March 31, 2011

Homemade Nutella

First, I'd like to mention real quick that Jaime from A Sweet Road posted some nice words about me and a few other folks yesterday. Thank you, Jaime! You're very kind, and your blog makes me super hungry. :)

I recently posted about how I was testing two different recipes for nutella, and that I'd share the one I thought was best. Well, after careful consideration, I have the verdict:

Breakfast

David Lebovitz's recipe wins - hands down - in both texture and flavor. I couldn't stop "sampling" the stuff the whole time I was making it.

Homemade nutella.

Just to let you know, this was the first recipe I tried. The main reason I chose it first was because it only had four ingredients, so I thought it would be easier. I wouldn't say it was a bad recipe (is chocolate spread ever bad?), but it didn't have the flavor I was looking for, and it turned into a really stiff, unspreadable paste from refrigeration.

Regarding David Lebovitz's recipe, I made two different batches - one with both the almonds and hazelnuts, and one with hazelnuts-only. Both were incredible, and the difference in taste is very slight. I also cracked all of my shells by hand because we had a huge bag of shelled hazelnuts. That was the hardest part, really. This recipe is pretty simple, especially if you already have shelled/skinned nuts at your disposal.

Cracking hazelnuts. Hazelnuts

I actually started rubbing off the skins after the nuts were roasted as the recipe says, but I quickly realized that the task would be too tedious for me, so I processed the nuts - skins and all. Ultimately, I think this decision lent a bit of a gritty texture to the end result, but it's not very noticeable, and I quite like it that way. If you would prefer a totally smooth spread, however, feel free to skin your nuts.

Ingredients
1/3 cup whole almonds, raw
1 1/3 cup hazelnuts, raw
1 3/4 cup whole milk
7/8 cup powdered whole milk
3 tablespoons mild-flavored honey
pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (at least 30% cacao solids)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast for 10-15 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, remove the skins by wrapping them in a kitchen towel and rubbing the bundled nuts together (I skipped this step). Pour the nuts into a food processor, and process until they become a smooth paste, scraping down the sides when necessary. They'll be powdery at first, but just keep going. After 3 or 4 minutes in the food processor, they'll start to change consistency.


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk, powdered milk, honey, and a pinch of salt. Heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl over simmering water), melt the chocolates until completely smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the nut paste in the food processor, and pulse until smooth, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated. Add the milk mixture and pulse until everything is well combined.

Funnel the mixture into sterilized jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. The spread will be quite loose while warm, but will stiffen into a nice, spreadable consistency after refrigeration. Eat on top of toast, scones, with fruit, or straight out of the jar.

March 30, 2011

Wedding Wednesday

Things are buzzing right along. The wedding is almost five months away, but I don't feel like I'm running behind schedule for once. It's really nice. I'm just enjoying the process.

We're almost ready to send out our wedding invitations. My friend Rachel is a graphic designer, and she came up with some really great ideas that perfectly suit the personality of our wedding.

Invitation ideas. Invitation ideas.

Matt and I really love what she came up with. We'll be meeting one last time to finalize the design, and to buy stamps and envelopes, and then they'll be ready to send out!

March 28, 2011

Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

This stuff is really good.

I originally saw the recipe for bacon jam on the blog Foodie with Family. It was one of those moments where I knew I'd have to try it, or the idea would forever gnaw at me. I needed to get it over with. The sooner, the better.

Bacon Jam

I halved the recipe, and still managed to fill a few half-pint jars. We kept one jar, and gave two away as prizes for game night last week. I'll be making this again, but I'll probably use less brown sugar next time. I wanted it just a tad less sweet, but everyone else seemed to really like it as-is.

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs. bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic (I used a whole head), crushed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup very strongly brewed black coffee
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bacon Jam Bacon Jam
Bacon Jam

Toss the sliced bacon into a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon browns, then turn off the heat, and transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Note: Instead of dumping out the excess bacon fat, pour all but 2 tablespoons into a jar to store in the refrigerator for later use.

Bacon Jam

Reheat the pot, and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, and turn up the heat. Allow the mixture to boil, stirring the whole time, for about two minutes. Then turn the heat down to medium-low, add the bacon back in, and simmer until the mixture cooks down and the liquid has thickened into a syrup.

Turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool for about ten minutes. Pour into a food processor, and pulse a few times until the mixture becomes a spreadable consistency. Funnel the mixture into jars, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

March 25, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Last June, I wrote this post about a homemade laundry detergent recipe I was testing out. Turns out, it works just fine, but I found one that I like even better, and I've been using it ever since.

DIY Cleaners

The recipe I've been using comes from Sew Much Ado, and it's really simple to make. Most of the ingredients can be found in your local grocery store's laundry aisle (or online), and they're inexpensive and good for the environment. I tend to double or triple the recipe. It lasts forever, smells nice, and effectively cleans stains. I highly recommend it:

Ingredients
1 bar Fels-Naptha bar soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup Baking Soda

Grate the Fels-Naptha bar with a cheese grater. Pour the soap into a food processor and pulse a few times until crumbly (I sometimes skip the food processor step out of laziness, and it seems to work fine).

Pour all of the ingredients together and stir until well combined.

Use 2 Tablespoons per load.

March 23, 2011

Wedding Wednesday

Punched Paper

I used up the rest of my scrapbook paper last week to make more paper garlands for our wedding. My paper garland count is now 18, which seems a lot, but I'm wondering if it will be enough. They're so fun to make that I wouldn't mind making more, but the question I keep asking myself is what am I going to do with these once the wedding is over?

Paper Garland Paper Garland

I'd like to keep some of them, of course. But do I really need 18 paper garlands? Probably not. Maybe I'll give a few away if people are interested. :)

Paper Garland

Last time I posted about these, someone asked how I'm keeping them organized. At the time, I only had a few made, so it wasn't a big deal. I just kept them folded in a basket. That old system obviously doesn't work anymore, so I had to come up with another option.

Pouches Pouches

I had a big roll of paper lying around, untouched, so I chopped it into squares and sewed pieces together to make the pouches. They're the perfect size, and they're kinda cute. And they fulfill my need to sew on paper, which... seriously? Have you tried it? It's so fun. It's like instant gratification.

Next Wednesday, I'll have something huge to check off my list. Can't wait to share!

March 22, 2011

Flowers in her hair.

Crocheted Flowers

Thanks to a little help from my hook savvy friends, I've almost completely exhausted my yarn stash meant specifically for crocheted flowers. Matt even joined in on the fun. I gave him my tapestry needle, and taught him how to help with the tucking and weaving of the strings. I was quite happy with the arrangement, seeing as how the tucking and weaving of the strings is my least favorite part. In the end, we make quite an efficient team.


I may decide that I need to make more little crocheted flowers, especially now that I've found an alternative function for them when paired with a bobby pin. I confess, I've spent the last two or three days walking around the house with crocheted flowers in my hair. Doing the laundry, cooking dinner, playing Scrabble...

Crocheted flowers.

I need to find a way to attach buttons to hide the pins, I think. :)

March 21, 2011

Show and Tell Monday


I think a good week-long internet break was exactly what my brain needed. I wasn't completely away. I popped on here and there (to upload pictures, mostly), but I left the blog/blog reader alone, and steered clear of Facebook/Twitter. I spent a lot of time crafting, writing, cooking, and cuddling with my cat. And I felt more present and inspired!

This will most likely be my last official "Show and Tell Monday" because Katy has decided to take a break from blogland. We'll miss you Katy! Wish you the best. :)

These are some of the thrifty finds and collages that we have over the bookcase in our living room:

On the wall. On the wall.
On the wall. On the wall.

They're kinda silly, but I really like them. Anyway, have a happy Monday! And happy change-of-season.

Man, I'm so excited about spring. I think it's time to take a little nature walk around my neighborhood to see what's blossoming. You know, once it stops raining...

March 14, 2011

Hello, hello.

I'll be fasting from most of my usual internet activities this week. I've been feeling really distracted lately, juggling several things at once without any real focus, and always with some sort of entertainment running in the background. While this is normally fine, I feel like I need to re-center myself and be silent for awhile. I need to get reacquainted with myself, I think.

Who knows? Maybe I'll find some of the creative energy and motivation that I've been lacking, and come back next week with my head bursting with ideas! I hope so.

See you next Monday! Have a great week, and a very merry Saint Patrick's Day.

March 11, 2011

Whole Wheat Bran Muffins

Breakfast

Somewhere in the fuzzy past, I was perusing the shelves of my local grocery store, and saw a bag of wheat bran from Bob's Red Mill. I snatched it into my cart, and told myself that with this wheat bran, I would do great things! And then it sat there. Alone. In the dark depths of my kitchen cupboard.

Last week, I opened the same cupboard in search of something to make or bake. What that something was, I really couldn't say, but it was the bag of wheat bran that caught my eye. I sighed, picked it up, and examined the packaging. Most products from Bob's Red Mill have recipes printed on their label, so that's where I began my search for wheat bran inspiration.

Surprisingly, it was the muffin recipe that drew me. I altered a few of the ingredients based on what we have around the house, and was not disappointed with the outcome. These smelled so good right out of the oven, and they really taste amazing. I've already made another batch since last week, so I'm sure they'll become a breakfast staple for those mornings where I can't quite drag myself out of bed at 6am to make our usual morning oatmeal.


Whole Wheat Bran Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice (chop if large, such as dried dates or apricots)
1/2 cup chopped nuts or seeds 
1/2 cup apple sauce (I used apple butter)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons oil
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F, and grease muffin tins.

Sift together the wheat bran, flour, baking soda, and baking powder with a whisk in a separate bowl. Add the dried fruit and nuts. Stir and set aside.

In a separate bowl or mixer, combine the milk, honey, molasses, oil, apple sauce, and beaten egg until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into the greased muffin tins. Place on the center rack in a preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown, and the sides begin to pull away from their cups. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.

Adapted from the recipe on the packaging.

Matt likes to toast his with a little butter. I like mine plain, or with a little almond butter and apple butter. I've even tried it with homemade nutella! So good.

March 10, 2011

Breakfast

Homemade Nutella

Breakfast.

Nutella spread over toasted brioche bread.
All homemade.

This nutella recipe was delicious, but I have one more recipe to try. I'll post/link to whichever is best.

March 9, 2011

Wedding Wednesday

I found my dress!

It isn't a traditional wedding gown by any means, but it's exactly what I want. Traditional gowns seem itchy and stuffy, and I hate that they're so expensive for one-time use. I rarely come across something I like, but when I do, I take note. There's usually something light and airy about the dresses/gowns I'm drawn to, and something a little unique. For example:


La Garçonne: left, right.

Via SteepStreep (Click the link! The whole wedding is beautiful.)


March 7, 2011

Show and Tell Monday

This Monday - A lesson on how to stay awake during lectures:


These are some of my old notes from college. I used to scribble and doodle all over them to help stay awake and focused during lectures, otherwise I'd zone out and start daydreaming (it'd happen sometimes anyway).

It's still a little strange to be out of school. I miss it sometimes.

March 4, 2011

Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

I tried making granola last year, but the whole experience was a disaster. It wasn't the recipe's fault, of course. It was mine. I baked the dried fruits in with the oats and nuts, and the whole thing emerged from the oven a lumpy, chewy mess. Chewy can be good, but not the kind of chewy I'm talking about.

I was put off homemade granola for awhile after that, but I knew I'd get around to it again someday. I kept the idea in the back of my mind, and bookmarked any recipe I saw that looked good. After awhile, I noticed that most of the recipes were similar, so I took ideas from all of them to make a granola that I knew I'd like.

Dried FruitsMaking Granola
Making Granola

That's the thing I like most about making homemade granola - you can experiment with flavors by swapping in your favorite dried fruits, nuts, and natural sweeteners. So good!

For this round, I used:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried dates, diced

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the old-fashioned rolled oats, coconut, and almond slices. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the oil and honey. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Pour into a large (I used 13" x 18"x 2") baking dish and spread evenly.

Place the baking dish into the oven, on the middle rack, stirring every five-ten minutes until the mixture is golden brown. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Once cool, add the dried fruits and stir. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from this recipe, and this one.

Breakfast

Next time I make this, I'll use tips from this recipe, such as using honey + brown sugar, and cinnamon. I might even experiment around with walnuts and molasses. Yum!

What's your favorite way to make homemade granola?

March 3, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

On Friday, I asked if any of you could guess what I was making, and Cassie over at Sparrows and Arrows answered correctly! Vanilla extract.

Vanilla extract.

I've been making my own vanilla extract for awhile, and I love it. It's so easy, and it gives me something to do with all of my used vanilla beans. Listen to me: if you scrape out the seeds of a vanilla bean for a recipe, do not throw away the pods! Instead, stick them in a glass container, and cover with rum or vodka (not tequila). Give it a shake once a week or so, and it should be ready to use in a month or two.

March 2, 2011

Wedding Wednesday


I've been looking at wedding rings for inspiration, and I think these are so pretty! I tend to like understated jewelry best of all.

Have a perfect Wednesday! Two more days 'til the weekend.