Thursday, April 5, 2012

Banana Cake

My 1st Birthday Cake 
This banana cake has made many appearances throughout my life.  My mom says that this cake is what she made for each of our {my three siblings and I} first birthdays.  I can definitely say that I may carry on that tradition when I have my own kids, I mean what kind of kid wouldn't want a yummy banana cake with buttery frosting on it for their first cake? The first cake can make a great impression, and you want to make sure it doesn't disappoint! The recipe was passed down by her mom, so it's a Halloran family insider.

This was my first time making the cake, and I wish I had tried to make it earlier!  Honestly it's just about the easiest cake to make.  Proof?  I had my seven year old sister, Nora, help me out.  She greased the pan for me and mashed up the bananas :)

Ingredients:
 2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sour milk {or see note in "How to"}
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla 
1 cup mashed bananas

How to:
  Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.  Mash cut-up bananas up in a small bowl using a fork to press the chunks against the side.  Cream butter and sugar in a mixer, add the eggs.  Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.  Add the vanilla to the sour milk {Note: if milk is not sour, just add a dash of vinegar to it}.  Alternately add the dry ingredients and milk to the butter, sugar and eggs.  Add the mashed bananas last and mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Top with the white-butter frosting { and a candle? ;) }

Butter Frosting:
Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups sifted powder sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla {or almond flavoring!}




How to:
In a small mixer bowl beat butter till light and fluffy.  Gradually add about half of the powdered sugar, beating well.  Beat in the milk and vanilla/almond flavoring.  Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar, then additional milk if necessary. 

xo

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grilled Cajun Chicken Salad

Summer Chicken Salad
Here's a delicious summer salad to celebrate all the nice, warmer weather we've been having in Ann Arbor!  This is a delicious recipe with a kick of spice that's sure to be a crowd pleaser.  I made this along with the cheese scones I posted before leaving for Houston and together they made a delicious meal.  The dressing alone is delicious, but with the seasoned chicken it becomes an entire meal.  The ingredients may look extensive, but the meal is actually pretty simple to make.  Try it out and let me know what you think!  

Ingredients:
Seasoning:
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Salad Dressing:
1 3/4 cup buttermilk 
1/2 cup mayo {light}
2 T. chopped green onion
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 T. chopped parsley
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced 

Other:
1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves 
1 5 oz pkg. mixed baby greens
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1/4 cup dried cherries {or raisins}
red bell peppers
grape or cherry tomatoes

How to:

Seasoning: 
Mix ingredients to blend.

Dressing: 
Whisk 3/4 cup buttermilk, mayo, onion, parsley, vinegar, garlic, lemon peel and 1 1/2 tsp seasoning mix in medium sized bowl until blended.  Can be made a day ahead -- cover up and refrigerate.  Rub remaining seasoning onto chicken.  Place in medium sized bowl and pour the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk over the chicken, turning it to coat.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours.  Grill the chicken {med-high} for about 5 minutes per side.  Transfer over the cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Combine greens, pecans, cherries, tomatoes and bell pepper with the chopped up chicken.  Toss with dressing and serve :)

xo

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cheese Scones

The Best Cheese Scones You'll Ever Have

A staple food in my house seems to be these cheese scones.  They go well with soup, salads, grilled chicken..you name it!  They're also the perfect breakfast on the go :)  I actually made these, along with a salad I'll be posting, a few weeks ago.  Volleyball takes up so much time!  I've been really busy and in fact am about to leave on a flight to Houston for a tournament.  We've had some nice weather here in Ann Arbor, but recently it's gotten chilly again.  I'm looking forward to some sunshine!  Anyways, on to the scones..

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut up
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk 

How to:  
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Put flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, dry mustard, and salt into a large bowl; mix well.  
Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules.  Add cheese and toss to mix.  
Break egg into milk {I broke it into the actual measuring cup to save containers} and beat with a fork, blending well.  Pour this over the flour mixture {top left picture} and stir with a fork until a dough forms.  
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and give 10 to 12 kneads {middle left picture}.  Make sure you don't overdo it or the dough will be too tough!  Cut dough in half and pat or roll into a approx. 6 inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges {bottom left picture}.  Place on un-greased cookie sheet {right picture}.  
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until medium brown.  Cool, loosely wrapped in a dish towel,  on a wire rack.  


enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

xo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stout Cupcakes

Stout Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Let me just start by saying my family {and boyfriend} absolutely love these!  My family is part Irish, and so for St.Pattys day we like to do a nice Irish meal.  The meal this year was some corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and carrots, done in the slow cooker.  That was all delicious, but the dessert this year definitely stole the spotlight for the night!  My dad found these awesome cupcakes online and we decided to give them a try.  It's safe to say these are definitely staying in the family recipes!  The richness of the chocolate, stout and espresso topped with creamy ganache and crunchy dark chocolate covered pretzels will send you into chocolate heaven!  We even all had two :)


Ingredients:
FOR THE CUPCAKES
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout (I used espresso stout)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso granules dissolved in two teaspoons warm water
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

FOR THE GANACHE
12 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate; chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FINISHING TOUCHES
Chopped chocolate covered pretzel twists
Fine grain sea salt



How to:
FOR THE CUPCAKES
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the stout, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and espresso.
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Add in the sour cream and mix until combined.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the stout mixture. Batter will be thin.
5. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool completely on wire rack.
FOR THE GANACHE
1. Place chocolate in a large, heat safe bowl.  Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream over medium heat until it just begins to boil. DO NOT walk away from the stove. The cream could boil over and you will be with a big mess to clean up.
3. Immediately pour hot cream over chocolate and let it sit for five minutes.
4. Begin stirring the cream with a wooden spoon or whisk starting in the center of the bowl and working your way outward. As you stir, you will see the cream and chocolate come together. Allow your ganache to cool for 15 minutes and stir in vanilla. Let ganache sit at room temperature for another 3-4 minutes before topping cupcakes.
TO DECORATE CUPCAKES
Invert the top of the cupcake into the bowl of cooled ganache, use a spoon or offset spatula to spread evenly. Finish cupcakes with chopped chocolate covered pretzels and a tiny pinch of fine grain sea salt.
{Note: My family let these sit in the fridge for about a half hour before we ate them, and we are storing them in there.  I like the ganache cold and I think it helps preserve the pretzels and prevent them from becoming soggy!}



xo

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Frozen Yogurt Bites

Frozen Yogurt Candies
Earlier today I was perusing through my home screen on Pinterest and I stumbled across this easy and healthy treat: frozen yogurt candies. They looked easy enough to make so when I got home I decided to try it out before I started my math homework.  Within an hour, I got them out of the freezer and voilà!  These delicious bite sized snacks were ready to eat :)

I served some to my mom and brothers and sister (all younger siblings) and they all enjoyed them!  My 7 year old sister compared them to small smoothies.  Definitely a good description!  

What You'll Need:
yogurt (I used Yoplait original in strawberry and raspberry lemonade) 
a cookie sheet
a plastic bag
scissors

How to:
1.  Scoop out the yogurt into a plastic bag.  Seal the bag, and cut a hole in the corner, similar to a bag of icing.
2.  Form dollops of the yogurt onto the cookie sheet.  {make sure the bag stays sealed, mine came undone without my notice and made a small mess!}
3.  Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least an hour before serving
There you have it!  Fun, bite sized "smoothies" that are a fun twist on a  classic, healthy snack.
Enjoy!

xo

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Cook's Illustrated Tomato Soup
Wow!  First off, I apologize for the huge delay in posts.  I'm so sorry!  I know I've been asked by many when I would have another recipe up.  I've had some tournaments recently and with finals next week I've just been very busy and not on the blogging scene.  I promise to post again soon and especially after finals {because third trimester senior = easy classes}.

Back to the soup now.

I actually made this little number a week or two ago.  Before practice I was looking for an easy meal to whip up that would be tasty and filling, since my practice takes up around 6 hours {driving and practice}. My mom suggested I try this awesomely easy to make tomato soup, so I worked on that and paired it with a grilled cheese sandwich.  The result?  A delicious meal that just about anyone would like.  Plus, the soup is much better than that tomato soup you can get in a can ;)

Ingredients:

 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
3 medium garlic cloves
2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes
3 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into one inch pieces
1 tablespoon light brown sugar 
1 bay leaf
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
optional: 2 tablespoons brandy

 How to:

1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until simmering.  Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and the red pepper flakes {if using, I recommend them!} and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes with their juice.  Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes until there are no pieces larger than 2 inches.
2.  Stir in the bread chunks, sugar, and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is saturated and starts to break down {about 5 minutes}
3.  Remove the bay leaf.   Working in batches, puree the soup with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until smooth {1 to 2 minutes}.  Return the soup to a clean pot.
4.  Stir in the chicken broth and brandy, if using.  Bring to a brief simmer and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy :)

I would recommend serving this with some grilled cheese or hot dogs in crescent rolls, yum!

xo

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spinach-Apple Salad with Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette

A Tasty and Healthy Salad
Hello!  Long time no post.  This past weekend I was in Chicago for a volleyball tournament with my club team.  I had a nice time with my team and relatives but didn't get the chance to post this wonderful salad that I made the weekend before.  This delicious and beautiful salad is perfect for the summer or on a hot, Autumn day, but I wanted to share it with you all now instead.  This is one of my absolute favorites and it's really hard to describe the sensational flavor without just trying some yourself.  The apple mixed with the bacon and maple syrup gives it a fresh and savory taste, as well as some nice crunch.  It's super quick to make {all you really have to do is mix it all up} and presents well with the vibrant colors from the apple and optional tomatoes.  
Try this out in the summer for a get together and impress all your friends and neighbors! :)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp maple syrup {tastes better if real, not imitation!}
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chives {optional}
about 1/3 of a cherry tomatoes container {again, optional}
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 slices bacon, cooked & cut
1 large granny smith apple
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin
10-12 oz of fresh baby spinach 

How to:
Combine the syrup, vinegar and mustard and whisk well.  Add oil, whisk, then add the chives, salt, pepper and bacon.  Slice the apple then add the vinaigrette to the apple and onion {doing this will help keep the apple a bright green}.  Toss with the spinach and cherry tomatoes & enjoy!
note: serves about 8

Happy cooking!

xo

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!
Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday and enjoyed some yummy treats :)

xo

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rick Bayless Guacamole

Holy Mole, Guacamole!
The perfect appetizer to serve for large groups is....chips and salsa!  What makes this traditional crowd pleaser even better?  Fresh guacamole.  Yum.  I can't tell you how fast this stuff goes at my house.  I made this just 20 minutes before my boyfriend's family arrived, and we had already put significant dents in the bowl before they knocked on the door.  It's tempting.  It's fresh.  It's delicious.
Give it a try!

Ingredients:
basic:
2 medium, ripe avacados
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
salt to taste

to make it really good:
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalapeñ
1/4 small white onion, finely chopped
(optional: tomato)

How to:
Cut the avacado in half, running your knife around the pit from stem to blossom end and back up again.  Twist the halves in opposite directions to free the pit and pull the halves apart.  Dislodge the pit, then scoop the avocado into a medium bowl.  
Mash the avocado with a large fork.  Stir in the garlic and about half a teaspoon of salt and any other ingredients you have chosen.  If you use white onion, make sure to rinse under cold water for about 20 seconds to get rid of any overwhelming flavor that would taint the guacamole.  

Luckily for me, my dad helped with the onion!  If you've been following my previous posts you're probably well aware that I get super teary eyed when chopping those pesky things up.

Serve with chips and enjoy!

xo

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie Premiere: The Vow

Notebook Rival?
I went to see The Vow on Thursday night with some friends and my boyfriend.  We grabbed some shakes at Steak and Shake beforehand and they were really good!  None of us had been and if you haven't tried them, I highly suggest it for an inexpensive, large treat!  You could probably split one though, they were huge!  Okay, back to the movie.  Not sure if it had to do with the fact that it was 2 a.m. but it didn't quite live up to my expectations!  I had really, really high expectation though. It was definitely better than Dear John and in my opinion better than The Last Song.  I'm a big Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum fan, so the combination was perfect! I wish the ending was more specific though.  That's probably why I love The Notebook, you know exactly how everything in their lives end haha.

Anyways, this was a random post but I just wanted to share my opinion on it!  Have you seen it?  Are you going on Valentines Day?  Let me know your thoughts! It's definitely a great date movie :)

xo


Espresso Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Jazz Up Some Box Mix!
Who would have thought that just two ingredients could take a box mix of brownies from "eh" to "amazing!"?  Whenever my family has to bring a desert or treat to an event, we almost always fall back on either our famous chocolate chip cookies, or these espresso brownies.  These brownies have such a rich, chocolately taste, with just two secret ingredients separating them from the average box mix!  {hint: espresso powder and cinnamon}.
I highly recommend taking the few seconds to add these powders and chocolate chunks to your mix the next time you make brownies!  We had my boyfriend's family over for dinner last night, and even his mom {who's a dessert chef} loved them.  Pair it with some coffee ice cream and toasted pecans to make it especially tasty and fancy!

Ingredients: 

Note: if brownie mix doesn't have chocolate chunks in it, add them!

How to:
1.  Mix the dry ingredients together 
2.  Have the 1/4 cup of water in a measuring cup.  Add the egg and whisk with a fork
3.  Add the egg and the 1/3 cup vegetable oil. 
4.  Grease the pan {this box took a 9x9 pan} and pour the brownie mix in!  Follow instructions on the back of the box for cooking :)

Wouldn't these make such a simple and great gift for Valentines Day?  
Enjoy!

xo


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cereal and M&M Cookies

Breakfast of Champions
Alright, so maybe cookies aren't the healthiest breakfast choice in the world.  However, I would be lying if I said I didn't eat a couple of these the next morning instead of my traditional bowl of oatmeal!  These cookies {although not the most photogenic} are surprisingly tasty and for most people {myself excluded}, very easy to make!  
My brother is actually the expert cookie chef in our house.  Back in middle school, my dad wanted to help us both have super cool science fair projects.  I got to make/watch him make a lie detector, and my brother did a huge project on the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Seriously, his chocolate chip cookies are always a group favorite at potlucks! I'll post that recipe soon.  Anyways, he was supposed to be my "Miyagi" for this simple recipe, but neglected me and I did not know that..

a) you mix dry ingredients together before adding them to the liquids
b) I forgot the oatmeal at first....uhhh
c) unplug a mixer before touching the spatula!  No one got hurt, but it was a crisis waiting to happen!
d) over-crush the frosted flakes

So here is the recipe!  My dad jotted down the very brief form, so I'll write some more details underneath the picture for those of us that need some extra guidance ;)

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup crushed corn flakes or Special K {we only had frosted flakes, which work fine, just add less sugar!}
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup oatmeal
1 bag mini {or regular} M&M's..we got rid of some Halloween candy!

How to:
  1. Cream the butter and sugars.  Make sure to unplug the mixer if you try to touch anything inside the bowl!
  2. Add in the eggs, mixing it in slowly at first.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl.  Now add these, making sure to go slow.  You don't want flour to go everywhere!
  4. Crush the flakey cereal.  Now, contrary to my belief, you do not want this to be grainy!  Barely break the cereal up, such as in the third picture from the right. Add cereal and oatmeal to the mixture. 
  5. Add M&M's.  If using regular size, stir with a spoon.  If mini, they can be mixed.
  6. Roll into balls, about 3 by 3. They expand a lot!  Bake on ungreased sheets at 375 degrees for 8 minutes

Hopefully your baking experience is less dangerous and disastrous!  These work really well for kids, my 3 younger sibling all love them!  {hence, they only lasted 3 day in my house}.  
Enjoy!


xo

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spicy New England Clam Chowder

A Seafood Lover's Favorite
As long as I can remember my family has been making this delicious {and spicy!} clam chowder in the winter months.  It's warm, tasty, and really gets those sinuses cleared up!  Definitely a hiccup recipe for me, if you know what I mean {reference to another blog post}.  The other afternoon I finally decided to own up and learn this recipe, because I can guarantee it will be one I'll keep on hand for years.  I was surprised it took me this long to learn how to make it; it was so simple.  So now, I am imparting my wisdom and delicious recipe on you all! 

Ingredients:
{like these flowers in the background?  DIY blue mason jar tutorial here}

1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups milk
5 cans minced clams, undrained
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves*
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 

*my family prefers crushed rosemary, the chunks are kind of weird!

How to:
Melt butter in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour, salt and cayenne.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Add milk all at once and whisk thoroughly.  Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.  
Note: This is better made the day before!  Gets very flavorful :)  Also, it freezes well.

My only complaint would be the chopping of the onions!  I swear I cry enough to make the soup when I chop 'em!   {okay, maybe not that much..that would be a bit excessive}.  I had to take many breaks in order to finish them.  Ahh, the day when I can chop onions quickly..that will be the life!
Sorry it's been a little while since I've posted.  I actually made this recipe {and an upcoming cereal cookies recipe} this weekend but have been rather busy with school and volleyball practice.

As always, enjoy and please comment if you try this or have any questions!

xo

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Zingerman's Pimento and Bacon Mac&Cheese


Not Your Average Mac&Cheese
For anyone who has ever visited Ann Arbor, I'm sure you have heard of the delicious and local Zingerman's.  This restaurant serves up delicious food, but not for a small price!  One serving of this macaroni is probably around $13, whereas you can make a batch that serves at least 8 for the same price!  Basically once we saw this recipe in the paper a year ago, we were sold.  
Side note: my family chose to use only half the sauce, and put the other half away for another day. It's plenty cheesy!


Ingredients:

{Zingerman's Pimento Cheese}
  • 1/2 lb. sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup margerine
  • 2 oz. roasted red peppers (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 3/4 tsp. juice from the roasted red peppers {if using jarred peppers}
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • pinch coarse sea salt

{You can make the cheese ahead of time!}


{Pimento and Bacon Mac and Cheese}
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 3/4 cups hot milk
  • 1 lb. pimento cheese
  • 1 lb. short macaroni
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled


How to {cheese}:
Fold all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Mix well.  That's all!

How to {mac&cheese}:
  1. Melt 6 tbsp. butter with the minced shallot in a medium-large stainless steal saucepan over low heat.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes {flour must foam as it cooks, or sauce will taste like raw flour}
  2. Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time {we did a tablespoon at a time}, and cook, stirring until sauce thickens {bottom right picture}
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese.  Cook, stirring until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add pasta and coat the noodles.  Remove from heat, add crumbled bacon and dig in!

It's really that simple.

Definitely a go-to recipe for a fancier mac&cheese.  I guess you could say a more "adult" version of the traditional pasta dish?

xo








DIY Blue Mason Jars

How to make Mason Jars into beautiful vases
{using only Mod Podge & food coloring!}
Yesterday I attempted my first craft: blue mason jars!  It was super easy and only took about a half hour, 20 minutes of which you can walk around just waiting for them to be done in the oven.  These turned out great and I placed some colorful fabric flowers in them to help brighten up the room in the winter.  I brought one to a breakfast program for those in need that I serve at this morning..they make really nice gifts!

Trust me; if I can do this, so can you!

What you'll need:
  • Mason jars {or any glass jars should work}
  • Food coloring in desired colors
  • Mod Podge
  • Newspaper/cardboard surface 
  • A bowl for mixing


How to:
1.) Put down newspaper or something thick {cardboard} to protect the surface that you are working on.  Get your mason jars or clear jars out and pour about a 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of Mod Podge into either a bowl or one of the jars. This should last you more than one jar -- I did 3 in different sizes, and it would probably do about 4 regular mason jars.
2.) In your bowl or jar, add about two teaspoons of water. Add food coloring {I used 3 drops blue and 2 drops green} and mix well. I personally added some more Mod Podge to thicken the paste.  
3.) Swirl around in the jar until the jar is completely coated and then pour the remainder into your next jar. Repeat this on all of your jars. You want to get the majority of the paste out of the jar, so turn over so you don’t end up with a puddle in the bottom. Make sure to move the jars around some so they don't stick in one spot {Mod Podge is like glue}..see all the lovely rings left by my jars in the pictures below!
4.) Once fully drained, tuen the jars right-side up and place jars in the oven to the lowest setting, for me this was 175. Having it on the lowest setting will reduce the chance of breakage. Bake for about 20 minutes to set the mixture. 



I let my jars stay in the oven just until they cooled down, then removed them.  In the pictures about, the bottom center picture was taken at the start, whereas the bottom right picture was taken about 10 minutes into the process.  If the jars aren't looking the way you'd like, keep them in there a bit longer!

At the end you'll end up with beautiful jars that would normally cost over $10 and can be used as cute vases or decorative items.  I do not suggest keeping food or drink in these glasses, and have heard that you cannot put water in them due to the food dye {this means fake flowers only!}.  If you'd like to use them for real flowers, use Vitrea 160 for the coloring {glass paint}. 

These jars and bright flowers cheer up the room even with a snowfall outside! 


I added a bow made of twine to these as well.  Makes a cute touch!

 As always, any questions or comments are more than welcome.  Happy crafting and good luck with this project!

xo

Monday, January 30, 2012

South Indian-Style Green Beans

Simple & Tasty Green Beans
The other night I made some Indian scallops and they turned out wonderful!  I paired them with some raita {aka super tasty yogurt} and these green beans!  These are one of my mom's favorites, and they were very quick to make.  Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables, so I love trying out different variations.  These ones have a nice flavor, mainly from the mustard seeds and cayenne pepper.  

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into about 1 inch lengths
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
{serves 4}

How to:
  • Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to it and then cut the beans.  Boil for 4-5 minutes or until the beans are just tender.  Drain immediately and leave in the colander.  These can be prepared early, and just place them in cold water to help them hold their vibrant green!
  • Pour the oil into a frying pan and set over medium-high heat.  Once hot, put in the cumin, mustard seeds, and sesame seeds.  As soon as the seeds start popping {only a matter of seconds} take the pan off the heat and stir in the beans.  Place the pan back on the stove, turning the heat down to medium low.  Stir to mix for about a minute, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cayenne.  Remove the pan from the heat.  

My boyfriend, Lars, came over and got to try out my cooking!  He was super cute and read to my little sister, Nora, while I worked to put finishing touches on the green beans and scallops.  

Let me know what you think if you decide to try these out!  We did 1.5 times the recipe to feed our larger group.

P.S. Any thoughts on Crazy, Stupid, Love? Watched it for the third time last night; the part where he's fixing the lawn gets me every time! 

xo