Category: unique

Pink velvet hot cocoa for you & your Valentine.

Yep, it’s February. That means time for Valentine’s Day- get over it. It’s  freakin’ cute. Stop being so goddamn cynical and enjoy the loooooove.

Loooooove. Not love. Loooooove.

Pink velvet hot cocoa! Insanely easy and insanely pretty.

So yeah, you can hate on Valentine’s Day. But nobody can hate on hot cocoa. And this here just happens to be some PINK velvet hot cocoa. Thanks to A Beautiful Mess for the recipe idea!

Plus, how BEAUTIFUL does it look? Wouldn’t this be a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert beverage? I think so.

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Hearty spent grain French bread.

Just a few days ago I posted about bagels, now it’s bread. I know, it’s crazy. But winter time is time to bake a lot of warming, comforting things. And bread is definitely one of those, don’t you think?

Back in August I told you all about my friend Pete, and his home-brew supply store, Homebrews & Handgrenades. I told you all about how he gave me a ton of spent brewing grain to bake with, and I made that bread.

Well things have been a bit busy around here since then. I remodeled almost the entire place, had no appliances, and then there was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. It hasn’t been conducive to insane recipe experimentation like is required when you get something brand new, like spent grain. So whatever I haven’t used yet is sitting in jars in my freezer, waiting for me to decide what to do.

What is spent grain?
Spent Grain is a byproduct from brewing process. The chemical composition of wet spent grains is given below:
- Water, 80%
- Protein, 5%
- N-free extract, 9%
- Fat, 2%
- Cellulose fibres, 4%
- Minerals, 1%

- source

Spent brewing grain, drying in the oven (click through for cracker recipe).

First, I dried out a bunch of the grain by laying it out on a cookie sheet and baking it at my oven’s lowest setting (170° F) for 7 hours or so, basically “overnight.” This was important because the grain was wet when I got it, and I froze it immediately. That means there was a lot of moisture trapped in there!

Once it was dried (and a little toasted, ’cause I raised the temperature a bit for the last hour), I let it cool completely. Then I used my KitchenAid grain mill attachment to grind it into a flour. I used a somewhat medium grind, it wasn’t too fine but not too coarse. And then- voila- I had spent grain flour! Which, by the way, you can store in your pantry in sealed container for as long as you like.

Spent brewing grain French bread.

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DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule logs for Christmas.

The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.

With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.

-JingleBell Junction

Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.

So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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A pie for the ages: bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie!

I’m publishing this pie today, because I wanted to give you time to make it for Thanksgiving. I purposely didn’t post it too early, and I specifically waited until this date. I wanted to give you enough time to really absorb what you’re seeing. Then get up, go out to the store & get the ingredients you need to make this, then come home & plan to do so on/by Thursday. I felt it had to be done this way. So I’m giving you a few days, and I expect you all to make it. You must. Seriously.

It’s THAT good.

Don’t believe me?

Bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie, anyone?

It’s the pie to end all pies.

It’s a pie for the ages!

Bourbon. Sweet potato. Pumpkin. With toasted meringue. Toasted bourbon meringue, that is.

Sweet potato pumpkin pie with bourbon! And more bourbon in the meringue.

Say word.

A motherflippin’ bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie with toasted bourbon meringue! 

When I told Jay of my plans to make it, his jaw dropped open. And he doesn’t even really like pumpkin anything! I knew I was on to something. Although, in hindsight, it might have just been the mention of bourbon. Either way, I combined a few different recipes for a few different pies & came up with this: the holy grail of autumn piedom.

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Rockin’ Moroccan cranberry sauce (with preserved lemon).

Right about now, all across America, folks are flipping out while planning their Thanksgiving dinners. There are tons of phone calls being made… who’s sitting next to who, who isn’t speaking to whom, which cousin is bringing the potatoes au gratin, who’s making the pie, is Aunt Linda making her rice dish this year, which niece is allergic to gluten, what cranberry sauce should we have, etc.

So I thought I’d complicate your life a little more. Let me throw a(nother) possibility into the ring for you guys:

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

When I say this is Moroccan, I don’t really mean it. It’s not a traditional Moroccan dish at all. I’m only saying that because of the use of preserved lemon. The rest of it isn’t terribly ethnic or unique. Although, it is somewhat unique given the fact that at this time of year most cranberry sauces are fairly traditional. But really I’m just being an asshole American: coming up with a clever name at the expense of another culture. So let’s say it’s Moroccan-style, okay?

But… there is some cumin & cardamom in there too! So its definitely not your grandma’s cranberry sauce.

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

I came up with this idea after seeing Local Kitchen add preserved lemon to plum jam. Genius! I thought about it & realized it would be an amazing addition to cranberry sauce; especially seeing as how cranberry & lemon go hand in hand like… I don’t know. Things that hold hands.

ANYWAY…

Then I decided to add some cumin. Then the cardamom popped out of the cabinet. And the rest was history!

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce made with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemons. Not your grandma's cranberry sauce!

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The wicked witch of the cupcake.

Vintage postcard: flying witches.

Yeah. That’s right. Today we’re talking about witches. Because in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s October, and that means one thing to me: Halloween.

Ohh, Halloween. My favorite time of year. The leaves changing (hopefully) & crunching beneath my boots, the air getting brisker, the wind kicking up. The costumes & makeup start appearing in stores earlier & earlier nowadays, but I reserve my Halloween excitement for the first week in October. I refuse to do ANYTHING Halloween-related before October 1st. Yes, it’s my favorite holiday & yes, I’m excited. But it’s like buying Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving; it’s just wrong to me. I’ll wait until October to celebrate Halloween… & I’ll wait until December 1st for Christmas, thanks.

That being said, I was super psyched to post this little cupcake topper how-to. I couldn’t wait any longer! I didn’t come up with this idea myself (unfortunately) but I did somewhat modify it from the original directions. I did that because I didn’t have matching mini cupcake liners & regular liners. I don’t do many mini cupcakes, so I never buy the liners. I adapted the directions to suit me & my materials, and with just a little bit more work put in I think they look just as cute. Ladies & germs, I give you…

Cupcake…

liner…

witches’

hats!

Easy DIY witch hat cupcake toppers made from cupcake liners!

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Garden’s last hurrah: nectarine basil preserves (+ a salsa).

It’s September, and the weather is changing. My little herb garden is still growing, but it’s struggling. I know it’s short-lived: the temperatures are dipping down into the 50′s at night, and they’re starting to show the signs that it’s too cold for them. So I’m using every last bit that I can. Making sauces & throwing in extra basil, making cilantro rice, and making rosemary-herbed chicken. Because before I know it, I’ll be drying them all for use over the winter.

When I was a kid, this time of year used to depress me. Back at school for weeks already, time in the pool getting cut drastically short (or disappearing altogether), the weather changing, etc. As an adult I find it doesn’t anymore… sure, I miss the summer. But after long, swelteringly hot days where my face feels like it’s melting off, I look forward to the coolness of the fall. The quietness. The changing leaves. The awesome fall TV lineup. The ability to bake a cake & not have it be too hot to breathe or have the frosting form nothing but a sad, pathetic puddle of sugary mush.

I definitely always miss my garden once the fall weather moves in. Using dried herbs just isn’t the same. And I miss all the fresh produce, too.

But right now… it’s still just warm enough, and it’s all still fresh.

Beautiful, fresh Washington State nectarines.I mean, come on… really now… they’re insanely beautiful!

I made the following recipes after receiving a second massive box from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. You might remember that the last time it was a huge box of beautiful peaches. This time, it was half ‘Sweet Dream’ peaches, half ‘Honey Royale’ nectarines (shown above); grown in an orchard right outside Yakima, Washington. They were so stunningly picture perfect, I couldn’t help but snap some photos before they were gobbled up. The nectarines were so big & perfect they almost looked like apples! Just gorgeous. I swear, I have never seen such beautiful fruit before. Not even at farmer’s markets, or gourmet food stores. The fruits I’ve received from them have been some of the best produce I’ve ever had.

So of course, after I took photos… a few of them got eaten fresh. And my parents took some. Gave a few to lucky neighbors.

And the piles of fruit that were left were all for me to play around with!

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Spent grain bread: grain, keep us together.

When I was a kid, maybe 11, I spent an entire summer listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Every single day. In my room, in the backyard on a Walkman, at the beach on a Walkman, in the car, etc. For whatever reason that album just did it for me that summer. Because of that, it’s always a “summer album” to me; whenever I hear it I think of summertime. Or at least, that summer. Even when I saw Fleetwood Mac live a few years ago, every song from that album just made me think of summer.

So it’s only natural that when I sat down & started typing about grains as the summer is waning, I somehow inserted the word into a Fleetwood Mac song.

“Graiiiiiin, keep us together… Run in the shadows… Graiiiiin, keep us together…”

Baking bread with spent brewing grain.

Ahem. Anyway, yes, today I’m going to be talking about grains. Specifically the kind left after you make beer, called “spent grains,” which are pictured above.

Back a few months ago, Pete, (a friend of ours for ages- however he’s been Jay’s friend way longer than mine, admittedly), messaged me on Facebook & offered me some of his spent brewing grain to bake with. He’s a home brewer & makes a variety of beer, as well as a new business owner. He has a business in Baldwin, NY called Homebrews & Handgrenades where he sells all kinds of grains for home brewers like himself. Turns out, this grain is largely wasted after the brewing process, because it’s served it’s beer-making purpose. But it’s still perfectly good grain. Yes, some people do bake with it. And others use it as animal feed or as fertilizer. But I’m willing to bet a large portion of it is just a waste.

Brewer’s spent grain (also called spent grain, brewer’s grain or draff) consists of the residue of malt and grain which remains in the mash-kettle after the mashing and lautering process.[84] It consists primarily of grain husks, pericarp, and fragments of endosperm.[85] As it mainly consists of carbohydrates and proteins,[85] and is readily consumed by animals,[86] spent grain is used in animal feed.[86] Spent grains can also be used as fertilizer, whole grains in bread,[87] as well as in the production of biogas. Spent grain is also an ideal medium for growing mushrooms, such as shiitake, and already some breweries are either growing their own mushrooms or supplying spent grain to mushroom farms.[88] This, in turn, makes the grain more digestible by livestock.[89] Spent grains can be used in the production of red bricks, to improve the open porosity and reduce thermal conductivity of the ceramic mass.[90]

- Wikipedia

Beer-making is actually a fascinating thing, one I’d like to learn more about eventually.

Anyway it sounded like an awesome opportunity for me to try something new, so I of course said yes. And I promptly ended up with around 10 lbs. of frozen spent brewing grain in my possession. After defrosting it overnight, I put it into different containers & jars so it would be easier to store.

Spent brewing grain, ready for storage. If you've got some, why not make an easy yeasty bread with it?

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Quick little sweet pickles.

Vintage Home Pickling book.

Ahhh, pickles. You come into my life every summer at the demand of the pickle-obsessed people in my family, you sit pretty on shelves or in the refrigerator for a while and then you’re gobbled up and before I know it, I’m making more of you. Good thing I’m not a pickle fan myself. In the words of the infamous notorious Biggie Smalls: “Never get high off your own supply.” Yes, he was talking about crack, but the principle is the same.

If I actually ate pickles, then I’d never have any to give away (or sell… *ahem*), and then people would annoy me more than they already do to make more. I’m not sure how many folks out there could somehow relate the “Ten Crack Commandments” to pickles, but what can I say?

Quick sweet pickles made with cinnamon, clove & red onion.

Did you know that “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine? Betcha didn’t. But now you do!

Any who, I found this beautiful pickle recipe at Honey & Jam. The photos were so lovely, I knew I’d have to replicate it myself. My mother is a fan of sweet pickles; give her a jar of sweet gherkins & she’ll eat the whole thing. So I thought she’d appreciate these, lovely little quick pickles made with sugar, a stick of cinnamon & some cloves. The fact that they’re quick pickles, or refrigerator pickles, makes life easier. I love canning but on a super hot day it’s nice to just slap things in the fridge & not worry about processing.

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