14 August 2012

Cinnamon: The spice of gods and kings

Many spices have a rich background filled with folklore, legend and  interesting tidbits of history that many people are unaware of when using them in the kitchen. Here's a brief history of one of my favorite spices: cinnamon.

Some legends say cinnamon came from the sea at the edge of the world, at the mouth of the Nile. Others say that the exotic Cinnamon Bird carried cinnamon twigs from a mysterious land to Arabia to build their nests, and that the clever Arabs were able to trick the birds into giving up the precious nests. Most of these tales stemmed from Arab merchants who widely spread tall tales to keep their cinnamon source a secret.

Cinnamon has been a prized spice throughout the world for a long time. It was mentioned in Chinese texts as early as 2800 BC. It is also mentioned in the Bible, Exodus 30: 23, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon..." 

Cinnamon was considered a precious spice fit to be a gift for both kings and gods. It was used as an anointing oil by ancient Israelites, and for embalming ancient Egyptian kings. Emperor Nero burned a year's supply of it to ease the guilt of murdering his pregnant wife, Poppaea Sabina in AD 65. Since it was worth its weight in gold in the 15th - 19th centuries, many countries fought to control the power of cinnamon trade including the Portuguese, Dutch and English. At this time it was mostly used to mask the taste of old meats.

Cinnamon has great antiseptic qualities which has made it an ideal spice to be used to cure ailments. It was and is used medicinally to cure all sorts of problems from flatulence to toothaches, from temporary colds and flu to more permanent ailments like arthritis and diabetes.

And of course, cinnamon has the added benefit of being absolutely delicious! Cinnamon is still a widely beloved spice for use in the kitchen for both main dishes (particularly in parts of Asia), and in desserts.

Cinnamon may not have been flown to earth from mysterious Cinnamon Birds, but the spice still contains a delicious aroma and flavor. Here is a wonderful dessert bread that will allow you to experience some of the magic of cinnamon. 
cinnamon bread
2 cups flour                                                      1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar                                                       ¼ cup oil
2 tsp baking powder                                         2 eggs
½ tsp baking soda                                            2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs & 1½ tsp cinnamon                                4 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Grease 9x5 loaf pan.
3. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, 1½ tsp cinnamon, buttermilk powder, and salt.
4. In separate bowl, combine water for buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla. Beat well.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
6. In third bowl cut butter into small chunks, add 1 Tbs cinnamon, combine into pea size bits.
7. Fold cinnamon butter mixture into batter.
8. Pour batter into loaf pan.
9. Bake 45 minutes. Insert toothpick, if isn't clean or bread seems unstable, cook another 5 minutes. 


11 August 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies n Cream Ice Cream Bowls

OMG these things are delicious! Half baked oozy gooey cookie bowls topped with french vanilla ice cream and all the toppings: chocolate syrup, caramel, peanuts, walnuts, whipped cream, peanut butter, and anything else you can think of! Sorry for the blah photo but I was halfway through inhaling it before I thought to take a picture to share.

Anyways, this recipe is super easy, just make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (or experiment with another favorite cookie) and instead of putting them on a cookie sheet, you place them in muffin tins, and press a little hole in the middle to encourage a bowl shape to be created. Cook them about 3-5 minutes less then you normally would to ensure ultimate gooeyness. 

Then simply add ice cream and toppings to the fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie bowls and you are ready to go! Note: a real bowl will also be required as this food makes a delightful mess of sugary goodness.

09 August 2012

Hot Cocoa Oatmeal Scones

Yum! Just a twist on an old favorite! In lou of chocolate chips, my fiance suggested adding a packet of hot cocoa mix and it turned out DELICIOUS!

3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup oats
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup chilled butter
1 packet milk hot chocolate mix
1/3 cup milk
1 lightly beaten egg

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheet.
2. In bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, hot chocolate mix, baking powder & salt. Cut butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

3. In separate bowl, combine milk with egg, add to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead gently 8-10 times.
4. Roll dough into 8 in circle and place on cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes, until light golden brown.

26 July 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Here is an absolutely delicious dish for a fancy night in. Light the candles, pour the wine, and put on some Italian music for a romantic (and delicious!) evening at home. Or just make it for a tasty alternative to the typical spaghetti night. Bonus, makes great leftovers!

1 lb noodles
5 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 cup diced roma tomato
¼ cup sun-dried tomato
1 Tbs basil
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
3 Tbs butter
parmesan cheese
pine nuts

1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.
2. When done, drain then toss lightly with 2 Tbs olive oil.
3. While pasta is cooking, heat 4 Tbs olive oil in skillet. Mince garlic, then add salt, pepper, and garlic to skillet.
4. Dice tomatoes and lightly chop sun dried tomatoes.
5. Add tomatoes, dried tomatoes, basil, chicken broth, and wine to skillet.
6. Bring to a boil.
7. Add butter and sauce to the cooked and drained pasta. Toss to combine.
8. Serve topped with parmesan, pine nuts, and basil.

23 July 2012

Wedding Color Theme using Photographs

When planning a wedding, it's easy to have a color scheme or theme to help narrow down the millions of options a bit. While many people choose one or two complementary colors, I found a way to ensure colors match while allowing for more than just the traditional one or two color scheme approach. Having several complementary colors helps to add depth and interest to a wedding. However, if the colors do not match well, the event can seem disorganized and amateur.

If you are not gifted with knowing what colors match, or you are simply not in the mood to spend hours and hours to come up with a palette of complimentary colors, here's a trick I implemented that worked quite nicely. 

Flip through a magazine (fashion, nature, home, doesn't really matter) or go to Google images and look for photographs that are striking to you, and contain colors that you might like at your wedding or other event. I Googled phrases like, "stormy sea" "folk art" and "autumn leaves."Try to pick images that look professionally photographed or designed.

Next, take that image you found and pick spots of color from out of the images you have picked. Try to pick a range of bold colors, pastels, and dark colors. This is not necessary, but is a good way to ensure that your color scheme is not overwhelmingly bright (think circus) or too washed-out looking.

Above is a set of colors I chose from images I found on Google. Notice how in almost all options I have a very dark color, one that is almost white, and one or two brighter colors. I used an eyedropper tool to pick exact shades from the images, and filled rectangles with each color using a free program called Inkscape. You could also use a program like Adobe Illustrator or you can also get out crayons or colored pencils (provided you have a large pack with many colors) to create a palette for future reference and planning.

Good luck!

18 July 2012

Life. What's it all about?

You heard me. What is this stuff we call breathing, eating, living? Is it just that? Is it the basic necessities in life: food, shelter, clothing? Is it all the little things that give what we call reality meaning? A smile in the grocery store, a conversation with a friend, hopes and aspirations for the future. Perhaps it is all this, but maybe not. 

My fiance and I have just signed a bunch of papers committing us to a lease, renters insurance, and a load of utilities to go with. That seems pretty scary to us. The money, yes, but also the commitment. A commitment to a year of this thing we call life, living in one place, following certain rules, and making sure to make enough to pay for it all. A promise to give a certain amount of time to make a certain amount of money and to set aside a certain amount of that money to pay for the things we have just agreed to until July 27, 2013, when we have to make another decision about how life will be for the next certain amount of time. 

Is this a logical way to go? The people who rent to us seem to think so. It is nearly impossible to get a place without a full year lease. The hassle of moving from place to place over and over makes me think keeping life in one place for a while seems pretty good. But is that what life is really about? Making decisions, promising a little of you here, and a little of you there, until all is taken up and then the sum of theses things is your life? Perhaps not in its entirely, but that's ultimately what life ends up being for each individual, a set of choices.

Makes the choices seem all the more important doesn't it? One big mistake could cost quite a bit, don't you think? The wrong commitment, or the wrong offhand comment, and all could fall apart. You could go the wrong direction and end up with a life you could only pity. But at the same time, living in fear of these choices makes it not really living at all, doesn't it? If no choices are made, then perhaps not much is accomplished. Certainly not something that one could take ownership of and feel proud about.

Perhaps life is about embracing the challenges, and making the best choices we can. Sometimes that means taking an uncertain leap. Sometimes that means signing a scary piece of paper to a lease on an awesome little studio apartment on the south side of town. But to make choices is the only way one can truly move forward and start to live. I am afraid, but I choose life.

16 July 2012

Onion Rings

Such wonderful tasty deliciousness! Just don't let your oil get to smoke point! We smoked up the house good before we got the oil (peanut) to the right heat. This recipe was adapted from this website.

1 large onion
1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
oil for deep frying

 To Make:
     Pour oil into a frying pan and turn to medium-medium high. Wash and peel onions, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Separate rounds into rings. In a bowl, combine flour, seasonings, and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Dip onion rings into egg batter, then flour mixture, then egg batter again. When oil seems hot, drop one onion into the oil and see if it cooks too slowly or burns. Adjust accordingly. Fry until golden brown, turning to brown both sides. Remove to paper towels or brown paper bag to drain thoroughly. Sprinkle with a little salt before serving.


14 July 2012

Ever Mowed the Lawn with a Kitchen Knife??

Yeah, me either... until yesterday! Wondering why someone would let the lawn to such a state? In a nutshell, my roommates and I are moving out of our rental in a month, and none of has or wanted to get a lawn mower just for the summer. And of course, no one was smart enough or motivated enough to call a lawn mowing service. As you can see in this picture, this is approximately what the lawn looked like pre-chop.(Sorry, all I had was this picture, I did not think to take a picture beforehand, so this picture was for my Etsy shop.)

Since I am moving in 3 weeks and am not interested in buying more "stuff" to have to move, I used a serrated kitchen knife (bread cutter) from my kitchen for the chopping. I sawed away at the grass until clumpfulls came off in my hand. It actually worked quite well. The knife cut the handfuls of grass with relative ease, and when the 90 degrees weather got to me, I simply went into the chilly basement for a half hour or so, and made a pleasant afternoon of the whole affair.

After, it looks something like this!!!
In case your wondering, no I am not crazy. I am hoping to get the lawn to a short enough length that a lawn mower can actually do some damage. I am too embarrassed at present to hire a mowing service to this jungle nightmare. (and afraid of what the bill would be!) It will take a bit more work, but I'm getting there.

04 July 2012


Hey people! I hate it when others get all crazy about self promotion and forget to blog about what made them good to begin with, but I have to post one wee little post again about RecipeBox! If you haven't already, be sure to check it out here

It comes with about 10 free recipes that Wayne and I both love, and a bunch of easy ways to categorize and enter in recipes. In addition, sharing a recipe with friends is super easy, so your twice-baked potatoes can almost instantly be shared with your adoring fans at a party. 

It's fairly basic for now, but we will add new features now that we know that there is a need for such an app! Please check it out and let us know what you think! If there is a feature you like or dislike, let us know!

As a final note, I am sorry I sort of stopped blogging the last few weeks. I have been apartment searching, wedding planning, job hunting all at once, and it sort of saps the creative brain! Anyway, I hope to post a few in the near future about the wedding planning and decorations soon! Stay tuned!

02 July 2012

Shoes, lets try this again

I am at it again. A new shoe project is currently underway! And this time, its going to be weather worthy. Yup, that's right, I have plans for soles that will hopefully last outside and be fairly waterproof!! As you can see in the picture below, I have a thick leather sole wrapped in burlap. My plan is to apply several layers of rubber cement to the bottoms after the uppers have been attached to protect the soles and burlap from wear, and to provide some amount of grip (aided of course by the rough burlap bottoms).
Wanting to keep it simple, the uppers should have a wide enough opening to make laces or straps necessary. I have added a simple straight stitch around the opening, not only to attach the rough edge leather decoration, but also to keep the leather from stretching and ripping under stress.
As you can see, the project is midway through, and I will post more pictures on the completed pair once finished, but I thought you might like to see the progress I have made in the past couple weeks.

26 June 2012

Recipe Box App

Hello everyone!

As some of you may know, my boyfriend and I have been working on the smart phone app, "Recipe Box" for the last 6 months. I am proud to say that we are finally ready to release on the android market! (sorry iPhone users-maybe in the near future) It will be available on the android market starting July 1st.

I am super excited about the release because any recipes I have posted in the past 4 or so months have used this app for ease of creation! 

So here's the basic rundown of the app. You can enter favorite or standard recipes on your phone for easy retrieval while in the kitchen. When you open the app, you can pick which recipe you want from a list, enter it in to the search menu, or search by category.

Once you pick the recipe, you can view a brief description, which category(ies) it is in, and how long it takes to prep and cook. 
Then you can switch views to see the ingredients or the instructions for cooking! This makes it easy to read and refer to while you cook.

This was a lovely app to work on together, since one of our favorite activities to do together is to cook! Recipe Box can help you too in the kitchen and on the go. Its especially nice because it all fits into something you carry with you everywhere rather than stuck at home in a cupboard or lost on an index card somewhere. The clean cut font also makes you never have to guess if your handwriting says tsp or tbs.

The Categories option helps you organize by categories you pick, like main dish, dessert, beef, etc. and since you can add multiple categories to one recipe, you can find a recipe like meatloaf both under beef and main dishes, depending on what you are searching under.

Ok sorry, enough with the self-marketing, I'm just super excited about the launch, and I hope you check it out and love it too! 
look for this logo!

And please, please pretty please tell us what you think, even if its not all flattering! We are hoping to develop it further and suggestions or complaints are very welcome! Rate it on the android market or you can comment here on this blog :) Thanks!

13 June 2012

Ruffle Skirt Step 6: The Hemline

Now its time for the final step in the ruffle skirt! 
Put the skirt on and find the length you want the final product to be. Fold all extra fabric under and mark with a pin.
Take the skirt off and make sure the pin is only going through the top layer of fabric. Measure the excess length and proceed to place pins along the entire bottom of the skirt. 
At this point, iron the line you have pinned and then put the skirt back on. Look to see if the skirt looks shorter or longer at any point and adjust your pins so that the skirt lays evenly. 

If adjustments were made, iron the skirt again. (Remember, we are only working on the top layer of the skirt. The lining will be hemmed after the top part is complete.) 

Next, if the folded under length of the skirt is any longer than 2 inches, cut off the remaining part. For example, if the length is 3 inches, that would mean cutting a 1 inch strip off the raw edge of the fabric. Measure 2 inches from the fold rather than 1 inch from the edge to ensure that the hem will have 2 inches excess.
Next, fold 1/2 inch under on the raw edge of the fabric and secure with pins. Iron flat. 
For a visible hemline, top stitch around the skirt bottom at the fold. (For and invisible hemline, I will post a tutorial on how to do this with a sewing machine.)
Now you can look at the lining. Lay the skirt flat, and cut the lining 1/2 inch longer than the finished edge of the top layer. 
Then fold up 1/2 inch, toward the top layer. 
Fold 1/2 inch again and secure with pins. Iron. 
Stitch. It should look like this. 

Now the skirt is complete! 
Thank you so much for bearing with me through my first tutorial! If  you liked it, let me know, and I can try to make more. Also, I could make tutorials on different sewing techniques like hemlines, tips for lining up plaids, etc. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks!

17 May 2012

Ruffle Skirt Step 5: The Zipper and Hook

For this step, we will start by laying the zipper next to the edge of the skirt. Make sure there is a small amount of space above the zipper (for the hook, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch will do), and mark on the fabric where the zipper ends. 
Pin the outsides of the fabric from both ends of the skirt (not the liner) together right sides facing each other and sew a straight seam.
Iron flat. 
Repeat these steps with the liner fabric. When done, it should look something like this:
Line the edges up of the liner and the main fabric on the remaining opening, and sew a zig-zag stitch to stop ends from raveling.
Snip into the fabric at the base so the ends can face out. This cut should be made from the edge of the fabric up to, but not past the seam line (see picture). 
Next, fold these edges to the inside, and pin the zipper onto the skirt. 
Finally, carefully sew around the edge of the zipper, being sure to sew slowly and carefully over the base of the zipper so the thread and/or needle doesn't break. 
The last step is to hand stitch the hook and eye onto the top of the skirt. Make the hook face the inside of the body for a more secure hold (see picture).
Here is what the skirt should look like after the hook and eye are secure. 

Go back to the beginning
Go back to making the ruffle
Continue to the final step!

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