Friday, December 9, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!

Today was my last day in the cooking lab.  It was a sad day.  I've learned so much, met some fun people, and overall just had a great time.

Just a note before you go on to read about today's project, I thought I'd post a little ditty about cooking.  In the lab, we bake by flour weight.  Meaning, where normally you would measure by scale (cups, teaspoons, etc.), in this instance you weigh ingredients by their weight.  This is because flour is a fickle ingredient to weigh.  Have you ever made bread, cookies, cakes, etc, and one time it will be dense and dry, and the next time it will be very moist and fluffy?  It is because of how you measured your flour.  Flour is less dense than water.  Where 1 cup of water weighs as 8 ounces, 1 cup of flour weighs at about 4.8 ounces.  Also, people measure flour differently.  One person might pack in the flour, another might sift it.  This can make the flour measurement differ by a few tablespoons!  By measuring by weight, you get the same measurement whether you pack your ingredients or sift them.  By using this method of cooking, I have fallen in love with food scales.

Today we made desserts.  I made a white velvet butter cake with a white chocolate frosting.  Here's the recipe:

White Velvet Butter Cake
 (Makes 2-9” layer cakes)

1 cup milk
½ vanilla bean, split down the middle
6 oz butter, softened
10 oz sugar
5 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
11 oz flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Berry filling
White Chocolate Fudge frosting

1.  In a small pan, add milk and vanilla bean. Scald milk over medium heat, but do not boil. Set aside and let vanilla steep in warm milk 10 minutes. Scrape interior of bean into milk, then discard the outer pod.
2.  Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add sugar and continue to cream until light and fluffy. Add egg whites one at a time to the creamed mixture, blending until completely incorporated after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl before adding next white. Add vanilla to mixture with the last egg white.
3.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
4.  Add ¼ of the flour to the creamed mixture, mixing just to combine. Scrape down sides and blend into batter. Add ⅓ of the milk, mixing just until the liquid is incorporated into the batter. Continue adding alternate portions of flour and milk, mixing just to incorporate and scraping the sides of the bowl often.
5.  Divide the batter evenly (by weight – approximately 20 oz) into two greased and floured 9” layer pans. Bake at 375°F for 20 – 25 minutes, until the tops are golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
6.  Cool cakes 10 minutes in pans set on a wire rack. Turn out layers to cool completely.
7.  To assemble cake, spread berry filling evenly on one layer, avoiding the outer ½” of the cake. Set second layer on top, then frost top and sides of cake with white chocolate fudge frosting

Berry Filling

3 oz mixed berries (frozen works best)
1 – 2 Tbsp fat-free yogurt

1.  Combine berries and yogurt. Mix thoroughly and allow to sit 15 – 20 minutes or until completely thawed if frozen.
2.  Mash berries lightly with the back of a fork, breaking up large chunks. Spread berries and juice evenly over cake.

White Chocolate Fudge Frosting

2 oz water
1 oz shortening or butter
2 oz white chocolate, melted
⅛ tsp salt
1 lb powdered sugar
¾ tsp vanilla

1.  Bring water, shortening, and salt to a boil. Stir until shortening is completely melted.
2.  Transfer water mixture to the bowl of a mixer. Using the paddle attachment, completely mix in the powdered sugar.  Note:  This frosting does not get fluffy.  It should be thick, almost like fondant or play-doh.
3.  Add melted chocolate and vanilla, stirring to mix thoroughly through the frosting.
4.  While still warm but not hot, center the frosting between two large sheets of parchment or waxed paper (approximately 12" by 12").  Using a rolling pin, roll over the paper, spreading the frosting into a large circle, about a quarter-inch thick.  (If the frosting is too cool, it will be difficult to spread. If necessary, gently warm the bowl of frosting over a pan of hot water until it is fluid enough to pour.)  Carefully peel off the top layer of paper, and lay the frosting over the cake.  Very slowly and carefully peel back the paper, trying your best to not tear the frosting.  Using a sharp knife, cut the frosting around the base of the cake.  Smooth the frosting over the cake and its sides.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Candy Making Tips

With Christmas and New Years coming up, I thought I'd post some tips on candy making.

Tonight I decided I'd make caramels.  I've made them before successfully, so I wasn't too worried.  I didn't have any corn syrup on hand, so I used a different recipe that didn't call for corn syrup.  I put the ingredients in the pan, and while I was waiting for it to heat up, I ran upstairs to get my thermometer out of my cooking kit for my foods lab.  To my dismay, the thermometer I have only goes to 220 degrees, and my recipe said that the caramels would be done at 250 degrees.  So, I thought I'd just hope and pray, and eyeball it.

Fast forward to pullling the caramel out of the fridge, and it's a hard, grainy brick.

 I looked up "how to fix grainy caramel" on google, and I got 3 answers.  One, heating up the grainy mess in a double-boiler can melt the sugar crystals.  I still had a grainy blob of caramel-flavored sugar.  Second answer, adding corn syrup prevents sugars from crystallizing.  *Sigh.*  Now I wish I'd known that before endeavoring to make the darn candy.  Third, and most devastating, was that cooked and grainy caramel can seldom be fixed.

So, I learned that making caramel can be as temperamental as working with chocolate.  I groaned, mourned, stabbed the sugary ball with a wooden spoon a few times to let out my frustration, and with the same emotion I'd use for flushing a fish down the toilet, I pushed the sugary caramel into the disposal and said my goodbyes.  My poor attempt at caramel, may you rest in peace.

And on that same note, I'll post a few tips I've learned while making other candies.

With divinity, it should be made on a day with clear skies and a dry kitchen, since humidity can make it fail.  Also, to get the desired fluffiness of the candy, make sure you whip the egg whites (with no fat or yolk in it!)  to a stiff peak, and ever-so-gently fold in the other ingredients.  How do you fold in ingredients?  Using a large rubber spatula, scrape from the bowl, starting from the side furthest from you and sweeping it clockwise toward you.  Here's a great video demonstrating folding in whipped egg whites:

When working with chocolate, make sure when you are melting it, such as for dipping, that water never comes into contact with the chocolate.  What happens when water touches melted chocolate is called seizing. This can also happen when chocolate is melted for too long, such as when it is melted in the microwave.  Seized chocolate gets hard, becomes bitter, loses its molecular structure, and cannot be re-melted.  It is ruined, and all you can do is scream, groan, moan, cry, and try again with new chocolate.

I hope these tips help you when making candies.  Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fish Sauce

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am not the biggest fan of fish.  I'll eat most shellfish.  I love a good unagi roll (that's eel sushi).  I tolerate tilapia, halibut, and salmon.  I do not like trout.  It's the smell.  Also, my mom used to make me sit at the table until I finished my fish.  Now that I'm an adult, I just don't like fish.

I just finished a month of the HcG diet.  I lost 15 pounds, but still it's not as much as I'd hoped.  I cheated.  A lot.  Hard not to at college with so many things going on.  Anyway, I got sick of chicken, deli turkey, and steak fast.  So I went to the grocery store and gave in and got some tilapia and halibut.  Unfortunately, my tilapia wasn't that fresh; it smells fishy.  Since I'm not experienced with fish, I've been cooking it the same.  Defrost, rinse well, pat dry.  In the blender I ground sea salt Melba snacks, a little paprika, garlic salt, and lemon pepper until it was all a fine crumb mix.  Then I dip the fish in lemon juice and roll the filets in the crumbs.  Then I put them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets in the oven at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the fish just starts to flake with a fork.

I have a cooking lab on Friday late afternoons.  Last week we made Escalope of Salmon with Herb Cream Sauce.  Here's the recipe:

Yield: 12 servings,
(1 serving = 4 oz salmon and 1 ½ oz sauce)

1 oz shallots, chopped
½ oz butter
1 pt fish stock
8 fl oz dry white wine (2 oz white grape juice + 0.6 oz white wine vinegar)
4 parsley stems
½ bay leaf
1 pt heavy cream
tt lemon juice
tt salt and white pepper
tt chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, chives, or parsley)
4 lbs salmon fillets (escalopes), boneless, skinless
as needed, oil or clarified butter

  1. Sweat the shallots in butter until soft.
  2. Add stock, wine, parsley, and bay leaf. Over moderate or high heat reduce the liquid by three-fourths.
  3. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Boil 1-2 minutes, or until reduced to a light, sauce-like consistency.
  4. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, white pepper, and fresh chopped herbs (tarragon, chives, or parsley), and keep warm.
  5. Heat a little oil or clarified butter over high heat in a sauté pan. Sauté the 4 oz salmon escalope about 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove and drain briefly on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  6. To serve, cover the bottom of a warm plate with sauce and place a salmon escalope on top.
I took the leftover sauce home for my tilapia (even though it went against the protocol).  Here's a tip:  dairy-based sauces or soups do not reheat well.  They will curdle and the fat will separate if it gets too hot.  Instead of microwaving it, put the sauce in the top of a double boiler (or a small sauce pot held over a medium sauce pot of boiling water), stirring until the sauce reaches the desired temperature.

This sauce is amazing!  It's creamy, lightly seasoned, and has just a hint of lemon.  It goes nicely with fish.  I highly recommend!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Here's Your Sign

I recently moved back to college for a second Bachelor's.  Yes, I know, I am crazy.  But so far I am loving it.

Anyway, my apartment has very little decor in it.  Red carpet, blue-ish sofa, horrible, torn-up chairs.  Your basic college apartment.  So I've been scouring the internet and stores for ways to spruce up the walls a little.  One of my favorite rooms is the kitchen, seeing as I love to cook.  And most of my roommates admit to not being much of a cook.  And then I found a great inspirational quote for the kitchen and ordered it on Etsy from It's Written on the Wall.

Problem was, I liked the quote, and vinyl quotes generally cannot be reused.  So I looked and looked for some kind of sign to put the quote on, and found this tutorial.

I got a 20x24 canvas from Hobby Lobby, a small can of spray paint, and some sponge brushes for my mod podge.  I laid out the canvas on some newspaper on the kitchen floor (It's been threatening to rain, so I opened up the windows to let fresh air in).  Surprisingly, the paint dried pretty quickly.  As did the mod podge.  The vinyl was tricky to get on it, but once I figured it out it was fast work.  And here is the finished product:

Forgive the quality of the picture; it was taken with my cell.

Surprisingly, not only does the paint match the one in the above linked tutorial, but it also matches the doors in the apartment perfectly.

I'm pretty happy with it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Christmas Ornaments

I have been meaning to post this for quite some time now, but was unable to due to various computer issues.  So here's my latest finished craft!

I love Bath and Body Works.  It's like an addiction for me.  A few years ago around Christmas, I was changing the bulbs in my wallflowers, and go to thinking that they are a bit of a waste.  Everywhere you look now, people are talking about recycling and reusing products.  I came up with this fabulous idea, and it has now taken me roughly 2 1/2 years to complete.

Christmas Light Bulbs!!!


Wallflower bulbs and lids (You choose how many.  I think 1 or 2 dozen is great).
Silver Ribbon (1 spool is enough for about 15 bulbs).
Spray Paint Primer
Silver or Gold Spray Paint
Pencil or Pen
Power Drill and bits for plastic
Masking Tape

First you need to make sure your bulbs are completely dried up--The oil strips the tinsel of its color.

With a pair of pliers, grab the wick like so, hold the bulb with your other hand, and pull out the wick.

Hopefully the wick and plastic ring around it will come out together.  If not, just pull out the ring with your pliers. 

Get your tinsel, and cut 2-3 inches (about the length of the bulb).

Carefully stuff the bulb with your tinsel.  I use a thin pen or pencil to help guide it in.


I forgot to get a picture of this next step.  Drill a hole into the top of the lids, using a bit a little smaller than the tip of the lid.

Next, take your lids outside, along with plenty of newspaper, masking tape, spray primer, and spray paint.  Lay out your newspaper and tape the edges down to prevent the corners from flying up and knocking over your lids as they dry.  Coat your lids with primer, which will help the paint stick and coat more evenly.  Let it dry completely, at least 3 hours.  Then spray your lids with your paint.  I used Krylon Metallic Silver Foil.  Be sure to set this up and spray in a clear area.  The paint particles float around for a while, and you definitely don't want them getting near your car.  Let the paint dry completely, and apply more coats of paint as needed.

Close up:

When they are dry, it's time to thread them with your ribbon.  I liked this ribbon because it looked like the wiring for Christmas lights. Thread your needle and pull the ribbon up from inside the lid, pulling it out the top.

Then thread the needle back down the hole...

And make sure you hold your pen or pencil through the loop to make sure it doesn't fall through.

Tie a knot in your ribbon, making sure it's big enough to not go through your hole.

 Screw on your lid, and you are done! 

Don't they look amazing?!  I think they'll look perfect on the tree this Christmas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Etsy Shop!

One of my favorite places to look for more crafting ideas is Pine Needles at Gardner Village.  I have recently become obsessed with their pin cushion patterns.

I have also been working on a few unfinished projects, and noticed that I always tend to drop pins, and I do not like toting my pin box around with me from the sewing machine, to the large kitchen table, to the iron.  I then remembered my Mom has a wrist pin cushion.  The thing is, the band is plastic, and is tight on my wrist.  So I googled patterns for a fabric wrist pin cushion.  I didn't find anything.  I had to find a pattern for a cuff and a pattern for a pin cushion.  Only, the pin cushions I found were much too big for a wrist. 

So what did I do?

I designed my own wrist pin cushion!  I wanted to see if anyone else had thought of it, so I looked on Etsy.  People are selling the actual items, but there are only two shops that sell patterns.  I personally think that mine is oh so much cuter and unique, so I typed up instructions, took some pictures of my pin cushion, and made a pattern.  It is now listed on my Etsy shop!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Hair

My hair is really long and thick, and can be a pain to have it down when it's hot outside.  So, I thought I'd post some ideas of how to do summer updos with braids.  A lot of them are really nice, because you can do them right out of the shower.  I have found that wet hair holds style better, and it keeps your head cool in the summer.

It can also be helpful to look at pictures online.  I love the looks with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jessica Alba.

Sarah's hair is simple.  I start with a side part, and french braid the bigger portion of hair, including my bangs.  Stop when you finish braiding to the nape of your neck, and hold it with a small hair band.  Then continue braiding the rest of your hair, again stopping at the nape of your neck.  Pull the two braids and any leftover hair into a low ponytail, just under the bone on the back of your head. 

Now, I can't find any videos or tutorials online like how I do a messy bun, so I'll just type it up here.

First, you have your ponytail.  Grab the ends of your hair, and scrunch it up toward the hairband, and "cage" the hair in place with your entire hand and fingers.  Grab another hair band, and twist it around the hair.  Shake your head a little to loosen any loose strands.  Grab one loose strand section at a time, and tuck it into the elastic, and any loose loops in the buns as well.  And you have your messy bun!

For this look, I start by french braiding just my bangs to the side, and then continue french braiding the small section by your hairline until to reach the ear.  Braid the hair normally until you reach the ends, or until your layers start falling out.  Then wrap the rest of your hair into a low ponytail and do a messy bun.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Change Blog Fonts

I've had a few people ask me how I was able to get cute fonts on my blogs.  So, I decided to post a tutorial to show you how.

Step 1: Go to Dashboard

Step 2: Click on the tab labelled, "Design" and click on "Template Designer"

Step 3: You will now see this on your screen.

Click on "Advanced"

Step 4: You will now see a list of options for personalizing your blog. Here you can change the colors of your links, titles, text, etc. To change the font, scroll down, where you will see a list of font options for the title, sidebar, text, description, and footer.

Here is an example of how it looks when I change the font for my title.

And a view of the preview:

Now, on the top across from "Blogger Template Designer," you will see an orange button, "Apply to Blog." Click on it, and it should work right away. Preview your blog to see if it worked.

Congratulations! You have successfully changed your fonts in your blog. Have fun personalizing your blog in the future, the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mommy Mercantile

I thought I'd do a little advertising.  My sister and her friend have officially started their Etsy site, the Mommy Mercantile.  They will be selling a ton of fun things, i.e. knitting and crochet patterns, purses, Kindle/iPad/Nook covers, childrens' hats, headbands, cozies for your coffee or hot cocoa, crochet-edged burp cloths and blankets, and even snowflakes for the Christmas tree!  They are very reasonably priced, too.  Since they just got started, they only have a few items listed, but they will get more up as soon as they become available.  Go take a look!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Body Scrubs

Mother's Day is two weeks away.  I thought I'd post a recipe that I love, and give you an idea for something that you could make for Mom that uses a lot of things you already have in your pantry, plus a few special ingredients.

Body scrubs are amazing!  They are all natural, and leave your skin feeling so soft.

A little advice, if you are going to add a scent to your scrub, do not use extracts, because I guarantee they will irritate the skin.  Instead, use oils.  You can find them at health-food stores in cosmetics or aromatherapy aisles.  Or, if you live in the Salt Lake area, you can go to Orson Gigi.  I personally love the chocolate.  A little bit of caution: these oils are very strong, so a little goes a long way!  Also, be sure to use sea salt (you can buy it in bulk at Costco or Sam's Club).  Regular table salt will also irritate the skin.

If you are thinking of doing this for a gift, a great idea is to buy a cute jar to store it in, and provide a little spoon to stir it up, since it will separate a little.  Also, it might be a good idea to provide a note that, if it is going to be used longer than a month, to store it in the fridge, since there is a risk of spoiling.  Another note, this is not meant for delicate areas of the body, such as the face.  You don't need to wash this scrub off--the oils will moisturize your skin, and leave a nice scent.  You will, however, want to rinse yourself and your shower off afterwards.

Okay, here's the recipe for the scrub:

1/2 c. sea salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. baking soda
1/2 c. canola oil (NOT vegetable oil!)
8 drops flavoring oil
1/2 c. cocoa (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine salt, sugar, and baking soda.  Sift in the cocoa.  Mix them together.  In another container, mix together the oils.  Pour over the dry mixture.  Mix well, making sure it is fully blended.  Put in airtight container, and enjoy!

I have tried using all sugar (1 1/2 cups), since salt does burn if you use the scrub on a scratch or cut.

Good luck!  And to all you Moms, Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 22, 2011


Welcome to my craft blog!

Why am I starting a craft blog? 

One reason is that, while I do not create patterns or anything, I do come up with alterations for patterns and tutorials I do like, or find that some patterns need some clarification.  So, whenever I will be working on a new sewing project, I will do my best to create a tutorial for everyone else out there.

Another reason is that sometimes I really want to share what I'm working on with others, but since my personal blog is private, I can't share with as many people.

This blog will be used not only for sewing projects, but possibly also document my rediscovery of embroidery, any fun and useful cooking recipes I come across, and maybe bring attention to another blog or website I think is fabulous and worth a post.  Maybe I'll even write reviews of craft books I take a look at.

Again, thanks for looking at my blog, and I look forward to sharing my wonderful creations with you!