Sunday, January 25, 2009

Craft #1 - Sugar Cookies

Today I completed craft #1 of 2009: Wheat Sugar Cookies decorated using the Pipe & Flood icing technique. I think they turned out well for my first attempt. I knew they would take a while, but I was surprised when I looked at the clock and 4* hours had slipped by. (The recipes are listed at the bottom of this post).

These cookies were wheat sugar cookies because, well... we only have wheat flour at our house right now.

This was my first time using an official piping bag. While it looks like a ziploc bag, these were sold as piping bags. (The coupler and #2 tip came from a small cake decorating kit I bought from Marshall's.)

I used Wilton's Royal Icing recipe for the frosting. I think it could have been a little thinner to start. Next time I'll add a few more drops of water before piping. I used red food coloring to get the icing colors: 1/2 bottle for the red icing, 4 drops for the pink and no coloring for the white icing.

The finished product.

Fabulous Sugar Cookies

Ingredients: (I halved the recipe and still ended up with ~40 cookies)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks - 24 tbsp.) butter1
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (Since I didn't bake the cookies right away, I didn't do this until much later.)
2. Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes. (who knew you were supposed to cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes?! Not me.)
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
4. Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
5. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time. Do not over mix; this process should take about one minute.
6. Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away. (I really recommend chilling the dough first; it significantly helped to reduce the stickiness factor.)
7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes.

Wait until cookies are cooled before icing. I used stiff consistency royal icing for the edges, and filled in by "flooding" (also with royal icing).

Wilton Royal Icing
(Yield: Approximately 3 cups) I halved this recipe too. I didn't measure how much frosting I ended up with - but probably 1.5-2 cups.
- 1 lb. powdered sugar (4 cups)
- 3 level tbsp. meringue powder
- 5-6 tbsp. lukewarm water

1. In large mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar and meringue powder. Using electric mixer, mix until well blended.
2. Add water. Beat on medium-high speed for 7-10 minutes, or until icing loses its sheen.

This recipe makes stiff to medium consistency royal icing, depending on how much water you use. To thin it out, just add more water (add the water little by little -- teaspoon by teaspoon at max) because a little bit goes a long way toward thinning it.

*In all honesty, it took me much more than 4 hours to complete this craft from start to finish; frosting alone took me 4 hours. I started this project two weekends ago when I made the cookie dough, then last weekend I baked the cookies and today I frosted the cookies. While I'm not sure I would recommend stretching out a batch of cookies this long, it sure was nice not to spend an entire day (or weekend) working on them.

Goodbye cookies! You were a fun first project.
The cookies are all packaged up and will be treats for my co-workers tomorrow.
Update: These cookies disappeared (every single last one them) within the first 40 minutes I was at work. No joke.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Roasted Vegetables

Monday night I decided to finally use the Harvest Vegetables I bought from Trader Joe's. In addition to the peeled and pre-cut portions of acorn squash, parsnips and sweet potato, I added a few whole garlic cloves, brussel sprouts, fresh thyme and rosemary. I tossed the mixture in 1 tsp of olive oil, added a bit of salt and pepper, then layered the veggies on a parchment paper lined cookie tray. I roasted the veggies at 400º F for ~40 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. Once out of the oven - add additional salt and pepper, as needed.

I don't remember what our protein was for this meal - but I do remember the veggies were scrumptious. It does take a while for these to cook, so you may want to plan ahead, or eat a small pre-dinner snack. *BTW - the addition of the parchment paper was immensely helpful to ensure the carmelized-veggie-goodness stayed on the veggie, not the cookie sheet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blackberry Smoothie

In the course of two years, we were gifted three Magic Bullets. Christmas of 2006 we received a Magic Bullet each from both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Once home, I became a smoothie-making machine. In retrospect, I might have made too many because before long Magic Bullet #1 was out of commission. We must've made mention of this to my mother-in-law, because Christmas 2007 we were gifted with the Magic Bullet she had bought for herself. And that is how we came to have three Magic Bullets in the couse of 2 years. Either way -- Magic Bullet # 2 & 3 are still fully operational and make delicious smoothies. I've also used it to chop nuts, make soup, and of course margaritas.

This morning I whipped up a blackberry smoothie. It was a very tasty treat and a great start to the day.

Blackberry Smoothie
1 c. Blackberries
1 c. cold water
1/4 pkg. vanilla pudding
2 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in the Magic Bullet, blend and enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spring Rolls (minus the Roll)

I love the taste of fresh spring rolls! I recently found a spring roll recipe with a twist and thought I'd give it a try. It's basically the spring roll, minus the rice paper roll. I wonder... would that be better named "Spring"??

I also found this on The Nest; they obtained the details from Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermott. It was a fun, fresh recipe and very easy. My changes are again listed in blue. Oh - and I made some rice noodles for my husband's serving. I don't think I cooked the noodles properly, but he still ate them.

Spring (aka Chicken and Cabbage Salad w/ Fresh Mint)

1 lb boneless chicken breast, or 2 c. cooked shredded chicken
3 T. freshly squeezed lime juice (I used the juice of one lime, I didn't measure)
2 T. fish sauce
1 T. white vinegar, cider vinegar, or freshly squeezed lime juice (I used rice vinegar)
1 T. sugar (I used 1 teaspoon sugar)
1/2 t. black pepper
3/4 c. very thinly sliced onion (I used green onions, probably 3 or so)
2 c. finely shredded green, savoy, or napa cabbage (I used 1/2 a head of romaine)
3/4 c. shredded carrots (I omitted this)
1/2 c. fresh mint leaves, cilantro, or basil leaves
1/2 c. rau ram leaves (optional) (I substituted cilantro for this)
3 T. coarsely chopped roasted and salted peanuts(optional) (I omitted this, too)


Put the chicken in a medium saucepan and add 2 to 3 cups of water, enough to cover the chicken by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer, and cook until done, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a medium bowl, and stir to dissolve the sugar and mix everything well. Add the sliced onion and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes, until you are ready to complete the dish.

Transfer the meat to a plate to cool. When the chicken is cool, tear it into long thin shreds. Coarsely chop the mint and the cilantro. Add the shredded chicken, lettuce, mint, and cilantro to the bowl of onions and seasonings, and toss to coat everything well. Mound the salad on top of rice noodles or by itself on a serving plate. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Yum!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shrimp with Tomatoes (and Feta)

First off -- I Costco. This weekend my Mom and I went to Costco. They had a seafood cart set up with *huge* shrimp for $8.99. I ordered 15 shrimp and continued shopping, only to turn right around and ask for another 12. They were just too good to pass up!

Shrimp in hand, I decided to try a new recipe I found on The Nest. Apparently they obtained it from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi. I made a few changes, but still thought it turned out well. I've listed my alterations in blue. I ate my portion with a serving of salad. (I used some of the extra sauce as salad dressing). I wish I would have made a little rice to go with it, too. My husband's portion just looked so tiny w/o a salad or rice.

Shrimp with Cherry Tomatoes and Feta
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (12-ounce) bag cherry tomatoes on the vine (I didn't have cherry tomatoes so I used six small tomatoes, quartered)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup dry white wine, or fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth (I had beef broth on hand, so I used it)
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese (I eliminated this)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I eliminated this, too)
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and stir with a wooden spoon until they just lose their raw color, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, oregano, and broth. Cook, using a spoon to roll the tomatoes around, until most of the liquid has boiled off, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the parsley and cook 1 minute longer, stirring occasionally. Season with pepper, and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tasty Turkey

Last week I was looking for something I could make ahead of time to reduce my nightly prep while packing my lunch. So on Sunday I decided to make a turkey breast; my goal being a yummy sandwich meat without a lot of sodium that I could use to make sandwiches.

I turned to the internet for a recipe and found an Ina Garten recipe that fit the bill. I made a few alterations; those changes are reflected in the recipe below. My husband doesn't care much for turkey, but seemed to like this. I loved it and ate it for lunch everyday last week. The turkey remained juicy and very flavorful. Yum!!

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
(Source: Ina Garten - Food Network)

1/2 boneless turkey breast, 3 pounds (I bought bone-in, but removed it before cooking)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, the juice of one lemon
1/2 cup beef broth (or whatever broth you have on hand)

1/2 cup water
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Cut a slit in the breast and smear the remaining paste in the slit. If you have leftover paste, that can be spread on the skin of the breast.

Place the turkey breast, skin side up, in a 9x13 pan lined in foil. Pour the broth and water around turkey breast. Place the two bay leaves around the turkey breast.
Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the
breast. If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil.

When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes (I probably waited ~30 minutes). Remove the skin (and any visible fat), thinly slice and store in your fridge as individual portions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Craft ii - Homemade Dog Treats

I'm not sure I can really count this as my first craft of 2009, since technically I made them in December, so I'll just classify this as Craft ii.

For Christmas my aunt gave our dog, Malin, a set of bone-shaped cookie cutters along with a dog treat recipe. I was inspired to make him a batch of chicken flavored treats. After those were done, I thought, "What the heck? I might as well make a batch of beef ones, too. This way Malin would be able to share with his friends."

I wanted to give each of Malin's buddies a personalized container filled with treats, so I went out and bought a few Gladware tupperware containers, some pretty Alpha stickers and ribbon with paw prints. I proceeded to spell out Malin's puppy pal's names on the lids, fill them will chicken and beef bones and wrap them with the ribbon.

Malin loves them! His pal Vito seemed to think they were tasty. And his other friend Bailey scarfed them down, too. So I guess they are good enough to eat. :)

If you are interested in making similar treats, here is the recipe:
Basic Yeast Dog Treats
Mix together:
3 1/2 cup unbleached flour
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup skim milk powder
1 tablespoon (or 1 package) dry yeast
3 1/2 cups lukewarm chicken or meat broth

Preheat oven to 300ºF

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm chicken or meat broth. The richer this broth is, the better your dog will like the biscuits. Let yeast broth mixture set 10 min. Then stir in flour mixture. Roll resulting dough out 1/4" thick*. Cut dog biscuit shapes from dough. Brush biscuits with egg wash. Bake on greased cookie sheets at 300º for 45 min. Then turn off oven and leave in overnight to finish hardening** (makes 60 medium-sized biscuits)
*The dough is SUPER sticky. I recommend working in batches and lightly flouring your work surface first. (Frankly, you should probably sprinkle the dough with flour, too).
**I wanted the treats to be really hard, like store-bought bones, so after the 45 minutes at 300ºF, I lowered the oven temp to 200ºF and let the bones dry out for a while.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The scarf is done!

In my previous post I referenced the new scarf I was knitting. As the photo demonstrates, it's completed!! I finished knitting Christmas Day, wove in the ends 12/26 and started wearing it almost immediately. It could probably be blocked, but honestly I've never done it before - so it can wait. For the time being I'll continue wearing it; afterall, we are in the midst of winter and cold weather = scarf required. Here's a close up:

I also mentioned the scarf I've been working on for my husband. Here's what it looks like so far...

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 - The Year of Crafts

I have finally decided on my New Year's Resolution: become craftier in 2009. My immediate goal is to complete one craft per month. However, my secondary goal is to work on crafts that are new to me, too.

Here are just a few of the projects I want to complete in 2009:
- The scarf for my husband
- A pair of felted slippers that my mom has been wanting for the last four years.
(I made a pair and LOVE them!! Apparently so did she.)
- These super adorable little baby cupcakes -- completed 2/6/09
- Bake cookies and frost them using piping and flooding techniques -- completed 1/25/09
- Beaded Silverware, specifically an olive fork or cheese spreader -- didn't do it, but my aunt did gift me with a tiny set for hosting Christmas!!

As with the Couple Resolutions, I will provide status updates throughout the year.

January - Sugar cookies frosted w/ pipe & flood technique (1/25/09)
February - Baby Cupcakes (2/6/09)
March - Envelopes and Cards (3/25 & 28/09)
April - Candy Sushi (4/4/09)
May - Ice Cream (made throughout the month, last batch churned 5/31/09)
June - Pull piñata (6/18/09)
July - Baked my first loaf of yeast bread (9/6/09)
August - Sewed U of MN bean bags for Rich's corn hole game (9/7/09)
September - Canned my first thing ever: Tomato sauce (9/20/09)
October - Baked and decorated my first cake, from scratch (10/22/09)
November - Home-made cranberry jam, gifted for Christmas (11/09 & 12/3/09)
December - Made Candy: complete with candy thermometer, for the first time ever. In all I made 5 batches of homemade caramels, 3 were unique recipes. These were also gifted for Christmas (several times throughout 12/09) + Potato stamped dish towels, yeah... another Christmas gift (12/12/09)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 - Couple Resolutions

I thought it would be fun if my husband and I put together Couple Resolutions for 2009. Here's what we have so far. I'll add more as we come up with them.

1. Eat dinner at a table once a week
Once we got our table, we were able to do this daily. Thank goodness! I love eating dinnner together at a table.
2. Go on a date night once a month
January -
February - Dinner at Crave
March - Bar Hopping during days 1 & 2 of the NCAA Tournament
April -
May - Sushi at Mt. Fugi in Maple Grove (after looking at houses)
June - Movie at theater by our apartment + Chanhassen Dinner Theater
August -
October - a few J. Cousineau visits
November -
December -
3. Play tennis together
Fail - Yeah. Didn't get to this one. It's still on my "bucket" list though.
4. Make or try a new ethnic food 6 times
Golabki - Polish (August)
Marinara Sauce - Italian (first time from scratch, August)
Fried Rice w/ Seafood-Chinese? (November)
Gingerbread Cake- Polish (December)
*Here are a few more I could include, but they are more of a stretch
- Pita Bread - Greek (December)
- Pizza - Italian (July)
5. Do one volunteer activity together
Fail - isn't this awful? We did donate money to a few things... but that wasn't quite my goal.
6. Take guitar lessons
Fail - We moved the guitars a few times throughout the year. That's more than we'd done previously. Drats!

As we complete our list, I'll update this post with the details.