Monday, November 26, 2012

Baking a Donut

 Hope you had a great holiday!  What did I make over Thanksgiving weekend?  Baked donuts!

Back story on why I ended up with this box of doughnut mix:  I usually avoid making anything from a box.  Some people think it's because I am a cooking snob (ok, yes, I fall in that category occasionally) but really it is because I don't want to spend an outrageous amount of money on what usually amounts to flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, flavoring and fillers and stabilizers.  I saw a box of brownie mix the other day for $8.  EIGHT DOLLARS, I tell you; it's an outrage!
 Anyways, back to my story, I signed up with this monthly goodie box called the Must Have Box from Popsugar, a website that covers everything from house ideas to style to fitness to pets.  And this box costs $35 a month (including shipping) and comes filled with goodies.  In just 3 months of boxes I have gotten a beautiful scarf, 2 books, a yoga dvd, thank you cards, a notepad, gummy bears, a leather and metal bracelet, shampoo and conditioner, lip balm, a variety pack of sea salts, socks, a scented candle, and salted soft caramels, and I can't even remember what else.  It's like getting a surprise gift every month.   This month's box also had this box of donut mix in it and I was intrigued. 
 I rarely eat donuts.  They just aren't my thing but these looked awfully tasty.  The only problem is that you need a special donut baking pan to bake them in.  Simple, I thought.  Uh, no.  We drove to 5 different stores (!!!!!)  before I finally settled on this mini bundt pan instead.  Only one store actually carried the donut pans but they were sold out of course.  It also happened to be black Friday when I decided I absolutely had to have a donut pan so that made the adventure slightly more crazed than it needed to be.

I had to add egg, melted butter, and milk to the dry mix and it was very sticky and hard to put into the pan.  (See above.)  I had to use 2 teaspoons to spoon tiny amounts into the mold.  After I baked them I dipped them in melted butter and tossed them with cinnamon sugar.  This was the most important step. 

They turned out really lovely and quite delicious too!  Our coffee and donut guests ate them right up!
Now I am just going to find a recipe versus buying the boxed version.  Maybe chocolate glazed with sprinkles next? 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Making A 3D Papier Mache Animal Sculpture: Part 2

Catch the first post in making a 3D animal here.

After I cut out the cardboard and placed and glued the tube inside my dog, I started to cover him with crumpled up newspaper covered with masking tape to make the bulk of his body.  I like completely covering it with tape because it makes a smoother surface to apply the papier mache.  First I bulked up his body and then I taped on his legs and bulked them up with paper as well.  I tried to make him look as 3D as possible: I didn't want him to look like he was made from 2 flat pieces of cardboard, although that is totally a design decision.  

Here he is, covered with paper and tape, ready for the papier mache.  My friend Ann was creating an ox right behind him. 

Next you need paper for the papier mache.  While newspaper worked great for the bulking up part, it gets super messy when you are using the paste and the newsprint starts to get all over the place.  So we went to our local newspaper and purchased an end roll and it was only $3!  It was a big roll and we could have used it for the scrunching up part too but since I get the Sunday New York Times we are never wanting for paper in this house.

Cut the strips into manageable pieces.  I found that I could cut straight down the roll with a utility knife and it created wide strips about a foot wide.  Then I could tear them along the grain into strips and then tear the strips crosswise into easy to use pieces.  Next, you need your GH-57 Universal Wallpaper Paste.  I use it straight from the container.  I don't thin it with water at all.  Be sure to wear gloves.  I pour it into a plastic salad container I have saved and then dip my fingers into the paste and then cover the paper.  DO NOT DIP PAPER INTO PASTE.  This makes the biggest mess and you end up using way too much paste. 

Note: some people like to use flour and water and that is fine and great with kids.  Wallpaper paste has anti-fungal chemicals in it which is great when applying a couple coats at a time like I do.  Again, make sure you wear gloves!

It helps if you have a good studio assistant. 

Cover your entire piece with strips slightly overlapping and, if possible, all going in the same direction.  That way it will be easier to lay the next layer and know how much you have done.  Try to smooth the paper out flat and get out any air bubbles. It's best to do only a couple layers max at a time and let it dry before the next layers.  I did about 7 layers.  I wanted him to be very sturdy.  

Now I made him for the Chinese Moon Festival here in Tacoma so I wanted to decorate him with Chinese style patterns.  After looking at some designs, I settled on a combo of the 2 designs on the left.

I painted him with a base coat of 2 coats of exterior latex paint and then drew free hand right on the sculpture. 

Then I used artist acrylics and an angled detail brush to paint in the design. 

I love how he turned out!  All in all only about $20 worth of materials for a four foot sculpture! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Egg in the Hole!

This is such a simple, yummy lunch and somehow I had forgotten it for years and years and then I was looking at some rye bread and thinking about making an egg sandwich and then it hit me: egg in the hole!
 The pictures are pretty self explanatory:  cut hole out of bread, toast in butter in fry pan, crack eggs in holes, fry til mostly set, flip over, sprinkle cheese on top, cover with lid to melt cheese, eat. 
Especially delicious with some spicy sauteed kale or swiss chard.  Douse it with liberal amounts of sriracha chile sauce just before eating like I did and then you can call it Fire in the Hole!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Making A 3D Papier Mache Animal Sculpture: Part 1

It seems for an art and crafty blog, my programming has been more eating and pets lately so I am going to try and get some art stuff back into the mix!

I've been asked by a friend to make a large, 3D sculpture of an animal in the Chinese zodiac to be carried in a boat parade during the opening of the new Chinese Reconciliation Park here in Tacoma.  About half the animals were already taken so I chose dog from what was left over.  It seemed appropriate to my life right now.  They need to be about 4 feet tall/wide and light weight enough to carry on a dragon boat.  I have no idea how they are actually going to be used.  I will find out on September 29th!

First, I started by researching the Chinese Zodiac and printing out some dog examples.  (see above)  I decided I didn't want the Pomeranian style dog so I went with a little more stereotypical, yet stylized, dog.  But he's a happy dog.

I drew him on a one inch scale and then roughly transferred him to a one foot scale on cardboard.  My friend Kim is also working on this project and she gets giant heavy duty bike boxes from her husband's work.  Handy. 

I cut out 2 body silhouettes because a) it's supposed to  be 3-D and b) we need to have a tube in his body for a stick to hold them to go inside.  The one at the front of his body is just to balance it out.  I bought a long piece of plumbing pipe at the hardware store and then just cut them to size with a hack saw.  I used heavy duty adhesive to glue the pipes to the cardboard and taped them down to hold them in place while drying. 

Next, I applied glue to the tops of the pipes and set the top cardboard down and weighted it with books. 

Good to know my art history textbook from college still has its uses!  The tail is not glued in yet, I just set it there for looks. 
Next part I will be attaching the legs and tail and then bulking up the body to make it 3-D.  It's fun to do these big arty community projects. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bristle Bone: Best Dog Toy Ever?

I guess it is a dog posting sort of day because after showing you that video of Oskar, I want to show you his favorite toy.  This may be the best dog toy I have ever seen; it entertains, stops them from chewing on things they should not be chewing on, and cleans their teeth at the same time! 

OK, the above photo of the "Bristle Bone" looks very pretty but look at it after hard use for just a week! Note the left rawhide ring has been completely eaten away.  They come in four sizes so you can get the perfect size for Fluffy or Spot.

I paid about $16 for it at our local fancy pet store but just discovered it's only $10 and covered by Prime on Amazon.   So when we need a new one, I will probably get it there to save a whopping $6.

You also have to buy these replacement rings.   

The whole toy unscrews so you can put new rings on.  Some reviewers on Amazon noted their dogs were able to unscrew the toy but we have not had that problem yet.  I figure when the plastic screw eventually strips out, it is time to buy a new toy.  That is one important lesson I have learned about having a dog.  I thought you just bought toys and that was that.  No, it turns out our dog relishes destroying toys.  Better the toys than our furniture!

Replaced ring in toy and ready for action!

No time like the present! 

He loves to jump onto his bed and work away on his toy.  
Who ever thought of this is a genius! 

Corgi Video, Can't Help Myself

We just upgraded our phones to Samsung Galaxy 3s, which I am still trying to figure out all the bells and whistles for, but I learned this morning that they take great video!  Oskar loves Vincent and they play all the time.  Vincent is pretty patient with him most of the time and only starts to hiss after about 15 minutes or so of Corgi madness.  The camera is shaking at the end because I am laughing so hard.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

38 Things: Make Ravioli From Scratch

 Every time I look at my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39, I am most smitten with the cooking and food items.  Maybe I need my own list of food related desires separate from my artsy and home ones?   Last year's list had Make Pasta From Scratch; this year I upped the ante and decided to make ravioli from scratch. 

Ravioli is intimidating.  You have to prepare the filling.  Then you make the pasta.  Then you have to make the raviolis themselves.  Then you have to cook them and figure out some sort of sauce.  It took about 3 hours from start to finish to make dinner. But that included green beans gratin and an arugula salad too.

I actually enjoy all of these monotonous steps.  Prepping: cleaning, chopping, and organizing is one of my favorite parts about cooking.

I made my filling out of shitake and crimini mushrooms plus shallots, garlic, sage, parsley, and rosemary and sauteed it in a blend of olive oil and butter.   Once it cooled I pureed everything in the food processor and set it aside. 

Next up was the pasta itself.  I had 4 different resources out: Ethan Stowell's New Italian Kitchen,  Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and the manual that came with the pasta machine.  I tried both Tom and Mark's egg dough and in the end, Mark's won hands down.  It had 2 whole eggs plus 3 yolks and had a lovely golden color.  Bonus it was easy to work with.  But Tom and Ethan both had nice instructions and photos for making raviolis. The pasta machine manual was extremely helpful in rolling directions.  It's very easy to make the dough: blend all the ingredients in the food processor until it forms a dough, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Then scrape out onto your floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes until dough stiffens.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.  Then proceed with making your noodles or what have you. 

We found that it was best to work in an assembly line.  Trevor managed rolled out the dough and then I made the raviolis.  Each time you put it through the rollers you have to fold it over and roll it again to really blend the dough.  Then you slowly turn down the thickness of the rollers as you go.  We needed it pretty thin for ravioli.  

The machine cranks out dough about 5 inches wide which is perfect for folding over into ravioli.

I set out little scoops of the mushroom filling onto the dough.  Then with a pastry brush I used water to wet the dough, folded it over and pressed out the air bubbles.  The recipes were very strict about pressing out all the air bubbles but I know I didn't do the best job of it and the ravioli came out great anyways.  

Finally, I used a fluted cutter to cut out the ravioli and then I placed them on parchment paper with a light dusting of flour.  
I lightly boiled them in small batches for about 3 minutes.  When they float to the surface, you know they are done.  I tossed them with an olive oil and garlic sauce and then we dug in!

I think everyone should try making pasta from scratch at least once.  It tastes far, far superior to anything that comes in a box, including the "fresh" pastas you find in the refrigerated section.  And if you are just making linguine, it takes about 1/3rd the time of making ravioli!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I Ate: Vegan Enchiladas

I don't normally eat vegan but I am in a book club and one of the members is vegetarian and another member can't eat cheese, so I try to make something everyone can eat.  Usually, this translates directly into salad, but I wanted to try something different.

I have been experimenting in making roasted tomatillo/anaheim pepper sauce for a couple of months now and I stumbled upon this Green Enchiladas recipe when I decided to try a dish without cheese.  It's spinach and mushrooms wrapped tortillas with a roasted tomatillo sauce and cashew cheese on top.  The "cheese" for the dish is roasted poblano pepper/cashew cream spread on top after the dish has been baked.  Cashews soaked in water and then blended up seem to be the go-to item for any vegan dish requiring a cream or a cheese.  It tastes pretty good but cashews are awfully expensive.  When I make this again, I may just skip the cashews and just blend the poblanos with a lowfat sour cream and call it good since I am not vegan.

The secret weapon in this recipe is roasting the peppers.  Roasting peppers may seem difficult, but it is a super easy way to add fabulous taste to a dish.  I myself don't like to have to turn peppers under the broiler or over a grill to get them all black; you do have to watch it constantly.  But I read about a great trick in Cook's Illustrated: cut the peppers in half and seed them before hand and then put them cut side down on your baking sheet.  Then when you stick them under the broiler, you just have to put on a timer for 10 minutes or so.  It works great.  You still have to peel them but if you stick them in a brown bag for a few minutes as they are cooling, it makes the process much easier.   Then you throw the roasted peppers in the food processor with whatever else you need in a sauce and you have perfect yumminess every time.

I modified her recipe a bit by using a lot more mushrooms--portabellas specifically because I wanted big pieces--and roasting anaheims with my tomatillos for the sauce.   I also microwave my tortillas to soften them because dipping them in the sauce is messy and doesn't always work.  I made another batch on the side with ground turkey spiced with chile powder and cumin along with the mushrooms and spinach and that was really tasty. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Best Gluten Free Brownies (Not Kidding)

 True story:  A dear friend of mine is allergic to wheat.  Like seriously allergic to wheat.  It is pretty easy to have him over for a dinner party but I always feel at a loss when it comes to dessert.  A few weeks ago we had a big lawn party and I decided to go crazy and I bought a very expensive gluten free cake from a local, fancy bakery that specializes in gluten free and vegan desserts.  My husband picked up the cake and once he had it home, I eagerly opened the box to discover.....they had decorated the cake with Oreos.  Really, people?  I tell you 8 times the cake needs to be gluten free and you decorate it with Oreos????  In the end we were able to serve him a big piece from the top part not covered with the cookies, and the cake tasted delicious and not too un-cake-like at all but I am still ticked off about the lack of oversight in a $50 cake.

I had been meaning to perfect a gluten free dessert on my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39 and this was the final straw that made me actually do it!  I decided to stick with one of my all time favorites: brownies.  I had seen and baked brownies and chocolate cake with black beans before and I decided to mess around with some recipes online.  Mostly they all come out tasting like black beans, or as my husband puts it, "Like some weird hippy thing--" and not at all like delicious brownies.  With a little experimentation, this batch earned his stamp of approval. 

Best Gluten Free Brownies

1(15.5 oz) can rinsed black beans
3 large eggs
3 Tablespoons oil
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee
pinch salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon ultrafine baker's sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 oz. 70% Cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Or the best bittersweet chocolate you can find)
1 Tablespoon cocoa nibs (see note at end)

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease one 8 x 8 baking dish. 
Combine all ingredients except 1 oz chopped chocolate and cocoa nibs in bowl.  Blend well with immersion blender.  Alternately, you can blend it all up in a food processor.  Either way, make sure those beans are pulverized.  Stir in chopped chocolate and pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle batter with cocoa nibs. 
Bake 30 minutes and just try and let it cool before you eat them.  Cuts easily with butter knife. 
Note: Cocoa nibs are the shelled cacao beans that have been roasted and broken up but are unsweetened and without extra added cocoa butter.  Some are labelled Cacao nibs. They are crunchy and have a subtle coffee bean flavor.  You could skip this or add nuts instead, but I like the extra flavor punch they give to baked goods.  I used Theo's Organic Cocoa Nibs.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We've Been Flocked!

Yesterday a couple showed up at our house and "flocked" us.  It's a charity thing for my dad's Rotary group.  You donate money to charity and get a house of your choosing flocked.  He chose our house.  It's pretty neat and makes me want to have someone else's house flocked too!  You can see how eco-friendly (read: lazy) we are by letting the grass die instead of watering it.   

Vincent is confused about the flamingos, but loves the dead grass.  

He spends a lot of his time rolling around,

acting like a goof ball.  A hippo-sized goof ball. 

Moneypenny is not impressed. 

Finally, Vinnie ends the morning by photobombing Moneypenny.
  Moneypenny is still not impressed.