Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's freezing outside... so let's make Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches!

So for the month of September, my staff who celebrated their birthday in September got to decide what I would attempt to make for the birthday treat. I say attempt because sometimes this is like a challenge of can you actually make what I'm suggesting. This was not the case for September. It was four lovely men who celebrated their birthday this month. And here are the responses that I got:

"What ever you make Pennie will be good."
"Isn't there a recipe you want to try?"
"I like ice cream."
"I don't really like sweets, but I like cookies."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not (Bread Pudding)

The recession has hit Ireland hard – harder than most countries. In the last two years we have seen many close friends laid off, salaries reduced, and industries decimated. My guy is in construction, an industry which virtually doesn’t exist anymore, and has worked only sporadically over the last two years. While I won’t pretend that it hasn’t been frustrating and challenging and sometimes emotionally exhausting, it has also been a wonderful learning experience.
While Ireland was going through the Celtic Tiger (the boom years) everything centered on money – how much could you spend and how quickly, and trust me when I say that feeling was contagious (and if I am being truthful sometimes it was even a little (whole lotta) fun. Everyone had money and everyone wanted to spend it. Hop on a plane and go to Italy for lunch – heck yeah! Eat out 7 nights a week – absolutely! Take a taxi literally everywhere – totally necessary! Even though I was never in debt and fairly responsible with my money, I was learning bad habits quickly.

Enter the recession. In the beginning (and totally by necessity) I knew my spending habits had to change, and after an awkward adjustment period (read flopping on the bed and moaning we never do anything FUN anymore) they did. Now I monitor my spending habits by choice. I am much more able to reflect on the things I need versus the things I want. I am able to enjoy the process of wanting something badly enough to save for it instead of just buying every.little.thing.my.heart.desires and wondering why and how I could still want for more.
I have learned something about myself that would have never been possible without this recession – the things that make me the most happy aren’t in a shopping mall and aren’t available at amazon.com. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good book, a fancy restaurant, and great outfit as much as the next person…but I can check the book out from the library, appreciate a meal more if it is for a special occasion, and wear the same great outfit to more than one event.
Even though I can’t wait for it to end I will always be grateful to this recession for teaching me that I love to cook and create things, that too many material possessions cluttered my heart, my head, and my bank account, and that you don’t need a lot of money to enjoy your family and friends. Lastly it taught me that I really don’t like to waste anything, especially food. I am the shopper in our household and the meal planner, and I pride myself on knowing what we need for the week. If we get to the end of the week and have to throw away anything that might have gone off, I feel like I have let myself down. Thus bringing us full circle to the recipe for this post (finally I hear you saying!): bread pudding.
I woke up this morning to make breakfast and saw that we had two loaves of bread that had four and fives pieces left respectively AND a whole new loaf. I don’t eat a lot of bread and even though Carl does, I knew he would never be able to eat it all before it got moldy. I could freeze it (but Irish freezers are tiny and thawed bread never tastes as good), I could make croutons (time consuming and so far I haven’t found a great recipe, plus Carl doesn’t really eat them) or I could make an old stand by – Bread Pudding. Simple to make, simple ingredients, and totally delicious – this is a great dessert to serve to welcome fall.
Bread Pudding
Gather your bread and cut into small pieces (I use kitchen shears to do this part).

Pour milk over the bread pieces and let soak while you measure out the other ingredients (I had buttermilk leftover from banana muffins so I used half milk and half buttermilk)

In small bowl combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add 1 cup raisins (and nuts if you are using them).

Combine the bread/milk with the sugar/raisin and pour into a well buttered dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45minutes. You can make a glaze to pour on top or you can spread a pad of butter and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top. I cheated and bought a pre made low fat custard to pour on top and it was so yummy! I love this recipe because you can throw in whatever you have laying around and it will be delicious. Some suggestions: cranberries, chocolate, nuts, craisins, more sugar, butter, different types of bread, etc.

Ingredients:5 cups cubed bread (8-10 slices if using left over bread)2 ½ cups milk2 eggs1 teaspoons vanilla½ cup granulated sugar1 teaspoon cinnamon¾ teaspoon nutmeg1 cup raisins½ cup Nuts (optional)

Preparation:Tear bread into medium pieces. Add sugar and cinnamon. Mix milk, lightly beaten eggs, and vanilla. Stir in raisins. Combine thoroughly with the bread. Place in well buttered casserole dish. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until lightly brown.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting my Groupon!

So one of the unique things about Kathleen, Allison & I that we all share is that we all work in higher education. I specifically work in housing, and so the end of summer for me is not in fall, but the beginning of the month of August. This year, I decided I was going to enjoy it and had a full packed weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cinnamonsational Brownies

I mentioned my sister earlier on and for those who missed that post – I pretty much think the sun sets and rises with her. I can’t help it – I adore her and have since the day she was born. I am eight years older than her and loved being her second mom, and love even more being her friend now that we are both adults. It doesn’t hurt that she finds out of this world recipes like this one and shares them with me. These Mexican brownies are to.die.for.
In the summer of 2009 we spent 10 days in Morocco with our mom and family friends. We have always liked cinnamon, but that trip reignited our love affair with it. The Moroccans have a way of adding just the right amount to enhance a dish, instead of just altering it. Even though this recipe is named Mexican brownies, I think of Morocco every time I eat them…which is approximately 10 times more than I should.

Start by gathering all of your ingredients. For me this really does save time, sanity and helps me avoid skipping an ingredient. I group them all together and then as I use them move them to the other side of the stove.

Next chop the butter into small pieces, break up the chocolate (try very hard not to eat a piece) and put in a pan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally. *For the record I have made these with salted butter and 5 ounces of the same type of chocolate or dark chocolate and it is still delicious, so feel free to use what you have on hand.

While the chocolate butter goodness is melting put the sugar and the almonds into a chopping apparatus. (I use the little dicer that came with my hand blender). Again I like to reduce sugar and in the recipe I used just over half cup and it was still delicious. Chop until the almonds are as fine as the sugar.

While the chocolate is cooling for 10 minutes this is a great time to measure remaining ingredients, butter and flour the pan, and start to tidy the kitchen.

Once cool, stir the sugar and almond concoction into the chocolate. It should look a little grainy and a whole lot delicious.

Add the eggs one at a time stirring completely.

Stir in the flour, cinnamon (I use 1 heaping teaspoon and it is a.maz.ing), and salt until just wet.

Pour into your buttered and floured pan (I use a cheapy 8 x 8 pan from Ikea). Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Wait for the neighbours to come to your door to ask you what that delicious smell is.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting (to me this is the hardest part). I find that using a pizza cutter keeps the brownies from dragging into each other and allows you to cut them as small or large as you like. Enjoy (and try to share – but it will be hard).

The recipe in it’s entirety:

Mexican Brownies3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted until golden and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour.

In a heavy 1 1/2-quart saucepan melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring, until smooth and remove pan from heat. Cool chocolate mixture 10 minutes.

In a food processor process sugar and almonds until ground fine. Stir almond mixture into chocolate mixture and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon until mixture is glossy and smooth. Stir in flour, salt, and cinnamon until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into 16 squares.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Goodness

I wasn’t really much of a cook until a few years ago, but I have always been a baker. Baking to me is calming, it’s methodical, and it’s pleasing to all of my senses. I love mixing the batter, the smells that come from the oven, watching it bake and turn golden, and of course tasting the final product. I am making myself hungry just thinking about it!

As I mentioned, cooking in Ireland has had a few challenges in terms of getting my hands on ingredients. At first I just wouldn’t make the recipe, but as I have become more confident in the kitchen, I have been able to substitute or alter recipes to work with what I have on hand, with mostly good results.

I am a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman. If you haven’t heard of her – she really is worth checking out. This recipe is an altered version of the Pioneer Woman’s and it’s pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I am always trying to cut down sugar so I used 1 1/2 cups instead of 2 and added an extra tablespoon of pineapple juice to increase natural sweetness. Next time I think I will cut it down by another half cup.

The first time I made this cake, it was kind of a mess. I used dark brown sugar and when the cake came out it tasted beautiful and looked terrible. Dark brown sugar and butter made for a burnt looking cake! This recipe also makes A LOT of batter and I decided to load it up in my skillet, which when heated ended up on the bottom of my oven – burnt. For the record, I do not recommend this method.

I was making this cake for Girls Night (a group of 6 of us get together every Wednesday and all bring different parts of the meal) and wanted to leave a treat behind for Carl. I decided that with the extra batter I could make two mini pineapple upside down cakes. This recipe is enough to make a 9 x 13 cake or a skillet cake and two mini cakes.

2 Cups Flour
1½ Cups Sugar
2 Eggs
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ stick butter
¼ cup Vegetable Oil (I used sunflower oil)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 ½ cup milk
3 Tablespoons Pineapple Juice (From the can of pineapple slices)

Combine all ingredients with hand mixer, until thoroughly mixed (be sure to scrape down the sides). Set aside.

Pineapple slices (I used can)
½ stick butter + 2 Heaping Tablespoons
1 cup Brown Sugar + two Heaping Tablespoons
Maraschino Cherries

For the large cake, I used a cast iron skillet. Melt the ½ stick butter in the skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted entirely spread evenly around pan and pour in the brown sugar. Try to spread it evenly, without needing to stir as you don’t want to disrupt the butter.

Wait for the sugar to dissolve. Once dissolved, add pineapples and cherries.

Pour cake batter into pan over pineapples leaving at least ½ inch at the top of the pan (this I learned the hard way). Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the mini cakes I put a tablespoon of butter in each pan (I put scissors in to get a perspective on the size of the mini pans) and stuck it in the oven until the butter melted. Then I added one heaping tablespoon of brown sugar to each pan covering the butter and put it back in the oven for 1-2 minutes until sugar began to dissolve.

These mini cakes only needed one pineapple and one cherry each. Then cover with batter and put in the oven. I found these smaller cakes only needed 22-24 minutes.

Removing the cakes should be simple because of all of the butter; however, running a toothpick or knife along the edge of the cake will help free it before the flip.

Once flipped, marvel at your creations and pick at the yummy butter and brown sugar concoction left in the pan until the cake is cool enough to try. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One of the things I love about reading blogs...

One of the things I love about reading blogs is learning about the blogger. I think knowing something about the person who is bringing the inspiration for the meal you will serve to your family or the gift you are making for your best friend helps make the world feel more like a community. Reading someone’s blog is like being invited inside their kitchen to sit down and hear about things that matter to them. So in addition to loving whatever it is they are inspiring me with, I love learning little tidbits about the blogger themselves. It makes the completely overwhelming, beyond comprehension concept of the internet (I still don’t understand how it gets into my computer) seem a whole lot more personal. And as I may have mentioned before, I am all about emulating the best of what I have seen out there in the blogosphere.
Before I get into some serious crafting and cooking, I thought I would share the top ten things you should know about me right now. . . all subject to change at a moments notice. . . that’s just how I do things.
1. I live in Dublin, Ireland. I moved here in 2002 for what I thought would be 1-2 years. My first year here was very difficult. I didn’t make friends very easily and I was fully not prepared for how grey and rainy Dublin can be (having moved here from sunny Boca Raton). I was determined though and decided to stay for a second year and I am so glad that I did (see number 2).
2. I am getting married November 6th to an Irishman named Carl whom I love very much. We met on a blind date and have been together ever since. You will hear a lot about him as he is my main taste tester and biggest fan (and it is always important to surround yourself with fans).
3. My best friend is my sister Laura. In what was one of the happiest days of my life Laura moved to Dublin. She has been here five years and she is the cutest thing you have ever seen. I am her big sister by eight years so I can just about get away with saying things like that. You only have to see her to know I am not lying, I promise!
4. Wedding planning is all encompassing. If I were to graph how much time I spend thinking about the wedding, coordinating the wedding, crafting for the wedding, talking about the wedding, and yes, even dreaming about the wedding, it would be totally embarrassing.
5. I am a Weight Watcher (WW) and in all honesty probably will need to be for life. Weight is something I have carried with me since I was a young girl. I remember being about 9 or 10 and getting measured for dance costumes and our teacher said to me “wow Kathleen! Your waist is bigger than mine” (she was at least 30). The struggle with weight has continued since then. I make adjustments to lots of recipes to make them more “point” friendly (WW lingo) and I will be sure to document those changes for any of you who might be interested.
6. Crafting in Dublin can be frustrating. There is no Michael’s, there is no AC Moore, no Walmart, no Target, no anyplace that might be a crafting jackpot. Sometimes it makes me want to rip my hair out and other times it inspires (read forces) me to be more creative. While I am at it - cooking in Ireland can be frustrating too. Actually living in Ireland can be frustrating, but that’s a whole other day and a whole other post! There are many recipes that I look at and immediately have to put into a “not now” category because I know the ingredients just won’t be readily available here (and I am talking about things like corn meal not something truly exotic)!
7. In April I started riding my bike to and from work everyday. I am amazed that I am able to do this and I may talk about my bike and cycling habits much more than is necessary. I hope you will forgive me for this. Two years ago walking to and from my car winded me and now I cycle 10 miles a day? It has to be talked about (out of pride or fear of quitting I am not sure - so for now the bike stays in conversation).
8. I like to nick name things and people. Before I met Carl, I dated a lot of men whose names really weren’t worth remembering so instead I gave them names or in some cases descriptors – a few that come to mind: chef, 21, fiddler (I didn’t say they were creative!). Now that I am not in need of meeting men I am starting to name other things. Like our car is affectionately referred to as DoDee. Originally DoDee was called Daisy but I soon realised she was a he which prompted an immediate name change. Can you imagine the identity crisis that could have caused?
9. I am cheesy. I get goosebumps watching reality television, I tear up reading hallmark cards, and I think life is made seriously better when accompanied by quotes. And I love a good mix tape (even though now they are put on CD’s or called playlists or something modern like that). A good mix tape could be the first step in the solving of most world problems.
10. Thinking of ten things (or narrowing it down to ten things depending on how you look at it) was a lot harder than it seemed. Now it is time to get down to business. Next post will include a food or a craft or something of instructional value…I almost promise!
Until Then –

Monday, September 20, 2010

That Gift

You know that one gift? The one I was sending to my sister and her boyfriend? That I wouldn't blog about? The one that will also be a Christmas gift for a few people who read this? Yeah, that one?

Well they got it! Woo! And she liked it. And asked me where I bought it from. I'll take that as a crafting success. And yes, I'll show it to you at some point. Probably after Christmas. Sorry for the delay!

But the good news is that there is more cooking on the horizon!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Weekend of Baby

This Sunday, I enjoyed a lovely day at my friend/co-worker's house for her baby shower. It was a great day, and from it came a few projects!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My name is Kathleen and I am a blog-a-holic

Hello and welcome to the Project of My Affection , the brain child of Pennie who has so kindly allowed her friends to guest post on this new blog. I have been thinking about this inaugural post of mine for quite some time. Months before I even knew it would exist. I have a little confession to make. . . I am a blog-a-holic. I am not sure when or how it started, but I know this statement is true. My friends know it is true because at least two out of every five sentences start with the phrase, today when I was reading *insert name of blog* I found out…*insert interesting tidbit*. I am lucky to have kind friends who humour my obsession (and sometimes maybe benefit a little from my findings - think Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Cobbler).

All of my favourite recipes were found on blogs, ninety percent of the crafts I have attempted were found on blogs. So it was really no surprise when I got engaged last year that almost every idea I have had for our wedding is an idea someone else has had before. None of that bums me out though. It just makes me more excited about blogging, because I am living proof that it works. Write about something you love or are proud of and I will copy you! As our friend Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and I couldn’t agree more.

About two months into my blog addiction, I started to dream about writing my own blog. I longed to be witty and show pictures of my successes and failures as a budding chef, crafter, wedding coordinator, cyclist, and weight watcher, but I knew I lacked the most basic necessity for having a successful blog. Consistency. How I marvel at bloggers who can post everyday – some of them twice a day! How I envy their ability to be smart, witty, and creative 5-7 times a week. Even on the weeks that I may have accomplished 5 things that were noteworthy (a very rare occurrence I assure you), I felt quite certain that I would never be able to document them sufficiently. So I did what I often do. I talked myself out of it before I even started.

Enter Pennie and her Facebook status “Could this be you?!?!?! Searching for cool people who would like to blog about projects they are doing- both in the crafty/sewing department and the cooking department or any other project you would like to show off. Must be able to commit to the process. My friend Allison and I are looking for people to join...”

Before I knew it I had responded saying something similar to “Pick Me! Pick Me!” and lucky for me, they did! Here I am, ready to share the projects of my affection or maybe sometimes the topics or things of my affection one to two times a week. It may not always be witty, it may not always be successful, but it will always be from the heart.

Crafting- I'm not being lazy

So I promise I'm not being lazy. Seriously. Over the weekend I did a woodburning gift for my sister and her boyfriend for their housewarming gift. It turned out well... but I can't show you because I plan to make more for Christmas gifts. And so yeah, no publications. Then I worked on my uncle and his fiance's wedding invite samples. I want to take a bunch to them in November. But I can't post those either as I don't want her to find it until I show them to them in November. Finally I have gone shopping. This I can share. I went to Hobby Lobby and walked out with two pieces of foam core and a piece of wood for the price of $5.43. The original price of one piece of foam core was 4.99. SCORE!

Finally I also went to Michael's tonight with a coupon and got two pieces of scrapbook paper for 20 cents each, 3 coloring books ($1.00 each) and a tin to send cookies in at 50% off. Grand total for that trip=$5 and some odd cents. GLORIOUS! Now to continue on with many of the projects that are some what secretive because Christmas is coming up- (and a whole lot of the current plans are Christmas things).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Allison's Inaugural Craft Address

I am SUPER glad to be able to share with you my craft for the weekend!! I work much better and efficiently when I have a set project...no flying from project to project today folks! So we received this lovely letter in the mail yesterday about creating a quilt square for Lisa's baby that is due in November:
Nothing excites me more than a good old fashioned crafting challenge! Reminded me slightly of my third grade turkey decorating project. You know the drill...they give you an outline of a turkey and you decorate as you please. I went all out. I mean ALL OUT! Colorful feathers, sequins, glitter, ribbon. I think I even told my mom it was a competition just so we could go out and buy more supplies. You don't want to thwart this competitive spirit. I was the first one hung up next to our door in the hallway. Because it was the best or because my last name started with a "B"...the world will never know. I wonder if we still have it...

Alright, back on subject here... As some of you may recall I was working on a blanket with a wild animal theme a little over a month ago, when I was stuck because I needed a plethora of brown material and I had a freeze put on my crafting budget. I decided I would bring it down to a smaller scale. The inspiration came from http://www.etsy.com/listing/55678704/new-design-safari-playland-with-6-types .

Here is pre-embroidery with just my pieces cut out of felt (tree) and fleece (animals):
And....drum roll please....
(i need to fasten the lion's head down a lil' more so it does not look so off centered...but overall I am pleased with the outcome!)

First Thing First

I'm working on making this look more like home. Any thoughts? Changes? Let me know...