Friday, September 30, 2011

1 Cookie Batter: 3 Kinds of Cookies

I like a variety of cookies. We used to get those assorted cookies at Sam's. You know what, though? These are better. They are fresher tasting and just more special than store bought.

This is a big batch of cookies that I am making ahead for a party. You could modify any cookie recipe to make different kinds of cookies. Like if you wanted to make the 4 cookies recipe, each cookie could have different stuff.

Here is the recipe I used.
Adapted from: Cookie Madness

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
Quick oats--optional

Add-ins of your choice. I used:
Bowl 1—1/2 cup white chocolate chips + 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
Bowl 2—1/2 cup chocolate chips
Bowl 3—1/2 cup each of M+Ms and candy corn, plus 1/4 cup chocolate chips

I mixed some oats in each batch because I found the dough to be too wet (from the butter, I guess). You could do this or just chill your dough (I’m too impatient for that!).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light grease a couple of baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and sugars mixer until light and fluffy (I zapped my butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave because it was not at room temperature). Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the baking soda, salt and flour. Split the batter into 3 bowls. Add1/4-1/2 cup oats (optional) to each batter. Add white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts to one bowl, chocolate chips to the 2nd bowl, and candy to the 3rd bowl and stir them up.

Drop the dough with cookie scoop onto the baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart, and bake for 12-15 minutes. This made 50 cookies (I froze 2/3 of the dough).

My Dad’s birthday is tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!), so I made half a dozen of each cookie for him to share at work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twine Orbs

Wow, I must be lacking in creativity because I was about to entitle this post "string balls." I think twine orbs is classier, no?

This is a pretty decoration to put in different places around the house. I think I'll spray paint mine blue, black and white and hang them from the ceiling in my craft room. They look good au natural also. You could use colored string or yarn, also, but I felt my craft store was lacking in the colors I had in mind.

You know they sell decorative string orbs in the stores, but this project cost me about 7 bucks. And you can probably make 5 orbs with these supplies. I made 3.

Here's my supplies (sort of)

Ok, this was a trial and error sort of thing. I started by putting the twine in watered down glue and wrapping around the balloon. Not good. The string kept getting tangly and the balloon was slippery.

So I scrapped that and thought of this gem:

So, your supplies should really omit the glue and go for the hair spray. And don't be afraid to spray the heck out of these balls. Spray them like you are styling your hair for a Bon Jovi concert circa 1989.

I wrapped the twine dry around the inflated balloons (I taped the beginning part of the string to the balloon to keep it in place), then sprayed 2 coats of hair spray and popped my balloons after they dried.

What a super quick and easy craft to decorate your home!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crockpot Beef Stew

Well, it is officially Fall and it's getting a little cooler outside. Once the temperature dips below 75, my husband and I switch over to comfort foods for dinner: soups, stews, casseroles, etc.

I was mulling over my weekly menu (yes, I plan a menu-sometimes it pays to be a nerd) and I needed something I could throw together really quick. "Why?" you ask. Well, because every spare second I have had for the last 3 days has been devoted to scraping wallpaper. Apparently in the 70's, people just slapped wallpaper up directly on the sheet rock, making it harder to take off 40 years later.

So, this stew. It's awesome. And super easy. You should make it.

Here's what you need:

Cubed beef (sometimes called "beef stew meat" in the store)
Potatoes (I used 4 good sized yellow potatoes)
Carrots ( I used 3/4 bag of baby carrots)
Onion (I used 1/2 red onion, diced)
Beef Broth
Seasoning (I used steak seasoning-it was good)

Throw your beef in the crock pot. If it is in too big of chunks, you can cut them down. Season the beef with a healthy sprinkle of seasoning salt. Put some flour (about 1/4 cup) on the beef and toss it to coat. Cut your veggies to desired size (don't do them too big, because you are going to be eating this with a spoon) and toss them in the crock pot, too. Top with enough beef broth to cover everything (I used a box of broth and a little water). Cook on low for 8 hours. It might look a little soupy at this point, so here's what I did.
Scoop some of the broth with no chunks into a measuring cup (or bowl) and add some flour to it. Whisk it up then add it to the stew. This will make it thicker.

Yum-comfort in a bowl. We ate ours with crusty bread.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grown-Up Pizza

Let's face it-sometimes being a grown-up sucks. There are so many things you are responsible for it is exhausting just thinking about it.

There are those days when we all long to be a kid again. To have no burdens and have every new thing seem so exciting. That would be cool.

But there are things about being an adult that are awesome, too. Like the fact that you are the boss of you. If you want to have pie before dinner, or even for breakfast, you can do it. You can watch R rated movies, curse and drink beer. And your tastes totally change as you become an adult--like suddenly vegetables taste awesome (most of the time) and you crave things you would never even consider when you were a child.

I don't think you will catch a kid longing for this pizza. It's topped with tangy, zesty Greek flavors and vegetables (not as icky as you may have once thought).

I loved Fridays growing up, because we would have pizza (sometimes take out, sometimes frozen) and watch my favorite set of shows: T.G.I.F. shows on ABC. Remember that? Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, Perfect Strangers. Those kind of shows.

Well, I pretended last night (though Thursday) was a grown-up T.G.I.F. and made Greek pizza, drank beer and watched the line up on NBC (I love Community!). It felt kind of awesome to be an adult with this combo.

To make this pizza, here's what you need (I drew in the stuff I forgot to photograph--it's very lifelike):

Crazy Feta
adapted from How Sweet It Is

1 brick feta (I used reduced fat)
1 jalapeno, cored and finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1/3 lemon
zest of 1/3 lemon
salt to taste

Greek Pizza
also adapted from How Sweet It Is

Pizza dough (I used Freschetta wheat--found it at Target)
Crazy feta (entire recipe above)
Garlic salt
Olive oil
3/4 cup mozzarella (I used Veggie Cheese)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1 2.5 oz can of kalamata olives, drained
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed (I zapped it in the microwave)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your crazy feta first (crumble with your hands, then mix it all in a bowl). Then pile on the pizza crust: brushing of olive oil, sprinkle of dill, mozzarella, artichokes, olives, onion, peppers, tomato, crazy feta and spinach. Sprinkle it with a little garlic salt. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Slice and enjoy. Serves 4 people (I could seriously only eat two slices and I was hungry--but they are filling slices, piled high with toppings).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte at Home

You know how I had 1/2 a can of pumpkin leftover from the pumpkin spice muffins? Well, I had lots of ideas for it. Stir it in some oatmeal, make some fudge, make a tiny pie...the list goes on and on. I decide to keep it simple and make the drink that inspired the muffins.

Here's how you can make your own pumpkin spice latte at home:

*strongly brewed coffee or espresso
*milk (I used almond milk)
*canned pumpkin puree
*sweetener (I used off brand Equal)
*vanilla extract
*pumpkin pie spice
*whipped topping
*caramel sauce

Fill your mug about 1/3-1/2 full with milk and heat it in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds. Stir in 2 tablespoons of pumpkin, sweetener, splash vanilla and about 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. Add your strong coffee and fill to the top of the mug. Top with whipped topping, caramel drizzle and pumpkin pie spice.

Call yourself a barista all day if you want, because you just made an awesome drink (on the cheap)!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Marble Fingernails D.I.Y.

This nail art was far less complicated than I anticipated. I set out to do tie-dye nails, like the ones I saw here.
What I ended up with looked more like a marbling effect, which was still cool. I think it is the colors I chose.

Anyways, this was fun and I liked how each nail turned out differently.

Here are the materials you need to marble your fingernails:

*Nail polish (I used 6 colors + a top coat)
*Polish remover and cotton balls
*Container 3/4 full of water (I was going to use this glass bowl, but ended up using a paper cup)
*Wooden stick or toothpick
*Paper towels (not pictured)
*Trash bag (not pictured-but if you are messy like me, you'll want to lay all this stuff down on a trash bag for easy clean up)

Start by painting a clear coat (or you could use white) on your nails. Tape off your cuticles once that is dry.
I really employed the use of my tape heavily and I am glad that I did, because I did not get much on my skin at all. I'd suggest doing the left hand first, then after you finish the whole thing doing your right. That way you are not without hands in case the phone rings or whatever.

Then fill your container 3/4 full of tap water (if you have not already done this) and start dropping in nail polish. It should spread out and look kind of watered down. Drop each new color in the center of the bulls eye.

Swirl your bulls eye with your wooden stick or toothpick.

Dip your first fingernail in with the fingernail face down into the polish design. This video illustrates it nicely:

Then use the stick to pull out the dried polish and do another bulls eye for each finger. When I read these instructions, I thought this would take forever, but it goes really fast.

Take off the tape and admire your nails.

Don't be jealous of my awesome flip phone! Ha ha. Maybe they will make a comeback one day!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Spice Latte Muffins

Last week I decided I needed a treat and stopped in Starbucks for an iced coffee and one of their mini cupcakes. I tried the salted caramel and was pretty disappointed. It did not taste like salted caramel at all. The cake was dense and had a weird taste and the icing was like peanut butter flavored paste. Weird. Well, I had plans to recreate a mini chocolate and salted caramel cupcake, but my plans changed when some sweet lady gave me some canned pumpkin (after hearing me harp on and on about how I can't find any pumpkin at the store yet). So, I thought another Starbucks inspired treat was in order.

I love a pumpkin spiced latte. I mean, who doesn't?

Enter the pumpkin spiced latte mini muffins. These were awesome and really captured the drink's flavors. I healthy-fied them a little, so I am calling them "skinny." Although eating 6 of them probably won't do anything for one's own skinniness. Not that I'm speaking from experience...

Ok, so here's what you need to make these little gems:

Skinny Mini Pumpkin Spice Latte Muffins

Yield: about 42 min cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. espresso powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
heaping 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg
pinch. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup or ½ (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
optional—brewed coffee for brushing

Fat free Redi Whip
Sugar free caramel sundae syrup
Pumpkin pie spice

To make muffins, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray your mini muffin pan with non stick spray. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In another bowl, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and applesauce. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the mini muffin vessels almost full—I used my cookie scoop about ¾ full of batter for each muffin. Bake until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 12-13 minutes. While the muffins are still warm, brush them two times with the brewed coffee, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.

Top each muffin with Redi Whip, caramel drizzle and sprinkle of pumpkin pie spices. Once you have put the topping on, you will want to serve them immediately because that canned whipped cream gets weepy after sitting at room temperature for longer than 5 minutes. Maybe tub whipped topping would be better if you don’t want to serve immediately. These muffins are great without topping, too!

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Friday, September 16, 2011

Freezer Paper Stencil T-Shirt Design

I love making t-shirts. I like tie-dying them, coloring on them with markers, but most of all, I like making stencils and painting them. It is so fun to think that someone is walking around wearing your art. I saved this image a few months ago because it was perfect for a hungry monster such as myself. When I found a 2 dollar tee at Target this week, I knew this t-shirt creation would come to life.

Freezer paper is used for the stencil because it has a shiny side that you can iron down onto fabric and it holds the stencil in place while you paint it, then can be easily peeled off. Very scientific.

I have probably made a gazillion shirts (that's just a rough estimate) using the freezer paper stencil method. Here's a few that I have made:

You should make one, too! It's super easy.
They would be great to make for yourself or for a gift. If you have a softball team or some other event, making your own t-shirts would be so fun and crafty!

Here's what you need:

*Freezer paper (I bought this roll years ago and I still have a bunch left)
*X-acto knife
*Image (I swear by google image searches)
*Surface for cutting (I have a self healing cutting mat, but have used cardboard)
*Marker/pen for tracing image (not pictured)
*Fabric paint
*Paint brush
*Cardboard to put in the middle of your shirt
*Scissors (not pictured)

Ok, step one is tracing your image onto the freezer paper. If it is hard to see your image, press it up against a window to trace. Trace on the smooth, not shiny side.

Next, you will need to draw bridges. Bridges are for when you have an image with a detail in it that you need to hold on the shirt. For instance, if I am wanting to put the letter "O" on my shirt, if I cut out the outside of the "O", I don't want the tiny hole in the middle to fall out. Then I'd just have a circle. Um, I hope that is not confusing. See the image for a better explanation.

See-that little bridge will hold the dinosaur's eyeball there (so no paint will go there) until I can press it down with the iron.

The next step is to cut out your image with your x-acto knife. Here's an image to further illustrate the awesomeness and practicality of the bridge concept:

Now you can lightly iron your design--don't press too hard, because you will need to remove your bridges before painting. Remember to iron it shiny side down.

Clip those bridges (but don't burn bridges) with your scissors and iron it all down a little harder.

Time to paint!
Don't forget to put cardboard or something in the middle of your shirt, otherwise your shirt will get glued together with paint and you'll never be able to wear it.

Let your shirt dry for a few hours, then peel off the freezer paper. When you peel up small pieces like the eye or the middle of the "A", tweezers would be helpful, but I usually just use my fingernails.

Let the shirt dry overnight before wearing it or wrapping it as a gift.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Not Even My Birthday

No, it's not my birthday, but I made a tiny cake last night. I was celebrating...cake. Yeah, that's it.

I made this in two ramekins, then piled them on top of each other with some icing. If this doesn't make you feel like dancing, I don't know what would.

Here's the recipe if you need a tiny cake in your future.

Mini Golden Butter Cake

1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles (optional)

To make cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 2 ramekins.
Whisk together egg, sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt and combine. Stir in the milk. Divide the batter evenly among the two ramekins.
Bake for 17-19 minutes.

To make icing:
Whisk together butter and cocoa; add in powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Top with sprinkles if desired.

This cake is super buttery and delish. You might need to share it with someone, because it is too rich for one person (but if you are up for the challenge, go for it!).
Recipe adapted from here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Embroidered Zipper Pouch: A Tutorial

My cousin is turning 12 this weekend, so I thought I'd feature a fun gift I like to make for people. It has alot of steps, but is pretty easy(ish) and you feel super accomplished after it is all over.
Let's get to it, shall we?

Ok, so you need a bunch of stuff for this. I had it all in my craft room because I am clearly a craftaholic. I'll go through the list of supplies with each step.

The first step when I embroider is to find an image I like. My cousin likes horses, so I found a pretty design on a Google Image search, right clicked the image and saved it. Then I uploaded it to Picnik to add the text.

Next, you need a way to get your image on your fabric for embroidery. My favorite way is to use this water dissolvable stabilizer stuff (you can find it for about $3 at Hobby Lobby, Hancock or Michaels). I then trace my image on the stabilizer.

Next, I pin my stabilizer on my fabric, pick my embroidery colors (threads available at any crafty store and even Walmart for less than $1 each) and get stitching.

If you have never done embroidery before, check out Jenny Hart's site here for awesome ideas (embroidery is not just for grannies, people). That's how I got started. For fellow embroiderers, I used a chain stitch on the text and a back stitch on the horse.

Once you are done stitching (this took me a couple hours), soak your fabric with stabilizer in some water and it dissolves like magic.

Cool. Now you are ready to pick your fabrics and get sewing.
Here's what you need:

pretend the stabilizer is already dissolved on the front exterior piece...

I think most of these fabrics were bought on They have some good sales.

By the way, the tutorial I follow (always!) for sewing pouches can be found on Noodlehead's blog here. If you are nervous about sewing a zipper correctly, she breaks it down nicely. If at anytime I confuse you, click over to this site for better instructions!

Ok, so lay your front exterior fabric on your work surface and put the zipper face down on it with the zipper pull facing left. Lay one of the lining pieces on top of that upside down. Here's your first zipper sandwich (sounds delicious). Put your zipper foot on your sewing machine and sew along the zipper.
Look, now you have one exterior side and one lining side sewed to the zipper--yay!

Then (sorry no pics on this step), lay your back exterior piece down in front of you and put the zipper face down with the pull facing right. Sandwich liner upside down on this, pin + sew.

Now you should have something like this:

Then you are going to fold the exterior fabrics toward each other with a liner on each side to prepare to sew the pouch sides and bottom inside out.

If you are doing the tab on the side (which I think is cute and you can put a keychain on it):
Take the 2"x3" piece of fabric and fold it inside out like a hotdog (yum) and sew it (remember to click over to Noodlehead if I'm confusing you).
Then you turn that right side in and you will have a cute little tab. Fold it in half.
Place the folded tab in the fabric sandwich facing the exterior of the pouch.
Sew the sides.
After you sew the sides, reach up and unzip the pouch halfway. That way when you sew the bottom, you can easily turn it right side out.

Flip right side out and freak out at your awesomeness.

Here's a list of supplies:
*Computer (or another source to find images)
*Super Solvy dissolvable stabilizer
*Sharpie for tracing
*Embroidery thread, needle, scissors
*Fabric (exterior fabric, liner fabric)
*7" zipper
*Sewing machine, scissors, thread