Jul 16, 2011

Fun with Felt

I totally spaced on posting about my 4th of July wreath over here!

I found this post originally over at Sew Dang Cute, but it's really from Eclectic Mamma over here.

Eclectic Mamma gives the full tutorial on her blog, but I can tell you now, you're going to need a wreath (duh), about 5 sheets of felt in each color and a glue gun. It took me about an hour from start to finish.

I can't even tell you how in love with this wreath I am. I think we should have more holidays where we put out flags so I have an excuse to bring this out more!

Jul 13, 2011

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Pasta, and Parmesan

It seriously just occurred to me that I should not be procrastinating posting more recipes because I have both pictures and the recipe already on the computer, I just need to get around to posting!

First, sorry Katie that this took so long, this is for you.

This meal has become a favorite in our house. It's perfectly alfredo-y with the best veggies around, in my book.  And of course it has pasta. Who doesn't like pasta?
We do like to grill the chicken to give it some extra flavors and then add it to the rest, but it's just as good the other way!
And as an added bonus, it's a super easy meal to make for a crowd.

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Pasta, and Parmesan
Recipe Adapted From: Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Again, sorry about the poor picture quality
         *        2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
         *            table salt and ground black pepper
         *            3 tablespoons olive oil
         *            1 medium yellow onion, minced
         *            4 medium cloves garlic, minced
         *            ½ teaspoon dried ground oregano
         *            ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes*
         *            12 to 16oz ziti or penne
         *            4 ¼ cups water
         *            2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth*
         *            4 cups broccoli florets (equal to one large broccoli crown)
         *            ½ red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (or use all three), cut into small pieces or strips
         *            ¾ cup heavy cream
         *            ¾ cup grated parmesan
         *            1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

*Note: Don’t leave out the red pepper flakes. It’s a small enough amount that you still get the great flavor and no spice.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an electric skillet or a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook the chicken until cooked and lightly browned. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.
      Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook until the onion is softened (2-5 minutes). Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
      Add the pasta, 3 cups of the water, and all the chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed (15+ minutes), stirring occasionally.
      Add the broccoli, peppers, and the remaining 1 ¼ cups water. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender (2-5 minutes).
      Uncover and return to heat to medium-high. Stir in the cream, parmesan, and chicken and continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is heated through. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more parmesan if desired.

Serves: 4-6

Jun 16, 2011

Father's Day Cookies

My dad loves sugar cookies. I mean LOVES them. And any time I post about making them on facebook, or whatnot, he'll ask if I'm sending him any. Well, Sunday being Father's Day, I decided to get a jump on him and send him his very own surprise Father's Day cookies. Shaped like ties and golf balls of course!

Jun 14, 2011

My Little Garden 2.0

Here it is! Right in the middle of being flooded and after an hour of fixing the trenches. Yay for cheaper grocery bills!
Back plot, back row: watermelon
Back plot, front row: pumpkin
Front plot, left row, back to front: tomato, yellow squash
Front plot, middle, back to front: red bell pepper, orange bell, yellow bell, cajun hot pepper
Front plot, right, back to front: tomato, zucchini

Jun 12, 2011

My Little Garden

We decided it was high time to start a garden. So we did! I'll have to post some pictures when I get out to our plot tomorrow to finish up.

We started from ground zero in the empty lot that belongs to my husband's grandma. We have two spots measured out with stakes driven in the corners and string tied to measure off the rows and spaces in between.

We're planting bell peppers, tomatoes, straightneck squash, and zucchini in the big plot, and in the smaller plot we're going to plant our pumpkins and watermelon, planting the latter farther away from the squash since we've heard the two cross pollinate and taste funny.

All that's left to do is to dig out the furrows so we don't wash out our plants when we flood with the canal pump, and actually plant the seeds and seedlings. It's going to be so awesome.

Here's to a bountiful harvest come fall! Wish us luck!

Jun 6, 2011

Basic Icing Tutorial

I've had quite a few requests the last two weeks for a tutorial on how to use glaze icing for cookies. Please keep in mind that this is not the only way to go about glazing, it's just my way of glazing.

What you'll need:

Powdered Sugar
Lemon Juice (IF you are using lemon flavoring)
Light Corn Syrup
Icing Tip #2, #3, #5
Disposable Icing Bags
Squeeze Bottles (optional)
Popsicle Sticks/Toothpicks

Sorry, I forgot to put everything in the picture. I realized that after I was elbow deep in sticky icing. 

So I’ll own up. I’m a bit of a junkie. My husband teases me about my cache of decorating materials on almost a daily basis. But hey, every girl needs an outlet, right? 

I keep all of my materials, popsicle sticks, cutters, sprinkles, muffin cups, couplers, food coloring, you name it, in my "decorating drawer." And the rest either goes into the cupboard with the vanilla and baking soda and stuff, or into my decorating tackle box.

You read right. Tackle Box.

Now that we have successfully established that I'm a nut, we can start the tutorial :)

We're going to use my Glaze Icing Recipe from the Lemonade Cookies for this. Now, like I mentioned above, if you aren't using lemon flavoring then replace the lemon juice with more water, or milk.

Glaze Icing Recipe
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon extract or baking emulsion

Mix together in a medium mixing bowl. Make sure you use a whisk to mix the ingredients together, or you'll be stuck with lumpy icing. Yuck. 

Add either powdered sugar or water until your icing fits the "10 second rule." Dip your finger into to bowl and make a peak. It should take 10 seconds to even out with the rest of the icing. If it takes longer, add water. If it is shorter, add more powdered sugar. Use the same consistency both for detailing and flooding.

Next, when you are adding food coloring, a little goes a loooong way. Especially if you are using Wilton's gel coloring, or AmeriColor's soft gel paste. Start out with just one drop or dip into the pot with a posicle stick and see what that does. It's a lot easier to darken your icing than it is to lighten.

Once you've got the color to your liking, set up a piping bag with a coupler and a tip. Fill it with white icing (or whatever outline color you want.) Then fill either a squeeze bottle or another piping bag (with tip #5) with your flooding color. I like the squeeze bottles because they're a lot less messy, and they have a tip that works great for both flooding and outlining. Also, I use bag clips to close up my bags so I don't leak out of the tops. 

Once you've got your icing all set up, I definitely recommend getting your mixing bowls into the sink to soak. You don't want to go back 2 hours later to wash your bowls and have to fight with them.

Step One: Set out your cookies.

Make sure you have plenty of counter space, and space between your cookies.

Step Two: Outline
For new decorators I wouldn't recommend trying to work more than two cookies at a time until you get the hang of it. Even for experienced decorators, it's best to do tops 5 cookies at a time.
I wanted my cookie to be all blue, so I didn't outline in white. The steps are the same for outlining in a different color.

Step Three: Flood
When you're flooding your cookie, don't worry about getting it perfect and smooth at first. You'll spread it all out so all you need to do is put some lines of icing to start. 
Wait about 30 seconds if you want your border and flood icing to blend. If not, wait closer to 5 minutes. You can either use toothpicks to spread the icing around, or use the tip of your bag or bottle. Make sure you wipe off the tips after each cookie.

Once you have spread the icing around let it sit about 30 seconds and then pop any bubbles that rise to the surface with a toothpick.

Step Four: Detail
If you want nice smooth details on your cookie, you want to add them while the flood icing is still wet. Using your detail color, and the smallest tip you have (the icing will spread a lot), add your details.
They'll start off a little raised and gradually even out with the rest of the icing.

Make sure you let the cookies dry for at least 8 hours, if not overnight, before you stack them.

Jun 2, 2011

Lemonade Cookies

1) I LOVE decorating cookies 2) My camera is crummy, please forgive me 3) I think I found the perfect summer cookie, and I want to share!

Lemonade Cookies. 

Yes, they are as amazing as they sound! The cookie is a lemon-poppy seed shortbread cookie from http://sweetsugarbelle.blogspot.com  and I used a lemon glaze icing for most of the cookies, and the rest I topped with a sugar-lemon peel mix. These are light with just the right amount of crisp, and even with the sweeter more lemonier (is that even a word?) glaze on top are still just right!


SweetSugarBelle's Lemon Poppy Seed Cut-Outs
 *Preheat oven to 400° *
1c unsalted butter
1 ½ c confectioner's sugar
1 egg
2 tsp lemon baker’s emulsion (I LOVE baker's emulsion)
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¾-3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
2 tsp poppy seeds

Cream together butter and confectioner's sugar.  Add to this the egg and flavorings.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, adding this mixture one cupful at a time to the wet ingredients.  Mix until the dough forms a ball on the paddle.  Roll out on floured parchment paper and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 400° for 7-8 minutes.

So this is what your dough should look like before you 
roll it out, and yes, it will still be very soft dough

Roll it out thin, but not too thin or they'll  get too cripsy

Be careful not too over bake or they'll be reeeally crispy. See the browned edges on the next picture? Those are a little too done.
Like I said, you can bake them with a little sugar and lemon peel on top, and they are just addictive! I've eaten about six of them so far!

But, if you want to play the game like me, you can ice them up all pretty :)

So I've tried using royal icing, and it is not good. But I switched to using a glaze and I love it. A lot. It tastes great, and you still have plenty of creative freedom! 
Because these are lemonade cookies, I tweaked my glaze recipe to give it a little POP!
Glaze Icing
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 cup water *
flavorings and colors
*For the POP! I mentioned, fill your 1/4 cup measuring cup half full with lemon juice, and then fill the rest with water. Perfect!
(Also, that baker's emulsion in the recipe above? Yes, it pretty much is just a fancy flavoring. All it is is a flavoring with no alcohol, so that the flavor stays strong even through baking, which tends to dull flavors. It's used exactly the same way and in the same amounts as you would regular extracts. Find some here: http://www.karenscookies.net/Flavorings-and-Extracts_c_93.html )
Anyhow. When it comes to decorating with a glaze, it's important not to get it too thin or it'll run right off the cookies, and not to thick or your hand will cramp real quick. So follow the 10 second rule (stick your finger in, make a peak, and it should smooth out in 10 seconds,) and use the same icing for the detail and flooding.
I promise, the yellow isn't mustard yellow

Don't flood right to the edge or it will definitely spill right over.
Just add what you think is enough and then spread it around gently.  
I like the squeeze bottles for lining and flooding- they're way easier to clean! So line the cookie, let it sit maybe 25 seconds and flood immediately so you have a nice smooth surface. I use the tip of the squeeze bottle to move the icing around so that if I do need more icing, it's there in my hand already. Toothpicks are a great option too, for both moving around the flood icing, and popping bubbles. 

One more great reason to use (or convert to) glaze is that it is SO much more forgiving than RI is! For instance. I waited a little too long to add some details and they started to dry all raised and not smooth and pretty like I wanted. My quick fix is to turn your oven on to the lowest temperature it's got (mine is "warm") and set your cookies in there just until they smooth out. Or you'll end up with this:

See how it lost it's shine? 

Instead of this:
Definitely shiny.

I don't know what you think, but these just scream summer to me!