Thursday, December 15, 2011

Owls

I'm not sure what's gotten into me lately, but after making a Christmas stocking for my g-niece, I got interested in making owls, of all things.  I found quite a few patterns online that I downloaded, then enlarged.  I had lots and lots of wool felt quarter-pieces stashed away that I bought probably 7+ years ago when a local Wal Mart store closed/moved.  And so I began experimenting with different pieces to see what I could come up with.  
I was so silly and thought I would have time to work on these when I went to visit my (18 mo old) grandson last month- ha!  I never even got them out of my suitcase.  But, since my return, I have found myself looking forward to working on these guys after my chores are done and I'm ready to sit down in the evening.  Television gets worse and worse as the holidays approach- series end or go on hiatus.  There's almost nothing really good on until January.  These give me something to work on while I half-listen/watch what is on.  
The only thing I went out and purchased was some more floss.  I found a variety pack at JoAnn's that was less than $5.00 and had a lot of colors to work with.


My husband asked me last night what I was going to do with these and I told him I'm not sure, yet.  I may sell them in my booth or give them away as gifts.  I then promptly began cutting out what I refer to as Version II of these owls.  They are "waiting in the wings" to be assembled.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shortbread Cookie Pans

Shortbread Cookies- yum.  Delicate, delicious and divine.  What an easy recipe, too.  Butter, sugar, flour and vanilla.  I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe for a batch as well as one from King Arthur's website.  Both were very tasty.  There are several ways to bake these, one of them being in a Shortbread Pan.  I was so intrigued by these that I had to have one.  
Or two.  That's what happens when you shop online at Amazon: choices.  These are both Cast Iron Aluminum pans made by Nordic Ware.  I have no idea why one is silver/gray and the other is dark.


The batch from KAF were what I used in the Snowflake Pan, but it took some searching long and hard to find just the right apparatus for pushing this dough into the pan.  Pastry rollers seem to be a thing of the past but not fondant rollers!  I found mine in the Wilton Cake section.  When you place the plastic wrap on top, this thing works like a charm.  


Voila!

These pans are so pretty and the packaging on them suggest using them for other things, such as cakes, cookies and biscuits- I thought: why not?  And so I tried an experiment and bought these "snack size" mixes:

The cookie mix worked just fine, using the plastic wrap and roller.  They tasted OK- well, like cookie mix cookies.  I suppose if you iced these, you could see the designs on them better.


And the brownies-

...came out pretty.


I think I will try making cornbread in one of these as well as biscuits.  Should be fun!  


Friday, December 2, 2011

"Breasert"

I want to share a sinfully delicious breakfast casserole that I made during the Thanksgiving weekend.  It could also be served as desert, so some refer to this as a "breasert".  Whatever you want to call it, it's fantastic and even better if you use homemade bread!  
My sourdough bread recipe makes two loaves so I usually have one or two loaves in the freezer.  This recipe is perfect for that use. It was featured over on Tasty Kitchen and comes via the blog Bake Eat Repeat.  I am all over breakfast dishes that can be made the day before and popped in the oven first thing, without preheating.  That's because I need at least one if not two cups of java before I can think straight.  So, by the time I have had said coffee, the smell of apples swimming in gooey caramel delight and the french toast toasting is heavenly.  I give it 5 stars.  And I will be making this again, very soon.





Apple Bourbon French Toast Casserole
Yield: Serves 5-6
Recipe by bakeeatrepeat.blogspot.com


Ingredients:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 Tablespoons bourbon
3 large apples (I used Honeycrisp), cored, peeled, and sliced
6-8 thick slices day old bread
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg

Directions:
1. In a small pan melt butter and sugar together. Whisk to combine. Cook until slightly thickened. Add bourbon and whisk again. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.
2. Pour butter mixture into a 9" x13" pan. Arrange sliced apples on top.
3. Arrange slices of bread on top of apples.
4. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over bread.
5. Cover dish and refrigerate over night.** In the morning, place casserole dish in oven. Heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until apple slices have softened and bread is golden brown.

**Note: If you are preparing the casserole the morning you are serving it, dip bread slices in egg mixture before putting them in the pan. Pour remaining egg mixture over top of bread slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gourds

While choosing the seeds that I wanted to start last winter, I threw in a packet of "decorative gourd mix" because I have always wanted to grow gourds.  And then make things out of them.  Like birdhouses and bird feeders.  Who knows?  Maybe even get an artistic streak and do something crafty with them...


Last February my seeds all started well in their little makeshift green houses.  In fact, I had lots and LOTS of little starter plants- so many that I gave quite a few away.  Tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumber and herbs.  Gourds, lettuce and even broccoli.



Yeah, well....what nobody expected was the unbelievable heat we had starting in June.  I can't even remember all of the records broken, but when it's too hot for too long and tomatoes can't handle it, then not much else will, either. I remember we hit 114 and I remember we were above 100 for weeks.  
Once the heat finally left, in early September, those plants that had survived began trying to make a comeback.  My gourds and morning glories had barely- BARELY- clung to life during the heatwave, looking wilted and close to death most days.  But that all changed quickly.  As the temperatures cooled  the gourd plants soon were climbing the fence wildly. One day I looked out my back door and thought I saw something weird out near the plants.  After the brutal summer, I had long ago stopped looking for fruit of any kind to appear anywhere out there.  But, what was this?


Oh my goodness, it was GOURDS.  I ran out and began searching like it was Easter for eggs.  I discovered quite a few of them, in different shapes and sizes.  There aren't very many of these little white ones:

There are 5 or 6 of the one's used for bird houses and feeders (more are hidden in back, near the fence)


And then I discovered the strangest of all, to me: the long-handled dipper gourd:


This sucker is 3 feet long and still growing!  I have read that if these are grown hanging down (as this one is) they can grow to almost 6 feet tall!  Every time I go out to look at these (there is at least one more) they have grown several inches bigger and longer.  

In my research online, I found this gentleman in Hartselle, Alabama.  His name is Johnny Self and he grows gourds for fun.  His record longest dipper gourd is 59 inches!  


I have also learned that you don't cut these off the vines until the vine is brown and dead.  That should occur sometime soon as we are having cold, near freezing nights these days.  You then cut them off, leaving 2-3 inches of the vine on it and preferably hang the gourds somewhere for 5 months until they dry out completely and harden.  Then you may do with them what you like.  


I will post pictures of anything interesting that I make or do with mine, but I am cautiously optimistic here.  My neighbor grew gourds 2 summers ago, dried them and made bird feeders and houses out of them.  He said squirrels destroyed them in a matter of days :o(

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm Back

It's been awhile, hasn't it?  Like oh, seven...eight months?  Life sure has a way of sidetracking you and before you know it, the holidays are creeping back up on us.  I don't have the time today to go into an update right now, but I will soon be adding more.....stuff.  Recipes and photos, of course!  In the mean time, here are some photos of my fur kids!  I have 3 Shih Tzu's that keep me sane and company.  
Gracie is the oldest, our first.  She hails from Evening Shade, Arkansas!

When she was nearing two, we decided she needed a buddy and chose Pete who came to us from Emory, Texas

And last is our sweet little Tessa, who comes from Nashville, Tennessee.  She is my heart dog :o)


I am going to add a Pintrest link soon as well as some other goodies.  Be back soon, this time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March-ing Right Along....

I can't believe spring has sprung on us already!  Keeping myself busy has really helped me get through the dreaded Tax Season (which, you would think after 32 yrs I would be used to).  So here's what has been keeping my attention these days:

First of all, I do believe I have this sourdough bread baking business down to an art.  A darn good art, at that!  I have a great starter and I bake bread whenever I can.  Honestly, I think I have OD'd my neighbors on bread for now.  



Next was my Growth Chart project to send for Cade's birthday.  I cannot believe it, but that little guy is walking!  He took his first steps before he was even 11 months old, little stinker!  I could not find a pattern anywhere for making one of these, so I had to make it up as I went along.  I looked at lots of images online that were out there, believe me.  So, here is what I came up with:



I loved the jungle/safari themed material- so bright and colorful!  And since I had quite a bit left over, I decided to make a quilted blanket for him too.  I have always said he was a little monkey, the way he would use his feet and toes.  So, this is the front/top:


And then I put this on the back:

After finishing these and getting the box off to KY (along with other toys, clothes and books for him) I started planting seeds for the container garden I'm going to have this year.  I have yellow squash, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, 3 different kinds of tomatoes, broccoli, romaine lettuce, seed lettuce and morning glories (not for containers).  I will be sharing many of these plants with others.  Hope everyone has a great, allergy-free (ha ha) spring!



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Got Pears?


I love pears.  So much so that when they came in season I kind of went overboard and bought a bunch of them.  Unfortunately they all ripened at the same time and before I knew it, I had about 4-5 ripe pears that I needed to do something with (besides eat) pronto.  
I remembered scanning a recipe that was in my mother's "collection" (when I was writing my cookbook) that involved pears so I began searching for it and found it- yay!  
It was for Pear Cake which intrigued me right away.  Never heard of Pear Cake before.  A quick online search turned up one or two more similar recipes but this one sounded SO good.  I think it's because of what you do to/with the pears beforehand that makes this a winner.

And that is: you peel and thinly slice 4-5 ripe pears, put them in a bowl with nuts and add brown and white sugar. Stir the mixture and let it sit for at least an hour, stirring now and then.  This amazing process produces more juice and seems to caramelize the nuts and....well it's just awesomeness.


The pear mixture is then processed in a blender or, in my case, I just used a potato masher, which left a few little chunks of pear. This mixture is added to the rest of the cake batter and wow, it made a really thick, moist cake!


Some people said they cooked theirs in a Bundt pan and poured a glaze over, others said they made 2 loaves and called it Pear Bread.  Then some iced their cake with a Cream Cheese icing- however it was noted that (while I LOVE that icing) this tended to cover up the wonderful flavor of this cake.  Bearing that in mind, I just left my cake naked.  I figure the true test of a cake is if it can stand on it's own without any kind of topping then it's a great cake.  This was!


I'm glad I left those little chunks of the caramelized pears in there, too.  It is said that you can substitute apples (zucchini?) for the pears and if you do that, I would definitely put it in a blender since ripe apples don't get as soft as pears.  So here is the recipe.  It leaves a lot of wiggle room to add spices if you so desire.  I would try it first 'as is' and take it from there.  Let me know if you make it!

----------------------------------


PEAR CAKE

4-5 fresh pears
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and slice pears thin. Mix sliced pears with white sugar, brown sugar, and nuts and let sit for one hour, stirring now and then. After sitting puree pear mixture in a blender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 13x9 inch pan.

By hand stir in until just blended; the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to pear mixture and add oil, vanilla and eggs. Pour batter into prepared pan *

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

* OR place in 2 prepared loaf pans; bake for 50 minutes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Snowklahoma!

Because we have had over 20 inches of snow here in the last two weeks and
Because we have broken every record kept here since before statehood and
Because warmer temps are on the way and I feel so much better about things now
I give you:


Monday, February 7, 2011

Catching Up

We had a blizzard here last week.  Got like 14.5 inches of snow followed by some sub-zero temps.  Not your typical Oklahoma weather, that's for sure.  What was even crazier was that a mere 3 days prior to said blizzard, we almost hit 80.  We were warned about this impending winter storm and I stocked up well, planned menu's etc.  I was also looking forward to more baking experiments  :o)

I wasn't quite through with making some of The Pioneer Woman's recipes and made this wonderful Cinnamon Bread.  Oh man, was this good!  In fact, it was so good I immediately took it across the street to my neighbors because I can't have something like that around here!


The last of PW's recipe for me to try was this Beef Stew with Mushrooms.  Awesomeness on a cold winter night.
-----------------------
Moving right along...... I have a large bag of dried apricots purchased at Sams in my pantry.  My husband is crazy about apricots so I sort of made up a bread using these along with walnuts.  It was a pretty heavy bread and came out OK - he loved it. (I'm not super-crazy about apricots).



Now, this Cranberry Banana Oat bread is another story- I am really loving this for breakfast!



CRANBERRY BANANA OAT BREAD

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 1/2 x 8 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter. Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl; set aside.
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until smooth. Beat in the bananas, sour cream, and melted butter. Add the sugar, cranberries, and lemon juice; beat until evenly blended. Fold into the oat mixture until no dry lumps remain. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.  
Cut carefully with serrated bread knife.
-----------------------------------------------------

That was the highlight of my cooking adventures. The rest of the 5 days of being snowed in I fixed tried and true meals (comfort food) from my Cookbook  :o)   And I made more bread for the neighbors.  

The day after the blizzard I heard a loud noise on my driveway.  I looked out and saw this:


Yep, that's my neighbor- the one I take baked goods over to- clearing off our driveway.  I love good karma.......... and good neighbors.





Friday, January 21, 2011

Ree-diculous Cooking!

Apparently I have way, way too much time on my hands these days.  That plus the fact that when I get obsessed with something, it can sort of take over-  has turned me into a baking/cooking freak lately.
My last adventure with sourdough was making a Cranberry Walnut Multi-Grain loaf of bread.  That was one week ago.  It was quite a long process and I kept saying to myself (after the 4th time of letting it rise) that it had better be worth it.  Well, it actually was.  I have been slicing myself a piece of this every morning for breakfast - with some butter and honey on it, it's quite tasty and is pretty healthy to boot.


I have put the sourdough starters into the fridge for now because I made a grave mistake.  I began browsing Ree Drummond's (aka The Pioneer Woman) cooking pages and her Tasty Kitchen website.  If you want my advice: don't go there!  You will begin copying down recipes that sound good, then running to the grocery store to buy what you need and the next thing you know, you will have cooked this Blueberry Crumb Cake.  (I split the recipe in two and shared it with my neighbors)


And when the weather turns bad, all icy and snowy, you will want to fix her Beef Stew with Paprika and Beer.  Need I say it goes divinely with sourdough bread?  This was some of THE best stew I've ever eaten.  Seriously.


And for desert that night  (because I was stuck in the house all day thanks to this winter storm) I fixed her Cherry Cake Pudding.  Heaven help my waistline.  I didn't even make the whipped cream.  It was wonderful just as it is.  


So consider yourself warned.  If you are hungry and/or a cooking freak like I've become, stay away from recipe websites like this!  Or just keep giving stuff to your neighbors like I do.  They love me  :o)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Bread....

This past week I have made somewhere around 8 or 9 loaves of bread, using different starters, recipes and methods.  There are a LOT of variations and techniques out there and it just comes down to trial and error.  Fortunately I only had to actually throw away these two loaves:

While they weren't totally inedible, the crust was too hard and the taste just wasn't that good.  I would have fed it to the birds but the squirrels would have gotten it instead and judging by the over-population of them in our neighborhood, they don't need any extra food.  

I made these two loaves yesterday.  The recipe said they would be good size and texture for sandwiches and toast and it was right!  Good stuff.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Authentic Sourdough Loaf

This was my attempt at making a real, honest to goodness loaf of bread using no commercial yeast, no sugar, only starter, water, flour and salt.  It was a longer process than I anticipated. I somehow missed the part where it said to let it rise for 7 hours and stupidly began making the dough in the afternoon.  Honestly I think this was due in part to my following the steps on my iPad in the kitchen; yeah, I'll blame it on that!
So I ended up actually baking this at 11:00 pm.  And here is the final loaf:


To see the crumb (that's bakery lingo for the texture) I sliced off an end piece and voila:


No, it's doesn't have the large holes associated with some sourdough's but it tastes like sourdough! 
I think it's a nice loaf for a first time authentic go of it. 


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cake Pan Comparison

Last week Pioneer Woman posted a recipe,  mysteriously called Pig Cake.  It looked wonderful and I wanted to make it right away.  Since there are only two of us here at home I decided to make the cake in two 9x9 pans, so I could share one with my neighbors.   
I'm a huge fan of the Nordic Ware commercial grade pans and I have at least one of every size.  But, not two of the 9x9's.  My other one was a cheaper one and I figured this was a great time to compare how the two performed.  Was the Nordic Ware as good as I thought?  Worth twice the money?

The contenders- Nordic Ware on the left:


When placed in the oven, the one in the cheaper pan cooked a lot faster.  I had to take it out earlier. It also came out lopsided (click on photos to enlarge):



After cooling a bit, I turned them out to finish cooling.  You can see how much more "well done" one is. I believe the verdict was clear: the commercial grade performed perfectly (and you can buy it at Wal Mart, too!)  


The cake, however, was FABULOUS!  It truly is a "stand alone" cake that doesn't need the wonderful icing in the recipe.  But, of course, I made it anyway and it was also fabulous.  Here is a little insight into the origin of this cake:

It is usually called Pig Pickin' Cake.  A Pig Pickin' is a ritual in the south, particularly the Carolinas and in Georgia where a whole pig is roasted over wood coals (or in a barrel) for hours until done, when the meat falls off the bones and folks gather around and "pick off the meat"- hence the name.  Hush puppies, corn sticks, coleslaw and the usual barbecue fair are all served too.  This cake is a staple at most of them, as are some other cakes.  In reality, this cake should be called a Pig Pickin' Cake!