Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hiatus

November and December are by far my craziest months.  We try and cram as much family time, visits with relatives, and holiday traditions into this time as we can.  The kids won't be little forever.  Who knows when E will stop believing in Santa.  He's been on the verge the last 2 years.  On top of all of that, I'm 7 months pregnant! We are due in February with the 3rd installment of our crazy clan.  We decided not to find out gender as we have one of each already.  So with that, I'm taking some time off.  I'm still renovating, still crafting, still baking, and still documenting.  Stop back in January and see what I've been busy with. Hopefully I'll have tons of great projects for you to check out.  Have a wonderful holiday season and spend some extra time with those you love. :) 
~Meg

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lunches, pizza rolls, kaiser buns, and pizza dough

Like I've said before, I cook and bake. I don't always get up early and send Husband to work with a lunch but I never send E to school without one from my kitchen. I found these awesome containers called LunchBlox.  They snap together in a bunch of configurations and the ice pack attaches!  I love them. E prefers a roll-up (sandwich fixings in a tortilla shell rolled and cut) to a traditional sandwich.
This one is sliced turkey, american cheese, thin carrots, thin celery, and ranch. He also got a Nutri-grain bar, Cara-Cara orange, and grapes.
Crockpot BBQ chicken with Colby cheese roll-up.  Also veggies and ranch, plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and granola, and an apple. 
Sliced turkey, cheddar, romaine, and Ceasar dressing roll-up. For morning snack he got an apple butter on a toasted English muffin.  Lunch was finished off with Greek yogurt with berries and granola, and veggies with ranch. 
Turkey, cheddar, lettuce sandwich with berries and granola Greek yogurt, a granola bar, and homemade cookie. 


Back in the day, Husband loved Pizza Rolls.  He's lost his love for them but I found a way to make something similar that he prefers.  I unroll a pack of crescent rolls, top with pepperoni (sliced turkey for E), and a half stick of string cheese.  They get rolled up around the filling. 
Then top with a little garlic powder and Italian seasoning and bake according to the package.
Perfection. Dip them into warmed marinara.


If you're in the mood for kaiser rolls and have some time to let dough rise- consider this super easy but amazing recipe! The rolls come out perfect, last a couple days, and the dough even freezes/thaws well. 
http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/kaiser-rolls#.


And if you like homemade pizza- give this dough a try!  Like the name claims, it really is fail-proof!  I'll make the dough, use ⅔ of it to make a thin crust pizza and the other ⅓ to make cinnamon sticks.  
It's crispy and can be picked up to eat. No floppy crusts here! 

For pizza:
Preheat oven to 475*F and put a cookie sheet on the lowest rack.  You want the cookie sheet extremely hot when you put the pizza on it.  That's how you get a crispy crust.  Once the dough rises and doubles, pull off about ⅔ and roll on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  This will allow you to transfer the dough to the pan easily.  Once rolled out, prick the dough every inch or so with a fork.  This keeps the giant air bubbles to a minimum.
(This is not my photo- I borrowed it from google since I didn't take a picture of this step.) 
Lift the edges of the parchment and carefully set the dough covered paper onto the hot cookie sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes until the dough looks dry.  Pull the pan out of the oven, set it somewhere that can handle the heat (like a stovetop), and top as desired but be quick.  Put it back into the oven and let it bake until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. 
For cinnamon sticks I roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment, prick with a fork, spread melted butter on top, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake until lightly browned.  Cinnamon sticks don't get pre-baked like the pizza. They're excellent with cream cheese icing!!

http://www.laurenslatest.com/fail-proof-pizza-dough-and-cheesy-garlic-bread-sticks-just-like-in-restaurants/

Garage mudroom bench, fall cookies, cuteness spam

The previous owners took basically everything off the walls- everything that wasn't broken.  This coat rack was left behind and I didn't hate it. But it was broken. 
So I moved one of the inside hooks to the outside, removed the other inside hook and attached a basket meant for the shower. It's the perfect place for Husband and I to hang our coats, keys, and dump random pocket treasures. 
Next on the list was our garage hall nook. We had the option to turn the pantry into a mudroom or try to put a small mudroom into this odd nook.  I cook. I cook a lot! So the pantry leaving wasn't an option.  That sucker is filled and I couldn't be happier.  This meant that we had to fit a bench and some cubbies into this odd dust trap of a corner.  While browsing Pinterest at 3am I found this image:
It was exactly what I wanted! I drew up the dimensions I wanted and handed them over to husband.  He began cutting wood and looking for studs.  Our trusty stud finder found a "stud" that was 3" wide.  Husband used a drill to confirm it wasn't a stud.  It was our sewer vent pipe.  Harmless, easy to patch, and no liquid passes through it.  But word to the wise- DON'T USE A DRILL TO LOOK FOR STUDS!  We got lucky that this was just a vent. So this guy got patched up and I didn't even have to do a perfect job mudding it as it was about to be covered with beadboard. 
Here is the upper shelf.  I didn't bother to include our measurements since everyone's space is likely to be a bit different in size. We screwed 2"x2" boards into studs (actual studs!) and screwed plywood on top. The plywood is cut slightly narrower than the 2"x2" frame and that's on purpose. 
From the underside:
We put quarter round in the gap at the front of the boxes to make it look more polished. That's what the gap was for.  
The top was built in the exact opposite order of the bottom. Plywood attached to the vertical supports, and then 2"x2" pieces into the studs on top of that, and screwed from the bottom of the plywood into the 2"x2"s. 
Here is the quarter round and face trim going in. Quarter round is literally a fat dowel cut into quarters.  Look around your house at the baseboards- it's likely everywhere. The stuff is cheap. 
The beginning of the bench also began with 2"x2" lumber screwed into studs. 
Then plywood went on top of those.  The chair rail in our house is gorgeous and I couldn't imagine ripping any out unnecessarily so we decided to work around it. The bench support.
That door leads our to the garage.  You can see our bench off to the right.
We had leftover hardwood pieces from doing the floors and decided to use those on the top of the bench.  Everything except the bench top will be painted white and caulked to make it look more finished and custom. 
Painting and filling holes- stay tuned for the finished project.
Switching gears for a few.
For those who don't know me- I bake.  I love it.  So I volunteered to handle sweets for all of my son's classroom parties.  Here are the adorable little cookies I came up with for his Halloween party. 
The kids loved them- and so did my husband's crew.  I couldn't just send cookies in with one of my boys, so I ended up making over 100 and sending cookies with both of them. And now as promised- here's some cuteness spam.  I'm biased but I adore my children (even the furry ones).  This is E with our (his) cat Duffy. 
I came across the photo on the left of C when she was just 3 days old.  I had to see if she still fit for a side by side 16 months later. It's amazing how much   they grow those first few years. 
We also "adopted" a very wild stray cat.  She (he?) has taken to the name Brody and lives on our back porch.  She was living under it when we moved in and we barely saw her.  I started leaving food out for her and after a couple of rainy days she came up to the back door soaked and miserable. Well I'm a sucker for a pathetic animal. So I made her a house and she has become my garbage disposal and mouse catcher.  She'll eat any scrap I give her and even lets me pet her now.  I've even been able to de-worm, de-flea, and de-tick her. She isn't allowed indoors but I don't think she'd be happy in here anyway.  
Her house consists of 2 storage bins with insulation between the layers and a PVC coupling entrance that tilts downward to help keep the weather out.  She sleeps there every night and even hangs out there during rainstorms.  It makes my heart  happy to see her cozy.  


The next project on the list is the dining room. I'm adding molding to the lower half of the walls, painting everything, adding stripes to 2 walls, and redoing the dated light fixture by painting it and adding a ton of bling. From old country to  classy modern!! 





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Skeleton gummies with gooey brains!

Yes- as the title suggests I made skeleton gummies with gooey brains. (Translation: gelatined pudding skulls filled with raspberry jam.)
I was in Dollar Tree looking for fake crystal bowls when I happened upon awesome Halloween ice cube trays.
I couldn't resist. I love silicone ice cube trays to make gummies and jello jigglers!  The pumpkins would be easy but I wanted something creepier for the skulls.  Something a 6 year old boy would just love.  So I decided to fill them with raspberry jam.  As expected, they're gross looking. Husband and Son both love them. Figures.

They're surprisingly simple to make though the small size of the trays make them a bit tough to work with.  Feel free to use larger silicone ice cube trays if you can find them.  

I wanted opaque skulls and decided to use a Jello cheesecake pudding for the color/flavor, and Knox gelatin for the jelling.  You can use any white pudding- vanilla, white chocolate, or cheesecake.  For both ice cube trays (1 pumpkin, 1 skulls) I guessed that I'd only need half a package of pudding.  For once, I was exactly right. I was left with very little leftover. 

To begin, make half a batch of jello pudding (mine was ½ box and 1 cup cold milk).  If you don't have a scale to be precise, make up the whole batch and eat half.  I won't tell anyone. ;) 
While that's setting up a bit more, let your gelatin bloom.  Measure ½ cup of cold water into a microwave safe bowl.  Sprinkle 1 package of Knox unflavored gelatin over the cold water and let set for 5-10 minutes until the gelatin granules are all swollen. 
Heat the bloomed gelatin in a microwave for 5-10 seconds at a time until it's melted.  Don't let the gelatin boil.  Mine only took 15 seconds.  Pour the gelatin into the pudding.  It will melt it and look like curdled milk.  Stay with me- I won't steer you wrong.  You may add a teaspoon of vanilla extract into the pudding/ gelatin mix at this point.  I did.  
Stir it up until it's all one nice creamy,  thin consistency. 
The bubbles don't matter so ignore them.  

Now grab your silicone trays. Lightly spray with cooking spray or lightly wipe with a bit of canola/ vegetable oil.  Very very lightly! 
Fill the skulls ¾ of the way full.
Put the skulls in the fridge for a couple minutes. Go fold a load of laundry, enjoy a glass of wine, or watch a couple funny YouTube videos. I'll wait.  

(Well, kind of.  I'm not a patient person.  So while I was waiting for the skulls to set up, I set aside a small amount of the white mix and made the pumpkins with the remaining pudding/gelatin- details to follow after the skulls.)

Skulls all jellied? Great. Time to move on. Use a tiny spoon to scoop out a tiny bit of skull.  Baby spoons work great here! Make sure you don't take too much out of the mold or you'll be able to see the "brains" and they'll leak out.  

Fill the void with a tiny bit of raspberry jam.  Don't overfill them.  



Some of mine were a bit too full and leaked.  Lesson learned.  

Now take the remaining gelatin/pudding and fill the molds the rest of the way. If it's too thick, microwave for 5-10 seconds.  
Put them into the freezer until solid.  This makes them easier to pop out of the mold.  
Store in the fridge in a plastic container on a layer of paper towel.  This wicks away any moisture as they defrost.  

Pumpkins:
To make the pumpkins, tint a small amount of the pudding mixture green and  use a toothpick to put it in the stem spot. 
Put in the freezer to keep the green from running.  Tint the remaining gelatin/pudding orange.  I used Wilton gel food colors.  
Pumpkin pie pudding would be really cool for these!

Remove the trays from the freezer, fill with  orange gelatin/pudding, return to freezer until frozen, pop out and store the same as the skulls. 
Enjoy your Halloween treats and the high fives you'll get from your kidlets for being so awesome!