Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fool-Proof Asian Stir Fry

I just made a delish meal for Birdy and myself which took practically no effort. This was super easy to make, really CHEAP, and healthy to boot. What could be better? So if you're pressed for time, not in the mood to cook something extravagant, even if you make less than magic in the kitchen – you can’t screw this one up.

This was my own recipe that made plenty for dinner tonight, plus lunch tomorrow. (If we hadn’t been fat-asses and ate it all tonight. Whoops.)


1 cup Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Instant Brown Rice
1 10 oz bag Frozen vegetables (I used Cascadian Farms organic Thai stir fry blend)
1 tbs butter divided in two
3 large eggs
Soy Sauce (I used San-J organic wheat free tamari sauce)
Adobo seasoning (optional)
Black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

  1. In a large wok (or frying pan) heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of pan) over medium heat. Once heated place frozen vegetables in pan and cover.
  2. In a medium sauce pan cook Uncle Ben’s Rice according to directions on box. (I added ½ tbs. butter and about 1 tsp. Adobo seasoning to the water.
  3.  Season vegetables with pepper and soy sauce to taste. Once they seem cooked through create a circle in the center and crack your three eggs into the center. Scramble so yolks are just barely broken and replace cover on wok. Cover for about 5 minutes to let eggs harden slightly.
  4. Scramble eggs and incorporate with vegetables. Drain rice into metal sieve and add to vegetable and egg mixture along with ½ tbs butter and combine.
  5. Taste and add any additional soy sauce or seasoning. Serve hot.

Other options:

  • To make this meal a little more impressive top with a skewer of Teriyaki beef kabobs.
  • Substitute the soy sauce for some lemon grass, a little coconut milk and some chili powder.
  • Or if brown rice isn't your thing try quinoa, or rice noodles, or cous cous for your starch.
Enjoy! Now go out and be creative - more importantly, go make something fabulous!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I and Love and You - Avett Brothers

New favorite song Birdy introduced to me... it was also the song in my dream last night. Really listen to it. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't You Just Love A Bargain!?

It's no secret, the Christmas Tree Shop and I have a very serious long term relationship. Sorry, Birdy. Some of you may think it's just a store full of junk (and shame on you!) but if you take your time and really look around you can find some great bargains. I know some of you must feel the way I do - ahem - Rachel Lefave! (She aspires to one day be one of those women on their commercials "And look! it's only 3.99!")
Anyways, also in an effort to become a pinch more environmentally friendly, I bought these large mason jars to store all my baking ingredients and my coffee beans. With such easy access to bulk ingredients (such as flour, white and brown sugars etc.) just down the street at City Market, now I can run down with my jar, and fill up. No more coughing through clouds of flour when you tear a bag open!

The large Jars were each $3.99 and the medium size were $2.99 so I bought two of each. I also have an assortment of small mason jars to store spices and the like, which are also relatively cheap. Jars like these can be used all around your house to eliminate clutter, create uniformity, and I just think they look really cool. Another fabulous find - Thank you Christmas Tree!

Sour Cream Double Chocolate Cookies

I came accross this awesome website: Basically you go through and check off all the ingredients you have in your house, or click on some of the recommended ingredients and it comes up with a list of all the recipes that you have the ingredients for! I found this to be amazing since usually I find myself sifting through cabinets trying to come up with a recipe. Now I can have a website do it for me!
That is how I came up with the idea to try these Sour Cream Double Chocolate Cookies! They came out amazing and I treated my friends with a little something sweet during Lost last night. (Which, by the way, best episode this season so far!!!) This recipe actually came from, and I didn't change the recipe from the original since I have never baked with sour cream before. But try these out, they're a nice change from the typical chocolate chip cookies.

(I tried to take a picture where they didn't look like a bunch of poops on a pan, but - idk, that's just what they look like...)

1/2 cup butter 
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips 

  1. In a electric mixer, cream butter with sugars. Beat in egg, sour cream and vanilla.
  2. whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl and add to the creamed mixture in three additions.
  3. By hand with a spatula, fold in chocolate and white chocolate chips
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until set.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Banana Streusel Muffins

I had a few bananas laying around and were way over ripe and perfect for baking. So instead of (...doing homework, laundry, or cleaning) letting them rot in my fruit bowl, I decided to try out this recipe I found on for banana streusel muffins! I did change it a little but, but the original recipe can be found here.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Streusel topping:
1/3 cup packed light brown
2 tbs flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs butter

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
  • In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg, oil, and vanilla. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
I took them out at 18 minutes and they were perfect. Some of the streusel rolled onto the baking pan as the muffins rose, so right when they came out of the oven while the sugar was still soft, I trimmed the edges with a knife.

I packaged them in tall treat boxes and embossed flowers on the outside (with my new Martha Stewart Heat Embossing Kit) and labeled them with rubber stamp lettering. I punched a hole in the top right corner and tied charm tags on to the box with my recipients names. (For the tags I used a 1" paper punch, then a regular hole punch) Three muffins fit in a box. You can find all the tools at Michael's or any other craft supply stores.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Date Nut Spice Bread

Last weekend I went to Long Island to visit with Birdy's Brothers and celebrate his Grammie's 94th birthday! For a birthday present I thought I would give her something she could use and enjoy so I  put together a little gift basket. I made a date nut spice bread which I got from the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. Ina always makes delicious treats so I wanted to give this one a try. The original recipe is here. This recipe I actually didn't change because baking is such a science and I haven't yet mastered the science behind it all.

2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.
  • Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
I paired this bread with a jar of the blood orange marmalade I made since I thought it would bring out the flavor of the orange zest in the bread. It smelled amazing and look fantastic. I wrapped the bread tightly in plastic wrap and nestled that and the marmalade on top of silver tissue paper in a wooden basket I bought on sale for $2 at Creative Habitat in South Burlington. I wrapped the basket in clear celophane and tied it with a bow made out of wide satin ribbon in a Cranberry color. It turned out to be a nice presentation and I think Grammie enjoyed it. Mission Accomplished.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Bachelor's Jam with Cherry Kirsch

This is the second of the canning recipes I made last week. I got this recipe from the March 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living. This jam is very pretty once it's in the mason jar because it has a layered effect to it. (And it tastes pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.) I have also been told I use alot of booze in my cooking, which I guess is true... I used it in two more recipes that will be upcomming posts - so be looking.

2lbs organic raspberries (i used local frozen)
2lbs organic blackberries (also local frozen)
3 1/2 cups sugar divided
Juice of 2 lemons divided
2 ounces Cherry Kirsch Liquor

  • Bring blackberries, 1 3/4 cup sugar and juice of 1 lemon to simmer in large pot over medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves and berries are soft about 5 minutes. cover with parchment or aluminum foil directly on surface of jam, refrigerate overnight. Repeat with raspberries and remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar and juiced lemon in another pot.
  • Remove parchment; bring each pot to boil. Cook on med-high heat until berries are slightly broken down and jam is the consistency of loose jelly. The original recipe says about 12 minutes for blackberries and 17 for raspberries but I did about 20 minutes for both so the berries would cook down a bit and not get soupy.
  • plate test jam to be sure its set. (Plate test instructions on previous post)
  • Divide blackberry jam between 4 1/2-pt size sterilized mason jars, filling each halfway; top each with 1/2 oz kirsch, divide raspberries between jars; top each with 1/2 oz kirsch, leaving 1/4-in headspace at tops. Can in water bath for 10 minutes. (I had extra raspberry jam so I filled a jar with just that and topped it with a little of the cherry liquor.)

Water Bath Instructions:
 Fill mason jars with whatever concoction you come up with. Place a wire rack on the bottom of a large pot of hot water and submerge jars, standing them upright.Bring water to a boil, and boil jars for about 10 minutes. This creates a vacuum seal. Let cool and refridgerate over night before serving.
*I didn't do this however and my mason jars created their own vacuum seals when I cooled them down. So I don't know... But this is the proper technique for canning. It honestly probably increases the shelf life if you were going to keep them in a pantry for months at a time.

For decorating the jars I did the same as with the marmalade jars. I made tags with pretty cardstock and tied it onto the jars with ribbon or jute rope. On the tags I wrote the type of jam and the date it was made and packaged and handed them out to family and friends for a fun gift.

This jam can be used as a fruit spread on bagels, toast etc. or a filling for tarts and deserts, or any other place you would use a regular jam. Enjoy!

Make Something Fabulous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blood Orange and White Grapefruit Marmalade

I was reading the March 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living (which my Brother and his Fiancee, Kendra just bought a year subscription for me for my birthday!! Thanks Guys!) and they had a few ideas on canning and preserving so I tried two recipes (the second one will be in an upcomming blog post!). The first of which was a blood orange and white grapefruit marmalade. The origional recipe called for blood oranges and pummelos, but those are out of season - and it wouldn't be me if I didn't tweak the recipe to suit my own tastes, right?

Organic Blood Oranges (I used 3 large and 4 small because they were on sale at City Market)
Organic White Grapefruit (I used 1 1/2 large ones)
1 Meyer lemon
Sugar (amt to be determined later in recipe)
6 cups water
Organic Clover Honey (optional)

  • remove zest from oranges and grapefruit. I did this by quartering the fruit peeling meat away from peel and using a paring knife to eliminate the white pith (which tastes bitter).
  • Cut fruit meat into chunks and place in large stock pot. Next slice zest into 1/3" chunks. (no need to be precise, I kind of cut mine into small ribbons) Place into stock pot.
  • Deseed, quarter, and thinly slice lemon (with or witout pith, I left mine on for a touch of bitterness to balance out the sweet) put into pot. Add Water.
  • Bring fruit, peels, and water to a boil stock pot Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let cool. Refrigerate for 8 hours (or up to 1 day).
  • Throw a small plate in the freezer, you'll use this to test the consistency of the marmalade later on.
  • Uncover citrus mixture, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until thickest peel is tender. (The original recipe says 20 minutes, mine took a little longer - just use your own judgement)
  • Measure mixture taking notes of how many cups you have, and return to pot. For each cup of mixture, add 3/4 cup sugar. I had 7 cups of mixture and added 6 x 3/4cups of sugar and 1x 3/4cup of organic clover honey which gave my marmalade an awesome flowery aroma and taste, I would recommend.
  • Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Cook until mixture registers 220 degrees to 222 degrees on a candy thermometer, mine took about 40 minutes. Make sure the mixture does not get too hot or else the sugar will scorch and then all that work would have been for nothing.
  • Test marmalade on frozen plate, see details below. Transfer marmalade to airtight containers, I used mason jars, and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before serving. (Marmalade will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 month.)
Plate Test
To test for doneness of marmalade: Drop a spoonful on frozen plate. If marmalade has a slight film when pushed with a finger, it's done. If it spreads out and thins immediately, continue cooking, and test again after a few minutes.

And there you go! I made tags with some printed cardstock and rubber stamps. The handwrote the name of the marmalade and the date it was packaged, then tied it to the jar with jute rope. I gave them out as fun, unique presents for friends and family- plus, I kept a little for myself   :) 

Marmalade is great if used as a spread on toast or date nut bread (which I gave a stab at making and will follow up with a blog post!), as a marinade for chicken, or used as filling between two sugar cookies or gingersnaps.

Make something fabulous!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, I Made My Own Scrub

Tonight my friend Chantel and I attended at class at Purple Shutter Herbs in Winooski to learn how to make my own body scrub. Laura, the owner, taught the class. There are a few essential ingredients for the base of a body scrub: Sea Salt, which which draws out impurities and rejuvinates the skin or sugar scrubs which are known for restoring elasticity and firmness in the skin. Most scrubs use either-or, but you can also combine both salt and sugar to combine the benefits. The second main ingredient is oil. There are many different kinds of oil which would work for your body scrub depending on the needs of your skin. In the class we went over six different types of oil. Thicker oils are better for dry skin that tends to absorb moisture easily and thinner oils are best for those with oily skin which absorb quickly  and don't leave much residue. In order:
Dry Skin -
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Almond Oil
JoJoba Oil
Apricot Kernal Oil
Grape Seed Oil
Sunflower Oil
-Oily Skin
There are also a number of other additives you can add to your scrub depending on the benefits you'd like. Essential oils are great for adding scent. Only use natural esential oils, not fragrance oils. Laura suggested citrus scents which are revitalizing to the senses.  Also you could add things like brown sugar, cocoa powder, green tea, coffee, and/or vitamin E.

Here is the recipe for my own personal concoction:
 Mocha Body Scrub
1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1/8 cup organic french roast coffee
1/4 tsp green tea
1 tsp cocoa powder
10 tsp Almond oil
15 - 20 drops Vanilla Essential Oil

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight wide mouth jar. Mine fit into a 4oz glass jar.

Here are some other recipes she suggested:
Salt Glow 
2 cups fine sea salt
4 cups oil (grapesees, apricot, or almond)
20-30 drops essential oils

Basic Sugar Scrub
1 cup refined white or brown sugar
1/4 cup oil of choice
1/2 tsp vitamin E
15-20 drops essential oil

Brown Sugar and Vanilla Sugar Scrub (Chantel made this one - it smells like cookie dough!)
1 cup organic Brown Sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp vanilla essential oil

I tried my scrub and it makes my dry winter skin baby smooth. They are a very nice addition to your shower routine and leave a nice scent on your skin. Try some out yourselves and let me know how they come out!

Purple Shutter Herbs
7 West Canal Street
Winooski, VT. 05404

When Life Hands You Bottles - You Drink the Beer Inside and Make Bottle Cap Magnets

So, all of my classes got cancelled last Wednesday and I started feeling crafty. I sat down with my Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration book that Birdy so generously bought for me, and chose a few fun projects. I decided to make bottlecap magnets and put them inside hand made boxes I folded out of scrapbook paper and also teacup candles (those will be my next entry!). I had great success with all the projects and they are all pretty easy to do. Check it out:

Bottle Cap Magnets


Printer and Paper or photos (I have a ton of vintage photo's from the 1930's that I'm using for my next batch!)
1" circular paper punch
Craft glue
clear casting resin
bonding cement
magnet buttons

How to:

  • I made a 1" circle template on my computer (I used Microsoft Publisher) and then uploaded my friends photos, my own photo's that I have taken, and other maps, letters and pictures I found online and sized them down to fit in the circle and printed them out.

  • Next I took the 1" craft punch and punch out all the images I wanted to use and used the craft glue to fix them inside the bottle caps.

  • Then I lined a cookie sheet with tinfoil to use as a workspace

  • Once the glue dries I mixed the casting resin according to the instructions on the box and spooned it into each bottlecap, filling to the rim. Tip: if you find any bubbles forming on the surface, run a blowdryer, on low heat, over top and the bubbles should disappear.

  • I left those to harden up for a few hours and then took the bonding cement and glued the magnets to the backs of the bottle caps and then let them sit overnight to harden completely. Tip: you can swap out magnets for flat head thumbtacks and use them on a cork board.
So now I had a bunch of magnets that i wanted to give out to my friends, so I needed something to put them in. Luckily Martha had an answer. I used pretty printed scrapbook paper to fold into little origami nesting boxes! The boxes I folded ended up being 4x4x1.5. This is super hard to describe without a diagram so I found the instructions online and you can find them here.

To asemble my little presents I folded newsprint and wrapped the magnets in that, and tied the boxes with fun, mismatched ribbon. I also made some for myself and they are dotted all over my fridge. If you want me to make you any, let me know!

Let me know what you think!
Teacup Candles are next - they came out awesome.
And tomorrow I'm taking a "make your own body scrub" class at Purple Shutter Herbs in Winooski. I'll let you know how that turns out!
And remember - you're fabulous.