Friday, April 30, 2010

Thousand Island Dressing


Growing up in a world of ranch dressing lovers, I've always prefered Thousand Island. Maybe it's the ketchup? Maybe it's the high calorie content that draws me? I don't know. The problem is, it's never the same out of the bottle as it is at great steak restaurants. I've been on the hunt for the perfect homemade steak house 1,000 Island dressing. I've tried out three recipes now. The last two included a mayo/ketchup mix and a combo of pickles or relish. The following was a little bit different, a little less 'orange/pink,' and a little more to my liking, but I'm still on the hunt....
Instructions:
Mix 1 quart of mayonnaise, 3 eggs (diced), 1/4 c. Worcestershire Sauce, 1 T. sugar, 1/4 c. white vinegar, 1 pinch ground cloves, 3/4 c. bread and butter pickles (or 3/4 c. pickle relish), 1 t. onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 16 (I cut the recipe in 1/3 for purposes of sanity, and the sake of my mayo's life.)
You can also add 1/2 c. diced red bell peppers, 1/2 c. diced olives, or a little spoonful of ketchup. I substituted bread and butter pickles for the relish b/c I don't like relish very much, I wonder what it would be like with some baby dills? I'll have to try it out sometime!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cake-In-A-Jar....What Else?

Hi my name is Christy, and I'm a jar-a-holic.

I saw this post awhile back about red velvet cake....in a jar...from a website called Cakies. I need blood pressure medicine when blog hopping, my heart can't take it anymore.
My Mom informed me that she was going to be making a carrot cake for a friend at work. When my Mom tells me what 'she's doing,' this means-me. That whole "I gave birth to you..." thing seems to be a life-time sentence. I like to bake, so it works out OK. Everything except for the dishes. Eww.
I knew I'd use my favorite recipe for carrot cake (the request), but the problem is I've made it a lot....and I just didn't want to ice another cake with frosting and ship it on it's way, so I decided to give the 'cake in a jar' plan a whirl. (I'd probably cut the pineapples in half next time, for some reason they were overwhelming this go 'round.)
You can bake the cake directly in the jar, but I decided to follow the instructions on the blog on cakies, plus, it allowed me to spend a little more time with my cupcake pans, and we like spending time together.
I baked my cupcakes, and sliced them in half.

I slipped the bottom half in the jar (I bought the jars on sale for $1 each at Hobby Lobby. I found some 8 oz mason jars (which cakies used on the site), but I'm (self) banned from buying mason jars, but I know how to get around that...).
After I put the cupcake top down in the base of the jar, I piped a swirl of icing on top of that layer, and then I placed the bottom half of the cupcake on the icing (like a layered cake). It didn't completely fill out the layer, but I suspected this might be the case. I wasn't in need of 24 cupcakes for this group, so I took the extra cupcakes (that's an antonym if I ever heard it=extra/cupcakes-unheard of!) and cut them into smaller pieces to squeeze down with this second layer (1 'extra' cupcake filled in the spaces of about 5 of the jars).

After that, I piped another layer of icing. The good thing is it can be completely messy b/c you are just going to close the lid, and the jar does the beautification. I like a project that allows messy icing work.

Normally, when I make the cupcakes, I half the recipe for icing, but this time I did the full thing because I was doubling the amount I normally use with the layered cupcakes. Here they are, almost ready. I love these jars. I have big plans for these jars, which means I need to ask for them back. Tacky? That's OK. Like I said, I have plans...and a budget.

I could have been finished here, but I had a dream....
Next came the lid, some fun ribbon, and some forks I ordered from Amazon (a company called Birchwood-info also given on Cakies Blog). I looked all over for these guys for my Cowgirl Rodeo shower, and could not find them at a reasonable rate, but Amazon was pretty reasonable. I got 100 for 15 dollars. I'll use them again....or frame them....or sleep with them under my pillow where all the other treasures are I don't want to use b/c I like them too much.

Bye Bye Cake-Calories-in-a-Jar

Now I'm off to comment on Cakies' blog and tell her what she has done to me, for better or worse. I love cake in a jar. It's two of my favorite things (cakes and jars), married into a perfect union.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pieces of the Last Week....

1. Something I need to say: I still believe blogging is only fun if I can use crazy sentence structures, made up words, and run on sentences. It just is a better reflection of who I am. Grammar is a big part of my 'job' 8 hours of the day (not that I am a pro on this subject, but I am supposed to be). This blog is definitely my (rather public) 'journal' and I want it to be my voice. On that note, sometimes I look over a post (be scared it's only 'sometimes' I actually read and correct them), and I think about how I would diagram some of my 'sentences,' and I laugh at the impossible task. I know this must drive English majors...or just English speakers up a wall. If that's you, you are brave. My Mom is an English major. Welcome to her world.
2. Last Saturday, I attended Aimee and Barry's wedding.

I went a few hours in advance (after my VERY LAST Saturday School for the year, insert Hallelujah Chorus HERE) and helped the busy, and talented Amy R, and her 'crew' with some blinged out flower arrangements. Here are the smaller of the two arrangements lined up and waiting for tables.

It's always neat to see the colors people choose for their weddings. I've never seen this color combination before. The yellow roses were ginormous.
It was a sweet ceremony. It was fun to catch up with old friends, and watch married life bloom for a happy couple.
3. I painted a bucket this week for a teacher who is giving a present to her intern (leaving for Texas Tech)-a gift bucket filled with Tech goodies.

Not my best work, that's fine, it was for TECH! Had it been Baylor green and gold, I would have meticulously painting the Sistine Chapel. It wouldn't look good, but I'd be very careful in my efforts. The point of saying all this is that the entire time I painted I kept singing "There's a hole in your bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. There's a hole in your bucket, dear Liza, a hole!" It's really annoying to get a song stuck in your head. Is it stuck in your's now? Misery loves company. ...just another service I provide-misery.
4. Have you heard of Flatout bread? (This picture is from google images.)

It's 90 calories. The package says one contains 33% of your daily fiber needs. It is twice the size of a tortilla (and a little thicker). It comes in multiple flavors. It's great as a wrap sandwich. I make a lot of pizza with this. I use spray butter, garlic, cheese and whatever else I feel like adding. Bake, and enjoy. There is a whole website of recipes (printed on the bag). You can find it near the bread at the store, next to the tortillas (which are usually on the bread row). It's super. I know a lot of people know about this, but I'm speaking to the people I hang out with under my rock, and I think it's important to share relatively good 'carbs' for those of us that might have a teeeeeeeny tinnnnny carb addiction.
5. Last, and most dramatic...

This Sunday my Mom and I attempted to go to an art festival down in Southlake. Just a little while after we arrived, Mom caught her foot on some uneven bricks. She fell, busted her lip, loosened her two front teeth, and broke her (dominant) arm. Life will be a little more interesting for the next month + with me in charge of driving, writing, turning keys, and opening Dr. Pepper bottles (not necessarily in that order of priority if you know my Mom). I'm sure she will mend as quick as she can if I'm in charge of these sort of things. Sick beds are not my expertise. Poor Mom, she's not feeling too great, and I'm running the show, which probably makes her feel a little worse, I'm sure. I also want to point out I have no pictures of these injuries, see, I have SOME self control when it comes to picture taking. Self-control, and a desire not to be disowned, it's amazing what that combination can do when looking for restraint.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Slice of Yesterday-Lucky Layla Dairy Farm

A dairy farm is a big deal to a city girl.

The suburbs have always been my home. I'm used to the sidewalk jungle, noise from the neighbors. Traffic on the streets. Three gas stations on every corner. A fence. But I can't help but cringe when I see a familiar, yet rare, field throw a 'for sale' sign up, and a strip mall move in to the place the field of flowers...fine...weeds, once grew.


Stores move in and set up shop. They come. They go. But those fields are lost forever.
Near my little suburban house is one of those fields that still stands in the middle of my metropolis, sans a for sale sign. I sigh inside EVERY time I pass the windmill, the fields, and the cows. I love it. There's a country girl inside me that wants the city girl to get lost in a craft store and leave us alone, and at peace in our 'field' of dreams...or rather, cows. Forget manicured lawns, it's not exactly like I excel in that area anyway. I want a lawn of weeds as far as the eye-can-see!


This is one of my last little slices of 'yesterday.' About a year ago I noticed a little field of cows (Jersey and Guernsey cows to be exact. Yes, I looked it up.). These cows opened up a small gravel road to their fields that leads to a small store that began selling their milk.


I had seen this farm's products, Lucky Layla's milk and yogurt spring up at some of the local specialty grocery stores, and now they sell it on site, it can't get much fresher than that! I have always wanted to stop. It's a mile from my house. I have no excuse. I have no excuse for the layer of dust on my furniture either...back to my adventure...
Last week, with expired milk to toss, and a recipe that required a fresh cup, I decided to FINALLY head out for the freshest cup I know of on this side of suburban society.
Count me as a fan now....really, I became their fan on facebook.
I pulled up in front of the little white store that houses their dairy goodies. Mama cows grazed near 'my windmill.' Milk cows chowed down in the yellow 'flowered' field, and a little nursery of baby calves watched me cautiously from their little 'houses.' I fell in love. I've been in love with things far worse than cows. I fall in love with inanimate objects all the time, so at least it's a species this time.

Forget the pony, I want a baby calf!
In addition to the quaintness of this little slice of peace in the middle of Plano, I was greeted by the most precious little guy (3 or 4 years old?) hanging out on the porch of the store as the owners (his family) carried new jugs of fresh milk to their fridges inside. My little friend on the porch asked me if I wanted to know what was in the cardboard box sitting next to him...

He found it that morning. He also had a plastic frog he had added to his box habitat to 'keep it company' along with some vegetation. His Mom told me that they had a 'catch and release policy.' This little greeter spends the day searching out these treasures, with the understanding they are released at the end of his play time. I tell you this because it's family run, family friendly, and just how shops, and companies should be!
I'd go back just for his company, but check out the innards of the dairy farm store.

Tex-Mex Cheese

I sampled this, and another cheese that tasted like Swiss. My taste buds just can't even begin to wrap themselves around 'fresh cheese.'
Yogurt Cheese and Butter

The yogurt cheese is probably the best thing I sampled. I'm going back for more. The owner gave me a few recipe ideas, and suggested filling tartlets with this yogurt cheese, and adding fresh fruit. It's amazing. It's won awards. If I were giving out awards, it would get mine too! I'm also going to try out this butter. They explained that in the spring the butter is a darker shade of yellow as the cows chow down on green grasses. Beta Carotene something something, science, something. I want this. I want yellow goodness. I'll get it! I'll get soon.
Caramel

I'll take this whole stack, thanks. I tried this as well. This is also on my purchase list for my next shopping trip.
Drinkable Yogurt

They have a ton of flavors of this drinkable yogurt. I'd buy it for the little bottle alone. I bought a banana flavor. It tasted much like I'd expect drinkable yogurt to taste, but it was definitely superior to the general store brands.
Raw Milk

I bought a gallon. It's a little pricey ($8), but let's put it into perspective-it's fresh. It's raw (no dyes to change the color). It's no more than most specialty drinks at restaurants. It....is....so.....amazingly....delicious. I was prepared to perhaps twist the reality a little if I didn't like it because I love this farm so much, and the gal in charge was so sweet. I was going to tell you about my two favorite things-the caramel and yogurt cheese because I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this yellow milk.
And then I poured myself a glass.

Is this what milk taste like? Sign...me...up! I always liked milk fine, but it does have a tiny punch at the end when you get the store variety.
This is fresh.
Milk goodness in a glass.
Please go get a gallon. Get two gallons and swing one by my house, after all, I only live a mile away.
If you live near Plano, you must go to Lucky Layla's. The little farm is housed off of Jupiter, across the street from Oak Point Gym near Spring Creek. It's open from 9-6 Monday-Saturday. They take check or cash. The folks working the store were so friendly, and helpful,and gracious about me taking pictures. They took the time to explain their products and farm to me. They let me wander around. They said they can even show you where the cows are milked etc. Who knew? Milk really does comes from a cow (,but my meat...it still comes from the store, please don't tell me otherwise). How fun would this be for little kiddos? How fun would this be for less-than-little 30 year olds? Please go, tell them I sent you there b/c when I go again I'm hoping they will dole out more samples. I'm hoping there'll be a little boy with his box ready to show me his daily prize. I hope there are baby cows to greet me. I hope there are lots of tubs of caramel.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hotel Soap Remix


In my head, this was going to be really fabulous....
If I were a different sort of person, I'd make the adjustments I'm going to say I'm going to make next time I try this project (which could be next week...or never) before I posted about it. I'm not that 'kind of person,' so I'm just going to post what really happened, which is less than I wanted, but still acceptable in my imperfect, perfectly fine world.
I like to wallow in my imperfection, it just leaves so much room to live real life! It also leaves room and time for more crafting.
BUT for the sake of my sanity, I would appreciate if you would grab onto my vision, and imagine this a little better.
To begin with, several years ago my friend Nicole posted a blog entry about how she had tried out a project her husband told her his Grandmother (?) used to do. I can't find the post anymore b/c I'm not smart enough to navigate Nicole's website. I try Nicole, I really try! It was cute. It stuck with me. I knew I'd try it someday.
Basically, for quite awhile she collected the pieces of soap left over towards the end of each bar. When she got enough of them, she melted them down, and poured them into muffin tins to make 'new soap' bars. I think it's a fun idea for a family who uses the same soap, and therefor is fine...well, using the same soap again.
I don't have left over bars of soap b/c I don't really believe in soap...kidding....it's mostly b/c my dog (Max) eats soap....really, and at some point in the life of every bar of soap, he eats it. He prefers soap to dog biscuits. His breath always smells fresh. I chased him around the house this evening as he ate the paper the soaps (below) came out of that I had tossed in the garbage. Anyway, the other day I was cleaning out my closets, and I found a box filled with (never used) hotel soaps. I need to say three things.
#1 Has anyone else noticed that a lot of hotels are going to just leaving soap in the rooms? No more little shampoos and sewing kits?
#2 I also have to say (before you look below), I travel a lot, and usually leave these goodies behind b/c...I travel a lot and it could get ridiculous. After this project, it may be about to 'get ridiculous' in my world of soap collection....

#3 I don't really have anything to say for #3, I just wanted to leave my options open, and I was hoping *you'd* keep reading to see what #3 was...even though I just showed you my soap collection and maybe sent a shiver down your spine....
Anyway, I guess I could have just dropped these soaps into a basket for guest to use because who wants to use the same soap 342 other people have used sitting on my soap dish? BUT I decided to try out Nicole's idea with a mini muffin tin. I like mini. This will provide me with some guest soaps to be easily used and tossed. I think guest (assuming I ever have any) will appreciate they haven't been used before, though I love the idea for 'family soaps' with the recycled soap. And by melting, and reforming it goes a little better in the theme that WOULD be my guest bath if I ever got my act together than the hodge podge I had before this project. :O)
I chopped the soaps into small pieces to help with the melting.

I did a little research, and found some recycled soap ideas, so I took their advice and I poured water over the soap until it covered the soap and let is soak for awhile (I'd let it soak overnight next time to soften the soap up a little more).

I then heated the pan on medium heat, and stirred...and stirred....and I might have even pulled out a potato masher b/c it did NOT want to blend. It took awhile. I acquired a little more patience in the process, just a little b/c I did pull out that potato masher after it didn't meet my allotted time projection.
I read about people who made soap and added oils, scents etc. I've made soap before and done this, but I was feeling particularly lazy, and most of these soaps had scents 'built in' already. The excess water evaporated over time, and I added more (not too much, or it won't harden). I soon realized that my blend of cream, and white soaps wasn't merging well. In my mind the soaps were going to blend and become....ummm....pure white? It was just a weird mixed color, so I added some blue food coloring (my guest bathroom is blue and white). Next time, I'd make sure I only used white soaps, or beige soaps. I would have liked the outcome better with white mini soaps. The blue is where this went south. I then filled each (greased) mini muffin tin.

I stuck them in the freezer, and then pulled out the pan after 30 minutes. After running warm water across the back of the pan, and banging the pan to see if they would fall out like ice cubes, and then bending my pan :O( in the attempt....I finally ran a butter knife along the edge. They slid right out. I was able to smooth down some of the 'weird' knife marks when necessary.

My plan was to do some fun things with the apothecary jar as well, but I was a little disappointed in the blue soaps...so it may have to wait until I get over my vision-gone-wrong. I still like the IDEA of repurposing all those hotel soaps, and was excited when I thought of it. I can now say I won't be leaving any soaps behind on trips with the anticipation of trying this out again someday. I will also add that this is definitely the CLEANEST my hands have been during, and after a project, which is a plus consider the amount of glue, glitter, and paint I usually wear after crafting!
UndertheTableandDreaming


Linking To:
The Girl CreativeNight Owl Crafting”>>The Trendy Treehouse
UndertheTableandDreaming

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dog Biscuit Jar....and the Homemade Biscuits to Fill It

The most pointless project of the last few weeks, and that's saying a lot in my world of fluff, and featherbrained crafting.

So....as I was painting my canisters for all the flours/sugars living in my pantry....and thinking how great it was to have a way to place the date they expire, without having to keep the bag that housed them....I realized how often these things expire b/c I buy them for one project, and then....forget them.
I had JUST read a recipe for dog biscuits on alittlebitofeverything with wheat flour (currently aging in my kitchen after my soda bread, and a flopped pretzel attempt I didn't blog about). Dog biscuits have been on my list of things to make since Christmas. Why? Because all the other dog owners are doing it. Before the wheat flour expired (like it matters, they are, after all, dogs) I decided it was time to try out the recipe.

Recipe: 1 c. peanut butter, 1 c. slim milk, 2 c. wheat flour, 1 T. baking powder. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness, cut, and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
I halved the recipe...let's face it, my dogs are NOT that well behaved, and deserving of these additional treats. Plus, they usually help themselves, please refer to every post I ever made about my attempts to cook a dessert, and there is usually a dog involved, and a missing something...or everything.
And, of COURSE, my dogs are way more excited about their treats since I made them a chalkboard puppy canister with spray paint lid and chalkboard paint. Now I can leave them messages.
My dogs read. My dogs are the smartest, cutest, most entertaining dogs on the face of the PLANET. *Your* dog is too ;o). (Notice I did NOT say well behaved when describing mine?) OR I can alternate whose name I put on the front depending on who I like best that day. OR I can leave messages for their puppy sitters along with a little jar of treats to remind said pet sitter of my spoiling expectations when I'm away. Fine, the chalkboard message board was completely unnecessary, as was this whole project, but it didn't cost me anything, and it made me happy.
The biscuits were really easy to make, and half the recipe made 12 when using the Wilton dog biscuit cookie cutter.
3 out of 3 of my judging panel agreed this was a good treat:



This would make a cute Christmas gift if you are one of 'those people' who sends gifts to people's pets. I was planning on waiting until Christmas, but...I didn't. By the way, if you are 'one of those people,' can I just say, 'Word 'up, fellow peeps!'

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mexican Wedding Cookies


Today Aimee and Barry are getting married. I'm helping a very talented gal out who has been arranging all the details of their wedding, so I get to play with flowers, and candy. This all makes me a happy girl.
So what does that have to do with this recipe? Well, they ARE called WEDDING COOKIES. To be fair, I don't believe Aimee or Barry have any family from Mexico. I'm not even sure if they have traveled to Mexico, but the lines are very thin that I try to draw to explain why I do what I do when I do it.
I’m not sure if they actually serve these at weddings in Mexico. I’ll check out the dessert line if I ever attend one, but I’ve made them for lots of ‘fiesta themed’ showers, so … whatever works. I like these. A lot. And they make a ton! No, I'm not attaching these to the wedding gift. I actually made these awhile back for 'something else' and have a picture. I decided to post about this today since my hands will be too busy helping with wedding details to get much more accomplished in craftland/blogland. :O)
Ingredients
½ cups Butter
½ cups Shortening
2 cups Confectioner's Sugar, Divided
1-¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ teaspoons Almond Extract
2 cups Flour
¼ teaspoons Salt
1 cup Pecans
1 cup Confectioner Sugar
Preparation Instructions
1. Let your butter soften to room temperature, and then use a mixer to cream the butter, shortening, and half of the confectioner’s sugar.
2. Stir in vanilla, and almond extract.
3. Use a mixer to add half the flour, and salt. Then use a wooden spoon to add the remaining flour.
4. Stir in your finely chopped pecans. Your dough will be stiff.
5. Form dough into balls (the size of a level tablespoon).
6. Place on an ungreased pan, 1 inch apart. This should make about 36 cookies.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the oven.
8. Pull your cookies out when they are a light golden color. While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the remaining cup of powdered sugar. Set on waxed paper to cool.