Thursday, September 4, 2014

Julia Child’s Orange Almond Cake

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Sometimes one of my favorite things to do is read cookbooks and try making something new.  The other night I was sitting on the front porch pouring through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  So many of the recipes are daunting.  Crazy weird ingredients and techniques but at the same time some amazing recipes.  I’ve made a few of the recipes like the Beef Bourguignon and I have also made the Tarte Au Citron or a Lemon Tart  and they were both amazing.  Last night I attempted the recipe found on page 676 called Gateau A L’Orange Et Aux Amandes or Orange Cake with Almonds. 

       

Do you remember the movie Julie & Julia?  It came out in 2009 and was based on two books.

        Julie & Julia    

The first book was the autobiography written by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme  called My Life in France and the second was Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen which was a memoir written by Julie Powell.  She set out to make each and every of the 524  recipes in the iconic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking written by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck and she blogged about it.  Her blog grew and became very popular as she attempted to do this.  Amazing to me that she actually cooked all of the recipes.

So after coming home from Costco yesterday with a giant container of what will probably be the last of the summer’s season for strawberries, I was feeling somewhat inspired to do something different and delicious with them and I remembered the Orange Almond Cake recipe from my evening of cookbook reading on the porch and decided Hey why not?  Let’s whip up a couple of Julia’s cakes and see what we get.   Well, the cakes turned out great and the strawberries with the orange and almond cake combination was amazing!

 

Here’s the recipe.

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Gateau A L’Orange Et Aux Amandes  Or Orange Cake with Almonds

 

Makes one round cake.  I doubled the recipe and made two cakes but the recipe listed below is for just one cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

A round cake pan, 9 x 1 1/2 inches

1/4 pound of butter (one stick)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 egg yolks  ( save the egg white, you will need them later)

The grated rind of 1 orange (I used 1/2 tsp. of  orange extract)

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 tsp. almond extract

3/4 cup pulverized almonds ( I used almond flour)

1/2 cup cake flour ( I used Gold Medal Unbleached flour)

3 egg whites

Pinch salt

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Butter and flour the cake pan.  Measure out all of your ingredients.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating until mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a ribbon.  Add the grated orange rind, orange juice, and the almond extract.  Beat for a moment or two until mixture is light and foamy.  Then beat in the almond flour, and finally the flour. 

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together  until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. 

Using a rubber spatula, fold the cool melted butter into the cake batter.  Stire one fourth of the egg whites into the batter and delicately fold into the rest. 

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Immediately turn into prepared cake pan.  Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cake is done when it has puffed, browned lightly and the top is springy when pressed and a needle plunged into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let stand for about 10 minutes, until cake begins to shrink from the sides of the pan.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse the cake onto the rack.  Allow to cool for one hour or two. 

.Top with some homemade Orange Flavored Whipped Cream.  Follow the link to the recipe I posted earlier on my blog.  Such a great finishing touch and might I also suggest that you might just like a dollop of that on top of your morning coffee tomorrow!  And don’t forget to add some shaved almonds on top of that whipped cream to really make it something special.

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And in my best Julia Child voice…..Bon Appetite!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yellow Rag Quilt

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My latest Rag Quilt.  This time I stayed with just one fabric and the result is this soft and very girly shabby chic yellow rage quilt!

I used all the same fabric on one side and the back side is a solid pale yellow. 

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I love this quilt.

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I want to make it again in a bigger size size.   Right now it’s the size of a baby quilt.  I would love to have this draped across the foot of a bed or even to have it in a lap sized quilt size would be nice.

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Perfect for book reading or TV watching.  Happy Thursday Everyone!

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Make Fairy Garden Magic Mushrooms

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So today I added a few things to my beginner Fairy Garden.  The moss and thyme that I planted a few weeks ago in an oversized basket have really taken to their new home and have started to creep and spread out a bit.  I found a few things to add to the garden although I am still fairy-less and would like to find an inspired idea on how to make a suitable house for my fairy to move in to when I find her.  Unless of course I go the garden gnome route…which is possible…but I really think I’d rather have a fairy you know.   I love, love, love this little red bike.  I found it at Hobby Lobby along with a few other things like the fence sections, a little red wagon, and a lantern

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And then I spotted some little mini sized drawer pulls made out of wood and I thought they would be perfect for the magic mushrooms I wanted to make. 

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I purchased a bag of 6 wooden drawer pulls at Hobby Lobby for $1.99 and pulled out my craft paints when I got home and whipped me out some mushrooms.

I used white outdoor craft paint but only because I already had it.  I have had good luck with regular craft paint standing up to the outdoors just fine but get the outdoor paint if you are buying new just to be sure…otherwise use what you have on hand. 

I also lucked out in that I already had a bottle of bright red gloss enamel craft paint that I used to paint the tops of the mushroom.  I really love the glossier finish when they were dry and so I highly recommend it.  A happy accident that I would encourage you to repeat.  : )

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Each drawer pull/mushroom took two coats of paint.  I first painted the whole drawer pull with two coats of white and then I painted the tops with two coats of the glossy red.  Then the fun part was adding the polka-dots.  I simply dipped the top of my paint brush in white paint and carefully dabbed the dots on top and let them dry. 

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After they were dry I nestled them into the garden.

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Love, love love, this little red bike. Bears repeating!  I think it might need a basket with some flowers for the handle bars don’t you? 

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 Magic mushrooms.  Have you ever seen mushrooms like these in the wild?  Red with the polka dots?  I believe they exist and I for one would squeal with delight if I ever came across them in the woods someday. : )

 

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So the Fairy Garden is coming along.  Very happy with how the mushrooms turned out.  I am still on the hunt for the perfect fairy and house.  And there are some amazingly cute and creative fairy garden items on Etsy.    Have a look and see if you don’t become inspired along the way to start your own garden!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Balsamic Strawberry and Mozzarella Bites

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Some days you get lucky and actually have fun at your job.  Last Thursday was one of those days for me.   One of the stores that I merchandise cheese for was kicking off it’s first day of making Fresh Mozzarella in house.  And I along with about 15 others got to each take our turn learning how to make mozzarella from the kindest and most patient man I’ve met in a long time named Giovanni.

Giovanni 2          Giovanni Fresh Mozarella

And thanks to Giovanni and his great Italian accent I became officially “Mozzarella Certified”.

Giovanni 3

One of the companies my company merchandises product for is Il Villaggio and they have an incredible Balsamic Vinegar that just happens to be on sale this week.  It is normally $19.99 a bottle!  Yes you read that correctly.  But this week it happens to be 50% off and so at $9.99 a bottle while rather pricey…it’s worth every penny.  This is not your average Balsamic Vinegar.  It is aged in 30 year old oak casks.  It has a “full-bodied flavor, a sweet and slightly acidic taste and a deeply fragrant aroma”.  It is thick and syrupy and so incredibly flavorful that just a few drops is all you need to enhance the flavor of well….anything!

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At first to get customers excited about the new freshly made mozarella we made mini caprese samples.  We took a cube of the fresh mozarella, half a cherry tomato, and a leaf of fresh basil all assembled on a toothpick and then drizzled them with the Il Villaggio Aged Balsamic Vinegar.  Amazing!  Great idea for a party especially now with fresh basil so available.

But then I started thinking that for the demonstration that I was helping out with on the following Saturday morning needed something more exciting and  that people would want to try at an earlier part of the day.  We came up with pairing the fresh mozarella with some fruit.  Namely strawberries.    And these little tid bits of deliciousness were a big hit!  Big success and we sold lots of fresh mozarella and Balsamic Vinegar that day.    I even bought some myself to home with me. 

Balsamic Strawberry and Mozzarella Bites

1 ball of Mozzarella cheese.  (Fresh is best if it’s available.)

Fresh strawberries, washed and sliced in half

Balsamic Vinegar (Get the best you can afford.  It really does make a big difference.)

Toothpicks

Strawberry Balsamic Mozzarella Bites

These could not be easier to make.   Simply assemble with a piece of Mozzarella cheese on the bottom.  Insert a toothpick into the cheese and top with two halves of the sliced strawberries.  Stand them on a serving plate.  Pour some of the Balsamic Vinegar into a teaspoon and then drizzle over the strawberries.  You can pour directly from the Balsamic vinegar bottle but I don’t recommend that.

This stuff is like gold!  You don’t want to waste a drop!  Drizzle. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Creating A Fairy Garden

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The beginnings of a Fairy Garden!  This is something I’ve wanted to make for a long time.  Ever since I saw a Fairy Garden put together in a little red wagon a few years ago on a blog lost somewhere in time because for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it but the image lives on in my mind…I have wanted to create one!  So I started out small with an old basket that I used to gather vegetables in back in the days when I had a big garden.  The Bermuda grass here has made that all but impossible for me to garden now and I actually threw in the towel and let the grass take over and now I garden in small pots on my deck and visit the Farmer’s Market on a regular basis.  (And to my high school English teacher Mrs. Lonteen…I apologize in advance for the lengthy run-on sentences that I will continue to use.)  : )

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I actually found the starter plants for my Fairy Garden at said Farmer’s Market last weekend.  That lovely pale green mound of moss with the tiniest of white flowers is called Scottish moss and it perfect for a project like this.  I also picked up a small pot of “Coccineus”  which is a Red Wild Thyme and promises to get tiny red…but possibly hot pink flowers.  I’ll let you know when it blooms.  And I also picked up a pot of a creeping Wooly Thyme. 

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I lined the basket with a black plastic trash bag that I cut out and trimmed to fit my basket.

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  Then filled it with black Miracle Grow Potting Mix and potted my plants. 

 

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Now for the fun part.  Let’s add some charm shall we?  It’s only a start but I painted a rock with outdoor craft paint and made welcome stone.  I scrounged around under the big oak tree in the backyard for some acorn caps and made a path.  I still need more charming elements to add to this.  My next addition will be some red and white spotted mushrooms that I plan to make.  Perhaps a bridge over some water, an adorable fairy sized banner and maybe a place to sit?  How about a house for my fairy to live in?

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I have only just started but love it already!

Have you ever made a Fairy Garden?

Help me finish mine!  Please!

I would love to hear your ideas and what are some of the things you used and put in yours!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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What can I say but these were awesome!  They came from a cookbook that I have had for a while now called Our Best Bites and they were quick easy and delicious.   I love it when I try something new and it’s a success!  Not much else to say except they were yummy and I served them with Jasmine Rice and my favorite vegetable broccoli.  Another nice thing about them is that you can double up the recipe and freeze half of it for later.  Stove top or crock options too.  This one is a keeper!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup bread crumbs

In a medium bowl, combine meatball ingredients. 

Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil spray with non-stick spray.  

You can use a cookie scoop for even sized meat balls.  AND don’t forget the non-stick spray like I did!  Very important!

Place under the broiler in your oven for 5-7 minutes or until the meat balls begin to brown.  (I baked mine for 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.) 

Sauce

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1  1/2 cups water or pineapple juice  (Go with the pineapple juice….amazing flavor!)

1/4 cup white vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

In a large saucepan, whisk together the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add the meatballs and reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.  ( Or you can do like I did and put everything in the slow cooker and cook on high or low depending on how much time you have till they are done.  I cooked mine for about 1 hourson high and another hour on low but only because I cooked them all the way through in the oven first.)

To make ahead and freeze simply make the meatballs as directed above and broil or bake them.  When they come out of the oven, place them in a freezer-safe container and pour the sauce over them.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to cook, invert the container into the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

Cookbook     Meatballs - Copy

This was honestly a tasty dinner and these would also be delicious served as an appetizer meatball too.  And lot’s of other great easy family style recipes in this book too.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Make Burlap Placemats

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Way back in 2009 when I was self taught novice blogger,  : )  I wrote a blog post showing how I made a set of Burlap Placemats.  Pottery Barn was showing lots of items in their stores and catalogs at the time with numbers on them and that is what inspired me make them. I was busy finding all kinds of things to make with burlap and became very preoccupied with the idea of stenciling numbers on anything I could get my hands on! I was obsessed with numbers and kind of sort of still am.   : )

Well little did I know that that little project would take on a life of it’s own.  It has turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts and projects.

And then just a few weeks ago I received an exciting email from someone at Taunton Press asking me if I would like to have my placemats featured in a book on burlap projects they were putting together! Yes please!   So it was time to get to work.  I decided to re-write my How To blog post on how to make these placemats.  My original blog post can be seen here Pottery Barn Inspired Burlap Placemats if you’d like to take a peek.

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In my original blog post, the set of burlap placemats I made used only two numbers.  I decided to make the new set stenciled with three numbers and I like the effect better.  But of course that is all up to you!  It’s kind of fun deciding which numbers to use. 

 

How to Make Burlap Placemats

Here’s what you need to make 6 placemats

3 yards of burlap

Spool of matching thread

Quilting pins, Scissors, Measuring Tape, Sewing Machine

Black craft paint

Stencil Brush

clear packaging tape

Number Stencils *

    

I purchased 3 yards of burlap at $2.99 a yard.  Quite the bargain.  Three yards actually gave me enough to cut out 7 placemats.  I was just shy of having enough for that eighth placemat so if you want a set of 8 placemats which is probably the case…I would purchase an additional 1/4 yard to be sure you have enough.

Step One:  Cutting Out The Burlap Pieces

The burlap that you buy off of the bolt is usually folded in half lengthwise, which is what you want.  This way you can cut out two pieces at a time.  These two pieces will be sewn together to make one placemat.  My placemats are a bit different than some I have seen for sale on Etsy and on other sites in that mine are double sided.  This is what gives the placemats a nice weight and make stenciling on them easier.  (And the paint wont bleed through two pieces to the other side.)    I took the black and white checked placemat in the photo above and used it as my template/pattern to cut out my burlap pieces.  Use any placemat you have as a pattern or cut out your own pattern out of paper if you like.  The dimensions of my placemats are 19 X 14 inches.

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Step Two:  Sewing Placemats Together

After you have all of your placemat pieces cut out, sew two of the identical pieces that you cut out together around all four edges with a matching colored thread approximately 1 inch from the raw outer edge.  When you get near a corner, place your machine needle into the burlap and pivot to the direction you want to sew for a neatly stitched corner.   This seam is important because it is what is going to hold your placemat together and help you control how much fringe your edges will have. 

 

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Step Three:  Fringing the Edges

Once all of your placemats are sewn together it’s time to fringe the edges.  Burlap can be incredibly messy in that it sheds little fibers and sticks to everything!  I recommend you do this step outside.  With your fingers, gently pull the outermost burlap thread and remove it.  Continue to gently remove the threads one after another until you meet resistance.    When you do, Do Not Pull Hard, simple take your scissors and very carefully snip the thread as close to the seam line with out cutting into the seam itself.  Do this to all four sides of your placemat.  After you have finished fringing all of the edges, you might notice some of the edges are uneven.  Take a sharp pair of scissors and trim all the edges so you get an even and uniform fringed edge.

 

 Burlap Placemats 001      

Step Four: Stenciling

Now comes the fun part where you give your placemats some personality!  I use regular black acrylic craft paint.  You could of course use black fabric paint if you like.   I also prefer to work with a stencil brush instead of the sponge dabbers.  I get much better results with a stencil brush.  Decide what numbers and how many you would like to use and place them down near the lower right corner of your placemat.  I stencil my numbers on one at a time and work from the outer edge inwards.  Once you like the placement of your number, use some clear packaging tape to secure the stencil.  The tape also helps keep your brush from accidentally smearing any excess paint past the stencil edges.  Once you have finished stenciling your number, gently peel back the stencil and admire your work!  Repeat until you have all of your numbers stenciled in place.  Set aside and let dry. 

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My biggest tip when stenciling is to not use too much paint on your brush.  Use a paper towel if you need to dab off any excess paint.  You will have cleaner and crisper edges.  I also get the best results when I use an up and down pouncing motion.  Do not dab and smear…if you do the paint could end up collecting under your stencil edges and there goes your crisp edges! It is also important not to use too much paint because you do not want it to bleed through to the back side of your stencil.  I have never had this happen.  But if you are new to stenciling you might want to do a practice stencil on a leftover scrap of burlap.      

               

I get asked all the time where I get my number stencils.  My favorite source for stencils is Maison de Stencils and I have been ordering stencils from them for years.    These are the best and highest quality stencils I have found!!   The set I used is called the Old World Number 1 Numbers and I ordered the 3 x 3 stencil set.

I love working with their stencils and I always get good results.  I am also happy to say that my placemats are also featured on their website in their client gallery!  They have such unique stencils and a huge variety that you just  can’t find anywhere else.  I have also had them make me a custom stencil that I used to create this Grains pillow below and I got great results!!   The other pillow in the basket photo was sewn out of burlap and I used a Maison de Stencils stencil on that one too. 

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But I am burlap and stencil digressing……Back to the placemats!

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I love that rustic look you get with burlap and making a set of these placemats couldn’t be any easier.  And when you stencil on some numbers you can create something really useful that looks great on the table.  And these are great for gift giving too. 

    Burlap Placemats

Let me know if you have any questions as I am always happy to help!

I will also keep you all posted on when Taunton Press releases the burlap projects book!