Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Jolly Men

I don't remember where I got these cookie cutters.  Santa came in a set of 3 with a present and a reindeer.  I'm still recovering from a busy Thanksgiving while getting ready for a wedding this weekend.  I didn't go over the top with the "sides", but I did use some super cute snowman and gingerbread man picks from The Dollar Tree.  (They were part of a game, but for a dollar, I didn't care!)  I promise to use them again in December and show you.

The gingerbread man
(craisin & raisins)

(Thinly sliced mini marshmallows, dried blueberries, & craisin)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Embellished

I've seen a few people do the "Mixer Makeovers."  I received an early Christmas present from my amazing hubby; he replaced my 10 year old KitchenAid with a new Professional 550.  I never saw a vinyl design that I *loved* until I ran across this one at Little Birdie Secrets' blog.  I was instantly inspired.  The subway art that I've seen at Wonderfully Wordy isn't quite me, and although I like the swirls, it wasn't quite right for me either.  So, I started playing with Sure Cuts A Lot from Craft Edge to see what I could really do with my Cricut Expression without buying EVERY Cricut cartridge known to man.  I went ahead and bought the Sure Cuts A Lot program after using the trial version.  I initially tried our initial and a more intricate damask, but it was just a mess when I cut the vinyl.  So, I played with it some more, and I created this damask with a free downloadable font "Damask Dings."  I merged some together in Photoshop, and I used another script for the initial.  I've already made spice sugar cookies and a pecan pie, and I LOVE the new mixer and the new embellishments!  Who knows, maybe I'll make a few of these as Christmas gifts....

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


If you shop at Costco, you may have tried a sample, seen, or purchased Tasty Bite's Madras Lentils.  They're fantastic.  My 5 year old LOVED them in the store.  Four packets come in a box.  Each packet is 2 servings and takes only 90 seconds to heat in the microwave.  However, I know how much lentils REALLY cost, and I had a hard time paying the premium for the convenience of these truly yummy nutrient-packed lentils and red beans. 
Yesterday, I took it upon myself to create something similar that I could easily freeze in Ziplocs and pull out when I needed the "convenience." We were very pleased with the outcome.  The crockpot makes this even easier, although a few steps do require the stove.

Dawn's Madras Lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato puree
1 can chicken broth
1 bag dried red kidney beans
1 T garlic olive oil
4 T butter or Smart Balance
1 finely minced onion
2 C lentils
2 T cumin
1 tsp. thai red curry paste
cayenne, to taste
chipotle chili powder, to taste
1/2 - 1 C cream (or Cacique Crema Mexicana)
Soak beans according to package directions.
Place garlic olive oil, butter, and onions in a small skillet over medium heat.  Once the onions begin to soften, add the lentils and stir for another 2-3 minutes.  Salt as desired.
In a large crock pot, mix diced tomatoes, puree, chicken broth, pre-soaked beans and lentil/onion mixture.  Add 1 1/2 T cumin and Thai red curry paste.  Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for up to 12 hours.  Add chicken stock as needed.  I prefer mine to be thick like a chili, but some prefer it to be more like a stew.
Add remaining cumin, cayenne, and chipotle chili powder to taste.
Stir in cream, and serve!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Apple Walnut Cinnamon Roll...Cupcakes?

I'm not sure I would truly classify these as cupcakes.  They are cinnamon rolls made in a muffin tin for all intents and purposes.  They are amazing though; something you would get from your favorite bakery.  You do need to make them ahead, or else get up in the middle of the night, if you anticipate eating them for breakfast. They are time intensive, but well worth it for the occasional splurge.

Apple Walnut Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes
(adapted by Dawn Earley from recipe by Stephanie Polack, as seen on PaulaDeen.com)
makes 24 cupcakes
Cinnamon Roll Ingredients
2 cups 2% or whole milk
1 tablespoon (.5 oz) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
For Brushing
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup loosely chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups finely chopped tart apples
Apple Cider Glaze Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon apple cider
Heat the milk in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for one to two and a half minutes, dependent on your microwave.  It needs to be hot enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. (100-110 degrees) 
Add the yeast followed by the sugar, and stir to dissolve.
Now add two cups of flour and the salt and beat for a full two minutes.
Add the softened butter and eggs and beat until the mixture is well combined.
Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, and beat thoroughly after each addition.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes or beat on high speed with a dough hook, until it has become soft and elastic.
Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm area for 40 minutes. It will double in size.
Now turn the dough onto the counter and roll it out 1/2” thick into a rectangular shape. Use a pastry brush to spread half of the butter over the surface.
Now make the filling: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, pecans, and apples in a large bowl.
Spread this mixture over the dough, leaving a 1” border along 2 long sides.
Carefully tuck the dough over the filling and roll into a long log, starting on one of the long ends.
Cut the log into 24 pieces and place each inside one of the cups of a muffin tin lined with paper liners.
Cover the cupcakes with a towel and let them rise in a warm place for an additional 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Brush the remaining butter evenly on the tops of the cupcakes and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will be a light golden brown.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir to dissolve the powdered sugar in the apple cider. Drizzle this glaze over the cupcakes.
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Wine Tasting Birthday Party

One of my best friends had her birthday this week, and I threw a Zinfandel wine tasting party in her honor.  I was able to do most everything ahead of time (except cook the pasta), so it made for a fun night with friends and very little "work" during the party.  I bought the cheese at Costco, made the artichoke dipping sauces early in the day, made the spaghetti sauce and meatballs 2 days prior, and all of the tags and paper items in the week leading up to the party.  I got the petitfores from a local bakery: Simon Lee Bakery.  The tray is filled with wine corks that I had in a large vase, and I used a glass plate and 2 glass pedestals to create the main "centerpiece."  The tags are all made with 1 3/4" rounds of paper cut with the Cricut, and I cut the word circles with a 1 1/2" hand punch.  I glued the pieces for the cheese around toothpicks and tied on the wine bottle and glass tags with ribbon. (If you want for me to make these pieces for a party for you, feel free to contact me.)
We used 8 bottles of Zinfandel that I purchased from World Market and Costco.  They ranged in price from $7- $18 each.
Recommended cheeses for a Zinfandel tasting are aged cheddar, gruyere, brie, parmesan, and gouda.  I always have goat cheese and manchego on hand as well, so I added them to the list.  I served a rich spaghetti and dark chocolate petitfores as well.
The bottle on the left was The Watusi and was our least expensive wine ($7.)  All of the other wines were between $10-$18.  Cline, Brazin, Zinfatuation, Bogle, 7 Deadly Zins, Pellegrini, and Sausal.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Acorn Bento and a Pumpkin Sandwich

I've been very busy this week trying to unpack from our annual Halloween weekend camping trip (washing EVERYTHING), completing volunteer projects for my son's school, being mom and all of the normal daily duties, visiting the in-laws, and preparing for one of my best friends' birthday next week.  I'm behind.  Here is a little bit of what lunch looked like for the rest of this week for our oldest.  (One day, I took a picture, but didn't take an extra as I always do, and it didn't save to the memory stick. Ugh.) 
Banana chips, raisins, homemade Chex mix
Pumpkin butter sandwiches on honey wheat bread with fruit leather accents (This cookie cutter came in the same set as the turkey and pumpkin from Hobby Lobby at 50% off.)
 The pumpkin sandwich.  I cut the pumpkin out with the cookie cutter, but left both pieces in the sandwich box.  I painted the pumpkin with a paintbrush dipped in food coloring and water. 
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bento - Thanksgiving

Halloween is over and it's time to gear up for Thanksgiving!  I bought a set of 3 (turkey, pumpkin, acorn)cookie cutters with the silicone protectors at Hobby Lobby for 50% off yesterday. ($4 total.)  I painted the turkey with food coloring and put the sandwich in a regular sandwich container inside the Laptop Lunch system. I made the owl with a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, 2 Reese's Pieces, and a candy corn. Grapes, cheddar, carrots and ranch fill the rest of the large Laptop Lunch.
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