Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I just started a new style of knitting that is better for arms and hands.  It does both knit and purl in the front so I decided I wanted a tension ring instead of a pin on my shirt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Farm house Rake key rack and sunglass holder

Rake upcycles to key rack and sun glasses holder.  Also holds leashes and  flashlights for when the lights go out.
Why buy something if you can upcycle? Not just reuse but upscale the item! I saw a cute key rack on the web for sale and knew I had a rusty rake head with a broken handle I never got around to fixing.  So, ta-da new rack by the door for the things you need!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lofthouse Cookies Recipe

Well, I tried a new recipe this week. I needed something small to try out buttercream recipes on so I thought I would do half a batch of Lofthouse cookies to taste test with.  I used this recipe as a starting point
http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/lofthouse-style-soft-sugar-cookies/
Added some sugar to the cookie I took a photo of because it looked so plain without something.  They  tasted great.  Might add lemon flavoring/zest next time.
and I used my old recipe for making buttercream from cake decorating class in the stone age.  I had to get different shortening because in 2007 Crisco changed their formula.  They make something called hi ratio that decorating websites and stores sell.  It is not as cheap or easy to get as Crisco but the taste was good. Since it was a taste test I didn't bother coloring or using sprinkles.

I only wanted to make a half batch so I used 2 smaller eggs instead of wasting half an egg.  I also used the pro flavorings in both the icing and the cookies. I baked on a pizza stone that lives in my oven and the first batch took longer than 7 minutes to cook.  The next day when I baked off the rest I turned it up to 500 to preheat. I didn't want to bother rolling them.  So, I dropped and flattened them. I accidently baked it at 500 but they turned out so light and fluffy I don't believe I will go back to 425. And I will probably add 4 medium eggs or 3 very large eggs if I make a full recipe.  I liked the eggy flavor.

These are my changes to their recipe:
Lofthouse cookies half recipe and cooking changes.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used popcorn salt with butter flavoring)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (one stick)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 medium small eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional white bakers concentrate type)
1 teaspoon creme bouquet flavoring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring  (optional)
3/4 cup sour cream

Cream butter and sugar for at least 3-5 minutes till very light and creamy with paddle blade.  Sift dry ingredients while this is beating.  Add eggs slowly to the butter sugar mixture and mix till fully incorporated.  Add Sour Cream and flavorings then slowly mix till combined. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix till just comes together.  Don't over work the dough.  Chill till firm.  When cold, preheat oven with pizza stone to 500 and using parchment paper on cookie scoop out on parchment with very small scoop or teaspoon.  Flatten with glass or other flat object to round disks and 1/4 inch tall.  Then slide paper on to pizza stone and check cookies frequently they should take  7-10 minutes. Bottoms should be just beginning to brown and top firm and set but the sides are not brown.

My old school Buttercream icing


Shortening 1 cup (8oz) (hi ratio if you have it)
Light karo  1 tbs
Powdered coffee creamer and water if hot temps for cake like summer weddings, milk if not - just enough to thin to the right consistency
1/2 tsp Popcorn Salt (used butter flavored popcorn salt do a full teaspoon if you are using coarse salt)
Vanilla concentrate 1 tsp
Crème bouquet 1 tsp
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring  (optional) 


Sifted powdered sugar  2 lbs bag
(but you will probably use use about a pound for this much but have extra on hand to get the texture right.  This is very much an add till it gets right recipe.  You are wanting something about as stiff and soft peanut butter if you are going to make flowers.  Cookies only go for taste.)

Cream shortening for at least 3 minutes with a blade paddle.  Then add karo, 2 tablespoons of milk or water and salt.  Cream again till well mixed and salt is dissolved. (that is the reason the popcorn salt even unflavored is better) add flavorings.  Then slowly add the powdered sugar and over the mixer with a towel before turning it on to keep the stuff from getting all over the kitchen.  After adding about a pound of the sugar then start adding more sugar or liquid for taste and texture.  For just slathering on cookies this is not that important but to pipe flowers the texture is very important.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Important kitchen tools for the starter kitchen

 My sister in law just moved into her first house with her lovely family.  She is wanting me to help her learn to cook and she only has a small assortment of dollar store kitchen tools that everyone starts out with. That inspired me to post some basic kitchen tools to replace that starter set. I love to cook and I have tried a lot of the gadgets out there and own a lot of them. These are things that are not only useful as their intended purpose and are great "multitaskers" as my hero Alton Brown says. Disclaimer: Everyone knows good knives are a kitchen most and I really believe investing in a good knife and cookware set is important.   But I know it is hard to get these big ticket items right off the bat. Most of these tools are less than $10 and all are less than $20.  TIP: garage sales, charity shops and thrift stores are a great source for cheap used better quality kitchen tools if you are willing to go often and dig through the trash for the treasures. * Not shown but essential are thermometers- fry & instant read digital thermometer .  This is very important for judging the doneness of meats and fry thermometer for candy and frying.  Both are about $10.
Tools from my kitchen, they show the battle scars from use.



Can be bought from Asian grocery stores.

1. The dao bao I love for stripping lemons and oranges of their zest.  They do it more completely than a grater and if you get a bit of the white pith you can scrap it off with the back of a knife.  Then chop or grate or leave the zest whole for easy fishing out after cooking. They are also great veggie peelers and can be sharpened unlike most other types of peelers.  I have also used it as an impromptu paring knife on occasion. Under $5 in Asian markets. (think I paid $3)

2. My other favorite tool is a pair of chef tongs. Get both a long and a short pair, they are handy for everything from flipping bacon and the BBQ to canning. Get the heavier stainless type rather than the thin aluminium, they don't twist then you pick up heavy items and I believe they are worth the slightly higher price for how often you will use them. 

3. Kitchen shears. Cut meat, string for trussing chicken, parchment paper, chop herbs.  All around handy items.

4.  Long handled good quality wooden spoons. Better for non stick pans.  The dollar store ones are too short and can dangerous to get your hand that far in a deep pot.  Splurge and get one or two that are long enough and lasting quality. You will not be sorry.

5 & 6. These are silicone and will go up to 500 degrees before melting.  These are from Le Cruset.  They are worth the splurge to have one or two that will not melt. I can't tell you how many cheap tools I have melted over the years. So you are not saving money getting the melty kind and I think melted plastic is not good spice for your food. These are good for non stick pans as well.

7 & 8. Stainless spoons, slotted and soup with slots.  I splurged and got these and I am not sorry for buying heavy long handled items.  These are both extremely long handled and can be used in canning and serving.  Not good for non stick pans. These will last a life time.  These are the $20 items.

9. Soup ladle with slots. I love these, this is a cheaper one I bought to test the idea before I splurged on the stainless. I use it often when serving soups and stews.  But the plastic handle bends under load.  Probably will break one day.

10, 11 & 18.  Yes, I do have 3 spatulas here and really I have probably 3 more.  (one with a flipper fork on top, not so great)  10- pancake flipper for cast iron my husband insisted on.  Sometimes you really do need a larger flipper. I have used it to help flip chickens with my tongs. Tuesday morning find.   11- small flexible stainless, I use for mostly cookies but it is good for cast iron eggs as well. Garage sale find .25 cents. 18 - The plastic for eggs and non stick. Good heavy rubbermade one.

12. Citrus juicer.  This is cheaper than a machine and great job for the kids as they get old enough to help.  This juices and strains the pips but is not really a true multitasker. But so many things require lemon/lime/orange juice and powered kid's drinks taste better with a bit of lemon it it I believe it is worth having in a good kitchen kit.  This type is cheap, I got a used one at the thrift store for .49 cents.

13 & 14. I believe good strainers are important.  They can sift flour, strain canned items, dip out food like noodles and peas as well as strain lumpy gravy.  Both rest on pyrex measuring cups and pots. I like having 2 sizes. (I lie I own about 6 sizes but these are the most useful 2 sizes.) I use them in canning, cold brewed coffee and sifting powered sugar and flour.

15. Heavy good quality Potato masher.  Use it for all types of mashed foods even baby.  Worth it to have a heavy tool that helps you not breaks under pressure.

16. Wisk, I have both a stainless and this one. I use this one more because my le cruset and you would need it for non sitck. Bamboo wisks are good for this also. If I have a job big enough for the stainless wisk I tend to use the kitchen aid instead.

17. Turkey baster, I rarely use it for turkey. (I brine and cook them upside down)  Mostly I use it for straining fat off stock and basting other items.  It is the least used of the items in the photo.

What you will not see in my kitchen:

Garlic mashers and peelers- too messy.  I whack with a rock or a flat knife or use salt and the back of the knife like Rachel Ray.

Electric can openers- not enough counter space and get gross. Get a good quality crank kind.




Monday, August 20, 2012

Plate Drawers

For more space in my kitchen I bought an ugly dark dresser with hutch, painted them white with blue trim and turned it into a china hutch with plate drawers.  I have seen plate drawers on TV but pinterest gave me the idea that I could do it on my own.  Disclaimer: Husband did wield the power drill on this one. It was easy and I believe I did the whole 6 drawers for less than $20.
Cut dowels and pegboard to make a plate drawer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Keeping track of your decor info

I saw this great idea about dipping paint stirrers or Popsicle sticks in the paint for each room and putting them on a ring like a key ring and carrying that with you. A personal paint fan.

That is a great idea and I will probably do it, but what I often need most is the dimensions of the room or windows.  This is what I do, I use a small notebook and add swatches of fabric, paint chips as well as painting the page with the paint. I write down all the info on the paint can as well.  I also put images of the main items off the web if I can as well as inspirational images.  That with the measurements of the room mean I have all the info at my finger tips not just the colors.  The book I use is about 5"x7" when closed.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Earring and cuff link holders

Earring and Tie Tack holder
Still working on organizing.  Here is my latest finished project earring and cuff link, tie tack holders for the bedroom.  Easy and cheap project and utilitarian art works.  Glue, screws, plastic canvas, cheap frames, trim.

Plastic Canvas and cheap frames from a thrift shop.  Wood is a better choice. You can see I have the studs and hoops on the lace at the top.  My lace was small so I decided to use ribbons instead.

Earring holder.  You can put the studs and hoops on the lace or on the ribbons.

Tie Tack and cuff link holder. I put a shorter layer of plastic canvas at the bottom to make a pocket for the tie tacks to clip to.