Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Caramel Pear Tart

Have I mentioned yet that I love Fall? Another reason for this love is fresh pears! They are great in so many desserts, as well as just on their own. Here is a rich caramel tart with some fresh pears I got at the Farmer's Market! My favorite part about this recipe? I don't use a candy thermometer, you judge your caramel by color, and there is a tiny bit of wiggle room, but don't walk away or you are sure to burn it and then we'd all be very sad.

To make your own delicious Caramel Pear Tart you will need:

For the Crust:

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

For the Caramel:

1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter

Topping: about 1/2 a ripe pear, cut into slices

Start with your tart shell. This recipe will yield a crust for one 10 inch tart shell. I happen to have a 7 inch tart pan, so I had some extra, I can verify that it wrks quite well if you want to shape it by hand into a Galette and be more rustic, as that is what I did with my extra dough and some pears. If you lack a tart pan, I'd go this route, it's still super tasty.

To make the dough, start by creaming your butter and confectioner's sugar, then add the vanilla extract and egg yolk, until smooth. Then add in your flour and mix until combined. Form dough into a disc and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to let the dough firm up a bit. On a floured surface, roll out your tart shell (about 1/8-1/4" thick) and put it in your pan. Don't worry if it tears, you can stick it all back together in the pan, this dough is very forgiving. In a 325 degree F oven, blind bake for 15 minutes (I place parchment paper over top and fill it with some beans. I keep my beans in a clearly labeled bag so I know not to use them for anything but blind baking crusts--they will not taste good after doing this). After 15 minutes, remove the beans and parchment and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the dough starts browning slightly around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool. This can be done up to one day in advance (for those of you not having time to do the whole dessert in one day).

For the caramel, start by placing your water, sugar and corn syrup in a fairly large pan (when you add the butter and cream at the end it will bubble up quite a bit, so leave plenty of extra room) and place on stove top burner at medium to medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Once your mixture starts to bubble up you will want to stir continuously, but slowly, and start monitoring the color. Once your mixture is a medium to dark amber, you want to remove it from the heat and add your butter and cream. I generally get my husband to help me with this so I can stir while everything is being added. Keep in mind that the caramel will continue to cook once removed from the heat, so don't let your sugar get too dark. I generally stir my caramel until it stops bubbling entirely. This time around I added 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to my final caramel as well, this is optional but sure does smell and taste wonderful!

At this point you can place your caramel into your tart shell and let it set up in the refrigerator*, or if you will be serving it within a few hours it can set up at room temperature. Slice your pear (apples would work just as well if you prefer) and arrange your slices on top. Keep in mind, if you will not be serving it immediately you may want to wait to add your fruit topping as the sugar in your caramel will pull some of the juices out of your fruit and no one wants a soggy tart. Well, I'd eat it anyway, but you get the idea. :)

This caramel also makes a great fruit dipping sauce as long as you keep it warm in a fondue pot.


*If refrigerating, make sure to remove and set at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Fabulous!

It is finally Fall! This has always been my favorite season, leaves changing colors, no more unbearable Summer heat, colorful cozy sweaters can once again be donned, and most importantly my birthday is in October! The 6th to be exact.

I turn 30 this year, and to celebrate I will be having a couple giveaways on the blog in October, as well as a super secret giveaway to those of you who follow me on my newsletter! If you aren't currently subscribed to the newsletter, it comes once a month and there is still plenty of time to sign up before the giveaway, just go here and enter your email address.

I have been busy getting ready for October, so I apologize for the lack in posts this Month, but soon the blog will once again be jam packed with great crafts, and some special Halloween tutorials (including a great tutorial on doing your own Zombie makeup from one of my super sweet cousins).

*Image taken from Life 123.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Gumdrops

This is an extra sweet and sugar filled food craft! I was inspired by a post about a month ago on Bakerella and really wanted to try my hand at making my own gumdrops. Since I wasn't making them for a crowd and didn't want to be too tempted, I halved the recipe on her site. Also, I decided to spice it up by using ice cube trays from IKEA to mold my gum drops into fancy, single piece candies rather than cut all of mine up. I took her advice and sprayed my ice cub trays with cooking spray. I recommend this, these guys are sticky!

I think the added cute factor of having shaped gumdrops is really nice as well, and now is a great time to check out clearance ice cube trays (if you can find the silicone ones, i think they'd be easier to pop your gumdrops out of, but mine worked just fine as well and were only 2 dollars each). Also, if you want smaller gumdrops you don't need to fill each ice cube slot all the way, you will still get the basic shape without the volume.

On to the recipe! (Mine filled 3 ice cube trays from IKEA)

2 Tablespoons (about 3 packets) of unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon flavored extract per flavor (I made 3 flavors)
Food coloring to achieve desired color (about 1-3 drops per flavor)

Extra sugar for coating

Start by dissolving your gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to set for about 5 minutes, while boiling some water. Add 3/4 cup boiling water, 2 cups sugar and stir until dissolved.

In a large pot (this stuff bubbles up quite a bit) bring to a slow boil and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes while stirring constantly. You may want to enlist the help of someone as this is a lot of stirring and you don't want your sugar to burn.

Separate your mixture into 3 containers, add your flavoring and coloring and refrigerate to set. I used a Pyrex measuring glass to mix mine in and then poured into my ice cube trays. If you use a square pan or baking dish and then cut your gumdrops once they have set, you can mix your colors and flavors right in the pan.

Refrigerate overnight. Remove from trays (or baking dish--then cut into desired size pieces). Cover with sugar, and now the hard part: allow these to set up for 2 days! That was torture, but they are sure tasty.

I was a little heavy handed with the red food coloring in my orange flavored gumdrops, but they still taste orangey and delicious. I also made strawberry flavored. There are quite a large variety of flavor extracts available now, so I recommend trying whatever you like, or maybe be adventurous and get an extract you have never tried before.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Digital Polaroids

Hey everyone! I just thought I'd drop a quick note about this site I found that turns all of your digital photos into polaroids! It appeals to my photography background, I guess. In art school I used to print a lot of my photos to look like polaroids (I made a template). It's also pretty easy to do yourself in photoshop, but why not take all the work out of it by using a website that only takes a few clicks?

Go nuts! If you want to share some images feel free to post your photos here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DIY: Dye It Yourself!

After a very busy week (having two jobs isn't all it's cracked up to be) I am back at it crafting for you all! Today's project was inspired by a link I saw on Pinterest. There is a tutorial on the Rit Dye website for dyeing your own buttons to custom colors. I have to admit I was intrigued, so I decided to test it out for all of you and here are my results:

First off, I found it next to impossible to find buttons that actually stated what they were made from, so I had to assume that the ones I found were nylon based and would take the dye. The package I bought was from Favorite Findings, and is purchasable at most craft and hobby stores I have been to. The package contains 130 buttons and is a mixture of white and clear buttons in a few different sizes. The white buttons took the dye just fine, the clear ones didn't take it at all ::sad trombone:: I was really hoping the clear ones would take the dye, as I am sure they would have made more vibrant colors. I will be on the look out for clear nylon buttons again soon and let you all know if I find some.

Next, my conclusion on their recipe itself: They recommend using your hottest tap water. I recommend boiling some. My buttons were sitting in their solution WAY longer than the recommended time (again, maybe my buttons are at fault) but you want to make sure you have boiling water to fully dissolve your dye (I used the powdered dye) and you want your water to stay hot for the majority of your dyeing process.

As for the time, the site recommended 2-5 minutes with constant stirring and observation. I will agree that you want to agitate your buttons fairly often for even coverage (though the splotchiness that can occur if you just leave them to sit on their own can be kinda neat on its own). However, my buttons all sat in their solution for at least 30 minutes and I still think some of the colors could have been more vibrant. For the curious, I bought three colors of dye, all powdered: Golden Yellow, Fuschia, and Teal. I mixed my fuschia and yellow to get a pretty orange, and the yellow and teal to get a nice green. I will probably try again with other buttons later on to make a purple out of my teal and fuschia.

So, for those of you wanting to know my final recipe for dyeing your own buttons here you go:

1 large disposable container for each color of dye you are using
1 pair rubber gloves (I used some cheapies I got at the dollar store)
1 cup boiling water (per dye solution)
2-3 teaspoons powdered dye (none of my colors were as vibrant as I wanted so I ended up using closer to 3 teaspoons)
Nylon buttons
Spoon for stirring (I used a plastic one)
Trash bag

I covered my work area with a plastic trash bag because it was handy, I recommend you do the same unless you happen to have a plastic tablecloth type thing handy. You definitely don't want to get dye on your nice counter tops or tables.

Next measure your water, boil, and use it to mix your dyes. You can test on a piece of scrap fabric or paper towel to see how dark your dye is and adjust accordingly (more dye if too light, more water if too dark).

Stir your buttons occasionally and check them to see if they have reached your desired color.

Once the desired color is reached, fish out your buttons and wash them with soap and warm water. Rinse well and lay on a paper towel to dry.

This is the image from the Rit website. As you can see, their colors seem to have turned out much nicer than mine. However, if you have some patience you can really make some nice colors of buttons for your projects. Speaking of, look for some cute projects using these newly dyed buttons next week!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Matt's Banana Breakfast Shakes

Hey everybody! Welcome back for another Friday food craft. This week, I am sharing my husband's recipe for a super yummy breakfast shake. There are only 3 ingredients and it's ready in about a minute! I will also tell you, that aside from breakfast, it makes a great shake any time of day.

You will need:

A blender
1 cup milk
1/2 large banana, frozen
2 heaping scoops vanilla protein powder*

Place your protein powder and milk in your blender and pulse together for a few seconds with your blender covered tightly (we don't want to make any messes). Then, break up your half banana into 2 or three pieces, add it to the mix and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into your favorite drinking glass and enjoy.

*The hus is a personal trainer, if you do not need additional protein in your diet, you can substitute additional frozen fruit, or a vanilla breakfast shake powder like Carnation instant breakfast to give you more vitamins in your shake. The vanilla does make it taste a little extra yummy, so if you just go with more fruit, I might add a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

When freezing my bananas, I peel them first and place them in a freezer bag, then place them in the freezer at least overnight before use to make sure they are completely frozen.

We have also done variations of this where a handful of fresh blueberries were added, it's extra yummy and delicious, so feel free to add your favorite additional fruit either fresh or frozen. The banana is pretty essential for me though, as frozen bananas have a great creamy texture, like ice cream, that makes me feel like I am having dessert for breakfast. It's also great if you love the flavor of banana but don't like the texture (like my husband) now he gets to enjoy a fruit he usually avoids.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Awards

Vote for Me

Hey everybody! I have been nominated (and am a Finalist!) in Red Tricycle's Totally Awesome Awards! How cool, er awesome, is that!? It is broken up by locale, so to go vote for me you would have to click on the "Portland" voting page.

So if you think I'm totally awesome, feel free to go vote. Everyone who does get's entered to win a $500 gift card from (a great prize if you have kids or know someone who does).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Watermelon Snack Shapes

This is, admittedly, my laziest food craft ever. In my defense, it is REALLY hot and I am REALLY not a fan of it. For those of you unaware, Portland is one of those places that despite reaching 100+ degrees for at least a week every Summer (though this Summer it has so far stayed in the mid 90's) refuses to buy into the whole Air Conditioning thing. As in very few places have it, even restaurants and apartments.

I'm trying to make the best of it though with my trips to the Farmer's Market to pick up yummy treats that require no cooking by me in my tiny sweat box apartment.

So today, you get to see my cute little watermelon cut outs! I like to refrigerate my watermelon because, well, it's hotter than hot out there and I wanted a cold snack. I just sliced a piece off my super yummy orange watermelon (I really do like it better than standard red, this one was super sweet and really juicy) and then used a cookie cutter to cut out some fun heart shapes. You could use any shape you wanted to, of course. These are a great snack on their own, or you could add your favorite fun shapes to a fruit salad.

I also picked up some blueberries, tomatoes and a to die for salami. Portland really does have some fabulous vendors at it's markets, if you ever visit I would recommend going to one or many of the local markets, they span a good portion of the year, not just Summer like a lot of places I have lived before.

Hope you are staying cool and enjoying the last of your Summer days!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spotted on Pinterest

For those of you whom haven't been following me or the blog for quite some time, you may be unaware of my affinity for Pinterest a site that acts like a virtual pin board where you can collect images of all the things that inspire you online. I like to use it as a means of keeping my bookmark tabs a little less cluttered (as it links back to the original posts). I've seen some great pins from some of my friends lately and I thought I'd share a few with all of you! For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest, it's really quite the addiction for me. If any of you would like to start using it, you can check out the Contact tab above and drop me an email, I'd love to invite as many of you as I can. If you already use Pinterest, feel free to follow me or check out my pin boards here.

Anyway, on to the pins! I can't follow crocheting patterns to save my life. I think the whole counting stitches thing is just beyond me. I think it might be some form of crafting ADHD. However, for those of you that CAN follow a pattern for crochet, this tutorial on craftster can show you some super cute Amigurimi of WALL-E and Eve. She even added magnets in their hands so they hold hands without any help! Adorable!

I'm also totally in love with this fox scarf I saw pinned the other day. The pattern is available for sale on etsy. I really wish I had the patience to try some patterns, I'd love to make a couple of these for holiday gifts, but I'm pretty sure I'd mess it up if I tried. Patterns are just not my strong suit with crochet.

I don't just find things on Pinterest I want to make, I also find other great blogs. A few projects someone pinned were super cute, when I went to the page they were pinned from I discovered a really great blog that is now one of my favorites! Design Crush Blog, Aptly named, as I totally have a design crush on their blog.

It's also a treasure trove of recipes. My BFF, Amanda, recently pinned this yummy looking recipe for Shrimp Boil Kebabs.

I'd love to see what inspires all of you :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Pudding Pops

As Summer winds down it's time for another easy, no baking required food craft! This one is super easy and delicious, not to mention a little nostalgic. I loved pudding pops as a kid, but they didn't come in every flavor of pudding (like my favorite, Pistachio). Now you can make your own and it's as easy as mixing up a box of your favorite pudding (If you wanted you could make this recipe and substitute in your own favorite flavorings).

To make your own pudding pops you will need:

1 box pudding mix, in your favorite flavor (I used to 4 serving size package)
2 cups whole milk (In the past I have used 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream -- it makes for a creamier texture overall but also higher calorie count)
Popsicle Mold of your choice.

Just add your milk and pudding mix, stir until it starts to thicken and then poor into your popsicle mold. For best results when removing the popsicles from the tray I have found that freezing them at least 6 hour is best (the stick doesn't just pull out of the middle so easily). Also, I generally run the bottom of the mold under hot water for a few seconds to loosen the popsicles. Then enjoy a cool frozen treat :)