Cookbook Junkie

I am a cookbook junkie. I love to flip through the pages, look at the pictures and be inspired by the creations. I read them like novels, illustrated, fabulous novels. This Christmas, I got three cookbooks that I have been coveting for a while: Inside the Test Kitchen, by Tyler Florence, Make it Ahead, by Ina Garten and The Frog Commissary Cookbook, by Steve Poses, Anne Clark, and illustrated by Becky Roller.

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Now that Christmas has passed and the frenzy has died down a little, I can really start to dig into them. 

First up, the delicious Tyler Florence. I have been following his test kitchen series on Instagram for a while. He’s been taking tried-and-true recipes and techniques and re-imagining them, using new ingredients, modern techniques and testing them, over and over. It has been so exciting having a birds-eye view as he (and his team) develop these recipes – every few days, there’d be a new ‘test’. What this man did to french toast – amazing (check it out on instagram – here’s one sneak peek)… 

He spent time testing the stretchiest cheese:

8SC_7509He made a hamburger bun with batter, cream whipper and a ring mold. Who ever would have thought to do that???

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These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. This book is a treasure trove of information and inspiration.

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure if I’ll make much of what is in this cookbook and that’s just fine with me. I have such respect for true chefs. This book is like a window into Tyler’s brain. I love the way chefs think and innovate. It is so inspiring. Watching him play with food and take chances is very liberating and exciting to watch. I will love reading this!!

If you’ve followed me at all, you already know that I am a HUGE Ina Garten fan. Her recipes are always spot-on. Anything I have ever made from her has been met with rave reviews. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Santa brought me her latest book, Make it Ahead.

8SC_7510Here’s what I love about Ina: she understands that people want to spend time with their guests and not be stuck in the kitchen all night, preparing complicated food. I love that she has developed this make-ahead cookbook, because it allows us all to prepare delicious food and still have fun with our friends. To quote Ina, “How great is that?”

I recently posted a recipe that she features in this cookbook, but with a different sauce. Slow roasted filet is completely amazing. Tender, juicy, flavorful. Make it – you’ll thank me (and Ina).

8SC_7511I will definitely be making lots of recipes from this book. Her books are always a go-to for me. I always trust her recipes and have never been disappointed.

Finally, I got my own copy of The Frog Commissary Cookbook. If you lived in Philadelphia anytime in the ’70’s and ’80’s, chances are, either you or your mother had this cookbook.

8SC_7513Back in the day, The Frog Commissary started as a little storefront called Frog, it soon gained steam and grew to another restaurant called The Commissary and a catering business. This is one of the books that I credit for my love of cookbooks and for cooking. As a young child, I remember reading through the book, looking at the illustrations and being captivated by the recipes. Some of my first cooking experiences were from this cookbook. I remember making Chicken Breasts with Apples and Cider Cream Sauce for my friends and I before the Homecoming dance.

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I also remember fantasizing about making the 16th Street Deep Dish Pizza. I don’t think I ever did, though… I just remember loving the illustrations on this page particularly. 

8SC_7517My mom still has her dog-eared, food-stained copy. I’m looking forward to doing the same to mine.

So, if you’re in the market for some new cookbooks, give one of these a shot. Inspiring, delicious, and a little nostalgic. That pretty much sums up cooking for me!

 

 

 

 

 

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Radiant Orchid Summer – Fun with Design + Life + Kids

Sometimes, as a blogger, I get to do really fun stuff. A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to attend a crafting event hosted by a fellow blogger, Kim Wardell, who writes Design + Life + Kids, an awesome blog that’s all about modern design combined with loving family. This event focused around Pantone’s color of the year; Radiant Orchid.

It was a lovely summer afternoon and Kim gathered a group of fellow bloggers and interested crafters to enjoy some delicious cocktails, wonderful snacks and fabulous cookies. Oh, and there was a craft too! I put my new-found dyeing skills to good use as we dip-dyed picnic blankets.

The cocktails – a Watermelon Lemonade cocktail with vodka, was presented two ways – over ice, or made into slushies:

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Aren’t those spheres awesome? I love how Kim added slices of lime and strawberry for decoration. These were made using Zoku Ice Ball Molds. I was lucky enough to get a set in my swag ‘bucket’ – can’t wait to try them out. Also, I want to point out the orchids in the background – they were furnished by The Bouqs, another one of the many great sponsors of the event. They are an online flower delivery service, unlike any other out there. Definitely check them out next time you want to send flowers to someone special. I’m looking forward to using the coupon they left in our swag bucket…

The second presentation used the Zoku Slush & Shake Maker (in purple, of course):

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And, not to brag, but I got one of these in my swag bucket too…

For folks who didn’t want a cocktail, the Brandywine Valley Brewing Collective brewed a special beer just for the event – Radiant Orchid Blueberry Wheat. 

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These stunning cookies were provided by the fabulous Whipped Bakeshop – one of Philadelphia’s premier bakeries. Their artistry is unmatched:

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Leave it to me to lead with the food and drink – this was a crafting party, right? The featured craft of the day was sponsored by Rit Dye. We all dip dyed flat sheets, using their liquid dye.

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Once we finished, we hung them on clothes lines to dry – don’t they look awesome? I’m hoping to convince Izzie that this will be a good birthday party idea some year…

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Mine’s the one in front that has a yellow hue to it. I’m still on the fence with how I feel about it. I learned a valuable lesson about dyeing – less chatting, more dyeing… Oh, also – buy the liquid dye. Just do it. It’s a little more money, but it’s so much easier!!!

In addition to the food, drink and crafting, we were treated to other drawings and giveaways from other wonderful sponsors – Minted gave away three prints, La Siesta gave away a super cool hammock chair to one lucky guest. Each of us walked away with a big swag bucket filled with lots of goodies – two bottles of dye from Rit Dye, fun books from Quirk Books, a lovely pearl necklace given by Panache BoxDreamfarm, a fun home accessories maker gave us a jot and a tapi, Bing gave us a calligraphy print and Bing Ads + Bing Rewards coupon codes, and the swag bucket was given by Casabella Clean.

Speaking of Minted, guess who forgot to bring her beautiful new business cards from Minted to the event? Yup, this girl. They are so pretty – I was so looking forward to showing them off, er, giving them out! Guess I’ll just have to show them off here:

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I had so much fun at this event. I met some really creative women, enjoyed great conversations, and laughed a lot. Many thanks to Kim, her team, and to the many sponsors! It was a huge success.

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Happy Easter!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. We had a wonderful Easter, filled with too much candy, a thwarted stake-out, a dream fulfilled, and a delicious meal. On Saturday, my children declared that they were going to stage a stake-out to watch for the Easter Bunny. Izzie went on an all out search for the play tent that they hadn’t touched in three years. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her I had donated it when I cleaned out the hall closet. After about half an hour of her searching, I got up the nerve to admit what I had done. She was not impressed. For many reasons. Not to be discouraged, she decided she would create a tent out of a tarp and some blankets. So, she got to work gathering her things. She and Nate packed a bag, snacks, got out blankets – they were totally prepared.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “there is no way you two are sleeping outside all night!” Mainly because I knew that would mean one of us would have to sleep out there with them. Now, before you go thinking that I’m a jerk of a parent, let’s get some details in order. It was going to go down to 35 degrees overnight. That’s cold. Additionally, though we live in suburbia, it is quite common to see fox, deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, etc. meandering about. I’m not up for that. Sorry. Maybe when it’s a little warmer, and we have a legitimate tent, with sides, we can reconsider. Here’s what their “tent” looked like:

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In my defense, I did try and reason / compromise with her. I let her know how cold it was going to be – she assured me that they had plenty of blankets. I suggested that they could fall asleep outside and that Craig and I would transfer them to their beds when we went to bed. Oh, no, she was not having that. Then, I tried putting my foot down. That was not received well, either. Finally, we came to an agreement. As long as we could eat breakfast in the ‘tent,’ they would sleep in their beds. Ok! Sounds like a plan! Peace was restored. The funniest piece of this was eavesdropping on her conversations with Nate, where they planned their next move and worked together against the great force of evil – Mom & Dad. I know, I know, these are not skills I should cultivate, but at 5 and 8, it’s still funny.

Anyway, they woke up Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, in their own beds and looked out the window to the trail of eggs! (Please ignore the thistle – I’m going to get out to the garden soon. I promise.)

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They were super excited to find their baskets and Izzie was over the moon when she discovered the hair color chalk that she had been wishing for for weeks.

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Easter dinner is without a doubt, my favorite holiday meal. Typically, my father’s side of the family gathers at my cousins’ house for dinner. Like most of us, we all bring different dishes, but the menu is pretty much the same. Ham, pineapple soufflĂ©, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding and a vegetable.

I was in charge of the vegetable. I couldn’t decide on one, so I brought two. Both make excellent additions to any meal. I made Ina’s Spinach Gratin and Smitten Kitchen’s Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions. I was looking for a recipe that didn’t use anything canned. No canned soup, no canned beans and zero canned fried onions. I was excited to find a recipe on a trusted blog. This did not disappoint!

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Those are real mushrooms!! There is nothing light about this dish, but nothing about it is processed, which made me happy. I didn’t take a ton of photos, because Smitten Kitchen has beautiful ones and great pointers for making this – please be sure to visit them and peruse further.

The spinach gratin has been a go-to recipe for years. It is creamy and cheesy and delicious. I love it. Period.

The real hero of my cooking day was my All-Clad Weeknight Pan that I got for Christmas:

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This pan is perfect for making casseroles, where you need to mix pasta or vegetables with a sauce – it is 4 quarts, so it can easily accommodate a pound of pasta along with your sauce. It transfers right to the oven, so there’s no real need for a casserole dish. Speaking of sauce, it is perfect for making sauce, because of it’s curved sides – it resembles a much larger saucier. There’s tons of surface area for sautĂ©ing, too. All around, it’s a great pan – I can highly recommend it! (P.S. I am not in cahoots with All-Clad or Crate and Barrel – I am simply a faithful believer and user of All-Clad and wanted to share the love.)

To those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope it was a wonderful day and that you enjoyed your meal as much as I did!

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Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s plan came together rather last-minute. I was trying to organize a play date for my daughter because we all just needed a little break from one another. She and her brother had had enough of playing together. Cabin fever had set in. In a big way. Luckily, the mom I was chatting with had the genius idea of combining New Year’s and a play date. Everyone wins!!

However, my house had taken on the look of four people, living in a space without actually cleaning up after themselves. Every surface had some project going on – Lego’s, Barbie’s, Gingerbread Houses, boxes turned into houses, laundry, Easy Bake Oven, etc. It was a total disaster. Oh, and, what to cook? It’s New Year’s – I can’t just throw spaghetti on a plate! I need to make it festive!! Plus, it has to appeal to five little kids. Sure. No problem.

I decided to break one of my cooking rules and make a different meal for the kids, because I had my heart set on delicious, hearty, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs on creamy goat cheese polenta from The Pioneer Woman with roasted Brussels sprouts and I knew my kids wouldn’t go for it.

For the kids, I picked Ina’s Parmesan Chicken with Skinny Fettuccini Alfredo from Gimme Some Oven and steamed broccoli.

Dessert – Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies from Kevin and Amanda. There was no need to make a separate dessert – chocolate chip cookies, oozing chocolate, with vanilla ice cream? Yeah, I think that should make everyone happy…

Now, here’s where the ‘twist’ came in. Literally. On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I decided to go work out. Let 2013 end on a positive note. Well, 2013 had other plans for me. We were warming up, just taking a little jog outside. I finished the jogging portion and started walking towards our next exercise (which the instructor was calling suicides – awesome) and my ankle just caved underneath me and brought me to the ground. Just for walking. Both my pride and ankle were in searing pain. I was helped to my car by a couple of classmates and I got my sorry butt home to the couch, with a bag of ice.

Surrounded by the squalor of my house and not one recipe started, I had no idea what to do. My husband and daughter decided to rally and became totally committed to pulling off this dinner party. I sat on the couch, and directed traffic and gave cooking tips, but everyone really stepped to the plate and made it happen. At around 1:30, I got up and started moving around – slowly. It was a full family effort.

The short ribs were flavorful and tender:

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Izzie breaded all the chicken and helped with the short ribs. My little eight year old is becoming quite the chef. The alfredo was really good – didn’t taste ‘skinny’ at all. The polenta was creamy, flavorful and so good. Sorry I don’t have pictures – I was back on a chair with a bag of ice and a large glass of wine when all of this was going on. There was a lot happening at the last minute – both the polenta and alfredo were made right before serving as was the chicken – so it was a bit of a juggling act. I would not necessarily recommend this.

The chocolate chip lava cookies were ridiculous. You should make them. You will be very happy you did. Don’t forget the ice cream.

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Even the table was festive. I never got around to the flowers, but, oh well.

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At the end of the day, we had a great night. I think it’s safe to say these kids had a blast!

 the girls

It never would have happened without the help of my husband and daughter. Along with the patience and help of our dear friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

2013 has brought some epic highs and some equally epic lows. I am happy to close the book and learn the lessons of 2013. Looking forward to a year of growth and pursuit of long standing dreams. Wishing you all a bountiful year, filled with peace and prosperity.

Happy New Year!!

 

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Welcoming New Neighbors (a little late…)

I live in a great neighborhood. It’s set back and quiet, we have block parties, the kids know each other and we hang out with and like our neighbors. So, when a new family joins us, I like to welcome them with a little something. Usually, that something can be measured by how long it takes me to get it together to walk down the street and deliver said something.

Well, let’s just say that this last gift took a LONG time. So long that two new families arrived. So, I decided to step up my game a little:

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Here’s the second one:

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Oh, and I made one more to give as a birthday present to my sister-in-law’s mom:

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So, at the end of the day, this didn’t take a lot of money, or effort. A little bit of running around, just because there were specific items I wanted to include, but you could easily accomplish this with one or two stops.

I wanted to incorporate some homemade elements with a few complementary purchased items. I have my homemade strawberry jam on hand, which lent itself to a tea theme. I made some Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies from The Pioneer Woman and stacked them in cellophane bags that I had on hand. 

For the store-bought items, I started out at Homegoods, where I found the baskets, dish towels, cocktail napkins, the cute mugs and scone mix (in the birthday basket). Next stop, Home Depot, where I bought the small pots, the plants and the chalkboard paint. Final stop, Target, where I bought the tea and hand soap. I realize the soap is a little stretch from the tea theme, but it smelled good and it was pretty.

To put the baskets together, I painted the small pots in chalkboard paint and wrote little notes on them:

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I then filled the baskets, starting with a layer of packing/craft paper in the bottom, so the elements didn’t get lost in the basket. On top of that, I put some crinkle cut paper, from Nashville Wraps, that I had left over from my son’s birthday party goodie ‘bags.’

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 Then, I arranged the elements in each basket, using the dishtowels as buffers and as a way to prop up the more important items. I’m pretty psyched with how they turned out. I’m hoping my tardiness was forgiven…

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An epic reptile party

My darling son turned five recently. Like many five year-old boys, he loves reptiles, bugs, dirt, puddles, etc. When it came time to plan his birthday party, I knew I needed to incorporate one of his loves. Enter the ‘Reptile’ theme… The highlight of this event was the live reptile show, given by Snakes-n-Scales, – in my living room. I’m still trying to forget the fact that a boa constrictor was IN. MY. LIVING ROOM. (Please forgive the lack of focus in this photo – I must have been shaking. Or rocking back and forth.)

boa

Regardless of the live animals, we had a theme – and once I have a theme, there’s no stopping me.

First stop, Etsy. Hours and hours on Etsy. Because, that’s what I do. I have to look at and analyze every single reptile related item available on Etsy. Seriously. Anyway, I found an adorable printable package that had the invitation, and a series of printables from AR Party Printables. We worked together to customize the invite and other items. I was able to carry this theme through every element of the party.

Drink Tags (blog post coming soon!):

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Grown-up Drinks – Blueberry Mojitos:

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This is super simple – I used a 2 inch circle punch to make the tags and took a little piece of adhesive putty and stuck it to the side of the mason jar. Clean-up is simple, because the putty just comes right off and you are ready to use your mason jars for another purpose!

Goodie ‘Bags’ (click for more detail):

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 Kid’s Drinks – Green Punch:

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Aren’t these adorable? I used half pint mason jars. I found these little lizards at the Dollar Tree and adhered them to the rings with a hot glue gun.  The ‘lid’ is just a cute cupcake liner that I found at Michael’s. Punched a hole in the middle of the liner for the straw and voila!

Flower Arrangements/terrariums:

flower arrangement

I already had these cool hurricanes. I filled the bottom with rocks I got from the Dollar Tree and added some plants from my water features(however, you could do this with plastic ferns or other artificial plants). Then we added in some of the plastic reptiles that we also sourced from the Dollar Tree, put water in the bottom and that was our centerpiece.

The turtle-shaped pizza:

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I used a turtle shaped cookie cutter, rolled out Trader Joe’s pizza dough, put on a little pizza sauce and cheese. To save time, we pre-cut the shapes and par-cooked them before the party. All we had to do at party time was add the sauce and cheese and bake.

The alligator-shaped cupcake display:

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I found this idea in “Hello, Cupcake”, a book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has lots of great ideas – if you love baking and cake decorating, this is a fun book. Theirs looks a little more professional, but it was about 200 degrees that day and the icing was so soft. Oh, and we don’t pipe icing on a regular basis, so, here you go. I still think it looked awesome – many thanks to my mom’s patient hands and piping skills.

In addition to these menu items, I served fruit salad, soft pretzel sticks and assorted sandwiches. Everyone had a blast. The other kids who love reptiles got to see and touch many of these reptiles, which was a huge thrill. Even the kids who were a little hesitant around reptiles seemed to have fun.  It was a huge success, despite the excessive heat. Parents and kids felt free to linger – which to me is always a sign of a good party.

Many thanks to Snakes-n-Scales, the folks who gave the presentation. All jokes aside, they did an awesome job. Nate was thrilled and they made sure all the reptiles stayed far, far away from me, which was much appreciated. They also ensured that all of said reptiles returned to their respective tubs and left my house. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or parts of New York (check out their website for specific coverage), I would highly recommend them. They are also a reptile rescue center, so the money you pay for the party goes towards helping animals.

BTW, did I mention there was a boa constrictor IN. MY. LIVING ROOM.???!!!! Not to mention, an alligator, python, lizards, giant turtles, I could go on…

 

 

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Homemade Vanilla – an easy gift idea

As fall approaches, I begin to think about the holidays and gift-giving. At least the homemade gifts that I’ll hand out to teachers and neighbors and friends who invite us over. For years, I’ve made strawberry jam and while I still made jam this year, I was looking for something a little different to give people who have gotten jam year-in, year-out. I wanted to find something that the kids could help with along with something that most people would appreciate getting as a gift. I came across a post about homemade vanilla. Seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try. Two ingredients, cute bottles and time. That’s it.

To get this project going, you’ll need a vessel to put your vanilla in. I chose these adorable 8-ounce Boston Bottles from Specialty Bottle.    

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Next item is some really nice vanilla beans. You’ll need three beans for every cup of liquid. I did a Google search for vanilla beans and Beanilla.com was the best source that I could find. Very highly rated and reasonably priced. I purchased a half-pound of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans which yielded enough beans for 18, 8-ounce jars of vanilla extract. They were beautiful, filled with seeds and smelled divine.

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Next stop, liquor store. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you saw that I posted a picture of a shopping cart, filled with large vodka bottles, being pushed by my 7-year-old. Well, this is why I was buying the vodka. Did I mention I like to involve my kids in these projects? Well, I wasn’t kidding.

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Oh, and, by the way, I grossly miscalculated how much vodka I needed. I only needed two and a half 1.75 L bottles. Luckily, I figured that out before I made the purchase, but the picture was already on Facebook.

Now you have everything. Only other supplies you need are scissors, funnel and a 1 cup measure (if the kids are helping). First step is to prepare your vanilla beans. Cut each bean in half and then in half length-wise. This makes for great division of labor. My 5-year-old did the cut in half:

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And my 7-year-old cut them in half length-wise:

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Once all of the beans are cut, distribute them into the bottles (3 full beans per bottle) and fill with vodka.

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Screw on the lids nice and tight and voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract. You’ll want to let the bottles sit for a couple of months to allow the beans to really flavor the liquid and turn it nice and brown. During this two-month period, give the bottles a little shake every week or so, just to encourage maximum extraction. I’m still working on what the label will look like, but I wanted to give everyone enough time to do this themselves, if you wanted to get it done in time for the holidays. I’ll be sure to share the final product when they are done!

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One final note, the total cost per bottle came to $7.40 – less than half as much as the fancy stuff you’d buy at specialty shops. If your homemade gift budget is less than that, you could certainly opt for the 4-ounce jar and cut your supplies in half. I would recommend investing in quality ingredients over cutting costs on cheaper vodka or lower-quality vanilla beans. Quality over quantity, always. Good luck!!

PROGRESS REPORT!

Here’s what it looks like after one month:

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As you can see, it’s gotten a lot darker. Still needs more time, but it’s good progress! I even used some in a batch of cookies and they tasted great.

FINAL PRODUCT:

Here is the final bottle. This is after two full months of steeping. You’ll see it’s that deep, rich color that you would expect from vanilla extract. Loving the label too. I purchased the floral border from Sweet Shop Design on Etsy. I downloaded the following two free fonts: Madame Klara and Janda Cheerful. There are tons of free fonts out there on the web. I usually find great compilations on Pinterest. I have a board dedicated to favorite fonts: http://www.pinterest.com/goodatev/graphic-design/ – feel free to follow along!

Final product Vanilla 

Enjoy!

 

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Canning with ‘Food in Jars’

Yes, it’s true, I can. I love to ‘put up’ the bounty of summer. I’ve canned a lot of different things – jams, tomatoes, marinara, jalapenos, apple sauce, etc. If you follow me on Facebook (which you should!), you’d have seen that I am looking for a good bloody mary recipe to can. I would say that I am a mid-level canner – I know enough to get a good seal, but I don’t yet have the confidence to stray too far from a recipe. Which is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to learn from a master canner and super talented cookbook author, Marisa McClellan. She has a wonderful blog / website, dedicated to canning, called Food in Jars. She has written a beautiful cookbook, also called ‘Food in Jars.’

bookI have been following her for a while. When I first got into canning a few years ago, hers was one of the websites I devoured to get my bearings. She’s got lots of great pointers, recipes and anecdotes that helped me feel confident that I, too, could can.

Now, before you get too excited, please don’t picture her and I, two bloggers, hanging out in the kitchen, canning. As much as I would have loved that, I actually attended a class that she held at a local library. She stood up in front and hosted us all for about an hour, giving great information and answering all of my, er, our questions. All the while, she was making a small batch of apricot jam. Which was delicious, by the way.

As I mentioned, I consider myself a mid-level canner. Which to me means, as long as the recipe is good, I will be successful. But, if I have to guess at anything, I sort of panic and don’t know what to do. I have had several failures recently with getting the jam to set. Which means, my jam looks more like a fruit syrup (see photo below). Jam should not move freely about the jar. Contents should not shift during flight. The first time it happened, I thought maybe the pectin I used was old. When it happened again recently, I was mad. I needed to get to the bottom of this problem.

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All the recipes that I follow use pectin and I use normal, every-day pectin. I’m too afraid to go low-sugar, or God-forbid, none at all. These recipes all say ‘boil vigorously for one minute – only.’ I’m terrified to go any longer, I mean, what in the world will happen to my jam???!?! (See what I mean? Panic.)

Turns out, I wasn’t cooking it long enough. Duh. Thank God for Marisa – she totally calmed me down and assured me of the issue at hand and how easily corrected it is. She reminded me to do the saucer test – put a saucer in the freezer while you are cooking your jam. To test the set, drop a little on the saucer and put it back into the freezer for a couple of minutes. If it has formed a skin while in the freezer, it is set. If not, keep cooking.

Thanks to Marisa, I have a new-found confidence. I am going to open up those bad jars right now and try to fix them!! I read a quote recently: “A winner is a loser who tries one more time.” I think it was in reference to weight loss, but whatever, it applies to this too. I plan to be a winner today!

If you are thinking of getting into canning, I would recommend trying to catch a class with her. Follow her on Facebook – she announces all of her upcoming classes there. If you can’t get to see her in person, check out her website. She has a real no-nonsense approach to canning that will put anyone at ease.

Carrie and Marisa

Thanks for your time and help, Marisa!! Anytime you are looking for some canning company, drop me a line!

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I love mojitos!!

I am a huge fan of mojitos. The refreshing combination of mint, lime, rum and soda water are incredible. Definitely a summer staple for me. I also love mojitos that have been doctored with fruits and different flavors. The basic mojito is a great starting point for lots of flavor combinations.

Recently, while procrastinating on Pinterest, I came across a recipe for Blueberry Mojitos from The Novice Chef. Of course, I was drawn in by the word ‘mojito’ but as I read the blog post, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous photos. Plus, this delicious concoction was pictured in a mason jar. I just love anything in a mason jar. If you want me to pin something of yours, put it in a mason jar. I will pin it, that’s a fact. 

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I changed the recipe a little, to my taste – doubling the mint and the sugar, but otherwise kept it the same. Mine are much more purple, which I don’t totally understand, but they were still pretty and more importantly, delicious.

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I made up a huge batch and served these at my son’s birthday party. I always like to have a little something for the parents who come and sit through these parties. They are great fun for a five year-old, but for the parents it is often a labor of love. It’s always a nice surprise to be remembered. Not necessary, but nice. For all you parents, who will be sitting through a kid’s party this weekend, I hope there’s something as beautiful as this waiting for you as your reward for being an awesome parent. Enjoy!

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Blueberry Mojito
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish
  2. 4 ou. white rum
  3. 20 fresh mint leaves
  4. 4 tsp sugar
  5. Juice of 2 limes
  6. 6 ou club soda
Instructions
  1. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries until smooth.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine the mint leaves and sugar. Muddle together with either a muddle, or a wooden spoon. The sugar helps to release the delicious oils from the mint leaves. Add the lime juice, rum and blueberries and shake well.
  3. Divide mixture between two ice-filled glasses, and top off with club soda. Give the drinks a stir and garnish with a sprig of mint, a lime wedge and some extra blueberries.
Adapted from Blueberry Mojito, The Novice Chef
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/
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Easy, flavorful summer dinner idea

 I don’t know about you, but, I’m hot. And not in a good way. It’s sticky, humid and generally gross here on the east coast. I am currently hiding up in my air conditioned office – “working.” At some point, I know I’m going to have to switch gears and think about dinner. If I don’t, I risk my daughter telling on me – and I don’t want a bad reputation.

As I think about options requiring the least amount of heat, I am reminded of one of my favorite summer dinners: Summer Garden Pasta by Ina Garten. This dish is the epitome of summer flavors. It is bursting with sweet tomatoes, delicious basil and flavorful garlic. The angel hair pasta soaks up all the juices and is a perfect, light accompaniment to the tomatoes.

cookbook

Before you say it, I know – Ina, again??!! Just bear with me – it’s awesome, I promise. The only heat required for this one is the boiling water for the pasta.

This is one of those recipes where quality of ingredients are key. There are so few ingredients, each one plays an integral part in the flavor of the overall dish. Use the freshest ingredients possible – as tomato season approaches, visit a farm stand and get them fresh from the source. Fresh basil and garlic are a must. Also, this recipe makes a TON! You can easily halve the recipe, or, make the whole thing and eat the leftovers cold out of the Tupperware (not that I’ve ever done this).

 Here’s what you’ll need:

ingredients

4 pints cherry tomatoes, 6 cloves garlic, 18 basil leaves, olive oil, 1 pound angel hair pasta, 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if you like a little heat).

Mince the garlic, chop the basil and cut cherry tomatoes in half and combine with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if using) in a large bowl (you’ll need the space for the pasta later). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least four hours.

tomatoes

When you are ready to eat, boil a big pot of salted, oiled water and cook your angel hair pasta according to the package. Make sure your pot is big enough so your pasta has room to move, to keep it from sticking together. Stir it frequently.

Before you pour all the pasta water down the drain, reserve a little, just in case you need it to loosen the pasta when you mix it with the tomatoes. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and mix the pasta and parmesan cheese with the tomatoes and toss well. Serve in large pasta bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese and basil.

See, wasn’t that easy? Stay cool, my friends.

 

Summer Garden Pasta
Serves 6
A simple dinner, filled with the flavors of summer.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
4 hr 25 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
4 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  2. Good olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (6 cloves)
  4. 18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
  5. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Kosher salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1 pound angel hair pasta
  9. 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
Instructions
  1. Combine the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.
  2. Just before you're ready to serve, bring a large pot of oiled, salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well. Serve in big bowls with extra cheese on each serving.
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/
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