Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ice outside, French Toast inside... with Homemade Syrup

We had a big snow and ice storm come through Friday night and Saturday.  Our town got mostly ice (2" total accumulation), but just a couple of miles away, our friends got 4" of mostly snow.  Everything froze solid last night, with the very low temps.  Church was canceled, so this morning we slept in and made French Toast for breakfast.

Last week I discovered Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread by Pepperidge Farm.  I love cinnamon raisin bread and I'm sure it's not healthy, but at least being 100% Whole Wheat makes me feel a little bit better about eating it!  We decided to use this to make our french toast. 

I realized upon waking up that we didn't have any syrup left, so I whipped up a new kind.  It was fabulous, and I'm sure healthier than your typical syrup.

Strawberry-Blackberry Syrup (measurements approximate)

2 cups of frozen whole strawberries (mine were left from picking them at the farm last season)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup seedless blackberry preserves (I used Dickinson's)
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch

Start by putting the strawberries in a non-stick pan and turning the heat up relatively high.  As they start to defrost, add the lemon juice.  Allow time for the strawberries to break down, breaking them up with your spoon or stirring utensil.  I use a flat bamboo utensil (like a wooden spoon except it's flat rather than spoon shaped.

Once the strawberries are mostly defrosted and broken down, add the preserves.  Mix in until liquified.  Add the cornstarch and whisk until blended.  Allow the moisture to boil for a minute or two, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

You can leave the mixture chunky, but I chose to put it in the food processor and pulse until the strawberries were completely blended in. 

This was a great alternative to syrup, it was very tasty, and much less sugar than your typical syrup, but plenty of sweetness to satisfy your palate.  And I'm sure a serving of fruit for the day!

Happy snow days!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pajama Party Treats

Call me crazy, but I'm no fan of the typical birthday party treat bag.  Full of candy and toys that don't last long... I know the kids like them, but a month later they're long forgotten.  This year, my daughter decided that she wanted to have a pajama party with pizza and a movie.  Since her birthday is in January, the weather here is too unpredictable for an outdoor party.

I made each of the girls 2 things that tied in with the theme, which was the movie "Barbie & The Diamond Castle."  I bought some dot fleece with the Barbie signature and made each girl a no-sew scarf.  Just cut the fleece in strips about 8" wide, then snipped the ends about 7-8 times, maybe 4" length, and tied knots on each one.  (Just wait until I share what I did with the leftover fleece!)

I also bought two coordinating pattern fabrics, one with Barbie signature design on it, and the other with hearts that were really meant for Valentine's, but worked well with the Barbie fabric.   I bought a case of 10 pillow forms from United Pillow, the travel size (14x20, I think it was).  I made pillow cases for each of the girls that had a ruffled edge.  It simply required a gather stitch.  I'm willing to do a pillow case tutorial if enough people would like to see, it's really quite simple.

My serger is temporarily not functioning properly (I broke the needle plate) and so to finish the sewn edges I simply added a zigzag stitch after the straight stitch.  I then trimmed the excess fabric.  I hated having to do it that way, but at least I was able to finish the project.

We ended up having 9 girls total (including my daughter), and they all had a blast.  They also seemed to really like the scarves and pillows.  A treat that will last more than an hour, a day, or a week.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Year, New Beginnings... Better Organization!

I vowed to clean up the upstairs bonus room, where we have a home office/craft room.  I also have some gates to allow plenty of play space for the kids.  On one wall above my "paper crafts" workspace, I added 3 small curtain rods to hang my punch collection.  I think (looking back) that towel bars would have been a little better, but I spent $12 for the 3 rods, so this was an inexpensive option for me. 

I also bought 2 more curtain rods for $12 more, and $10 for a really pretty full sheet set.  The background is white and has grey damask print.  It feels like microfiber fabric, very soft.  I made curtains to cover up shelving behind the door, which will mask the appearance of storing a bunch of craft supplies and tools.  I also made a drape below my papercraft workspace with a $2.50 tension rod.  I still have enough fabric to make another drape under the sewing workspace, but have not yet made it because the tension rod I bought was too wide. 

I have been knee deep in projects, and will be sharing more soon.  Also, I have really been enjoying time with my family and focusing [first] on them.  I still am preparing my wine bottle craft step-by-step instructions from Christmas, which I will definitely be sharing.   Until then, enjoy yourselves!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Andes Mint Chocolate Frosting

On Christmas Eve I made a cake for Jesus's birthday, which we ate after naptime on Christmas day.  I did the entire thing from scratch.  For the icing I tried something new, and it was fabulous.  If you like milk chocolate, and you like mint chocolate, you'll love this icing.  I used it on yellow cake, but I bet this would also be to die for on a chocolate cake!

Do you like Andes mints?  I love them.  They make Andes Mint pieces for baking!  Check your local grocery store where the chocolate chips are.  I found them at Harris Teeter.  Here is the recipe, I hope you'll try this sometime!

Andes Mint Chocolate Frosting

1 bag of Andes Mint baking chips, divided
1 box confectioners' sugar
6 Tbsp milk
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

Mix together 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, milk, butter, vanilla and salt in the blender.  Place 2/3 of the bag of mint chocolate in a double boiler, and put water in the pot below and turn on high.  Melt the chocolate.  Add the blend from the mixing bowl to the double boiler and mix over the heat until smooth.  Return the new mixture to the mixing bowl and gradually beat in remaining sugar until it is the right consistency for smoothing.  Frost a cooled cake with the frosting and enjoy!  With the remaining pieces of Andes Mints, you can eat them or sprinkle them on top of the frosted cake!

More posts soon, I promise!  Enjoy your week!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year! 2010

Just a quick note to say Happy New Year!  I've been busy this weekend, taking down the Christmas decor, trying to make places for all the stuff the kids have... and I've also been planning and beginning some new projects to help organize and make things more aesthetically pleasing around here.

Today I used the leftover "New Year" turkey carcass to make turkey broth, and then made a big pot of Turkey soup!  Yum!  It has barley, mixed veggies, tomatoes...  I froze enough for 3 family dinners and 3 individual lunches, and still have enough that I plan to share a meal with some friends.  I really don't have the recipe, but I just wrote down the ingredients that my mom uses in hers.

I also made a pot of Chicken Noodle Soup for freezing.  I love this recipe from Cooking Light which I have made since it was published in 1998.  I absolutely love the flavors in this soup.  I was able to make 1 dinner and 3 lunches from this.

Hopefully things will slow down a bit and I can blog some more.  Hope you had a safe and happy new year celebration.  Here's to a successful and joyful new year!