Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kitchen Tips: Cleaning Glass Bakeware

I love my Pyrex baking dishes.  I use them all the time for everything from lasagna to roasted veggies, to roasting all the ingredients for my delicious Roasted Red Salsa (which I make at least weekly).  In fact, I just made another huge batch, this time using only tomatoes from my mother's garden, as well as garden peppers, and much beloved Hatch chiles.  It is SO super delish.  But I digress.

After making all this yummy food, my glassware is starting to look gunky.  Even after scrubbing and scrubbing, still that baked on funk won't come off.  In fact, this is how it looks with all it's "clean dirt":

This is as clean as I've been able to get it.  "Clean Dirt"

Then I remembered reading this little tip from RealSimple:  use tin foil to clean your glass bakeware.  Um, really?  I had to try it.  And let me be the first to tell you, it WORKS.  And not just a little, it really, REALLY works.  See the proof:



I was so excited I had to call my mom.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DIY Microwave Popcorn

Oh yes.  Instant popcorn without all the weird greasy coating in your mouth.  No additives, no preservatives, and amazingly enough, no oil! 

My 4 year old son just had his tonsils and adnoids out two weeks ago, and the only thing in the world he wanted was popcorn - which was on the no-no list.  So when the doctor gave him the all-clear, look out!  All I've been doing is making popcorn.  Sadly, he won't let me use the air popper, probably because it's circa 1975 and sounds like a jet engine taking off.  So I begrudgingly bought microwave popcorn, and immediately remembered why I don't like it - that gross greasy salty coating of the mouth. 

Then I found nirvana.  I was innocently browsing Pinterest, and came across this incredible post on SquawkFox.  She has such a brilliantly simple tutorial, with such lovely pictures, I highly recommend you go there.

I will, however, tell you a couple things I learned.  I used the basic lunch bag size paper bag and 1/2 cup popcorn kernals, but after about two minutes, it was so full of popcorn and hot kernals, it came open at the top and burst a seam on the bottom.  So I pushed stop, and ended up with a lot of unpopped kernals:

A bunch of leftovers - hence, using less next time.

Next time, I will use 1/3 cup of kernals.  Other than that, AMAZING.  So incredibly light and fluffy, and WAY sweeter than store-bought microwave popcorn.  Oh, and not greasy and coat-your-mouth gross.  I like a little I can't believe it's not butter spray and salt, or a little butter spray, splenda, and maybe even some cinnamon. 

What do you like on your popcorn?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Happy Hour - Scotch & Soda

It's happy hour around our house, and I for one take that pretty seriously.  This post is simply a little shout out to my friend Marie, who introduced me to this amazing summertime drink.  Not only is it clean, cool, refreshing, and perfect on a hot day, it also harkens back to my childhood:  the classic Scotch & Soda from the drive-in, with all it's sweet vanilla goodness, but with a little more, um, oompf.  And I am a big fan of oompf.

Here's how to make one for yourself.  You need:

Vanilla vodka.  I buy Smirnoff, because it is good, but cheap.  My mom splurges and gets Absolut.
Sprite Zero.  No sugar.  No calories. 

You can stop right there, but for a little extra somethin' somethin', you can also add:

Vanilla syrup - like Torani sugar free.
Lemons (not pictured, because I ran out.)

Take a large glass.  Yes, a large one, you'll thank me later.  Fill it with ice.  Pour a bit of vodka in, to taste.  Start with about a shot, add more as you like.  I like more.  Sue me.  If you like sweet, a tiny splash of vanilla syrup is great here.  If you have lemons, they are amazing in it.  Wedge some up, squeeze a bit in, and muddle the rest with the ice and vodka.  Top it off with Sprite Zero, and stir.

Then enjoy.  And after you suck that one down, go make another.  Just be sure you drink responsibly.  These things can sneak up on you ;)

Looks like this one's broken.  Better go fix it...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Revamp the Garden with Spray Paint

I have a few garden ornaments that I love, but they are a bit faded, and getting lost amongst the jungle of my garden.  And well, since I do just LOVE to spray paint, I thought it would be fun to put a little more oompf back in them, and a bit of color at the same time.

I have a bird and some stars, both metal, that have oxidized a bit.  They were all originally various shades of gray.  I washed them, and scrubbed them with a little wire brush, but I didn't get all crazy about it.  I used interior/exterior spray paint - Valspar "Exotic Sea" for the teal, and Krylon "Bright Idea" for the yellow.  I chose them based on color, not brand.  In retrospect, I will only use the Valspar brand.  The yellow was thin, and dripped a bunch, even though I was using thin even coats.

I aplogize in advance for the quality of the pictures - these were taken on the fly with my phone on a very bright day.



see the drips?!  bah! drips

What next?  I think my little buddy Lars needs to get his hat fixed up and then he may get a new look too:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Citrus Room Spray

Having a baby in the house again totally brings back all my paranoias about the whole house smelling of dirty diapers - so when I was doing my usual browse of Pinterest the other day and came across this idea for creating your very own citrus room spray, I couldn't not make some.  I did some extra research, and came across numerous recipes, all of which were pretty much the same, so I don't really feel I need to give a shout out to my original source (especially since it wasn't very good). Here goes:


Air tight jar
Citrus fruit - lemons, limes, oranges
Small spray bottle (I use the little travel size ones)

Carefully peel your fruit, and add the peels to your jar.  Fill it up with peels.  I was careful not to use any of the pith, but after reading about making your own flavored vodkas, I'm not sure it matters.  Now fill the jar with vodka, seal it up, and set it somewhere out of the sun for a few days.

When it's done, open it up, fill your sprayer about half to three-quarters full of the vodka, and the rest with water.  Shake it up, and spray away!

Please note that this isn't like the aerosol sprays you can buy in the stores.  The coverage can be less than ideal, probably due to the size of the scent particles or something.  If you don't like the way it sprays...well, it tastes great!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


And who wouldn't feel powerful after winning this beauty?

We have random game nights at our house, often with a much sought-after extremely lame awesome prize.  So of course, while I was out scouring the interwebs and I came across a picture of someone's homemade trophies, I thought to myself:  I HAVE TO MAKE THAT. 


My friend Katie happened to be in town when the urge became unbearable, so I made her watch me make them let her help. 

Here's how you can make your very own:

  • glue gun
  • shiny gold spray paint (and/or silver or bronze, depending)
  • random assortment of kid toys (those crappy McDonald's toys turned out to be the best)
  • some sort of stand or base - I used upside down decorative planters from the dollar store


Seriously awesome paint.

Gather together all your crap treasures.  I found it useful to raid the toy box in my 4 year old's room, since it is full of toys he never looks at.  I found a couple cool things in the garage, my purse, and the dog's toy box as well.  Get creative.  Everything does indeed look better with gold spray paint.

Try a few combinations out.

NOT successful pairing

Why wouldn't a sly bird with a key ring be riding an elephant?

Play with the creepy monkey keychain with glowing eyes and lazer sound.

Don't lie.  You know you want it.

It's pretty stressful work to come up with the perfect arrangement, so take a break for chips and salsa.


Get brave.  Start actually gluing things together.

Get super indecisive inspired and make two.

Paint that shit gold.

Admire your creations.  Take lots of pictures. 

Then come up with something awesome for your friends to do so they can win these amazing trophies and proudly display them on their mantle. 

Show up unexpectedly at their house to make sure the trophy is indeed prominantly displayed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Iced Coffee Perfection

Let's talk coffee.  And while with some of you this may conjure images of "Coffee Talk with Linda Richmond" from SNL days gone by (I'm feeling a little verklempt- talk amongst yourselves...the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire...discuss.) But let's be serious.

It is summer.  Coffee is delicious.  Iced coffee in summer is divine.  And then I found the Pioneer Woman...and she truly does have the Perfect Iced Coffee.  I HAD to have it as soon as I saw the picture.  But patience, my child.  Good things do indeed come to those who wait, and well, waiting on cold-brewed coffee is SO incredibly worth it.

Cold brewed, you say?  Why yes I do.  And I wish I had discovered this amazing thing years ago!  There are a million reasons to cold brew coffee, and if you want them all, google them.  But if you want mine, read on, my friend.  Simply put, cold brewing creates a wonderful low acid, not bitter coffee concentrate (yes, concentrate) that lends itself by its very nature to iced coffee.

Using Pioneer Woman's general idea, and after reading her reader comments, I decided I had what it takes to cold brew my own coffee.  I'm betting you have it too.  Here's my adapted recipe:

Cold Brewed Coffee

3/4 cup ground coffee
4 cups tepid to cold water
container (I use a Nalgene bottle)

Put the coffee in the container, add the water, and seal the lid.  Set it on the counter and wait patiently for at least 8 hours (I've been known to forget about it for up to a day and a half).  Overnight works well. 

Strain it.  I use a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter (since I have so many left over from making flowers!)  I strain it into my pyrex 4 cup measuring cup, since it has a handle and little pour spout, and holds just the right amount.  It can take up to an hour to get all the brewed coffee separated from the ground dregs.  Trust me, it is worth it.

Pour the strained coffee into another container (I use another Nalgene bottle) and stick it in the fridge until it gets nice and cold.

Now for the good part:   Fill a glass with ice.  Pour coffee in until it is half full.  Add some sweetener (I really like the sugar free Torani Vanilla syrup, but do what you like).  Add some cream.  You can use milk, 1/2 and 1/2, or, if you are feeling particularly naughty (as I usually am when making iced coffee) use heavy whipping cream.  Oh, yes.  Don't worry, the taste of it will make you forget all about calories.  Adjust, adding coffee, cream, or sugar until it tastes right.  Then sit back and guzzle the stuff.  Then make another, because it is just SO damn good.

You may actually find you need to make larger batches of coffee concentrate.  Not such a bad thing.  Just share with your friends, or invite me over for a coffee.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grilled Pineapple (and zucchini)

The husband recently found The Art of Manliness - an incredible website for all you manly men and lovers of manly men out there.  It is full of all kinds of super important stuff - like how to tie a tie, how to shave like your grandpa, and even how to start a fire 9 different ways without matches.  Also of note:  "stop hanging out with women and start dating them." 

Anyway, (and now I can't find the actual recipe) we came across somewhere on the site (or maybe as a blurb in Men's Health magazine) a recipe for grilled pineapple.  Now, we love grilling pineapple, but typically do no more than peel it, core it, and slice it into wedges and throw it on the grill.  This one is more of a glaze, that raises the pineapple to true dessert status, and brings feelings of pineapple upside down cake.

Last night we had some friends over for dinner and decided to give the pineapple a shot.  Again, we couldn't actually find the recipe, so we came up with one of our own, and it is the BOMB.

Glazed Grilled Pineapple of Deliciousness

3 Tbsp of brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cayenne (don't be afraid - we actually think we should have added more)
pinch of black pepper
pinch of coarse kosher salt
Whole fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch slices (we peel and core ours first, but this is optional)

Now, we didn't use butter, and everyone agreed we should have added some.  So, melt a teaspoon of butter, add the sugar and spices, and then add beer to make a paste.  If it is too runny, add more sugar and spices.  Since sugar melts, you do want it thick.  Grill the pineapple on high a couple minutes per side, until brown, brushing the glaze on while it cooks.  Then eat it, and die a sweet sweet death of pineapple heaven overload.

Another favorite of ours is grilled zucchini.  I simply wash and trim some zucchinis, then slice them in half lengthwise, and toss them in a ziploc bag with a little soy sauce.  I used to make it more like a teriyaki with sugar, ginger, garlic, and green onion too, but lately just plain old soy sauce has been divine.  Grill it until tender, but not overdone.  Also good thrown on salads cold the next day!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coffee Filter Flowers

I'm in the middle of a great overhaul of reorganizing/redecorating every room in my house.  On a budget.  It started with moving baby girl out of our room and into her own that doubles as the guest room.  But then I couldn't get to my crafting/sewing supplies, because they were in her closet, which has extremely squeaky doors.  So I moved that stuff to the office.  (By which I mean it's in a pile on the office floor until I can get some more shelving and boxes.)  I'm rather overwhelmed by the immensity of the projects I'm taking on, so I decided to do a quick revamp of a tired (and dusty!) flower arrangement in our room.  Nothing like having a couple small accomplishments to give a boost to the ol' motivation.

The old arrangement - please do not look at the large version, the dust is embarrassing.

I came across these pretty poufy flowers made out of coffee filters by Aunt Peaches.  I was immediately intrigued.  I looked, and lo and behold, we had some filters left over from our old coffee maker.  I literally had everything on hand.  I had to try it.  Besides, I'd been looking for suitable teal flowers to put in that vase, and haven't found any.  Perfect solution!

You can make them too!  I used a lot of Aunt Peaches' techniques, but of course, I had to change some of it up.  The possibilities truly are endless with these.  Here's what to do:

  • Coffee filters - you want the round crinkly ones, not the cones
  • Colorant - I used watered down acrylic paint.  Not very happy with it - I think I'd rather use food coloring or easter egg dye.
  • Plastic straws
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Floral tape (optional - I ended up not using it)
supplies, and my huge assortment of colored filters.

First you need to dye the filters.  I'm sure I took pictures of me doing it, but I think I erased them, because I can't find them.  Sorry!  Mostly you wad up some filters in either watered down paint, or food coloring, or egg dye.  Then squeeze out the excess liquid, and hang them to dry.  This is messy - you should probably do it outside, or with a lot of drop cloths.  And maybe wear gloves.

Once your filters are dry, wahoo!  It's time to make some flowers!

For a spiky Spider Mum look-a-like:

Fold your filter in half, in half again, and in half again.  Cut down the rounded edge in skinny Vs to make a bunch of points (feels a little like making snowflakes!).  Cut a teeny tiny bit of the point off to make a hole in the center.  Do this to several - you'll need about four or so per flower.

Do yourself a favor and tear off a few strips of masking tape - about two inches each.  Take your first spiky filter and fold it up and twist the end, as shown.  This is the center of your flower.  Place it on a strip of masking tape, leaving an end to wrap around your straw, and wrap it around the straw, securing it in place.

Then thread your straw through the hole in the next filter, pinch it together at the base, and tape it to the straw.  Repeat until you feel your flower is full enough.

For something a little more rose-like:

Fold a filter in half and in half and in half again.  This time, cut a little scallop about halfway up.  Cut the ring open.

Try to keep pudgy little fingers off your filters.

Crinkle the small center, and twist the bottom, place on your masking tape.  Then take the cut outer edge, and finger pleat it along the tape.  This does not in any way need to be perfect, and in fact, is better if you don't think too hard about it.

Keep going until you run out, or your flower is poufy enough.

For an even smoother look:

No trimming!  These ones became my favorite to make, though I really like the look of the spider mums too.  Made similar to the spider mum, but without the cutting of spiky edges.  Fold one filter in half, in half, and in half again (get the idea yet?).  Then, you guessed it - crinkle it up and put it on your tape, then on your straw.  Cut a tiny hole in the middle of the next, and add it to the tape/straw party.  Keep going until you're done.

For a super simple bouquet, you can take the heads off a cheap dollar store silk flower bunch and slide the straws right on.  If they are visible, you can wrap the straws in floral tape to make them green.  Put them in a vase, and done!  Look at you go, you crafty flower-maker, you.

Now I have to go revamp all of my silk arrangements...

Hey, if you like it, leave a comment and let me know!  If you make some, tell me how it went.  And share with your friends.