February 29, 2012

Homemade Stationery

Watercolors

After I graduated college, I got rid of all my old journals. It was very liberating, and I don't regret the decision at all, especially after giving them a quick read-through. I cringe at the things I used to write about. I also cringe at how much of a colossal paper waster I used to be. I'd often start writing in one journal, get a few pages in, and then switch to another, leaving the rest of the journal blank.

Watercolors

Because of this, I decided not to destroy the journals themselves - just the used pages. After I was done, I stacked all of my purged journals in a big pile with the idea that I'd use the pages as scrap paper for grocery lists, Pinochle games and the like. But last week, I had a better idea: homemade stationery.

Watercolors

When I was a kid, my friends and I would mail each other letters constantly. I guess it dates me a bit to admit my pre-e-mail days, but I really enjoyed the physical aspects of sending and receiving letters in the mail. Since I've been meaning to get back on the snail-mail bandwagon for the last several months, I decided to pull out my watercolors to paint my old journal pages and transform them into cute stationery for writing letters. It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to start mailing them out!

February 23, 2012

Homemade Butter

Homemade Butter

Back when I was in third grade, our teacher had us make homemade butter. She gave us each a small jar of cream that we had to shake with vigor until the contents finally separated into butter and buttermilk. As you can imagine, the task was tedious for our impatient little arms, but our teacher went around the class and helped until every one of us had achieved butter status.

I remember being super excited about making the butter, and learning how it was done. And I was even more excited because our teacher let us take our jars home with us to taste. In hindsight, she probably should have mentioned that a little salt goes a long way, but I was still quite proud of my homemade butter.

Homemade Butter

So last week, being in somewhat of an experimental mood, I decided to whip up another batch of homemade butter. This time, instead of shaking the cream in a jar (still tedious!), I brought out my stand mixer with the wire whip attachment. Once the heavy whipping cream had separated, I poured the buttermilk out into a separate jar to which I added a glug of cultured buttermilk that we already had in the refrigerator. After a day or two, I used it to make homemade ranch dressing.

As for the butter, I rinsed it in cold water to squeeze out every last bit of the buttermilk, and divided it into two equal portions. In the first portion, I added a pinch of salt and raspberry jam. To the second portion, I added honey, blueberries, and salt - all to taste. Then I pressed the butter into two small glass containers, which I covered and stored in the refrigerator.

I've been spreading this stuff over toast all week for breakfast, and it's really, really good! It's buttery, of course, with a slightly sweet and fruity taste that's perfect. I'm particularly fond of the butter and honey mixture. It'd be delicious over waffles and pancakes, or spread over biscuits.

Next time I make homemade butter (and there will be a next time), I'll mix one half of it with sweet ingredients, like fruit preserves or honey. For the other half, I'd like to try a concoction of herbs and garlic; something that would taste delicious melted over fish or eggs.

February 20, 2012

Current Favorites


Coffee with a big dollop of lightly sweetened, hand-shaken whipped cream. 

Roasted Peppers
Home roasted bell peppers.


The fluffy feline's gigantic, fluffy tail. 

Spicy Dill Pickles
Homemade pickles. Love, love, love.

P.S. I have a new Facebook page.

February 16, 2012

Chocolate-Peanut Spread

Chocolate Peanut Spread

I like Nutella, but as someone who is drawn to salty and savory foods rather than sweets, the combination of chocolate and peanuts is much more appealing. Unlike hazelnuts, which are naturally more sweet, peanuts seem bring out salty flavors while maintaining the richness of the chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Spread

Over the weekend, I made up a batch of chocolate-peanut spread using my favorite Nutella recipe. I like this recipe in particular because of its incredible spread-ability, even after days of refrigeration. It requires a few more steps than some of the other four-ingredient spreads, but it's worth the effort. To make, simply switch out the hazelnuts and almonds for roasted peanuts. You could even try this recipe using any nut, or combination of nuts, that you like.

Chocolate Peanut Spread

This stuff is simple and delicious over toast, but you can use it for all sorts of things. For instance, my husband and I made sundaes for Valentine's Day dessert, and topped them with warmed chocolate-peanut spread, whipped cream, and roasted peanuts. Yeah. They were good.

Chocolate-Peanut Spread
1 2/3 cup roasted peanuts
1 3/4 cup whole milk
7/8 cup (or one package) powdered 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)

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 loose and runny 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.

February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Crayon Hearts

To celebrate the day, my husband and I are making a heart-shaped pizza for dinner, followed with coffee and chocolate sundaes for dessert. And since it's a celebration, we'll even go so far as to use our cute dishes.

Anyway, onto the news: I was recently asked to guest post for one of my favorite bloggers, Meryl from My Bit of Earth, while she's off vacationing in Hawaii. And since this just happens to be the week surrounding Valentine's Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my tutorial for crayon hearts! For those of you who have asked me about the hearts hanging in the window in this photo, these are they. So please, if you aren't familiar with Meryl's blog, you definitely need to check it out.

Have a happy Valentine's Day!

February 13, 2012

Daily Bread



For the longest time, Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread was the go-to bread recipe for our family. It was so easy to prepare, and the taste was unbelievable. Like so many others who have tried this recipe at home, I couldn't believe I could pull that kind of bread out of my oven.



Then one day I started experimenting with sourdough, which eventually monopolized all of my bread baking efforts until the recipe for no-knead bread was pushed far back into the irretrievable crevices of my mind. Every now and then I'd see someone feature a No-Knead recipe, (or a slight variation upon) and I'd think I really miss that stuff! But then I'd get distracted and forget all about it for another six months. Until now...



I was browsing for recipes inspiration recently, and came across a whole wheat version of my old favorite No-Knead recipe, and I had to try it. And because I just happened to have pen and piece of paper in front of me to write myself a reminder this time, the dough was made and the bread was baked. It was delicious! I like it even better than the basic version made with white flour, which is saying a lot.

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant or active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup water
Additional flour for dusting

Stir together the flours, salt and yeast in a bowl until well combined. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until all the dough is wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours, or until the dough is bubbly and has doubled in size.

Dust your work surface with flour. Scrape all of the dough onto the surface in one piece. Lift the edges of your dough and tuck them in toward the center. Do this repeatedly to shape the dough until round.

Place a tea towel out flat on your work surface and dust with flour. Place the dough onto the tea towel, seam side down, and cover loosely with the rest of the towel. Allow the dough to sit and rise for 2 hours, or once the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 475°F, and adjust your rack to the lower third position. Place a 4 1/2- 5 1/2-quart dutch oven on the rack and allow to preheat with the oven.

Once the oven and dutch oven are preheated, open the oven and remove the lid. Unfold your tea towel and invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. Be careful not to touch the lid or pot with your bare hands - they're very hot. Replace the lid and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until the bread has achieved a deep golden brown color.

Remove the dutch oven with the bread from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Using a spatula, remove the bread and place on a wire rack to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Jim Lahey's Whole Wheat No-Knead Recipe from Leites Culinaria.

February 10, 2012

Tiny Crochet Hearts



Happy Friday everyone! Brides.com just featured my tutorial for tiny crochet hearts, and I'm so excited! I've been making these nonstop - they're so fun, and perfect for Valentine's Day. You can even make super tiny ones with embroidery floss.

Have a happy Valentine's Day weekend!

February 8, 2012

Heart-Shaped Things

Double Thumbprint Cookies

Valentine's day is less than a week away! I've been dabbling in all sorts of heart-shaped mischief over here, including these double-thumbprint cookies. I posted the recipe over at My Own Labels recently if you're interested in trying them yourself. They're tasty.




I've also been crocheting little hearts for fun in different yarn weights, from super bulky to embroidery floss. The littlest hearts are my favorite.

February 1, 2012

More Toast



After knitting Matt's Felicity, I decided to go back to a safe, well loved project: Toast (with ribbing). When I like a pattern, I tend to make multiples in various colors so I can mix and match them with my wardrobe. These wrist warmers are nothing complicated - basically a giant tube - but I find myself wearing them daily, so I thought it'd be good to make a few more pairs.



I still plan on making more wrist warmers in the future, but I think it's time for me to teach myself something a little more complicated. Every time I look at the pattern for Hawthorne, I feel completely overwhelmed. There's, like, a chart?! Ugh. But I think it's a beautiful shawl - something I'd actually wear, and I know I can figure it out. I'll probably laugh at myself later for feeling so intimidated. I hope...



Anyway, I'm seriously loving the Portland weather today! It's sunny outside, and the forecast says highs are in the 50's for the next five or six days. Today is our Friday, and it also just happens to be the fluffy feline's 5th birthday, so I think that's plenty excuse to celebrate. Happy 1st of February!