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151  COOKING / Dessert / Cooking Challenge - Sweet Easter and Spring Treats on: March 04, 2012 06:27:09 AM

All of you fabulous bakers, it's time for a cooking challenge!  The subject is Sweet Easter and Spring Treats.  You can make dessert, chocolates, cookies, a bunny cake, cupcakes, Easter basket goodies - anything sweet that celebrates Spring.  

The Rules:

-This challenge is open to all Craftster members.

-You must be posting your 2012 goodies, prior years are not eligible.

-Your entry must be sweet, not savory.

-Each participant may enter just once.

-This contest will be open for entries from April 8th through April 15th, 2012.  The contest will be closed to entries on midnight Sunday, April 15th.  Challenge entries may be posted at https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?board=447.0.  Select New Topic in the upper right corner of this page.  
Send TroubleT or MissingWillow a PM if you have any questions or difficulties posting.

-Voting will be open from April 15-22, 2012

The winner of this challenge will be able to select a prize from us at Craftster.org -- any one item from our online shop at http://www.shop.craftster.org/
152  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Zombie Apocalypse Countdown Calendar on: March 02, 2012 06:57:38 AM
What every zombie fan needs... a countdown to the apocalypse calendar!  It's actually meant for the drawers to be filled with treats and opened each day in December.   Wink 

Here are some of my favorite parts- A warning sign!  The moon glows in the dark.

Day 3 is a zombified Hugh Laurie (House MD)

Day 9 is a zombie photo booth image.

Day 15's image comes from The Walking Dead.

Day 18 is a graveyard.

Instead of a number 24, I made a homage to 28 Days Later.
153  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Garden in a Jar on: February 29, 2012 12:55:31 PM
Are you itching for something fresh while waiting for your frozen garden soil to thaw?  Consider trying sprouts.  While I was cleaning my kitchen cabinets last week I came across some long forgotten sprout seeds and decided to see if they were still viable and they sure were!  I'm certain I picked them up at a garden supply place.  I also picked up the green mason jar mesh lid which is useful however you can use a piece of panty hose and a rubber band instead.  I grabbed an empty pint jar and put in a tablespoon of mung bean seeds.  Put the lid on it and rinsed the seeds then drained them.  I kept this jar by my kitchen sink and a few times a day I rinsed and drained the seeds.

After just a little over a week, I had this.  Great on salads and sandwiches!
154  CLOTHING / Costumes: Completed Projects / Tribal Belly Dance Tassel Belt on: February 24, 2012 04:39:56 AM
My partner in the Winter Hippy swap, Samsara, is a tribal style dancer.  I myself am a former tribal style dancer who still enjoys costuming.  I've still got a few of the mirrored belt bases in my stash.  I attached one to a black cotton base, whipped up some wool tassels, embellished with a few beads, cowrie shells bits and bobs and here ya go:

155  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Pottery, Ceramics, etc: Completed Projects / Trinket Box on: February 21, 2012 03:16:57 PM
I made a trinket box for Samsara in the most recent Winter Hippy swap.  One of the themes she mentioned she likes are lotus blossoms, so I went with that.  The reddish brown is done with iron oxide with no overglaze.  The blue glaze is called Floating Blue.  I like the contrast.

156  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / A Versatile Paella on: February 21, 2012 10:09:26 AM
Paella is one dish my entire family loves and it's awesome enough to serve on a special occasion.  Unlike traditional paella, this version is assembled at the end rather than cooked all together.  That means you can, for instance, set aside a portion without shrimp if someone is allergic, or without sausage if someone doesn't eat pork.  I also love it because I can cook the ingredients ahead then just make the rice and assemble it right before dinner.  I love an impressive, low stress meal!

The first thing I make is lemon garlic mixture that will flavor the rice when it's done.  In my mini chopper, I whirl together:
The zest of a lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
12 garlic cloves
salt & pepper
This goes into tupperware and waits in the fridge for assembly.

This is a fresh chorizo and a fresh andouille sausage removed from their casings, crumbled and browned.  

Smoked andouille sausage links sliced and browned.

Red and yellow peppers sliced, seeded, splashed with red wine vinegar and olive oil then roasted for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Once they're cool enough to handle, I peel the skin off.

Sea scallops patted dry and sauteed in a little olive oil just 2 minutes per side.  They were really expensive this week so I cut them in half.

Shrimp peeled, deveined and sauteed in a little olive oil.  I'm always careful not to overcook shrimp.  They just take a minute or two per side.

So... everything above this point can be done ahead of time.  I just gently reheat each component in the microwave right before I stir everything into the rice and lay the chicken thighs on top for serving.  To do the chicken thighs, brown both sides in a little olive oil and butter.  Put them skin side up on a baking pan, season with salt and pepper then put them in the oven at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on how big they are.  They come out crispy and delicious.  

Here's what goes into the rice:
3 cups of long grain rice sauteed in a little butter
6 cups of chicken stock
A pinch of saffron
salt and pepper to taste
Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes, toss 1 cup of frozen peas in during the last 3 minutes of cooking

You can also add steamed clams, mussels, lobster, whatever your heart desires and your pocketbook can handle.  Wink  Enjoy!

157  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Roasted Vegetables on: February 03, 2012 12:11:34 PM
We're going to visit friends for dinner tomorrow night and I was asked to bring a side dish.  I decided on roasted vegetables.  The carrots, beets and garlic are from our garden.  The rest of the veggies were from our fridge.  To make these - wash, peel, slice your vegetables as desired.  Lay each vegetable in a separate baking dish and splash with a flavored vinegar, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt.  For instance, I used champagne vinegar on the mushrooms, balsamic on the green beans, strawberry vinegar on the carrots, red wine vinegar on the red pepper, etc.  These go in the oven at 350 degrees.  Stir/toss them every 10 minutes, check them after 30 minutes for doneness.  These usually take between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on the vegetable.

When the red pepper is done, the skin will wrinkle.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skin. 

Here they are arranged on a serving dish.  We like these served at room temperature.  I've also roasted butternut squash, eggplant, hot peppers, asparagus and pearl onions using this simple process.  It's always a crowd pleaser.

The beet and carrot tops go our hens.

The rest of the scraps go into our worm compost. 
158  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Tea Wallet Tutorial on: January 31, 2012 02:02:45 PM
Have you been wanting to make your own tea wallet?  Here's a tutorial for you.

You'll need 5 by 7 inch cuts of outside fabric, inside fabric and a piece of flannel which will help give your wallet some stability.  You'll also need a 2.5 by 7 inch cut of your inside fabric and a 3.5 by 7 inch cut of your outside fabric.  These will be the interior pockets.  Lastly, you'll need an elastic hair tie and a button to finish your wallet.

Fold over and iron a quarter inch of your pocket fabric.  Sew it down.  Repeat for your other pocket fabric.  If your fabric has an orientation to it, make sure you sew the correct edge. 

Line up and pin your two pockets to the bottom of your interior fabric.  Sew a 1/8 inch seam through all three layers at the bottom to secure them together. 

Now it's time to layer them all together.  Place your outside fabric on the table, right side up.  Then place your interior fabric (with the pockets already sewn on at the bottom) with the right side facing your outside fabric.  This means these right sides will be facing each other.  On top of that lay your piece of flannel.  Mine has animal prints on it.  It doesn't matter which side of your flannel is up, it will be hidden inside when you are done.  Pin it all together.   

Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the layered fabric 'sandwich', leaving about 1 1/2 inches open on one side so you can turn it.  Before you start sewing, decide where to leave the turn opening.  Have a good look at your fabric.  Leave the opening where you want your elastic tie inserted.

Before you turn everything right side out, clip the corners.  Rather than just doing a 45 degree angle, I do a rounded cut. 

Turn it right side out using a chopstick to help with your corners, iron it (very important) and place the hair elastic where you want it.  Pin it in place.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the entire edge, make sure you sew over the elastic twice to make it secure.

It's time to sew your button on, opposite your elastic.  The thread gets hidden inside a pocket. Sweet!

The last thing you should do is sew a seam right down the middle.  Load it with tea, sweetener, pepper flakes, whatever your heart desires.  Pop it in your purse and you're good to go. 
159  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Gardening in the Dead of Winter on: January 28, 2012 07:38:09 AM
Hey everyone, I thought I'd share what we've learned about greenhouse gardening over the past few years.  It's the end of January, 26 degrees out and this is today's harvest(!)  Hot peppers, baby carrots and golden beets, a huge radish.  At dinnertime tonight I'll also pick spinach, lettuce and mesclun for a salad.  The hot peppers are going in the dehydrator this afternoon.  The peppers are in pots that we moved from our back deck when the weather turned cold.  Everything else is growing in indoor raised beds. 

Two years ago we were trying to keep the indoor temp high enough to sustain potted summer vegetables, tropicals and herbs.  A power failure on a sub zero night killed everything, including my precious saffron.   Sad  Last year my husband put in an indoor raised bed and we didn't use the heater at all.  We enjoyed lettuce all Winter. This year, he added 3 more indoor raised beds and we have the heater set just at freezing.  It rarely comes on and we've got some beautiful things growing in there!

I'm hoping we'll have peas to harvest in a week or two.

Red and gold beets.

An entire bed of potatoes.  When they flower we'll know there are harvestable potatoes inside.

We've even got a few limes growing, despite the cool temps.  Our citrus lives in pots. 

We use a few black rain barrels to hold water, and water the beds by hand.  They also help keep the interior warm by acting as a thermal mass. 

Here's the exterior.  We keep the shadecloth on year round and close it up during the Summer.  It's too hot in there to be of any use.  My husband built it from a kit (he's a genius).  Any questions, just let me know.   Smiley

160  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Skirt Steak Tacos on: January 27, 2012 12:45:26 PM
One of our refrigerators cut out on us this week.  Since we stock our beef by the half cow, I found myself with a freezer full of defrosting meat.  Luckily, it was the one that holds our stew beef and such (not the ribeyes or filet).  I set out to make a huge batch of stew and a big pot of chili.  By the time I was done with pot pie filling I was pooped and still had a package of skirt steak staring at me.  What to do?  Marinate it for tacos the next night!  Skirt steak isn't known for its tenderness but I figured an overnight bath in a marinade would soften it up and I was right.  I used what I had on hand:

1/4 cup of olive oil
Juice of three limes
Splash of tequila
Splash of the juice from a jar of pickled jalapenos
4 cloves of crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. of oregano
Salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes

The next evening we grilled the steaks, let them rest then sliced them against the grain.

I pan fried a half of a red pepper and a handful of jalapeno slices in a little bit of olive oil.

They were served with warm flour soft flour tacos, sliced avocado, fresh tomatoes and some of my homemade salsa.  There are scores of other things you could serve these with, like cheese, sour cream, lettuce, onion, guacamole, etc.  We (of course) have leftovers.  Beef.  It's what's for dinner.

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