Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fluffy Bites

It is amazing how much a little bit of crafting got me so far behind last week. (And no, I have only watched Twilight once!). I find it hard to believe it is already Wednesday, yet there is still so much to be done still. Although it is mood-lifting to see the yard turning green again, I dread going though winter/spring clothes :P

I really want to share with you all an insanely good recipe I tried this week. It comes from my beloved Family Fun magazine (March 09, page 94). This is the first time I have used puff pastry, Imagine fancy, flaky, super-flavorful ham + cheese sandwiches.

Argentian Ham and Cheese Empanadas
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
-8 oz cooked ham, chopped
-2 Tbsp bread crumbs
-8 oz mild Cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
-2 Tbsp sour cream
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-pinch black pepper
-1 package of empanada wrappers or 2 packages of Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry, thawed
-egg wash made from 1 large egg beaten, combined with 1 Tbsp water
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and parsley and cook until onion is transparent (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat, transfer to medium-sized bowl, and allow to cool.
Add the ham, bread crumbs, cheese (I used Cheddar Jack), sour cream, egg, and pinch of black pepper to the bowl, and mix well.
(To make the empanada wrapper, I cut each sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pasty dough into 4 equal squares)
Place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in center of wrapper and lightly moisten the edge with the egg wash. Fold the pastry in half and press the edges firmly to seal. Crimp the edge with a fork dipped in flour and pierce the top with fork to allow steam to escape. Repeat with remaining pastry/filling, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375. Brush the empanadas with the remaining egg wash and bake them on a parchment-lined baking seet on the upper oven rack until golden (About 20-25 minutes). Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Randi's Notes:
  • -Although I purchased 2 boxes of the puff pastry as called for in the recipe, I decided to only make half the recipe. One box contains 2 sheets of pastry, and I cut each sheet into 4 squares...therefore, half the recipe yielded 8 empanadas. This was enough to feed my husband, myself, and both girls, with 2 1/2 left over, and we were stuffed!
  • -According to the recipe, these can be frozen and baked later. Simply place the unbaked (and un-egg washed) empanadas on wax paper-lined baking sheets and freeze (then stack in sealable bags/containers in freezer). When you are ready to bake them, just egg wash and pop in the oven, increasing the baking time by 15 minutes.
  • -Leftover filling is really yummy in omelets or scrambled eggs!!
  • -There was so much "mmmm-ing" going on at the table, I couldn't hear anything else. -These would be insanely good for a party, especially since you can make them ahead and they look so darn fancy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Be still, my heart

Wow...I am such a dork. I just returned from the "Nerd Night Special" release of Twilight on DVD. There were waaaay too many little kids at Walmart, considering it was midnight.
Now the dilemma: I just paid $17 for the single-disc DVD, but I see you can get the special edition 2-disc on for .97 more! I am torn because I don't feel like waiting 2 weeks for "Site to Store" delivery...I want to go watch it NOW. *sigh* Oh well, I own 3 different versions of "Rocky Horror Picture Show", so what's the difference? ☺
Happy (extremely early) Saturday, everyone!!
ps...All of my chenille animals sold within a day of listing! WOOT!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pom-pom Head

*Update* I have listed the Bunny-girl and white dog in my Etsy shop now!
Here is a little "Pom-pom Head" I made yesterday afternoon while watching Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. This is another technique from the craft book, but I embellished it to make it "squishified."
The body/ears are made from pipe-cleaners, and the head is a handmade pom-pom created from 100% cotton yarn. I think she turned out really cute!
It is my intention to get the dogs and puppies listed either tonight or tomorrow afternoon. I may go ahead and list this bunny, or I might make a handful of them and list next week. I haven't decided ☺
We are off to my parent's new house soon so that my husband can with the finishing touches...I am bringing supper, so I better go check on the apple-crumb pie in the oven!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jewel-tone Puppies

My pipe-cleaner spree continues! This particular pattern of dog is my favorite to make, so I sat at my mom's one boring Sunday and cranked these "little puppies" out. I am crazy for these curly chenille stems, which don't really resemble normal pipe-cleaners at all! I think the results is very cute and somewhat vintage-inspired.
Here is a curly black dog (you decide the breed!). I made the collars out of vinyl fabric, and on these particular ones I attached a tiny little you can hear if he tries to scamper off.
...and here is the white version with a contrasting black collar. I added a little gold grommet for some detail.
Last but not least, I made a litter of multi-colored puppies! Rumor has it that their mother only ate Jelly Belly's while she was expecting... They are somewhat smaller/shorter than the black/white dogs, but they make up for size with personality. Each has a little black collar with coordinating grommet details.
I think that these dogs (or any of the chenille animals) would make great little ornaments, shelf-sitters, or {adult} dollhouse decorations. You could stick them on a piece of dowel to make a floral pik, or just use as a gift package decoration. I have given a few away already, and people LOVE them! I need to work on photos, etc. and then I hope to have them in my etsy shop no later than Wednesday. What do you all think?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sweet as pie

On Friday, Brianna and I took a little "Mommy and Me" shopping trip to run multiple errands. On the way out of Burlington, we stopped at this grocery store called "Fareway." Is this a chain or just something local? Anyway, it seems to be a fairly old store, but in a way that was refreshing! The meat counter had actual butchers (about 5 or 6 of them) in aprons and paper hats taking orders. We just don't have that around here anymore. Plus, the strawberries that were on sale had been hand-wrapped in those cute little plastic berry-baskets (as opposed to the pre-weighed clamshells at my usual grocery stores.) I walked out with 20 lbs. of chicken leg-quarters, 3.5 lbs of strawberries, and a dozen eggs....and it all cost me $12!

With the hints of Spring-like weather inspiring me, I decided to make a favorite: strawberry pie! My husband's family's recipe is so super-simple.

First, you will need to bake yourself a single pie crust. Homemade or store-bought, it doesn't really matter. I prefer Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe because I can whirl it up pretty easily and fast in the food processor. (How do you like my f.p? It was the Christmas present from hubby, and in the special "Martha" color of my kitchen, just for Macy's!) In a pinch, you can also use a graham cracker crust.

For the filling, you combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 3 Tablespoons cornstarch in a saucepot. I like to make a "slurry" with the cornstarch and a little of the water and then add, which helps to decreased the lumpiness. Cook and stir over medium heat until it becomes clear, thick, and bubbly.

Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of strawberry jello powder. Allow to cool.
( I believe this is a little bit less than one of the small boxes contains. Most of the time, I have a large box on hand that I measure from for the sole purpose of making pie. I found that you can also subsitute one small box of sugar-free jello in place of the 1/4 cup.)
Add 1 quart of sliced strawberries to the cooled sauce, then pour filling into the cooled, baked crust. Cover and refrigerate until set, then enjoy!

This recipe is always a favorite in our house. We also make a killer raspberry pie by substituting raspberries and raspberry jello! Yum yum... where's the Cool Whip?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pipe Cleaning

(A little pipe cleaner teddy bear, which was the companion to the doll I sent to Bunzi in our trade)

I am still tinkering with making my own "light tent" to help take better pictures of some small things. Have any of you ever done this? I am following this tutorial . I played with it this week, and now I have a few photos to show of my addictive, fun new hobby!

This Japanese craft book I purchased on eBay from Hong Kong has some of the coolest ideas in it you have ever seen. The best thing is, it basically teaches you a variety of techniques, and you can really use your imagination to customize and create new animals and other creatures. Since I cannot read Japanese (is there anyone here who can??), I just have to follow the photos/diagrams. Here is a smattering of what I have done:

Mr. Owl (which Brianna swears is an eagle). It is hard to see in the photo, but he (and all of the rest) are very much 3-D and has a tail.

There are actually two different designs for "bear"; this one is supposed to be more of a real bear/animal, while the one I made Bunzi is a toy/teddy.

Brianna was me for a chicken to go with the little Easter chenille chicks that I have, so this is what I did during naptime. Can you say bribe?? He is a little ratty-looking around the feathers, as he has been handled by small hands quite a bit.

Mr. Fox is one that I definitely took some liberties with. In the example, he had a yellow stripe running down his tail! Now, we all know that real foxes have white (or black) tipped tails. As a side note, I had a pet arctic fox as a child from 6th grade until I was in college. I lived in Missouri, not Alaska ☺ I may have to do an all-white version and try to recreate him!

These are my practice ones. I have made about 15 different animals, so far. My favorites are the dogs, which I am getting quite good at. I need to take some photos of them, but I have given them all away! Good thing I stocked up on thousands of pipe cleaners from Hobby Lobby. I have been looking for a low-ticket item for my Etsy shop... do you think these would be something you, personally, would buy? I'd love the input!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cupcakes by candlelight

When I go to get Brianna from preschool, I usually arrive about 10 minutes early. It is a great time to flip through a magazine or read a chapter for a few moments. If anyone is a cupcake lover, you better go grab the current issue of Martha Stewart Living before it gets replaced with the newest one! There are some really insanely-good recipes in there (and awesome decorating inspirations). I used up some ripe bananas and made these cupcakes from one of the recipes. They turned out so nice and round, and moist enough that I am not even going to bother with frosting. The candle... well, it was just a nice touch. It is "spring" scented, and lighting it made me a little happier.

I really apologize because I am just feeling super-guilty about all of the things I have been meaning to post and haven't gotten around to doing. Heck, I just now updated my anti-virus software...only 247 days after expiration! I have participated in some fun trades (which you might have read about here and here . I also won a giveaway ! That was really cool and unexpected. I will definitely speak more about those things later. And my Hong Kong eBay purchase? It was a special, rare craft book. So, let's just say I have to make a Hobby Lobby run tomorrow because PIPE CLEANERS are half off this week!! I have piles of little creations that I have been trying to photograph, for your viewing pleasure ☺

Again, I am trying to rearrange my time (and manage it a bit better) to get some stuff done and spend more quality time with the girls, puppy...AND Daddy, too. I have so much to do and so much that I want to do (ie. sew!!) that tends to get shoved to the side. Send me your prayers/good vibes/etc. to help me...because I need all the help I can get!