Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why I don't make candy....often

First of all I shouldn't make candy because I eat too much while making it.  Sad but true.  Secondly, I don't have the patience for candy, or something or other.....

This is what I have.....
See, not so bad yet.  They are kind of the same size, and mostly ball shaped.

ah heck.....

I started out okay.  They tasted divine, they were nice little balls, then it came time for dipping, and I FAILED!!!! I am going to take a self-imposed candy making break for at least two years, unless someone can tell me an easier way to dip!

By the way, what are these yummy balls of divine?  My mom calls them Martha Washington Bon-Bons.  I looked that up online, because her directions are a bit sketchy, and discovered that most people do not put cherries in their Martha Washington Bon-Bons.  Who knew? 
So here is our family recipe:

2 lbs powdered sugar
7 oz coconut flakes
2 cups pecans-not just chopped like at the store but chopped fairly small, smaller than pea size.  (I missed that step because I forgot and my mom's recipe just says chopped)
10 oz maraschino cherries-chop these bad boys up too.  You don't want big chunks of cherry in your candies, just nice little pieces all throughout.  (Yes I know I missed one, and it is pictured above).  Save the juice. 
1 can Eagle Brand milk.  Why?  I don't know that is what my mom said. 
12 oz chocolate chips
1 cake of wax

mix everything together except the chocolate and wax, obviously, then let it chill.  If your filling is a little dry still toss in a LITTLE cherry juice until it looks right.  When I stated I let it chill an hour, but I gave up and went back later.  Just cover it and let it chill overnight.  Make sure you cover it.  Shape into balls.  I don't really have a good method for this, but the colder the filling the easier it is.  Then place these balls in the freezer, cover them, mine have a bit of freezer taste because I didn't.  Leave them in there for at least an hour.  The colder the better, but don't let them get freezer burn.  Melt your chocolate and wax in a double broiler, and prepare for dipping.  I am no longer qualified after this point to help you.  My mom's recipe says use a toothpick and dip in the chocolate.  This did not work for me. 

They really are good, and I really am not in the mood to eat anymore!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pita Bread and new yeast

I used to make bread every week for big L.  She used to eat jam sandwiches.  It was a bit of work.  Some weekends it was a challenge.  One week, I bought pita pockets from the store, that were okay for her to eat, which was a joy.  The only problem is there is only one brand she can eat, and she will only eat whole wheat.  The store is always running out of them. 

Today I decided to try my hand at making them myself. 

It was pretty easy, but I didn't get a poof in the middle, so I think I needed to let them rise a little longer, or something. 

It was easy.  Made the dough, let it rise, split it into balls, cook for a couple minutes.  Viola!

Emeril's Whole Wheat Pita Bread
1 1/2 cup of warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsps salt
flour for kneading/dusting

  1. Pour water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer with dough hook attached. Add yeast, olive oil and honey. Allow yeast to bloom until it begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Add flour, then salt. Mix on medium speed for one minute. Turn the mixer down to low and mix for 2 minutes longer. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix 2 minutes longer. If at any point the dough wraps completely around the hook and is no longer kneading, turn off the machine, scrape the dough off the hook back into the bowl and return to mixing. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and knead by hand for one minute longer or until you have a round, smooth, elastic dough. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a medium sized bowl. Place dough into bowl and coat with the oil by turning over. Cover with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap and place in a moderately warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, usually about 2 hours.
  2. Position an up-side down 18 x 13 aluminum sheet pan or a baking stone on the middle rack in the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  4. Transfer the proofed dough to a clean work surface and knead it by hand until it is round, smooth and elastic, about one minute. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, (2 ounces each) and shape into balls. Cover with a clean towel and allow to proof until expanded slightly in size, about 20 minutes.
  5. Dust a clean work surface with all-purpose flour. Roll dough into 6-inch circles. You may stack them between parchment paper or clean towels. Carefully and quickly place them in the oven directly on the baking sheet or stone. You may bake 2 or 3 at a time. Cook pitas for 2 minutes or until puffed. Remove with a metal spatula. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve hot or at room temperature. Once cooled, pitas may be stored in a re-sealable plastic storage bag for up to 2 days.
  6. Alternatively, the dough may me made a day ahead. After the dough has been kneaded and put into the bowl with the olive oil, place it into the refrigerator to proof overnight. The next day, pull dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at least 2 hours before proceeding with the recipe.
I used a baking stone.  I did not give it the whole two hours to rise, so that may be why my puff is missing.  They did however puff up nicely. 

I actually made bread this weekend in my bread maker as well.  I used up all my Fleishmans yeast and so I opened up my new yeast.  I decided to change brands of yeast because I have been having a hard time getting a good rise out of my whole wheat breads.  I tried the brand at Costco it was horrible.  I decided to try go with the brand sold by King Aurthur Flour, which has quickly become my favorite flour, we especially love the white whole wheat.  It works well in pancakes, and other lighter breads you want white flour for normally.

SAF Red Instant Yeast was awesome.  My dough for the pitas doubled in 1 hour!  My bread in the bread machine rose and stayed that way throughout the baking cycle.  It was great!  I didn't have to work twice as hard to get a nice loaf of bread.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Beginning....:-)

I love plants, and gardening, always have.  One of my biggest regrets when I moved from Denver was losing my awesome garden and tulip garden.  Okay the garden wasn't quite up to awesome when I left, but it was on its way, and the tulip garden was beyond awesome.  I also had the nicest lawn on the block, and took great pride in my lawn care.  The kind of yard/garden you can have in Denver does not translate well to the so called valley of the sun, or hell hole, or whatever term you want for this hot and dry place I currently live.  While there are a lot of nice things about the weather, the ability to grow lush GREEN gardens is not really one of them.  All green gardens have a lot of brown, or my favorite (HA) cacti. 

The people who built the house we live in were obviously gardeners.  They were also very desert landscape friendly gardeners, though why they felt the need to plant so many palm trees is beyond me.  I have never really been a fan of the palm tree (which is not native to this desert).  They don't provide much in the way of shade, and I just don't think they are that pretty.  That is my opinion only of course as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Last week I decided I was ready.  My brown thumb has been leaving me.  My house plants are thriving, and I am ready once again, to take care of the backyard (the front is a whole other story for another time).  My loving husband has been digging up palm trees by the root for a couple years now.  He has cleared out all of the dead trees, and yucky bushes we inherited upon purchasing our home.  It was now my turn to do something with all the space. 

 Welcome to my backyard.  Our very HEAVY gate leans a bit, but it is pretty.  The previous owners put pots all over the fence and house.  These now have pretty flowers in them to welcome all the people who do not come in our back gate.  He he. 
 I swear this daisy has doubled in size in a week.  When I bought it there were no little buds, now there are quite a few.

 Most of the pots on top of our fence were filled with dead stuff, or nothing.  This cactus though was from the original owners.  It seems to like its spot, and I NEVER water it.  The daisy plant is all me though.  They have to be my favorite flower, no matter what type of daisy I love it.  They always make me smile a bit. 
 All of the big ceramic pots were left by the previous owners.  I put lavender in the one behind the spa.  More petunias on the wall, and that pretty green stick thing is called firestick.  It is supposed to be drought resistant, and the tips only turn orange and yellow in the "colder" months.  I think it is pretty. 

 This whole section behind the pool had the silly fan palms and a huge bush in it when we moved in.  The bush kept dropping junk in the pool and the palms, well I already told you how I feel about those!  I am not quite done with this flower bed.  I need to put a layer or mulch or bark over the top to help keep in the warmth and moisture.  It has been getting pretty cool at night here.  I also need to figure out why the solar cells are not charging the batteries on my pretty globe lights.  Note toy in pool.  Thrown there by my little helper of course. 

There are snapdragons, petunias, and some other flowers I don't remember the names of.  Names are not my strongpoint! The rose bush we planted a while back is still alive in the pot at the end, but I think it will do better in the summer if we have the gazebo shade back up so it is not in full sun all day long. 
I originally tried growing strawberries where the flower garden now is.  I think our yield was five berries, and then they died.  I also tried growing other vegetables, but all I did was feed the birds.  This area gets a lot of sun, but is in the shade part of the day as well.  I also discovered that this soil had been worked and was just luscious compared to everything else.  There are a few fan palms coming up (AGAIN) that will have to be yanked out (AGAIN), but this area is awesome.  I planted four little strawberry plants.  We will see how they do. 
 Yet another pot I inherited.  It looks much nicer with something growing in it. 
 These pots that were placed on top of the fence are nice.  However, I don't want to have to remember to water them all the time.  I put in succulents.  You can see the red tips of the leaves on this one.  We will have to do something about the previous owners ugly attempt to fix the fence. 
 You can just barely see the little toes of this succulent peaking up.  I assume they will grow large and quickly like the ones in my kitchen, but I started with little ones. 
 This gazebo is my favorite spot in the yard, and not because it provides a good perch for spying on the neighbors.  Unfortunately, the top ripped not long after we moved in.  My next big expense will be replacing my gazebo cover and the hammock stand, because doesn't that look like the perfect place to relax and read a book? 
 This is little l's way of helping mommy.  We still have lots of pots filled with dirt for her to play in.  She loves being outdoors, I have to bribe her to get her in.  I am sure when she becomes a good swimmer we will be living outside in the summer. 
 This dreary little patch had a big bush in it, hiding the cute cacti.  In the spring I will be planting roses. 
The little one thinks that the pool is there for things to be thrown into.  This includes dirt.  She is mighty quick when she wants to be.  It kind of made a neat little pattern since the pumps were running at the time. 

That so far is the backyard.  It still has a lot of clean up to be done, but you can only fit so much in the trash bin every week.  That and some days I am just to exhausted to keep going.  We worked really hard in the yard and house this weekend.  I also worked on the front entrance, but when I went out to water this morning realized that something had been munching on the plant I chose and had eaten all the flowers.  This is very sad, the flowers were a beautiful shade of blue.  I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of it in that sad state, so we will come back to that area another time.  Until then I just keeping looking out the back doors and enjoying the beginning of making my backyard a place to enjoy. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

FINALLY! A dress that twirls

I have been working on this dress off and on since school started.  I finally! finished, though it is far from perfect, and I wish I could have hidden a few more seams.  However, it passed the L test.  She loves it and spent quite a bit of time twirling around in it.  The skirt flows out as she twirls thanks to the seam gathering on the side.

I think it turned out okay for a first try, but I still can't figure out what I am doing wrong when it comes to fitting the bodice.

It is fully reversible.  We will see which side gets the most wear.  I had it all ready to sew together when I realized her head didn't fit through (my child has a large head, this is not the first time this has been an issue), so we decided instead of making the neck hole bigger, which would have made it sag down or fall off her shoulders we would just put on a button.  So on one side you have a button, on the other, little flowers to cover the button threads.  The pictures don't really do it justice, and you have to see it twirl to understand the lift it achieves. 

I guess I will keep trying, a little here and there.