Thursday, September 30, 2010

What to say

a quick note to apologize for the lack of posting today
my grandmother has passed and I find no words
hug your grandmothers, kids

its been a whole day, now
Im doing so much better today
thank you all so very much for your kind words
and good thoughts
I sure can feel the love =)
xo, nic

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do yourself a flavor

If you do not have reduced balsamic in your cabinet, you need some.
Its pretty expensive, which is a total buzzkill.
Good thing you can make it easily.

A fresh tomato and whole milk mozzarella, drizzled with this reduction is the best. salad. ever.

what you'll need:

~16 oz. balsamic vinegar, any kind will work, it doesn't have to be pricey
~2 Tb. brown sugar
~pinch salt

In a heavy gauged saucepan, whisk all the ingredients and bring to boil over medium high heat.
Then, turn down heat until you get a rapid simmer.
Whisk every now and again and keep an eye on it.  In about 15-20 minutes it will start to get all syrupy and resinous looking.  Don't let it get too thick on the stove, because once you let it cool it will thicken more.
Take it off the heat when it looks like the consistency of warm honey.
I keep mine in a small mason jelly jar ready to drizzle on strawberries, pizza, cheese, etc!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

After School Bars

The beauty of these scrumptious, chewy, crunchy morsels is that you can add whatever cereal you have.
They almost taste like a candy bar, but you can make a whole pan for almost nuthin.

what you'll need:

~6 c. of miscellaneous crunchy stuff...let me 'splain...
~1 c. mini marshmallows

I used 2 c. wheat chex, 2 c. broken up pretzels and 6 broken up graham crackers

But, you can use any unsweetened crunchy cereal, any kind of pretzel and go crazy and change out the crackers if you'd like.  Club crackers would ROCK.  Anyway...if all you have is cereal, use cereal for all 6 cups.  I won't tell.

In a saucepan over medium highish heat, combine:
~1 c. corn syrup
~1 c. sugar

whisk to combine and bring to a boil, as soon as it comes to a boil, boil for ONLY 15 to 20 SECONDS...THATS IT and I mean it!!!
Any longer than that and you'll chip a tooth, seriously.

Immediately remove from heat and add:
~1 c. crunchy peanut butter
~1 t. vanilla

Whisk until smooth then pour over your crunchy mix.

Stir it all up and dump into a brownie sized pan, I think mine was 11 x 7.  Oh, and spray it with some non-stick stuff first, or you will be cursing me and my ears would burn and I'd feel all bad, and stuff.

Press the mixture in the pan and then if you'd like, you can melt some chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup or so) with a teaspoon of shortening in the microwave and drizzle it on top.  Cuz that makes it even better!

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm....a thing of beauty, I say!
okay, so chill this in the frig just until the chocolate is set.  Then you can cut them up into bars and store in a tupperware type container.  Room temperature is fine.  These are great for bake sales, school snacks, oh who am I'll just eat them all in front of the TV like I did.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Motley to our Crue

 Bogart, our quintessential clown.
He fetches, sleeps upside down and cries if his box seems too "stinky".  If you sit on the floor with him, he will rub all over your face with his with such love in his eyes.  What a playah, eh?

No matter what he tells you, he does like his picture taken.  And with that face...who could blame him?

Next, is Izzi. 
Quirky, opinionated, her eyes are crystal blue and her perfect pink ears are stone deaf.
She loves her momma, tolerates all others and hogs the bed. 
Four years ago, we found her crying in a dirty well-house lying next to her dead litter mate.
Her eyes had not opened yet, so the vet estimated she wasn't more than 4 or 5 days old.
With a tiny bottle and goats milk, we nursed her to health, taught her to use a litter box.

So, yeah, she thinks she's human.  Sometimes, I wonder, too.

Since she can't hear, I blow on her to get her attention, hence the second image.
"Yes, momma, you blew?"

Just look at those eyes!

What cat-itude!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Banoffee Pudding

Yes, I do make real food for my family...why do you ask?

This was sooooooooo good.  I love banoffee pie, but its a little too sweet for me.  I adapted it for a gathering I was attending and it all disappeared.  Sorry, I didn't get a single serving photo for you, but as soon as everyone attacked it, it didn't look so nice and neat.

If you like bananas, dulce de leche and butterscotch, this is for you.  Its kind of like the spawn of banoffee and banana pudding. 

What you'll need my bloggies:

~1/2 box of shortbread cookies (I got a box of Stouffer's shortbread at the dollar store)
~2 large bananas, sliced into pennies
~1 can of dulce de leche (found in the international foods aisle if you live east of the Mississippi)
~1 recipe of butterscotch pudding (recipe follows)
~1 pint of heavy whipping cream (whipped to medium peaks with a couple tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla added during whipping)

First, you crush about 16 shortbread cookies and layer all but about 1/3 cup of it in a 2 quart baking dish.
Mine is round, weird, I know.  I don't even remember where I got it.  Make it in whatever you like, time and space will remain constant and angels will not weep if you use a cake pan.
Then, atop that, layer your banana slices.

Next, goes the can of dulce de leche, try not to eat half of it...licking the spatula between every scoop is not kosher.

Now, your pudding.  Make sure you've cooled it down a little before you layer it on.

After the pudding has cooled completely, schmear on your whipped cream nice and thick...and top with the remaining crushed shortbread.
Its best if you cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a few hours before serving.  Its like layered love, if you ask me.

Butterscotch Pudding:

In a medium saucepan, whisk:
~3/4 c. dark brown sugar
~1/3 c. flour
~1/2 t. salt

Separately, mix together:
~1 c. cream or half & half
~1 c. whole milk
~3 egg yolks

Then, add the milk mixture to the flour/sugar in saucepan and whisk till smooth.  Bring to boil over medium heat and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and add:
~1 Tbs. butter
~2 tsp. vanilla

Let it cool for a bit, if you lay some plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding, it won't get that skin that usually forms...and who wants skin on their pudding?
I mean, what if it started to grow hair, then you'd have to shave or wax it before you made dessert.
And that's just gross.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Day I Became my Grandma

aka...carrot cake.

Let me explain.
Have you ever done something out of your element then in hindsight when you had time to think about it, realized it was exactly something your grandmother/grandfather/mom/dad would do?
Yesterday, I was rummaging through "that" cabinet.
You know, that cabinet that is like a virtual avalanche when you open the door?
The family secret that no one talks about, its embarrassing really.

I digress.
I came across some aluminum food storage containers that I had gotten at the dollar store.  And I thought to myself, hey...self...wouldn't those be perfect to make some carrot cake in and freeze them so that if I needed an impromptu dessert or pms attack, Id have cake.  CAKE, PEOPLE!  And we all know, cake doesn't need a reason.

So, that's what I did.  I made some carrot cake batter and divided it in the 3 containers (they measured about 8" by 5 1/2") and baked them up.
Here's the recipe I used by the way....

1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/3 c. vegetable oil
4  lg. eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. carrots, grated
1 c. diced apple (or drained, crushed pineapple...banana, sweet potato, get the picture.  The latter 3 would make the cake even more moist...and that's never a bad thing!)

mix those together and add (how's that for instruction?):

2 1/4 c. flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups
2-3 tsp. cinnamon, depending on your level of spice likeablility...I like 3.
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Lightly stir together and divide into 3 greased pans (8 or 9 inch if you're going to make a cake right away or those little thingies I bought, if you are also becoming your grandmother)
Bake at 350* for 30-35 mins in the 8 or 9 inch pans or 45 minutes in the grandma pans.

At this point, I could almost hear my grandmother saying, "You should frost those before you freeze them, that way it eliminates a step later."
Gram was ALWAYS right...btw.

Speaking of my Gram, you would have loved her.  She was this tiny, spunky, uber smart spitfire that everybody liked immediately.  She told it like she saw it so you could always count on her to either give you good advice or a kick in the pants, if you needed it.
I cannot express in words how much I miss her.  The day she passed (8 years ago) I didn't cry, I couldn't.  Processing the whole thing was more than I could bear.  So, down it all was shoved and if I had stopped to think about it for more than 3 seconds, a mental breakdown would have been a sure thing.

Long story even longer, I tear up just thinking about her now.  I am thankful for all the knowledge she imparted/guilted/pummeled/advised to me.  She had 7 children and helped raised several grandchildren, as well.  So, freezing dinners and desserts for another time is exactly something she did.

Wow, this got all TMI and deep, didn't it?  Sorry about that.

okay, so just frost the darn things...this is the recipe I used...

1 stick salted butter, room temp.
1-8 oz. block cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 Tbs. cream, milk or half & half
3 c. powdered sugar

Once your cakes have cooled, ice those puppies all the way to the edges of the pan to seal the cake, top with some chopped pecans, if you'd like...I liked.

Now, put them in the freezer uncovered for about 30 mins. to make the icing solid.

Then you can wrap them up all snug as a bug and freeze them for later...or like tomorrow when you need a fix.

Please enjoy the recipe and thank you for listening to my ramblings about my beloved Gramgram.
And if you still have your gram, savor every minute with her.  She is a treasure that cannot be replaced.
xoxo, nic

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Did I ever mention....

that Im a soapmaker?
My memory isn't what it used to be.
But, I do remember that Im quite proficient.  I think.
Here are some random soaps Ive made.  Although, I don't make much soap anymore, I still enjoy it from time to time.

First is Flowerchild, topped with dried floral buds.  I had one woman tell me it reminded her of a particular flower that grows in Scotland.  She stood there and huffed it for several minutes before purchasing a few bars.

The second one is Black Raspberry Vanilla, girlies love this one.

Third, Mantra, it won an award!
See?  I told you I was proficient...well, at least once I was.

This one is Cuban Coffee Bean, it smelled like Starbucks...sold VERY well lol.

The one below is French Lavender, I need to make some today.  Ive got a market at the end of the month and my customers will expect that one.  I may get lynched if I don't have some.

The white and pink one next is Peppermint Stick.  Oh, how I love peppermint.

For the two above, the green/blue one is Cedarwood Patchouli, yum....and the last one Mint Cocoa Bean.
The swirl is made with pure cocoa powder.

I called this one Bad Moon Rising, thought it looked kinda cool, in a groovy, heavy kind of way.  It smelled herbally earthy, a great dude scent!

One more...Cedarwood Mint, I love this essential oil combo.  Earthy and refreshing all at the same time!

So, there you have it, some of my favorites from the past few years.
This is the one I made last night, just cut it this morning.  Its Goats Milk Oatmeal and Honey.  Probably my best seller next to Lavender.

In the mold, it will make 11 bars and a sliver left for meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Here it is being cut...I know, you are all so very impressed with my state of the art soap cutter...ahem.

And all in a row like soldiers, ready to cure up for a few weeks and be packaged.  My troops will then be sent to various bathrooms in homes across my state for the sole purpose of ridding the masses of dirt and smelly smells.

Have I bored you to tears yet?
My next post will be food...back to your regularly scheduled programming, I promise!


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