Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feb Choc Chip Cookie: Veg Oil Version

Last week I mentioned I would be featuring a different chocolate chip cookie recipe every month. For February, I chose to make Pastry Affair's Vegan Chocolate chunk cookies.

Except my version is not vegan.  I used moo juice and regular old chips that contained dairy.

I had a partial bag of semi sweet and butterscotch chips that I tossed into the cookie dough.  I don't think the butterscotch chips really added anything to the mix.  They still tasted ok, but they weren't a burst of amazing flavor the way they are in oatmeal scotchies.
I have stated in the past that I prefer a butter based cookie over anything.  For a non butter cookie, these were pretty tasty.

They did not spread the way a normal chocolate chip cookie would.  I decided to press them down like you do when you make a peanut butter cookie.  I thought this improved their texture.  I also topped them with additional chips.  While this made them look pretty, the chips fell off during storage.

I do think this recipe is a great option for those who can't, or choose not to have dairy or egg. 

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Pastry Affair
1/2 c br sugar
1/4 c sugar
2/3 c veg oil
1/4 c almond or soy milk (I used moo juice for those non vegans out there)
2 t vanilla
2 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 tsalt
3 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (use dairy-free chocolate to keep it vegan) (I used chips)

Preheat oven to 350F. In large bowl, whisk sugars, oil, and milk for several minutes til mix resembles smooth caramel sauce. Add vanilla. Fold in flour, baking soda, salt. If the dough is not stiff enough to hold its shape, add more flour by the tablespoon until it holds together. (I had to add nearly 1/4 c) Add chocolate.  Using small cookie scoop, drop dough on sheet. Bake 8-9 min, or til lightly browned on edges. Cool on sheet several min then cool on paper towels to soak up any excess oils.I thought these cookies tasted best after the cookies had cooled, but the chocolate was still melty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hakuna Fritatta

What a wonderful phrase....Hakuna Fritatta means no passing phase.  It means no worr-ies for the rest of your daaaaays.  It's our problem free.....philosophy...Hakuna Fritatta!

Ok.  So I know its Hakuna Matata.  When Blockette was a wee little lass, I made a fritatta for dinner for the first time.  I wasn't sure how it would be received, so I told her we were having Hakuna Fritatta for dinner.  And yes.  I did sing the entire song. 

It was a huge hit!  (The food, not my singing.) So the name just stuck, and we've called it that ever since.

I thought I had posted about it ages ago, but apparently, I was mistaken.

Fritattas are such a quick and easy meal, and a great way to use up leftovers.  The only things you really need to make one are eggs and an oven safe frying pan.  The rest is up to you!

Here are a few ingredient suggestions:
shredded potatoes
hot sauce
fresh or dried herbs

I use a 12" skillet and 8-12 eggs, depending on how many leftovers I want.  (Yes! Fritattas make great leftovers.  They even taste good cold!)  A 10" skillet is fine too.  If you are going to use a 10" skillet, I suggest using 6-8 eggs.  I used 8 eggs in a 12" skillet for today's fritatta.
If you have uncooked ingredients, saute them in your skillet until they are cooked to your liking.

For this fritatta, I used leftover potatoes, garlic and onions, and 3 diced precooked cheese bratts.  I tossed them with 1 T of olive oil and cooked them over medium heat until the bratts began to turn dark brown and caramelized.  (About 5 minutes.) Once the bratts were browned, I tossed in a few handfuls of frozen peas

While your ingredients are cooking, either preheat your oven to 400F or turn on your broiler.  As your add ins are cooking/warming and the oven is heating up, crack the eggs in a large bowl and whisk them together.  Add milk, cheese and any desired spices.  For this fritatta, I used 3 splashes of fat free milk, pre shredded pepper jack cheese, a few grinds of black pepper and 10 drops of hot sauce.

Over medium high heat, pour the egg mixture into the pan over the cooked/warmed add ins.  Cook the eggs for 4-5 minutes.  I like to lift the edges up and let the uncooked egg pour under the cooked part.  This speeds things up a bit, but is not necessary.  You can just leave the whole thing alone if you like.

After 4 minutes your fritatta will look something like this:
The bottom and edges are set and the top is no longer liquidy.  The eggs are still a bit runny, and not fully set.

To cook the eggs the rest of the way you can either bake them for 3-4 minutes under the broiler, or at 400F for 12 minutes.  My family prefers the 12 minute version.  With the broiler version, if you don't keep a close eye on the eggs they can go from lightly browned to dark brown very quickly. I will use the broiler version if I'm really pressed for time and watch the eggs like a hawk.  With the 12 min version I have time to do other meal related things like: make a salad, make toast, cut up fruit, pour beverages, etc

Here is what the fritatta looks like after 12 min at 400F:
The edges are light brown and have pulled away from the sides of the pan.

At this point you have two options for removing it from the pan.  You can flip the whole thing out over a cutting board, like you would remove a cake from a pan.  Most of the time we either melt our plastic cutting board or the fritatta falls out and breaks.  I prefer to cut the fritatta and remove it from the pan in individual slices, as you would for a pie.

Typically, for an 8 egg fritatta, I will cut it into 6 slices.  If I use 10 or more eggs, I'll slice it into eighths.

And that's how I make a fritatta.  It's a neat economical dish that looks like it took much more time and effort than you put into it!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Embroidered Patch

One day these pants will be one solid patch.  

And on That Day...they will have maximum awesome-ness.

Basil says, "Why are you taking a picture of these jeans Mom?"

Close up of the patch:
 I found the image here.  It was far too large and detailed for what I wanted, so I cropped, reversed and rearranged several of the scissors.

The stitches used on this design were mainly backstitch and running stitch with some satin and chain stitches thrown in for fillers.

So why is the patch so huge?

The hole that this patch covers was fairly small, but the fabric in the whole section under the patch was quite thin.

These jeans will need at least two more patches in the not too distant future.  The fabric above the patches, below the front pockets, is wearing thin.  I can wear two pairs of long underwear under these jeans so they are getting a lot of wear this winter for work!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Round Up

Have you ever noticed how many chocolate chip cookie recipes there are?  It's crazy!

I've tried the following:

1. Levain Bakery Copycat (My all time favorite!)

2. The one that uses hard boiled eggs (Great for post Easter when you have hard boiled eggs coming out your ears, and no one wants to eat them for breakfast anymore.)

3. Dairy Free Chocolate Chip cookies (I made these for Hubby's Best Friend who is lactose intolerant.  His wife made them and they turned out disastrous for her.  Oh bother.)

4. Fluffy Brown Sugar Cookies (Mostly brown sugar and fluffier and puffier than the classic Tollhouse recipe.

5. Whole Wheat pizzookies (A huge individual deep dish cookie...with whole know, cause that makes it healthy.)

6. Cookie Brittle (An addictive shortbread-ish version of the chocolate chip cookie)

7. Cookies made with Olive oil instead of shortening or butter (Slight hint of toffee!)

8. Cookies in the shape of bowls for ice cream (Have your bowl and eat it too!)

9. Oreo stuffed cookies (a cookie within a cookie?  Yes please!)

10. "Turducken" cookies (An oreo baked inside a brownie baked inside a cookie.  Can you even handle it?)

11. Mystery surprise cookies (Chocolate chip cookies with leftover Halloween chocolate candy bars hidden inside.)

Eleven different cookies!  Yikes.  Then I went through my pinterest cookie board and found at least 20 more DIFFERENT recipes.  I thought that if I made one cookie a month I'd make a dent in that pile of recipes.  I made one in January and in February already but haven't gotten around to writing up the posts yet.  Stay tuned for monthly cookie excitement!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

I made these no bake oatmeal pb bars from Brown Eyed Baker to take over to visit my in-laws.  We were in a bit of a rush, so I didn't have time to snap a photo before we left the house with them.  I figured I'd take a picture of the leftovers when we got home that night. And can you believe it?  There were NO leftovers!

My bars looked a little different from the ones on the Brown Eyed Baker website.  The chocolate chips in the batter melted after step 4.  I think this was a good thing, because it probably helped them set up.  It did make the bars a darker chocolate-y brown, without the pretty definition of the oats.  I think you could resolve this issue by adding the chips to the batter after pouring on the sugar-butter-milk solution.  Either way you mix the bars up, they are addictively delicious.

No Bake Oatmeal PB Bars from Brown Eyed Baker
3 c old-fashioned oats
2 c semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 c peanut butter
1 t vanilla
2 c sugar
½ c milk (I used skim)
½ c butter
½ t salt

1. Line 9x13 pan w parchment
2. In large bowl, stir oatmeal, 1 c chips, peanut butter and vanilla.
3. In medium pan  over med heat, combine sugar, milk, butter and salt. Bring to a full boil with bubbles covering all the liquid.   Boil for 2 min. Set a timer.  If cooked for took long, bars will be crumbly, if for not long enough bars will be too gooey.
4. Immediately pour hot mix over oatmeal mix. Quickly stir to combine, so all oats are covered.  Turn into parchment-lined pan. Press evenly w back of spoon.  Sprinkle remaining chips over top. Gently press into top of bars.
5. Allow bars to sit at room temp to set  about an hour (Longer if it's humid) Use edges of  parchment to lift bars out of pan and cut in squares. Store in airtight container at room temp up to 1 wk.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Salsa Meatloaf Bites

We really don't eat meatloaf a lot in this house. I'm not sure why. I couldn't even remember the last time I made it.  Blockette couldn't remember EVER eating it.

That's probably why she freaked out, in a bad way, when I told her I was making salsa meatloaf bites from Semi Homemade Mom.

She'd been reading this series, Dear Dumb Diary, from the Library.  Apparently, there is something mentioned about meatloaf in the book and how disgusting it was.  Or maybe it was made from weird things.  I don't know, and I don't think I really want to know.  Somethings are better left in the dark.  (ie tales of school cafeteria mystery meat)

Boy was Blockette surprised when she tried the meatloaf.  It was actually good!

As you can see in the above picture, I served them with these super quick and easy cornbread muffins.  (Incidentally, as a side note, if you're going to make those cornbread muffins, don't use paper liners.  I thought I'd be tricky and save some clean up time, but the paper stuck to the muffins something terrible.)

It was strangely amusing to eat a meal that consisted of similarly shaped food.

Blockette said they would be better if they weren't covered in Salsa.  She doesn't like salsa for some reason so don't pay any attention to her.  I thought the salsa combo was awesome.

What I didn't like was this:

Baking the meatloaf in the muffin tins caused the grease from the meat to just pool up around the meat.  I attempted to soak up some of the fat with a paper towel.  Just looking at all that grease grosses me out.

Of course Mrblocko predicted this would happen.  He suggested just baking them on a cookie sheet, but I thought that if they were in the muffin tin, they might crisp up a bit more where they came in contact with the pan.  No such luck.  Next time I make these I'll bake them on a sheet pan, meatball style.  That way I can get rid of the fat as they are cooking.

Salsa Meatloaf Bites makes 12 mini meatloaves by Semi Homemade Mom
1lb lean ground beef 
2 T dried, minced onion (I grated 1/2 of a very small onion)
1 egg 
16 buttery crackers l(I used a store brand generic Club cracker) 
2 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided (I used Mexican with jalapeno)
1 c chunky salsa, divided

Crush crackers. Mix meat, onion, egg, 1 c cheese, and 1/2 c salsa in large bowl. Add cracker crumbs and mix with hands to combine. Press meat mixture evenly among 12 muffin cups (or divide into 12 meatballs and place on foil lined rimmed baking sheet). Bake 400F for 25 min, test to be sure meat is at least 160F. Top each meatloaf with a spoonful of remaining salsa and sprinkling of cheese. Bake 5 min til cheese melts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Turkey Enchilada Mac

Yeah, I've been squirreling away leftover turkey in the freezer. I NEED to get cracking on using up those leftovers. I mean I have a whole other huge turkey in the freezer. And that needs to get used up BEFORE Easter. See, ham goes on sale over Easter, and I need to make sure there is room in the freezer for that spare ham!

So, enter Chicken Enchilada Mac and cheese from Savoury Table.

Yes, I know it says Chicken, but I swapped out that chicken for turkey.  I also added 2 c of corn and 1 1/2 cups of black beans.  Then I used 9 oz of pasta instead of 6. 

Heh, I'd say that is pretty tame as far as recipe substitutions go!

The casserole was great, and yielded a ton of leftovers how I made it.  AND as a bonus, it didn't turn out all soupy like the last casserole I made. Double win.

Turkey Enchilada Mac adapted from Savoury Table
9 ounces macaroni
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 c turkey stock
1 – 1/2 T chili powder
1 – 1/2 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t onion powder
3/4 c milk
1 – 1/2 cups shredded cheddar/Mexican cheese blend, divided
2 c shredded Turkey
2 c frozen corn, thawed
1 1/2 c  cooked black beans
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook macaroni to package directions in a stockpot of salted boiling water; drain and set aside. While noodles cook, melt butter in lg pan over med heat. Add garlic. Sauté  1 min. Sprinkle flour over butter and garlic. Stir til forms smooth paste. While whisking constantly, add broth and bring to slow boil; cook 1 min. Add milk, spices and ½ c cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir well and set aside. Add cooked mac, chicken, corn and beans to sauce in pan. Stir. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan.  Top with cheese. Bake til bubbly, 25-35min.  Cool 5 min before serving. 
We ate ours with sour cream and salsa on the top!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Turkey Veggie Meatballs and Gravy

I made these munchkin meatballs and a variation of 5 minute pan gravy from Slow Roasted Italian one evening when my mom was visitng.

I wanted something that was fairly quick as she was visiting on a school night, and we had activities to attend to right after dinner.  This meant I needed to make whatever we were eating as soon as I got home from work.

The dinner was easy enough to prepare, but it did not turn out as I had expected.

First, the recipe says to shred a zucchini and a carrot, but it doesn't say what size, or the amount of volume the shredded veggies should have.  I'm thinking that maybe my veggies were larger than those used in the original recipe as the meatballs were very moist.  I had a hard time figuring out if they were done, even after I baked them 10 minutes longer than the suggested bake time.

I was able to remedy this problem with the leftovers.  I heated them up in a skillet with no oil on medium heat until they were dark brown on all sides.  The crispy bits of caramelized veggies were a lot tastier then their "mushy" first time around counterparts.

The gravy was just ok.  I think my mistake was not following the recipe.  The thing is that my mom watches her salt intake and the original gravy recipe calls for 4 tsp of beef bullion granules.  This is the equivalent of 4 bullion cubes.  Each cube has 790 mg of sodium.  Four cubes equals super mega sodium.  Which I'm sure tastes amazing.  Because, let's face it, salt tastes great.  I just couldn't serve that to my mom.

I even tried to find some lower sodium bullion cubes at the grocery store.  The thing was that even the lower sodium stuff, was still loaded with salt. 

So I improvised using 2 cups of homemade turkey stock.

The results were just ok.  It tasted ok with the noodles and the meatballs, but it was rather bland.  I even added 1 tsp of Kitchen Bouquet to try to jazz things up, but the gravy was still "meh."  I guess that happens sometimes when you try to make things "healthy."  Flavor often is sacrificed.

I'm just glad that it wasn't so bad it was inedible.  And I redeemed myself by making chicken mug soup and chicken chili later in the week.  YUM!  Sometimes when you are mediocre in the kitchen it's nice to go back to your classic standards.

Turkey-veggie meatballs and Gravy from Slow Roasted Italian
MEATBALLS: Makes approximately 48
16 oz turkey
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 zucchini, peeled and grated
½ c Italian seasoned bread crumbs (I used regular bread crumbs and 1 tsp Pasta Sprinkle
2 T ketchup
1 egg
2 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t salt
½ t fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line sheet with parchment. In a large bowl combine all ingred.  Mix until just combined, do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Portion into tsp size balls, about 1/2 oz each. Place meatballs on baking sheet so they are not touching.  Bake 20 - 35 min.

GRAVY: makes 2 c
¼ c butter
¼ c flour
1 t onion powder
2 c water
4 t beef bouillon granules (or 4 cubes)

Combine water and bouillon in a heat proof container. Heat  in microwave 1 min intervals, til steaming hot.

Melt butter in med pan over med heat, add flour and onion powder. Whisk together.  Cook 1 min, whisking occasionally to  cook out ‘floury’ taste).  Add broth to flour mix gradually while whisking.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 1 min.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Anthropology Hack Jeans - Superstar Edition

I saw this tutorial for heart print jeans tutorial over at My Little Secrets.  
It was a hack on some dark blue jeans with white hearts you could purchase at Anthropology for a whopping $188. 

They were super cute, but ugh...not at that price.

Plus most of my jeans have embroidery patches on them, and I'd like to keep at least one pair as plain unaltered denim.

So that means I raid Blockette's closet for my crafting experiment!

She had a pair of gray jeans that I had dyed fushia earlier in the school year.  
They were hand me downs and Blockette hated the faded black look.  
After nearly staining the tub, I had some pinkish jeans that were pretty neat.  
When I discovered them in her room the other day, I knew they would be perfect for this project.

I told Blockette what I wanted to do, and showed her the picture.  
I told her that I would make the hearts silver instead of white.  
She was totally on board.  Blockette even lent me her stencils to do the job.  

Her stencils had two different sized hearts and as I was in the process of deciding between the two, I noticed that there were stars on the same stencil.  

Then it hit me....stars would be WAY cooler.  

I asked Blockette which she would rather have, stars or hearts. 
Without missing a beat she exclaimed "Stars!"

 I think they take the jeans to a whole 'nother level of coolness. 
 Unlike the hack at My Little Secrets, I stenciled stars on the front and the back.  
I left the rear pockets plain for contrast.

And here is proof of how cool the "new" jeans are.  
Apparently, this is how you "lounge" when you are super cool.
No one ever told me. 
Guess that's how come I'm not super cool.
When you are super cool, you don't need to be told how to act cool.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pumpkin Bagels

Look at these amazing pumpkin bagels from Ambitious Kitchen

Don't they look amazing?

Um yeah.

They were so amazing that I completely forgot to snap a pic.
I just shoveled them into my face with complete abandon.
Even though the camera was sitting there. 


The pumpkin in the batter makes them a bit more moist than the regular run of the mill bagel.  Although, if you are a bagel toaster, like me, you won't notice, as the toasting process dries up any excess moistness.  If you prefer an untoasted bagel, freaky freaks that you are, you will discover that although they are moist, they are not overly chewy.  

I mean I'm all for chewy bagels.  Bagels are supposed to be chewy.  However, there is chewy, and then there's CHEWY.  The pumpkin bagels are the right kind of chewy for a bagel.

There is also no need to worry if you aren't freaky on the pumpkin like I am.  They don't taste like pumpkin one bit.  The spices mask any veggie flavor that might have snuck in there.

I highly recommend these bagels!

Pumpkin Spice Bagels from Ambitious Kitchen1 cup of warm water (110° to 115°)
2 teaspoons yeast
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 1/2 cups of bread flour + more if necessary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
Olive oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
Place warm water in a large bowl and add yeast and brown sugar. Stir and let sit for about 3-5 min. Add pumpkin, spices, salt, and 2 c flour and begin to stir together to form a soft, sticky dough.
Transfer sticky dough to a lightly floured surface and add in another c flour and begin to knead dough by hand until all  flour absorbed. Add in another 1/2 c flour and knead again until all of the dough is absorbed. Knead dough 8 min. The dough should not be sticky, but smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a bowl coated w oil, and cover top allowing it to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hr.

After hr, punch down dough and shape into 12 balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope, about 8" long. Wrap the dough around to form a complete circle and overlap the dough. Seal 2 ends together completely by rolling a bit; this is an important step or the ends will come apart when you boil them.

Alternatively you can push thumb through center to form 2" hole and stretch dough to form even ring. Place bagels on a baking sheet (greased or lined w parchment paper), cover again w plastic wrap and let rise 15-20 min

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat baking sheet w cooking spray.

Fill lg pot 2/3full w water and bring to a boil. Drop bagels, 2 at a time, into boiling water. Cook 45 sec on each side. Remove w slotted spoon; drain well on paper towels. Place on baking sheets, brush with egg wash, and bake 15-20 min til golden brown. Remove and cool on wire racks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Easy Cran Walnut Bread

I made this cranberry walnut bread from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen twice.  Once as a gift for Blockette's choir teacher, and once for us.

The first time I made it, I forgot to take a picture.  The second time the bread got a bit darker than I wanted.

Even though the cranberries on the outside of the loaf got burnt, the bread itself was very tasty.  Moist, but not soggy. My favorite way to eat this bread, other than warm from the oven, was toasted slathered in butter.

I made a honey butter to go along with it which I FORGOT to write down the quantities of the ingredients I used.  GRRR.  I remember whipping the butter, and adding honey, vanilla and cinnamon, but not the quantities.  I'm totally kicking myself because the honey butter was stellar.  I mean how can you go wrong with honey, butter and cinnamon?  Obviously you can't so just toss some of each into a bowl and whip it up with an electric beater until smooth.  I highly doubt you could go wrong.

This bread is one of those no knead breads.  So while it is made over the course of two days, it takes minimal effort.  You mix the ingredients together and then wait a day, then heat up your oven really hot then wait until it cooks.  It's worth planning your day around!

The smell of freshly baked bread will put a smile on your face.  I highly recommend it if you are battling the mid winter dreary blues.  (Plus it will make your kitchen toasty warm!)

Cranberry-Walnut (No Knead) Bread from Culinary Adventures in the Kitchen
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1.5 cups water

In lg bowl, combine flours, salt, yeast, walnuts, and cranberries. Stir in water. dough will look shaggy. That’s good. Leave dough in same bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with pam. Let rise in a draft-free place for 18-24 hours. **This means that you’ll have to plan ahead and mix everything together the day before.**

After first rise, sprinkle top of dough with approximately 1/4 c flour. gently flatten enough to fold dough back onto itself a couple times to form a roundish blob of dough. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare for the next step. Lightly grease medium sized bowl with olive oil and sprinkle with wheat bran to lightly cover its surface (I usually just opt to use lightly-greased parchment paper on a small frying pan for this step). Gently and quickly transfer your dough (doing your very best to keep it in a roundish shape) to prepared bowl/pan. Cover with a towel (I just reuse the plastic wrap from the first rise) and let rise for 2 hrs.
1-1/2 hrs into 2nd rise, place dutch oven/cast iron pot (with lid) in oven and preheat it to 500F! After 2 hr rise/30-min pot-preheat, carefully (it’s scalding!) remove pot from oven, take off lid, and as gently as possible, flip dough into the pot (being very careful not to burn yourself)(I just lift the parchment and place the whole thing, parchment included into the dutch oven). Cover pot and return it to the 500F oven.

Bake covered 30 min. After 30 min, turn oven down to 450 F and remove lid. Bake 15 min. Remove from oven and allow bread to cool completely (if you have the will power) before slicing and eating.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wide Crochet Ear-Brassiere

The end of January brought us the coldest day here since Feb 2011. When I went to work one morning, the wind chill it was 15 below zero. Of course, that same day the actual temp at my mom's house only made it up to -3.  Clearly living in Chicagoland for the past 13 or so years has made me a wimp!

Of course when I was living in Minnesota if I was outside for any extended period of time I was doing something active like shoveling or running to class.  Standing outside is a whole different ball of wax.  There is only so much room that I can pace, hop and dance around.

I knew this really cold day was coming so I got to thinking about what I could do to stay warm outside.  Obviously I would wear layers of long underwear, but I didn't thing that was enough.  I noticed that on windy days my ears and forehead would get cold. I have a hat with ear flaps that usually keeps me warm enough, except when the wind blows stronger than 20 mph.

Then I saw Mrblocko wearing what we call an ear brassiere.  I thought wearing one of those over my hat would stop the wind from getting through and cover more of my forehead.  I didn't want to steal his as he would need it to stay warm until his car heated up.  So I decided to see if I could crochet one.

I found this pattern for a Wide Headband with ribbing stitch over at Crochet Geek.  The stitches seemed simple enough and there was a great video.  I don't know about you, but I always do better when I can actually see what it is I'm supposed to be crocheting before I do it.

The whole thing took me 3.5 hours to complete.  This was from start to finish.  When I mean from start to finish, I'm including: choosing the yarn, beginning the pattern and discovering the yarn was too thin, picking out another yarn, and all the other normal interruptions that go along with having your husband and daughter home for the day. (What, it's like they expect to talk to me over the weekends and stuff.  The nerve of those people!!!) 

The yarn I finally settled on was Joann Fabric brand Sensations Angel Hair in Berry stitched up with an H hook.(The yarn that was too thin was Red Heart Baby TLC in case you were curious.)

I didn't have to crochet as many rows as the pattern said.  Maybe my head is smaller than I think it is.  Naaah.  I probably just crocheted looser and with thinner yarn than the sample. 

This pattern is worked in rows, not in the round.  So it was really easy to adjust for my head size.  If I had been working the headband in the round I wouldn't have discovered it would be too big until several rows, and I would have had to restart the whole thing.  When I realized the headband was too big, I just undid a few rows and whip stitched the band together.

Blockette says she wants one now.  I'll have to make the band narrower if I get around to making her one.  I'd say I'd have to make the foundation chain 8 stitches instead of 14 in the tutorial.

I'm so proud of this ear warmer.  It's absolutely perfect for what I need it for.  On really cold days I have the top edge of it go down under my glasses, just above my eyes.  That way, with a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose, the only thing exposed to the cold wind are my eyes.  It's perfect! 

p.s.  Blockette was my wonderful photographer for this lovely little photo shoot. She had lots of fun, and even "styled" my hair for the last picture so it had pretty curls instead of a mat of nargles in the back.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I've got Big Buns

Yeah I've secretly been wanting to write "big buns" as a post title for YEARS.  Finally, the opportunity has presented itself!  Actually, this is another post about....



This is another thing I made over Christmas.  I think it's a perfect thing for a beginner as it is just a single crochet rectangle whip stitched together.

(Yes, that IS Ariel standing on her head in the background.  It's the only way to get ALL the water out of her tail so that nasty black mold doesn't grow in there.) what IS it?

It's a "sock" bun!  There are a bunch of hair styling tutorials (here and here are the ones I've seen most) out there on using a sock to give volume to a hair bun.  There is even a tutorial on how to get big "no heat" curls using a sock bun.

Basically what you do is cut the toe off an old sock and roll it into a donut.  You want the sock to be similar to your hair color in case the donut shows through.  Personally, I think putting a sock in your hair is gross.  I don't want something that was on my feet to be in my hair.  I know the socks are clean, but it just ooks me out for some reason.

Then I saw this crocheted pattern from sock bun over at Crochet Dynomite.  I even had brown yarn leftover from a craft project from years ago.

I must have used thicker yarn, or crocheted looser than the sample over at Crochet Dynomite because my bun was REALLY big!  
Ugh, it's a pain to try to take a picture of the back of your own head.

One of the benefits to using a crocheted bun roll vs a sock, is that you can easily stick bobby pins through the entire bun so the whole thing is super secure.  I put this bun in my hair to keep it out of my way while I scrubbed the dinning room floor after we had the ceiling fixed.  The dry wall dust got into every crack and crevasse on the wood floor, so there was some serious scrubbing going on. 

Had I just used a butterfly clip it would have fallen out after 15 min.  Those things never stay in my hair unless it's soaking wet.  The fact that this style stayed in my dry hair while I cleaned was awesome.

I didn't get a chance to test out the sock bun curls.  In the winter, I wear my hair down for extra warmth when I go to work, so I had to take the bun out after a few hours.

And for my fellow geeks: Yes, I did make two buns, just in case I want to rock it Princess Leia style

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Blockette's Soap Savers

Yes, more crochet!

 I've been sort of a crochet nut as of late.  I feel like I'm being more productive crocheting than I am cross stitching.  I guess it's cause I'm making something I can actually use with the crochet, and the cross stitch just sits there, most of the time not even finished into something suitable for framing.  Now that I think about it, if you figure in the cost of framing, crocheting is a lot cheaper hobby than cross stitching.

Anyhow, onto the latest crochet project.  I actually made these while I was up at my mom's over Christmas.  I saw the pattern for  soap savers when I stumbled across the blog Moogly.  I thought they would be a good solution to a problem we were having.

soap saver with full bar of soap, nubby scrubby side
Maybe those of you with kids have this problem too.  You see when Blockette was bathing herself, she was either putting too much soap on her bath poof, or not enough.  We tried going the bar of soap and wash cloth route, but she wasn't getting enough soap on the wash cloth to get a lather on her body.  Also, whenever Mrblocko or I took a shower, her bar of soap was getting wet and washing down the drain.

This little crochet pouch solves that problem!  There is no pouring the soap on anything.  The soap is right there!  The in between step of putting the soap on the washcloth is eliminated as well.  Essentially, the soap is inside the washcloth.  The pouch also keeps the soap from washing down the drain, or half the bar getting stuck to the shelf in the shower.

soap saver with used bar of soap, non nubby scrubby side
 See, that "gummy" wet soap is contained inside the soap saver!  No more soap gunk sticking to the shower shelf! 

Also, you can use the bar of soap down to nothing.  No waste.  If Blockette breaks the bar once it's tiny, no big deal, the pieces will stay inside the soap saver.

I made two in case one needed to be washed.  That way Blockette couldn't use the excuse that she couldn't take a shower because her scrubby was in the hamper.

Because I'm still a crochet newbie, I had to work each of them up more than once.  It wasn't until my mom suggested using a stitch marker when I completed each row, that I finally got the hang of things.  My stitch marker was super fancy.  I just used the tail from the beginning of the stitching and moved it up each row.  Then when I finished, I just wove the rest of the tail in as normal.  That worked out better than having to keep track of some separate piece of yarn, or one of those plastic yarn markers you can purchase.

The multi colored scrubby was stitched in Lily Sugar'n Cream Psychedelic and the blueish one in Swimming Pool.  This yarn is 100% cotton, medium or 4.  I used the recommended I hook.

One word of warning.  If you use Sugar n Cream yarn, in a dark color (particularly the blues), it will bleed.  Unless you like blue dye in your shower, I highly suggest you wash the soap saver at least once with a color catcher. This will save you from any panic that you've permanently stained your tub blue. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crochet Dish Scrubbie

 I saw this pattern for a dish scrubby by Mrs.Greene, and I thought, hmmm I wonder how well something like that would work.

This scrubby uses mesh bags, like those onions are packaged in.  You cut the bag into strips and loop them together.  The mesh "yarn" is crocheted along with a traditional yarn carrier thread onto a crocheted base, for structure.  You are going to be scrubbing dishes with this after all, you don't want it to be flimsy!

I chose Lily Sugar'n Cream Strawberry scents as the base yarn.  It wasn't to make the dishes smell nice, or prevent the sponge from stinking, but because I had a small amount of it left from making the mug cozy for Blockette.

Because I wanted some contrast, I used Sugar'n cream Playtime as the carrier thread to go along with the mesh bag plarn.  What a pain to crochet with.  The Plarn was so stiff, and the edges were prickly and pokey.  They did not want to play nice at all.  (I may have said a bad word or twelve at the uncooperative plarn.  Good thing I was home alone and the kitties were asleepin')

I stitched the base with a G hook, but I had to go up to H hook to crochet with the plarn.  I had to fight a lot less with the plarn with the larger hook.

The tip about laying the scrubby flat was very helpful.  Holding the worked crocheting vertical like I normally do was not working at all.  The plarn stitching was weird and distorted.  As soon as I ripped that nasty looking stuff out and started crocheting with my base laying on the counter, things started to look right and proper.

The cloth warped quite a bit so the scrubbie looked more like a rhomboid than a rectangle.  I'm not too worried about it as it is only going to be used to clean dishes and not the Queen of England.

What I like about this scrubby is that you wind up with a super scrubby side:

AND a light scrubby side:

Because sometimes the dishes don't need a heavy duty scrub.

So how does it work for actually cleaning the dishes?
 Not too bad.  I'd say it works as well as that blue sponge you see sitting on the sink in the above pictures, with the added benefit of being able to toss it in the washing machine when it gets stinky.  Yeah I know that you can nuke a sponge to get rid of the smell, but there are only so many times you can do that before the sponge is so gross microwaving it no longer works.

We'll see how long this dish scrubby lasts in comparison to a sponge before it falls apart.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jan Reads


Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. 

This was book 3 in the Heroes of Olympus series.  I got so into this book that by the time I got to the end I forgot that this was not the last book in the series.  I was upset that there was more to the story that I'd have to wait to discover until the next book comes out! 


Cold Days by Jim Butcher. 

This is the latest book in the Dresden Files.  I've always enjoyed the Dresden Files books, although some of the books in the series are more enjoyable than others.  I thought this one was my favorite, next to the first book of course.  All I can say without giving too much away about the plot is that Santa is one bad mamma jamma.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gingerbread Dutch Baby

I'm the sort of person who plans out her meals a week in advance. Mostly because I only go to the grocery store once a week. It makes things easier for us on busy nights after school if I know what I need to do in the kitchen before we walk in the door.

Sometimes those plans go by the wayside and I wing it. Sometimes Mrblocko has an extra meal set aside for him because he had an appointment, his boss took him out to lunch, or the leftovers stretched out for dinner for only one person.

Instead of making another meal that would generate too much food before we could eat it, I'll make something that serves two people. Usually, this is Blockette's favorite food, egg sandwiches.  This time I decided to switch things up and made a gingerbread dutch baby from My Daily Morsel.

The recipe calls for a 9" skillet that is oven safe.  I don't have one of those, but I do have a 12" one!
So I doubled the recipe and made that big fat baby in a 12"pan.  I thought this would be a bit more filling as a single recipe calls for 2 eggs.  If we were having egg sandwiches, I'd make us each 2 eggs as well.  This and a side of fruit was just right for me and my ravenous daughter.  If you were having lots of other sides, like hashbrowns and sausage and/or bacon, a doubled batch of this batter would probably feed three.

I topped our dutch baby pancake with powdered sugar.  I thought that the maple syrup would overpower the gingerbread flavor.  Of course when I shook on the powdered sugar I told Blockette it was snowing.  She loved that as she is desperately hoping it will snow more than half an inch, and stay on the ground for more than a few hours.  Until (if) that happens, she'll just have to be satisfied with generous dustings of snow in the powdered sugar form.

Gingerbread Pancakes for Two adapted from My Daily Morsel
4 large eggs
2 T brown sugar
1T molasses
2/3 c flour
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t kosher salt
2/3 c milk
4 T butter
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place eggs in blender and blend until smooth and pale in color. Add brown sugar, molasses, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and milk and blend until smooth. Melt butter in 12 inch ovenproof skillet over high heat, swirling it up the sides to evenly coat the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake 15-20 min, until the pancake is puffed up. Remove from oven, dust with powdered sugar aka snow!