Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Wedding Gift in a Flour Sack

We gave a bridal shower for one of our nurses this week. I love to give gifts that relate to cooking, and she was registered for a set of melamine bowls. I have bowls similar to them and I really like them, and knew she would use them a lot, so I decided to get them for her.

I enjoy wrapping a gift in something that relates to it. I considered a dish towel, but it wasn't big enough. Flour sack towels are much larger and I have always thought they had a natural and fresh look. I bought this pack of flour sack towels at WalMart.

To wrap the bowls, first I placed them on top of the towel:

Then I pulled up all four corners, being careful to tuck in all the open spots:

I used a pipe cleaner to secure it temporarily. You could also use a twist tie.

I tied a satin ribbon around it and removed the pipe cleaner. I ran the ribbon through the gift tag before I tied it again:

Instead of a bow, I tied it underneath the tag because I wanted it to show:

I made the tag with card stock and put some fun kitchen stickers on it:

Now I am pondering what to do with the other four flour sack towels....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Oven Roasted Chicken

Gil and I had to run errands last night and I figured that we would be gone for about an hour. I wanted to roast some chicken breasts while we were gone, so I combined a couple of my favorite spices with oil and vinegar for a marinade and brushed it on the chicken. I set the oven at 250 so they wouldn't burn. I also put some rice on in my rice cooker.

Oven Roasted Chicken

3 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine ingredients and brush all over each chicken breast. Bake at 250 for about an hour.

It makes a small amount of marinade, but it is plenty for 3 chicken breasts:

Brush onto chicken. I lined the pan with foil for easier clean-up:

I put 1 cup of rice in 1-1/2 cups water with 2 tablespoons of butter in a rice cooker. Then I covered it and turned it on. It will turn off when the rice is ready.

Gil stir fried some cabbage when we got home. It took about 6 or 7 minutes. He seasoned it with Cavender's Greek Seasoning, salt, and pepper:

The chicken was very moist, juicy, and flavorful.

This was a healthy and delicious meal which we prepared with very little effort.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chocolate Cake

This is a recipe that I found on the Pioneer Woman's website. I altered it a little to simplify it. It still involves a few steps, but is well worth the effort. I made it for a party we had at work and it was such a big hit that I am going to make it for another party we are having next week.

Chocolate Cake
Combine in a mixing bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, melt:
2 sticks butter
Add 5 heaping tablespoons cocoa. Stir together.
Add 1 cup boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly.

In measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup buttermilk.
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing:
Melt 1 and 3/4 sticks butter in the microwave.
Add 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa and stir to combine.
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb minus 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Stir together and pour over warm cake.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt:

Stir butter and cocoa together in a saucepan and add boiling water:

Add to flour mixture and stir:

Stir together eggs, buttermilk, and baking soda:

Beat ingredients together:

Pour into a greased jelly roll pan. I used a 15 x 10 inch one. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

This is what the cake looks like. It doesn't rise much:

Prepare frosting and spread over cake while it is still warm:

Mmmm.... If you like chocolate, you will love this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tiny Mailboxes and Oatmeal Cookies

Our close friends, Johnny and Tammy, just moved into a new home, and they invited us over for dinner the other night. I had to work that day, and didn't have much time to make a hostess gift, but I did have the ingredients for oatmeal cookies. We all went on vacation together a few years ago, and I made oatmeal cookies a couple of times that week. The thing is, Johnny likes them with nuts and raisins, and Tammy likes them with chocolate chips. So I would divide the basic cookie dough in two and add the nuts and raisins to one, and the chocolate chips to the other one. This time I added almonds instead of pecans and didn't add raisins. I use the Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie recipe which is inside of the top of the Quaker Oatmeal box. I happened to have a tin container shaped like a mailbox that I'd been saving , so I decided to use that to hold the cookies.

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Servings: about 4 dozen

I cooled them on a rack after baking:

I gently wrapped them in plastic wrap and placed them in the mailbox. It held about a dozen. I took the rest on a plate to share.

I also wanted to take them a plant, so I went to Leaf and Petal in Mountain Brook. I highly recommend this place. There is one by the Summit, also. You can choose the plants and the containers and they will pot them for you. They also have some beautiful arrangements already done. Oak Street Garden Shop in Crestline is also excellent.

For the mailbox, I used sticky scrabble letters for their name and then tied a bow around it.
Pretty quick and easy, and great when you are short on time.

Tammy served us an incredible dinner which we could not stop eating. Their house is amazing and is located on top of a mountain with a spectacular view. They have filled it with cool objects and finds and are in the beginning stages of making it uniquely theirs. We are very happy for them and glad that we are able to share this time of their lives with them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joy's Hamburger Corn Casserole

This is a recipe that my mom gave me when I got married. It is made from simple ingredients, as most everything was in the 70's. It makes a large amount and you can freeze half of it before baking if you would like. It is REALLY good.

Joy's Hamburger Corn Casserole

1 - 1/2 lb ground chuck
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pimiento (I used Vlasic red pepper strips instead)
1 (12 oz) can whole kernel corn (or frozen corn, thawed)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
8 oz sour cream
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 ( 8 oz ) package noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup breadcrumbs

Brown ground chuck with onion and done. Stir in pimiento or bell pepper strips. Drain. Add corn, soups, sour cream, and seasonings. Stir in noodles and pour into a large greased casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Yield:10-12 servings

Drain ground chuck, pimiento, and onion on paper toweling:

Add the secret, blast from the past, ingredients:

Drain noodles after cooking. I used whole wheat rotini, but whatever you like would be fine.

Pour into a greased casserole and top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and invite an army over to help you eat it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chocolate Almond Cashew Pies

This pie is similar to a pecan pie, but with almonds and cashews instead. And, chocolate of course. This recipe was intended to be made as a 9" single pie, but I wanted to make individual pies. I will first post the ingredient amounts for the single pie, then how much I increased it to make 6 individual pies. (I actually made 7 pies, but I recommend making 6 and putting more filling in each one).

Chocolate Almond Cashew Pie

1 - 9" pie shell (or 1 All Ready Pie crust)
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup cashews
1 cup toasted and salted almonds, coarsely chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Kahlua (coffee liqueur, optional)

Sprinkle chocolate morsels evenly over bottom of unbaked pie shell. Top with nuts. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over nuts and chocolate. Bake at 375 on bottom rack for 30-40 minutes or until golden.

For 6 small pies:

3 All Ready Pie crusts
1-1/2 cups chocolate morsels
3/4 cup almonds
3/4 cup cashews
5 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 stick melted butter
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Kahlua

I found these pans at Walmart several years ago. They make a generous single serving and the non-stick surface makes it easy to remove the pies after baking.

Separate each pie crust into 2 balls. Use flour sparingly as needed on the surface as well as your rolling pin to prevent sticking.

Roll out into a circle that is large enough to line your pie pan.

Place in pie pan and trim excess crust with a scissor.

I embellished them with tiny balls made out of the extra pastry. I brushed the edges with water to make them stick. This was rather tedious and I will not do it for individual pies again. I ended up making about 45 tiny pastry balls per pie. For a total of 270. (sigh)

But they were cute. They reminded me of those antique dishes that have the beading around the edges.

Place the chocolate chips in first. Then the nuts.

Then pour the filling on top. I bake most of my pies on the bottom rack of my oven to ensure that the bottom crust gets browned. I place aluminum foil over them on the top rack to protect the top crust from burning.

Allow to cool before removing from pans, then do it carefully. These are sweet, chocolaty, and very crunchy.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Uncommon Illuminations

I love candles and the beautiful glow and atmosphere they create. This project is fun, easy, and inexpensive. I found the rocks and glass at Walmart, Pier One, and the Dollar Tree. These are the basics that you will need:

rocks, glass, or marbles
pillar candles, tea lights, or votives
votive holders
various vases, chargers, or other cool containers

Here are my finished projects. It took me only about 45 minutes to do them all. I will show step-by-step instructions on how I made them, as well as where I put each one.

When I use votive candles, I like to use a holder within a holder because it keeps the wax contained. These holders and candles came from Walmart.

I covered the candle as I filled it with the rocks to prevent them from going into the inner votive holder:

I put these out on the secret deck Gil built for me (which I will post about sometime soon).

They add a very nice touch to the table.

Walmart has several kinds of stones that resemble marbles. I think they are fun because they are so colorful and nostalgic. I tried battery tea lights in these but I like real candles better.

This is a tablecloth that belonged to my mom (circa 1954). I love using it in the summertime and I liked the way these candles looked on it.

I found this candle holder on sale at Pier One. I also got the candle and tiny rocks there.

Vases are great to use for candle holders. Make sure there is enough room around the candle for whatever you want to fill the container with.

For this one I combined three colors of glass which resemble beach glass and put it on my porch.

This last one is my favorite. This is a wooden charger. Any kind of charger or large plate would work for this. I placed three votives in holders on the charger:

Then added large, shiny stones:

Ooooo. Very zen. I love how the candles reflect off the stones. I put this on my porch, also.

It is amazing what you can create with just a few simple materials. These would be fun to do with your kids and are also great for gifts.