friend Rachael, who was awesome enough to feature this as a guest
post on her blog
Lovely.Crafty.Home, often told me "I can't bake." And then she
discovered a cookbook that really spoke to her, Artisan Bread in 5
Minutes or Less. Before I knew it, she was baking up a
storm. She was like, power baking, like professional style
baking---like dropping this BREAD BOMB all over my Easter Brunch
skills, right? And she still says she doesn't bake---whatever. She
even made a birthday cake for her brother and used diet coke as an
egg substitute---and it was GOOD. I am still a little puzzled about
what in diet coke is a lot like eggs…I digress…
is, anyone can learn to be a from scratch baker---even someone who
says they can't. It's really easy. And just like anything else,
with a little bit of practice, you will be a pro before you know
to bake. I have been baking (or at least making a good mess in the
kitchen) since I was about 3. And today I plan to share with you a
few tips and tricks to help make your next adventure in baking a
one: MEASURE THINGS CAREFULLY. Baking is not like cooking. You can
really just toss in a little of this and a little of that. If the
recipe calls for one cup of flour, spoon the four into the one cup
sized measuring cup, level it off, and then put it in the bowl.
Don't eye-ball it. Don't even use two ½ cups instead. Put into the
batter exactly what the recipe calls for---no more, no
two: MIX INGREDIENTS IN THE RIGHT ORDER. This may seem simple, but
some recipe directions leave a bit to be desired. As a general
rule, when you are baking something that is flour based (like cake,
cupcakes or most cookies) mix the ingredients like this:
need two bowls. In one bowl mix the flour and whatever combination
of baking soda, baking powder and salt the recipe calls for along
with any other dry ingredients---like coco powder, for example
(important note: Sugar is NOT a dry ingredient).
recipes call for four to be sifted. I never sift flour. It's messy
and unnecessary. I do, however, mix my dry ingredients well and
with a whisk-that seems to do the trick.
another bowl, preferably the one that goes with an electric stand
mixer, whip your butter. Butter should be used at room temperature
for most cake and cookie recipe. If the recipe doesn't specify, go
with room temperature. If your butter is straight out of the
fridge, warm it up a touch. You can use a microwave or a toaster
oven for a FEW SECONDS. Don't melt it. Just take the chill off. You
can hold it in your hands for a few minutes and use your body
temperature to warm it. If your butter is a little chilly, just be
sure to whip it really really well. The friction of the beaters
will warm it up a little too. In any case, mix it until it is
fluffy and there are no lumps at all. Then mix in sugars and
extracts (like vanilla) and add eggs, one at a time, mixing and
scraping after each one.
best too, but not usually critical, if eggs are also room
temperature, but the microwave trick does not work so well on them
point, you can't really over mix the batter, so make sure your
butter/sugar/eggs are combined really well.
add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/eggs batter in two or
three batches, scraping the bowl between each and being careful not
to over mix. If there is liquid in the recipe, like milk, melted
chocolate or sour cream, add it in small batches too, alternating
with the dry flour mixture, and ending with the liquid.
cake, boxed or homemade, comes out too dense, pay close attention
to how much you are mixing. Over mixing will make a fluffy cake
into a brick. Once the dry ingredients are added, you really just
want to combine things.
other common problem with cake, cupcake and cookie baking is ending
up with weird white lumps in your creations. Or you may have had a
cake that baked flat and didn't get fluffy, cookies that were weird
and runny, or other similar 'strange baking' disasters. These are
usually from baking soda or powder that is too old. You should
replace baking soda and powder at least once every six months. If
you bake a lot, you probably never have to worry about it, but if
you are thinking of whipping something up and it has been a while,
throw out these old ingredients in your cupboard and start
finally, don't over bake. All ovens are different and factors like
altitude and humidity play a role in how long your items need to
bake. Bake your items in as close to the center of the oven as you
can. I always set a timer for the lowest suggested time and then
turn the oven light on and pay attention. If you are not sure if
something is done, stick a toothpick or bamboo skewer in the center
of it---if it comes out clean, your item is done.
you'll develop a sixth sense with practice and you will get better
and better at knowing when things are done baking. My mom used to
call it 'the fleeting moment' when a cake is baked to perfection.
Totally baked, but not over done--golden but not too brown. And
eventually you will just know when that fleeting moment is. I don't
really know how else to explain it. I guess it's a combination of
sight and smell, but as Mom says, "all of a sudden, they are just
in there [the oven] and you can hear them….fleeting" :)
I am not
much of a seamstress, so I am pretty pleased at how my new drop
cloth (of course) barstool slipcovers turned out. They are not
really 'tailored' per say, but they get the job done.
liked the barstool that we had. I like their shape. They are
vintage and hardwood, but I was kind of over the bright colors and
design. We've had them for about 4 years now. My husband bought
them at a funky gallery in Wilmington, NC called
Una Luna. They were pained by a local artist, and my husband
didn't really want them to be re-painted. That was my first idea,
but after some convincing, I agreed with him. After all in a
different context, I might really like the bright colors again some
day. However in my current
dining room/kitchen they
were standing out like a sore thumb.
inspired by these very adorable parson chair pleated drop cloth
the box pleats, but I didn't quite know how to translate them to my
barstools since a) because of the bright mismatch-y colors, I could
not have my slipcovers 'Capri' length and b) they are way beyond my
is my result. More casual for sure, but still a much more clean and
less colorful look than the multi hued tribal paint job.
delightful accoutrement, don't you agree!? This stylish floor pouf
was created by my cousin Lindsey, a beginning DIY'er, and I could
not be more impressed!
her husband and two kitties had just moved into a new super chic
urban loft downtown and she was in need of some additional
occasional seating for their new space. She found this floor pouf
Urban Outfitters and really liked the idea of it, but it was
not really the right colors and cost a bit more than she wanted to
spend, so she made the ambitious decision to make her.
looked to me for sewing advice (which will give you an idea of just
how new she is to sewing---me teaching anyone about it is
laughable---a classic case of the blind leading the blind).
Undaunted by my lack of knowledge and full of gusto, we hit up the
Foam and Fabric
Outlet in downtown Asheville. This place is delightful! We
found everything we needed at fantastic prices! They have a great
fabric selection, too!
back to the loft and Lindsey followed this tutorial from
Living with Punks to create her custom pouf. Just the right
color for the loft and at total cost of under $25, just the right
price as well. Nice work lady!
This recipe that is perfect for summer. Pink Grapefriut
Cupcakes! I submitted these as an entry in this years Cupcakes for Cures
event in Asheville hosted at the always lovely Grove Park Inn. The
cupcakes went in a flash, and were a favorite of my friends and one
of the organizers, but did not win any of the categories.
Competition was stiff!
Regardless, these are one of my favs and have become a staple for
my summer baking. A cupcake that is refreshing? Who knew!
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
3 t grapefruit zest
½ c butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 t vanilla
2 T grapefruit juice
½ c sour cream
2 drops red food coloring
3 drops yellow food coloring
½ c butter flavor Crisco
4 T grapefruit juice
1 t grapefruit zest
3 c confectioner's sugar
hutch. Few things combine my love for all things vintage and all
things specific like a proper hutch. It's super specific piece of
furniture made to showcase some of my most favorite things in the
world, very specific dishes. Make everything about this equation
vintage, and well, my heart skips a beat. So, when I had fully
delightful dining room hutch with china and crystal and silver,
I found myself in need of MORE storage for my vintage dish
collection (might be time for an intervention).
see that lovely fluted milk glass cake plate in there? Yeah,
amazing, I know. That little guy deserves a post all his own, but
for now, suffice to say, my new little friend needed a home. So I
set out on Craig's
List to find him just that. And this is who I found:
in bad shape, just the right size, a little lack-luster….for $70?
Oh, yes, you will work nicely. I have been SO inspired lately by my
BFF Rachael and the really exceptional things she has been doing on
her blog, Lovely.Crafty.Home,
that I enlisted her help and guidance. She not only helped me lug
this little guy to his new home in my kitchen, she made me a list
of materials, even donated some to the cause, and came over with
some hands on instruction and elbow grease for my project. Best
friend ever? Yep, you bet. In ONE DAY we were able to transform
this little shabby hutch into this vision for my
hear the angles singing? Oh I can! It's the full Hallelujah chorus.
Here is a closer look at the detailing Rachael instructed me
Hutch love. When it happens, it's just so right, it can't be
transformation, I used:
Williams Westhighland White for the majority of the hutch and
Watery for the backing in the glass cabinets
Wax for distressing (see
Lovely.Crafty.Home for the details on this
cabinet knobs from Lowes
funny how adding a little illumination to an area or swapping out
the lighting will completely change a space. I have been on a bit
of a kick of late, as I am sure will gather in upcoming posts, with
lights. My latest victim is my back deck. I really enjoy my back
deck in the summer time. It is one of the few places in my whole
yard that gets full sun and, for that reason, the place where I
plant my container garden. I've added a yellow Adirondack chair for
sunning and reading, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. But, just the
other day, I added another element that has made me so happy and
created a whole new way to enjoy the space. Enter the
mini-globe string lights.
Christmas decoration, these wee globe lights looked to me like
the tiniest garden string lights in America. And since my back deck
is not as sweeping as and grand as some of those seen in say the
Restoration Hardware catalog, I found their scale to be
strung them in a zigzag pattern from house to redbud tree and back.
The result is a delightful canopy that makes just enough of a glow
to enjoy my deck after dark as well. Perfect for sipping a glass of
wine, while sitting in my Adirondack chair, and watching fire
flies. Oh joy!
that knows me knows that my world revolves around my dog,
Lizzie-Lou. She is the light of my life. So, of course when it
comes to the comfort of a dog, nothing is too over-the-top. This
creation, dear readers, was just to ridiculous not to share and it
has snapped me right out of my blog funk and back into action.
Behold the Painter's Drop Cloth Monogrammed Doggie Duvet
is right. I fussed this much over a dog bed. It seems silly unless
you know what a princess my Lizzie is. Here is a snapshot of her
just today, enjoying the patio at Starbucks:
returned home from our coffee and walk, I decided to wash the
covers on her dog beds-yes plural, she has one in the living room
and one in the bed room (which is kind of pointless because she
always sleeps in our bed, but I digress). The living room dog bed
cover has seen better days. It was faded and the zipper had broken,
but the pillow inside was in good shape. I thought about heading to
Ross or T.J.Maxx to see what I could find in
the way of size giant dog beds (my little darling weighs about 80
lbs) and then I got to thinking….surely I could come up with a
solution. I mean, the pillow was fine and a new dog bed, even from
a discount store, was going to cost at least $40. So I started
poking around the craft room and found:
plastic backed painter's drop cloth
craft paint and fabric medium
am not very skilled with the sewing machine, so I knew there was no
way I was setting in a zipper. The ribbon gave me an idea though:
why not make Doggie Duvet!? So I removed the old cover from the dog
bed and got to work. I folded the drop cloth over the dog bed and
it happened to be the perfect size. Before pining or stitching the
side seam, I cut 6 inch lengths of ribbon and pinned six of them,
three on one half of the end I planned to leave open and three
across from them on the other half, and stitched them into place.
Next I folded the fabric in half, right sides together, and
stitched the length of the duvet. I trimmed the other open end down
to fit the length of the pillow and stitched it up too. And finally
I turned the duvet right side out.
the monogram, I cut an 11 ¼" letter "L" out of a 12x12 sheet of
card stock using the Cricut. I
took the sheet with the "L" cut out and centered it on the duvet.
Using a pencil, I traced the letter onto the fabric. And with a
paint brush, I mixed the craft paint and fabric medium per the
directions on the bottle and filled in the pencil outline. I let
the paint dry and heat set it with my iron, per the package
directions. The whole project took about 30 min and was super
love the way Lizzie's new dog be looks in the living room-much
cuter than the old faded cover and perfect for my spoiled
how one of my very best friends in the whole wide world is going
into labor any second now, I have had baby on the brain today. That
combined with my love for flickr has lead me to this
sweet are these illustrated letters by
Nagoya Art Life & idea cloud? I adore them. I can just
picture them framed and spelling out a baby name in a very
whimsical little nursery. Love. Find the whole alphabet
here and enjoy!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I have had this recipe for a while and
I found it online intially, but now have no idea where it came
from. So, unfortunately, I can't give proper credit. Regardless, I
wanted to share it here with you, because it is so darn delish. I
typically make this stew with Guinness (the draft in cans, not the
stout in bottles), but I am sure any creamy dark stout would do the
trick. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it as much as my husband and I do.
2 lbs boneless beef chuck stew
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onions, chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken
3/4 cups Stout
2 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried or fresh thyme
2 tsp Hersey's extra dark coco
2 bay leaves
3 carrots, peeled and cut into
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into
1 lb baby red potatoes,
3 tbsp cup all-purpose
1 tbsp minced parsley
Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tsp oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just
smoking. Cook half of beef until browned on all-sides, about 8
minutes. Transfer to slow cooker insert and repeat with additional
2 tsp oil and remaining beef.
Add remaining 2 tsp oil, onions, and 1/4 tsp salt to skillet and
cook until onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add broth,
1 1/4 cups stout, sugar, thyme, chocolate and bay leaves - bring to
boil using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits. Transfer to slow
Add carrots, parsnips, and potatoes to slow cooker insert. Cover
and cook on low until meat is tender, 9-10 hours (or cook on hight
for 6-7 hours). Set slow cooker to high. Whisk flour and remaining
1/4 cup beer until smooth, then stir mixture into slow cooker.
Cook, covered, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in
parsley, season with salt and pepper, and discard bay leaf.
though it is only March, it is not too early to be thinking about
your garden. It's a little too early to put plants in the ground,
but it is the perfect time to start some seedlings. This is a fun
project and a money saver too. You can pick up seeds at any
hardware store or garden center, find just about anything you'd
like to grow, and rather than pay $3-$7 per plant, you'll pay $1-$2
for more seeds than you know what to do with.
starting out this year with tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, spinach,
pumpkins, cilantro, basil, sunflower and a wildflower mix for less
than a $10 investment. I also bought a bag of potting soil for
make my own seed trays, I used some things I had sitting round the
house. I started with some small green paper cups and some larger
plastic cups left over from my super bowl party. I punctured the
bottom of the paper cups with a nail about 5 times for drainage,
then nested the paper cups inside the plastic cups to catch the
drips from watering. I watered all of the soil lightly before
planting to make sure it was damp, but not muddy. Each seed packet
will give you information on how deep to plant the seeds, but as a
general rule, small seeds can go just below the surface of the
soil, and larger seeds (pumpkins, sunflowers) like to be planted a
little deeper, a few inches into the soil.
used a plastic tab notebook divider, cut into strips, to make plant
markers and marked the name of each plant on the plastic strips
with a black marker. I was going to use the bottom half of a box to
house my planter cups, but then remembered the wooden crates I
saved from the Clementine's I bought from the grocery over the
winter. They look really cute and are perfect for making the
seedling cup planters easy to move in and out of the
is so early in the spring, we are still getting some pretty cold
temperatures at night, so I move my seedlings out on the porch
during the day to get some sun, and move them back in the house in
the evening to protect them from the frost. Keeping your seedlings
from getting too cold is important. They like to get a little sun
when weather permits, but most of all, they like damp soil. So keep
them watered. You can even cover the tops of the cups with plastic
wrap or an additional clear plastic cup (like a tiny terrarium) to
keep the moisture in. Make sure to remove any plastic cover
before you put them in direct sunlight, or you will cook their
little leaves like bugs under a magnifying glass.
After only a few days, I already have tiny sprouts!
your own seedlings is not only a cost effective way to garden, but
it's very satisfying. With minimal effort you will be on your way
to a wonderful harvest this summer.