Birthdays Make Me Crafty

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you already know how I feel about birthdays. To sum up for the new kids: I like them a lot. (example, example, example)

I had a string of birthdays recently, and it brought out the craftier side of me that apparently had been napping for the past couple of months. I love a good craft project so I sort of ran with it. It started with my gal L’s birthday. I had planned a specific project for her birthday since it was a milestone year and I was going to visit her in San Fran (read about it here). My plan was to make a scrapbook of her birthday weekend. I prepped the book prior to leaving for the trip and the plan was that I would run to the store, print out the pics, glue’em in (I brought some supplies with me) and I would give it to the birthday girl just before we all left. It was a flawed plan. We were jamming in super fun activities until the moment we left for the airport. So I had to finish it when I got home and mail it instead.

A book to remember our magical weekend gallivanting all over San Fran together and celebrating birthdays.

A book to remember our magical weekend gallivanting all over San Fran together and celebrating birthdays.

Not too long after that came two back to back birthdays. First was one of my best buds C. Second came my co-worker R. I attempted to try something cool for C that I had seen on the internet, and Pinterest, a millions times. An ombre layer cake in a mason jar. All I can say about this endeavor is that it was horrible lol. EPIC PINTEREST FAIL.

UGH...started off decently with the ombre cupcakes. But look at this shizzzz. HORRIBLE.

UGH…started off decently with the ombre cupcakes. But look at this shizzzz. HORRIBLE.

Ugh. Just looking at the picture annoys me. I couldn’t possibly give this monstrosity to C. It ended up in a mushed pile on my counter that was later eaten by my roommate.

I ended up admitting defeat on the whole ombre thing and making a mason jar cake instead. I filled it with some nutella as an added perk. To make it extra special (and because I turned into an unstoppable craft machine for like 2 weeks) I printed out tiny pics of us from our years of friendship and made a little photo-tree topper for the cake.

Apparently we are incapable of making attractive faces.

Apparently we are incapable of making attractive faces.

As you know, I love a good theme. As it happens, my coworker R shares my love of Doctor Who…so it struck me with the idea of making her some Doctor Who cupcakes for her special day. Basically it gave me an excuse to craft and indulge my nerdiness.

The Doctor Who Gang

The Doctor Who Gang

I printed small pictures of each of major characters from the new reboot of the series, including a 3D Tardis so that I could use them as cupcake toppers.

I used my awesome little cupcake screw thingy and filled them with some Tardis blue buttercream icing (recipe from my Gram…thanks Gram).

I got this little tool from some weird Chinese overstock website I found 2 Christmases ago

I got this little tool from some weird Chinese overstock website I found 2 Christmases ago. Icing piped in with my super sophisticated ziplock bag.

Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting and blue buttercream filling

Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting and blue buttercream filling

All in all, the birthday crafting went over really well. Everyone seemed pretty pleased with their birthday surprises.

Also, if you’re interested in making the white cake the recipe is super simple:

-1.5 c flour
-1 c sugar
-2 eggs
-1/2 c milk
-1 3/4 tsp baking powder
-vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add everything else. Bake for 20-30 mins at 350.

 

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If at first you don’t succeed, keep tryin’ until you make that biz your b****

So I have some mild-to-severe perfectionist tendencies. Nothing like crippling or anything….but enough that I find things massively frustrating if they don’t come out right. It can be SUPER annoying because for the most part other people’s reactions tend to be things like “it still tastes good” “shake it off” “don’t worry about it.” My brain does not work that way.

I have gotten better at hiding my crazy in most aspects of my life though. But I’ve found it harder to master that crucial brain control in the kitchen and in craft-type settings because, unlike most areas of life, they are soooo controllable. So when small setbacks happen I have to fight my instincts…you know…the urge to throw a 4-year level tantrum or just chuck the whole lot into the trash can because the cake is uneven (or it tipped over) or the onions burned. (CONFESSION: I did chuck out an entire meal in front of my BF not too long ago because I thought it was a disaster…but that hardly ever happens anymore lol).

I’m telling you this as sort of a background into my motives for this post. I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my signature dishes is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it since I was like 10 and its one of those recipes that is burned into your brain so you never even have to look it at. For some mystery reason, lately I kept screwing it up (like this time). It was making me CRAZY…just ask my mom who received all my “AHHHHHHH WHAT THE HECK?!?!?” phone calls.

Normal people can shake this stuff off. But it’s been nagging at me for WEEKS. So finally I decided to just beast this thing out. And prove to myself that I’m not a total idiot who has forgotten how to cook (see how my brain makes me treat me?)

I recently discovered how AMAZING caramelized onions are. Shortly after that I discovered that I am not great at making them WOMP WOMP. I kept burning them. I’m telling you this because I had had the genius idea to add caramelized onion to my mac and cheese….so the fact that I messed BOTH of them up at the same time was driving me insane.

But I figured it out (for the most part) and BOOM I made that biz my b****.

FINALLY got it right!

FINALLY got it right!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own Swiss/NY Sharp Cheddar Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese:

-box of noodles (elbow, penne, or the spirals work best)
-1 block swiss cheese
-1 block NY Sharp Cheddar (or Vermont, or regular Sharp Cheddar)
-2 cups milk (1% at the LOWEST, cream tastes best but is fattier)
-2 Tbsp butter (or butter like spread)
-2 Tbsp flour
-spices (salt and pepper etc)
-breadcrumbs (optional but nice…especially Italian spiced)

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Ok so if you’ve never made a cream-type sauce before I’m going to explain it. Read this BEFORE you start so you’ll know what to do because you have to move a little fast in the beginning. On MEDIUM HEAT Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Start whisking it immediately with a fork or whisk…slowly add some milk (room temp if possible) and KEEP STIRRING. It’ll be sort of paste like with some clumps…you want to get’em all. Add the rest of the milk and stir. DON’T LET THE MILK BOIL. It will ruin your sauce by causing the cheese to separate. When the clumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken a little add the cheese and spices. Once the cheese is melted you should have a nice thickish cheese sauce.  Add caramelized onions (which I’ll tell you how to make in a minute).

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese....

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese….

Cook the pasta regular. Add cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 until top is browned.  EAT UP.

Caramelized Onions:
-1 large onion
-2 Tbsp-ish better
-1 Tbsp oil
-dash of salt

Cut onions. Melt butter in a skillet…add the oil. Add the onions and coat in the butter/oil and turn burner down to low heat. Stir occasionally, if you stir too much they won’t brown. Add salt after like 5 mins. Honestly I got that from a website…I’m not 100% certain what it does but I guess it helps. The onions will reduce down and eventually turn a lovely golden/brown color.  Mine cooked for like EVER…like over and hour… but again, I’m new to this and haven’t gotten it perfect yet. I’m certain it doesn’t have to actually take that long.

Cut even slices of the onion

Cut even slices of the onion

 

Coat onions in the butter/oil

Coat onions in the butter/oil

 

Nice golden color... cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

Nice golden color… cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

In the end I had a lovely meal to last the week. Also it made me feel soooo much better to have figured out what I was doing wrong with my mac and cheese so that I will never screw it up again!

Sometimes I Try Home Remedies from the Internet.

Here’s the thing…I’m fairly prone to accidents. I wrote a post about it before. Given this fact you’d think that I would have a stocked first aid kit. Welp I’m poor. So I don’ t.

This pretty much sums it up.

This pretty much sums it up.

So it was particularly unfortunate when I hurt myself making dinner last night. Don’t worry it was no big deal or anything…just one of those everyday kind of boo-boos that hurt like crazy but aren’t really anything. I was cutting into my baked chicken to see if it was cooked all the way through…and silly me didn’t realize I was totally resting my thumb against the rim of the hot pan. Smart move right? It took me a solid 15 seconds to even notice. Ugh. Needless to say I was less than thrilled. The last time a burned my finger (on a stupid molten chocolate chip while making pancakes) I had to ice it for over 6 hours until I used some of my friend’s burn cream. Which I neglected to buy.

So what’s a girl to do? Obviously I called my mom first lol…but mostly just to have her ask my Gram because I don’t trust anything she suggests. But my Gram was at a party so that plan failed. On a related note: my Gram was out partying on a Tuesday night and 25 year old me was watching Jeopardy…

I had to resort to to my go to for answers: Google. But this is one of those times where you have to be skeptical because people post some weirdness on home remedy sites.

Mustard and Flour

So after ignoring the crazy ones…one jerk said suck it up, another said touch it to your earlobe…I settled on the mustard treatment. You combine yellow mustard and flour and make a paste.

the pasteThere were no proportions so I just  guessed and made it a paste consistency.

slather it onThen you apply it to the burn and wrap in some bandaids….

I’m on the fence about this remedy. I mean it worked sort of…it helped ease that miserable sting you feel when you take it off ice. So that’s good. In the interest of full disclosure I did actually try the earlobe thing…it was only successful in making me feel ridiculous. In reality I should just buy some burn cream.

All patched up

So in the end I really did put mustard on my burn…then covered it in neon orange bandaids and rested it on an Iron Man booboo pack–because I’m an adult. I may have also drank a little wine….

 

 

A Birthday Surprise…The Easy Way

So you may recall from some of my earlier posts that I love birthdays. I love making birthday treats. Sometimes though, it can be a pain in the a**. For the most part I like things simple. Which is why I really don’t mind using boxed cake mix and store bought frosting as a base (with some exceptions obviously) because you can do lots of things to make your biz unique.

This time around, I was even lazier (and a little bit poorer) than usual. Two of my co-worker pals happen to have the same birthday. So clearly I was going to make them a treat. Things I did not have/ did not feel like buying: eggs and oil. Usually those two guys are pretty essential for a box mix. Not anymore.

All this cake needs is the mix from the box and 10 oz of soda! BOOM. Stupid easy right?! Eggs Schmeggs man.

It looks really cool when you mix in the soda. NOTE: I used Sprite because I was making a white/yellow cake. If you’re making a chocolate or dark cake you can use a darker soda. Or be cool kid and mix like orange soda with a light cake. It also is a big cut to the calories of the cake.

It bakes up nice and fluffy…and you cook it per box instructions…so like 30 mins on 350.

Now my friend T is real into Nutella. She loves it. So since it is part her birthday I decided to make a Nutella frosting. I didn’t really have the time or funds to buys the ingredients for a butter cream from scratch so I checked the interwebs and found a cheat option. Mix a store bought white frosting with an equal part nutella. Its a little thick so I also added some milk to make it smoother. Eye ball that because it will vary based on amount of frosting and the consistency you’re looking for.

Then all that’s left is to frost your biz. The frosting is a little different consistency wise because of the Nutella so its a little thicker, but more durable than regular frosting. When I say durable I mean that should you say.. accidentally slide the finished cake into your electric kettle it really doesn’t even make a dent.

So I wanted to write on the cake. In the end I remembered that I had icing for this exact purpose. However, before my brain started working I attempted to whip up some colored icing to write on the cake…and totally failed and made a big mess lol. I attached a photo so we can all laugh and judge me together lol.

Long story short: Happy Birthday Louis and Tessa (who unfortunately ended up calling in sick and won’t get to eat cake with us 😦  )

Sometimes I’m a Spaz in the Kitchen…

So those of you who’ve met me know that I am not the model of balance and grace…quite the opposite in fact. And this has been especially true lately. An alternate title for this post was actually going to be “That time i became Frienemies with Pancakes” but then that didn’t fully encompass the span of my clumsiness.

So I had avocados and corn on the cob left over and I needed to use them. I found a great recipe for Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad (here) that would be perfect. Incident One of being a spaz. EVERYONE knows that when you de-pit an avocado you ‘chop’ the pit,not STAB. Even as I was doing I was thinking…this is dumb Kristine….and then OWWWWW. Yup…I stabbed myself in the hand. Nice going, champ. Kitchen Fail ONE.

Not even a week later the spaz in me struck again. I was just giving voice to my love of pancakes by whipping up some chocolate chip pancakes NBD right? WRONG. The pancake was essentially finished cooking when I gracefully flipped one right outta the pan. Without thinking I grabbed it to toss it back in…another genius plan. My middle finger, with laser sharp accuracy mind you, landed firmly on the molten core of a chocolate chip. OH.MY.GOD. That biz hurts….A LOT. I got a big ugly fiery hot blister on my that stayed on my finger for 2.5 weeks. I’ll spare you the photos…which exist because obviously I need to send things like this to people like my mom lol. I have a bit of a mixed history with pancakes. About a week before I returned to America from Peace Corps, I was fixing myself a batch of pancakes when I flipped a pancake onto the stove. MESSY. In my attempt to clean it up I rubbed my hand all up on the still-on-the-active-burner frying pan. I still have the scar on my hand as a momento. So this latest debacle places us firmly the frienemies category.

And I’ve been dropping just about everything I touch (and weirdly things I don’t touch at all) in the kitchen ever since.

Here’s a little something I whipped up the other day for my cousin’s baby shower. I made some chocolate cupcakes with Diet Pepsi frosting (Diet Pepsi being one of her fave things).

For the cake I just used a box and prepared it as instructed. HOWEVER, if you can sub out all the ingredients the box says to add with a can of soda for an extra light, lower fat, cake.

You can find the recipe HERE. Its a chocolate glaze that actually tastes like Diet Pepsi. I let the glaze dry and then dusted them with powdered sugar.

The Case of the Cursed Zucchini Lasagna

There are some things that are simply not meant to be. One of those things was the Zucchini Lasagna I recently made. I found a recipe for the lasagna on Pinterest and was super excited to try it out…its essentially a regular lasagna except instead of noodles you uses sliced zucchini. Yummy right?!

So rather than use store bought sauce, I whipped up some spaghetti sauce in my crockpot the night before I planned on making the lasagna. It totally worked out great. So far operation lasagna was on track.

The problems came the next day. I was planning on assembling the lasagna after work on Thursday, after which I would eat it for dinner and pack it for lunches to stick in my freezer and eat later in the week. Here comes obstacle number one. I get stuck at work until 8:15 pm. Gross. I didn’t get home until around 9 pm…and I was full to bursting with feelings of frustration about the kink work put into my carefully thought out baking plan. I decided to bake the lasagna anyways. Mistake number 1. I was much to frustrated and rushed to attempt this..even though its a pretty straight forward recipe. I rushed through it (I may have also been drinking a bottle of wine too…hey I was at work until 8:15..I deserved it) and did a real bad job. I did an awful job slicing the zucchini, and I skipped pre-cooking it so the zucchini ended up crunchy.

Overall it was wasn’t a total failure…it was just not the way I wanted it to end up. I still brought it for lunch the next day and enjoyed the pasta sauce I had made in Crocket.

See I know what you’re thinking…things didn’t go perfectly, but ‘cursed’? Let’s flash forward to Saturday. I had dished out some of this lasagna for myself and a friend for lunch. We ate it, but on my friend’s attempt at seconds…CRASH BANG. 3/4 of a Zucchini Lasagna are splattered on my kitchen floor. SIGH. The universe clearly did NOT want me to have this lasagna. And when you look at the situation on the whole you can see that it really was cursed.

Maybe next time it will go more smoothly.