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Homemade granola – it’s worth the effort

I drafted this post on February 27… it’s been almost exactly a month later and I can’t believe I haven’t shared it with my blog audience! There are many reasons (aka excuses) for this. I had out of town visitors, I baked several cakes, I started crafting much more at home and yada yada. Anyway, this is a great recipe from my idol Pioneer Woman. After I purchased all the ingredients, I realized I could have spent about $5 to buy some good granola instead of the estimated $10-15 I spent on making my own but homemade > store bought. Here’s a link to the original recipe. Let me note now that I didn’t follow instructions and grease my baking sheet well so I ended up making a bowl of granola versus granola bars. Grrrrr… but it’s ok because we ended up eating our granola crumble on Greek yogurt and it was fabulous. Check out the recipe below:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Rolled Oats (not Quick Oats)
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted, Plus More For Greasing (Greasing is critical!!)
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Or Canola Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Apple Juice (I juiced my own!)
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup Wheat Germ
  • 1/2 cup Finely Chopped Pecans (I omitted this and just used almonds)
  • 1/4 cup Roughly Chopped Almonds
  • 8 ounces, weight Milk Chocolate Or Chocolate Almond Bark, Melted (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, toss the oats with the canola oil, melted butter and salt. Spread the mixture out on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.

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Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, apple juice and molasses. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring until all combined. Stir in the vanilla.

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These are the apples I juiced to make my own apple juice.

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Toss together the toasted oats, rice cereal, wheat germ, pecans and almonds. Pour in the sugar mixture, stirring as you pour. Toss to combine; it will be sticky!

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Press into 1 baking sheet (thoroughly greased with butter, or line pan with foil and grease foil) and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut pieces with a sharp knife and remove from the pan. Or if you’re doing it like me, scrap off that wax sheet and just break your granola to pieces!

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It’s so golden and beautiful!

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As Lucy Ricardo once said: “It’s so tasty, too!”

So what will you do with all the leftover wheat germ and molasses that you now have from this recipe? You can add it to your morning juicing routine (if you do that). I started to add some wheat germ to our drinks and I can’t taste it but I heard it’s good for you. I’ve also heard of people taking molasses by the spoonful to help with iron deficiency. I won’t do that but you can! Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Breakfast for Weekend Guests

Hooray, I survived this very long but fun weekend. My friends from San Jose visited, as well as my sister. I love to have people over because it gives me the motivation to cook something new and explore areas of my city that I don’t go to nearly enough on my own. We definitely feasted this weekend and enjoyed the warm, sunny California weather. 80 degree weather in the winter time? I’ll take that any day. We were seriously wearing t-shirts and shorts in the middle of February! As a farewell breakfast for our friends who visited, I decided to go to my trusty cookbook from Pioneer Woman. Knock on wood but none of her recipes has failed me yet. What I also like about her is that I don’t have to special order ingredients that are hard to find in your local store. In her original recipe here, she made a berry butter to go with the french toast but I found it just fine without making that part of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 French loaf of bread (Trader Joe’s has a presliced French loaf that was great in this recipe)
  • 4 whole Egg Yolks
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Maple Syrup For Serving – I used plain ol’ honey
  • Sifted Powder Sugar, For Serving (optional)
  • In case you want some berries on top, grab one cup of frozen mixed berries (Costco sells a nice big bag)

Instructions:

  • Cut bread into 1/2 inch thick slices (unless you already purchased presliced bread like I did).
  • In a dish that has about 1 inch in depth, mix together egg yolks, half-and-half, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
  • Dip bread slices in mixture, coating both sides, then remove from dish and set it aside. Repeat this step until all bread is coated.
  • If you want to put some berries on top, do this following step. In a small saucepan, boil about 1/4 cup of water with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, pour the frozen berries into the pan. Let it simmer for about two minutes and then turn off the heat.
  • Heat iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook French toast on both sides until golden brown, being careful not to burn. I liked it a little brown on both sides. Once done, set it aside.
  • To assemble, just stack your French toast bread and then pour the berries on top (with or without the liquid) and drizzle lightly with some honey and dust it with some powdered sugar. Bon Appetite!

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20140219-120811.jpgToasty bread!

20140219-120819.jpgYummy berries!

20140219-120828.jpgDeliciousness!

Dog-it-yourself Valentine’s Gift for Your Pup

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend everyone! Hope you’ve enjoyed the weekend with the company of your friends, family, or furry family members. Earlier this week I wanted to make a present for my dog/foster dogs. Since one of our fosters scratched up the extra dog bed we had, I decided I wanted to make a simple bed that wouldn’t cost the same amount as a pet store bed. This dog-it-yourself project costs just about $11! Make sure you wait for the plush fabric to be on sale at $5-6 a yard.

Supplies:
1.5 yards of plush fabric
One standards pillow

Tools:
Fabric scissors

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Step one: Layout your supplies on a flat area (like the floor).

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Step two: Allow your pet to rest on the supplies.

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Step three: Allow your other pet to rest on the supplies. (Roll your eyes and then decide to put them behind the baby gate so you can get some work done!)

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Step four: Cut 2-3 inch squares at each corner where the corner of the square meets the corner of the pillow.

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Step five: Cut one inch strips that are two inches in length towards the pillow. The strips are about two fingers apart. Do this all around the pillow.

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Step six: Lift one side of the fabric and then insert the pillow. Make sure the pillow is right in the middle. Then you can begin to tie the strands together. You will need to tie two knots per strand. Make sure you have a somewhat tight tension so that it’s not too loose because the pillow will be exposed. The picture below will show you what each knot looks like.

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Step seven: All done! Let your little one rest on it! They will love it!

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Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!

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Can Women Do It All?

I have been tasked by a few friends at work to read “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by this Saturday so I can join their book club discussion. This gives me less than 72 hours to read 240 pages. While I’m quite the fast-paced reader, I’m not sure if I can meet this goal but I will try my best. This lead me to think about this ever so popular question – can women do it all? On the drive home daily, I run through a list of to-dos in my head. Gym. Check. Walk the dogs. Check. Pick up groceries. Check. Check your email. Check. Check off your check list. Check. On and on my mind goes and then sometimes I ask “Why are you trying to juggle everything? Can’t you just sit at home and relax?” NO. That would mean I’m failing…but who is grading me anyway? No one but myself (and the other awesome stay at home women bloggers). I imagine that those women are judging me because they can juggle it all. They can be the awesome stay at home mom who blogs, cooks, post beautiful pictures on their Instagram, Facebook and websites, make their children everything from scratch and are the most amazingly, fit trophy wives. Thank goodness for Yahoo and their brilliant, down-to-earth women writers for finally talking some sense into me. No, women can’t do it all. Stop trying to be that super-mom or super-woman, just be that super-you. Do what you want, not what others ask of you. Put yourself first. Your sanity will thank you. Read this short article titled “Why ‘Super-Mom’ Stopped Trying to be Perfect” and it makes sense. You’re human, you’re allowed to make mistakes and color outside the lines. I’m going to take this writer’s quote to heart but make some edits of my own:

“I want to slow down, and not try to cross all these things off of my list, and not worry about the dishes piling up in the sink,” said Cindy Williams, a wife to an amazing husband and one little fluffy pooch mother of two. “I just want to enjoy whatever is going on in the moment with my small but mighty family kids.”

So does this mean I won’t force myself to meet this deadline this Saturday? No. I’ll do it and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing which is cooking, cleaning, trying to start my own business, blog, craft, see friends and more but I now know I can to slow down if I need to. I can learn to say no and choose to sit at home, watch TV and relax with my husband by my side if I want to. I have to remember that there is no deadline on everything that I do and that my life is my own and I don’t have to be a super-wife/friend/daughter/employee/future mom.

See you later checklist!

Happy Anniversary To My Blog!

Hip, hip, hooray! I began this blog two years ago and here’s my attempt to keeping it a living, breathing thing. I met with a friend the other day and she told me that I should keep on trying with this blog. In the past three months since my last blog, I have baked several items, cooked many dishes, fostered a few dogs and went on a trip to Asia. After all the rest and relaxation that I had in December through January, I am ready to bounce back on my blogging project. I’d like to share a recipe that I took from Smitten Kitchen – The Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt. It’s so easy I made it twice.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (355 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (340 grams) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk (I made the buttermilk by pouring 3/4 cup of milk and mixing in one teaspoon of lemon juice)
  •  3 cups (350 to 450 grams) mixed berries (Smitten Kitchen uses fresh berries but I used a bag of frozen berries from Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt pan – I used nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift 2 1/2 cups flour (leaving 2 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside.
  • In another large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla, briefly.
    20140202-225816.jpgThe lemon scent is amazing!
  • Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to. 
  • In the bowl where you’d mixed your dry ingredients, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little.
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    20140202-225839.jpg I love this purple hue.
  • Plop the cake batter into the baking pan and use the spatula to spread it flat and smooth.
  • Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a toothpick comes out clean after sticking it into the bundt.
  • Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely.
  • If you’d like to make a glaze for the bundt, whisk together two cups of powdered sugar, juice of one lemon and one tablespoon of butter until smooth and very, very thick. (If you’d like it thinner, add more juice, but I like the thick drippiness of it, seen above.) Spread carefully over top of cake, letting it trickle down the sides when and where it wishes.
  • Serve the cake the same day. I served the cake about one hour after it came out of the oven and people liked the moistness and warm of the cake. Instead of making the glaze, I microwaved some vanilla frosting (for 20 seconds) and poured it over the bundt. The first time I made the bundt, I sprinkled some powder sugar on top of it to make it lighter on the sweet side.
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    I hope that you enjoy this cake as much as I did!

As always, enjoy your dessert with some coffee (or wine).

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Writer’s Block

Yesterday, I had writer’s block. It doesn’t show in my blog but it’s showing in my work! Today, however, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m writing ferociously like Speedy Gonzalez! The first photo shows how I really felt and the second photo just made me feel better about myself. Thanks, Ryan!

Writers Block

Hey Girl. You Make Writer's Block Look Good.

Weekend Recap – SD, Home, Run, Bake

Last Friday, I made a trip back to San Diego to see one of my girlfriends, explore my old stomping grounds at UCSD, catch up with one of my other girlfriends and play with her adorable two-year-old and go line dancing. The morning began at 6 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. with plenty of running around. After scooping up some caffeine and breakfast for my friend and me, I went to my college bookstore to do some exploring (or rather look at things and say to myself “That’s where my tuition went.”) I ended up giving more money to the campus by purchasing some books and t-shirts (nope, no buyers remorse here…). The Christmas tree was set up and decked out with Grinch-y items in celebration I assume of our love for Dr. Seuss things. Dr. Seuss is our semi-mascot as our library is named after Theodore Geisel (creator of the Dr. Seuss line).
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While I was away and being a paranoid parent who kept wanting to check in on Vixen, I got this text message reassuring me that she was doing A-OK. That little smug face is too cute.
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So after doing the cowboy cha cha and running around on a playground with my friend’s son, we needed some time to just relax at home. Saturday morning didn’t go that way at all as I did several loads of laundry, went to the groomers (for Vixen, not me) and went on a grocery run. FINALLY, in the afternoon we found time to squeeze in a little hike to connect with nature and enjoy the lovely SoCal weather. We went to Peters Canyon which is just a few miles from home and did a nice three-mile trek around the lake. Daniel was totally surprised by it’s existence (as it hides quite nicely behind some homes and a shopping center). I’m sure we’ll be back again.
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After the hike, I knew that I had two desserts that I needed to bake for Sunday but I just wasn’t up to it. I should have planned my schedule better though because Sunday was totally nutty. We all got up at 5 a.m. to attend our dog rescue fundraiser. I had to make a bagel/doughnut run while Daniel had to set up the tents. Our rescue group, Lovebugs Rescue, raised $18,000 which is absolutely spectacular! Thanks to everyone to who donated!! More dog lives will be saved!! Vixen and I did a 1K with all the other furry friends at the park and she had a blast. Next year we are aiming to do the 5K (well it’s really me who needs to aim higher). After that event, we rushed to our softball game and then went home to have lunch and bake two desserts. I could have made one dessert for the dinner we were going to but I just couldn’t! Reason – Daniel told me that one of the guests of honor was the best baker he’s ever tasted baked goods from. Since she impressed him, I wanted to impress her and I sure did with this brownie recipe. Woo! The first recipe is from Pioneer Woman and it’s called Knock You Naked Brownies. I’m not sure if I can say that these brownies blew my clothes off but my socks came off and my teeth screamed a little.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines) – I used Pillsbury and it was only 15 oz.
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans – I used just a handful
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted – Daniel stared at me as I laughed with much guilt
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped – I used only 20 and I thought it was more than enough
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – I used a small handful of mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar – Not necessary but I used about a pinch

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.

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  • Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside. (Not pictured)
  • In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.

20131114-085635.jpg <– This took forever to melt!!

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  • Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.

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  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. [I cut this part out and just did a light sprinkle of the powder sugar]. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan. Slice below.

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Ooey-gooey, moist and oh so sweet!

On to my next creation! Pumpkin spiced everything is everywhere this year. I decided to make the most of this pumpkin season by making pumpkin bread. Originally I was going to make pumpkin pie but Daniel said it’s not special enough and that he missed my bread. I get more inspired when he tells me what he wants to eat! This recipe makes two loaves. It’s very moist and light in pumpkin flavor. It tasted a bit bland to me but that’s because I cut down the sugar by half but it makes a great breakfast bread because it’s dense and will hold you over for some time. In the future, I will add a bit more sugar and some nuts to add additional texture. Thank you to My Baking Addiction blog for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (I used only 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inch loaf pans.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until well blended. (I just mixed with my spoon – nothing fancy here).

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  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.

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  • Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

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  • Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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As everything bakes, take a moment to stare at your spouse relaxing as you sweat in the kitchen. JK, he was so helpful afterward as he washed all my dishes!! Can you spot Vixen in the picture? She’s under the blanket laying her head on Daniel’s leg.

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Voila – Here is a not so great photo of the desserts that were nearly finished at the dinner!

And as if I wasn’t all ready spreading myself thin in the span of 72 hours, I decided that I should make soup too! This is a repost from my old blog that faded into the sunset. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (6-8 servings)
From Ina Garten
Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs ripe plum (aka Roma) tomatoes cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 ounce) canned plum tomatoes with their juice (I used regular diced tomatoes in a can)
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tspn fresh thyme leaves (I left this out)
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water ( I used chicken stock)
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Toss the tomatoes with1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

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  • 15 minutes before the tomatoes are done roasting, saute the onions, garlic, 2 tbspn of olive oil, butter and red pepper flakes in a large stockpot for 10 minutes over medium heat. Once the onions start to turn brown, add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken stock.

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  • Remove the roasted tomatoes from the oven and add it to the pot. Also add any liquid that is left on the baking sheet into the pot.
  • Bring the pot to a boil and allow it to simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  • Take the soup off the food mill and use the coarsest blade. I don’t have such equipment so just poured it into my Ninja blender.
  • Get some tasty bread and mozarella cheese and press it in a panini maker or make garlic bread to dip in the soup. Enjoy!
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My next to dos: Two birthday cakes and Christmas yarn tree tutorial!