Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kitchen 101:: Bon Ami


Bon Ami... Something no kitchen should be without. It's a good old fashioned cleanser, only 5 ingredients, safe on just about anything, your copper and stainless will shine, no chlorine, perfumes, or dyes, CHEAP, and has a cute little chick on the can. What more could you want for just .89 cents?!?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Easy Dulce de Leche Recipe

Ok, so a while ago you saw a whole bunch of stuff on Pinterest made with dulce de leche, so you pinned your little heart out. Then you looked for dulce de leche recipes and pinned those to your 'I'm gonna do this one day' board. Yeah, we know how that goes... it should really be called 'the junk drawer of crap I will never, ever get around to.' 
Well, get ready to cross one off your list, ’cuz I have the easiest, tried and true, mess-free method of dulce de leche production ever, and it even uses Pinterest’s favorite kitchen appliance: the crockpot.
Ok, so I'm sure you came across a thousand other recipes involving a crockpot and the lusciousness that is de leche. Mine is just better. Don't ask me why, it just is. No exploding cans. No cooked in the can taste. No guesswork. Pure simple cookery at its best. Yup.
Ok, so now you're thinking ’just get to the recipe.’ Maybe you’ve already scrolled through this wordy foreplay and jumped straight into the pants of this post. {If you stayed for the foreplay, you are giggling right now. You’re welcome}
Here it is, without further hyperbole...

Crackpot Dulce de Leche

One 14oz canned of sweetened condensed milk. (Get a brand name, you cheapskate. Spend the extra nickel. Geeze.)
3 each 4 oz canning jars with new lids. Never use lids that were previously canned with. Just don't.
Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, or plain old table salt

Open the can. Pour the milk into the jars, leave about a half inch of space at the top. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Put the lid on tight. Put the jars in a crockpot. Put water in the crockpot to an inch over the tops of the jars. Turn the crockpot on low. Walk away. Come back in about 6-7 hours. Look at the jars. Is the contents the color of caramel? If yes, remove the aforementioned jars, let cool then refrigerate. If no, let them cook some more. Don't worry about burning the milk, it's a crockpot, silly. Just make sure the jars are always covered in water. If you like, you can switch to the ’high’ setting after about an hour on ’low.’ This will cut the time down to about 4 hours.  (You are more than welcome to use whatever size jar you like. Just be sure to keep it fully immersed in the water. Smaller jars just cook faster.)

That's it. Done. Once the milk has turned a lovely caramel shade, remove the jars from the water, let them cool at room temp, then store in the fridge. The cans will seal, but I would not technically call this a ’canned’ product with an indefinite shelf life. I've kept mine for over a month in the fridge, with no harm done. Chances are you'll be to busy spreading this on EVERYTHING for it to ever get too old to eat. 

The benefits of the jar method are too numerous to mention, but I'll try anyway:
1. Pre-portioned so even if you eat the entire jar all at one time, you still have 3 left for the next day.
2. You can actually see the color developIng. No guess work.
3. No exploding cans. Exploding cans suck.
4. Makes a lovely presentation for gift giving. I'm sure you've pinned a few ways of tying bakers twine to jars and stuff. (Snickering... like you would ever give this liquid gold away)
5. You won't cut your tongue on the jar when licking it clean. This can happen with a can, don't ask me how I know. I just know.
6. I like jars. Jars are pretty.

Have fun, enjoy the fruits of your labors, and don't forget to pin this post. You'll be glad you did.
(Oh, and be sure to check back for some upcoming posts of what you can do with your de leche. You may want to start a new board. Just sayin’.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Steve the Fish

This is Steve the Fish. He is a beautiful Koi that lives in one of the very beautiful and ornate ponds on
the property where I work. He is the most friendly of fishes. All you have to do is stand at the edge of his pond and eventually he will come over to check you out. He pops his head out of the water, and opens his mouth wide, like a baby bird, hoping you'll drop a morsel of food. He's a charming beggar.

Anywho, Steve the Fish is my latest obsession. I try to visit him at least once a day. He even let me pet his nose the last time I saw him! Wait, do fish even have noses? I'll be sure to ask Steve the next time I see him.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cheesy Pepperoni Bread Roll-Ups

So simple, and the possibilities are endless! Roll out pizza dough, sprinkle generously with shredded mozzarella, top with a layer of sliced pepperoni. roll up, then slice into rounds (like cinnamon rolls) Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt, and dried oregano. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden and melty. Serve hot with marinara for dipping. YUM!
{these travel very well... think 'portable pizza' kids LOVE 'em!}

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Perfect Shelves... cheap.

Ok, so I had this HUMONGOUS '80's orange formica counter/island thing in my garage for the past 10 years, ever since I remodeled my kitchen. I thought it would be tremendously useful in my garage for storage; it had drawers, cabinets with doors, and a giant work surface. Turns out, not so much. Apparently rodents love drawers and dark cabinets to hide in, make nests, have babies and poop. Lots of poop. {Just to clarify, I mean the cute little rodents; mice and chipmunks, not rats. Sorry rat lovers.} Oh, and snakes, snakes also like quiet dark places, especially when they molt. Snakeskin, anyone? Anywho, I got a friend to help me move the monstrosity out to the front yard, I listed it on Craigslist as a 'free come and get it' and it was gone 20 minutes later. I love Craigslist! 
Ok, so now I had a TON of space in my garage, and I had a TON of crap that needed a place to live, out in the open, safe from the nesting habits of furry woodland creatures. I needed shelves. I also wanted the shelves to be mobile. I'm one of those people who like to rearrange everything, often. 
So, my mission was this: build shelves large, sturdy, mobile, open, and CHEAP. Above all, cheap. I'm a girl on a budget. I eat Ramen noodles for dinner. So sad.
This is what I came up with. I call them Thing One and Thing Two. Not very original, I know, but I love all things Seussical. I think they are pretty IKEA looking, and for a whopping $18, I have two very awesome shelves! 
Since they did not need to fit any specific location or size restriction, I based the design on two main criteria; they can't be taller than me, and there must be no scraps leftover. None. 
Each unit is made up of two 2x4's, a bunch of cheap 1x2's (also known as 'firring strips.' These are about .75 each at Home Depot. I bought 24.) and a few scrap pieces of wood from previous projects.

Cut List:
Cut each 2x4 in half, then cut 4" off each one. These small blocks will support the casters.
Cut the 1x2's in fourths. The easiest and fastest way to do this is to measure and cut just one piece to 23 7/8. This allows for the kerf left by the saw. Use this piece as a template, or if you are lucky like me, set up a jig on your chop and have at it.
Shelf Supports: These will be determined by the width of your shelves. You can use the 1x2 's, or other scraps.

These are the most vague directions ever, but I think the point of being a DIY'er is learning as you go, making mistakes and doing it better the next time. Have fun!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Happy Accident Light

{believe it or not, there is a fence under all that...}
Ok, so I am terrible at yard work. I really am. The worst part is that I have a very large yard. Over an acre, in fact. I was really busy for a few years, and severely neglected an entire area, which in turn, took full advantage of my absence by going wild. Yard gone wild. It happens. Anywho, I got back out there a couple of weekends ago and made an attempt at taking back my yard. While pulling and cutting and whacking, I discovered a lengthy section of old wire fencing I never even knew was there. I bundled it up and set it aside. But it kept calling to me... I knew there was something it wanted to be, I just didn't know what. It was already beautiful in its rusty elegance, I did not want to overwork it, or take away its quietly rustic character. I thought I would just round out the shape, give it a bit more form, encourage it to be more civilized, but not take a way the barbs, or sharp bits.
And then it happened. I realized that there was a space in the middle aching to be filled by simple clear light. Its very own little sun....
{in daytime it has a sculptural quality}
{the shadows it casts at night are hypnotic and pleasing}

As the late Bob Ross would say, this was a 'happy accident' and I love everything about it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Let's Make Limoncello!

this is an un-zested lemon.
OK, so remember back when you were 8 and needed some spending money for cigarettes and firecrackers? What was a kid who didn't get an allowance to do? Set up a lemonade stand, of course. You got out the card table, a lawn chair, a few hastily made signs, your Mom made a pitcher of Kool-Aid or some lemonade, and you sat on the side of the road and looked pleadingly at passers-by. If you were lucky like me, you lived on a very small street, with very nice people, and at the end of the day you and your bestie, mine was Ginny McDonald, each had a dollar or two to spend at the 5 & 10. 
     But let's face it; we aren't 8 anymore, and we now spend our dollars on booze and hookers. Or so I've heard. However, we still like lemonade and spending time with besties sitting on the side of the road waiting for someone to pay us for whatever it is we are selling.... I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, lemonade. I don't really like lemonade. It's too lemony. Go figure. But, I do like grown-up lemonade, which brings me to the point of this post: Limoncello, the best thing to come out of Italy since gelato, pasta, crusty bread, marinara, mozzarella, Marcello Masrtroianni, parmesan, espresso, cappuccino, Leonardo da Vinci, olive oil, risotto, Raoul Bova, and of course, PIZZA!
     Anywho, I bought some Limoncello last summer and LOVED it, some might say a little too much. It was gone waaaay to soon, and I was left with nothing more than a slight hangover, an empty bottle, and a hankerin’ for some more! Being the masochist that I am, I denied myself the pleasure of a second bottle and instead vowed that I would make my own someday. Well that day is here. Unfortunately this shit takes 90 days to make. 90. 9-0. Ninety. So let’s get started, shall we?
     First, gather the necessary equipment: microplane zester (or a peeler if you are low-tech and really bored), a one gallon jug/jar/vessel with a tight fitting lid. For the ingredients you will need: 2 750ml bottles of Everclear or other grain alcohol. If grain alcohol is not available where you live, move or just buy 2 bottles of mid-grade vodka.
17-20 super clean lemons. Most lemons are covered in food grade wax (yum). Wash your lemons vigorously with warm soapy water. Look for smooth lemons, and if they are small go with 20 each. Eventually you will need sugar, but not right now.
this is a zested lemon. see? still yellow.
     OK, zest the lemons. Simple, right? Nope. Nothing is ever as simple as it sounds. You want to make sure you do not get ANY of the white pith in with the zest. You are literally taking only the micro-thin layer of yellow zest from the lemon. If you use a micro-plane, one pass over the blades is all you will do. Do not double-zest the same spot, or you will suffer the consequences later. Yellow ONLY. Pith makes for bitter Limoncello, and who wants that? The lemon should still look a little yellow when you are done. If you are using a peeler, your life will be miserable for the next 2 hours. Peel the lemon, then go back with a sharp paring knife and remove the pith from the peels. This will suck. Just go to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and buy a damn micro-plane. It is one of the best purchases you will make this year. Seriously. $15 bucks. Boom.
    OK, do you have your zest and booze? Good. Now combine them in the gallon-sized jar and give it a shake. Done. See? Was that so hard? Now just put the jar someplace dark and fugetaboutit for 45 days. During the first week, give it a shake every couple of days, then after that just let it sit there and soak up the lemony goodness.
    Fast Forward 45 Days…..
    Now we sweeten the pot. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil (use bottled water if you have stinky, or overtreated water. You know what, just use bottled water. It’s nice and filtered and won’t accidentally contribute anything to your concoction.) Turn of the heat and add 3 ½ cups of plain old sugar. Give it a stir, and once the sugar is all dissolved and the liquid is at room temp, add it to the lemon/booze jar and give it a good shake. Put the jar back in the closet for 45 more days. This is killing you, isn’t it?
     Fast Forward 45 Days…..
     Now we strain. Get some coffee filters, a strainer, and a funnel. Give the jar a shake to loosen up the gunk, and pour it through the strainer into a clean jar or bowl or whatever you have. Dump out the crap in the strainer. Next, put a coffee filter in the aforementioned strainer, and ladle the booze in and watch it drip. Do the entire batch. This will suck time from your life, but it is necessary. All done? Great! Now do it again…. 2 more times. Stop crying. Just think how rewarding this will be, and how lusciously drunk you will get when you finally get to drink some in another week or so. That’s right. Once it is all strained and put in pretty bottles, you move it back to the closet to mellow for at least a week or two. I recommend putting it in someone else’s closet no less than 5 miles away, to prevent accidental tasting.
     Once it is nice and mellow, pop it in the freezer to chill some more, get it?... ‘chill’ some more?? Then invite your friends over, grab some ice and sip the sunny, lemony, sweet, lusciousness that is Limoncello. I like to pour in a splash of seltzer to give it a little fizz. Don’t invite too many friends, or boozehounds, or you won’t have any left after just one night. Then you will have to make it all over again.
     Or, you could just go to the store and buy a bottle. But where’s the fun in that?
{I am lucky and have access to frozen, high quality zest. you are sooo jealous right now.}

Friday, February 10, 2012

Burn Baby Burn

I like to make stuff out of stuff. Most of the time I think I am the first person to have such crazy ideas. More often than not, if you look around the internet you find there are no new ideas. I don't care. To me, the crap I dream up in my head has never been thought of before. Never. It's a new idea to me, and I just roll with it. I think the brightest spark of creativity lies in seeing what a thing can become, rather than in what it is now. 
And so I give you the 'Oil Drum I Cut in Half Lengthwise and then Stuck on Top of Things I Found on the Side of the Road' firepit thingies. I'm still working on the name. Creativity has its limits.

OK, so I found these things on the side of the road. Really. They were put out for trash. I have no idea what they were, but I knew they would be perfect for my fire pit thing. I do not hesitate to pull over at the sight of some good lookin' garbage. I'm a picker and proud of it! I already had the wonderfully rusty, old barrel sitting in the garage waiting for its next incarnation.                      Math, geometry, and numbers are not my forte, but I knew I had to find the center of the barrel and mark a line all the way around to get two equal halves. I located the weld line on the side of the barrel, and got out my chalk line string thing. I used the string as a plumb line to find the exact opposite spot on the rim, then I wrapped the string around the barrel lengthwise until the ends met up. Somehow this worked perfectly for me. I'm sure there is an easier mathematical way, but hey, whatever works, right? 
Pop a metal cutting blade in a reciprocating saw, and get to it! {don't forget the earplugs and safety glasses. seriously! i have snapped a bunch of blades during my DIY career and a few close calls taught me the value of eye protection.}

Take your time, cut straight, and you will be done in no time. This was easily the quickest project I have ever done. If you aren't lucky enough to find the perfect legs on the side of the road, you can always just use some cinder blocks, or pavers, or other non-combustible support system. 

Gather wood, friends, beer, marshmallows, and have a lovely night 'round the fire! 
{p.s. ~ if you don't have a reciprocating saw, a jigsaw will work and is much easier to handle. just be sure to have the proper blade.}

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies ... who needs pie?

I love making cookies! I really do! Some people HATE making cookies. Those people can suck it. Cookies are fun. Cookies are happy. Cookies put smiles on faces. Even the word 'Cookie' is like a ray of sunshine that lifts world  to a new level of joy. Or at least gives it something to have with milk. This is one of those cookies. So good with a cold glass of milk, a hot cup of tea, or a lovely little espresso. Go ahead make some. I dare you not to giggle like a schoolgirl... or boy. Whatever.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
~ Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and set aside ~

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, salted or unsalted, softened.
1 cup Libby's Pure Pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
~ Beat sugar and softened butter until well blended. Then add in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Gradually add in the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Over mixing makes for tough cookies. Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a small ice cream scoop) onto prepared pans.
Bake 15-18 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do not over bake. These cookies should be light and moist on the inside, with very little crunch on the outside. Yum. Let rest on the pans a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Once they are totally cool, spread on the frosting!

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, salted or unsalted, softened
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar (10x)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
~ Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy, then add in the sugar and vanilla. Beat until light, fluffy and irresistible ~

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Biscoff. It's a food, not an insult.

     Your life will change after you read this post. Your world will be turned upside down and inside out. Everything you know to be true and good will have faded into oblivion. Or not.
     I first became familiar with Biscoff Cookies in my local upscale, hoity-toity supermarket. You know the kind. The one with only one kind of toilet paper; recycled, organic, local, unbleached, occasionally has bits of bark, and costs $8... per roll. But you don't go to this store for the tp, you go for the produce, and meats and cheeses, and bottled water from France and Sweden. 
     I was browsing the imported cookies, when I spied those special words that lead many disillusioned Americans astray; "Europe's Favorite Cookie..." Put "Europe's Favorite" in front of anything and I will buy it. Anything. Reading the ingredients, I tried to figure out what this magical cookie, that had all of Europe enthralled, would taste like. The ingredients were simple, as with all the best cookies; flour, sugar, vegetable oil, brown sugar, leavening, soy flour, salt and cinnamon. Average to say the least, but I bought them anyway, and probably took a few days to open them up. 
     The package said they were the 'best cookie with coffee.' OK, I like coffee. I made coffee, I ate a cookie. 
    To say it was good is an understatement. They were delicious, in such a uniquely plain way. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but they are plain, yet indescribable. They have a brown butter, brulee'd sugar, caramelly, cinnamony thing going on that just hits all the right notes. You only need two or three cookies to satisfy the craving, which is good considering there are only 32 cookies in a package. I counted. Anywho, I was hooked. I now always have some on hand, they last me quite a while, I'm stingy like that.
     Then one day I'm back in the fancy grocery store, contemplating $6 peanut butter (maybe it really IS better) and I saw the familiar red label... but in a spread. WTF? I said to myself; one does not curse in the fancy store.
How can this be? How can cookies be a spread? How can my beloved Biscoff be contained in a jar?
     The answer is simple: Pulverize the hell out of some cookies, add more oil, sugar, salt and cinnamon and you now have a spread for bread that is 57% cookies. Yes, you heard me. Spreadable cookies. They call it "... a delicious European alternative to peanut butter." I call it heaven in a jar. Somebody pinch me!