Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm Jenn, the old sister. I was invited to contribute to this blog by my cute, talented, creative sisters, and part of me still wonders if it's cuz they thought I would feel bad if I didn't get included. That's ok, at least my posts, while maybe not super helpful, will at least be humorous in my attempts to be fun/exciting. Except now the pressure is on to be funny. I'm really not that either. Maybe I'll just fill space.
Anywho,  I currently reside in Portland, Oregon, where yes, it does rain nine months of the year. I live here with my best friend/husband Brad, and our cute little baby girl Claire. I have a degree in nursing and worked as an RN for four years, up until Claire joined our family. I have always loved arts and crafts, but never been good at coming up with my own ideas. I'm pretty good at copying stuff though. I have recently committed to "clean eating" which will be an adventure for me, so I am happy to post my mishaps here for your enjoyment. If anything, my posts can help you avoid my mistakes. I also enjoy exercise, particularly running, so maybe I'll post some how-tos and tips.

Food: Clean-eating sweet potato cheddar rolls

Clean eating. There are so many levels of clean eating, but what I mean be clean eating is homemade, non-processed, whole food goodness. Or, at least "kind-of-good"-ness. Because, let's be honest, when you're first starting out on a journey of clean eating there are times when you would give anything for something processed with a lot of sodium or high fructose corn syrup. But I digress...

I found these rolls on Clean Eating Magazine's website, and changed it just a bit. They're called chipotle cheddar sweet potato muffins. I photographed my journey, and have it displayed below. I have to admit, I had a horrible cold when I made these, so didn't have the best sense of taste. My husband rated them at a 4/5 stars. Very filling, but not amazing plain.

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (I used lemon juice and milk substitute)
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (I used half pepper jack)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp chipotle chile powder (I only had normal chili powder, not chipotle chili)
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees f. In a small sauce pot add sweet potato and cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, drain, then mash. Add buttermilk and stir until well combined. Mix in the egg and cheese, then set aside. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients, then add half to sweet potato mixture and fold in. Repeat with second half of flour mixture. Spoon batter into muffin tins to almost full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then enjoy. Store in air-tight container in fridge for up to a week.

So, I doubled the recipe, since I figured making it once would be easier than twice. Once I got the sweet potatoes on the stove, I shredded the cheese.

 Turns out I didn't have chipotle chili powder, so I thought using pepper jack for half the cheese in the recipe would be good.

The dry ingredients...

I used a buttermilk substitute, since I didn't have buttermilk or the inclination to go buy some for this recipe. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in the bottom of a measuring cup, then fill milk to the 1 cup line and allow to sit for 5 minutes will give you a good sub.

Here are the mashed potatoes

Here they are with everything added to them

And here they are coming out of the oven! They were pretty yummy, and went very well with our salad that night. However, they are much, much easier to get out of the muffin tin if the tin is sprayed with cooking spray first. Hate to point out the obvious, but since it wasn't explicitly stated in the recipe, I didn't think to spray the tin until about 10 muffins into it, which made for a fun project once they came out of the oven.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Single Serving Pies

This may be the most excited I've ever been about pie. There are some things you learn when you become a stay-at-home mom, and that is that making lunches for your husband is probably as boring as eating packed lunches.

I'm not a cold cuts kind of girl. I've always hated packed lunches from the time I started kindergarten to the end of my college career. Unfortunately my husband is exactly the same. He'll eat whatever I make him, but it is not very satisfying to make someone a lunch you know they won't enjoy.

Enter: single serving pies.

If there is one dessert my husband loves, it's apple pie. So these on-the-go pies are perfect for his lunches. You will need the half pint, wide mouth, short Mason jars for this recipe. It is important that you get the ones with the straight sides so they are easier to fill and eat.

You can use any pie crust recipe that you love, but here is one that is perfect every time. This recipe has been passed down at least three generations, if not more, and it produces a flaky, delicious crust that I dare you to try and beat.

Mom's Flakey Crust
(makes one standard size 2-crust pie)

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
5 Tbs cold water

Combine the flour and salt. With a pastry cutter, incorporate the shortening into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Once all the flour and shortening are incorporated, add the cold water one tablespoon at a time. Mix lightly with a fork between each tablespoon. Do not overwork. Gather the crust into a ball and roll out on a floured surface.

For these pies, you can cut out the tops of the crust with the lid of the mason jar or you can use the crumble top recipe.

Crumble Topping
(makes about 6 single-serving pies)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons of oats

Stir sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Cut butter in with a fork or a pastry blender until incorporated. Add oats and mix together. Add two to three tablespoons of mixture to each pie top.

Apple Pie Filling
(makes 4 to 5 single serving pies)

2 to 2 1/2 cups of sliced and peeled apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 pinch of cloves
1 tablespoon of butter chopped into 4 to 5 pieces

Add all ingredients except the butter in a bowl and stir. Coat evenly. Fill each crust with a little space remaining at the top. Add the pat of butter. Top with the top layer of crust or the crumble topping. Make sure to poke holes in the top layer of crust for vents if you aren't using the crumble topping.

Heat oven to 375 degrees and bake pies for 45 minutes or until the tops are browned.

You can eat these right away and use the baking instructions above, but I doubled the recipe and saved a lot to freeze. Don't cook the pie first if you are going to freeze it; just assemble it in the jar and screw the lid on tight! 

To bake after freezing, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the jar on a cookie sheet and remove the lid. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is browned. So if you are packing this in your lunch, bake it far enough in advance that it is cool enough to travel in your lunch box. You can then eat it at room temperature or give it a little zap in the microwave before eating. 

This idea is also great for really any kind of pie, so the sky is the limit. Be creative and enjoy!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cheesecake–Mousse Lovechild

I'm already behind on my posting, and I'm horrified! I actually made this little recipe several days ago (and consumed all of it) but haven't been able to post until now. So here's to holding my breath that Baby Al won't wake up too soon.

Sometimes I daydream of food. Sometimes I even night-dream about it. Often my dreams don't pan out to anything tasty, but I was pretty pleased with the results of this dessert. The day I made it, I spent a considerable amount of time drooling over a picture of a no-bake cheesecake that I saw on the Inter-web. I usually don't like no-bake cheesecakes because they seem kind of phony to me. So I had a minor heart attack wondering if I was pregnant again, calmed myself down, and started mixing.

Here's the line up of ingredients (minus some butter and powdered sugar):

Looks pretty simple, right? It is! It took me about 10 minutes tops to make the whole thing. First, I made a graham cracker crumble. I blended about 5 crackers in a blender and mixed it with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter. 

Then I mixed 4 ounces of cream cheese and 1/3 cup of powdered sugar together until they were all incorporated. I melted about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave blended it in with the cream cheese mixture. However, I found that it just wasn't enough chocolate, so I ended up with probably 2/3 cup of melted chocolate chips. 

You could probably just put in some cocoa powder instead since the rest of the ingredients are pretty sweet all by themselves. 

Then I folded in 1 1/2 cups of cool whip. I was careful not to mix it too much. 

 Finally, I layered graham cracker crumble and cream cheese mix a couple of times in some sundae dishes. I topped it with whipped cream and more graham crumbles. You can put it in the refrigerator to cool it more, but most the ingredients were cold to begin with and the cream cheese mix was already a good consistency, so there's no need to wait!

Here's the recipe:

Makes about 4 servings

Graham Crumble
5 graham crackers blended
2 Tbls melted butter

Cream Cheese Mix
4 oz. cream cheese softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup melted chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup cool whip

Whipped cream for topping

Mix graham crumbs and melted butter together and set aside. 
Blend sugar and softened cream cheese together. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, heating in 15 second increments, stirring between. Add chocolate to cream cheese mixture until well blended. Fold in cool whip until it is mostly incorporated into chocolate. Some white streaks will remain. 
Layer graham crumbles and cream cheese mix until desired amount. Top with whipped cream and garnish with graham crumble. Enjoy!


Monday, September 2, 2013

How to Make a Braided Rug Without Really Knowing What You're Doing

I am making a braided rug. It's my very first time, unless you count the attempt when I attended an American Girl tea party when I was little, and after I finished braiding the rug I realized I wasn't done yet, so I gave up. I don't count that time, though "I'm still not done?" has crossed my mind a few times during this project. However, being the strict disciplinarian that I am, I've told myself that I can't start on any of the fun, groovy projects I have planned that will make me look awesome until the rug is done. This is how far I am:

Don't be deceived. It's not as cute as it looks, sitting on my brick patio. It's lumpy, you can see my messy stitching that took me forever to decide how I wanted to do it, and it's also still pretty small. Still, I feel accomplished, because I did most of it while watching shows and that means I was productive! Yay!

This is only my third attempt, which is about how many attempts it takes to complete a project for me. There were a couple techniques involved that I learned a long time ago, but had to re-learn for this project. For example, you can't simply tie the pieces of fabric together when your fabric strips run out. You have to do a special, small knot that won't feel uncomfortable when you step on the rug. It's hard to explain how it's done, so I doodled the instructions out for you:

First, you put the two strips of fabric, one on top of the other, matching corners. The bottom one will be the old strip and the top one will be the new one that you want to attach to your braid. See that dotted line? That's where you make a little snip with your scissors through both strips of fabric, making sure that you don't cut up to the top. You want a little hole there.

Next, take the top strip's tail and wrap it around to the back of both strips of fabric with the top strip still in its position. (P.S. Are these doodles helping at all? Blink twice for "yes".)

Finally, while holding the strips together tightly, pull the strip's tail through the hole until it forms a pretty little knot. Sometimes the top strip misbehaves, but mess with it until you have a knot. There you have it!