Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thankful Thursday 12.11

Well I forgot to write a Thankfulness list last week and I nearly forgot this week. I'm finding it difficult to get back into my everyday routine. I wasn't even gone for a whole week, so why does it feel like I was a way for a whole month?

1. Being at home

2. free antibiotics at Meijers.

3. At least Blockette didn't have Bronchitis.

4. sleeping in my own bed

5. a freezer full of leftovers

6. My computer wasn't dying, it just had a dirty fan.

7. Excitement of a loose tooth

8. Finally finishing a book even if it wasn't the one I was "supposed" to be reading.

9. not getting a sunburn

10. My tulips have buds on them!

Disney Vacation Part 3: Day 2

Because I had gotten several really rotten nights of sleep, Mrblocko agreed that he would take Blockette to Animal Kingdom and let me get a few more hours of sleep. That way I could be functional for the rest of the vacation. I slept until 10:30 which is like some sort of world record for me.

Mrblocko and Blockette got up early enough to get to the park right as it was opening. We had been told that the Safari ride is always packed and even runs out of fast passes by noon! With how busy Animal Kingdom was on Monday, we weren't going to take any chances. By some miracle, Animal Kingdom was not crowded at all! They were able to go on all the rides they wanted to without having to wait in line. What luck.

Look at some of the cool animals they saw on the Safari ride! My favorite picture is of the animals on the top right with the long necks. They don't even look real! They also went on this rapids ride. Blockette said she hated it because she got soaked. It was really hot that day so I bet it felt good. After she went on this ride, she no longer wanted to go on any wet rides. I thought it was particularly odd for a kid who kept begging us to go to the pool. I guess in a pool you are the one in control of how wet you are gonna get. Mrblocko said Blockette made these faces and poses without any prompting. What a ham. I guess the gorilla character in the top right picture is Terk from Tarzan. I had to look that up because I don't remember anything about the animated Tarzan movie. They also saw a really cool bird show. Clockwise from the top left: Snowy owl, baby condor, bald eagle, macaws and can you tell how much Blockette enjoyed the show? I think Blockette liked the bird show almost as much, if not more than the Safari! While my two Mouseketeers were at Animal Kingdom, I decided I should get up and have some lunch. I knew that we wouldn't have time to do it together, so I went to check out Downtown Disney. It was pretty much a really big outdoor mall. It was nice to get out and have some time to myself and do some souvenir shopping.

1. Lego loch ness: I thought this was a pretty cool statue and then I realized it was made of Legos. I'm not sure why. There were no other Lego sculptures Downtown and the Lego store they had was a sort of temporary tent like thing. Weird but cool. air balloon ride: I thought about going on this for about two seconds and then decided against it. A balloon ride is no fun by yourself.

3. birdie: I ate lunch outside at a "Fast food" version of Wolfgang Pucks. They had the most enormous BBQ chicken flat bread sandwich and I kept thinking this is supposed to be Fast Food? The lunch was one of the best meals I ate all weekend. Maybe because sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them, and I'm the maker of sandwiches in our house. I think Mrblocko was jealous cause they had fast food-ish food for lunch. Yay me!

4: cool Mickey and Minnie Caramel apples: I totally wanted to get one of these bad boys, but they were HUGE. I debated buying it and bringing it back to the hotel, but it was so hot I was afraid the chocolate would melt everywhere and make a huge mess. So I took a pic instead.

Once I was all shopped out we met back up at the hotel. We had no idea what we were going to do with the rest of the evening. Disney Hollywood Studios had not been on the itinerary originally, but we thought we should at least check it out and maybe catch their firework/water show.

We walked around for a while and I started to get hungry but all we could find were nasty fast food type places. I had the worst food that I had all trip. I ordered some ribs which you would think would be yummy but they were super gross, greasy and fatty. Bleck. Mrblocko was happy because he got that giant turkey leg. He had been drooling over the idea of eating one since he found out Disney served turkey legs. At least one of us was happy! Oh and what did Blockette eat? About 2 bites of my ribs and then she got super cranky and we decided to call it a night. 1: Fantasia Mickey's hat, a landmark of Hollywood studios, much like the Castle is to Magic Kingdom, and Spaceship earth is to Epcot

2:Mickey standing on a globe at the entrance

3: Tower of terror ride. WAaaaay to scary for me, although I'm sure Mrblocko would have gone on it in a heartbeat if he'd had some company.

4: Classic Fantasia topiary. Instead of water they are pouring out flowers from their buckets.

What about that show? You had to stand in line for nearlyTWO hours to get a seat. Lil miss crabbykins wasn't having any of that. I'm not upset because we hadn't even intended to go to this part of the park, so anything we saw was just a little bonus.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our Disney Vacation Part 2: Day 1

Once we got settled in at the hotel, unpacked and had some lunch, we headed out to The Magic Kingdom. It was super crowded. The crazy thing was that we ran into some people from church! What were the odds of that happening? They were Disney regulars as they have family that live in Orlando. They said in all the years they had been coming to Disney, they had never seen it THAT crowded. Lucky us eh?

First we rode the train that goes all around the park. Unfortunately, Toontown was being expanded so we didn't get to see any of that. Next we caught the tail end of some parade, and we headed for Splash Mountain. It was an hour wait but luckily there were some kids her age in line behind us to cause mischief with. Guess where they were from? Illinois. Blockette loved the ride. Me, not so much. I got drenched all the way to my skivvies. Somehow we got seated in the front of the ride. I still don't know how Mrblocko and Blockette did NOT get wet at all. I think they must have crouched down or something.

We saw that you could get a fast pass for later in the evening to go on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A fast past lets you advance to the head of the line. We thought, hey, let's grab one of those and go on the ride after dinner. By the time we had done all that we had just enough time to ride Cinderella's carousel and look through a few shops around the castle.. (clockwise from the top left: Crowds, Cinderella carousel, 2 super cool mosaics inside Cinderella's castle.)

The best part of the day by far was the princess dinner at Cinderella's Castle. We got to meet Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora and Belle. The food was really good, but we could not get Blockette to eat. Not even a cupcake. We were in the last section of the dining area that the princesses came to visit. Blockette was far to worried that she wasn't going to get to meet them to bother with trifles like food. My favorite part of the dinner was when Ariel came to our table. She asked if we traveled by coach and talked about how her and Prince Eric had traveled all day. Blockette told her we flew on an airplane. Then Ariel asked if we flapped our arms like her friend Skuttle the seagull did. Blockette then went on to describe how an airplane took off and landed. Ariel was just fascinated!

Throughout the whole dinner I found myself getting all misty eyed because Blockette was SOOOO excited. It was indescribable how much joy I got watching Blockette interact with the princesses. At one point Blockette did wonder where Snow White was. I told her she was probably busy visiting the seven dwarfs. At the end of the dinner all the kids got wishing stars and magic wands or swords. They all closed their eyes and said "Bibbity Bobbity Boo" in unison and the whole room twinkled and glowed as the Fairy Godmother made their wish come true.

By the time dinner was over, Blockette (and me) were about ready to fall over. We decided against going on the roller coaster and voted to head back to the hotel to get some sleep. I think she was out about a minute after her head hit the pillow, only because she was fighting so hard to stay awake.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our Disney Vacation Part 1

Ok boring stuff first: The Hotel. We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort. Man, I've never been to Mexico, but this was what I imagine a nice resort in Mexico would be like, well sans Montezuma's revenge. There were so many cool plants Mrblocko had to tell me to save some memory on the camera for actual pictures in Disney World! 1. Blockette took this picture right after we checked in. They gave us balloons because we told them it was a 10 year anniversary. is, just not til October. They also gave us buttons that said "Happy Anniversary" which we wore around the park. Any employee, or "Cast Member" as they call them, that saw the button would wish us a Happy Anniversary. Of course, at first, I forgot I had the button on and couldn't figure out why people were wishing me a Happy Anniversary. Duh.

2. This is a picture of the main part of the resort. It is a picture of the building that contains the Registration desk, gift shop and food court. There is also a convention center but it was too big to fit into the frame.

3. Hammocks and white sand. If these had been shaded I would have been tempted to lounge around in them. They were in full sun all day and no one had any desire to get burnt, esp not me.

4. Blockette in the 3 Amigos topiary. The Flower show was going on so throughout the hotels and parks they had all these amazing character topiaries and flower displays. The biggest display was at Epcot, but I'll post more pictures of that later. When we first got our room, I was a bit upset that we were so far away from the main building. At least I was upset until I learned that we were right across the street from the bus stop that took us into the parks. The short trip from the bus stop to the room was wonderful after a loong day of walking.

Speaking of the bus stop, on the last day we learned that a gater lived in the pond across from the bus stop. Luckily he never came knocking on our door with a candygram. Also there were all these little wee lizards sunning themselves all over our hotel grounds. They were pretty shy and did not want their picture taken. I was able to capture one before it scurried off under a cactus. Luckily the wee little lizards were to scared to come in our room, cause while they were cute outside, they would not have been cute inside.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's almost as exciting as Disney World???

Finding your first loose tooth and seeing the top of your first adult tooth peeking behind it!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

St. Patrick's Day...Part 2

Right after our dinner we played a really fun treasure hunt game. I hid each of the following cards around the house. Each card had a "clue" and the directions to find the next clue. We told Blockette that she had to put each card on the kitchen table before she went to find the next clue so she wouldn't just run around the house without paying attention to what each card actually said.

The clues were:
1. On Monday
2. We're Getting
3. Up early
4. getting in the car
5. and driving
6. to the airport
7. where we
8. will get on
9. a plane
10. headed to
11. Disney World!!!!
Which was followed by copious amounts of jumping and screaming and tears of joy.

Mrblocko and I had been keeping this secret from Blockette for about 6 months. We knew it would be torture for Blockette if we told her any sooner than we did. (Four days of waiting to leave was torturous enough!) There were many a time when we nearly spilled the beans. Thursday afternoon, once Blockette came home from school, was the hardest. I warned Mrblocko that I might not be able to keep the secret the whole day. Somehow I managed.

We had so much fun! I'll write more about the trip later when I get a chance to wade through the oodles of photos.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Irish Dinner

St. Patrick's Day was a big deal for us this year. Blockette and Mrblocko are Irish and I wanted to make a special Dinner to start off an exciting night. For our main course I made Bubble and Squeek with sliced Bangers. (Translation for those of us on this side of the pond: Potatoes and Cabbage with sliced Sausages.) I found the following recipe from the book "Not Your Mother's Casseroles" by Faith Durand, which they had at my local library.

Bubble and Squeek
1 Sm cabbage,cored and shredded (mine was just under 2 lbs, the smallest one in the store)
1 T butter
1 large/2 small onions, sliced in thin half moons
3 Russet potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed to equal 2-3 cups)
1 t salt
1/2 tsp pepper
optional sausages

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x13" pan. Bring 1" water to a boil in a deep pot. Add cabbage and cover. Cook for 7 min until tender. Drain. Set aside to cool. (At this point I took some Sun Dried Tomato Sausages, and sliced them into fairly thin coins, and browned them on each side in a large skillet to caramelize them. This part was not in the original recipe. ) In the same skillet as the sausage I melted the butter and cooked the onions until golden brown. Then, in a large bowl combine the potatoes, cabbage, salt, pepper, onions and sausage. Dump the whole mixture into the 9x13 pan and press down so you have a nice even surface. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper if desired. Bake for 35 minutes until brown. (This can be reheated at 400F for 20 min.)

We also had Irish Soda bread on the side. I'd never had or made soda bread before. I love how rustic and Craggy it looks. This bread tasted best while it was still warm. (Although, I didn't have any trouble getting anyone to eat the leftovers) For some reason it tasted like a cross between corn bread and a buttermilk biscuit. As it cooled, it tasted more like a buttermilk biscuit and less like corn bread. I have no idea why it tasted like cornbread. There was no cornmeal in it at all.

Blockette liked this bread so much that she asked to have another slice for dessert instead of Chocolate Chocolate Mint cookies. As I stared at her in amazement over this request she stated, "Mommy, I DO love your cookies. They are really yummy, but I just Love LOVE this bread!" Um...Ohhhh Kaaay. Girl loves her carbs more than chocolate. The thing is, I also had another slice of bread instead of cookies for dessert, but that was because I had already eaten quite a few cookies earlier in the day while Blockette was at school.
So the first part of our St. Patrick's day night was a big hit...Stay tuned for what happened later that night!!!!

Irish Soda Bread from Allrecipes
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chocolate Cran-cherry Almond Butter

Hey! Apparently it is nutty spread week! Just to clarify, no I did not make all of these butters this week. They were all made at various times in January and February. I'm only just now getting around to writting about them!

This "butter" turned out much better than the Chocolate Pecan Butter I posted yesterday. Look! No oily separated ugly mess! Whoo hoo! Like the other spreads, I found the recipe for chocolate cherry almond butter at How Sweet It Is. I made a few tweaks to the recipe to suit my tastes. I added a Tablespoon of Sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. I also swapped out regular cocoa powder for the dutch processed variety, and used cherry flavored cranberries instead of dried cherries simply because it was what I had on hand.

So the almond butter LOOKED good, but how did it taste? Wonderful. I loved the balance between nutty, chocolaty, sweet and tart. My favorite way to eat this was smeared on a slice of freshly made toast. This is a rarity for me. Usually I make toast and by the time I get around to eating it, it's room temp. Because of this, it took me a looong time to work my way through this small amount of almond butter.

Sure, Blockette and Mrblocko said they thought it tasted good too, but then why could I never get them to eat it? Blockette still preferred chunky peanut butter. She wants that EVERY day for lunch. I'm not sure what Mrblocko's excuse was. Senility? Amnesia? He saw a bug? Whatever. He claims he could never remember to use it at meal times...even though it was sitting right on the counter the whole time.

Even though I liked this butter, I don't have any plans to make it in the future, not unless I can get a guarantee that I will have someone to help me eat it.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Butter from How Sweet it is
1 cup almonds
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt

Add almonds to food processor and blend until smooth. Add in the rest of ingredients, streaming in canola oil, and pulsing to combine. Blend until smooth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Butter

I was browsing Tasty Kitchen, you know cause I was killin time, and I came across a recipe for Salted Chocolate pecan butter. The recipe is from Jessica of the How Sweet it is blog. I really like this blog so I thought I'd give it a try.

The recipe got really rave reviews, but didn't turn out so well for me. I think the biggest problem was that the oil in the nuts separated and I could not get it back in. You can see from the photo below just how oily the spread was.
I stirred and stirred this stuff. No luck what so ever. What went wrong? Maybe I just needed to stick the whole thing back into the food processor. Maybe I mixed it up for too long in there. Maybe because I roasted the pecans it released too many oils. I don't know. I do know that with the oil separated it was next to impossible to spread on toast.
I couldn't get Mrblocko or Blockette to eat it. Not even a taste. It just looked so unappealing. It tasted OK, but it was nothing I wanted to eat on a regular basis. So what was I going to do with all this pecan butter?

I make peanut butter cookies all the time, so why not use this pecan butter in place of peanut butter? I used the same recipe from Baking Bites that I used to make Dark Chocolate Flourless peanut butter Cookies. My Pecan butter yielded just over 1/2 c so I used regular smooth peanut butter to equal the cup of spread needed in the recipe. Because of all the oil in the Pecan Butter, these cookies spread out a lot more than their full peanut butter counterparts. Their texture was also very different from the original. The original recipe yields a very grainy, crumbly cookie. These cookies were thin and chewy. The cookies lasted a week in our house and remained soft and chewy the entire time.

Although no one in our family really cared for the pecan butter, everyone loved the cookies. I mentioned that the cookies lasted a week in our house, but that was only because I hid them in the pantry!

Salted Chocolate Pecan Butter from How sweet it is
1 cup Pecans
1-½ Tablespoon Organic Cocoa Powder
¼ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup, More If Needed
¼ teaspoons Course Sea Salt

In a food processor, add pecans and pulse until smooth. Add cocoa powder and pulse until combined. Add vanilla and drizzle in maple syrup until desired consistency is reached. Add sea salt 1/4 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition. Feel free to add more syrup or salt depending on taste and consistency.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Hummus

I am really REALLY picky about my hummus. For the longest time I thought I just didn't like hummus. I even tried to make my own. (I thought it was disgusting.) The only hummus I have found that I like is made by Sabra, oh and the stuff they sell at the Holy Land Restaurant in Minneapolis. I could eat that by the vat.

So knowing that I am picky about my hummus, I have no idea why I decided to test out the recipe for peanut butter hummus from How sweet it is. The combination of peanut butter and chickpeas sounded intriguing. I think the main thing that sold me was that this was a hummus that didn't require tahini. I think that tahini can make or break the dip. (So can a low quality olive oil for that matter. )

I absolutely love this hummus. The peanut butter makes it extra smooth and creamy. I spread it on toast and dip anything from crackers to carrots in it. Blockette and Mrblocko think it is weird and gross. I am totally OK with this. There were plenty of things my mom ate that grossed me out. It's only fair that I get to have some fun and gross out my family! Plus, if they don't like it, I don't gotta share!

One thing to remember when you are making hummus is to make sure you remove the little skins around the chickpeas. I'm sure there are all kinds of good nutrients in there, but it makes the hummus on the gritty side if you leave them in.

As for the substitutions, I only made one. I hardly think it counts though. We were out of ground black pepper so I used white instead. I guess white has a milder flavor, but in this dip, I couldn't tell. Also, the recipe said to start off with 1/4 c olive oil. I had to add 3/4 c to get the consistency I wanted. And even then the hummus is still very thick! Maybe I got some extra dense garbanzo beans or something.

For some reason none of the pictures of the hummus turned out. The focus on the camera was just off and I couldn't get it to manually adjust. I think it was because of the yellow light in the kitchen and the color of the hummus. It made the camera go all wonky.

Peanut Butter Hummus from How Sweet it is makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Shell chickpeas if you wish. Add chickpeas to food processor and process until finely ground. Add peanut butter and mix until combined. With the food processor on, stream in olive oil through the top. You may need to add more to meet your desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and paprika and mix. Garnish with a sprinkling of smoked paprika. Serve with veggies and pita chips.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The GDP of Geekiness

I was looking for a map of the US online and I came across this map and wondered, what in the world it was. It is a comparison of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each individual state to another country. For example, Illinois has the same GDP as Mexico. I find this kind of stuff fascinating. Even though we are in this recession and jobs are being outsourced to places far and wide, we've still got it pretty darn good here.

Thankful Thursday 11.11

1. Getting crafty stuff done!
2. I remained calm during a Blockette meltdown
3. That woman in the minivan only ALMosT backed into me.
4. Tulip shoots everywhere!
5. Blockette's small garden shovel mysteriously resurfaced in the garden.
6. I won't have to be sneaky for too much longer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #5: Reversible Tank Top

From an Igloo is such an awesome blog. They have the best tutorials there! This is the same blog where I found the tutorial for adding a ruffle to the bottom of a pair of jeans. This time I made a reversible sun top for Blockette.

Side one has fairies all over it, and matches her newly ruffled patchy pants.
Side two matches her newly ruffled "superstar" pants.
Now if I could only get her to stop mugging for the camera for more than 2 seconds...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

'11 Happy Dance #3 and #4: X-Stitch Silhouettes

Well, don't call it a come back. Finally I'm making some crafty progress. Can I get a woot woot?

I found this little lady on someone's flickr account and I thought, I could stitch that baby up. So I probably violated 12 thousand copyright laws and stitched up the design from the picture.She is an itty bitty thing at only 3.5 x 2.25 inches. I had to stitch her in hand because I don't own a hoop that small. I hate stitching in hand, but this project was quick enough that I didn't mind overly much.

The fabric is a scrap of hand dyed 14 count linen, one of my last bits of fancy fabrics. I used to have a ton of fabric scraps once upon a time. Since I don't stitch on huge projects at the insane rate I used to before Blockette was born, there is no excuse to buy funky fabrics, and therefore no leftover scraps to use on tiny projects like this.

It seems like these days, when I cross stitch, all I do anymore are these tiny projects. Maybe I should start buying large pieces of cool fabric to portion off for using in a million tiny projects like this...or maybe I should just lay down until that thought passes.
This second design is a freebie from La Chatelaine Designs called "Time for Tea with Max and Me." I looked, but I don't think the freebie is available online anymore.

For those of you that are into Cross stitch, the fabric is 18 count oatmeal Aida. Incidentally, it's a scrap from the same fabric I used for the Cow I made for my mom this Christmas. The dimensions are around 3.5 x 4.5 inches.

I have no idea why I am on this silhouette cross stitch jag, or what I'm gonna do with them now that I've stitched them up. I'll figure something out eventually!

Monday, March 14, 2011

What I got in the mail today

I bought my stove about 5 years ago from Home Depot. I got the following letter in the mail from them in today's mail: Go ahead and click on that picture to enlarge it.

Aren't you glad to know that they are notifying me that my warranty is going to expire on Jan 1, 1880?

I was curious if gas stoves were even invented in 1880. Well they were! Apparently the first gas stove was invented in the 1820's. They weren't commercially available until 1880, because the gas line network had not been developed enough to make it financially feasible. Doncha feel like you done learned yourself sumthin?

Thanks for the chuckle HD!

Bacon Onion Apple Tart

First off, HAPPY PI DAY!!! I know that a tart is not a pie, but let's just say it's close enough! I mean it's got a pie crust and a filling. What more do you need?

I have had a tart pan for over a year and have been too chicken to use it. I asked for it in hopes that if I had one it would encourage me to make things that had a pie crust. Then maybe I would get better at making pie crust and not be afraid of it.

Aside from my crust phobia, I was really wanting to make a savory tart. The thing about savory tarts is that most of them do not contain meat. Meat is mandatory. That was proclaimed by Mrblocko. This particular tart, from Evil Shinanigans, is an onion apple and bacon tart.

There is a heated debate as to whether or not bacon is classified as a meat. I say since it came from a 4 legged animal it classifies as meat. Mrblocko says bacon is a side, not a meat. Where he got this absurd notion, I have no idea. I think perhaps it may be a faulty side effect of having a "Y" chromosome. Anyhow, I won this round of the meat/side dish debate and the onion, apple and bacon tart was approved for dinner fare.

I did make a few minor changes to the original recipe. First, I used half a package of bacon. The recipe calls for 3 slices of thick cut bacon. I knew that wasn't going to fly with the meat-a-saur husband. Three slices of bacon for a whole tart would definitely fall into the "side dish" and NOT the meat category.

Second I used 2 medium onions. This brought the onion measurement up to about 1 1/2 cups. The apple I used was also particularly large and wound up being about 1 1/2 cups as well.

How on earth did this all fit into the 9 inch tart pan the recipe calls for? Easy. My tart pan happens to be 11 inches. Something I didn't realize until after I was already mixing up the dough.
After I finished panicking about how I had ruined dinner, I decided to see if the dough could be spread out in my 11 inch tart pan. It did! Hooray! I didn't even have to fuss or fight with the dough hardly at all. Double hooray!
Along with my tart pan, I got some ceramic pie weights. I used those for the first time as well. The pie weights didn't work as well as I had hoped. I am positive that it was because there simply weren't enough of them. The pie weights were most likely designed to cover the area of a 8 or 9 inch pie plate, not 11 inches. Next time I think I will use pennies as weights. Then I can be sure I have sufficient surface coverage.

As a result of the lack in pie weights my crust shrank a bit before I added the filling as you can see below. Fortunately the crust shrinkage was not a problem. The filling didn't over flow or make the crust soggy. Everything turned out great. The tart was a big hit with Blockette and Mrblocko. The leftovers even tasted good cold. I am now ready for my next tart adventure, I just have to convince Mrblocko that a meatless tart is acceptable for dinner. Yeah, it could be a while before I make another tart, at least a savory one for dinner.

Onion, Apple and Bacon Tart from Evil Shenanigans Serves 6
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and kept very cold
3-4 tablespoons ice water

3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 cups sliced yellow onion
1 cups peeled and sliced tart apple, such as Granny Smith
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan

Prepare the crust. In a bowl combine the flour, salt, sugar, and cheese. Add the diced butter and rub it into the flour to combine. Add three tablespoons of the ice water and mix to moisten. If it seems dry add the remaining water and mix.Turn the dough out and form a thin disk. Wrap with plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400F. Once chilled roll it out 1/4″ thick and press it into a 9″ tart pan and dock the bottom of the crust with a fork. Place in the freezer for ten minutes to set the butter then line with parchment or foil, add pie weights or beans and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for 10 minutes more, or until the crust is lightly brown.

Allow to chill as you prepare the filling. In a heavy skillet cook the bacon, over medium heat, until crisp. Add the onions and apples and saute until they soften, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. In a bowl whisk the eggs and milk together with the spices until well blended. In the tart shell spread the bacon, apple and onion mixture. Top with the shredded cheeses, then pour over the egg and milk mixture. Bake at 400F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and golden. Cool for ten minutes before slicing and serving. It is also very tasty at room temperature.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I am Not Creative

Sometimes when I give handmade gifts to people I get the wonderful response of, "Oh, you are so creative." This always gives me a warm fuzzy, but back in the corners of my mind I think, "No I'm not."

My husband will say that this is because I am excellent at beating up on myself. While this is true, in this case, that is not the reason for that thought. To me, a creative person is someone who comes up with something new and unique. All my handmade things are ideas I've mooched from magazines, books and the interweb.

Mooching ideas is more being crafty, not creative. In my opinion, being creative is coming up with something like this. Who knew Phillips head screws could create something so awe inspiring? I can't even sculpt with play dough. 3D screw portraits? Awesomeness.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday 10.11

This week's list of thankfulness:
1. Finally finishing a craft project!
2. The new family of house sparrows that moved into last year's Robin nest outside Blockette's window.
3. Helping out in Blockette's class.
4. Blockette still thinks homemade clothes are awesome.
5. Blockette has suddenly started playing with Barbies again after a year and a half hiatus.
6. Learning how to get rid of viruses on my computer myself.
7. Having a girls crafty afternoon with my friends.
8. Mrblocko and I are still successful in our sneakiness.
9. Silly moments with Mrblocko while helping out at church.
10. Blockette was not too scared to get ashes on her forehead this year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Power of Advertizing

I am stitting here at the computer and Blockette is playing Legos on the floor next to me. She just came up to me and showed me her latest creation. "See this mom? This is my iphone." Then she showed me it's features using the sweep and tap motion that you do with an iphone.

The scary thing was that the iphone was the right size...and neither Mrblocko or I own iphones. As far as I know, the only place she has seen an iphone is on TV. Sigh. Guess the advertisers should get a raise since they have succeeded in infiltrating the minds of Kindergartners.

'11 Happy Dance #1 and #2: Patchy Pants Revisited

Way back in September, Blockette's favorite pants developed holes in the knees. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. So I patched them up and they were thusly dubbed the patchy pants. Blockette just rocketed up a few inches in her legs, but not her waist. (Lil Miss No Butt.) Those patchy pants were in danger of becoming high water pants, and not in a good way.

I found a tutorial to add a ruffle on the blog From An Igloo. It was a lot easier than I thought. I had to make things more difficult by using a fabric with a stripe pattern. Amazingly, the stripes matched up at the seam! I'm still not sure how I managed to finagle that one. So, the Patchy Pants became even cooler until...I patched up and ruffled another "high water" pair of jeans. The Patchy Pants have been down graded to the second coolest pants. The Superstar pants are now at the top of the pants hierarchy. You can't quite tell, but there are 3 appliqued stars on the leg. The largest star is the one covering up a tiny developing hole. I lucked out with these stars. My best friend gave me some craft supplies she didn't want and these stars were part of a quilting applique kit. I think they look better on the pants than they would have on the quilt.

Just try to take a picture of her in these pants in any other pose than the one above. I dare you. I do not think it is possible. Seriously. I took 12 pictures. Every time was a different pose until the shutter clicked. Oh well. When you are a Superstar, I guess you just gotta work it. Here is a close up of the ruffle on the Superstar pants. I love this fabric. Again...fabric with a stripe. Apparently I am a glutton for punishment.

Hopefully, fingers crossed, both of these pants will last her through the end of the spring. I'm not sure what we are going to do once she outgrows either of these funky pants. Maybe I will relocate to a different country, or planet. I hear Jupiter is nice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pesto Chicken Soup

Just a quick little post today with no photos. I wanted to share this recipe concept of pesto chicken soup from the Naptime Chef. It uses pesto as a flavoring base for chicken noodle soup.

I've followed the recipe exactly and also made my own version just using the pesto as a seasoning base and just tossed in whatever leftover meat and veggies I had on hand/needed to be used up. The flavor the pesto adds to the soup is just awesome. One big spoonful from the jar into the soup pot and you don't need any other herbs or spices. No measuring, chopping or sitting around thinking, "What else does this soup need." To me, this is a huge timesaver with a big flavor reward. Double thumbs up from the Blocko Family.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fictional Characters

This morning at breakfast we were discussing some of the Magic Treehouse books. Somehow this morphed into a discussion about how some of the characters in the books, like George Washington or Shakespeare were real people who lived a long time ago. We talked about how they were important people who did important things and they were often referred to as historical figures.

Then, we talked about how the main characters, Jack and Annie, were fictional characters. These were people who were not actually real people, but were made up by the author. Then Blockette wanted us to "quiz" her on who was real, and who was a fictional character.

Here is a list of some of the people she decided were Fictional Characters:
Dora the Explorer and all her friends
Sleeping Beauty
Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs
Mickey Mouse
Harry Potter and his friends
The Rice Krispy Elves

Now here is the list of some of the people that were on her list of non-fictional characters:
George Washington
Abe Lincoln
Tinkerbell and all other fairies
The Easter Bunny
Santa and his Elves
Killer Rats

Yup, I think I can roll with that.

February Reads

So this month I was pretty lazy in the book department. Only 2 books read. And I didn't even enjoy them. They were:
1. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half With America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides

2. Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn

So why didn't I like them? All they did was make me angry. I'm looking for more ways to stretch my dollar at the grocery store and these were no help at all. Don't get me wrong, they have some great tips in them, but I found that I was doing a majority of the things they suggested already. The other things I just couldn't do.

For example: Grow your own food. I try doing this, but I live in the Midwest and we have a very short growing season. That's great that the authors have a citrus orchard in their backyard. Good for them. It ain't happening in my backyard. Besides the climate, there is the space issue. We have a very small yard, most of it is shaded. Not the ideal growing situation. Sure I could cut down the trees we do have, but our yard is shaded by our neighbor's trees as well.

Another thing the author's suggested was shopping once a month. In order to do this, one must have a Freezer. We have zero room for this in the house. We do have room in the garage, however if you look at a freezer manual they tell you not to have a freezer in an area where it gets below a certain temp or above a certain temp. The garage is not insulated. At All. It gets VERY cold in the winter, and VERY VERY hot in the summer. So we could use that freezer for exactly 2 months out of the year. Where are the cost savings in that?

Even if we were to somehow figure out where to put a freezer, shopping once a month is not something I think I could realistically do. It involves going to several different stores and getting the best deals from each place. This is a great idea, if you have the time. The author of one book stated that it was an all day event where both husband and wife did the shopping. I don't have the luxury of being able to do that. Mrblocko does not want to spend any of his time on the weekends at one grocery store, let alone three or four. This is exactly why I shop while Blockette is at Kindergarten. The less people who come with me to the store, the less time I spend in the store, and the less I buy. Even if I had that magic freezer, I'd still need to go to the store once a week to buy produce because I don't have a magic orchard and garden providing me with it's bounty year round.

Finally, the last suggestion was to purchase food from co-ops, CSA's and or direct from meat providers. I looked into this for the area I live in and the meat and produce were twice as expensive as what I could get in the grocery store. Yeah, the produce was organic, and cheaper than the organic stuff in the grocery store. But I am a terrible parent and provide my child with all sorts of chemical laden fruits and veggies. Even the meat was pricey and...I'd need, you guessed it, a freezer.

So instead of these books providing me with a way to save money, they just made me realize that I need to invent a magical freezer of holding, and a way to grow fruit in my crawlspace while raising livestock in my coat closet. Yeah. I'll get right on that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday 9.11

This week I'm thankful that:

1. When I dropped that brand new glass bottle of Ginger Syrup from Cost Plus World Market, at least it was on the garage floor and not the kitchen floor.
2. I didn't buy that cool red glass Buddha head or I would have broken that as well.
3. I didn't buy those cool dangly silver earrings either. It would have been difficult to clean the glass and syrup off of them.
4. Blockette is a good kid most of the time, and I shouldn't let one bad trip to the mall let me forget that.
5. Mrblocko and I are very sneaky.
6. I didn't have a cavity, just really dirty teeth that were aggravating my gums.
7. I only had to spend half of what they quoted me at the Dentist because my teeth weren't as caked with tartar as they first thought.
8. Blockette read to me the whole time at the Dentist. (It gave her something to do and something for me to focus on instead of the pain they were inflicting on my ouchy mouth.)
9. My husband puts up with my craziness.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

I used to love ordering baked potato soups back in the days of eating out vs knowing how to prepare a meal at home. I thought baked potato soups were da bomb. Now they are just fizzle and no kapow. To me, they have no umph and no substance. If you're gonna eat baked potato should feel like you are eating a baked potato. At least in my world it should. I happened to come across two different baked potato soups within days of each other so I decided I should get off my duff and get to making some hearty baked potato soup. The original recipes are:

baked potato soup from Taste and Tell
loaded potato soup from Family Kitchen

Here is my smashed together version of the 2 recipes:
1/4 c butter
2 small onions, chopped
1/4 c flour
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
6-7 small to medium baked and cooled russets (baked in the crockpot)
2 c diced ham (I used leftover bone in ham prepared with this glaze...added wonderful flavor to the mix)
2 large carrots shredded
1 c sour cream
shredded cheese (optional)
chives (optional)
thyme leaves (optional)

Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the chopped onions. Cook over medium heat until onions are at least translucent. We like ours more carmelized so I always cook them just shy of being burnt. Add the flour and stir. You want to cook the flour for about 30 seconds before adding your liquid to sort of toast the flour. This takes away the flour-y taste and adds a slightly nutty note. Slowly whisk in the stock and milk. Let the mixture some to a boil and bring it back down to a simmer. In the meantime, scoop out the guts of 4 potatos. Add that mush to the soup pot. Dice the rest of the potato shells and remaining potatoes, skin and all. There is no need to peel unless you have some sort of aversion to potato skins. Add the diced potatoes, ham and carrots. Cook until all the ingredients are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and add sour cream. Top with cheese, chives or thyme if desired.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Johnney cakes

I was browsing through my library's online card catalog, looking for new and interesting cook books. I found a listing called Loaves of Fun by Elizabeth M. Harbison. I looked the book up on Amazon and found out it was a children's book that was sort of a history of bread making.

Blockette went nuts over this book. It is right at her reading level with the exception of a few words (like Mesopotamia) that she was unfamiliar with. She did a great job sounding out the new words.

She had recently read the Magic Treehouse books Civil War on Sunday, Twister on Tuesday, Revolutionary War on Wednesday and Thanksgiving on Thursday so I thought making Johnney Cakes would be a great tie in. I also told her that Laura from the Little House on the Prairie also ate Johnney Cakes.

Blockette was sold. She was a very eager helper. I had her read me the recipe as I measured, mixed and cooked the corn cakes. I wasn't sure who had more fun making these cakes, me or Blockette. The cakes were tasty enough, a little on the bland side. Nothing that couldn't be cured with butter, jelly and lots of syrup. The taste wasn't really what we were going after when we made these, so it was OK that they weren't haute cuisine.

I have a feeling we will be checking this book out many more times to try out more of the different breads in the book.

A half Recipe for Johnney Cakes from p51 of Loaves of Fun
1/2 c water
1 T butter , plus extra for oiling the pan
1/2 c cornmeal
1/4 t salt
1/4 t sugar
1/4 c milk

1.bring water and 1 T butter to a boil in a saucepan over med-high heat.
2.Mix cornmeal, salt and sugar in bowl, and pour water and butter mix in. Add milk and stir.
3. put skillet on the stove over med heat and melt some more butter on it, tipping the pan to get the butter all over it.
4. spoon the batter in pancake-sized dollops onto the hot skillet. Cook for 5 min on each side or til golden brown.
5. serve hot, topped with jam, syrup, or apple butter

makes 6 johnneycakes