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Let’s Get Organized! | Spice Rack DIY

2 Mar

DIY spice rack

One result of small space living (or a small kitchen at least) is the true need for clever kitchen storage solutions. We’ve come up with a few that utilized stuff we already had, like an office document/mail organizer tucked in a lower cabinet to neatly store oversized Tupperware/lids & a larger, short, round Rubbermaid container to keep smaller lids tidy that we stuck to the inside of the door of the same lower cabinet with industrial Velcro.

We’ve never had a great solution for storing herbs & spices that we use frequently. We bought these containers that we love, but had them stacked in a two-tiered “system” on our kitchen shelves. It wasn’t the best use of their great see-through lids & it still left us shuffling through spices whenever we wanted to use them.

I’ve seen a lot of terrific spice storage solutions but wanted something that utilized our existing jars & a smallish wall space we have in our kitchen next to some cabinets. Note: the best placement for spice storage is somewhere darkish (or out of direct sunlight) and a coolish/room temp. While the magnetic tins we made would be fine stuck to the side of a refrigerator, the fridge in our kitchen can run a little warm & the side we’d have stuck them to is right next to the window, so we opted for a space on the other side of the kitchen, away from direct sunlight and appliances that emit heat.

I intentionally made the labels take up a large part of the see-through lid – to keep out even more light.

Supply list followed by quickie DIY instructions

Spice rack stainless steel magnetic base: We used this and were really pleased with the quality & speedy shipping. Screws are not included so be prepared to provide your own for attaching the base to the wall.

Tins: Source: Specialty Bottle — I’ve ordered lots of things from SB & they’re great! They’ll send you a couple of samples too (at no charge!). The possibilities are endless but as previously mentioned, we used these.

MagnetsI bought these but you can also search for them on Amazon & elsewhere on the web. I’ve seen other tutorials that use magnetic paper. That would be fine too – but in my experience, it’s not as strong as individual magnets & I didn’t want to go to the trouble to make this whole thing, only to have the heavier spices slide down the wall mounted base.

Glue: I used E6000 (that I bought at a local craft store). It worked well but it’s super toxic AND even with the windows open (hooray for a warm winter!) & a tabletop fan pointed towards the window….WOW — the smell was horrible & made me feel nauseous! I’d forgotten how toxic this stuff is…ick!

1) Measure the space you want to put your jars. Make sure if it’s near a cabinet, that the door when opened, will clear the jars on the wall.

2) Glue magnets to bottoms of jars.

3) Download my free printable spice jar labels & please ignore the little dashed line in the template — I can’t, for the life of me, get rid of it & it doesn’t appear in the original design file. It won’t appear on your finished labels because you’ll cut them out anyway! Print them on a big sheet of label paper (like this kind from Staples) & punch out. I used a 1.5 inch round craft punch.

4) Fill jars with spices/herbs & attach the tops.

5) Write on labels & stick to tops of jars. I love a handwritten label but if you don’t, you could use a label maker/vintage typewriter or add spice names to labels in a design program before printing.

6) ENJOY! If you have space at the bottom, use a magnetic clip to hold grocery lists and a tally of spices you’re running low on or out of.

Other notes
Use a cookie sheet (new or vintage) or have a home supply store cut you a sheet of stainless steel – just make sure it’s magnetic (not all stainless/metal is) and we didn’t go to a home supply store because I wanted rounded corners (pointy metal corners are SHARP!) – also I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with drilling the holes in the metal for hanging. We’re comfy with DIY (& power tools!) but I really didn’t want to overcomplicate things for this project. If you’re in the mood for a visit to Ikea, this would be an awesome option (it’s nice & tall & comes in white, too).

Spice storage ideas/tutorials/inspiration
I like the jars a lot & the finished product reminds me of honeycomb. 
Friends of ours painted a wall in their kitchen with magnetic chalkboard paint & attached magnetic spice jars to it. Love!
One of many sources online for a DIY vintage soda crate spice rack (swoon!).

We Made It! | And…What the Heck is a Dutch Baby?!

30 Dec

YAY, it’s almost 2013! Which means, we’ve made it through the holiday season unscathed. I know…so dramatic. But in addition to the goodies & gifts we like to make around the holidays (granola, candy cane bark, sweet cards & gift tags, DIY all purpose cleaner (more about that in a future post!), broccoli shallot quiche, avocado coffee cake, the list goes on and on…) my Etsy shop, Opal & Ollie was bursting at the seams with holiday orders (I had over 100 Etsy orders in 1 month — not including the 2 local shops I had to keep stocked up!). So I feel like it’s totally acceptable to breathe a deep sigh of relief and reset after a few days off. Now on to organizing, cleaning & putting away our abundance of Christmas gifts (wheeeee!).

This morning, when Jess started flipping through cookbooks BEFORE we’d even had our morning coffee, I knew something was up. In typical Jess fashion, she was looking for the perfect compliment for a jar of Nutting Farm maple butter that I’d tucked in her stocking (from our excursion to Eat Boutique — which was amazing, by the way — where Jess met on of her fav bloggers in all the whole world, Joy the Baker). That perfect compliment came in the form of a dutch baby. What the H is a dutch baby, you ask?! Read on…

photo-8

We were first introduced to dutch babies at a small historic inn in rural Vermont where we spent the weekend attending the wedding festivities of our friends Lindsay and Jonathan. The inn keepers cooked meals for the guests so we headed to the dining room for breakfast one morning. Plates were placed in front of us with an odd looking berry-muffin-popover-like thing in the middle. This particular dutch baby was not my jam (you could tell it had been pre-made & heated) but none-the-less I was intrigued. So fast forward to this morning when Jess stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen dutch baby recipe below. It’s a delicious breakfast treat that’s like a popover and a crepe/pancake had a baby (maybe that’s where the name comes from?!). They weren’t too sweet — just right topped with a dusting of powdered sugar & some maple butter (or in my case, maple syrup). Dutch babies are also called “german pancakes”. Somehow this makes more sense to me now.

Pros: It’s lighter than a pancake. It doesn’t require the baby sitting/tending that pancakes require — since you bake it in the oven. So I was able to enjoy coffee with Jess instead of stressing about when to flip the pancakes & then how to keep the first batch warm as the other batch cooked in the skillet. It’s also really delicious and paired perfectly with maple goodness and soy sausage patties.

Cons: Ours cooked a little too much on one side so one edge was a little dry — but nothing that a little extra maple butter or syrup couldn’t fix!

Recipe notes: We only had 3 eggs in the house so we made 1/2 the recipe. It worked out great. The tablespoons of butter that the recipe calls for is definitely for the batter (and doesn’t include what you use to grease the cake pan) — we thought that was a little confusing. You could totally make these in muffin tins for cute-sized individual portions.

mapledutch

Recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen

Dutch Babies/German Pancakes

Yield 2 9-inch pancakes.

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter

Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process at until light yellow in color. Remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates. Serve with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter if you follow recipes to the letter, maple syrup if you’re me and maple butter if you’re Jess. It would be really yummy with fresh berries too.

Happy baby making! (Ha…) And happy almost 2013!

Saving the World | What Lovely Will You Beckon?

17 Dec

I feel oh-so-lucky to have been part of a small team of graphic facilitators that my company (Collective Next) sent to Dallas to scribe the talks at TEDxSMU. Not that I expected anything less, but it was a truly transformative experience. I mean, where else but at a TED or TEDx event could you witness a tiny 7th grader shock the stage with a booming poetry slam performance and then hear a talk about wabi-sabi (the Japanese term for imperfect beauty)?

I scribed a bunch of amazing talks at TEDxSMU but Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s talk Beckon Lovely and Save the World really stuck with me (click on the title to hear/see her full talk). I’m a born “maker” so I can’t quite imagine anything cooler than the thought of a bunch of strangers making things together — or a 10-day challenge to save the world through an amalgamation of lovely.

krouse_rosenthal

I beckoned lovely this weekend in the form of freshly squeezed orange juice. The loveliest thing about this pictured moment? It represents a little snippet of my weekend where time moved a little slower. I took time out of a busy Sunday morning to make something that I then sipped with the one I love in special little juice glasses that I had to get on a step stool to reach. It’s not something I would’ve typically done on hectic weekend morning and I’m grateful for Amy’s challenge.

lovely

What lovely will you beckon this week to save the world? And…you’d better hurry up…we only have until 12/21/12!

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! | Our Best Baking Discovery Yet…

10 Nov

We’ve been baking up a storm recently. Yes, even I (“maker”) am inserting myself smack dab in the middle of the confectioner’s sugar and flour melee! The dogs are thrilled. Ollie literally sat behind me in the kitchen, nose up, tongue out, licking the sweet air as I sifted 16 cups of confectioners sugar for buttercream frosting.

I inherited my mom’s endless search for a homemade vanilla/yellow cake that satisfied my picky palate. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by home baked goods. The only thing my mom and grandmother ever made from a box was Jiffy cornbread. My dad is famous for his amazing breads and blueberry muffins…oh and his raspberry & peach jams. Lucky, yes…but I’ll never forget my first taste of yellow box cake at a friend’s birthday party. I begged & begged my mom for a box cake for the next several birthdays. She refused but spent lots of time researching cookbooks & experimenting with recipes trying to emulate that funkily delicious yellow box cake flavor. She even tried trickery — adding yellow food coloring to a sponge cake recipe — but I was not to be fooled!

Fortunately, our current searches for recipes have broadened immensely thanks to the interwebs. It’s how I stumbled upon, quite possibly, the best vanilla cake recipe I’ve ever made. I think my search is over! It’s been a long time coming & there were certainly false glimpses of hope. Like the time a friend shared a recipe online for the famous Party Favors (a local bakery) cupcakes. They’ve mastered the yellow cake from scratch. It’s honestly INSANELY good. Like so good, it was our wedding cake — plain & simple yellow cake with vanilla buttercream. The recipe can be found here, BUT I must warn you, it’s not worth your time. 1) I’m sure they didn’t share the actual recipe. 2) It doesn’t seem quite right — as is sometimes the case when bakers/cooks try to scale down BIG recipes for the home baker/cook. The recommended buttercream frosting recipe is amazing. I’ve also shared it below.

Ok. So on with it. The BESTEST vanilla or “yellow” cake we’ve ever baked. To think it was sitting under our noses on one of our favorite blogs, to boot! Mom…this one’s for you! xo

Cake recipe credit: Smitten Kitchen: Best Yellow Layer Cake

Best Yellow Cupcakes
Yield: ~ 20-22 cupcakes

Ingredients
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Steps
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers and set aside.

2) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled…don’t panic…this is exactly how it should look). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

3) Use an ice cream scoop, ladle or large cookie dough scoop to fill each cupcake wrapper about 2/3 full. Rap each pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean – 20 minutes. If your oven is a little wonky, like ours, rotate the cupcake tins after 14 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from tins & let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting recipe credit: Wilton’s Cupcake Fun (p. 101)

Silky Smooth Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients
1 stick butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar (approx. 1 pound)
2 tablespoons milk

Steps
1) In a large bowl, beat (or “cream”) shortening and butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

2) Add vanilla, mix well.

3) Note: I hate sifting but trust me, you must. It’s important that you sift the confectioner’s sugar BEFORE you measure it (or you’ll end up adding too much sugar to your frosting & it will be a little too stiff/sweet). Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed; scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar is mixed in, frosting will appear dry. Add milk; beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

4) Have fun decorating! As you can see, we love using pastry bags & decorative tips to add gobs of frosting. Oh, and when peanut butter buttercream is involved, Ollie is Head of QC (see photo below). 

ENJOY and happy Vanilla Cupcake Day! Wheeeee!

Falling for Fall | Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes

30 Oct

Oh how we love this time of year when pumpkin makes an appearance in every corner of our lives from our oven to our pups’ dinner bowls. Pumpkin baked goods, pumpkin brewed craft beer, savory pumpkin dishes, pumpkin carving, roasted pumpkin seeds…and the list goes on…

We had some leftover buttermilk (from the best yellow cake recipe I’ve ever made….a future post, so stay tuned!) that screamed “Oh hi, PANCAKE opportunity!” to me as I headed into the refrigerator to get fixings for my weekend coffee.

So I made these amazing pancakes from Heather Cristo’s blog. Um, who can resist a recipe that has the word “best” in it? Clearly not me!

Verdict: They were really yummy! I’ve included some notes about the recipe, etc. below. 

Maker’s notes

Recipe | I added a 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice to the batter (because we had it on hand).  I was hesitant to add more because I didn’t it to overwhelm the yummy pumpkiny goodness. It added a subtle spice & depth of flavor. Add more if you want to really taste it. I love a salty pancake and don’t usually add much (if any) sugar to things that I’m going to drizzle with maple syrup. That said, these were a little too salty. If I made these again, I’d cut back on the salt (to 1/2 tsp) and add a tablespoon of sugar (raw, white, brown, light brown…whatever we happened to have in the pantry).

These would be really easy to make vegan by making your own “buttermilk” (using soy milk adding lemon juice or vinegar) and adding a butter substitute for the butter.

Cooking | I cooked all of them before we sat down to eat, keeping them warm on a low temp in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Leftovers | I wrapped up the leftover pancakes and tossed them in the refrigerator.  We heated a couple of them in the toaster (Jess’s brilliance!) the next day & had them with a cup of tea as we stayed safe inside while hurricane Sandy danced with the power lines outside our house.

If you have pups, here’s a great use for the leftover pumpkin! Mix a tablespoon of pumpkin in with their food. They’ll love it and it’s great for their digestive health — it magically helps with diarrhea or constipation. Just make sure it’s the same kind of pumpkin you’ll have leftover from this recipe — canned plain pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling kind with added sugar & spices).

Happy making! Happy Fall!

Pup Updates & the Kindness of Strangers | Giving Thanks

13 Oct

As I type this post, I realize that it’s too late for Canadian Thanksgiving & too early for American Thanksgiving. But just as I did growing up every night at supper & with every thank you note my mom made me write (yep, I still write them today), we try our best to express our gratitude each & every day for the things we feel oh-so-lucky to have in our lives.

A month ago, while I was in Portugal for work, Jess had to rush Stevie (our eldest Boston Terrier) to the emergency vet care because he was yelping, walking with a hunched back & shaking like a leaf. After a few trips to the vet, some tests and a whole bunch of worrying, he was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative condition called IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease, presenting in the vertebrae in his neck). The vet sent him home with medication (for pain & inflammation) and orders for mandatory 24-7 crate rest. Yes, that’s right, crate rest, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has to be carried outside <–> inside & to <–> from his food bowls and he needs to spend all day every day for the next 2 months in his crate. Seriously? Seriously! It’s strange & a pain (we live on the 2nd floor and our front stairs are steep & it means we have to take both dogs out separately if one of us isn’t home). But IVDD isn’t to be messed with as it could result in paralysis and/or very expensive surgery. So we’ll all be making the best of it.

At the end of the 2 months, Stevie will get re-evaluated & hopefully his neck will have healed enough that he can be more of his normal dog self — going for walks, snuggling with us on the couch at night, etc. Sadly he won’t ever be able to jump again or do some of his best tricks (like his “stick em’ up, bang bang, play dead” show stopper) & we’ll have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t jump on the couch or bed or on the dining room table filled with pies at our next family holiday (much to our utter amazement, we watched in disbelief as he boinged straight up off the floor & landed squarely on the dining room table at Jess’s parent’s house one Christmas). But we are so lucky that he’s still part of our little family and that the IVDD was caught very early.

We celebrated Stevie’s 5th birthday with pupcakes for all (remember this recipe?) and a small sigh of relief. Being in his crate certainly hasn’t changed his appetite…

As if the above wasn’t enough stress for two concerned pet parents, Ollie, our younger Boston Terrier (who’s always been a little “special”…SHHHH!) gave us a scare a little over a week ago. I got the call from the dog walker that I’d been fearing every time I saw her name appear on the screen of my phone (up until this call they were very benign check-in emails & texts…always a relief!). She’d lost Ollie during a hike in the Middlesex Fells.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Fells, it’s piece of conservation land (reservoirs, ponds, hiking trails, etc.) just North of Boston that’s over 2,500 acres large — taking up space in 5 towns. I knew when she called me at 11:30am that she’d already worriedly traced her steps several times (before she even told me so) before she called me. She reassured me that luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day and there were lots of people out & about in the Fells. He still had his harness & tags on and was trailing a 10 foot leash so surely he’d attach himself to another group of people & someone would call us in a couple of hours. She said she’d go back & look some more & her husband was leaving work early to continue the search.

I called Jess (who was also at work) & basically lost my sh*t on the street in front the office where I work, hiccuping details through tears. And then, we both went into crazy pants solution mode. Jess: texting/calling everyone she knew who might be able to help; me: posting a picture of Ollie with the few details I knew on Facebook. We both called nearby animal shelters, vets and pet hospitals, animal control agencies, local police, etc. It became a full-time job. (I’ll insert insane thanks here to both of our jobs/bosses. We are very very lucky.) Jess went to the Fells with a friend & her dog to continue the search. Work peeps & other friends joined, too. I stayed at work to wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make phone calls, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make & print posters, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog. But in that time of panic & complete & total solution mode, something really amazing happened — social media, did what she’s so good at doing, she put our cause on blast. I had complete and total strangers messaging me on Facebook, asking me if they could spread the news on listservs, message boards, etc. We had new (like we’ve-only-hung-out-once) friends going to the ends of the earth to spread the news even further before taking off to help in the search. I had friends emailing me saying that THEIR friends were going to the Fells to search for Ollie. There were texts and phone call offers of help. Friends who don’t even have pets were buying treats & joining the search. People, some of our nearest and dearest friends included, quite literally dropped what they were doing and joined the “bring Ollie home” party. It was totally and utterly amazingly overwhelming.

Now…the happy ending. At 5:20 PM I packed a thick folder of flyers into my bag and left for home. Jess was on her way to meet me there & we were going to come up with a new plan/approach. Ollie is small (about 20 lbs) and mostly white and I was sick to my stomach thinking about the dark, the woods and…the coyotes. I got off the T at 6:00 PM and took out my phone to respond to (yes, even more) friends offering help. That was when I got the best text ever from Jess: “Ollie’s been found”. I practically skipped the whole way home. Our dog walker’s husband had found Ollie near one of the reservoirs and he was okay.

I anxiously waited for Jess to get home with Ollie. I gave him a hug (REUNION!) & then carried him straight to the tub. He was smelly & dirty and very scratched/scraped up from his unsupervised “adventures” but he was HOME! Look how tired he was…

People are still “checking in” to see how Ollie is doing. Thank you technology, friends (new & old!), co-workers, family & concerned strangers — our hearts are still exploding with relief and gratitude.

Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

Picnic Food Pick | Hummus & Flatbread

7 Jul

This is a fairly simple & fast recipe that’s fun to make and take to a gathering any time of the year. But both the hummus & the flatbread will survive quite well sitting out on a picnic table in hot summer temps (unlike your gran’s famous potato salad!).

We brought this to our friends’ 4th of July BBQ (along with our appropriately patriotic berry salad & frozen chocolate dipped bananas on sticks). The hummus & flatbread made a perfect party platter with the simple addition of a bowl of baby carrots & disks of seedless cukes.

Hummus

Ingredients
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed & drained

1/3 cup tahini (can be found in most grocery stores in the “ethnic food” section)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 juicy lemons…I like my hummus lemony so I’m a little heavy handed with the lemon)
1 tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil (I used olive oil our neighbor brought us from Italy!)

Steps
1. In a food processor, blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt & garlic until smooth.

2. With the food processor on, stream in the oil (through that little shoot in the top of the processor) & blend until well incorporated.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maker tip: If you cook a lot with garlic, I highly recommend investing in one of these stainless-steel babies. They squish, I mean press, the garlic perfectly every time, are super easy to clean (my favorite!) & save your wrists from wrestling with presses that pale in comparison.

Multigrain Flatbread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Then in a large bowl, combine the flours, oil, baking soda & salt. Add enough buttermilk (I used it all) to make a stiff dough.

2. Knead dough for 30 seconds on a well-floured surface.
3. Return dough to bowl & cover with a damp paper towel/clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
4. Roll 1/4 cup handfuls of dough into a ball & pat into a flat circle.
5. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into 10 inch circles (mine were definitely NOT 10 inches — probably more like 8 but they were still nice & thin). Oh and they will not be perfect circles. That’s okay — we’re making something homemade so it’s nice if it looks rustic. That’s the beauty of it, people.

side note: my Uncle Bob made that amazingly beautiful cutting board!

6. Place the circles of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or preheated pizza stone (I used the latter) & score each little round of dough to make little triangular pie slices. Scoring the dough isn’t as hard as it may sound — just use a really sharp knife & lightly drag it across the dough (be careful not to cut all the way through). See picture below.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the remaining dough.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8-10 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack briefly before breaking along scored lines.

I heaped the flatbread wedges in the center of a clean kitchen towel & tied the corners together for easy transportation on the tray of hummus & veggies. 

Happy dipping & eating!

Berries All Around! | Best Berry Salad

23 Jun

image credit: my mom’s childhood “Fun to Cook Book” printed by the Carnation Milk Company

Jess first made me this yummy treat as part of a little picnic (@ Walden Pond!) we went on when we first started dating. Berries are in season & they’re everywhere! Take advantage of local “pick your own” farms — or the sales in your local supermarket & bring this along to your next BBQ. It’s really easy to whip up & your friends/family will thank you! Extra bonus: it’s healthy too. 

Best Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 quarts of strawberries
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries 
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup “Craisins”
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 
2 Tbsp cane sugar or other natural sweetener

Steps

1. Rinse the berries in cool water & drain.
2. Hull & quarter the strawberries.
3. Put the berries, Craisins, walnuts & sweetener into a large bowl & gently toss with a wooden spoon.
4. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit macerate.  
5. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate. 

Happy picnicking! 

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