Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade holiday gifts

Here are some of the homemade gifts I made this holiday season.

Journal cover, detail

Journal cover, completed
Main fabric: linen cotton blend
Pattern by Ms. Hauser of Stitched in Color,
applique design by me

Heating pad cover, chevron pattern

Heating pad cover, detail

Brobee doll, approx 3' tall, fleece 

Coin purses,
Amy Butler's key keeper coin purse

Amy Butler's key keeper coin purse

Zakka cat pillow, linen and homespun

Zakka cat purse, detail

I love making homemade gifts.  I just have to remember to start earlier next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Super simple herb cream cheese

New York everything bagel, well toasted
with herb cream cheese

My first job (at 16) was in a bagel shop/cafe.  The lady who owned the bakery was a native New Yorker and we baked the most amazing authentic New York bagels.  This ignited in me a love of these chewy, versatile, circular goodies-- though I am normally disappointed by the fare baked up in my local bagel shops. awesome sister in law recently returned from a trip to New York, and brought me home a half dozen bagels!  When she ran them over to me, I immediately opened the bag and took a bite of the nearest everything.  It didn't disappoint!  (Thanks Miss!)

I like my everything with plain cream cheese, but I figured for a special bagel that traveled so far I could come up with something a little more flavorful.  So with some pantry ingredients I had on hand I whipped up this super simple herb cream cheese spread.

Super simple herb cream cheese spread

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
dash of salt
fresh herbs on hand, chopped or dried herbs
Scant tbls club soda

Note on the herbs: I happened to have fresh parsley, basil and thyme.  I used a couple leaves of basil, a sprig of parsley and a sprig of thyme.  If you don't have any fresh herbs, just throw in some dried herbs of your preference.  I happen to love fresh thyme, but a little goes a long way as it can overshadow other flavors.

Note on the club soda: This was the technique of the bagel shop I worked for- club soda in the cream cheese!  Why?  Have you ever tasted cream cheese that had a whipped, airy quality to it?  Chances are there was a little club soda mixed in it!  Start with a scant tbls, then add more to get the desired texture.  Be careful not to add too much or the cream cheese will be too soft and runny.  Of course if you don't have club soda on hand, just omit it- the cream cheese will be thicker and not as spreadable, but it won't affect the taste.

Blend all ingredients in food processor with metal blade attachment until herbs are chopped nicely.  Taste, then add more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder if desired.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Long time, no see.. random, random

Mountains, sky, and strip in the distance

It's been weeks hasn't it?  We've survived the Mayan apocalypse and the holiday season (well there is still New Years I guess)- I can't be the only one relieved, can I? 

The holidays were really stressful for me this year and I'm not sure why.  Oh yeah-- it's because I procrastinated until 2 weeks before before xmas to start making handmade gifts!
Consequently I really crapped out on the dinner (thanks to my awesome sis and sis-in-law for the potluck; sorry I burnt the rolls).


I might not have posted anything in almost a month, but I've kept the blogger mentality. I've taken photos of most of the stuff I made and some of the noteworthy food I've cooked--  so there's no shortage of material!

But some of my presents haven't reached their recipients yet (did I mention I procrastinated this year?) so I think I will wait on the show and tell....

Instead, lets talk kolaches!!

ricotta cheese kolaches

What is a kolache?  Well if you are from the Czech republic or Texas-- who ever thought a sentence would start like that?-- then you know they are a delicious sort of danish pastry thing. 

I am neither from the Czech republic or Texas, but I am an avid reader of America's Test Kitchen, and when I saw the kolache recipe in the newest Cooks Country I knew I wanted to make them.

Mixed berry kolaches

This is just the type of thing I love to bake.  Complicated and delicate.  Precise and impressive.  Because in general, you can't rationalize the act of baking, so if you are going to bother with the time and expense it might as well be something amazing!

Ricotta cheese kolache

The recipe makes 16 pastries, and they stay fresh for about 3 days.... perfect for two people right?  Half are a lemon ricotta cheese, and half are a mixed berry filling.  They are dusted with a streusel.  The dough has a fine, firm crumb and a slightly sweet taste.

You can get the recipe here (you must sign up for a free trial).  Happy baking!