Monday, October 29, 2012

Whimsical Flower Arrangement

I just love it when I actually finish something I've been meaning to do for awhile.  And, in this case, awhile means a few years.  These were meant to go in my daughter's nursery.  She just turned 3.  Luckily they still fit in her room.

I had this leftover floral container from a previous arrangement that we had received for our wedding (we just celebrated our 10th anniversary.)  I really liked it so I didn't want to just throw/give it away.  When we decided to loosely base our baby girl's nursery on a garden, I thought I would make a floral arrangement to go in there.  I found the long stem gerber daisies and quickly envisioned a Suessical floral arrangement.  I opted to leave them long and floppy.

By the time I actually got around to finishing this project it was Easter so I easily found some Easter grass and stuffed it around the base.  I am amazed that most of it is still there.  Every once in awhile I'll find a stray piece on her floor, but for the most part she leaves it alone. 

Finally all it needed was a ribbon tied around the base and, voila!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tip(s) of the Week

In my quest to achieve baking perfection (yeah, right) I have learned the hard way that not having the right tools, or not following the directions precisely, will often end in sub-par if not disastrous results.

Hello, Obvious.

If you are like me, you are too busy to read the directions thoroughly, let alone follow them, right?  And if you are like me, you avoid buying the tools you really need thinking that you will just make do with what you have, right?  Or maybe it is just me...

Anyway, on the outside chance that I am not the only one out there who suffers from impatience or cheapskate -ness, here are a few things I learned from my summer of baking that have made a big difference in how my baked goods are turning out.  (Again, hello, obvious.)

(1) I got a sifter.

It was actually a Christmas present from my mom who was with me in Spoons & Spice when I saw one and said, "You know I really should get one of these."  Lo and behold, on Christmas morning...

Anyway, it only takes a few seconds longer and does a much better job at making sure my dry ingredients are nicely de-clumped.  It does a much better job than Martha's "whisk to sift" trick.

(2) I started using this (yes, I know, another plug for Crisco...):

to do this:

When the instructions say "grease the pan" I always just cheat and use the spray variety.  It's a lot faster, after all.  However, one time I broke down while I was making zucchini bread and actually greased and floured the pan (as I was instructed to do) and the crust of this particular bread was SO delicious!  It was well worth the extra time and effort.  So, since then I have taken a few extra minutes to grease the pan and I have never been disappointed.  Plus, as you can tell from the picture, I have help from little hands as well.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I discovered something about myself this summer while on maternity leave: not only do I love to bake, I need to bake.  There are so many links between cooking and science as it is, it's ridiculous.  But Baking and Chemistry are, in my mind, the same thing.  One small error and you could blow a room up (or in this case, end up with two hours wasted on a disastrous batch of baked-goodness.)  It's that kind of suspense that has me keep trying again and again until I have success.

I also discovered that my sweet daughter likes to bake, too.  Her favorite part is licking the spatula, of course, but she knows she has to be an extra good helper to get to that point.

I found this recipe on the cardboard overlay for those Crisco baking sticks (SO worth the extra cost to have that stuff premeasured for you!)

These are arguably the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made/had.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

3/4 c. shortening
1 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2 T milk
1 T vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 c All Purpose Flour
1 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c coarsely chopped pecans (optional) (If nuts are omitted, add an additional 1/2 c chocolate chips)

Heat oven to 375.  Beat shortening and brown sugar in large bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in milk, vanilla and egg.  Stir in flour, salt and baking soda.  Blend in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-13 for crisp cookies.  Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet.  Transfer cookies to cooling rack.