Monday, December 3, 2012

Ten Pretty Nails

My two older daughters and I like to play nail salon.  I've always loved having fresh polish on, even when it's just a clear coat to keep my nails protected.  For years I went without getting any new polishes, but I'm a big couponer and I've been watching the sales so I started acquiring polishes again.  LOTS of polishes.  I think I came home with ten one time (I got them for 69c each!).  Every time I bring home a new polish the girls get giddy and impatient to try it out.  Plus, Mommy does nail art on them too, and they really like to show it off to their friends at school. So here are some of the things we've been doing lately.  We've also gotten some inspiration from Pinterest.

It's snow season now so we've done some snowflakes. The blue is Bijou Blue by Wet n' Wild, then I did nail art with white and silver.
I found some nail art polish (the kind with the long, skinny brush specifically for making lines and drawings) at Dollar Tree, no joke.  So I bought almost every color they have.  I use the white and the silver glitter the most.  My close-up shot is a bit blurry.  It's hard to get a clear picture with a cell phone.

I really like the look of a good French tip and we have lots of great colors to do tips, so here's a purple version.  I used a sheer purple by Pure Ice for the main color and then Purple Heart by Cutex for the tips.  I did nail art on my ring fingers in white and silver glitter, and added a silver dot on all other nails.

We have a few of the Sally Hansen magnetic nail polishes, which we love so much.  I did Rachel's nails with the purple, and my toenails with the copper color.  I usually keep my kids' nails really short, but I let my two older daughters grow out their nails a bit because we're doing polish all the time now and I need the space to be able to do nail art or make magnetic polish show up better.

Last night we played Christmas nail salon and Rachel wanted alternating nail colors with white dots that look like snow falling.  The red is Jezebel by Wet n' Wild, and the green is some very old discontinued Sally Hansen thing that I think I've had for over 15 years.

This was very hard to do on my own nails.  I made an ornament with tiny details.  I did the same on my daughter Alice's nails and it was a little bit easier because I was able to do both of hers with my right hand instead of struggling to draw and paint with my left hand.  Again, I used Jezebel by Wet n' Wild and that old Sally Hansen green one.  I used China Gold by Sinful Colors for the small top part of the ornament that the hook comes out of, and then I clear coated the heck out of my nails because I do not want this chipping off any time soon!  That was a lot of work.

I only ever do my nails during nap time or after the babies have gone to bed at night so they're out of the way and not interrupting me or needing me to get stuff while my nails are wet.  Then I can leisurely watch some TV while my nails dry. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gluten Free Pie Crust, Part II

OK, I made another gluten free pie last night and this time I actually took pictures.  This should help as a supplement to my last post.

I made the two pie crusts per the recipe in the last post, this time I used shortening instead of butter and it was waaaaaaaaaay better.  The shortening and xanthan gum really make it stay together instead of crumbling apart.  Then I wrapped both crusts in plastic wrap after shaping them into discs and put them in the fridge.  I was intending to make the pie later, but then the water line behind our fridge burst, and then a knitting student showed up for a lesson, so the pie got put off, which is okay because the crusts got to chill overnight so they were super ready for rolling.

I used a silicone mat on top of my pie rolly-outy mat (that's a technical term there). The pie mat protects the crust from rolling out over the edge of the silicone mat and getting stuck to the counter.  The silicone mat is handy for flipping the crust over into the pie pan so it doesn't crack and break into pieces (since GF pastries are inclined to crumble, though this one did remarkably well at staying in one piece).  Then I just gently peeled away the sil-mat.

Here I have the top crust on now (after finishing the bottom crust, pricking it with a fork, and adding the peach pie filling).  I trimmed the edges, pressed to seal them, and then used a fork to make a pretty edge.  Then I cut slits in the top in a pretty pattern to let the steam escape.  Almost done.

I brushed the top with some melted butter.  I've also been told you can use milk; I just happened to use butter.  Then I covered the edges with aluminum foil to keep them from burning and........

...popped it in the oven at 375 for about 1 hour 20 minutes, checking it every 10 minutes after the first 55 (I live at a high altitude, so my cooking time is long; I think normal time would be around 55-60 minutes).  I took the foil off the last 10 minutes.  I have got to remember to put a baking sheet under it next time, because it oozed glaze and now I have to clean the oven rack and replace my oven liner.  NEVER go without an oven liner, trust me!  ALWAYS have one in the oven!

Et voila!  That is a good lookin' pie! I could have probably browned it a bit more if I'd given it another 10 minutes or so, but I'd rather not have any burnt or dried out crust.  I like it just the way it is.  I'll serve it with whipped cream or ice cream tonight at dinner.

Viva la gluten free!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gluten Free Pie Crust

My dad has Celiac so I've learned to do a LOT of gluten free cooking over the last couple of years.  In fact, my sister and I have become quite adept at making GF recipes taste like the real thing - and that's the problem with most GF recipes and commercially available GF products: they taste like garbage!  And all those poor unfortunate gluten free folks out there have simply reconciled themselves to their fate of having a disease that forces them to have to accept horrible tasting, poor renditions of normal food that they used to eat.  So my sister and I have done gobs of trial and error experiments and have come up with some stuff that you'd never know is GF.  I'll include some here on my blog once in a while so others can finally know what it's like to eat decent tasting food again.

I had some crust bits left over after making a pie for Thanksgiving and made it into an apple pie type thingy that I made up as I went along.

 OK, these pictures were taken after I'd already eaten half of it.  It was so good!

So all of this is about a GF pie crust I made for Thanksgiving.  I had gone all over town trying to buy a GF pie crust, but everyone was out, so I knew I'd have to just make one from scratch.  I looked online and found a recipe from that sounded do-able and got to work.


I want to share the recipe I use for GF all-purpose flour mix.  The main problem with most GF flours at the store is that they're made from about a hundred different kinds of flours and other ingredients and preservatives.  And even the GF flour mix recipes that you find online or in most GF cookbooks still include a long list that is not only intimidating, but also VERY EXPENSIVE to put together.  Last year my folks were at a GF expo and met a gal who had published a GF cookbook of real live every day food that people actually eat in average homes across America (not all that frou-frou stuff that you find in most GF cookbooks, as if you get diagnosed with Celiac and immediately develop a fine taste for gourmet shi-shi food that takes two hours to prepare, rather than wanting to eat what you've been eating for all your life).  The gal's name is Christina Davis, and her book is called "Irresistibly Gluten Free: Simple Family Favorite Recipes".
Irresistibly Gluten Free by Christina Davis published by Brigham Distributing (2010) [Paperback]

She has developed the shortest recipe for the simplest GF flour I've ever heard of, which she calls "UNflour".  I also want to point out that every commercial GF flour is made of very heavy non-wheat flours, so no wonder your final result is a rock hard loaf of bread or concrete pancakes.  If you want your food to turn out light and fluffy, you have to use light and fluffy ingredients in your GF mix.  This is not rocket science (yet the commercial GF industry still hasn't figured this out, but I, a nobody housewife with no food industry experience, has.  Gee, funny that.)  So here's the mix and I want you to note that it does not use any of those expensive non-wheat flours, this is all very cheap):

For a small batch:
3 c. rice flour (I use brown)
2 1/2 c. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. tapioca flour

That's it!  No laundry list of ingredients.  And you can see that these ingredients are inherently light and fluffy - the cornstarch really helps keep it light - but more importantly, these do not have any strong flavor that will taint all your food (that's the hugest secret in GF cooking: NOT making everything taste like that nasty flour mix).  I buy my cornstarch for $1 per box at Walmart, and the two flours at my local health food store, Good Earth ($1.09/lb for brown rice flour, $1.25/lb for tapioca flour- at those prices you can afford to make a double or triple batch).  I put all my ingredients in my designated UNflour container and then put the lid on and just shake it to mix it.  It's way too simple, please try it yourself, you'll never go back.  Oh by the way, any time you're using GF flour, you must also add a small amount of xanthan gum to your recipe.  It's a binder and GF flours are usually made of things that don't really bind together, so you need xanthan gum, usually only about 1/2-1 tsp. per normal size batch of regular pastries like cookies, cakes, etc.  A batch of cookies might need 1 tsp, but a cake might only need 1/2 tsp.


So I found a recipe online which looked awfully similar to normal wheat flour-based pie crust, just with GF flour instead, and I made a few modifications to suit my needs.  However, the website's GF flour mix was long and involved and had ingredients that were heavy and would taint the flavor, so I just substituted my good ol' UNflour and away we went!  So here's my version of the recipe:

1/2 cup Crisco or unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/4 cup UNflour, plus more for rolling out
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2-4 Tbsp. ice cold water

Cut shortening into 1/2" pieces and freeze 15-30 minutes.  In a food processor combine UNflour, xanthan gum, salt, & sugar; pulse 5-6 times.  Add shortening and pulse 6-8 times (until it resembles coarse meal).  With processor running, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough just barely clumps together.  Form dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap; chill at least one hour before rolling out.  Makes 1 crust.

My notes: I used butter the first time I did this, but I strongly suggest Crisco (no other brand!) because shortening really works better for making a pie crust stay together.  The biggest key to this recipe is to keep everything ICY COLD.  I made a double crust peach pie and both crusts mixed up really quickly and were in the fridge chilling in no time at all.

I can't believe this thing is gluten free, it tastes so good!!!!!!  I seriously am wondering if someone mixed some crack into my UNflour because I couldn't stop going back for more, it was so delicious it was addictive, and it was the CRUST that made it taste so good.  To me, UNflour tastes almost like regular wheat flour when baked up.  OK, I've blabbed long enough.  Bye.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


My friend Joanie has a great website, and she's doing a giveaway.  Have you seen those new 18" My Salon Dolls with real hair?  You can curl, crimp, wave, wash, and dry their hair.  These are great dolls and any little girls would love to have one.  Great Christmas idea too!  Plus you can earn multiple entries for liking it on Facebook, tweeting about it, blogging about it (like I'm doing).  So go to Joanie's blog post about the dolls and enter to win one for your little princess.  I'd kinda like one of these for myself.......

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Attack Of The Monster Bugs!!!!!!!

Just kidding.  There is no imminent attack against Earth (as far as I know.....).  I just wanted to share this cute little fella with y'all.  I just finished designing and making him, and now he's ready to be presented to the world. 

My knitting guild is focusing on a local children's hospital for our charity this year and they're having us make baby kimono wrap sweaters and wacky stuffed toys.  The wackier the better, we were told.  Ravelry has tons of great toy patterns in wild monster styles, but I made this one up off the top of my head because I'd had this idea that had been formulating for over a year and finally an opportunity came along to actually make it and create a pattern.

My kids have fallen in love with this little guy and I'm sure they'll be very sad when I turn it in to the charity rep at the guild meeting.  It seems like every time I come into the living room one of them has it under foot, or smashed next to them while they're watching TV, or sitting on their laps helping them play computer.

I'm also making it available for free on Ravelry for all of you who are on there. It will be simply titled "Monster Bug".  Look it up. Knit it up. Enjoy it.


Worsted weight yarn in 2 colors (Main Color & Contrast Color)
Scrap yarn for legs & antennae (can use scrap felt or scrap yarn for eyes & mouth)
Scrap novelty yarn (feather or eyelash for top of bug head)
Size US 7 (4.5mm) 24" circular needles & straight needles
Size US 6 (4mm) double point needles
Size G/ 4.25mm crochet hook
Stitch marker
Tapestry needle
One 12x12" pillow form (available at craft store or IKEA)

GAUGE: 3.5 sts/inch in stockinette for bug body
SIZE: approx 12x12"

With circular needles and MC, cast on 80 sts, place marker to mark beginning of round.
Row 1-4: Knit around
Row 5-9:Switch to CC and knit around
Row 10-14: Switch to MC and knit around
Continue working around, switching colors every 5 rows until 10" from beginning.  Join novelty yarn and hold double with worsted yarn and work 1" more. Break off novelty yarn, leaving worsted yarn for bind off.

Place 40 sts on one of the straight needles and the rem 40 sts on the other straight needle, then use one end of circ needle to do a 3-needle bind off.  Cut yarn leaving tail for weaving in.
Weave in all ends while inside out.  Then turn right side out and set aside while making face pieces.

You can use scrap felt or scrap yarn for making eyes and mouth.  Using felt pieces is easier and faster, but if you really want to make yarn pieces, here are the instructions:

SMALL EYE: With crochet hook, ch 4, join with sl st in first ch to make magic circle.
Round 1: Ch 1, 10 sc in loop.
Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc in same st, 2 sc in next st, [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in next st] around, sl st in first st to join.
Fasten off, leaving long tail for sewing.

You will use 2 colors for this eye.
With MC ch 4, join with sl st in first ch to make magic circle.
Rnd 1: Ch 1, 10 sc in loop, sl st in first st to join. Break off MC.
Rnd 2: Join CC, ch 1, sc in same st, 2 sc in next st, [1 sc in next st, 2 sc in next st] around, sl st in first st to join.
Rnd 3: Ch 1, sc in same st, sc in next 2 st, hdc in next st, 2 dc in next st, 3 trc in next st, 2 dc in next st, hdc in next st, sc in next 3 st, hdc in last st, sl st in first st to join.  Fasten off, leaving long tail for sewing.

Ch 21, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next ch, 2 sc in next ch, [sc in next 2 ch, dec over next 2 ch by drawing up a loop in both ch, then yo and draw through all three st on hook, sc in next 2 ch,  2 sc in next ch] twice, sl st in last ch.  Fasten off, leaving long tail for sewing.

Place eyes and mouth in position as shown in picture and sew in place, weaving in ends as you finish each piece.

Stuff body with pillow form and sew up bottom edge.

With 2 dpn's and scrap yarn for legs, pick up 4 sts in a circle on side of bug body (2 st on each dpn). 
With a 3rd dpn, work in i-cord until 6" long.  Cut yarn and use tapestry needle to weave through all 4 st and then weave in end through the tube.  Tie knot about 1" from end of leg.

Begin next leg 2 stripes down from first leg, and begin third leg 2 stripes down from second leg.  Repeat on opposite side of body.

With 2 dpn's and scrap yarn color for antennae, pick up 4 st in a circle one inch from center of top of head along top seam line.
With a 3rd dpn, work i-cord until 2" from beg. Cut yarn and use tapestry needle to weave through all 4 st twice to fasten off, then weave in end through tube.
Repeat one inch from center on other side for other antennae.

Give to a deserving child to enjoy and cuddle!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Signore Alfredo

Viva cucina Italiano!  Who is this Alfredo guy anyway?  Whoever he is, he makes the best pasta sauce.  I recently came upon a mega easy alfredo sauce recipe and made some modifications to suit my family.  Here it is in all its simplicity.  It is so dang easy, it's great for nights when you have to throw something together fast.  And it kinda tastes like Olive Garden's alfredo. Bonus!

1/4 cup butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes. plus more for garnish
1 pkg (5-6 oz) shredded parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

*(Note: I just use a tsp of minced garlic that comes in a jar)
In a saucepan on med-high, saute the butter and garlic together, then mix in the cream and parsley. Heat until barely bubbling then turn down to med-low and add in parmesan and stir until melted.

I serve this with cut up cooked chicken pieces over fettucine noodles.  If you want to use chicken too, then cook the pieces before you make the sauce, set aside, and add into the sauce when it's done.  I like to mix the sauce into the pasta so it's all coated, then I serve it in a big pasta dish with extra parsley sprinkled on top to look pretty.

Dinner Rolls (so addictive!)

I know I recently posted about dinner rolls, but who couldn't use more bread recipes?  And besides, the other post used fridge rolls from a can.  These are homemade, and they taste like someone loves you!  My husband and children are always requesting these rolls.  I make a double batch every time because 12 rolls just isn't enough - you'll find this out for yourself.

I make mine and knead the dough in my Kitchenaid mixer.  I know that a Bosch mixer can also handle the kneading, or you can simply do it the old-fashioned way: by hand (gasp!).  So I will tell you what settings I used according to the Kitchenaid. This recipe is beautifully simple.

 Dry Ingredients:                Wet Ingredients:
2 cup flour, divided             2 Tbsp. butter
1 pkt. rapid-rise yeast         1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. sugar                     1/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt

In the mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt.  In a small microwaveable bowl melt the butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Then add the milk and water and microwave for another 30-45 seconds until very warm.  Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and beat on med-low (setting #2) for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl often.  Add the remaining cup of flour and mix for 1 minute at med-high (setting #4), scraping when needed.  Then turn down to low ("Stir" setting) for 5 minutes to knead.

Scrape the sides to get all the dough into a ball and spray the sides of the bowl with cooking spray to keep it from sticking as it rises.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes (I use those elasticized bowl covers that look like shower caps - I get them at the dollar store or Walmart).  Spray a 9" round pan and then spray a cutting board and turn out the dough. Gently shape into a round (without smashing it down too much) and then cut into 12 even pie-shaped pieces with a sharp knife (I spray my butcher knife for this).  Roll up each piece from wide end to narrow (like a croissant) and place in the pan with 9 around the edges and 3 in the center.  Cover again  (pull up the plastic to make a high "tent" if you're using those "shower caps" so the dough won't stick to it as it rises) and let rise for 45-60 minutes (45 minutes is usually just fine for mine, I live at 4900 ft altitude).  Preheat oven to 375F degrees, then bake for 17-20 minutes.  Brush tops with melted butter after taking out of the oven.  Lovely!!!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Korker Ribbons

In my post yesterday about hair bows many of them featured korker ribbons (those corkscrew ribbons).

They're so easy to make at home, it's ridiculous!  I found a free tutorial for it at Girly Things.  When you read it you'll be like: "Really?  That's all there is to it?"  Yep, it's really simple, but they make such great boutique looking bows.  You'll make tons of them.  So check out the website.  It not only has the korker tutorial, it also has tutorials for all sorts of ribbon bows.  You'll be browsing for a while.......

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hair Bows

I sure have been doing a lot of cooking posts, so let's switch it up a little and post about some crafts.  My best friend in the entire whole world, Suzy,  taught me how to make hair bows for my girls.  My girls NEVER go out with some kind of hair pretty, so I was glad to finally learn how to make the cute boutique style ones.  Here are some that I've made:

I made almost all of these flowers that are hanging here:

I also made some hair bows that go with outfits I sewed for gifts:

For these dresses I used pattern #M6007 of Easy Stitch n' Save by McCalls (from Walmart), and the sweater is the Abagail Sweater from  Thanks to Kay Squared Designs for it.  I've made this sweater at least 6 times for various gifts. I'll probably do a post about these sweaters later.

So there are my hair pretties I made.

Lemon Crackles

Ya know, someday I'd really like to have a fancy schmancy camera instead of my very old pocket-size digital one.  Everybody else's craft blogs have gorgeous professional looking photos like they were done on a set of some quaint farm cottage on a remote coast of Somewhere Land.  All the pastries and cookies look so delicate like they were baked by fairies.  That's what I want my pictures to look like.  For now, my simple homemade-looking pictures will have to suffice.  Let me just note that these cookies taste a thousand times better than the picture might lead you to believe.  Give 'em a go.

I invented this recipe but didn't have great success in the beginning.  I refined it over a year's time and finally came up with what  you see here.  I get requests for these cookies, they are so good, especially in the summer time for a back yard party or a social get-together of some sort.  Light and delicious, these ones!

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
1 large lemon to get 2 Tbsp lemon zest & 1/4 cup juice
2 eggs
15 drops yellow food coloring
1/4 tsp each baking soda, baking powder, salt, & cream of tartar
3 c. flour
Powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grate the lemon to make the zest and squeeze it to get the 1/4 cup juice; set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the extract, zest, juice, eggs, and food coloring.  mix in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and half of the flour.  When thoroughly mixed, mix in the remaining half.

Roll dough in to 1-inch balls (I use a cookie scoop so they're all uniform size) and roll in powdered sugar to coat liberally, then place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass (they will "crackle" while baking).

Bake approx. 10 minutes, then let cool (I just take them from the cookie sheet and onto some wax paper on the counter to cool).  Store in an air-tight container with wax paper between layers.

You can certainly do these even more easily by rolling into balls and placing straight onto the cookie sheet without the powdered sugar or flattening them.  When they are cooled, use a strainer to dust them with powdered sugar like tea cakes.  They're beautiful served on a doily like that cottage in Somewhere Land.

Enjoy, y'all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cheesy Garlic Rolls

Need a bread idea for dinner tonight?  How 'bout some cheesy garlic rolls?  They're so easy and wonderfully delicious.  Too bad it only makes eight.  A double recipe would be twice as nice!

Here's what you need:
1 tube Pillsbury crescent rolls (8-ct)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Shredded colby/jack cheese
Garlic powder
Dried parsley flakes
Real bacon bits (optional)
A length of thread or dental floss, about 12" long
Preheat the oven to 375, then spread out some wax paper on the counter and then open the tube of rolls and open them out flat.  Next, brush the pieces with the melted butter.

Sprinkle a light layer of garlic powder and parsley flakes.  Then top with the shredded cheese (not too much or you won't be able to roll them up later).  I know it looks like the pieces are separated in the picture.  They're not supposed to be, I should have actually lightly pressed the perforations together to make it easier to roll up afterward.

Now you can add a small sprinkling of bacon if you want.

Now roll up the bread again. Use your length of thread or dental floss (unflavored please, not mint) and slide underneath and up then cross the threads over (see picture below).  Pull to cut through the bread to make a small pinwheel.  It might be easier to get 8 equal pieces if you cut the whole roll in half, then cut both of those in half, then each of those in half to get eight pinwheels.  I just eyeballed it and cut it as I went along the length of the roll.

Place on a greased cookie sheet or in a greased pan that is about 8x11" so there's room for them to expand.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.


If you want these to be even easier to make, just use a sharp knife to slice through the perforations in the dough before adding the toppings so that you can roll up the individual triangles when you're done and place them on a greased cookie sheet for baking.