Monday, June 28, 2010

Chainmail Belly Dance Belt

No one will ever accuse me of being a hand model. Between the baking burns, constant OCD hand washing, and working with chainmail, I officially have the worlds ugliest, roughest hands. No joke. My husband can confirm. We're talking wicked witch territory here.

But in the end it's worth it, because my family gets delicious baked goods, my therapist is still in business, and I get awesome chainmail pieces like this one.

All it took was a bag of jump rings, two kinds of pliers, calloused hands, focus, and a Buffy marathon.

Of course, it doesn't have to be for belly dancers only (although that's what I'll use it for). It could be worn to the Ren Faire, for LARP, or just because it's awesome.

This is my first chainmail adventure. You see, last Christmas our oldest son decided he wanted to learn to make chainmail armor. Being wondiferous parents, me an my husband bought him a very large bag of jump rings. He was very excited about them. So excited that he never did anything with them, deciding it was too hard. Or too boring. I'm not clear on that one.

Seeing that pricey bag of metal sitting there not living up to it's potential got me itching (the mosquitoes are bad this time of year). I should go online, research the history of chainmail, study patterns and refference until I have a solid, sound knowledge base.

Or I'd just grab some pliers and start putting rings together.

And I have to say that I'm very pleased with the final result, and that I've developed a love for this particular craft.

Even if my hands hate me for it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


It's a sugar cookie. No, it's a snickerdoodle. It's neither! It's both!

It's a sugardoodle!

I've been making these for a long time now, and I've been holding out on you. Grown-ups can be so cruel.

What these cookies are (besides one of my favorite cookies, ever) is a sugar cookie/snickerdoodle hybrid (I guess you already sussed that one out, huh?). And it's really so good, if I haven't already told you that. My memory fails.

They're really good. Sugary but not too sweet, cinnamon-y without being overbearing, just crisp enough around the edges and soft and chewy inside.

They're really good. You should make them.

(makes about 4 dozen)

1 1/3 c unsalted  butter
1 1/2 c  sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees (f) and parchment a baking sheet(s).

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one well before adding the next. Mix in vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then mix with the wet ingredients. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the 3 Tbsp of sugar and cinnamon.

Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough, roll into the cinnamon/sugar mixture, place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set on sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool.

These will stay soft and chewy and perfect for about 5 days in an airtight container of some sort. They'll keep much longer, but won't taste as good after 5 days.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I'm going to tell you a secret. If you add fruit and oatmeal to anything, anything, even if it contains two whole sticks of butter and nearly two cups of sugar, you can then call it healthy and feel very good about yourself and your superior self control.

Or, you can pretend, at least.

So maybe they're not exactly healthy, though they do have some healthy components. But who cares? These cookies are mighty tasty, and that's all me and my taste buds need to know.

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(makes about 2 1/2 dozen)

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
1 c light or dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 c old fashioned rolled oats
1 c dried sour cherries (chopped)
3/4 c chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli dark chocolate)

Preheat your oven to 350 (f) and line your baking skeet(s) with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in the rolled oats. Finally, mix in the cherries and chocolate chips.

Drop by 1 1/2 tablespoonfulls onto the baking sheet and cook 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set up on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool.

Notes: You can, of course, customize this recipe until the cows come home (and if you've never had cows, that could be a lot of customizing). Add nuts, peanut butter chips, different fruit, coconut, you name it. You can also easily increase the amount of fruit added.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Belgian Waffles

I'll drive you nuts repeating myself, and I know you and everyone else out there already knows, but I'll risk your ire. I love breakfast foods.

There, I said it. Again.

I eat breakfast every day, usually more than once. Sure, there's the typical morning breakfast, but what would the day be without a "light snack" like egg-in-a-hole? Or an impromptu batch of French toast at 8:00 at night?

It would be a day not truly lived, is what.

What I've been missing (sorely) are waffles. I've been wanting a waffle iron for a while now, and, if you wish hard enough (and it's your birthday and your husband loves you and puts up with your food geekery) you'll wake up one fine Tuesday morning with UPS at your door holding a box with another box inside. And in that last box is a waffle iron.

And it was good.

So I had to jump in right away. I removed the waffle iron from its box immediately, gave it a washing, and then set to work making waffle batter.

So maybe I'm no expert yet, but my first batch (what you see in the picture) came out beautifully, tasted fantastic, and is currently freezing very well.

After some experimenting, I'll return with a recipe I find fit to share. Until then, here's the recipes I used: AllRecipes Waffles I.

Soft Pretzels

 He's a fatty, the little Brando, but I love him anyway

I have a confession. Come closer.

Closer. I don't want anyone else to hear.

Ok, here it is. I love soft pretzels, and for years...

I bought the frozen kind in the big blue box. You know the ones.

I'm ashamed. Deeply. But I've changed! Repented! I have seen the light (inside my oven. Before it burned out). I've been making my own soft pretzels for about a year now, and could never, ever go back to "those" pretzels.

These are very similar to that iconic pretzel you can buy in the mall, the one that goes perfectly with a large Orange Julius (and I have the recipe for that, also! Thank you FN magazine).

The key to the recipe is the baking soda bath. Really crucial. Skip it, and you'll have nothing more than plain white bread twisted into a pretzel shape. And that's no fun. And your children won't love you as much anymore if you try to pass it off on them. You'll get evil looks, I promise.

Don't skip it.

You know what else I love about these? You can freeze them. You can make up a big batch, wrap them individually, and then freeze them for later.

I love freezing delicious things for later.

Soft Pretzels
(makes a dozen)

1 1/2 cup warm water (about 115 f)
4 tsp yeast*
1/2 c plus 1 Tbsp sugar (divided)
5 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

For baking soda bath:
1 qt hot water
1/4 c baking soda

Kosher salt (optional)

In a large cup or bowl, proof the yeast with the 1 1/2 c warm water and 1 Tbsp sugar for 10 minutes. While that's proofing, sift together the flour, salt, and 1/2 c sugar. Add the yeast mixture and oil to the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 6-8 minutes.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap until doubled, 1-2 hours (the warmer it is in your home, the faster the yeast will rise).

Once the dough has doubled, preheat your oven to 450 (f) and start the quart of water barely simmering in a pan on the stove. Turn the dough out to de-gas it. Cut into 12 equal pieces (cut in half, then each half in half, then cut those four pieces into three equal pieces). Roll each piece into a thin rope (about 20" long), and then shape into a pretzel. Prepare racks for drainage (I use cooling racks). Add the baking soda to the water and give it a quick stir. Add each pretzel to the water (1-3 at a time, depending on the size of your pan) and let soak there for about 15 seconds (they'll float to the top). Remove and let drain for a few minutes on the rack.

Place the pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake for 8-9 minutes, until golden brown.

*I always fail to mention that when I list yeast as an ingredient, I use the standard Fleischman's active dry yeast (not instant).

Notes: You can do quite a lot with these. Melt some butter and then brush it on the tops of the pretzels when you take them out of the oven (you'll never look back). Sprinkle on some rosemary, or some cinnamon sugar. Go nuts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Plum Jam Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing too new here, as I've already posted my cinnamon roll recipe (see Sandwich Bread and Cinnamon Rolls From One Batch of Dough). This time I decided I'd follow The Pioneer Woman's* lead (who was following Deb of Smitten Kitchen's* lead) and add some jam to them. Plum jam, specifically, which is one of my favorite types of jam.

If you haven't had it, you should remedy that. Like, five minutes ago.

And in other news, I've been saying it over on the Twitter for a few weeks now, but I will soon (really. No, really) post my snickerdoodles recipe. If you've never heard me go on and on about them on Twitter (and if you haven't, lucky you), snickerdoodles are just about my favorite cookie. They're simple and perfect.

I make them way too often. You should too.

*These two women, by the way, are so amazing that if you don't start following them religiously (if you don't already), I will hunt you down and give you a bare-assed spanking. The fact that they were in the same kitchen together without creating a rip in the space-time continuum by virtue of their combined awesomeness alone is astounding.


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