Monday, November 16, 2015

The War on Thanksgiving

OK, people. We need to talk. I really don't give a rat's furry behind if you wish me Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. I don't care if you drink your coffee out of a plain red Starbucks cup or an ugly Dunkin Donuts cup. I don't even give a flying fig if the dress is blue and black or white and gold. But for the love of mike, can we please, please, PLEASE stop steam rolling over Thanksgiving.
Look, I get it. Christmas is awesome! I love it too. I have eight Christmas trees (eight!) for crying out loud. But it seems like more and more, every year, just as soon as Halloween is over - out come the Christmas decorations. Away go the jack-o-lanterns, up go the Christmas trees. Why?
Everyone is so rushed and so busy these days. Our Christmas shopping lists seem to get longer and more elaborate every year. And if you have kids and those kids happen to participate in extracurricular activities then forget about free time. Everyone is so overbooked. So why do we rush head-long into stressing about Christmas?
Why not take the time around Thanksgiving to celebrate in the spirit the holiday was intended? Enjoy the slowed do pace as autumn slowly rolls into winter. Take the time to be with the family - just be. Be thankful. Not just Facebook post thankful, but actually thankful for all the things that you have in your life. Everyone has SOMETHING to be thankful for. Don't rush it. As my friend, Ferris Beuller, once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

It is after all the Season of the Pumpkin. Pumpkin Spice Coffee. Pumpkin Spice Donuts. Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls. Pumpkin Pie. Pumpkin Greek Yogurt. And, I kid you not, Pumpkin Facials. But, as delicious as all that is, there always seems to be a bit of artifice about it. As though we have to cram as much Pumpkin into as many products as we possibly can before the sleigh bells jingle and everything has to taste like eggnog and chestnuts.
But why not have something as wholesome as it is delicious. These Pumpkin Spice Muffins are about as healthy as a muffin can be. I mean muffins are basically just cupcakes that we convince ourselves that it's OK to eat for breakfast. And if you're going to eat cupcakes for breakfast they should at least be full of delicious, real pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

3 Cups White Wheat Flour (white is perfectly acceptable, but the white wheat version allows me to sneak a little nutrition in without my kids knowing it.)
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Oil
3 Eggs
2 Cups Canned Pumpkin (not Pumpkin Pie Filling)
1 Tbs. Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tbs. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/8 tsp. Ground Cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 24 muffin cups. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, salt, soda, and spices. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, add eggs and oil. Mix until thouroghly combined. Add vanilla, mix. Add pumpkin and mix well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Spoon batter into muffin cups until all cups have equal amounts. Batter will be thick. Top with Streusel Topping (optional). Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pans. Cover and store at room temperature.

Streusel Topping

1/4 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Cold Butter, cut into small cubes.

Combine all ingredients. Spoon onto top of each muffin.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Oh, Captain! My Captain.

Fifteen years ago today I married my best friend. We stood up in front of all our family and friends and vowed to a lot of very improbable things. To say that we had no idea what we were getting into would be an understatement.
We've been married for fifteen years but we've been partners in crime for almost 18. We've had quite a few adventures in that time. A couple of really great kids. A couple of dogs and a few cats. We've bought a house and built another one. We've seen most of our friends get married and have their own kids. We've lost family members and a few friends. We've had some health scares and we've come close to splitting a couple of times. There's been more than a few times when I've felt like it was the two of us against the world. And we've travelled probably a million miles on road trips.
The Captain drives a tow boat for 28 days at a time and even though he's the one on a boat, I'm the one left adrift. You see, he is my home. It doesn't matter where we are as long as we are together we are home. And when he is not at home neither am I.
So Happy Anniversary to my Captain, my best friend, and my partner for life. I could not be me without you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

DIY Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers

My new sister-in-law, Ginger*, just had a birthday. And Boyd, my brother and her husband, decided to be helpful and shared with me her Etsy wish list. On said list was a couple of really pretty wreaths made out of yarn and felt flowers.
 Unfortunately, her birthday was a week away and I didn't have time to have anything shipped.
Fortunately, though, I did have time to make a run to the craft store and put in some time making something.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to make felt flowers.
Fortunately, I have a smart phone with a data plan and there are more than a few tutorials on the interwebs.
The whole project wasn't too very difficult but it did take a bit of time. Anyone with a modicum of craftiness should be able to pull this off. On a scale of Paris Hilton to Martha Stewart, I give it a Marie Osmond.

What You'll Need
1 Styrofoam Wreath Form (mine was 16")
1 Skein Yarn (I used a thick marled variety)
Felt in Various Colors (I got 4 different colors in the pre-cut sheets)
Assorted Trimmings (I used some green wired roping and a couple of burlap floral picks. But you could use anything that fit with your theme. Good choices are wired ribbon or roping, floral picks with flowers or berries.)
Floral Pins (the U-shaped kind)
Straight Sewing Pins
Fabric Glue
Needle and Thread

Start by wrapping a loop of yarn around the wreath form tying off the end with a double knot, trimming the tail.

Continue wrapping the yarn, going slowly and scooting the yarn to close any gaps.

Pause about every 5"-6" to secure with a floral pin.

Once you reach the end keep wrapping to form a 1/2" overlap. Cut a 6" tail and form a loop, trimming the tail.

To form the flowers, cut rough spirals from the felt. (You can vary the size of your flowers by varying the size of the spirals you cut.) Starting from the inside carefully wrap your felt in a inverted cone shape. Use a needle and a corosponding colored thread to throw in a few stitches into the back of the flower to secure. I used two or three X shaped stitches - you may need a few more on the larger flowers.
Continue cutting and forming your flowers until you've used 3 different colored sheets of felt.

Use the fourth color to cut out rough leaf shapes.

Fold each leaf in half and stitch a seam along the edge of the fold, leaving a bit on each end.

Arrange your flowers, leaves and trim as you would like them. Use floral pins to secure the leaves (I also used them to secure the roping in a loose free form looping shape)

Then use the straight sewing pins to stab the center of each flower into the wreath form to secure them where you would like them. Tuck in any remaining trim you wish to use, securing with pins if necessary.
Finally, use scraps to cut circles (roughly about the size of a pencil eraser) out of each color of felt, one circle for each flower. Use the fabric glue to secure each circle over the center of each flower, covering the sewing pin.

Stand back and admire your handiwork.

*As always, no actual names are used on this site.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Salted Caramel Root Beer Floats

Bubbo wanted Root Beer Floats. I wanted Salted Caramel Ice Cream. And thus was born Salted Caramel Root Beer Floats.

I made the Salted Caramel Ice Cream and it could not be easier. (Seriously, it barely qualifies as home made.) But you could just as easily use a good quality vanilla ice cream, then drizzle a bit of caramel on top.
We scooped the ice cream into frosty mugs, topped with Root Beer and . . . Voila!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbs. Vanilla Bean Paste or 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
3/4 Caramel dessert topping
1 Tbs Sea Salt

Mix first 4 ingredients together. Whisk until Sugar dissolves. Process in Ice Cream Maker according to manufacturers directions.
10 minutes before end of ice cream freezing cycle place Caramel topping in microwave safe container. Microwave for 20-30 seconds until topping becomes very pourable. Mix in the sea salt. Set aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, remove the ice cream to a freezer safe container; alternating layers of ice cream and thin layers of Salted Caramel drizzle, finishing with caramel. Freeze at least 12 hours before scooping.

Monday, June 8, 2015

He Belongs to All of Us Now

photo from usa today
Something happened Saturday evening that had not occurred in my entire lifetime. A horse won the Triple Crown. Not just any horse.
A Kentucky horse.
American Pharoah, bred and foaled at Stockplace Farm in Winchester. He will retire at stud at Ashford Stud in Versailles.
But not so fast.
American Pharoah still has some run left in him, or so say his owners the Zayat family.
In an interview on The Today Show this morning the family patriarch, Ahmed Zayat, said that he wanted to race American Pharoah a few more times for the fans. "He belongs to all of us now," he said.
You see, Zayat gets it. He's a true fan of the sport and he knows that this Triple Crown win is bigger than big. It's bigger than any one owner, trainer, or jockey. It's all about the horse. American Pharoah IS horse racing.
And, yes, Zayat has been involved in controversies over the years. Namely financial and gambling related type things that he has been cleared of, but which still may tarnish his image. But I say, 'who cares?' I'd much rather listen to a man who is a true fan of horse racing than that overstuffed Yosemite Sam knockoff, Steve Coburn. The owner of last years, oh so close, California Chrome. That jackass acted like a spoiled little girl who didn't get voted prom queen.
So Congratulations to the Zayat family!
Congratulations to Victor Espinoza!
And even Congratulations to Bob Baffert, you shady bastard.
But most of all Congratulations to American Pharoah! You have made Kentucky proud.

Friday, June 5, 2015

National Doughnut Day

APPARENTLY it considered somewhat suspect to drink at breakfast. (Except for Mimosas right? I mean Mimosas totally don't count!) So what is one supposed to do?
It being National Doughnut Day and all, I thought I'd help a person out, and since it's Flashback Friday (or so I'm told) I thought I'd throw it way back with this post about Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts.

Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts

1 pkg. active dry yeast (please don't get the Rapid Rise kind - it sucks!)
2 Tbs. warm water
3/4 Cup warm milk (Microwave for about 1 min. is just about right)
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
2 1/2 Cups bread flour*
Vegetable Oil

Combine yeast and warm water in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, let stand 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn't proof after 2-3 minutes try adding about 1 tsp. sugar and try again.)
Combine yeast mixture, milk, and next six ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add 1 cup flour, mixing completely. Use an electric mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down using rubber spatula. Dough will be sticky! Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead several times. Roll dough to 1/2" thickness, and cut with 2 1/2" doughnut cutter. (If you don't have doughnut cutter, cut into 2" x 3" strips with a pizza cutter) Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Pour oil to depth of 2-3" in a heavy pan; heat oil to 375 degrees. Cook doughnuts 2-3 at a time. Do not crowd your pan! Cook for 1 minute on each side. Drain well on paper towels.
Dip each doughnut in glaze while still warm, letting the excess drip off. Cool on wire racks. If you have excess glaze you can brush it on the doughnuts. Don't waste that stuff!

Bourbon Glaze
3 Cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 milk
1/4 Bourbon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Use immediately. Place in shallow dish such as a pie plate to allow for easier dipping.

* A quick note about bread flour. It is totally worth buying. The difference is that bread flour contains more protein than regular flour which leads to more gluten production. This gives a lighter texture to the dough. This is how you get that pig pillow-y texture in things like doughnuts, rolls, and the like.