Friday, April 29, 2011

friday fixations: you tube edition

{kittens} This video made me laugh! I loved going through my own old drawings and journals. It really makes you wonder what the heck you were thinking back then!

{it's in my belly} I love the style of these little cooking clips. They're so sophisticated and easy, and I (surprisingly) love that there's nary a cake recipe in sight (so far).

{sword and sworcery ep} We were having a discussion the other day about whether today's gamers would even want to play 8-bit games due to the awesome realistic graphic capabilities available now. Well, judging by my reaction to the look, the sound, and the feel of Sword and Sworcery, I'd say yes. Totally. I watched this video once and I was instantly intrigued by it. (Why isn't this on our iPod yet?)

{tom haverfoods} Please visit tom haverfoods. It's a never-ending resource for hilarious alternative food names.

{the royal wedding} More like everyone elses' fixation! Ha! I had to smile at this cheeky take on the wedding, though. So have you watched, will you watch, or did you tivo the wedding? I was too tempted to snoop so I recorded it for fast forwarding power. Truthfully, I'm only interested in things such as her flowers, decor, and the cakes, but I don't actually care for the wedding itself (I am not a fan of big grand weddings) and I have no feelings either way towards the royal family (just meh, if you will). Ah well, I wonder how long I'll stare at it on the recorded list before I actually get down to viewing it (if ever).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

rice pudding popsicles

south cooking lake

I don't know why, but I've been thinking about this recipe since I first saw it last summer. Summer would have been a more acceptable time to make popsicles, but I didn't feel like it then. I don't know why, but I always feel like eating frozen things when there's snow on the ground. Maybe it's because I technically shouldn't want it.

I can't say as I would ever make these again. I'm not sure I'm 100% enjoying the chewy rice bits, but I do really love the cinnamon vanilla pudding taste. It's nice and refreshing in that, "I totally wasn't expecting this out of a popsicle" kind of way.

Also, don't be shy about bringing the whole tray outside while you soak up some much needed sun. Snow's finally good for something.

recipe adapted from Saveur

3 cups milk (I used powdered)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup short or medium grain rice (I used brown)
2 sticks cinnamon
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz; I used a bit less than this amount)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and 1 1/4 cups of water to a simmer. Add rice and cinnamon sticks and cook until rice is tender (stirring occasionally, about 20-30 minutes).

Mix the sweetened condensed milk with the 2 cups of water until completely combined. Set aside.

Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice and add the condensed milk mixture, vanilla, and salt. Simmer until some of the liquid has been absorbed. (Saveur says 10-15 minutes, but I swear mine took forever).

Remove from heat, add cinnamon and allow to cool just about to room temperature.

Pour liquid into popsicle moulds until about three-quarters full. Use a spoon to add rice to each mould. If your moulds are the type that need sticks, let the popsicles freeze for an hour before inserting the sticks, then freeze until completely solid. Overnight is probably the best idea.

{note} This made 16 popsicles plus a lot of leftover rice. I would probably cut the amounts of milk and rice in half if I were to make it again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

easter treats

When I was younger, I used to pick the cross off and leave the bun. 
I thought I should eat it like an adult now.


The cross is still the best part.



choose the caramilk egg


choose actual Turtles

the caramilk egg

Friday, April 22, 2011


resist the urge to buy tulips after they've opened
find the bunches that are mostly buds
they'll gradually open and last a bit longer, too

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

sweet dumplings

I'm going to start off by saying that I was really wary of this idea at first because it involves frying. I don't like it, and I try to avoid it whenever possible. I've done a little shallow frying with mixed results and I think those experiences are good enough for me to cross frying off my list.

I've come to terms with it. I'm not good at frying. It's better I'm not, anyway. Otherwise, I'd probably be making donuts every month.

But Idle Husband kept seeing this stupid box of dumplings. And I kept reading the directions: Mix this dough, fry it in some oil, pour on some sugar.

And I would whine about the frying and the sugar and the frying of bread dough and the frying. And eventually, I'd get my way and he'd put it back.

Until one afternoon, he refused.

He'd make them for me. I wouldn't have to do any mixing or frying or sugaring, he'd do it all. Just please let him have some dumplings.

So I reluctantly agreed.


And throughout the whole process, I moaned about the frying and I complained about the oil and worried about him burning himself, because for some reason, Idle Husband doesn't compute that when things come out of the oven, they are hot.


And then we got to the frying and he read the directions carefully, patiently heating the oil to the right temperature.

And as he dropped spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil, it didn't splatter all over the place and smoke up the whole house. (Is that the trick to it?)

He tried to get them round like the picture on the box, but he ended up dropping them in dollups instead. Sure; they kind of look like chicken nuggets, but the objective wasn't esthetics. It was to get them crispy and golden and perfect. And that they were.

So I ate my slice of humble pie (or nugget of fried dough) and apologized for having absolutely no faith in his frying abilities and for doubting him at all.

Overall, the box looks shifty, but it's really quite easy to make and the dumplings turn out really pretty delicious, though I credit that entirely to the sugar syrup. Without it, the dough will taste exactly like nothing and then what's even the point to eating fried dough in the first place?

Idle Husband declared that they were exactly as he remembered them tasting in Greece when his mom would make them. So if you want to experience an authentic Greek dumpling, this is the mix for you. You can find Domo Dumpling Mix [probably] at any middle eastern supermarket. We happened to get ours at Al Salam Pita (aka Pita the Great), but I'm pretty sure I've seen it at Hellas foods, too.

{warning} This box makes a LOT of dumplings. We would have had even more had he shaped them into perfectly uniform balls (some of the dumplings could really have qualified as two) and had he actually finished frying all of the batter -- we decided to stop even though there was still a whole cup left to fry. If you want to finish it out, I would really suggest doubling the amount of syrup or do not let them sit in the syrup for 3 minutes (as suggested). He stopped frying them on account of low syrup (and gluttony). 

{fun post fact} Every time I had to type 'syrup', I typed it as 'syrump'

Monday, April 18, 2011

DIY project: Anthropology bon voyage card & envelope stamp

Please forgive my terribly crappy picture. When I'm out and I see something I could easily make at home, I don't necessarily think to take a perfect picture. I only take the picture as reference just in case I never see that item again.

Let me explain what you're [barely] seeing here! I spotted this card at Anthropology and thought it was a great little idea as a bon voyage present. That's a map with a little needle and some fancy thread so the person who goes on the trip can use the thread and stitch a travel line to all the places and countries they visited. It's the perfect travel present for a crafty friend. Of course, at the time, I had absolutely no one to give it to and even so, it was far too expensive for what it actually was (typical Anthro). That's when I take a quick picture and file it away for later.

Then I learned that a cousin was planning a trip to Australia, but due to her circumstances, I didn't have a chance to visit her or send anything to her before she left. I've just now got an address, so I thought it would be the perfect time to make and send this little present.

The hardest part of this craft is finding a nice map picture. I had to do about three differently worded searches through Google images in order to find one I liked. It's well worth the search, though, because there are a lot of really beautiful maps out there, so don't give up if you don't immediately find one you like! Doing this yourself also enables you to customize the card for the exact location your traveller is going. I don't know if you can tell so easily, but the Anthro card is basically the entire map of Europe and that's great, I guess. I suppose some people go on huge trips like that, but I would think that most of us would only go on a trip to one or two countries. It's definitely more personalized to find a nice picture of the country or countries they're actually visiting so they can really map out the trail they made there.

Once you find an image you like, simply save it to your computer so you can print it out. I had to resize mine so it would fit onto cardstock the way I wanted it to, but that's easily done in paint or any photo editing program.

I have a lot of thread from my grandma's stash (it's got good grandma vibes which works as a great family present, too), so I went through all of it to find a contrasting colour that would work well with the map. Of course, if you don't have a bunch of thread sitting around, you can find it anywhere. Literally. While you're getting groceries, you can pick up some thread. And it will still be cheaper than buying this card premade.

And while we're talking about all of this thread, can we take a moment and stare at all of the pretty wooden spools? Thanks.

I ended up choosing red. How original.

I have a ton of these little cards used to wrap and store embroidery thread. I don't know how I came to have all of them, but I'm glad I do because, obviously, you don't need to include an entire spool of thread. That's ridiculous! Just unwrap as much as you think would be appropriate and wind it onto an embroidery card, if you have one. You could also cut a small piece of paper, add some notches, and wrap the thread around that or you could even just loop it around your fingers a couple of times and tie it in a loose knot. I also have a lot of extra needles (gosh! This project is turning out to be so damned easy for me), so I just wove one through the thread to keep it in place.

Since she's still there and she's already done a lot of stuff and been around, I added this little note to the bottom. You definitely don't have to include a note if you don't want to. The original had nothing but the map and thread. I like that it's a little more personal and it kind of invites her to mark the places she travelled and send it back.

To keep everything together, I stapled the embroidery card right to the map and folded it over so it fits neatly into an envelope. I really didn't want to fold it, but if I reduced the map size any more, it would have been too difficult to read the place names. Sometimes, you just gotta cut your losses, you know? I also cut down the size of the paper so it would fit into a standard envelope. I have no issues sending parcels, but this is so small I thought it would be better to keep it as regular mail. Like I said, if she wanted to send it back, she doesn't have to go through any unneccesary steps in sending it either.

The envelope stamp is a Pinterest DIY. I found this picture and traced it back to the original source hoping for some kind of how-to. There was no tutorial, but I thought it was straight forward enough that I could figure it out on my own. (Mini rant: Finding the original blog post took me so long! One of my biggest pet peeves about Pinterest is when people pin without singling out the blog post they're getting it from. By not doing so, the picture links to the website, but not the actual post/page they got it from. It takes half a second to click over to the actual post for the original pinning, but it takes an hour to track that post down from the pin. It's so irritating). 

tester page

Figuring out what to use (aside from buying a stamp making kit) took me quite a while. It's always when I have these ideas that I have absolutely no supplies around. I really thought I had some packing styrofoam somewhere, but I didn't have a single bit, so I experimented with the end of a foam brush. I loved that the shape was already there, but it didn't work worth anything.

Then a day or two later, I was watching some new appliances get unpacked and loaded into one of the new homes when I realized that those guys were handling a ton of good styrofoam. So I ran out there and asked if I could have some. "Sure! Whatever you need, darlin'!" and then they proceeded to stop unpacking appliances to ask me what size or shape I needed. I got some good thick pieces, but they didn't work how I wanted them to. I tried everything! Sanding, shaping, smoothing. The texture did not look good at all.

The eraser was the best, but the size just wasn't there. I thought I'd seen one of those giant erasers at the Dollar Store (you know, those "for really big mistakes" gag erasers), but I couldn't find it. Instead, I thought I'd wing it on a $1 package of craft foam, and it worked! It's not a perfect stamp, but I actually like the texture. It gives the final stamping more of a weathered look.

And while we're on the foam, can we take a minute and look at all of its rainbow-y goodness?

Now's the super easy part. Grab a piece of craft foam, cut it into the shape you want, and apply some ink (I wish I had had one of these tags as a reference, but I didn't so I just used my best judgement. Then I used a one hole punch to get the hole). I don't have a stamp pad (I'm way too cheap for that -- unless I start stamping things every day, I'm not going to buy one), so I just used a Mr. Sketch smelly marker. I coloured one whole side of the tag stamp, then, very carefully, I placed it on the envelope where I wanted it to be and pressed it all over. You really have to make sure to press on all parts of the tag or the ink won't transfer over. As you can see, I missed a tiny spot, but that's ok with me. Also make sure to let the ink dry completely before you try to write on it. Mr. Sketch ink is really wet when it's first applied.

To finish it off, use a dark pen to draw on a little tag string and write the address. Done! A cute little handmade stamped envelope with a fun card inside. Both projects cost me all of a dollar and some cents! I love it when crafts work out like that.

find the whole bookmark DIY list here!

Friday, April 15, 2011

friday fixations

{pamplemousse} I totally forgot about diet pink grapefruit pop. We used to have it around the house all the time growing up, but it was usually just mom's drink unless I had run out of root beer (my absolute favourite). I managed to kick the pop-drinking habit to the curb a few years ago, and I would only drink gingerale as a treat or if I wasn't feeling so well. A couple weeks ago we were looking for a substitute for orange Fanta (Idle Husband's favourite) when I spotted good ol' pamplemousse again. It's even better than I remembered.

{bossypants} Tina Fey has written a memoir! Get thee to a Chapters!

{photoshop elements} Idle Husband uber surprised me with this for my birthday. I'm not going to say that I haven't gotten frustrated with it or wanted desperately to go back to Picnik, cuz that would be a complete lie. I'm just trying really hard to learn and figure out how to do all of the things I used to do but better. So I've been working with the help window open and with Idle Husband helping on the weekends, and I've discovered a lot of amazing things Photoshop can do that Picnik could not. Like, impossibly amazing, I-feel-like-I'm-cheating things.

{flowers on black backgrounds} I just stumbled on this beautiful photo set, and then I spotted this one at Design Files. I love the look of a cheery object on a dark background. It's mysteriously beautiful.

{macarons} I hadn't made a single batch in this house since we moved, and truthfully, I was kind of scared to even try. The more you read about macarons, the more it sets you back and scares you right out of the idea. The new oven had already proven itself to be different than the old oven (hotter, perhaps? I still can't pin it down), and this house has carefully regulated humidity, a kind of macaron plague (so I read) whereas the old house was bone dry at least during the winter months. And then I read a rather inspiring post about macaron making (it's just a cookie), and I thought, yeah. It IS just a cookie. Who the hell is this stupid confection to tell me what to do and how to do it? So going on that post with that recipe, I've been diligently making at least two batches of macarons a week. Admittedly, the very first tray of macarons that went into the oven, came out without feet and terribly cracked tops, and I very nearly threw up my hands. But Idle Husband pointed out that I had three more pans to put into the oven, why don't I experiment with them. Change the temperature; change the rack position; let them air dry. Oh yeah. Duh. Now I'm experimenting with changing the recipe and practicing my macaronage and, you guys, I have yet to buy any gel paste colouring. I have used liquid food colouring in a macaron and lived to tell the tale (and show the pictures, cuz I'm not ashamed of the result at all). I've also started trying out different flavours in mini batches and I even made ganache! I fill them properly and age them in the fridge for a day, and oh man. Nothing's better than a fresh macaron straight from the fridge. I mean, bakery shop bought is good, but when I really break the recipe down, like really break it down, making a macaron is easier and quicker than making a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And I'd much rather have a macaron (most days, at least!).

{house cleaning} Blog house cleaning, that is. I have a bunch of draft posts leftover from February and March, and I just realized I hadn't posted them because they feel less me and more, please let this be accepted by a foodie site! I'm not really a foodie blog, but (like everyone in the blog world, I'm sure) I really don't mind the exposure, I'm just starting to feel like it's not worth it. Everything posted there is really feeling cookie-cutter to me, and I'm getting tired of trying to bend myself into that mould. I mean, don't get me wrong. Those who do, do it well and I was completely inspired by them when I first started trying to get those kick-ass foodie pics. But I've just started feeling as though those conglomerate websites have really sucked all of the individuality out of food blogging. The photos they choose are so staggeringly similar that they no longer inspire any new photographic points of view (in all honesty, they don't even inspire me to cook or bake anything new anymore). At any rate, I still have these foodie posts that I worked long and hard on, so I'm still going to post them. I'm just going to go in a different direction from now on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

monster chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon

Don't let the title fool you. I've never not wanted bacon in something so much as this cookie.

Remember when I casually mentioned I was thinking about making cookies with bacon in them for Idle Husband's office? Well, I just couldn't get that idea out of my mind. I couldn't. Everyone was having fun candying bacon except me and I was, quite frankly, tired of it.

So I sprinkled some brown sugar on bacon and let it cook away in the toaster oven (on toast) for a good 10 minutes. The result looked fantastic. The bacon was a beautiful, bacony shade of red, shiny and sticky, and it smelled fantastic.

Without even tasting a bit, I chopped the whole lot up and mixed it into my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I'm never one to complain, especially about bacon, but I really wish I just hadn't. These cookies are so good! But when you happen to bite into a bacon bit, you have to chew and chew and chew. It's exactly like chomping on leather bits.

And the upside (one would hope) would be the salty/sweet taste the bacon would lend to the cookie. No to that, too. There is no discernable taste of bacon. No salty. No salty/sweet. Nothing to really make you think like you were eating something that went beyond basic chocolate chips. In fact, Idle Husband had to dig out a piece in order to discover that yes, that is a bacon bit. And yes, it does taste mildly of sweetened bacon.

Possible remedies could include shortening the bacon's cooking time for a softer chewier feel or cooking the bacon longer, hoping for a crispier texture. I also think it would have been better not to bother with the brown sugar in the first place. Regular bacon bits probably would have been much tastier.

The only saving grace is the cookie itself. Astonishingly, I think they taste better monster sized. They're softer, more interesting, more chocolatey, more filling. I wonder if it's because of the bacon or the size (answer: the bacon) that's behind us not polishing them off within two days.

adapted from here
makes about 22 monster-sized cookies

{dry ingredients}
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

{wet ingredients}
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup chocolate chips, chopped as finely as you can (you don't have to be anal about it)
2 cups chocolate chips

1/4 cup or 5 slices of candied bacon, if you really want to go down that road
1 cup of nuts, any kind; Oh, to have had walnuts instead of bacon!

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a seperate bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients in increments to the wet ingredients making sure each addition is incorporated.

Add all of the chocolate and stir well.

Scoop out about ice cream scoop sized balls of dough (I actually used an ice cream scoop). Flatten each ball into a fat disk with your hands (flatten enough to help with even baking). Bake at 375 for 12-13 minutes or until the cookies are golden (for smaller, regular sized cookies, bake for 6-8 minutes).

find these and more treats over at Sweet as Sugar Cookies