Things I Saw Today . . .

June 28, 2013

Today, the last day of my time off, was going to be a beach day. So I packed my camera in my beach bag in case there was anything of interest on the Gulf Coast.

Like maybe a really cool view of a gigantic rain cloud just off the beach:

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(I was in the shade of a non-rain cloud, so the sand looks dark.)  That cloud looked several miles tall! And it appeared to be really dumping some rain into the Gulf for a good 45 minutes or so.

When sun came out where I was, I took another pic of Mega Cloud, still pouring rain.

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As the cloud moved North, the rain stopped, and in a matter of three minutes the whole, huge cloud broke up and disappeared. I couldn’t believe how fast it happened!

On the way home from the beach, I saw two other things of interest.  Not nature-related, but really funny ones:

I spotted this Mexican pastry company delivery truck at a convenience store.  Why oh Why do these people not know to name their company something else?  (It’s actually an acronym, but still!)

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And then, I saw this while waiting at a stoplight:

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Can you read it? Is says, “Charlie’s Angels Plumbing LLC” and under that is says, “Plumbery Investigations”.  The silhouettes in the logo are all holding plumbing tools. I pulled up next to it and looked in the window, and sure enough, there was a woman in the truck! I’m still laughing about this one.  These gals have some sense of humor!

Tired of the same old brownies?

April 27, 2013

Not that anyone would turn down a brownie, but if you’re up for some brownie innovation (woooo!) here are two ways that I recently tried to make something different with brownie mix. They both turned out great!

FIRST WAY: Walnut Brownie Bites with Ganache

Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, and get yo’sef a Brownie Bite Pan (or you can order it from Amazon.) It looks like this, and it’s made by USA Pan:

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Then, get a box of your favorite Ghiradelli brownie mix and mix according to pkg directions. (The above pan perfectly accommodates one box of mix.) Spoon into pan – fill each cavity about half full –  and bake at 350 for 21-24 mins. After they have cooled, remove from pan and cover with ganache.  You can make ganache by melting together in a double boiler: 4 oz of semi sweet or milk chocolate with 1 T butter, 1/4 C heavy cream, and 1/4 T vanilla. Remove from heat and stir until it’s not so thin. Pour over each brownie bite and top with half a walnut or whatever you like. Refridgerate until ganache is set (several hours) and then you can take them out of the fridge to let them return to room temp before serving.

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They’re a little larger than a petit-four, and they are chewy like the edge of a brownie. I took these to coffee hour at church a few weeks ago, and they went fast!  Be careful not to bake them too long or they will get really hard. (I made that mistake the first time and had to start over.)

SECOND WAY: Chocolate Caramel Cookies

No special pan needed.  Just a small cookie scoop and a box of Ghiradelli Caramel brownie mix.  There’s a recipe on the back of the box for these cookies: Brownie mix, one egg, 4 T softened butter.  Mix (use a stand mixer – dough is very dense)  and scoop onto cookie sheets.  Make an indentation with your thumb in the middle of each cookie, and pour the caramel into each cavity.  (Caramel pouch provided in the box.) Bake for 12-13 min at 350. Remove from oven and top with whatever – I used brickle bits. The recipe says to use a pecan half, but because I used a small scoop, the cookies were a little too small for that.  But I got 3 dozen cookies out of it by using the small scoop. And they did spread a good bit during baking, so they are not dinky.

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The brownie mix has little walnut bits in it, so you can see some of those on the sides of the cookies. But that’s the brickle in the middle.

I will be taking these to coffee hour at church tomorrow along with some Almond Macaroons and Apricot Almond Bars. Hope everyone enjoys them! I surely enjoyed making them.

Baking and Making

March 9, 2013

Last week there was some baking (cookies) and a lot of making (dresses). A productive week!

First, let’s get to the baking. Cuz it was TASTEE!! This recipe for Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies was new to me. I figured it would be good, because it came from the Kind Arthur Flour website. But still, it exceeded my expectations.

The Tastee-ness was largely due to a special ingredient called “jammy bits” that you have to order . . from King Arthur Flour, of course . . . but it was worth it. They really made the cookies very special.  Here’s a pic of them from the KAF website:

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They come in raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry.  I used the raspberry in this recipe because I thought it would have the most flavor.  They’re a little chewy after baking, so they added a nice texture and flavor to the cookie.

The cookies turned out great!  I used butter instead of shortening per the note on the recipe, so the cookies were slightly soft in the middle and just crisp around the edges.

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MMMMM.  They were goooooood. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

And now, on to the Making of Dresses for the Tumaini Fund. I managed to make a blue one that was just like the previous yellow one:

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After seeing some pictures of the people in Tanzania who will receive these dresses, I had a much better sense of what colors and designs they like. So  I went to JoAnn and bought some batik fabrics (50% off!) in bright colors.

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And there are 3 more fabrics in the washing machine.  Oooohhh. the fabric addiction is taking hold.  Help!

Right now I’m working on a purple batik dress. This fabric was donated to my sewing group, so it didn’t come from JoAnn.  Here’s a “work in progress” picture, because I’m not finished with it yet:

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I am just in LOVE with that fabric! I could look at it all the livelong day. I love the touch of magenta in the fabric with all the different shades of purple. I made the facing out of a lighter purple batik.  I hope some little Tanzanian girl who loves purple as much as I do gets this dress.

Making Leetle Dresses

February 28, 2013

Instead of baking, I’ve been spending my time sewing little dresses.

It’s a totally new experience for me because I’ve never made apparel before, and can barely sew a straight line anyway.

Here’s how it all happened: My friend Diana invited me to visit her church, so I checked out the church’s website in advance.  I saw some pictures of a sewing group, but wasn’t sure exactly what they were making.  Diana told me that it’s a group called Sewing For Hope that meets at her church, and makes dresses for AIDS orphans in Tanzania. Then I found a news video clip about the group, and OHMIGOSH I had to find out about more it!  So I emailed the lady in charge.  She was very welcoming, and even came to my house to bring me the patterns and instructions.  Very Nice Lady!

Here’s the cotton fabric I bought at JoAnn for My First Dress:

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I wanted to try to make a dress before the group’s meeting during the week. So last weekend, I shut myself in my sewing room with the fabric and instructions.  After many hours of trying (and in many cases, failing) to understand the instructions . . .  and then I won’t even mention how many times I had to get out the seam ripper! . . . I finally managed to produce a little dress!

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Now that I finally figured out the instructions, it’s really simple. Has facing in the front and back of the top part. Since we have to make them as durable as possible, we can’t use too many bells and whistles like buttons or sparkly things.  I thought the grosgrain ribbon would add to the appearance but wouldn’t come off easily.

Now I’m making a blue  one – it’s going waaaaaay faster this time around!  It’s actually the same print, but with a blue background and a yellow center in the daisy.

We can also use geometric prints and batiks. I suspect that I’ll go ape with the batiks and will have to take special care not to succumb to the fabric addiction that runs in my family. ;)

This is a really fun project and I’m so glad to have found it!

But I must temporarily stop the dress-making next week, because there is some baking to be done. I will be baking Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies.  mmm. Raspberry jammy bits in the cookies. If you want to know what jammy bits are, tune in next week to find out!

It’s Cookie Time!

February 6, 2013

But then isn’t it always time for a cookie? :)

So today I made a recipe that I haven’t made in ages.  Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies.  Found the recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  They have really nice quality recipes - have a look, maybe while the baby eagles are napping.

I was especially excited to make cookies, because it was a great opportunity to try out my new cooling racks that I puchased from Bed Bath & Beyond with a gift card that my sister gave me for Christmas.  (Also got some towels, needless to say.)  Thank you, Sister!

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These racks are great because 1)they have legs and stand up off the counter so the cookies cool faster, and 2)they’re stackable, so you don’t need as much counter space. The set comes with 3 tiers, but only one is shown in the pic above.

So back to the cookies – it’s a pretty easy recipe. It calls for both butter and shortening, but I used all butter and no shortening. Cuz who wants to eat shortening? blech.  I used a small cookie scoop to scoop the dough, then rolled it into balls and then rolled the balls in a mixture of sugar and a little salt.  Since the cookies have butterscotch chips and brown sugar in them, they are really sweet, so the touch of salt perfectly counters all the sweetness. It’s kind of the same effect as a little salt on caramel.  YUM.

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I did not refridgerate the dough, so the cookies came out flatter, and since I baked them for only 10 minutes, they were nice and chewy. If you want a chunkier cookie, you can refrigerate the dough before rolling into balls, and for a crisper cookie, you can bake them an additional 2 minutes.  They looked a little boring so after I took this pic, I sprinkled the top with some of the sugar/salt mixture.

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And look – here they are on my new cooling racks!  At this point, it’s just a double-decker, but there is another tier that can be stacked on top.

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You know what else I like about these cooling racks?  Since they’re not so low to the counter, you don’t get that condensation on the countertop as the cookies cool. Genius!

So after they cooled – in no time flat, thanks to the nifty new racks – I packaged them up and will take them to my dentist’s office today. Have to have a crown repaired.

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Okay, so I’m back from the dentist.  The cookies were a big hit! But half of my face is numb and I feel like I have a big fat lip. So I’ll go settle down on the sofa and watch the financial news and then switch over to Bonanza. Might be a nap in there somewhere.

No baking, but other stuff to do.

January 20, 2013

It’s sad that I’ve had no reason to bake recently. But I have kept myself occupied with several other craft-related things.

First, I have been making prayer shawls and lap blankets for the sewing group at my church. They donate the items wherever they are needed locally.

Here’s the most recent one, made with Caron Simply Soft yarn in the color called Pistachio. I just did the double crochet stitch and then varied every 4th row to make it a little more interesting. The edging is a simple single crochet/chain one all the way around.

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The close up shows the actual color a little better:

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And I’m also pressing flowers. Yay! These are Blue Delphinium blossoms.  I’ll be using them to make bookmarks to sell at my sister’s Christmas show next holiday season. I sent her some bookmarks for the 2012 show and I didn’t really think anyone would buy them, but they did!  Yes, it’s a bit early to be thinking of next Christmas, but these flowers are only avaiilable from late Jan to late Feb, so I have to get them while they’re blooming.

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I pressed some of the leaves, too, because I’ll use those along with the blossoms in the bookmarks.  I’ve always been a fan of the color green rather than blue, but I just LOVE the sapphire color of these flowers!  Probably because of the “sapphire” part. You know how I am about the joolwries!

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So I am still waiting for P&S Sister Sarah and P&S Cousin Audra to get back to blogging.  Is there any hope in this world that you two will start up again? I’m sure that you both have many pictures of many projects and other things that need to be seen!

A New Favorite

January 9, 2013

Move over, Carrot-Pineapple Bread! Your place in the Breakfast Bread Hall Of Fame has just been usurped by a fabulous breakfast bread from King Arthur Flour:  Whole Wheat Apple Raisin Bread. (Better pic on website.)

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And here’s a pic of the inside of a little muffin I made from the batter so I could have a taste.  Very moist. Quite delicious.

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I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  Every one of their recipes I have tried has been AMAZING.  This recipe calls for White Whole Wheat flour.  I had never used that before, so I was curious.  It’s really good! It has a milder flavor and is lighter in color, but it has all the same nutrition as regular whole wheat flour. It’s also not as “heavy” as regular ww flour. I can’t wait to try it in some other things.

The only problem I had with the recipe was that it calls for a regular sized loaf pan, which turned out to be way too small.  The center of the loaf was not done, yet the crust was starting to burn.  But that problem can be easily resolved by using a large loaf pan or by making the regular loaf + 2 mini loaves.  Think I’ll use the large loaf pan next time.

The recipe gives you several options:  I used golden raisins instead of dark ones.  I did use the optional ginger, and I used both the cinnamon sugar and sparkling sugar on the top instead of just one of them.

Since it’s a new recipe for me, I asked my friend Diana to critique the bread’s texture and flavor. She went wild over it and asked me for the recipe.  So this bread will now be at the top of my list for my next baking project, whenever that may occur. Soon, I hope!

This bread freezes really well, so you can ake it ahead of time. Try it out! You won’t be disappointed.

Baby Eagle Cam!

January 5, 2013

Here in Southwest Florida, everyone goes crazy over bald eagles – especially when they lay eggs.  Entire construction projects have been halted for months, costing the construction company a fortune, so as not to disturb the nests.  A few years ago, a construction company here in my city sued the state of Florida over that issue, but lost in no time flat.  Eagle protection laws here are iron-clad.

The latest eagle’s nest is a bit north of here, but we get regular updates on the local news every night, and everywhere you go in town, people are talking about it.

And here it is for you to see! The mom laid 2 eggs several days apart.  One of them has hatched and, as of today, I can’t tell if the other one has hatched yet or not.  She sitting right on top of them so it’s not always easy to see.  Every once in a while, her hubby brings her a fish. Good hubby. Now how about a babysitter and a night out?

Holiday Party Baking

December 8, 2012

WooHoo! Time to do some SERIOUS baking!

My church is having a Holiday Open House today at their Upscale Thrift Shoppe (pls note: “Shoppe”, not “Shop”), and can you believe they were going to serve store-bought food!? . . . . at a CHURCH FUNCTION?! Don’t they know that serving store-bought food at a church function is a one-way ticket to hell? Well, we are not dealing with Southern folk here, so I guess it’s a case of “they know not what they do.”

To spare them all from eternal condemnation, I volunteered to bake. The lady in charge said that I could make whatever I wanted as long as it was “finger food”.  It was like a dream come true!

I started mid-week with one of my favorite breakfast bread recipes, Orange Marmalade Bread.  It turned out all gummy because I took it out of the oven too soon. I had to start over. So after work, I went to the grocery to get some more orange marmalade and a few other things, and when I got home I realized that I had indeed gotten the ‘few other things’, but had forgotten the orange marmalade!  DOH!

The next day, I finally had my head on straight, and managed to get the marmalade and make the little mini-loaves.  This bread has a beautiful fragrance  – a lovely orange aroma! I leave out the walnuts because they would interrupt all the sweet orange-ness. These are great with coffee or tea. And a nice change from the usual lemon-poppyseed bread that is served at every single reception known to man.

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Then I made the super moist Carrot-pineapple bread mini-loaves  – without any additional trips to the grocery! ;)

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I like the mini-loaf format for receptions. You can slice them about an inch thick and people can pick up a slice without it falling apart like a regular-sized loaf slice would.

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Okay, now this is one of THE BEST cookies ever.   Ginger Spice Cookies. Cheeeewwwwwwy, mmmmm.  I used black strap molasses i/o light molasses to punch up the flavor.  The black-strap also makes the cookie darker, so if you want a lighter cookie, use light molasses that the recipe calls for.  Also, I used sanding sugar to make them pretty and to get that little tiny crunch on top.  They’ll be serving hot apple cider at the Open House, so I thought these would work well with that.

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By the way, these smell SO GOOD that you won’t believe your nose. Must be the ground cloves and cinammon. The crystallized ginger gives them a fabulous chewy texture. P&S Cousin Leah – you might like these.

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Since Peanut Brittle is a holiday requirement, I made a large tin of that, too.

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And I wanted to do  another cookie, so I made another one of my favorites.  It’s a pretty cookie.  A chewy, pretty, simple-to-make cookie. Almond Macaroons.

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Last but not least, I made Brown Butter Toffee Blondies.  These have gotten rave reviews wherever I have taken them, so I hope they will be a hit at the Open House, too. They are sinfully buttery and delicious. (Is that redundant? “buttery” and “delicious?”)  The recipe calls for walnuts, but let’s not discriminate against the pecan!  These are waaaaaay better with pecans!

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I cut some of them into hearts and some into little squares. Cute! If you make these, be SURE to follow the instructions about lining the pan with paper, etc.  One time I ignored that part and they were a disaster.

If you are going to do any holiday baking and don’t know what to make, maybe try one of these! None of them are complicated, and they’re all really good. Happy baking!

My First Black Friday Shopping Experiece

November 24, 2012

I have never been shopping on Black Friday before, but I HAD to go this year.  Joann’s put their flannel on sale for 75% off, but only on Saturday morning until noon. I was nervous. I ventured out expecting a mob scene, but it really wasn’t that crowded. In fact, I found a parking place right by the door!

I was there to stock up on flannel for making more blankets for Project Linus, and I wanted to pick up some of the new prints that Joann’s had gotten in just before the sale. But even though I arrived at 8:40 a.m., Greedy Flannel Lady arrived just before me and was buying the entire bolt of every single one of the new flannels. Darn it! If I had just gotten there 30 minutes earlier! So, anyway, I just bought more of the cuter prints that I had used before. About 15 yards in total.

And they had the thread on sale half price, so I stocked up on some of that, too.

I still had some flannel left over from the last sale, so now I have quite a stack!

I’m hoping that the store will get more of the new prints and then mark them down for the after-Christmas sale. If they do, I’ll be sure to get up early and beat Greedy Flannel Lady to the punch!

But for now, I have to sew up most of what I have so that I will not fall prey to  The Dreaded Fabric Hoarding Disease that apparently runs in my family. ;)

In other sewing news, I made some little house ornaments out of fabric scraps. My sister sent me the two red fabrics. So cute! The pattern came from a sewing calendar that Cousin Audra gave me for Christmas a few years ago.

Fun people live in these houses, don’t you think? Especially the big orange one. But the pink and green striped one is my favorite. Probably because it looks like candy.

Now I’ve got to gear up for some major baking for a church event on December 8th.  So far, it looks like I”ll be baking 6 or 7 different things. I can’t wait!


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