Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's A Movement!

One of my favorite blogs ever is Pintester, where the intrepid Pintester (Sonja Foust) tries out various pins from Pinterest.  She is hilarious!  I found out that she is looking to start a movement to get as many people as she can to try a pin they've been meaning to try and link them all together on her blog.  Honestly, it sounds like she might be leaving for vacation (totally allowed, BTW) and is looking to make sure she's got some interesting posts for a while...

But I digress. As luck would have it, I have a Pinterest board called "Gotta Try This," so I thought Sonja's idea was a perfect way for me to actually try one of those pins (confession: in the 3 years I've had a Pinterest account, not once have I actually attempted one of the "Gotta Try This" pins).  I also have a board called "Cool Ideas I Will Never Do," but all of those things are way more complicated, and, frankly, I didn't want to come off as being a liar.

Of course, even though I've had a week to think about it, I only started working on this the day before we are all supposed to post, so I had to choose a pin that didn't require extra shopping.  Since I'm not crafty at all, that posed quite a restriction.  You will be pleased to know that I had, in fact, all the necessary items to attempt this:


The original post was from Thrifty Decor Chick, but the picture didn't link to any sort of instructions.  So, not wanting to go in blind, I googled "apple candles" and found instructions here.
It didn't seem too hard.  I just happened to have 3 apples left in the house, and three votives (I have a ton of votives, because you can't just buy, say 3 or 4; they always seem to come in these huge packs of 50, which lasts me approximately 10 years -- more, because we're still counting - and I still have 20 left from my pack).

Sorry, more digressing.  Anywho, so I gathered my supplies:

I would advise using bigger apples, because these didn't have a lot of room around the top once the holes were cut for the candles, but these were literally the last three apples in the house, so I did not have much of a choice. None at all, truth be told.

 Now, the directions said to mark the circle using a pen, and then cut out the circle, but I couldn't find a pen that worked, plus that seems like an unnecessary extra step, so I just held the votive in place and lightly scored across the top to give me a guide. This method could have ended with me driving, one-handed, to the ER, but all was well.  I'm used to using kitchen knives, so I wasn't worried, but if we were using, say, a craft knife of box cutter, I might have been in trouble (side note: my first ER trip ever happened only 2 years ago, at 44 years old, and involved a box cutter, which I am no longer allowed to use without supervision...also, no one will ask me to make decorations for their class party ever again).

After I cut around the guide marks a little deeper, I cut across the top, making an X to make it easier to pry the pieces out from the top.

Then, you cut away more of the insides so that the votive will fit into the apple.  I think the instructions said you should use a spoon to scrape out the insides, which might have worked better, but that would have entailed messing up another utensil and the kids were going to be home from school soon, so I couldn't be bothered with grabbing another thing when I had a perfectly good knife in my hand.

Here's the finished product.  I know, it's a little lopsided, but if you turn your head the opposite way, it looks great, so just go with that.

Original pin:                                                      Nailed it (to use Pintester's vernacular):



Conclusion: Although it was relatively easy to do, frankly, I thought it was a waste of some tasty apples.

One final note: you might want to use an apple that doesn't turn brown very quickly, because, about 5 minutes after I took the final picture, you could see a ring of brown starting to form around the holes where the candles were.  Maybe you could rub lemon juice on the inside. Or do a better job of cutting than I did...

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Little Drinky-drink

So, it's Friday, and I'm tired and I need to unwind.  Now, I'm usually a beer or wine kind of person. Nothing complicated.  But the other day I was talking with a friend, who remarked on the sizable amount of liquor we have in the house.  Not in a critical way, just more of an observation, because, well, frankly, we do have a lot because we just don't drink hard liquor very often. But it got me to thinking, so the next time I went to the store, I got a few mixer-type items (really, just a couple of juices and tonic water, to be honest).

So, here we are back at Friday, and I have liquor on my mind.  Specifically, the Godiva chocolate-raspberry vodka taking up space in the freezer.  So I take it out, along with a couple other things, and come up with this:

I'm not sure if it's an original recipe or not (I didn't follow a recipe, but that doesn't mean it doesn't already exist out there somewhere).  Y'all, for not being much of a "mixologist" (like, not at all), this thing was pretty tasty, if on the sweet side.  I don't know what to call it, so we'll just go with Chocolate-Raspberry Cocktail.  :-)  I had two, they were so yummy!

Marna's Chocolate-Raspberry Cocktail

1 part Godiva Chocolate-Raspberry Vodka
3 parts cran-raspberry juice
1 tsp. Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment (it's a sauce)
Chocolate sauce (to make fancy designs on the glass)

Put the first 3 ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice (I used a handful) and shake to blend.  If your chocolate sauce isn't already in a squeeze bottle, you'll need to put it in one, then squeeze the chocolate sauce around the inside of your glass making a fun pattern (mine looked a little like a flower, but a swirl would be fun, too). Strain your cocktail into the prepared glass.

Serves one (generously...)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Syttende Mai!

Yes, yes, I know it's actually May 18th, but I didn't have time to finish my post yesterday, and I am not about to let a little detail like a number get in the way of sharing some some stuff that you can do in your kitchen!   Syttende Mai is the Norway's Constitution Day (literally translated, it's "May 17th").  It's an important holiday in Norway, equivalent to our (American) Independence Day on July 4.  In honor of this holiday, I thought I'd try a traditional Norwegian dessert: Troll Cream.

Troll cream only has 3 ingredients and is amazingly simple.  It is usually made with lingonberries, but, being in Virginia, we don't have a ready supply, so I substituted blueberries.  So here's the amazing part.  You dump the sugar, berries and egg white into a mixing bowl all together, and then you just start whipping it.  It takes about 2 minutes, but it turns into this amazing, feather-light, pillowy, mousse-type of cream.  When I first read the original recipe, I was really skeptical. But, I followed the recipe as it was written and abracadabra! Everything did what it was supposed to do!

I used the troll cream as a layer in a lemon-blueberry trifle, but you could totally serve this on it's own, maybe with a little whipped cream and fresh berries and/or cookies on the side for a little texture.  It is best eaten the day it's made, I think, because the texture changes a little bit (turns more meringue-y) the longer it sits.  I have to admit, though, the leftovers still tasted pretty good the next day!  :-)

Although I thought I was taking pictures of the steps for making the troll cream, nothing was on my camera (my camera battery was low), so you'll have to just use your imagination.  Here's what it looked like in the trifle I made (it's the slightly lavender-looking layer):

Blueberry Troll Cream

1 cup blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites

Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl (I used a stand mixer, but I think a hand-held mixer would work, too).  Turn mixer onto a medium-low speed to start, then gradually increase speed to high.  Mix for about 2 minutes.  The troll cream should be light and fluffy, but not stiff.

Note: This recipe can be increased or decreased, depending on how many servings you want.  This amount was used for a trifle that served about 12, but you could decrease the amounts - 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1 egg white - for just 6-8 servings.

This was the only picture I got of the troll cream, which I took with my phone:

This recipe was so easy, I'm definitely going to experiment with different berries/flavor combinations!

If you want to make the trifle, here's how:

Lemon-Blueberry Trifle

1 Lemon pound cake (if you want to make this from scratch, here's a good recipe)
1 recipe Blueberry Troll cream
1 cup lemon curd (store bought or make your own)
3 cups whipped cream
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry

Start by folding the lemon curd and 2 cups of whipped cream together. Set that mixture aside for a moment.

Slice thin pieces of pound cake (no more than 1/4 inch thick).  Layer slices of cake to cover the bottom of the trifle bowl.  Scatter fresh blueberries on top of the cake layer:

Then layer half of the curd/whipped cream mixture, followed by half of the blueberry troll cream.  Repeat layers (cake slices, fresh blueberries, lemon whipped cream, troll cream).  After the last layer of troll cream, top with the remaining cup of whipped cream, then scatter more fresh blueberries over top.  This is what you end up with:

Serves 12.  The curd and cake can be made a couple of days ahead, but the trifle should be put together only about 4 hours ahead of time (refrigerate until ready to serve).  Best eaten the same day, but still good a day after, too.  :-)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Last Remodel Post - It's a Wrap!

We are in and using our kitchen, and I am loving it!

I'm not sure what my favorite feature is, but I really like having the knives right next to the sink and over the trash.  I have to re-train myself to not always use the island for prep, since I now have more room next to the sink, so that entire set up is a lot more convenient.

I know my husband likes having all the silverware and dishes closer to the dishwasher, making unloading so much easier.

I still love the open shelves under the cabinets, too!  Here's a little more detailed look:

And here are a couple of photos of the room with all of our junk back in!  

We spend a lot more time in that back room in general, which is nice! The kids eat breakfast at the island during the week, and I rearranged the pantry so they can reach the things they need for snacks, so they can get those themselves. We actually have less seating for dinners right now, because we sold one of our dining sets, but I'm looking for some new furniture in the back, anyway. I'll post more photos when I have any of the new pieces.  My husband bought that painting on the mantle for me for our anniversary last year and was done by a friend of ours, Dana Ellyn, who is amazingly talented.  It says, "for better or worse... for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part."  Way more traditional than our actual vows (we kind of wrote them ourselves), but I love that painting! We have another piece of hers in our bedroom.

Some might be curious about the first meal I made in the new kitchen, once we got everything in and put away.  Well, I have to say it wasn't very fancy, just sausages with peppers, onions and sauteed baby kale:

This spring is really busy with practice or games for the boys four of the seven days of the week, which means we need quick, practical meals.  Plus, I'm working at our elementary school two days a week, which cuts out a lot of my experimenting time (much easier to do when the kids aren't around).  It means I'll be posting a little less, but hopefully giving you some higher quality ideas to get you into the kitchen and having some fun, too!