  Also, in the end, you get a lot of soap!

1 cup each of washing soda and borax.  I found them both in the laundry aisle.  Please note that washing soda is NOT baking soda, it's this stuff.

Mix all together and use 1 tablespoon per load.  I have used it for 2 loads already, and it smells wonderful.

I'm guessing I'll get about 60 loads out of this, for a cost of about $4.50.  That's .075 a load.  Tide will run you $12 for the about the same amount of washes.  Also, you know what's going in your detergent!

I put my detergent in a liter size mason jar.


I haven't run out of fabric softener, but when I do I have some orange infused vinegar that I am going to start using in the rinse cycle.

I hope that if you try this out you like it.  It's nice to save a little cash for the savings account.

-April

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Molasses cookies

I love to read, I really do.  I tend to read several books at a time. For instance, at the moment I'm reading New York, a novelThe Knife ManPride and Prejudice and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I'm also usually re-reading one of the Harry Potter books as well.


Years ago I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, and enjoyed them very much.  I love history, I love homemade things and I love the simplicity of life.


I saw a recipe for Laura Ingalls Wilder's molasses cookies and I had to make them.

I think molasses is amazing.  You can use it in sweets then use it in your favorite BBQ sauce (which I have.) 



The cookie recipe is pretty simple, we take our ingredients, cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and molasses, mix the dry ingredients, mix everything together and we are good to go!


The ingredients, minus the tasty coconut (don't you love the different measuring cups I have??):




Mix it all up and get it on a pre-greased cookie sheet:



Cook for 8 minutes, turn, and cook for another 5.  What you get is a tasty treat.  Believe me!


This cookie is slightly sweet, and you will feel good because it's "healthy".  Come on, it has oatmeal and coconut!  We all know how much I love coconut.


I hope I made Laura proud.  Someday I'll have a farm with a garden a chickens... someday.


Laura Ingalls Wilder's Molasses cookies (adapted slightly from here,)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup unsweetened grated or flaked coconut dried
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease two cookie sheets. Pour the coconut into a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let the coconut soak to rehydrate while you're working with the other ingredients.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg and molasses.

Drain the coconut.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the coconut and vanilla. Stir together till a batter forms. 

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the greased cookie sheet. The cookies spread quite a bit, so make sure you leave enough space between them. I was able to fit 12 cookies per sheet.

Cook for 8 minutes, rotate and cook for another 5.  Cool on  rack and enjoy right away.




-April

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The many uses of coconut oil



If you've been reading the blog you will know that I've been researching and trying a lot of new recipes for household and beauty items.

The one thing I have been using a lot is coconut oil.  I have found many ways to use it, and have had a while to try them out.  I would like to share my recipes and reviews with you now.  Keep reading if you want to save money and chemicals in your body.  It's just true, remember, I'm a bad lair ;)

The most simple things I have been using coconut oil for are for cooking and moisturizer.

In cooking in place of butter, mostly:

In cooking I have been very pleased.  I have used it to fry up veggies, in bread in place of butter and to fry up eggs.  Now I have read some reviews online where people don't like it to fry eggs, but I haven't noticed a bad flavor.  They didn't taste like coconut eggs, but I felt more healthy!  In bread I didn't notice the difference not using butter.

All in all I'm very pleased.  Pleased enough to purchase a 54 oz jar from Vitacost.com.  If you are interested in getting a $10 off coupon, click here.  I am not getting paid to endorse them, I am just very happy with the product and love to share!  Also, who wouldn't like 10 bucks off??

Moisturizer:

I really like it for  a face moisturizer.  I won't lie, I haven't been pimple free, like I usually am, but I've maybe gotten 2 or 3 since I started using it.  I can live with that.  I do know that your body does go through a detox period when changing any beauty product, so it might be that.   If you are wondering, I have combo skin.

It could also be because I stopped using traditional shampoo/conditioner for 3 weeks now, and my body's adjusting to that as well.  People call it no poo, but I think that's silly.  Maybe one day I'll will write about my experience, but if you are at all interested, it's going well!

All in all I do like it as a moisturizer, and my skin feels much more smooth.  I use it on my body too, no more store bought lotion!

Deodorant:


I have read a lot about aluminum in deodorant, and I'm not terribly happy about that.  I decided to do some research, and what do you know, you can use coconut oil to make deodorant!

Below is the recipe I've been using.  They claim it's just a deodorant and not an antiperspirant, but for me I notice it works for both.  Just in case, I keep a tiny jar of it in my purse, but I have yet to use it.  I'm doing ok, unless my co-workers are nice and not telling me!

6 TB coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch

I just warm up the coconut oil and mix everything together.  I leave it in a small jar and just use it with my fingers.  The coconut oil is very moisturizing and it will kill any bacteria or odor.  It's antibacterial and anti fungal.  I'm not a scientist, but I believe the cornstarch is what makes the sweat stay away!  Do be careful though, in the summer it will liquefy due to the oil, but it won't affect the way it works.  I've read of people putting it in empty deodorant containers and keeping it in the fridge in the summer, it's up to you.

Toothpaste:


We all know that baking soda is good in toothpaste, it whitens teeth, but did you know coconut oil is good for them as well?  As I mentioned before, coconut oil is antibacterial, it's also great for your gums.  When combining the 2 ingredients, it gets exciting!  I haven't used this long, but since I have my teeth and gums feel great and I'm liking the results so far.  I will try to update a few months down the line to let you know how it's going.

Equal parts coconut oil and baking soda (I started out with 4 TB each)
25-30 drops of peppermint essential oil

Mix all ingredients together, dip your toothbrush and brush away!

Well, so far that's all I've tried, but I do intend to try more.  If you are interested in trying any of these, please do, and please comment and let me know what you think.

I hope that I have helped some of you to save a little money and your health!

Until next time...

-April


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Canning

If you have been reading my blog, you might know that I am in the process of trying to make anything I can homemade (see here for an example.)  Not only do I want to try to save some cash, but I really want to know what I'm putting in/on my body.

Recently my husband told me about a conversation he had with a friend of ours about canned goods.  I won't go into detail, but needless to say, I will no longer purchasing them (I may be a bit over-dramatic, but if you read my last post, you know I like being a grown-up and I can do what I want!) :P

Anyway, I have been wanting to get into canning for some time now, and it seems to be the best time.  I have been all over the Internet learning about it, and it seems I am very close to starting.

I bought a couple cases of jars today and ordered this pressure canner (and got 5% off as well as free shipping using my Target red debit card.  Get one, seriously.) I am SO excited to get this and start canning.

Since we joined the CSA, I am looking forward to trying new things and canning what I like so we can enjoy it when it's out of season.

I think the first thing I will try is canned tomatoes, since we use that most.  I will probably process some seasonal fruit as well.  Let's not forget pickles!  I do love pickles.

So, if you are interested in learning what I am, stay tuned and you can learn with me.

Until then...

-April

Grown-up Grilled Cheese


I like being a grown-up for a few reasons.  I like living on my own and doing what I want.  I like cooking what I want made from things I bought (I just joined a CSA and I'm super excited!!!). I like working on my budget (hey, I love Excel).  I like working (sometimes), and I like that I can make a normally kid's dinner more adult like.


I have made mac and cheese (not very grown-up style yet) that melts in my mouth, so now I wanted to try a good 'ol grilled cheese.


I frequent this site, and everything I've made from her site I have loved.  I thought I would take her advice and make this killer sandwich.


The idea is pretty easy.  Grill some onions until your mouth waters, throw them on some tasty bread, add a couple pieces of cheese and a top piece of bread and you are ready to go!


The only different think I did with this grilled cheese (besides the super tasty onions) was to use my homemade bread and my new cast iron skillet.  


Let's talk about this cast iron skillet for a moment.  I have been wanting one of these for a long time, and last weekend I was at Bed Bath and Beyond with a $5 off coupon in hand and got one for $15.  I don't know if it was the skillet, or the fact I had sheer luck, but this was the best grilling of a grilled cheese I have ever seen in my kitchen.  Even if it's not the skillet, I'm not changing it up in the future.


Now on the visuals.  This is a whole (yes, I mean whole) yellow onion ready to become heaven:



After about 20-25 LONG minutes (I'm impatient) you end up with golden goodness (I think I might have a problem here)


Take some real butter and throw it in your cast iron skillet for a few seconds before you put a slice of homemade heaven on it then add the cheese onions:


Look at that beautiful butter... add another piece of bread and grill!

Once done, cut it in half so you can see how pretty it is and enjoy!



If you are looking for a great dinner splurge, please try this sandwich.  Maybe you can pair it with a nice soup, or a cocktail.  Your choice, I won't judge!


Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions (adapted from here)


2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Splash of dry white wine (you can use broth)

4 bread slices
Cheese slices (I used provolone and mozzarella) 



(To make the caramelized onions, melt 1½ tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions to the pan with the sugar, salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and fully caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Pour in the splash of wine and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has cooked off.  Remove from the heat and set aside.)


Assemble and grill sandwiches.  Enjoy immediately.


-April





Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lasagne and Cookies

One thing you must know about me is that when I want something I make it happen.  I don't mean to sound impatient (even though I am, a bit) or spoiled, but I usually find a way.  I've gotten more patient in the years though (I promise, Mom.)


This past weekend I wanted something, so my wonderful husband took me to the store to get sugar, butter and eggs.  Don't ask me how I didn't have these on hand, but if you did, I would tell you that I ran out of them at the same time.  That would be true, honest, I'm a bad liar!


This particular time I had to have chocolate chip cookies.  I blame Pinterest.


I wanted to try a recipe I hadn't made before, so I found one that had some good reviews.  For some reason since becoming a "baker" I have felt that if I did the bare minimum I would feel less of a "baker" (makes no sense, right?) Unfortunately this is the truth, so I had to make 2 kinds of cookies.  Don't worry, I didn't eat them all, but my co-workers like me ;)


I decided on Lemon Crinkle cookies.  They were light, chewy and delicious.



I had never rolled cookies in powdered sugar before baking before, but they gave these cookies the best texture.  I will make them again, maybe with more lemon zest though.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen


Ingredients:

½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar


In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.


_________________________________

The Chocolate Chip cookies I made were very good, but not as chewy as I would have liked. I may actually make some more tonight with a different recipe.  I like them nice and soft.  If you are in the mood for a slightly crispy/chewy cookie, this is the right recipe for you.  Don't get me wrong, they were delicious, but a bit too crunchy for me.

The interesting thing about these cookies is the idea of breaking the dough apart before baking.  I'm not sure if they really made them anymore textured, but it was fun to do!


Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 C plus 2 T flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
12 T butter (1 1/2 sticks) melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
*If for some reason your dough is too soft to form balls at this point, don’t add more flour.  Just cover and place bowl in the fridge until dough firms.
Take about 1/4 C dough and form into a ball.  Break ball in half and place dough on cookie sheet with broken edge facing up.  (Or just use a standard sized cookie scoop). Bake until cookies are set around outer edges start to hardenyet centers are still soft and puffy, 10-13 minutes.  Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store inairtight container.
____________________________
I also made a tasty lasagna for dinner.  It's no real recipe. I made the sauce from this recipe, however I halved it and used canned tomatoes. I then added lasagna noodles, carrots, broccoli, celery, squash, cottage cheese and colby jack cheese.  I basically put whatever I had in the house in it.  TASTY STUFF!
Here was dinner, jealous???



All in all it was a good night, and I'm pretty happy with myself.  I think I'll make tortillas tonight...

Stay tuned!

-April

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's a project!!!- vintage book wreath

When I was looking around the Internet Saturday I came across this really cool project for a wreath.


I am a little afraid of decorating our apartment because I feel like I will overwhelm things and make it look tacky.  Now, I'm sure this is just my OCD, but none-the-less it's a worry of mine.  So far I have a few family pictures hung and an awesome picture of NYC that I got from IKEA for $5!  Other than that the walls are bare (so sad).

I dream of making some drapes for the sliding glass door, but that's a project for another day.  Today is wreath day.


I got the idea from here and I made a modification because I didn't want to buy paint.  We have the BEST used book store right down the street from us that has a great vintage section.  I wanted the wreath to have a very authentic feel, so what better way than with an actual vintage book.



If anyone's interested, the book is called The works of Rabelais. It doesn't have a published date, but online it says 1929.  I feel kinda bad for ripping the pages out, but it's in the name of art!


Here's what Wikipedia says about this man "He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs"  Well ok then!


I digress, let's talk about the actual project at hand.  I started with a circular piece of Styrofoam



After ripping out the pages (carefully) start rolling each page and gluing them to the back of the foam.


After you have the back done it should look something like this:


Here it is flipped over:

  
From there you want to start rows all around.  The site here has instructions on how to glue each row.  When you are done with the rows it should look a little something like this:


After that you can fill in any empty spaces to make it look more full.


Here she is all hung up.  I have to say I am pretty proud of myself, and I feel a little more comfortable with decorating. (That's the NYC picture on the left of the wreath.)



If you are a die hard reader like me, this is right up your alley.  I really think that having an actual vintage book made all the difference.

Total cost of the project was $13 (the foam was $7!), but the book has enough pages to where I can make at least 2 more, or maybe I can find something else creative to do with it. The girl on the site said she found the Styrofoam at the Dollar Tree, but I didn't look there.

I hope this post was informative and somewhat entertaining ;)

Until next time, I hope you all get crafty!

-April

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Homemade dishwasher detergent

If anyone read the post of my newest obsessions, you will know that I'm trying to save money and our health by making products myself without chemicals.

The first thing I wanted to try was dishwashing detergent. I wanted to try this because dishwasher soap can get pretty expensive.

I've tried only one recipe, and I'm happy with it so far.  I'll keep using it and update if I find something better, but so far this is what I am using:


Homemade dishwasher detergent:

* 1 cup washing soda 
* 1 cup Borax (Borax and washing soda are both natural disinfectants and mild abrasives.)
* 1/4 cup salt (reduces the effects of hard water)
* two packets of lemonade flavored Kool-Aid (ONLY lemon and ONLY unsweetened!)

Mix everything together and use 1-2 tablespoons per load.  I use 2 because I think we have hard water.

If you are looking for an inexpensive rinse agent, use vinegar.  You can also add about a cup of it to the bottom of the dishwasher before washing.  This will also wash your dishwasher as it washes the dishes! Don't worry though, your dishes won't smell like the vinegar.

Coming up: homemade deodorant and toothpaste.

-April

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My new obsessions

People, I have to tell you a little about myself.  I have ideas and plans all the time, but fail to follow through, and if I do, it's for a short period of time.  I don't know, maybe my mind can't sit still.


I guess you could say I know a little about a lot of things.  In the past few years here are have been a few things I have picked up, and put down:


Playing piano
Sewing
Making flower pens
Decorating
Gardening
Exercising (I know, this is common, it's still on the list though)
Makeup (buying and making)
Blogging!


I have made a resolution to stick with things longer, and I think I will be happier with myself.


One thing that has been with me for a while now is cooking/baking and making my own products.  I've done a lot of research, and I think I'm ready to take it a bit farther.


Now for the meaning of the subject of this post, my new obsessions.


I have been reading a lot about Coconut Oil and Dr. Bronner's Castile soap.  I will share with you some great things about both of these products, so read on if you are interested in hearing awesomeness!


Let's start with Coconut Oil.  Apparently this gem has been used widely for many many years now.  Who knew!  I'll start with a link to a great site that has good information on it's greatness.


Here are just some wonderful things I have found on the Internet that  Coconut Oil is good for (I'm not sure if I need to capitalize the "C' or the "O", but it's so awesome I will!)






Personally I've only tried making the toothpaste, but you can be sure I'm going to try the rest.


Face moisturizer-  It can also help with skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin conditions.
Stress relief- Massage a bit on your forehead and relax.
Digestion- use it in your food.  Saute some veggies. You can eat it straight out of the jar too!
Fitness- it's been showing to boost metabolism, help your thyroid and increase energy.
Healing- put it on a scrape instead of a topical medicine from the store. It protects the scrape and helps with healing.
Hair Care- it's seriously the best conditioner.  Be careful tough, a little goes a LONG way.
Did you know that it's Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Anti fungal, Antiviral and Improves nutrient absorption??
Eye cream – apply under the eyes to reduce puffiness, bags, and wrinkles. Use on the lids in the evening.
Pre shave – it will prep skin for the pending damage caused by shaving.
Aftershave – it will help heal your skin after shaving without clogging pores.
Deodorant –  alone it can be used as a deodorant, but even more effective in combination with cornstarch/arrowroot powder and baking soda!
Hair Gel/Defrizzer – rub a little between your palms and either scrunch into hair (for curly hair) or finger comb in through from scalp to ends (for wavy/straight hair).
Toothpaste – there are numerous recipes out there but I just mix coconut oil, peppermint oil and baking soda and dab a little of the mix on my toothbrush.
Make up remover – use a cotton swab and a dab of coconut oil and you would be amazed at how well it works!
Chapstick – just rub a little into lips and it not only acts as a softening agent but it also has an SPF of about 4 so you get a little protection!
Massage Oil – pretty simple; grab some and rub!
Lubricant – it is an all natural, perfectly safe personal lubricant. Not compatible with latex!
Stretch Mark Cream – it is great at nourishing damaged skin. It may not be the magic stretch mark cure but it will help.
Diaper salve – very comforting on a rashy bum with no harsh chemicals. Also safe for cloth diapers.
Cradle cap – it will not only nourish your baby’s skin, it also helps eliminate cradle cap. Just rub a teaspoon onto scalp daily.
Body scrub – mix coconut oil and sugar together and rub all over! Rinse off and your skin will be super soft! You can add in essential oils if you would like a specific smell.
Bug Bites – when applied directly to a bug bite, coconut oil can stop the itching and burning sensation as well as hasten the healing process.
Swimmers Ear – mix garlic oil and coconut oil and put a few drops in affected ear for about 10 minutes. Do this 2-3 times a day and it usually works within one or two days.
Insect repellent – mix coconut oil with peppermint oil extract and rub it all over exposed skin. Keeps insects off better than anything with Deet! Tons safer too.
Great for dogs and cats for general wellness. Just add a teaspoon to their water bowl daily.
Goo Gone – just mix equal parts coconut oil and baking soda into a paste. Apply to the “sticky” area and let it set for a minute. Then scrub off with an old toothbrush or the scrubby side of a sponge.
Chewing Gum in Hair Remover – just rub some coconut oil over the stuck chewing gum, leave in for about 30 minutes, then roll the gum between your fingertip. Voila! It’s out!
Baldness – apply three times a day to affected area of hair loss. Coconut oil supports cell regeneration. 
Burns – apply to burn site immediately and continue applying until healed. Will reduce the chances of permanent scarring and promotes healing. 
Mole Remover – when applied after an apple cider vinegar compress for several weeks, moles have been known to “slide off” or just disappear. 
Oily Skin Fix – prone to oily skin or an oily T-zone? Use a pea sized amount underneath makeup or alone to reduce the appearance of oil. 
Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose making it great for both diabetics and non-diabetic. 
Nausea – rub some coconut oil on the inside for the wrist and forearm to calm an upset stomach. 
Make healthy Magic Shell ice cream topping.
Oil pulling, this site is interesting to find out about it.  I might try it sometime.
For nursing mothers, consuming coconut oil will help increase your milk flow.
If you’re prone to nosebleeds, coat the inside of your nostrils with coconut oil regularly.
Take a spoonful to help with heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
Massage into your nails and cuticles to help strengthen them.
It's also linked to helping with Alzheimer's disease <3

Information compiled from herehere and here.

This is just what I've found so far, I can imagine what more research will unleash.  I'm ready to go buy more!

Now, on to the next obsession, Dr. Bronner's Castile soap.



This wonderful soap comes in 8 scents: peppermint, almond, citrus, eucalyptus, rose, tea tree, lavender and baby mild (for the little ones.) I have only purchased the peppermint scent (because I LOVE peppermint) but I really want to get some rose next.

This is what I have found that you can use this soap for:

Body/face wash: mix with water.
Toothpaste: just a couple drops will do.
Hand soap: mix with water.
Fruit wash: use a bit with a lot of water and wash away!
Dish soap
Disinfecting counter spray
Household cleaner: normally a ration of 1:40, or 1:20 for heavy duty cleaning.
Pet shampoo
Cleaning make up brushes/paint brushes
Washing clothes

Basically you can replace all of your soaps/cleansers with some form of this soap.  Imagine how much money you will save!

I bought a 16 oz bottle for $11 at Target, and from the small amount you need to use in each recipe, it seems it's going to last me quite a while.

I'm thinking the Rose for body wash and hand soap.  Oh, or peppermint... 

I hope this post was helpful to some (or at least one person.) I will make sure to post about my individual recipes and my thoughts.

I will leave you with 2 products that I made this weekend:

First is the toothpaste.  I combined 3 tablespoons each of Coconut Oil and baking soda with 25 drops of peppermint essential oil.  I like it.  It's definitely different, and you can tell there's baking soda in it, but for only having 3 natural ingredients in it, it's amazing.  Coconut Oil is great for your teeth and gums, and the baking soda will whiten and keep them clean.  

The other thing I tried is a shower cleaner.  I needed something to fight the soap scum.  I came across the recipe of equal parts of vinegar and dawn soap.  I sprayed this in the shower and let it sit for an hour or so.  The soap scum scrubbed off so quickly and easily.  I think what I'll do from now on is spray this in the shower a few times a week and just rinse, no scrubbing needed!

Well, there you have it.  An in depth post of my newest loves.

If anyone tries one of these 2 things and loves them, please let me know.

-April