Friday, September 30, 2011

What I'm Reading Now




This book was sad :-( It's follows the stories of a few different Haitian folk. At some point in the book all of them live in America. While the book was sad, it was also very interesting. I like how the author tied all of the characters together (or not ;-))

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday



Gotta enjoy the squash before it's out of season!!

Squash & Mushroom Orzo
1 1/2 cups dried orzo
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups assorted mushrooms, halved or sliced
3 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup basil, cut into thin strips
salt & pepper

In a Dutch oven cook orzo according to package directions. Drain; toss with 1 Tbl of the oil. Return to Dutch oven; cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat remaining oil. Add mushrooms, squash, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat about 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Stir into cooked orzo along with almonds and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 12 servings. (187 calories, 8g fat, 72 mg sodium, 3 g fiber)

Heidi's changes:
- made the orzo in a regular pan (not sure why the Dutch oven?)
- no olive oil in pasta
- used 1 kind of mushrooms (it's what I had!)
- used green instead of yellow squash
- omitted the almonds (as my stash was sitting in my desk drawer at work!)
- used less basil than 1 cup (again, it's what I had)
- when I packed for my lunch I added feta

Overall - I liked it. Veggies + pasta usually makes me a pretty happy lady! Did feel like it was a bit oily for my tastes. And 12 servings? Those are TINY servings!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dice Desserts

Our MOPS group has several fundraising events throughout the year. This year's first event was a "Funco Night" an fun-filled evening of Bunco playing! Because of a family commitment (Saturday before the 3rd Sunday of the month) I was unable to attend and support our group. However the lady in charge of donations posted on our FaceBook page about the need for dessert donations (they ask local area businesses to donate all the food and prizes.) I thought, this is a way I can help! So I contacted her and let her know I was interested in donating (what I hoped would be) a cute selection of cakes! She enthusiastically accepted!

I thought individual cakes would make it easy for them because they wouldn't have to worry about cutting the cake and I could make them in cute dice shapes!

Friday morning I started! I baked 1 (yellow) cake in the morning and then realized that I didn't have enough eggs for my second cake! So off to the store I went! By early afternoon my second cake (confetti) was in the oven and my first cake had been sliced and placed in the freezer for an hour to freeze the crumbs to the cake.

Then the REAL work started! I have iced "sculpted" cakes before and didn't really think this would be all that different. WRONG-OH! In order for the icing to actually stick to the cake it had to be the PERFECT consistency (I found this out by batch 2.) 
After removing the cakes from the freezer I had to keep them in the refrigerator until I was ready for them. 

I would take 1 "block" out place it on an inverted cupcake wrapper and ice all 5 sides (as smoothly as possible) and then replace it to the "fridge" for it to "crust".
This was a tedious process...
I had 5 done before I had to leave for a previous engagement Friday evening. (The Reds game which was a lot of fun but FREEZING cold!)

I was up bright and early the next morning and back at it! Brake for breakfast (and to buy more powdered sugar) and then I worked for hours!  Here was my process:
Ice, 
chill (filling every available space in fridge, allowing 10 chilling cakes at a time),
Remove from fridge and smooth
Set to the side

My goal was to be completely done at 2. 
I finished this process at 2! :)

Next it was time to start the dots!
I pulled our my inspiration from our Yahtzee! game and started in!

I made 4 cakes of each type (yellow and confetti) with the same dot sequence (1 on top, 2,3,5, and 4 on the sides). This process was quick and painless and I was done in 1/2 hour! 
Then I took them all to church! Transportation is always the most nerve-racking part of the entire thing!

But they made it and were a HUGE hit!
However I think I won't offer individual cakes ever again unless they are cupcakes. 
(Cupcakes with Fondant dice would have been cute too! and EASIER! haha! Live and Learn!)


Monday, September 26, 2011

Filling in the scratches: Labor of Love (3 of 3)

Finished Product!


Sorry for missing out last week, I just did not have time to post. Posting on Mondays can be difficult because I come off the weekend. Last weekend was a busy one at work and it was antique show weekend. There was no such thing as rest for the weary.





I dont have pictures for my third post of the project, and here is why. You just couldnt see the difference through the shots. Therefore, though it would be fun to go on a "where's waldo" type search for the differences between the photos while at work, I thought better of it. For your sakes. :-)


You remember how the mirror had been...er...scratched? I wanted to find a way to eradicate them and restore my good name. The surface scratches were not huge, but were noticable when you actually started looking at the mirror next to the frame. I searched the internet and found a few possibilities. The one I tried? Toothpaste.




That is right, plain ol' white toothpaste. Beleive it or not, the hardest part about this experiment was finding plain white toothpaste! Even at the dollar store it was all red, blue, green, etc.


I figured, if this didnt work, all I had to do was wash it off. Besides, its going to smell all pepperminty fresh!




The process? Smear the toothpaste over the cracks (small amount, evenly smeared.) Then, let it dry. Once dry, you just buff over it. The smear comes off leaving the small scratches filled in and barely noticable.


Now THAT was an easy fix! (Once I found the toothpaste...)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday



Cilantro-lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Chicken:
2 Tbl minced fresh cilantro
2 1/2 Tbl fresh lime juice
1 12/ Tbl olive oil
4 (6oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp salt
cooking spray

Salsa:
1 cup chopped plum tomato (about 2)
2 Tbl finely chopped onion
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 avocado, peeled and finely chopped

To prepare chicken: combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss and let stand 3 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 miutes on each side or until done.

To prepare salsa: combine tomato and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add avocado; stir gently to combine. Serve salsa over chicken.

Makes 4 servings: 289 calories, 13.2g fat, 3.6g faber, 383mg sodium

Heidi changes
I went to the grocery twice last week - and both times forgot the cilantro. I'm not a big fan of cilantro so I think I was blocking it from my mind. I didn't use - but might next time.

I used the George Foreman as opposed to starting up the grill.

LOVED this! I was surprised at how after 3 minutes of marinade the chicken tasted like lime - YUM! And I'm a sucker for the fresh "salsa".

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nutella!

I found this picture a few days ago and it pretty much sums up everything :-D


but I've never liked the price tag. Imagine my surprise when I found this on the shelf at my Kroger!

(sorry the picture is blurry - I was excited and it was taken with my phone ;-))

It was at least $1 less than the "real" stuff AND crunchy? I HAD to try it!

Didn't notice the crunchy - you could see it in the jar, but I couldn't tell when eating it. This started out more runny than the regular stuff but as time (it lasted at least a day!) progressed it thickened up.

Good substitute - dangerous substitute ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2011

What I'm Reading Now




This book had me hooked within the first 20 pages. And I read all 400 pages of it within 2 days :-D The story is set in Atlanta and I "recognized" many of the places she mentions within the book. But that was just bonus.

The book was suspensful and action packed. Probably why I read it so fast - I needed to know what happened to the lady who's missing within the first chapter! This book was like a good movie, I could see the scenes in my head - and I never guessed the big twist!

This is the author's newest book and while I don't think all of them are in ATL (she IS from here), I'm gonna start at the beginning!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

I must admit - with everything that's been going on lately, I've been eating lots of salads. Unfortunately that means I have little to post here! This weekend I made the follow, but I don't like how the picture came out, so you don't get one :-(

Zucchini, Black Bean & Rice Skillet

1 Tbl Canola Oil
1 1/2 cups quartered lengthwise, sliced zucchini
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 can (15oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (14.5oz) Hunt's fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, undrained
3/4 cups water
1 cup instant white rice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar & monterey jack cheese blend.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, undrained tomatoes and water. Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Add rice; stir well. Cover; remove from heat and let stand 7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with cheese.

Heidi's changes:
Used olive oil instead of canola as that is what I had
Used regular diced tomatoes instead of fire roasted with garlic
Decreased the amount of water - I don't have instant rice, so I made some rice on it's own.
Skipped the cheese.

I liked this as a vegetable dish. While I like black beans - it didn't feel hearty enough for a main dish.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Labor of Love - what not to do (Part 2 of 3)


Can't you see those wonderful bones? This mirror is what MAKES this desk. Or at least, it is what used to make it, before we fixed her up. This mirror was the reason we decided to risk our lives taking this little vanity down a precarious and junk filled staircase (think of those comic strips, where you see the father tripping down the stairs on a roller skate.) That could have been our fate, but it was worth it. The detail on this mirror makes you take a second glance.

I once again appologize for missing parts in my photo journaling. The above was taken after I had obviously taken the mirror frame off the vanity and the mirror out of the frame. Remember how the previous painters slapped paint everywhere? Well, that became a challenge for me with this mirror. I, foolishly, thought I could cut corners and work on everything in one evening.


You know how I had trouble with the paint stripper? That was still fresh in my mind as I started this project. When I disassembled the mirror, there was a "frame" of yellow paint on the mirror.

I must confess this, so you do not try it. However, I fully admit that this was not a logical choice and an epic fail.

I began to sand off the paint. Smart right? No, stupid. The only reason I thought it was working was because I did not have great light. It LOOKED like it was working. And in a way, it was. The paint was comign right off...and being replaced by scratches. This is my hand to the forehead moment. Idiot! You can sorta see them in the pic below.



So yeah. What a great move, me.




The only good to come out of that stupid move? Finding a way to fix it! I am currently in process with that, so lets hope it works! More next week on that.



However, in the meantime, I worked on painting the frame. I had to keep working, so I did not use my time lamenting my lovely mirror. (New ones do not do justice to those old beauties with age on them.)




Here is a picture of it back in the frame. The scratches dont really show under the frame unless you look closely in person, but I am still going to work on getting them out!






Check back next week to see if I will be able to fix it and how the finished vanity will look!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winnie the Pooh 1st B-day cake

One of my closest friend's son turned 1 just recently and she asked me to honor them with his birthday cake! I was THRILLED! She gave me no real direction except that their theme was Winnie the Pooh! With that, may created juices started flowing! It took me a little while to decide on the design I wanted! I went from a giant tree to a honey pot and finally I decided on a scene with just the "edge" of the "hundred acre wood"! Since the party was on Labor Day, I had to start the process on Thursday!














This cake took 1 petal cake and 2 8 1/2" x 11" cakes. I baked all three of these cakes on Thursday and wrapped them in plastic wrap and froze them over the weekend.


Also on Thursday I worked on making the fondant/gum paste features. I made "sticks" for Eeyore's house, a door for piglet's house, the "Trespasser's Wil" sign for outside of piglet's house, a sign for Rabbit's house, Pooh's door frame, bell, "Mr Sanders" sign, and a "ring also" sign. Also 2 honey bees and a hive!


























The last thing I did on Thursday was make Royal icing flowers to use on the border. You can see those in the picture above (they are the smaller ones the bigger ones were "dots" I made for a different cake)

Monday morning I iced the two 8 1/2 x 11's together to make it the height I was looking for.

I sculpted the "petal" cake to make it looked like a clump of 4 trees. (Of course I forgot to take a picture of it un-iced, but here it is iced and ready for the tree trunks)










The "tree tops" were on a 8" plastic plate and I touched it down on the top of the cake so I would know where to play the pillars.







I used a Wilton 233 tip to make grass all over the top of the cake.


After I pushed the pillars into the cake I filled in the holes around them with icing and piped chocolate butter cream up the side of the pillars to be "tree trunks".











After the tree trunks were complete, I put everything into place. I piped stems for the flowers and place them around the cake and then put the character and features on the top of the cake.
This was the best picture I got of Winnie the Pooh's door frame






This is the cake finalized at the party!

I decided to make Rabbit's home even though I didn't have a Rabbit character! I used chocolate butter cream icing and crushed graham crackers to make the "sandy bank" that Rabbit hole is in! and placed the "Rabbit's Howse" Sign above it!
This is the "Trespasser's Wil" sign that sits outside of Piglet's home
This was the smash cake I made for Joel... I am not proud of it but decided I would share it anyway! ha ha!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor of Love (Part 1 of 3)


I love lace. I love the delicacy with which it presents itself to the world. That being said, I dont really use it very much. I do have some family doilies, and my wedding dress has some lace, but I dont go too crazy. I like to be able to clean things, and not have dust mites clinging to every available piece of cloth (they cling to everything else anyway.)

So, I decided to try a painting technique. Why not paint the lace on the object? Easy to clean, lovely design, what could be better?



We got this child's vanity in an old attic pick. Yes, we went into someone's hot and muggy attic for several hours. Yes, they let us jsut dig through things (can you believe it?!?!) unsupervised. Yes, we had to take our own flashlights. And yes, there was mouse droppings and dead birds up there. It was gross, but worth it. My boy LOVED it! American Pickers is his favorite tv show.


So this school bus yellow vanity sat there looking at us. Begging for new life! I knew if we left it behind, it would be tossed out. (Since they were throwing away most of their stuff.)

This vanity also has a mirror and bench, but those are for the next posts.



First step after washing it? Strip it! I was not all that impressed with this stripper, and will be trying a different one next time. Could have been the paint or the day, but it just did not do a great job. I used it three times. Paint stripper on, wait 20 minutes, scrape it off.

Still, it got off the majority. Then I sanded and used some steel wool. Originally, I wanted to restore this piece to the original walnut. But, the paint was against me. It stuck in the grooves, and I just couldnt get it out. There was yellow paint EVERYWHERE: in the drawer, on the mirror, everywhere. The previous painters just slapped it on there.

Next best option? Paint it!

I chose a light grey, almost white. Its a versitile and durable color: just dark enough to hide a bit of dirt.



I liked it grey (notice the yellow under the drawer. (You get that there HOW exactly?) I just felt like it was lacking some pizzazz!

At a recent auction, we found hundreds of paper doilies in the bottom of a box we bought. I thought maybe i could use them for this project. Problem with paper doilies? You have to punch out all the pieces in the middle. After about 10 minutes, and still not done with one...I quit. Surely there would be a better way!

So, I walked back into the house and notice something in a box (a recent auction box lot). A shawl. Normally, I would not desecrate something like that, and try to sell it as it is. But, i got to thinking: I could only sell that for about $5. What if I used it on the piece?!

I had already bought some spray paint that I wanted to use, so this was a great time! I got it out and started going to town.



I draped it over the desk part (taped garbage bags over the legs and stuff), and started spraying! Then i took it off after about a minute or so (I did not want it to dry attached to the top!)

Then I draped it over the drawer (and remembered to take a picture.)





This is how it has turned out so far. Also spray painted the drawer pulls the same dark color.






This is the top. I think the finished product will look cool. Keep your fingers crossed!




Friday, September 2, 2011

What I'm Reading Now



This book was...interesting. There were parts I thought were really cool (her going to old bars that her mom had gone to when she lived in NY)and parts that were kinda weird (what's up with her relationship with the designer?!)

The book was a fun and easy read. And the author delivers the ending as a package wrapped up with a pretty bow ;-)